Should Microsoft keep bashing Apple, Google?

Despite financial disappointments, Microsoft has offered a new, more aggressive stance toward competitors. Instead of telling people that Apple is bad, should Microsoft start telling people why it's good? Or is that too hard?

Down on its knees to appeal? Microsoft/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When I think of Microsoft these days I think of a slightly aging mastiff barking at all the other dogs in the park.

The other dogs seem prettier and more sprightly. Could this be why the Microsoft mastiff is so angry?

It's hard not to imagine that, one day, someone suggested that Redmond should see red.

First, it accused Google of being Scroogle , a nasty, contrived money-grabber forcing real people to buy certain things and not others.

Now where might Google have got that idea from?

Then it decided to swing at the people's favorite. Yes, Microsoft decided to attempt to thump Cupertino in the cup by suggesting that the iPad was nothing more than a piece of old plastic held together by string and superglue .

Swinging punches like an inebriated priest at an atheists' luncheon party, the company even sponsored an ad laughing at the entrenched fanboyism of Apple and Samsung .

Will all this mile-high bile make people rush to embrace the new Microsoft?

Some have looked at the recent anti-iPad ads and believed that this is the reverse of Apple's "Mac vs. PC" campaign. This is Microsoft getting its own back.

Yet the truth is rather that Microsoft still has a vast struggle with its own emotional values.

When Apple started making Microsoft look like a bloated oaf, it already had the emotional tide blowing in its favor.

It already had vast elements of cool and was capitalizing on this by suggesting that Microsoft was the greasy-haired nerd no one talked to at parties. Or, frankly, anywhere.

Microsoft's problem remains that the Redmond products with the most emotional connection for many people -- Xbox and Kinect -- don't have the word "Microsoft" readily associated with them.

The minute the company tries to gain some emotional favor for the Microsoft Something, it paints with a rusty hammer. Witness such as its launch ads for the Surface .

The gnashing of teeth at Apple, Google, and even Samsung might currently be more effective for Microsoft's own employees, rather than for real people.

If you work at Redmond and you're watching Windows 8 walk like Long John Silver, you want to believe that your management isn't going to merely stagger along. You want to believe that it's mad as hell and won't take it anymore.

Company reorganizations might sent a positive signal . Or not. But a statement of intention might help.

However, when you look at the latest strategy for the company expressed by CEO Steve Ballmer, it still isn't terribly single-minded: "To execute even better on our strategy to deliver a family of devices and services that best empower people for the activities they value most and the enterprise extensions and services that are most valuable to business."

Try writing an ad that expresses that mess. It's much easier -- and simpler -- to bark at the other dogs' ankles. Even if it means trying to claim that the severely price-cut Surface RT is far, far better than the iPad .

Oddly, one company that has understood very well the need for an emotional connection through communication is Google . It has made great strides in the way it communicates. It's even thinking, at least occasionally, about real people's lives.

During Bill Gates' era, Microsoft understood that it needed to make emotive connections with real people. It created a brilliant campaign called "Where Do You Want To Go Today?" (I have embedded an example, should you have been studying with a guru for the last 20 years.)

The campaign was canned far too soon. Better to make easy money by forcibly squeezing every last rational dime out of software. Now, the company realizes it must play in hardware. But it must also play with real people's feelings about the brand.

Hey, Microsoft. Where do you want to go today? No, really.

 

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