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Tell Microsoft it's YOUR passion


How NOT to create passionate users #24: tell them YOU'RE the one with the passion, while THEY have... potential.

I'd say that's 180 degrees in the wrong direction. We believe passionate users is about getting yourSELF out of the way and being all about the USER'S passion. It's not a very "I Rule" experience to hear that I have... potential. What does that mean?

I'd hate to have a blog named "Creating Users With Potential". Who gives a f* about potential? This whole campaign makes it sound as though only through Microsoft's passion can you have a hope of ever realizing your potential (and maybe one day you TOO can have passion like Microsoft!)

This is a huge, glaring, grand canyon-sized gap in Microsoft's attempt to get as Scoble calls it brand love. Apple gets love because Apple makes users feel like they kick ass. Not just feel it... do it.

This is supposed to be about my passion, not yours, dammit. Quit telling me what you're going to do to help me fulfill my perhaps hidden potential in terms of how amazing (and supposedly passionate) YOU are.

You can already feel the shift. I don't care about today's market share; I think the evidence is very clear that something is changing, and Dori Smith said it best:

"That 70% of the people at tech conferences (because it ain't just blogging conferences that have that kind of statistic) are using Macs isn't because those people are outliers; it's that those people are early adopters and influencers. Those 95% Wintel users at airports are using those machines because that's what the boss gave them. The 70% of conference-goers that have Macs chose what they want to work with, and made the informed decision not to buy a Wintel machine.

If, like Scoble, I worked for Microsoft, the fact that influencers are leaning so strongly Mac-wards would seriously worry me"

I started going to the JavaOne conference in 1997. Over the last three years, I've seen the number of Macs at that conference go from, oh, zero to 70%.

And we're talking about the largest programming language conference on the planet.

Then I'm off to ETech, and it's the same thing. I'd put it at around 80% Macs to 20% something else (which at that conference, the "something else" often meant Linux.

Same thing at O'Reilly's Foo Camp.

This is big. This is huge. Maybe Apple's computer market share hasn't shifted yet, but this early-adopters-getting-Macs is new. What happens when the chasm is crossed? These new Mac users are the ones with influence at every level -- financial, technical, creative. This cannot be framed as simply a reflection of the lone-wolf creatives who "get" the Mac while the rest of the world uses a REAL operating system.

These aren't all folks who are subject to the whims of fashion and slick ad campaigns either. When they're writing world-changing software (as many of these people are), they care about a lot more than "being cool".

Maybe if Microsoft gets the passion thing right, that would help. But Apple has always had it, and now they have an operating system to mean it. If the early adopters and influencers are here, can the mainstream be that far behind?

Repeat after me Microsoft: "Microsoft: Our Potential, Your Passion"

Posted by Kathy on June 2, 2005 | Permalink


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» Microsoft Office is the New Sexy from Career Path
So true, and yet not so true. The reason that Microsoft isn't talking about "your" passion is that Microsoft isn't selling its product to you. Microsoft is selling it to your boss or, more likely, your bosses boss. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 2, 2005 6:20:36 PM

» Macs, passion, and continuing the conversation from Backup Brain
I got mentioned over on a Jupiter Research blog today by Michael Gartenberg: Our Passion, Your whatever :) - Microsoft's Mediocre Marketing. Sadly, he didn't actually link here. The backstory: I wrote this piece in March about how early adopters... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 3, 2005 8:34:22 PM

» Our Passion, Your whatever :) - Microsoft's Mediocre Marketing from Nosce te ipsum
Kathy Sierra rips apart the Microsoft commercials. [Read More]

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Thanks for the link and the compliment!

To me, "potential" is what my parents always said I wasn't living up to. Phbbbbt.

Another series of data points for you: I went to the Perl Whirl 1 (2000) and Perl Whirl 3 (2003) conferences. We're talking some of the top Perl Geeks in the world. In 2000, there was (not counting me) one speaker using a Mac. In 2003, the overwhelming majority of them had Macs.

It's not uncommon for people to go to "the tech guy" at their company and ask them what hardware they should buy. I used to be in the IT department at a good-sized company, and it happened all the time. The typical tech guy attitude used to be, "Macs are toy computers." Now, it's completely different; chances are, that tech guy has a Mac and is happy to recommend it to others.

