Gates may have another career ahead of him

If you haven’t yet seen the Bill Gates video from CES you should. click here. It’s interesting to watch as he’s clearly a little embarrassed when he introduces it and yet on the video he is quite a good actor – the gym scene is perhaps my favorite. Oscar winning potential? I don’t think so but he could play the odd cameo role. Acting aside this has to be good PR for Microsoft as definitely shows their sense of humor.


Microsoft, Sprint and Blackberry Sync on Messaging

You may have noticed Microsoft’s ad campaign for their smart phone platform which is built around the tag line Start Doing More. The idea being that you can get a lot more done with a Microsoft based phone. Meanwhile Sprint is running TV ads that end with the line “people might wonder how many of you there really are” (because you can now get so much done that is). Last there’s RIM’s Blackberry ad that has some line about a bigger world. It seems they are all focussed on what a mobile platform can do and not on why their particular platform is better…

Microsoft spell checker

Ever noticed that the spell checker in Microsoft Word knows names like IBM, Hewlett Packard, Toshiba and Sony but struggles with Google, Facebook and MySpace? Makes Word look like the parent that can’t quite speak like a teenager. Funny though that the spell checker in Google’s blogger doesn’t question any of the names…

Google is hiring for PR

Word on the street is that Google is looking to hire some 70 PR people at its head office in Mountain View in the near future. If true this could have quite an impact on the tech PR industry. At its simplest level it will tighten an already tight labor market and potentially drive up salaries as people try and compete with the search engine giant. Nobody would argue that Google has built an impressive brand in recent years but there are a couple of questions that I’d put out there. First, why is Google doing this now? Is it because they believe they are starting to see sentiment move against them much as it did with Microsoft when they became wildly successful? If so, then being a PR person at Google may be a less enjoyable task than in the last few years where editors have eaten up every news story, no matter how trivial. The second question is what has happened to Google’s stock? Last year the stock soared and then… soared. This year it spent most of January around $500 and has since drifted off to around $475. Could it be the new army of PR people is being brought on board to try and get the stock price moving again by airing more positive stories about the business? It’s worth considering that Google has historically been able to attract some pretty hot talent thanks to its soaring stock price. I wonder if the relatively poor performance this year is starting to hurt these hiring efforts…

what a difference this time around for Microsoft

In 1995 I remember being in a cab in New York and all the driver wanted to talk about was Windows 95. That same year I remember two mothers with their babies in a Starbucks discussing the merits of Windows versus the Mac OS. 1995 was a truly remarkable time in technology and a time when Microsoft truly broke through as a household name. It is interesting that twelve years on and with a huge marketing budget the launch of Vista has not quite captured the same level of attention even though there are billions of people who may be affected by it, compared with the mere hundred million or so back in ’95. I know a lot of people will say this shows how Windows is no longer the driver of the tech industry. On that front I’d argue that Windows is still very much at the heart of IT. It’s just not that new. Indeed Windows is technically nearly 22 years old now. It seems hard to imagine that some University graduates were born after Windows was first launched. If you think about Windows in this way you realize that the comms challenge with Windows is quite unique in technology terms. Indeed the challenge could be likened to that of an aging rock star that is trying to attract a new generation of admirers. It’s a tough trick to pull off but some manage it and I for one wouldn’t bet against Microsoft even if Vista hasn’t got off to the high profile bang it did when it scored its big hit in ’95.

Customers and color

It seems that if you want customers to like your latest piece of consumer technology then you should paint it white. At least that seems to be the case with customers shopping at Circuit City for the new Microsoft Zune. I just did a search on this new product because I was curious to see how easy it was to get one. I own several iPods so I’m not likely to buy one. What stood out when the availability results came back on the Circuit City site was the customer ratings for this product varied by color. Highest was white with a rating of 4.8 out of 5, while brown scored only 4 out of 5. Black, meanwhile, did slightly better at 4.4. To reiterate the point, these are the SAME products in different colors, yet the rating varies quite considerably. For the record, I looked on the same site at iPod ratings, regardless of color the Nano scored 4.4. Am I the only one that thinks this is odd?


Gates and Visas

Bill Gates recently went on a lobbying visit to Washington and when asked what he’d do if he were in charge, one answer that seems to have surprised some in the media is that he’d advocate removing the limit on H1B visas. Gates views this limit as crazy and in essence said we are capping the number of smart people allowed to work in the US. A few politicians took issue with his view saying that tech jobs are not being created in US right now and thus the cap made sense. Of course what these politicians failed to say was what type of jobs were not being created. While many engineering jobs have found there way to places like India, the largest shift in recent years has been in areas such as customer support and customer service. The people who do these jobs are not the ones Gates is talking about. He wants programmers and software engineers so that the US can maintain its position as world leader in the tech arena. If we keep the cap places like India and China is where these engineers will wind up being employed – and there’s a good chance they won’t be employed by US companies. As you may tell by my tone, I tend to side with Bill on this one. I think it’s crazy that the US limits how many scientists and engineers come in to the US to work. The future of the US will not be determined by call centers, it will be determined by people developing great new products that people want or need to buy. So please, let’s focus on the destination not the current economic situation.