Greatest Marketing Company In The World

I find this kind of comment from technical people about Microsoft very facile. Certainly they've improved greatly in this area. But I believe their core strength has been a synergy of management-vision-technology-legal.

Microsoft's achievements in bringing low cost computing to ordinary people worldwide and what they've learnt about developing and delivering software have been amazing. (What they haven't yet learnt is I suppose a major reason for having Wiki.) The ImbalanceOfPower and tendency towards WorldDomination were to my mind built into the very nature of software and our economic system. Someone was going to end up exploiting them.

I sincerely hope the right socio-economic corrective is on its way without too much government involvement or social distress. But the above statement to me smacks of escapism, not deep analysis, and therefore it isn't going to help. -- RichardDrake

They brought this low cost computing to ordinary people right before they invented the Internet, right?? Sounds more like MS marketing to me.

Low-cost computers came, obviously, from computer manufacturers. Low-cost user-friendly computing came from Apple (who in turn got it, in no small part, from Xerox). Microsoft's big claims to fame, at least in the early years, are a BASIC interpreter, an operating system (a rip-off of CP/M, no less), and a windowing system (based on ideas Apple had already promoted).

In fact, while I'm non a big Macintosh fan, I think one of the biggest errors in microcomputing was Apple's refusal to port MacOs to the PC. Apple missed their big chance to be the ones facing charges of monopoly practices...

-- BillTrost

Apple never brought low cost computing to this user. Their products cost more than I was willing to pay going back to the Apple ][ days. Apple refused to port MacOS to Intel platform because they see themselves as a computer company and not a software company. They are happy selling to the small market that will pay a premium for Apple hardware in order to run Apple software. Microsoft understood long ago that hardware quickly turns into a commodity and the profit margins get squeezed to nothing. Their major achievements were figuring out a way to keep that from happening to their operating system (so far) and moving their user base from MS-DOS to NT without losing it. -- EricHodges

The notion that Microsoft is the Greatest Marketing Company In The World seems reasonable and is often repeated. It might even be believable if there was any evidence to support it. In reality I think this statement is based on a profound misunderstanding. Microsoft's marketing doesn't have to be very good for the same reason that their technology doesn't have to be very good. Once a company becomes a de facto standard, that company doesn't need great marketing to get people to buy their stuff any more than they need great technology to get people to buy it.

-- CurtisBartley

Indeed, thinking on it I believe it's strategy, not marketing, that has made MS what it is. Dig it:

	What do you mean by this? Microsoft didn't write Applesoft BASIC.
The success of MS has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with making the right moves at the right time. If they'd fumbled any of these moves, they'd still be a large company, but not the global empire we endure now. They may make crap software and they may market it like soap - that's nothing new, IBM made its nut that way too. What made them giants was simply that they thought clearer and fought dirtier than anyone else. -- PeterMerel

I think you can make the case that Microsoft only really got lucky once, with DOS. Microsoft spent at least 5 years and 3 or 4 releases to make 16 bit Windows successful, and they spent a comparable amount of time and effort to make 32 bit Windows successful. Whatever you think about Microsoft's technology, you have to credit them for their determination. -- CB

The success of MS has nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with making the right moves at the right time

So, what do you think marketing is, then? Delivering what the customers want, at a profit is one definition. M$ have been very successful at marketing.

I like your list of lucky breaks. Odd that, that one company has had so many lucky breaks? All of these were marketing related actions. Marketing != promotion.

M$ have been very successful in market after market by coming in after someone else has legitimized the market, buying or building something to work with, then improving and developing the heck out of the product until it's pretty good. That's "good" as in people will buy it, not any technical measure. One part of that kind of good is "being the defacto standard", and M$ have occasionally stepped over the acceptable line in getting the standard established.

But overall, I'd agree. They've done a stunning job in marketing.

-- PaulHudson (MBA, so obviously from the Dark Side :)

The best marketing strategy by MS is telling everyone they are innovative when in reality they always were second and copied/bought the first one. -- StephanSchmidt

Lucky breaks? Nope, I says strategy and I means strategy. Maybe you put DOS down to luck, but it's just as well to attribute it to strategy - they found the right people to pitch to and the right thing to pitch 'em. Right move, right time.