The big difference, imo, is OS X. Give the geeks a platform that combines all the UNIXy goodness they want with a UI that just works, and they're happy campers. I think that Apple's market share is going to make a huge jump sometime soon.

Posted by: Dori | Jun 2, 2005 7:23:44 PM

Interesting Mac observations. I'm a fairly recent (18 month) Mac convert and I LOVE my Mac.

Not exactly on topic but I've made a Mac-in-culture observation of my own as of late which, I'm fairly certain, has gone unnoticed by Kathy and the gang.

Over the last six months, I've noticed a lot of Mac laptops (Powerbooks and iBooks) of primetime television. At first I thought this was product placement instigated by Apple. But recently, say over the last 3 or 4 weeks, I've seen a lot of Mac laptops but the ALL have unbranded stickers covering the beautiful undeniably cool glowing Apple logo on the back of the LCD.

My conspiracy theorist conclusion, someone else with some significant influence and/or money has also noticed the increase of Macs on TV.

Back on topic, maybe Scoble will forward this post up the chain. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) Microsoft will probbly respond with a "Get The Facts" campaign citing many "independent" research studies that all find that not only does Microsoft inspire more potential than Apple does passion but Wintel machine are significantly cooler than Macs - except, of course, as web servers for static content or some such. Crisis overted. All systems normal, Mr. Gates.

Posted by: Matt G | Jun 2, 2005 8:54:44 PM

Dori: That's exactly why I switched. I came from Linux to Mac personally, as I just wanted all my peripherals to work with my computer. I still have my linux box; I just hardly ever have need to use it these days. I wouldn't touch Windows with a 15' bargepole - having supported it and having had to use it at work for like forever, it just annoys the hell out of me.

Posted by: Matt Moran | Jun 2, 2005 11:42:58 PM

Matt G: you might be suprised by what I said on my blog.

Posted by: Robert Scoble | Jun 3, 2005 3:33:24 AM

I actually switched back to PCs. After a while you get tired of the expense of Macs. They look great and have a great OS but ultimately it's expensive and when something does break down (and it will) it seems so much worse having spent all that money.

Posted by: Lisa | Jun 3, 2005 5:53:51 AM

Lisa: Depends what you're after. I did a costing of a low-end Dell PC versus an equivalent Mac Mini and found that in the UK at least you'd save up to 200UKP by going with the Mac. Granted, you get more "free" peripherals with the PC but you don't always want them - I already had 2 17" monitors, 2 printers, etc.

Posted by: Matt Moran | Jun 3, 2005 7:12:26 AM

I have been a Microsoft and Linux user for years and have entertained the idea of going to Mac.

Not because I enjoy the experience any more than PC or because I find the tools to be easier to use, but only because of the pure sexiness of the Mac brand. This sexiness however has not been enough to sway me into forking out the extra bucks to actually own a Mac.

It is exactly this attraction, the in your face coolness of Mac that has repelled me from buying one, but I realise that to many others it has had quite the opposite effect (sales and mass media penetration speak volumes on this note).

Personally, I'm glad to be a user with potential. But then again, maybe I'm as bland as the beige boxes I own.

Posted by: Rob Barac | Jun 3, 2005 7:41:45 AM

Going into Mac is for geeks who are making good money and have spare money(no other worldly spending needs like child day-care etc). Mac taking off is a non-sustainable argument for the timebeing.

On a side note, I work for the biggest wireless firm in US. We have seen no change in IE usage of our website. But over the last year, there is substantial increase in Firefox usage at the expense of Opera numbers. How about that?

Posted by: kishore dandu | Jun 3, 2005 9:24:24 AM

Robert: I've read you post and you may be surprised that I'm not surprised. As always, you are objective, passionate and reasonable. This is why I read your blog everyday, if only after I read Kathy's.

First off, I'm not a Mac zealot. I use Microsoft and Linux at both work and home but MY personal machine is an 12" iBook. For lots of good reasons - some fairly practical.

