The hyperbole of gadget marketing

Windows Phone 7 funeral.It’s no secret that gadget marketing is way over the top. There’s always this-killer and that-killer that everyone just has to have. It’s incredibly uninteresting, especially because none of the “killers” actually kill anything. They’re typically competitive in their respective markets, but that’s about all we can say.

That didn’t stop these Microsoft employees from throwing funerals for the iPhone and Blackberries to celebrate the release of Windows Phone 7 to manufacturing (maybe “throwing” isn’t the right word where funerals are involved). The group carried giant dead iPhone and Blackberry models down the street and threw a New Orleans-style wake, replete with a coordinated ‘Thriller’ dance.

This is all well and good, guys, but for these kinds of stunts, you better put out a kickass phone. The things I’ve heard are things like “underwhelming,” in which case I wish you would have put the Thriller energy into the phone. Congratulations on a finished product. I hope it lives up to the hype.

  

Microsoft dumping piles of money on Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7Just how much money does it take to elbow your way in between Apple and Google in the mobile market? Remember, you’ve also got to beat back RIM while you’re at it, and hope none of those three develop anything you didn’t expect. Got a number? Is it in the billions? That’s what Microsoft may be betting to make Windows Phone 7 work.

According to TechCrunch, Microsoft could spend into the billions on development and marketing for the new mobile platform. It’s a huge figure, made to look even larger by the estimated expense of marketing the Droid series of Android phones.

The $100 million Goldberg estimates that Verizon, Motorola and Google collectively spent on marketing helped turn the Droid line of phones into a serious stable of competitors against the iPhone. (Compare that to Google’s fizzled Nexus One launch, where the search giant pinched pennies on marketing.)

To spend 10 times that amount could be either a great idea or the world’s worst gamble. Microsoft has completely scorched consumer bridges with its previous mobile offerings, none of which will transition to the new system very smoothly. Even with a billion dollars behind it, Windows Phone 7 could be too late.

  

Microsoft can use gyroscopes and accelerometers too!

Since the launch of the iPhone, it seems Apple has been the only company we hear about using the cheap little accelerometers and gyroscopes, despite the popularity of those little gizmos in just about every modern cell phone and some other burgeoning technologies. Microsoft, for one, wants in on the game, so the company is making a splash with some very cool photo stabilization tech.

Microsoft developed an image stabilization rig that uses accelerometers and gyroscopes to detect the little movements you make when taking a picture that turn it into a blurry mess. Software then corrects the image to look as it should have before the shake. From the initial before and after posted on the research website, I’d say this looks pretty good, and the tech is small enough that it could easily be built into most cameras.

Take a look at the full range of images on the research site. Don’t stare at it too hard, though – those overlays will make you sick.

  

J. Allard leaves Microsoft, the world will hardly notice

This is the big story today. J. Allard, father of the Xbox, will be retiring from his position at Microsoft. I say “retiring” because there has been so much speculation about why he was leaving and whether he got fired and what he’s going to be starting and on and on and on. He’s just retiring – taking a leave to go explore the things he didn’t have time to explore when he was working a billion hours a week at Microsoft.

To me, though, this isn’t really news. Allard was involved in some great projects – projects that made Microsoft a ton of money – but none of it has really been incredible. In many cases, the Microsoft products Allard has worked on have succeeded not because of incredible innovation but because it was the only game (or one of very few games) in town.

Consider the original Xbox. We knew about it for years leading up to the launch, and the best thing about it wasn’t the controller or the processor or the original Live experience (which was terrible, by the way). The best thing about Xbox 1.0 was a game called Halo. To me, the Xbox was the natural evolution of consoles, and Live was just the maturation of the console form to keep up with multiplayer standards PC players had enjoyed for decades prior.

The Xbox 360 followed the same path as the original – the natural evolution of console gaming. The Live system is better, but still not great by any means, and I know very few people who use their 360 in the ways the commercials would have you believe every geek has his home connected. There are some neat features, like Netflix streaming for one, but there isn’t anything that is truly innovative about the 360. It didn’t change the way I see the entertainment world any more significantly than, say, an iPod video did when it was announced. It performed virtually the same function as the device before it, just a bit better.

My point in all of this is that the last decade or so of devices coming out of Microsoft have been pretty mundane. Anticipated. Expected. I haven’t seen much in the last decade that has made me say, “wow,” in that breathy, holy-shit-you-just-blew-my-mind kind of way. Allard was at the helm for some good stuff, but it was just that – good. Nothing great. Nothing spectacular. His decision to retire will have about as much impact on the gadgets we see as will his decision to pursue “adventure sports.” All the best to you, J., but I can’t say I’m going to miss you.

  

The mobile world is Google’s oyster

Android.

I’ve spent most of my tech reading time over the past few days reviewing the world’s reactions to Google I/O. Google announced some pretty cool stuff for Android, and the company clearly has Apple in its sights when it comes to market share. Even more interesting to me, though, was that the “Microsoft” didn’t seem to be on anyone’s mind. John Gruber put together a great read on the subject, so I’ll defer to him here.

As Gruber sees it, Google is taking its gigantic, Android-shaped bite out of Microsoft’s pie, not Apple’s. Google is the licensed OS player because it licenses Android for free, not on a fee-per-unit basis. That says nothing of Microsoft’s crazy volume requirements to turn a profit. The company currently charges something between $8 and $12 per handset. When you hold just 6.8 percent of the world market share, that license fee is a joke.

The volume game isn’t necessarily where you find the profits, either. Nokia sells a LOT more units than Apple, but Apple still makes a better profit. Microsoft is in an absolutely awful position to make a dent in the market. Hell, they still haven’t even launched a competitive platform. Microsoft was already too late when the iPhone launched three years ago. I have to thank John Gruber for this Ballmer quote about the iPhone launch, which I had never seen before:

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of them, than I would to have 2 percent or 3 percent, which is what Apple might get.”

Well, Steve, I have bad news. The iPhone OS was just reported at 15.2 percent of the global market share. That 80 percent market share you were hoping for? Yeah, that’s never going to happen.

Source: Daring Fireball