Windows 7 as Marketing Spyware

Microsoft just announced its plans for Windows 7. The plan is to get PC users to run software not locally, on their own private machines, but through the internet, on Microsoft’s coming network of super-servers.

Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote [will be] used from within standard web browsers.” According to Ray Ozzie, chief software architect at Microsoft, it’s aiming to bring “the best of the web to Windows, and the best of Windows to the web.”

Translated into English, this means that Microsoft is following through on its new CEO Steve Ballmer’s drive to turn Microsoft into the world’s largest gatherer of “marketing data,” a.k.a. detailed knowledge of people’s off-the-job behaviors.

The biggest decision I’ve made — unless we close this Yahoo! deal — the biggest decision I’ve made as CEO is pushing into the business applications area,” Ballmer said. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made, and the reason that brings us all here today.”

Ballmer noted that while CRM may stand for customer relationship management, the increasingly broad options available in the technology meant it was re-emerging in various incarnations, managing relationships of all kinds — a phenomenon he referred to as “xRM.

At its presentation of the new system to software developers yesterday, “[o]ne interesting demo was an extension of Microsoft Word that pulled in CRM information…

So, the plan is to invade yet another area of life — word processing and associated computing — and turn it into yet another source of marketing spying.

Market totalitarianism never rests.

Truth in Advertising: Bill Gates is a Clown

Bill Gates and Microsoft have always been poster boys for the connection between being first (a.k.a. lucky timing) and having power. Those who accumulate advantages before others tend to keep them, not least because they also tend to divert some of their advantages to pre-empting and crushing those who come along later.

I can also swear as a heavy word processor that Microsoft Word is sharply inferior for the purpose of writing a social science book manuscript to both of its main rivals, Word Perfect and Open Office Writer. The latter, in fact, is distinctly superior to both WP and MS Word, neither of which possess OO Writer’s power and flexibility in the vital tasks surrounding footnote and endnote management.

Open Office Writer, by the way, is open-source and absolutely free. As such, its superiority is a powerful refutation of Bill Gates’ infamous claim that excellent open-source software [and, by extension, all public-spirited, not-for-profit industry] is an impossibility.

I mention all this as background for observing that Microsoft and Gates are now attempting to rescue their horrendously bloated, hiccup-riddled Windows Vista operating system software by means of what has to be one of the worst advertisements in modern television history.

As the business and techie presses have been reporting, the core idea behind this unfunny, irrelevant, woefully leaden effort is distraction from the product in question:

According to a leaked internal email from Redmond’s senior vice president Bill Veghte, this first installment in what will be a series of commercials is meant to function as an “Icebreaker to reintroduce Microsoft to viewers in a consumer context.” It seems that the company is following the path they’ve stamped out with their previous media burst, the Mojave Experiment, which appears to be less concerned with changing the product (Windows), and more concerned with changing consumers’ perception of the product. In Veghte’s words, “Telling our story means making significant investments to improve the way consumers experience Windows.”

Worse yet, the main distraction strategy seems to be heaping massively counter-factual “genius” praise on Bill Gates.

The ad attempts its odious misdirection by means of this long-in-coming exchange between Gates and the epically over-rated and unfunny Jerry Seinfeld:

Jerry: “You now, I imagine over the years you’ve mind-melded your magnum Jupiter brain to those other Saturn-ringed brains at Microsoft.”

Bill: “I have.”

The viewer, of course, is supposed to “know” that Gates is the mega-brain who invented personal computer software.

The truth, of course, is that, to the small extent he’s noteworthy at all for anything other than his Satanic “personal” fortune, Gates has always been much more a shrewd deal-maker than a computer innovator. Chasing cash and wielding monopoly power is his game. Mundane business maneuvers, however, are hardly the stuff of genius.

And, besides, what genius would ever have authorized release of this D.O.A. turd of a marketing campaign?