13 February 2013, 03:03

Microsoft ads target Google

Microsoft ads target Google
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During the last broadcast I once again talked about the Russian blacklists, other initiatives that seem to step from it and the general controversy surrounding this issue. Maybe it’s a mentality thing, I don’t know, but sometimes I do wonder whether there may be too much freedom.

During the last broadcast I once again talked about the Russian blacklists, other initiatives that seem to step from it and the general controversy surrounding this issue. Maybe it’s a mentality thing, I don’t know, but sometimes I do wonder whether there may be too much freedom. I mean, when it comes to media, at least – if you allow people and organizations to broadcast whatever they want, eventually this all may turn into a scene from a zoo or National Georgaphic with monkeys slinging their feces at each other. A prime example – some of American political ads – sometimes they’re just ridiculous. I’m talking, of course, about some of the lower level elections with little exposure – but some gems find their way to the world wide web and become the laughing stock of YouTube. The trend to attack opponents is also visible even on the presidential level – just take the viral ad launched by team Obama, which took one comment made by Mitt Romney and built a whole angle on it. The commercial portrayed Big Bird, one of the stars of the show which raised probably millions of kids, as the notorious evil genius, which Mitt Romney promised to take down. But at least it wasn’t slander; it was satire which used quite a legitimate trope Hyperbole. Still, this has the distinct after-taste of a smear campaign. Another notable example of aggressive anti-something media is the Coke and Pepsi war – it looks like these guys don’t give each other a break. Again, in Russia, this sort of thing is prohibited – according to the Law on Advertisement, companies cannot attack each other directly. Still, I admit, some of these commercials are kind of fun. But the latest example of blatant anti-marketing is, frankly baffling – primarily because it it’s from the world of IT. Microsoft is attacking Google – and it looks desperate, if you ask me. If you recall, a while ago the former decided to sort out its email platforms – Hotmail.com and msn.com were united them under the new and improved Outlook – that’s Outlook.com, an in-browser mail client. According to Microsoft itself, Outlook.com has “a cleaner look, to fewer and less obtrusive ads, to new connections to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.” In other words, they want to be what GMail is today for the most users - their mailbox of choice. To achieve that, they've made integrating other accounts quite easy and accessing them very convenient. I tried it out myself and kind of like it – but not enough to migrate all my accounts there – I simply didn’t see the point. I was not alone, it seems – according to reviews from all over the world, people were impressed by what Microsoft did. So, what do we have? In about two weeks after launch, the service had 10 million active users. The latest date is November 27th – 25 million users. So, that’s two months ago. You know what that means, right? In my experience, when a company does not publish certain figures – like number of clients, users or visitors, –either these figures are considered to be a trade secret for reasons I don’t fully understand or the company is simply not doing so well – hey, that may explain why it regards these stats as a trade secret. I mean, think about it. If I had a lot of clients I would brag about it. If I didn’t, and if my business wasn’t built of exclusivity, I would not want to make it public – you know, not to scare off remaining clients, who might think something’s wrong and they’re not seeing it. But in case of huge companies and client bases, late numbers may simply mean that it takes a while to process all the data to get the desired result. For example, for Gmail the date of last public announcement is last June. But then again, with 425 million users, they have nothing to worry about – even if we assume 25 million went to Outlook.com. So, what does Microsoft do? They launch an attack campaign, pointing out that Google uses every word in each of your email to decide what kind of context ads to show you. Actually, it’s not a secret and this has been going on for years – I guess people just need to learn to read user agreements. But of course, who does – I don’t, although I know that I should. So anyway, this ad is called Scroogled – quite an obvious portmanteau, I have to say. It shows that Gmail not only scans mail to show users tailored ads, but does so inefficiently. At the end of the clip, viewers are offered to visit scroogled.com to make an informed decision and even sign a petition - "Tell Google to stop going through your email to sell ads". The campaign has been running for several days now and so far there’s five thousand signatures out of the targeted 25,000. I have to say, not only a blunt attack like that feels dirty, especially given the fact that it uses publicly accessible information, but the ad has a so-bad-it’s-kind-of-funny feel of an infomercial. And the website – well, judge for yourself. Not really sure what Microsoft was hoping with this one, but that just seems desperate and in bad taste.

Microsoft launched another campaign recently – this one doesn’t attack anyone and only promotes one of their products – Internet Explorer. If you’re a more or less savvy internet user, you’re aware of the horrible stigma Internet Explorer carries with it – at least the version that come preloaded on the most popular versions of Microsoft Windows. Not their latest version – but not a lot of people know about that – see, stigma. So they decided to take a bad thing and make into a good thing. Appealing to the Y Generation, the ad invokes truly nostalgic images – toys and lifestyle of the 90s. The tag line is – “You grew up; so did we.” The idea, of course, is that the new Internet Explorer is nothing like the old one; I don’t know – I guess the ad does work for those who prefer choosing software based on emotions, rather than research. In any case – check out the ad and maybe you’ll want to take the new IE for a spin.

Oh, an while Microsoft attacks Gmail and tries to surf the retro wave back into users’ hearts, Google is conquering space, it seems. Well, it’s a bit late to the game – Angry Birds is now standard issue for those on board of the International Space Station, it seems – there was this NASA event, promoting the Angry Birds Space game, and according to Rovio’s marketing director, the last Russian cosmonaut is ready to smash some microgravity pigs himself. Anyhow, NASA has recently scheduled to host its first group video chat with the crew of the International Space Station – and they’re using Google+ Hangouts, the video chat function available through the Google+ social network – yeah, remember that one? Apparently it still exists. Frankly, I don’t know anyone in real life who’s using it, and it certainly is not a household name such as Facebook or even Twitter – but Hangouts certainly is a convenient feature. Unfortunately, only US and Canadian astronauts are participating – I guess the Russians will have to take care of the station, meanwhile. Those interested can actually submit their own video questions, to be showed to the crew floating 240 miles above the Earth. Also, NASA will also ask real-time questions submitted by followers – but not just on Google+ - Twitter, and Facebook are fine, too. Oh, and NASA hinted that the more original a question is, the more likely they’ll actually ask – so get creative, people! This isn’t the first social space experiment, by the way – just two days before it a live chat conference will take place, where randomly selected social media followers of NASA will be granted the chance to talk to astronauts about anything for a whole two hours.

You know, space internet is great and all, but us common people have to be more down to earth. Especially here in Russia where internet access is not as common as it is in other, more digitized nations. Well, maybe at least students will get a break. This week a group of State Duma deputies has submitted a bill which would force institutions of higher education to equip their facilities, including dormitories, with wireless internet access – free Wi-Fi, at that. There have been numerous reports of dorms having outrageously overpriced internet for various reasons – most common one being a monopoly of ISPs, who signed a contract with schools’ administration. Another solution – 3G and 4G wireless modems – is not much cheaper, really. Thus, lawmakers believe this situation creates unequal opportunities – those students who cannot afford internet cannot study as efficiently as their better off to do peers. However, there’s a catch. If the bill passes, the government will dictate conditions under which internet access is provided – and from initial remarks, it just might be “white listed” – in other words, access will be granted only certain websites – so much for poor students downloading music, TV shows and videos. On the other hand, hey - don't look a gift horse in the mouth. By the way, as you can see, the logic behind the bill basically admits that internet is a necessity – at least, for students. Well, a number of experts believe that it’s a necessity for everyone. The official consumer basket of an average Russian citizen – a symbolic collection of goods to be consumed over a given period of time in order to function in the modern society has been reevaluated for 2013 – while there were some improvements compared to 2012, experts believe the basket is missing some essentials – namely, internet and mobile connectivity.

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