A Soft Sell

Last night, while I was watching the San Francisco Giants win the World Series, I saw commercials for Apple’s new Retina MacBook Pro 13 and Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. It got me thinking about the differences in marketing software products versus marketing hardware products to regular people in their homes, not in their offices.

In the ‘traditional’ business world of yesteryear, the IT department decided when to upgrade your machine to the latest version of Windows. We’re clearly not in that world anymore. Now Macs can run Windows via Parallels or VMWare, CEOs carried their iPads into meetings and you can use Google Docs to open Word and Excel files. This is the world Windows 8 is launching in and I’m skeptical how many average, non-nerdy people will be upgrading their PCs (if they’re compatible) versus A) leaving their current PC as it is and/or B) buying a new piece of hardware—be it laptop, desktop or tablet.

I think it’s really hard to sell software to people when it’s not wrapped around a piece of hardware. One of the reasons iOS 6 adoption reached over 60% after just a month after release is because it was free and all it required was hitting UPDATE in the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.

Windows 8 looks great in the new commercials (and to people who don’t know about all the loose ends still in it), but when it’s up against commercials for a Windows RT-powered Surface, it’s a soft sell.

And while I’m on the topic of Windows RT, it’s important to mention another mess Microsoft might be making and eventually be stepping into. Windows RT and Windows 8 both use the same Metro-style interface so it’s making the lines fuzzy between the two OSes. Sure, Microsoft’s whole goal is to prove Apple wrong and show there are no lines between PCs and tablets, but there are. Windows 8 can’t run on all Windows tablets including the Surface.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, after watching commercials for Surface, some non-nerdy guy or gal buys a new all-in-one desktop PC running Windows 8, brings it home, fires it up, and tries to *swipe* across the screen to move the tiles, only to discover they can’t because the screen is not a capacitive, multi-touch screen.

Soft and fuzzy are good things to have in a stuffed animal, but not your product marketing.