A cross Word about Microsoft

You write that Microsoft is now placed ninth in the league of top ten global brands, as determined by Interbrand (MW November 15).

As much as I bow to the authority of Interbrand, I would take issue with their evaluation. Elsewhere in the same issue you claim that Microsoft “has been noted more for a mixture of good marketing and keen business timing than key technological advances”. I suggest that Roger Baird’s analysis is truer.

When the PC was first launched it was sold to a technically literate audience (and for the most part still is). Decisions were very often made by experienced systems personnel. Moreover, it took a relatively long time for PCs to make the transition from computing departments to other business departments. Therefore Microsoft did not make any particular effort to brand its product. Currently, the vast majority of PCs (up to 90 per cent) are supplied with Microsoft’s DOS. Larry Ellison, ceo of Oracle Computer Corporation, has commented, “One of the huge problems with the PC is that it is currently controlled by one company that has a monopoly and virtually no competition – Microsoft has a 90 per cent share of PC applications. When you are operating in a market with no competitors, you begin to do bizarre things.”

However, as a brand Microsoft means nothing – it is bereft of emotional values. Microsoft’s marketing effort is presented as cool technology involving many features, most of which are never used. It has no outstanding or distinctive attributes. Microsoft succeeds because it has a monopoly.

Therefore, according to Interbrand’s criteria, Microsoft scores high for the first, dominance of own market, but what of the other three? Could the Microsoft brand be stretched to financial services (as has been rumoured), or even related activities such as media? I think not. It is instructive to note the way that the Virgin brand has developed by contrast. On the fourth criteria, customer commitment, talk to anyone on the Web for the answer. There are numerous discussion groups dedicated to destroying Microsoft’s reputation, enormous latent and manifest resentment to its power. Perhaps Interbrand should reconsider.

Kofi Dwinfour

Director of marketing and PR

London Guildhall University

London E1

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