April, 2007

  • Steve Clayton

    Who Speaks for Microsoft?




    To answer Hugh's question: I do - and 4500+ other bloggers. Sure Bill, Steve and Ray do as well but this company is changing from the inside. Slowly, but surely. More important than speaking though is listening.

    The cartoon above is my favourite one in the Blue Monster series so far. It reminds me a bit of Sun's strapline of "the network is the computer". It really starts to get to the underlying message that Microsoft is a platform company and the partners we have are the real innovators out there. Let me explain what I mean by innovation here as I'm using it pretty broadly and a few commentators have already said that Microsoft isn't innovating nearly as much as Google, Amazon and others. That may be so in terms of pure technology (though I'd disagree) but the innovation I love is when a small company starts up and begins making money and helping people. I'm not just talking ISV's here, I'm talking about companies like Risual who were 3 people who worked for a large Microsoft partner and then decided to start out on their own. They now have a thriving small company in Sheffield, England and support their families through it. And they enjoy it. It makes me immensely proud to see people like that succeeding.

    Another example is DotNet Solutions in Windsor. A small software development company doing cool things with Microsoft technology and seemingly loving every minute of it. They're building innovative applications like the Wikipedia Explorer and the XFN Explorer (search for Scoble) as innovative rich client applications as well as mashup web apps like TrafficEye.

    There are more well known examples such as Skinkers and I'll use these guys to explain the challenge ahead of Microsoft. I met Matteo from Skinkers at a Chinwag Live event a few months back in London. Matteo says we met in a dungeon together which isn't far off ;) The event had about 60 Web 2.0 type attendees and speakers included Ryan Carson, Dave Nicholson, Andrew Orlowski and Matteo himself. I asked the final question of the night and there was an audible gasp in the room when I said where I worked. THAT in a nutshell is our challenge - people don't think we're relevant in this new world. I think we are but we have our work cut out through years of neglect of some audiences and hiding out in Reading in the grey boxes. We're out in the blogosphere but need to be in out in the real world too. Scoble was right about that in his recent comments on Hugh's blog.

    I've had a few people such as Jas and Amit email me recently saying it would be good to catch up so I'm thinking of doing a coffee morning and getting a few others along just to see what happens. I promise to come with both ears open. Initially in London but if it's a good forum I'd be happy to get on the road. If you're up for it, let me know here.

    They have a working name of Blue Monster Coffee Mornings :) Sign up via comments...


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  • Steve Clayton

    The Monster Changing Microsoft



    Several months ago I had the good fortune to meet Hugh MacLeod and not long after, the Blue Monster cartoon was born. Joe Wilcox recently observed that I was doing Moonshine Marketing and the real marketers at Microsoft should take note. A few have and I'm being asked more often whether Hugh will draw a cartoon for this campaign or that campaign. It's been an interesting viral ride and Hugh has recently drawn a set of cartoons he's releasing at www.gapingvoid.com that talk to Microsoft's Partner Community and how to be profitable working with Microsoft. The Partner Group is where I work and if you'd have asked me 6 months ago would we be doing something like this, I'd have said "I hope so....but it'll never happen". Things change at Microsoft, sometimes faster than you think possible.

    Kris decided to break the mould and has more details on the campaign on her blog but I thought it would be worth giving some of the back-story on this.

    Blue Monster has raised some eyebrows that's for sure. More importantly though it's started conversations. When I hand out my Blue Monster business card these days (with my Microsoft details on the reverse) people are taken aback....and then they ask what it's all about. Before we know it, we're in a conversation about the work Microsoft does and how it has a positive impact rather than the usual defensive conversation I often find myself in. That never happens when I give out my corporate business card. People accept the card and politely tuck it away in their pack of cards. Just last week I was asked for my Blue Monster card simply because someone wanted a copy of it....like I say, it's been an interesting virus. When was the last time someone wanted to frame a Microsoft "poster" like they have with the lithographs we handed out? Mmm, probably never. I sent it to Steve Ballmer - he liked it. I sent it to Lisa Brummel - she liked it. I've sent it to many of our UK execs and they like it. Plenty of people have reservations about the monster image but that evaporates when they see the irony and the fact that it starts a conversation.

