Samsung paying for favorable product reviews

Samsung payola in action

The close relationship between Android licensees like Samsung and journalists covering the consumer electronics industry has grown increasingly sketchy. During this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, non [sic] other than the Associated Press inked a deal with Samsung that allowed the Korean conglomerate to tweet out sponsored messages as part of the official Associated Press news stream.

Sounds ethical…

CNET reportedly accepted funds from both Samsung and Microsoft to republish and promote positive reviews of their products, including a gushing CNET “editor’s choice” that called Samsung’s Galaxy S4 the “everything phone for (almost) everyone.”

Paying for good reviews is a hell of a lot easier than just making products consumers love.

A Republican Halloween

Universal Candy
This Halloween I’m dressing up as a Republican. When kids come to the door I’ll tell them that Universal Candy is Socialist, and if they can’t afford their own candy, I shouldn’t have to buy it for them.

The iPhone’s Place in the Fortune 500

The iPhone Is a Bigger Business Than Coca-Cola and McDonald’s Combined

iPhone sales in the last year exceed all revenue to Microsoft, Amazon, Comcast, or Google. The iPhone alone outsells Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, perhaps the world’s two most famous brands, combined.

In case anyone still doesn’t understand how important Mobile is to the future of the web, take a look at these graphs.  If the iPhone were spun off into its own company, it would be #26 on the Fortune 500.

Wow, you’re a real PC.

Microsoft Commercial

I think Microsoft vastly overestimates the perception of the term “PC”.

In their latest commercial, Microsoft snarkily has Siri saying “Wow, you’re a real PC” to the competing Windows tablet.  I suspect most of the general public would associate the term “PC” with complication and frustration however.  A PC is that clunky thing that never works like you want it to.  That has problems printing the document you need right now.  That runs slower and slower day after day.  That constantly nags you to update this or confirm that.

Is that really the image you want for your new product?

I think Microsoft is on the right track by trying to show the strengths of their platform versus Apple’s, but the folks in Redmond still have their heads in the 90’s.  The PC is no longer cool or innovative.  It’s the old clunker we’re all buying tablets to replace.

What is Microsoft’s mobile strategy?

Answer these three simple questions:

  1. What is Apple’s mobile strategy?

    To boost their hardware sales by making the worlds best mobile devices and software.

  2. What is Google’s mobile strategy?

    To boost their advertising revenue by featuring their services on as many mobile devices as possible.

  3. What is Microsoft’s mobile strategy?


Not so easy, is it?

I’ll make it a bit easier.  Microsoft does so many things that it’s hard to describe their motivations in one succinct statement.  Let’s break the company in to pieces:

What is Microsoft’s Mobile Cloud strategy?

To provide the best backend computing platform for mobile developers.

This was fairly easy.  By most accounts, Windows Azure is a solid platform for supporting mobile developers.  It has strong support for Android and iOS, and it leverages open source software like Linux, PHP and NodeJS.  In other words, it’s not a typical Microsoft “.NET or get out” approach.  Well done.

What is Microsoft’s Mobile Office strategy?

To create the best office productivity software for every most a few mobile platforms devices.

Ugh.  This should be the easiest question to answer, but it’s not.  The Office division of Microsoft should operate like an independent company.  Their goal should be to create the best productivity suite available anywhere.  On Windows.  On Mac.  On Linux.  On iOS.  On Android.  On Windows Phone 7 Mobile .NET Enterprise SP4.  On every platform with a significant marketshare.

Office Everywhere.

Instead, their motto seems to be “Support Windows, and then make a half-hearted attempt at anything else”.  Office on the  Mac?  It’s a pale imitation of the full office suite.  Office for iPhone.  A joke.  Office for Linux?  Android?  *crickets*

The Office division clearly places Microsoft’s interests ahead of consumers.  They’re starting to dabble with Office on the web – which may be a long-term solution to cross-platform support – but it certainly has the feel of a revenue play (“our existing customers will pay every month forever!”) more than a way to support millions of new customers using Android.

