Mixed Microsoft Messaging Muddles its Market

Windows 8 PR team could learn from Xbox PR team

Microsoft’s Win8 could follow Xbox’s lead for proper product launch details

Microsoft is in the news again this week with some more details about Windows Blue and how this upgrade to Windows 8 may or may not help. The reason it may or may not help is because Microsoft continues to be pretty secretive about the upgrade so, it’s really unknown if it will help. Rumors then continue to swirl, guesses are being made, and more.

Tech PR Review previously posted that Microsoft should become more proactive about publicly announcing its plans. In particular, it should address whether or not it will bring back the start menu and a boot-to-desktop option. These are two features heavily covered in a negative light across media and blogs. In a Microsoft blog post May 7, Microsoft remained vague. One sentence read, “The Windows Blue update is also an opportunity for us to respond to the customer feedback that we’ve been closely listening to since the launch of Windows 8 and Windows RT.” That’s as far as it went – there appeared to be no specifics.

Prior to this, CNET published a story with a sub-headline that stated “…the software giant is ready to fire up the Windows Blue disclosure machine…” Clearly that didn’t mean right away since the disclosure machine was not apparent in the Microsoft blog post the next day. The story did state details would start to emerge in the next couple of weeks. If Microsoft is trying to generate additional press before the two weeks, it’s a good thought. But, the problem is it probably means two more weeks of rumors and negativity. Just today, in another CNET story, a Microsoft executive hinted at the possibility of bringing back the start button. Here’s a summary:

Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of Windows at Microsoft, said the company is having “meaningful discussions” about bringing certain older features of the Microsoft’s operating system to Windows 8. That could include a Start button that remains on the screen.

However, she said Microsoft believes “fully in the start screen and model of having live tiles and access to everything you want in a glance.”

So again, it’s not clear. In fact, the reference to belief in the start screen could even imply there will not be a boot-to-desktop option. Vagueness like this is the problem with keeping things hush for so long. There are essentially four camps of Windows 8 consumers. There are those that have Windows 8 and are happy with it. Clearly there are not enough of these people as the OS is nowhere near the installed base of Windows 7 or XP. It may be selling OK, according to Microsoft, but it has a long way to go. Then there are those that have Windows 8 and want changes – the biggest requests being a start button and boot-to-desktop option. Microsoft’s continued secrecy on this is probably frustrating these users. Even if their wishes are granted, the frustration was real and long. It lingers and is never forgotten. This leaves a potential bad taste in the mouth for future Microsoft OS products. Then there are those that don’t have Windows 8 because they are waiting – waiting to see what happens with the update or probably with Intel’s newest chips due out soon. These people watching and waiting on the sidelines also feel the frustration (will the OS be good for me when I’m ready?). Finally, there are those that don’t have Windows 8 because they are not Windows users or dislike Microsoft. Microsoft is giving these folks plenty of fuel – and time – to create word-of-mouth that is anti-Windows and anti-Microsoft.

In short, Microsoft’s secretive approach to PR is kindling a bad fire. Perhaps Microsoft is being secretive to not let the competition get a jump. Well, Microsoft should offer this explanation – there are plenty of people out there that don’t know this. Perhaps Microsoft thinks this explanation will fuel bad publicity. I think it wouldn’t be worse than it is. Maybe Microsoft is unsure if it can deliver a start button or boot-to-desktop mode. Well, if so, Microsoft better be prepared for even harsher backlash. It basically must do it.

On May 21, Microsoft will announce the next version of its market-leading Xbox game console. It has sent out all the media invites for the event. The console itself is not expected to be available until around November, almost a half year later. It’s likely to be an event filled with critical details about it. It may leave out certain technical specifications or other low-level intricacies but, when it comes to key features for potential consumers, I doubt Microsoft will spare a word. But, with Windows 8, it doesn’t take the same approach. I just don’t get it.