Lost: One Microsoft PR Genie, last seen in the bottle.

It turns out yet again Microsoft and Waggener Edstrom (the folks they outsource their PR to) seem to have this ongoing disconnect between reality and the Redmond Zip code. In that when a journalist on sites like “The Verge” or other(s) taps you on the shoulder for comment(s) in around what the *ACTUAL* strategy is going to be for Windows Phone 8 and future upgrades / updates.

Take the freaking call.  😳

In ignoring this, they in turn let the message around what this all actually means fall into the hands of the horde, which in turn means a lot of assumptions, assertions and most importantly anti-Windows Phone fuel for the rumor mill fire(s). First reading you will take a pass at this being a case of Microsoft looking to rub their greedy hands together and go for the ye olde replenishment model. If you shift all your energy & focus onto a new release for new phones, only you can replenish your profit margins with the existing user base – as that is exactly what Apple does. After careful consideration however and you continue to read on in this saga you may stumble upon a link or two that points you to the real story in around the upgrade future(s) here, in that Microsoft will promise to give you a 8.x update.

“..Distribution of the updates may be controlled by the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer from which you purchased your phone. Update availability will also vary by country, region, and hardware capabilities...”

I could sit here and go all Troll/FUD on that last comment but in reality its like kicking that sick puppy again. I will simply say this; the messaging for this got lost yet again and now Microsoft have to spend cycles trying to put this genie back in the bottle. The only real way they can do this is by giving concrete assurances & specifics in around what 8.x vs 9.x will look like, specifically what does this whole Windows “Blue” strategy likely to become? They will not do that, as that would be as if again someone in Microsoft + Wagged were actually taking a proactive stance on Public Relation(s) – Probably reading their PRIME scores upside down still. To quote Tom on my facebook thread:

“..Microsoft used to control the messaging of updates a lot better, putting the blame on carriers. Carriers didn't like this, so Microsoft removed the tables they used to supply. Some phones in the US don't even have Tango right now, let alone 7.8. Have Microsoft committed to supplying 7.8 for every existing device? No. They've remained silent consistently about 7.8 and even pushed versions with buggy live tiles without a PR strategy. This support document with life cycle information has never been published before, and yet Microsoft has not managed the message well once again. It leaves people waiting for Tango or 7.8 concerned they will be left in the dark once again. Don't defend it, ask for change…”

Simply put, this isn’t a story about Windows Phone upgrade good vs bad its more about how the hell does a company like Microsoft constantly forget to sit down and write a PR Strategy that actually makes sense. If you know you are about to launch a phone, then start campaigning now and furthermore do something about the release in a more visible / visual way that covers off your talking points of concern. The fact Microsoft are constantly trying to figure out a way to pander to the carriers in order to push more units is probably a strong indicator as to why Surface Pro has failed to go outside handful of zip codes as they still haven’t figured out what “logistics” and “partnerships” really look like. Apple is also being constantly used as baseline for success/failures for Microsoft in that all too often I see “but Apple do…” stop right there, Apple firstly have a strong history of success not simply because they had first move advantage on a touch-enabled phone but they have a very tightly controlled release strategy. When Apple sit down and release a product post, its actual design/development they focus in on the important areas such as:
  • “How do I get this phone to some kid in outback Australia and New York at the same time?”
  • “How do I control the entire PR noise around this launch so everyone takes queues from me not bloggers”
  • “How do I convince consumers to move to the next phone without them realizing I’m replenishing my market”.
PhoneHyper Tim Cook from Apple probably got the succession from Steve Jobs probably (no idea) because he was brilliant at logistics & retail, in that he can get the job done around what it takes to release (even when Apples at its worst it still hits a better stride than Microsoft lately). Before one compares Microsoft to Apple, take stock in the fact that Microsoft’s failures are not technical or by its design faults. It’s actual failures always constantly orbit in its ability to broadcast its message and make good on delivery. In reality its comparing Apples to Lemons (hah!) This is whole upgrade fiasco is yet again filed under “How not to do Product Management & Release”.  

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  • Andrew

    Microsoft is a great company, with a lot of talented people but my feeling always been that some of their executives are disconnected from reality since the last 20 years.
    We all remember Ballmer asking who’s going to buy the iPhone, a 500$ phone.

    And that’s just at the very top surface (the irony!), something which was caught by the media.

    They are all senile, still thinking Microsoft is still #1.
    The sad thing is that by the different decisions they take (or not), they mock at the passion and effort of hundreds of people working under them.

    I realize that after a while, after you got a big fat account, stock options, a yacht or two, and plenty of cars it’s hard to still find motivation, stay connected, and innovate.

    They should just go home and play XBOX with grandsons, at least show respect to younger people which are motivated to do all the things they can’t do.

  • John


    Very clever chart of “Crossing the Chasm”. I had read the book some time ago:


    Upon further thought, a similar chart could be made for iPad+iPad Mini, Nexus tablets+Android tablets, and Surface RT+Surface Pro tablets. Apple and Android are way ahead of Microsoft in the tablet arena as well. Maybe Microsoft catches up someday, maybe not.