    Okay so Hugh's an A-lister and all that and you may say we're just trying to be cool here and maybe you're right. If you're ever in London though, give me a call and we'll go out for beers with Hugh - we do about every other week or so - and you'll see there is some substance to the conversation. Plus lots of Guinness and red wine :) He's a shrewd observer of business and life and I think his cartoons bring some long overdue humour and humility to Microsoft. Sometimes our stuff is just too direct or sometimes too subtle. With his talent for cartoons he cuts through that and often spots the message we don't or are too close to see.

    Bottom line: it's all about conversations. We need to step outside and view Microsoft from there more often. Hugh's helping us do that by stimulating the conversation. He's got a megaphone in to the digital world that works. It could all go horribly wrong and I could get fired tomorrow. But hey, playing it safe just ain't me. 

    So please join the conversation. I've seen The Blue Monster series of cartoons and I think you'll enjoy them. Hugh will be releasing more over the coming days and weeks :)


  • Steve Clayton

    Mac vs. Vaio


    Ha ha...the Mac Ad parodies continue. This one from Dell.

    Meantime, did I mention I bought a Mac? Maybe not but hey, if you're going to do your competitive research you may aswell do it for real I thought. Plus I do like their hardware and you can now run Vista on them with bootcamp and soon Parallels I hear. Overall, though I love the hardware and some parts of OSX (widgets and spotlight) are incredibly cool, I still prefer my Vaio SZ3. Given a friend bought a Mac last weekend, I had to ask myself why I pick up my Vaio when I head out rather than the 15" Mac Book Pro. Here's why

    • Firstly, I'm a PC guy at the end of the day and whilst some things are intuitive in the Mac, there are several that aren't (for me at least). The whole application installation thing for example freaks me out a bit - sometimes the apps seem to install to my desktop and other times I simply have to drag the icon to the Applications folder.
    • I can't easily get my Mac on the Microsoft corporate network. I probably can but I had a play and it wasn't obvious to me. I'd also miss the PCMCIA smart card reader I can have in my Vaio for RAS.
    • The Mac is heavier. I know an iBook would be a better comparison but I was sold on the backlit keyboard, aluminum build and overall look of the Mac Book Pro. It's a beautiful machine but defo heavy.
    • Blogging is my day job at the moment and it's proving too hard on the Mac. A few people have suggested I check out marsedit which looks very good so off to try that this week. My tools on the PC make it so easy though
    • I can use my PC as a TV very easily. I just plug in my USB TV tuner, fire up Media Centre and I'm there, all with a lovely UI.
    • I can't use my Orange 3G card on the Mac. It's PCMCIA and I wouldn't even know where to start as Orange don't provide OSX drivers.

    I know I'm likely to get some heat from the Apple crowd on this and I look forward to the suggestions. So far though, it's just been too hard to move from the Vaio. It's really quite a brilliant machine and Vista runs very well on it. All drivers are there and though the battery life could be better the stated figures are a bit like the stated figures for mobile phones and MPG - they tend to be based on lab testing rather than real world.

    David has a similar thread going at Business Two Zero as does Tom Raftery who I just offered to help out with all the drivers he needs for Vista.


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  • Steve Clayton

    My Brazil shirt



    Wildly off topic but it made me smile - check out what your shirt would be if you played for Brazil. I tried Tony Blair for a laugh...and it was!

    hat tip to Andrew Farrell of Research Creations

  • Steve Clayton

    Microsoft: splashing the cash


    I just noticed Mary Jo's post about the $25k up for grabs for the best Office-Oracle mashup. This reminded me to tell people about more Microsoft cash on offer - a grand this time for telling us the best way to spend $500k. Even better though is that some Hugh t-shirts are up for grabs. Find out more from Kris and find us in Booth #117, next to the big IBM booth. Blue Monster t-shirts for the first 200 attending the session:  “Business to Community 2.0” with Michael Platt (expat Platt!)  


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