Microsoft Mobile Bravado Is No Thriller -- It's More Like Flop Sweat

Last Updated Sep 13, 2010 1:20 PM EDT

Microsoft (MSFT) released Windows Phone 7 to manufacturing and started its marketing campaign. However, although the company reportedly has $500 million burning a hole in its pocket, its first actions have been both sad and telling.

First the company held a mock funeral for competitors and then shows a "secret" trailer with a Lawrence of Arabia theme that, of course, is on YouTube. But the efforts are labored, immature, and underscore the desperation that Microsoft rightly feels.

Here's a clip from the mock funeral, in which Microsoft employees (please tell me that the company didn't hire dancers who moved so badly) try to reenact a short portion of the Michael Jackson Thriller music video:

It's amusing until you see how badly the participants dance and how short the segment is. So what does it mean? That Windows Phone 7 is a thriller? Or that Microsoft's latest mobile offering is actually a zombie, waiting to be put out of someone else's misery?

And, to finish the video choices, here's the Lawrence of Arabia-themed trailer:


Ah, the sands, the heat, the cliché: "The Revolution Is Coming." What, Windows Phone 7, which has Microsoft going all out to play catch-up and try to step a little ahead in some areas?

Ignore for a moment the irony that Microsoft uses the services of a competitor, Google (GOOG), to promote its product. Instead, consider that in the funeral, there were hearses for the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and RIM (RIMM) BlackBerry, but not for Android.

Was this a slip? Did the marketing team run out of time to build a fake Android? Could it not make arrangements for three phone victims? Did the company forget that Google has what is arguable the leading smartphone operating system at the moment in terms of growth?

Was Microsoft really afraid that to create a mock Android unit, it would have to target one of the actual phones by a company it probably hopes to bring into the Windows Phone 7 fold? Whatever the explanation or excuse, the affair was a wide-scale marketing debacle, no matter how many Microsoft employees showed up to cheer on the home team.

This isn't a matter of taking sides in the mobile platform wars, but recognition that when a company starts a critical marketing campaign, it should get outsiders with no stake in the outcome to give a clear view of what the activities say, and not what executives wish they could get people to believe.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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