Microsoft is a tale of two cities, claims spinner

Top Volester Frank Shaw has told Microsoft’s critics that they are way off the mark and he is prepared to quote Charles Dickens to prove it.

Shaw is Vole’s top spinner and he had a bit of a rant  about all the “writers and pundits” who suggest the sun has set on the glorious Microsoft empire.

In the post, he references the classic movie Rashomon as well as research on confirmation bias and quotes from Charles Dickens’ book A Tale of Two Cities (“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”)

Shaw’s argument is that the naysayers are viewing the company through the wrong lens and incorrectly suggesting it is entering the worst of times as a result.

Looking at the coverage of Steve Ballmer’s retirement, he noticed that there are a few common themes.

One approach has been to focus exclusively on some of Microsoft’s consumer businesses, and then judge it harshly while ignoring the successes Microsoft have had elsewhere. Another approach has been to go a step further, and criticise Volish myopia, he wrote.

Shaw claimed that there is a single, narrow frame through which the writers and pundits view the industry itself.

He then rambled on about how the company’s strategy is to cater to a broad range of technology needs, regardless of whether it’s designing for use at work or home, with groups or individuals.

Of course he believes Microsoft has a bright future even if its longtime CEO is leaving, its tablet efforts are struggling and the PC business it was founded on is still in decline.

“So when people see the ‘worst of times’ while we see the best still ahead of us, we know it’s simply because we’re not looking through the same frame or the same time horizon,” he writes.

What he did not say is that it is partly his fault.  As Vole’s chief spinner he is expected to set the agenda and make sure that the press and pundits are looking in the right frame.    This has been something that Microsoft has been bad at doing, particularly over the last five years. 

Apple has stolen any positive press that is going and nothing has been done to attempt to get them back onside.  As a result, many of the press will write off Volish projects before they have a chance.   It has not helped that Ballmer and his team have admitted that they are desperately copying Apple’s business model.

A pro-Apple press wants Microsoft to fail, because it makes Jobs’ Mob look good, while Vole is the comedic bungler.  The fact that Microsoft allowed itself to be positioned in that place was Shaw’s fault.

On the face of it there is no product really that Microsoft has released which deserved the pasting it got.  The Zune, the Surface Tablet, even Windows 8, were not bad and should have done much better.  Some of them, like Windows 8, failed because they were trapped in Redmond’s own belief that it could force users to do something they didn’t want, but other things were based on this need to copy Apple without doing the same level of marketing and brown-nosing.  The Surface, for example, came out far too expensive and too late.  As a result it was torn to pieces by the press. 

If it had entered the market for about $200 less, there would have been nothing the press could have complained about.  If it had been pushed to schools, as it is now, it would have done extremely well and Microsoft would have been established in the market.

What Vole did was Apple’s trick of saying “here is an expensive tablet, buy it”.   At the moment the press is largely programmed to say “compare to Apple and kill” so of course it failed.

Had Shaw prepared the ground, and he did have time, he could have had several key press men on side at the launch.  Had he convinced Ballmer that it was suicide to try and copy Apple without actually being Steve Jobs, then this would have been “a far, far better thing that he did, than he have ever done” it would have been a far, far better blog that he had written than he had ever known.