Peter VanRysdam / Digital Marketing / September 12th, 2008

How Much Longer Will Microsoft Be the Company Everyone Loves To Hate?

It’s like any sports rivalry; your team can do no wrong and everything the opponent does, no matter how amazing, is dumb luck or a stupid move.  I’m speaking of course about people’s opinions about Microsoft.  While the opponent was Apple for years, now it’s sort of an Apple/Google combo.  I’ve been thinking about this issue for awhile now, and reading our CEO’s comments about Microsoft’s new commercials prompted me to put pen to paper, figuratively of course.

In this rivalry, Microsoft has played the role of the Yankees in their constant struggle against Boston.  Microsoft has a much longer history, a national following, tons of “championships,” and seems to address every problem by throwing more money at it than the competition can.  As a result, they are the company everyone loves to hate.

However, just like we’ve witnessed these past few years with the Red Sox, the tide is changing.  First it was apple with the huge success of the iPod that lead to great sales (and great commercials) for the mac.  Then Google comes out of the gates in 2004 and watches their stock rise as much as 600% due to a industry leading search and now browsers and promises of other software and gadgets.  Just look at the stock comparison, and you can see that Microsoft is less of the giant everyday when the bell rings in New York:

Microsoft, apple, and Google stock comparison chart

But here’s my real question: is there a point when Microsoft is surpassed by Google or Apple as the leaders in the hatred index?  People don’t perceive Microsoft well because of the “big brother” mentality.  However I’d argue google has a much higher stranglehold on our data with each passing day.  Between gmail with serves up targeted ads based on an email’s content to the search histories they hold, they are no less of a potential threat than Microsoft.  An then there’s Apple, who is every ounce to Music what Microsoft is to software.  iTunes sets the market, just like google does in search.  If your song isn’t on iTunes or your site isn’t in Google, you’re done.  End of story. 

So even though the landscape has changed, it simply comes down to perceptions.  The stereotypical artsy apple fans, sipping their starbucks in front of their clean, white macs, getting in to their jettas with an apple sticker on the back.  Then there are the super geeks, the programmers who spend their free time engrossed in Halo, all the while touting, and worshiping, everything Microsoft does.

While I’m not a developer, I’m still a big Microsoft fan.  I know many people who work there, I respect what the company has done and how they’ve influenced our everyday life.  And I find myself falling in to these traps.  I mean, I even defended the zune!  I try to use Live.com whenever possible, but I secretly go home and google to my heart’s content.  I make fun of Jan since he only has one mouse button on his Mac, but at the same time I lust after his iphone when I’m alone at night. 

I wish we could start over with a blank slate.  I wish each company could stake out their ground and then we wouldn’t have this issue.  But alas, each wants to do what the other is doing.  Microsoft, who makes amazing software, is desperately grasping for ground in the search battle while Google feels it necessary to enter the browser war where so many have failed before them.  All the while there’s Apple, who while they didn’t start there have carved out a billion dollar niche in the music and gadget space, but that doesn’t stop them from pushing the mac forward as hard as they can. 

Even more than just the company’s marketing strategies, we as loyal customers need to put our allegiances’ aside and admit when the other company does something better.  Why should you use a search you feel is inferior or a gadget that isn’t ideal?  To keep up appearances?  Hey, the iPod still works great with your PC, and Google works just fine in Internet Explorer (though it does look a tad funny on my machine in ie8 beta, but I digress). 

So let’s call a truce.  Don’t hate everything Microsoft because it comes from Redmond.  Acknowledge that hippy in the coffee shop might actually have a job, and don’t assume Google is slowing trying to steal your identity. 

Oh, and Geoff?  Those Microsoft commercials are hilarious.  And no, you’re not supposed to get them yet.  They’re part of a bigger story that will unfold over several spots.  I saw the second last night and was cracking up.  Just be patient and wait for the payoff.  But I know that won’t happen…just look at the comments from the second ad on youtube.  These people are worse than partisan democrats and republicans!