A Memo to Microsoft About The Microsoft Switch Campaign
To: Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer
From: Scott Johnson
Re: An Open Letter to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer
Hi there. You don't know me and probably don't even care that I exist. I'm just a blogger in Massachusetts. Still, in a small way, I am a part of the "Microsoft Universe". I've been a customer since the late 70s (Microsoft Level II Basic, TRS-80 Model I), a software developer (DOS, Windows, Windows NT) and, as of recently, a developer for Microsoft Outlook with my new Inbox Buddy product. And, while I think that Microsoft has done an outstanding job in a number of areas, I also think that you are making mistakes right now -- large ones. And the latest example of them is the Microsoft "Switch" Campaign.
This marketing program, modeled after the Macintosh Switch campaign, has been revealed as, at best, a sham.
Here are the facts:
- It was started recently (shortly before 10/14/2002). Here is a picture of the web page for "Switch" -- it's a picture since it is no longer online. [ Go ]
- It was critiqued on Slashdot where it was revealed that the "switcher" was an employee of a Microsoft contractor -- a public relations firm. [ Go ]
- It was also revealed that the "picture" of the woman is a stock image from a clip art firm (Getty Images). Please note that it wasn't merely a crowd of hackers who care about this -- the Associated Press, AP, followed up on it and located the woman. [ AP ] [ Second Slashdot Article ] [ Getty Images ]
- Microsoft took down the web page with the "Switch" article. [ Go ]
I have to wonder how a Microsoft marketing person could a) come up with this campaign and b) not expect to get found out. Not to mention the obvious ethical questions of using a Microsoft contractor as the example.
I'm disappointed in Microsoft. Coming from a critic of Microsoft that's probably not a surprise but this latest tactic has surprised even me. Microsoft needs to learn that as the industry leader, a different set of rules apply to you -- a higher standard. One marketing person that I ran this by described your tactics as "Sophmoric" and I'd have to agree. I'm not sure why Microsoft keeps having these kind of issues but I strongly recommend that you:
- Fire the staffers involved
- Terminate the contract with the PR firm
- Discuss the issue with your employees to make it clear to them why it was unacceptable
And when I say "Fire" I don't mean with a severance package. A very clear message needs to be sent.
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