Microsoft Becomes Target Practice


Microsoft has come under fire as 2009 comes to a close. In January, Steve Ballmer marks his 10-year anniversary as the company's CEO. Not many believe it's time for celebration, and some point to the Redmond, Wash., company as completely missing the mark on mobile and search.

For starters, a small design firm, St Louis, Missouri-based Bing Information Design, filed a lawsuit last week against Microsoft, alleging the Redmond, Wash., behemoth infringed on the Bing trademark.

Lawyers from the Simon Law firm representing Bing Information Design say their client, which creates online illustration and designs, has used the trademark "Bing!" since 2000, and has applications pending to register the mark. But it appears that those applications weren't filed until around the time Microsoft launched its engine.

Bing Information Design seeks actual and punitive damages in the suit, asking Microsoft to pay for corrective advertising to remedy the confusion it caused. Many point to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for creating that confusion.



Adding flame to the fire, Newsweek recently published a list of the top tech predictions for 2010. At No. 9 is the forecast that Microsoft will push out Ballmer even though he reaches his 10th anniversary at Microsoft in January. I agree with the article, which describes how Microsoft has missed every big new tech market in the past decade, including mobile and search.

Having visited the Redmond, Wash., campus, walked through Microsoft's home of the future, and had the opportunity to speak with the brilliant engineers at the company, I'm familiar with the innovations possible. Look at Project Natal, for example. While Microsoft is billing the technology as a motion sensor application for video games, delays in introducing the technology could put Microsoft behind competitors Sony and Nintendo.

Even Ballmer admits that Microsoft fell short in search. In a video uploaded to YouTube, Ballmer says "we are more like a startup than we are like a big guy in the search market." But acting like a startup, he says, affords Microsoft the ability to experiment in the interface for search, which drives click-through rates and revenue from ads.

In another insult, a Mac-loving comedian took it into his own hands to address Ballmer's blunders. Scott Rose, founder of Los Angeles-based and self-proclaimed comedian, spent six years traveling around the country for Apple, professionally speaking for the company at special events and retail store openings, according to his blog.

In the video, Rose interviews a man who says he got laid off from Microsoft by Ballmer after refusing to say "Bing" with enthusiasm during a meeting. It's not clear if Microsoft can take action against this social media stunt, and the company declined to comment.

Rose says the video is a teaser for a new comic screenplay about "what it means to be a little guy in the land of giants" -- a Christmas gift to the working class at a time when Americans are
scared, jobless and homeless. Working with his screenwriting partner Ernie Brandon, "We wanted to create a comedy that would resonate with how Americans are feeling," Rose says.

2 comments about "Microsoft Becomes Target Practice".
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  1. Roy Fuchs from MFN, December 22, 2009 at 3:26 p.m.

    Without even reading the Newsweek article, it's easy to understand why MSFT has become a tech laggard. They were no leading edge innovator in their salad days. Starting with MSDOS, much of their "innovation" came from third parties. Call them an integrator, or a marketing company, but not a technology leader.

    Despite having one of the largest cash hordes on any balance sheet on the planet, they can't seem to make an OS that starts up and shuts down in less time than it takes a snail to cover 100 yards. And it necessitates how many extra user dollars and hours to try to keep intruders out and keep a PC running with a minimum of internal efficiency?

    MSFT is a utility with a utility mind set. It continues to live off of two 25 year old products - an OS and a "productivity suite," both of which jumped the shark years ago. Every few years, typically about two after originally scheduled, a new OS appears, its capability downgraded from the over hyped press releases, and its guts bloatier than its predecessor. Likewise, Office.

    On top of that, every generation of OS requires more computing power. So who upgrades Windows? I was forced into Vista, the turkey that convinced me to buy a MacBook, and I have Office 2000 on perhaps its fourth PC.

    Perhaps there is growth in developing markets, but in the industrialized world the market is largely replacement. As a result, MSFT gets a spike in revenue when they announce a new OS, and early adopters run out buy a new PC. Then demand tapers off when the masses of home users realize the upgrade isn't worth $150 (on a two year old PC that cost $750 in the first place), that they can still do everything they want with their existing OS. And CTOs realize they don't need the new one, nor can they justify upgrading a three year old PC an administrator uses for e-mail and what used to be called memos. And every proprietary app would need to be tested, if not rewritten.

    MSFT is yesterday's news, floating along on sheer size and inertia, like an iceberg - and hoping that some technological event akin to global warming doesn't melt it down.

  2. Ernie Brandon from Pajama Guys, December 23, 2009 at 5:51 a.m.

    One more update: Microsoft actually has commented on this already, calling it "Funny... but not true."

    This didn't start out as an intentional hoax, it was uploaded as a piece of theater, and categorized as comedy on Youtube. It didn't come to the attention of the authors that this had snowballed until reporters started calling.

    But really, possibly the big story right now is that Microsoft has a sense of humor about itself. It might just be that people are now "Bing!"ing around the world because of this story, but it seems a lot of people may have underestimated the folks at Microsoft. A lot of us may not have expected that they'd chuckle along at this madness.

    And madness it is; we've seen Ernie's face in Haaretz in Israel, in Chinese media, in India. It stormed throughout Ireland, Canada, the UK, and hit big in Australia. It topped the Youtube charts in France. Japan. It powered through Germany and Russia. We've got numerous screenshots of the video surrounded by writing we couldn't hope to understand, except for one American word: Bing!

    Microsoft's response, by the way, was sent to Mashable and has been reprinted on a lot of other sites, like neowin.

    Some folks came down on Mashable for promoting the vid as possibly true, but in fairness they weren't first. Or second. Or tenth.

    Of course, a lot of people still aren't reading the Youtube description, so let's reiterate here: it is a piece of theater. It was a comedy, and categorized as such.

    It plays with the mix of truth and legend, and even satirizes some of those commercials Microsoft themselves have put out purporting to be true, showing people being paid to shop for hardware, only to be debunked later as fake.

    Like when "Lauren", an actress, walked into a "Mac store" (sic) and walked out an instant later; except that a man who was in mid-stride when she went in was still mid-stride when she came out. We might be alone on this one but we rolled around on the floor laughing when we saw that.

    We find that stuff to be good fun, and thought that insiders would get a kick out of a little poke in the ribs. We didn't really expect the rest, but we are glad so many people have had a little bit of relief this holiday season- from all the bad news we hear all day long- with some good deep belly laughs.

    We're just a couple of guys in pajamas, and we imagine Microsoft doesn't have all day to comment on us; we expect they commented once and remembered they could easily go on with their full, busy, wealthy lives. Maybe they could always come back and take our pajamas but unfortunately that's about all there is.

    The response has been enormous, and quite a few commenters, even tech writers, have said "we don't care if it's real or not, it's hilarious". We've been thanked over and over for rib-hurting laughs. That's all it was meant to be.

    Merry Christmas!

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