Monthly Archives: November 2009

Bad Apples

There are currently two campaigns underway which attempt to level the massive disparity in desirability between Microsoft and Apple. One is public, branded, and not very good. The other is almost exactly the opposite.

I can’t stand Microsoft’s “I’m A PC” stuff. The pre-Windows 7 brand ads, which featured tattooists, schoolkids and normal looking people claiming to be a PC was apologetic, fake, uncool, indulgent, self-centred, and just about everything that Apple, at their best, are not. Watching it as a user of both Apples and PCs, I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth they were trying to take on Apple at their own game (i.e. being the cool computer manufacturer)? It looked like they’d spent money on repairing executive pride, rather than addressing a real problem at a grassroots level – either among employees or users.

(Proof that it’s about pride, by the way:

http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2009/11/shareholders_quiz_ballmer_about_macs_windows_mobile_phones.html)

After all, just look at the energy with which Microsoft employees blog. Or the sheer number of people that use MSN messenger to keep in touch with friends. All of which would have made a better basis for an ad campaign than pretending you’re the computer of choice for LA fashionistas. When, clearly, you are not.

But if Microsoft really wanted to have a go at Apple, here’s what I humbly suggest they should have done.

They should have stuck to what they’re good at in their “official” comms.

Then they should have found all those clips and comments and other things about the Apple backlash.

(They do exist.)

Then they should have reflected, repeated, and spread them.

Someone, possibly Peter Mandelson, was apparently challenged on why he didn’t have a singular, central idea for the Labour Party campaign effort once. He replied that he didn’t want one – he wanted lots. He wanted to light lots of fires, and see which ones took hold.

There are loads of reasons people might hate Apple. They’re closed. They’re not good when things go wrong. They’re used by pretentious idiots who have more money than sense. All of which people already say online, and all of which Microsoft should be seeking to spread as far and as wide as possible.

That’s got to be a better bet than trying to pretend they’re rebels too.

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Editors

Came across a tweet from Spotify recommending a playlist that features “most of the NME’s albums of the decade”. And suddenly realised that shareable playlists, created by expert curators, are what make Spotify if not the platform of the future, then at least a good blueprint for it.

For the most part, you control your own content. Great if you want to listen to something random – like, say, Siamese Dream. Great if you want to explore and do all those things that new media consumers are supposed to want to do.

But the thing I don’t like about content-on-demand, as a consumer, is the solitariness of it. I sit there on my headphones listening to early-90s grunge while next to me a good friend listens to something I’ve never heard of. And we don’t discuss it.

That’s why I love the idea of shared playlists so much. It gives listening to music back its sense of community. I can perfectly imagine having a conversation about great playlists with my mates down the pub, in much the same way I currently have conversations about what was on Jools Holland. It’ll help break new acts, and help keep music from totally atomising, aside from highly localised scenes based around a few venues.

Made me wonder whether this kind of approach could apply to other kinds of content, too. Movies might be a bit long to share in this way. But what about youtube clips? What if the comedy format of the future is a playlist of amazing 20″ clips that does the rounds? Like a longer-form version of a viral? You could talk about it in the same way that people quote one-liners from Will Ferrel movies at each other, and it would be a great combination of user-controlled but curated.

I don’t know about you but I could do with some curation now and then.