So, as you suggest, let's drop the spin. Microsoft employs a lot of really, really smart, passionate and creative people. These people consistently produce incredible and amazing innovations every year. Truth be known, probably more than or at least as much as other companies that are considered "innovation driven" like Apple.

So what's my beef? Well, I think Kathy did a pretty good job explaining it. For those of us with a "Microsoft is a necessary evil" attitude, it is not so much Microsoft's products that are the issue (as we all know there are good and bad points here). The problems is Microsoft's arrogance. It's the idea that Microsoft, in it's infinite wisdom, knows what's best for me. I got enough of that when my mom was alive. Why do we all hate the talking paper clip in Office? Not because context sensitive help presented in natural language, both spoken and printed is a bad idea. In fact, I think that's a great idea. The problem was the paper clips attitude. It's little condescending way of jumping up and saying "Hey dumbass, before you hurt yourself, let me tell you what you really mean to do!" Ten years later Microsoft is still trying to do TO us instead of WITH us.

What would I like to see from Microsoft?

1.) Stand on your own merit. Don't waste time and energy throwing rocks at the underdogs. Microsoft FUD campaigns only re-enforce the idea that Microsoft has no merit of its own (which, since we're dropping spin, I will freely admit is far from true).

2.) Praise innovation both inside and outside of Microsoft. The caveat here is that you make sure that it is real innovation. For example, Microsoft is adding a Unit Testing framework into the forthcoming version of Visual Studio and is on tour announcing this radical "Microsoft innovation".

3.) Embrace existing standards and strive for interoperability whenever possible. (Microsoft "enhanced" LDAP, HTML, TCP/IP all come to mind).

As long as Microsoft maintains its corporate arrogance it ensures that its users only have "potential" energy - passionate users are about "kinetic" energy. I want to feel empowered, not patronized.

That said, hiring you is a step (a small, possible placatory step but a step nonetheless) towards a brighter future. By being recognized by you on Kathy's blog alone, Microsoft has succeeded in making me feel a little bit cooler.

Posted by: Matt G | Jun 3, 2005 9:32:51 AM


I don't think Apple will dominate the PC world anytime soon. Yes, Macs are cool. But Britney Spears and Beany Babies used to be cool, too. You see, we PC people tend to *fear* that which is too cool. (Of course, when earth-tones come back into fashion, I guess we'll just have to learn to accept our own innate coolness.)

Currently, I've got a big, cheap, beige Windows 2000 box sitting on my desk. I built it myself (it's easy -- you could probably teach a monkey to do it.) If ANYTHING goes wrong, there are at least a dozen local stores I can go to for replacement parts. If it ever breaks, I can have it up and running again in a few hours (worst case).

But, as I said, Macs seem cool, too. They certainly *look* nice. And OSX looks MUCH nicer than Windows. IMHO both W2K and XP are ugly and unrefined. (Seriously, with all Microsoft's money, this is the best they could do?)

Steven Jobs may not have Bill Gates' head for business and strategy, but generally speaking he's got great taste. He's got *panache*. Bill, on the other hand, has absolutely no taste or style. But if Apple and MS ever merged -- with their complementary strengths -- they probably *could* rule the world... frightening.

However, what's really frightening is the cult-follower-like tone of your post. Overzealous Mac people scare us PC people because we know how persuasive you can be. We know that if we let our defenses down for even a moment, by the time your spell breaks we'll all have mini-Macs and Apple tattoos. But make no mistake -- we're on to you. So, no matter what you say, we're not gonna sign over our houses and sell flowers at the airport for you.

; )

Posted by: Johnny | Jun 3, 2005 10:46:31 AM

As a non-geek I thought I'd chime in on the Windows/Apple debate.

Until six years ago I had only ever used a Windows PC. My husband and I switched to Macs after a bad three years of having to replace a hard drive each year on our home computer. Our first Mac was a refurbished blueberry iBook. Within an hour of having it home and learning how to use it, we were in love. It was so easy. It was fun.

Since then we've upgraded. I have a titanium G4 Powerbook and we splurged on a G5 for him last year. He likes gaming, I'm an aspiring writer.

I don't care if Windows has potential if I am not inspired. My Mac makes me feel inspired and for that reason I will never go back.

