Tag Archives: Bill Gates

I’m a PC

Microsoft are in a strange position. Despite still producing the operating system that holds the dominant position in the market, still producing the office platform that holds the dominant position in the market, and still producing the dominant web browser, they are seen as being under threat. The reason? Their share of the market held by their products is not as high as it used to be, as the competition is making gains. More than that being the dominant platform they are the prime target for a variety of viruses and malware, and if they aren’t being criticised for the security issues in their software, it is their business practices that got them to the dominant position in the first place.

Being pragmatic you could argue that with the position they held about the only way their share could go is down, putting aside the interventions of the EU and the US government, even in a market that they dominate quite as much, competing companies can still come out with innovative products and change the balance. For example Google came out of nowhere and Microsoft were left scrabbling to compete. However you could also argue that Microsoft themselves have caused some of their problems. Vista was very poorly recieved by many people, both in terms of performance where it was visibly slower than XP, and from simple usability where the security features were downright obstructive. So many professionals ended up sticking with or rolling back to XP. I can also show you a number of end users who are continually frustrated with their Vista machines who wished they could have XP instead. The latest Office wasn’t quite so bad but the ribbon bar didn’t go down well, nor did the new file format – for example one member of the church regularly has to send round documents twice because he is using Office 2007 and his documents are incompatible with the older versions in use by other people.

Probably the most high profile perceived competition to their core product is the ever resurgent Apple. While it is certainly not making much of an impact in the corporate world, Apple is certainly making inroads into the home PC market. Whether it is thanks to their advertising, the much vaunted halo effect from the iPod, the distinctive design of the products, or a combination of all three, Apple computers are selling in larger numbers than they ever have.

Looking at the Apple advertising campaigns that directly targeted the PC market, first off we had the switcher campaign. This consisted of a series of real, sometimes celebrity users talking about their experiences and why they switched to the Mac. The Microsoft response was frankly an embarrassment, with them being caught faking a Mac to PC switcher.

Since then we’ve had the Get a Mac campaign. All the adverts follow the same general structure, opening with a relaxed looking casually dressed man introducing himself as a Mac, and a more straight laced man in a suit introducing himself as a PC. The advert then compares some aspect of the PC with the Mac, including crashing PC’s, changes in Vista, and numerous other perceived issues with the PC platform compared to the Mac.

Interestingly, Microsoft haven’t repeated the direct attack on the adverts as they did with the old switcher campaigns. We’ve had a bit of a mix, including most recently the criticised Mojave Experiment. Even with their latest campaign, it didn’t seem they were going to do that, as they started off with two adverts featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld that were frankly bizarre, before moving on to phase two.

Phase two for the first time seems to directly attack the Get a Mac campaign, opening with someone who has obviously been cast to look just like the PC in the original adverts (although certain people seem to think he looks a lot worse) and then follow that up with a large variety of other people, including celebrities again, who also say they are PC’s.

Interesting things to note are that there are Microsoft employees in there, whose e-mail addresses are posted on the screen during the advert, but also note that Vista isn’t mentioned at all, and also that aside from addressing the stereotype in the Apple advert, it doesn’t address anything else in those adverts – the message of the advert is basically that lots of different people use a PC.

It has to be said, that after the fallout from the Mojave Experiment, and the bemused responses to the Jerry Seinfeld adverts, the response to this advert has been pretty good, and I’m pretty sure that given that the Get a Mac campaign has been going for two years it will bring a new campaign from Apple in response. But then is the new Microsoft campaign saying anything other than lots of people use PC’s?

Update: A little post-script to this story – a revelation that has caused much merriment amongst the Mac faithful – the advert may show lots of people who use PC’s, but the people who made the advert aren’t one of them, as the advert was put together on a Mac.

Bye Bye Bill

Even if you don’t much like Bill Gates, you can’t deny the influence he has had on the world of computers. As such, his decision to change his focus from his work at Microsoft to his charity work merited a special, hour long edition of The Money Programme, shown last night, looking back at his time at Microsoft, and forward to what is to come.

