So, I’m sitting in Starbucks and overhear a snippet of conversation at the table behind me: “It’s the Windows of automobiles.” My ears perk up, I do a double-take. The guy was talking to his friend about a brand of car he found to be “bloated, ugly, slow, always breaking down and packed with crap he didn’t want.” The funny thing — our hero was working on a Windows laptop as he said it.
One important thing before I continue…
I am NOT a Microsoft-hater. To be sure, I think most of their products stink and I won’t work on a Windows-anything unless I absolutely have to. But the company itself is run brilliantly in many, many ways. I’m not a consumer, just a student and a fan. (I’ll relate my favorite Bill Gates story — an important one for entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes — in a few paragraphs.)
What I do find fascinating is that I’ve heard the same phrase — “It’s the Windows of…” — from a half-dozen people over the last month, always used to convey negative attributes of another product/service. And not just from Mac or Linux zealots, either. I’m hearing it from everyday folks who use Windows regularly and resent “not having an option.” (Sort of how I felt before I switched to Macs a year and a half ago.)
Personally, I’m using the phrase more and more. Most recently to describe the difference between Wal-Mart (It’s the Windows of discounters…) and Target. It’s usually gets a knowing smile or a laugh. Heck, I’ve got it built into a slide of a small business marketing seminar I’m giving next month!
I have no idea where I picked it up or who started it. My “what’s happening” radar tells me it’s picking up steam.
This presents an interesting challenge for Microsoft:
What happens if/when their products become synonymous with attributes people dislike and don’t want? It’s already the case with the Mac and Linux crowd, but they are true believers … already “drinking the kool-aid” of the competition so to speak … and aren’t where my primary concern would rest. After all, “we” can (foolishly) be dismissed as “freaks.”
The question I’m grooving on is what happens when it tips from the zealots from the “other camp” into the current, mainstream users of MS/Windows/Office and so on?
Once a label like that sticks, it can be hard to shake.
- Will MS shape and shift their offerings to avert disaster?
- Will they do it before or after it becomes “necessary”?
- Will frustrated MS users “hijack” the brand for evil instead of good?
- Are my experiences isolated?
What do you think? (Leave a comment…)
(Oh — the Gates story. It comes from Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle. He’s talking to Bill one day about a topic I can’t remember, he tells Bill he’s wrong about a particular issue, shortly thereafter they get off the phone. Hours later Bill calls back, tells Larry he’s been thinking about it all day and decided Larry was right after all. Larry says that’s what makes Bill so dangerous — he cares about getting it right more than ego. About the right idea more than the source of the idea. There is a lesson there for all entrepreneurs.)