What is Microsoft’s Mobile Windows strategy?

To create the best phone operating system for our mobile partners to leverage.

To create the best phone operating system for Nokia to leverage.

To create the best tablet operating system for our desktop partners to leverage.

To create a whole new version of Windows specifically designed for the tablet environment.

To see if we can cram our desktop operating system on to a slim PC that kind-of looks like a tablet.


Microsoft’s “strategy” for Windows in the mobile space feels like a ship without a rudder.  They can’t seem to decide where the industry is headed or what their customers actually want.  Instead they’ve released a slew of reactionary products, changing their focus from mobile device makers to desktop device makers to doing it all in-house.  Refining your strategy over time is a wise business approach, but Microsoft seems to change theirs every time the wind blows.

The Microsoft of 2013 looks like a company that can’t believe how quickly things got away from them, and aren’t really sure what to do about it.  Without strong leadership and a cohesive plan for the road ahead, they seem unable to decide on a course of action that will keep their brand relevant in the mobile age.

One thing is clear:  What they’re doing is not working.

Office for iPhone: Microsoft hits the panic button

On June 10th, Apple announced iWork for iCloud, a web based suite of tools that allow users to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations from their browser. It works on iPhones, iPads, Macs and Windows computers.

On June 11th, Microsoft announced Office for iPhone, an app that allows iPhone users to create documents, create spreadsheets and view presentations.

In other words, Microsoft hit the panic button.

Panic button? Surely you’re being melodramatic Bryan?

No, I’m not, and here’s why:

  1. Office for iOS has been rumored for a long time now. Journalists claimed to see it running on an iPad more than a year ago. Releasing it a day after the iWork for iCloud announcement is a knee jerk reaction. It’s Microsoft realizing that iOS users don’t really need Office if they’ve got a competent alternative. Office may dominate the desktop landscape, but the mobile world offers a chance to break that monopoly. A serious competitor like Apple or Google could sweep up those millions of users on their post-PC devices and cut the head off of Microsoft’s productivity cash cow. That scares the hell out of them.
  2. Office for iPhone is incomplete. Sure, you can do basic editing of Word Documents and Excel files, but you can only view Powerpoint presentations. You can’t edit them. If this were a strategic product to ensure the future of Office on the mobile landscape, wouldn’t it be feature complete on launch day?
  3. There is no iPad support. Let’s be honest, creating Excel files on your 4″ iPhone screen is a nice parlor trick, but the iPad is where real document creation will take place. So why is there no iPad support on day one? Two reasons:

    First, it’s probably not done. See my bullet point above. Not having PowerPoint fully functional on the iPhone tells us that the iOS office suite isn’t fully baked yet. It’s likely that iPad version just isn’t ready yet, and Apple’s surprise WWDC announcement forced Microsoft’s hand to ship now.

    Second – and perhaps even worse – is that Microsoft has a conflict of interests.

    On one hand they have hundreds of millions of potential Microsoft Office customers using iOS. Microsoft is already losing the mobile war with their devices and operating system. They can’t afford to lose their lucrative grip on the productivity software market too. They need a version of Office for the iPad.

    On the other hand, they have the Microsoft Surface. You might have seen their not-so-subtle ads mocking the iPad for not being a serious work machine. It would look pretty bad if the Office team cut the legs out from under the Surface team by shipping Office for iPad while those commercials are still running.

    The result? Microsoft chose their own interests over what’s best for customers. No Office for iPad. At least not yet.

So where does that leave us? With a company gripped with indecision. They really want to back their own tablet – not Apple’s – but the that pesky iOS market is just too big to ignore. Apple forced their hand during the WWDC keynote, and Microsoft panicked. They shipped a half-baked version of Office in the hopes that they could keep those 500 million iOS customers from standardizing on something other than Microsoft Office.

Half baked ideas are why Microsoft is struggling in the mobile market in general. Office for iPhone is just another prime example.