Partners Want Microsoft To Bite Apple Back

Partners say Microsoft, which earlier this year hired Boulder, Colo.-based advertising firm Crispin Porter and Bogusky to oversee a $300 million re-branding effort, desperately needs to return fire against Apple, which for the past two years has been ridiculing Microsoft and the shortcomings of Windows Vista in its 'I'm a PC, I'm a Mac' campaign.

"I think we're all surprised that Microsoft has let it go on so long," said Tim Huckaby, CEO of Interknowlogy, a Carlsbad, Calif.-based solution provider. "A little truth about the superiority of the Windows platform would be welcome, and has been a long time coming."

In the new campaign, Huckaby would like to see more focus on the "edgier" side of Microsoft, which he says is best embodied in products like the Xbox, Zune, and Silverlight. "That's the segment for young consumers, and that's where Microsoft needs to change its image," he said.

Rick Oppedisano, vice president of marketing at M3 Technology Group, a Charlotte, N.C.-based solution provider, believes Microsoft should highlight interoperability issues that still exist between Macs and PCs and the fact that Apple still commands a small share of the market.

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According to Oppedisano, the ads would proceed as follows: "You'd have a regular kid on a playground, or a guy on the street, and have him start talking to the people around them. The people around them would appear confused, as all of his words are recognizable, they're just not in the right order, or aren't being pronounced correctly.

"He would eventually get frustrated by his failure to communicate and walk off, sulking. At this point, he'd get one intelligible phrase out: 'I'm a Mac'. The tagline for this commercial would be 'Everyone Else Is Talking. Join The Conversation'," said Oppedisano.

Using movie characters might be a good way to show that Microsoft is ready to start backing up its channel partners with a spirited response to Apple's Vista bashing, according to Ric Opal, vice president of Peters and Associates, an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based solution provider.

"For example, Tom Hanks would be pictured in a scene from and#91;the 2000 filmand#93; Castaway, and he'd look up, see Steve Ballmer, and say "What took you so long?"" said Opal.

On a more conservative note, Ron Herardian, president of Global System Services, a Mountain View, Calif., solution provider, says Microsoft would be wise to employ user testimonials that play up the economic benefits of deploying Microsoft products.

"It'd be quite effective to have a parade of IT managers and CIOs talking about how to save money by deploying Microsoft solutions versus others. For example, highlighting how much more manageable Vista is compared to other workstation operating systems, and features like remote desktop," Herardian said.

However, some Microsoft partners believe the gravity of Vista's woes will make it tough for Microsoft to come up with a truly effective response to the Apple ads.

"Honestly, I find the Mac commercials very annoying. and#91;Butand#93; they are starting to become true of late, and it's now just turning into picking on a defenseless elderly person, not really competitive marketing," said Vlad Mazek, a Microsoft Exchange MVP and CEO of Own Web Now, an Orlando, Fla.-based solution provider.