Programmes about Bill Gates have a chequered past. Often in order to get an agreement to interview the man, there appear to be so many restrictions that the final programmes appear to be pulling their punches, and largely become an advert for the man and the company. The Money Programme had apparently negotiated long and hard to get the interview, as such it certainly was a friendly interview. However, it did seem that they had got some flexibility this time around, as unlike some interviews in the past there were some questions over past events that sometimes get avoided – the multiple court cases being a key example – needless to say Bill Gates feels that the company acted properly and that it was their treatment by the various governments that was wrong rather than what his company did to rivals such as Netscape, but questions were asked none the less.

The programme also featured some critical voices, putting the other side. In particular Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Software and chair of the Mozilla Foundation, both organisations that have been in competition with Microsoft over the years. Mitch is pretty clear what he thinks of some of the tactics, in particular the advantages that Microsoft gained over his company by writing software for an operating system that they also produced. It didn’t go into that much detail, but the contrary point was able to be made.

We also got some glimpses of the man at work, showing Bill reviewing projects, and comparing that with older footage, indicating that perhaps Bill has mellowed somewhat in the way that he reviews – somewhat quieter and with rather less shouting! The picture it painted of the company was interesting, with the presenter commenting on how much of a focus Bill Gates is within the organisation, and posing the question of how things might be different. We also heard from some of the early staff at the company, and even a contribution from Sir Alan Sugar talking about Amstrad entering the PC market and negotiating with Microsoft. They even had a contribution from IBM, and whether their decision to allow Microsoft to separately license the OS for their machine to other companies was a good or a bad move.

The programme didn’t limit itself to business views. Bill Gates senior appears. Decidedly unhappy when his son dropped out of university to write software, eschewing a good career as a lawyer, he is rather happier about it now, and assists his son with his philanthropy. We even get to see the school where Bill started writing software on punched cards – although amusingly one shot of a class full of laptop using students at the school had one right in the centre with a Mac…

By virtue of the fact that Gates approval was needed, this was never going to be a massively probing interview – certainly being the Gates version of history the infamous dismissal of the rise of the internet as a serious event followed by a swift turnaround, was re-crafted as Gates sending an e-mail to all staff announcing a change of focus in the company, without mentioning the major rewrites that were made to Gates book The Road Ahead.

Talking about the road ahead, the programme comes right up to date looking at competition with Google, and the ill-fated attempt to take over Yahoo.

For those in the UK the programme is available for the next week on iPlayer, for those outside, there is a bit of the footage on the BBC News site. If you missed it, even for the flaws, it’s still an entertaining insight, and well worth a look.

Gates and Jobs Presentation Style

I quite often use a great article on Presentation Zen that compares the presentation styles of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates as an example when discussing how to give a good presentation. The original article is now about two years old, and in that time things have moved on in terms of the software available. Has the new software made any difference? Check out this new article on the same subject which compares a couple of recent presentations, and includes links to videos of the presentations and copies of some of the slides.

When Gates met Jobs

If you watched any of the dreadful Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul you will probably remember a series of sketches they did imagining Steve Jobs and Bill Gates meeting at a party. They are two of the biggest names in the industry, and haven’t appeared together on stage for more than 20 years. Steve Jobs company is running an advertising campaign lampooning key products of Bill Gates to the extent that PC magazines feel they have to run articles defending the PC. As a result how the two get on together is a subject of much speculation, especially as despite all of this, Microsoft is the largest developer of Mac software outside Apple.

With all the speculation, it is impressive that the D5 conference has managed to get the two men together on stage. The full session runs for well over an hour, and is available in seven parts with a prologue. If you don’t have that much time, check out the highlight reel which includes a number of gems and little snippets.

Steve Jobs also gave a solo interview – check out that video for a classic Jobs line when challenged with the point that via iTunes, Apple is one of the biggest Windows software developers…

“That’s right. … It’s like offering a glass of ice water to people in hell.�

Update: You can now get the entire session with Gates and Jobs as a single download from iTunes.