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Updated: 11/1/2002; 5:17:02 AM.


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 Tuesday, October 15, 2002

A Memo to Microsoft About The Microsoft Switch Campaign

To: Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer
From: Scott Johnson
Date: 10/15/2002
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:

  1. 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 ]
  2. It was critiqued on Slashdot where it was revealed that the "switcher" was an employee of a Microsoft contractor -- a public relations firm. [ Go ] 
  3. 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 ]
  4. 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:

  1. Fire the staffers involved
  2. Terminate the contract with the PR firm
  3. 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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