Posted by: Stefanie | Jun 3, 2005 1:53:22 PM

Understand that the average user cares about their computer as much as you care about what kind of rims are on your car or what kind of body lotion you use or how much your sheets' thread count is. For some these are a big deal. For most, me included, they have zero relevance to our lives. Apple is sexier but most people just don't care. I give my old computers to my nephews and buy another Dell for $250. It does what I need it to do. Good enough.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 3, 2005 2:51:34 PM

I agree that Apple isn't going to take over the PC market, especially for business use. More and more though the people I know are switching to Mac for home use. They are tired of the virus problems with PCs. Also they are using itunes and doing photos and videos which can be done more simply and intuitively on a mac. I have had conversations with 6 people in the past few weeks who either converted or are considering it. I have a PC and 2 macs and frankly the PC sits idle most of the time.

Posted by: Julie | Jun 3, 2005 4:53:00 PM

I was thinking about buying a Mac iBook till I read they were dumping IBM RISC chips for Intel x86 (if I got that right). When I can dual boot OS X and Windows on one machine, I'll use a cheap Chinese laptop instead!


Posted by: Wally | Jun 4, 2005 5:41:08 AM

Some PC users don't realize the full cost of using a PC. Whenever I go to certain relatives' homes I know I'll be spending time removing a virus/installing a driver/fixing spyware/random maintenance on their Windows PC. Sometimes I even have to take the PC home and work on it. But if you asked them -- the PC has been wonderful and they haven't had any problems. I also have family members with Macs and the support cost, in terms of my time, is far less.

This is anecdotal, but it is why some early adopters are so pro-Mac. Average users don't care what kind of computer they have as long as it just works. The "just works" part only happens due to my hard work. Over the years, this has caused be to become very passionate about Microsoft, and not in a good way. You can't tell your mother-in-law you won't help her fix the virus infection that threatens to delete all her precious photos, or tell your dad you won't fix his broken Outlook program… thanks, Microsoft.

Posted by: Nate | Jun 6, 2005 10:51:11 AM

OK, the next 12 to 18 months are going to be verrrrryyy interesting to those who have an interest in "Passionate users", making and keeping them.

I'd make some remark about living in a cave, but by now even Osama Bin Laden knows that Apple is switching to Intel. Not only are they switching, but everyone knows that it's a kicking-and-screaming, purely-business, exact-opposite-of-passion type decision that, if not executed well, is going to alienate the most passionate users of Macs.

Hearing all the facts about being jerked around by IBM, I don't doubt that they had to make the switch, but it's 100% about keeping Apple a viable business and 0% about their users kicking ass, pursuing their passion, etc.

We're about to witness a perfect case study on how to make a major, necessary change to a company's products while keeping the faithful faithful.

Or how not to do it.

Posted by: Ralph Richard Cook | Jun 10, 2005 1:26:34 PM

As if users care what chip sits inside their Mac...

Posted by: Rimantas | Jun 13, 2005 5:26:15 PM

I would say that my Mac, in the long run, is far LESS expensive than a PC. Number one, I don't have to pay for anti-virus software, and a year or two of subscribing to Norton adds quite a few $$ to your PC's price tag. So will the dozens of tech support calls. Number two, Macs in general tend to be built much better than PCs in general. Back when I was still using PCs, I had to get a new one every two years or so. After a couple of years they were simply useless. My Mac, however, just needs more RAM and a newer video card and it'll last for at least five years. I have friends that still use 10-year-old Macs and love them. As far as I can tell, Macs are a higher initial investment, but that extra money you spend on them will pay off in the long run.

Posted by: Kacie Landrum | Jul 3, 2005 3:45:10 PM

I agree that Apple isn't going to take over the PC market, especially for business use. More and more though the people I know are switching to Mac for home use. They are tired of the virus problems with PCs. Also they are using itunes and doing photos and videos which can be done more simply and intuitively on a mac. I have had conversations with 6 people in the past few weeks who either converted or are considering it. I have a PC and 2 macs and frankly the PC sits idle most of the time.

Posted by: Padonak | May 2, 2006 6:45:07 AM

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