As to what I think marketing is, I think marketing is disinformation, which plainly strategy ain't. But you MBAs are cleverer than me, and no doubt I'm mistaken. -- PeterMerel

I wasn't using the MBA as an indication of authority. More as an easy way to identify the target for the incoming rotten tomatoes. And I don't see it as a sign of cleverness, either -- PaulHudson

Also remember 3 things to how they got started: 1) They used a publicly funded facility to write a knock off of a publicly available Basic interperter. In short, they got a free ride at tax payers expense. And then called everyone else pirates. 2) billg's dad gave him $2 million to start a company after he dropped out of school. This was a HUGE infusion of cash in those days which gave them a head start on a large number of other companies. Under capitalization is the kiss of death for many start ups. 3) billg comes from a wealthy well connected family that gave him a leg up when pitching his vaporware to IBM. Once they were associated with IBM, they could do no wrong. Much of the company's success was due to items 2 and 3 giving them a serious perceived advantage. It was as if in a 100 yd. dash MS got to start 50 yds ahead of the competition. Once they had a good start they then followed the General Motors model of buying up competing products and either killing them off or adding them to their product line. Nothing really clever, just tried and true conservative business practices.
Many Marketing types seem to hold MS in high regard in this area. They also hold companies like Coke, GAP, Sony, Nike, Johnson and Johnson in extremely high regard. Take a look at the interesting book TheEndOfMarketingAsWeKnowIt for more insights on modern marketing. -- MarkInterrante
[moved from MicrosoftCorporation]

Best marketing company in the world.

Says who?

Well, their stuff obviously doesn't sell because of quality or any other form of technical merit. So marketing is as good an explanation as any. Especially if marketing includes leveraging monopolies and near-monopolies to capture new markets.

Can that be it? Microsoft is a terrible marketing company. Their ad campaigns are always just that, somehow. Almost clever ideas executed with some surface gloss but no flair. Their upgrade policy might have been specially invented to piss off their longest-standing customers. And here's a thought: unstable, insecure applications are bad marketing.

Unstable, insecure applications are bad product. The fact that they can get so many people to pay them for such bad product is a testimony of their marketing power. How many companies have such a large number of users who hated their products but are still, for some reason, using them?

I use Windows every day... IS THAT SO WRONG?

Not if it was your own choice to do so. I also run it every day, but I'd rather use Linux. -- StephanHouben

Not my opinion. The InterNet is setting that stage. NetScape and others (THEN Microsoft) empowered it. Excuse me, NextStep initially empowered it. I'd rather have Linux as well. With Apache, ApacheTomcat, Gnu and other...... wait...... FREE!!! applications that perform with a much higher quality than MS's. And, without the interminable upgrades (all costing). -- HergerThomann

I'd rather use OpenBsd. I'm soured on Linux.

Understandable. Unfortunately, OpenBsd is not very portable (unlike NetBsd or FreeBsd), and doesn't handle SMP machines either. In many respects it is losing, rather than gaining, ground to GnuLinux. It may never leave the niche :(

OpenBsd and NetBsd are actually quite close in terms of portability; it's just that more ports are maintained for NetBsd. FreeBsd is somewhat portable but suffers from a few years of being i386-only.

It's not the "salesmanship" aspect of marketing they excel at - it's the consistent leveraging of market inertia into the belief that you'll simply fall behind without them.

Start with the (mostly true) premise: Everybody runs Windows with MS office. When was the last time a revision of those products left all the file formatting intact? You could upgrade files made from an older version, but were screwed if you got files from the newer version. This simultaneously forces the market to upgrade (to keep up) and out of competing "clone" products because immediate compatibility was not available.

Many, many software purchases are made only on the grounds of "what everyone else is doing." Few take the time to compare features, cost, maintenance, reliability, etc. into account because it's easier to just follow the herd. Microsoft could advertise XP as "What else are you gonna buy?" and most people would end up buying it anyway. Aside from the usual back-door vulnerabilities, the casual users I know find XP to be both usable and a better performer than its predecessors. All the worms, viruses, and crashing in the world mean little when you know that everyone else is suffering the same miserable fate.

If that's great marketing, then the title premise of this page is correct.
Microsoft may not be as clever or artsy as Apple, with their Bondi-blue boxen, or their sledgehammer-wielding blondes in skimpy workout gear, but they do know how to appeal to the joe schmoes of the world, who don't know much about computers and don't want to know; and also the people in middle and upper management, whose neckties may just be a little too tight. In short, they know how to exploit RurisLaw to sell product and reap huge margins. You can't argue with their effectiveness. The numbers speak for themselves.


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