I started a new job, and the new shop is a Microsoft shop. Okay, all well and good. Things were a little clunky making the switch, but really, I kept wondering why I had made all the fuss in the first place. Why had I become such a mac fanboi all the time? Had I just bought into some sort of hype? Was it a legacy of hatred? Some of the new microsoft knick-knacks, like OneNote, were actually relatively cool.
It’s the Philosophy, idiot
Then today I logged in to my ancient hotmail account. I had abandoned it in favor of Gmail for threaded convo sorting and the ability to search my mail and mail archives instead of wasting time with ridiculous amounts of ‘folders’ to sort things.
But there’s some places in my online life where people have bought into severe Google-paranoia, and so Gmail accounts aren’t allowed in certain areas… yet hotmail and yahoo accounts are. \/\/hateveh.
So I’ve been back in hotmail after years (and I do mean years) away from it. Just to keep up with one segment of my online communities. And it’s in hotmail that suddenly and without warning, the good old fashioned Microsoft arrogance shows up again.
It all comes down to empowering choice
Microsoft thinks we’re all idiots. They aim for such a low denominator that it alienates people fond of, say, independent thought and the ability to control settings and customize behaviors.
That’s not to say that Microsoft doesn’t give options. They do. But they’re jealous when it comes to it. Hotmail is a service that I wanted to be a part of originally to check my email online. That’s it. That’s all I wanted. That’s all I ever wanted from it. At first, I was happy with it. When they got to the point of creating ‘Microsoft Passport’ and all of a sudden I actually had to tell Hotmail the website login pane that when I typed in my ‘pacio49’ I meant ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, I rebelled. If your own damn login pane from a website that I navigated to specifically for the express purpose of logging into Hotmail doesn’t know that I’m here for Hotmail, then there’s a reaaaaaaaal disconnect going on philosophically.
And why? Because their reinvented new branding into “Microsoft Passport” was supposed to be more, much more than just Hotmail. And the login wanted to account for the MSN folks or the whatever else Microsoft folks who might want to navigate to the Hotmail login page and use their non-Hotmail email address to log in. These super “genius” eggheads can’t even rig it so that the Hotmail site automatically pops up with an @hotmail.com, and requires manual alteration.
This is an earlier symptom of the much larger problem, a problem which is still going strong despite losing market share and continued consumer pressure both within and beyond their customers to get with the frakking program.
The problem is that Microsoft assumes we don’t know what we want. Or that we aren’t capable of handling it. So we get everything. Hotmail isn’t even hotmail anymore. Now it’s some lame-assed attempt by Microsoft for trying to turn its weird ‘Passport’ or ‘Microsoft Live’ or whatever other bad branding thing they’ve got going into a Facebook knockoff.
I don’t need another social networking site. I need an email site. That’s it. Just email. I don’t mind a little bit of advertising in my free online site services. I deal with google’s adwords, and I deal with banner ads and the like. But Microsoft, please, for the love of god, fire your marketing staff and go back to square one with your marketing philosophy. If you continue to shovel shit under our noses don’t be surprised when people run away screaming after a while. Not everyone likes the flavor of shit, it’s just that for a while your crap was the only choice, and Macs are not competitively priced enough to yank the carpet out from underneath you. Since non-computer non-techy people have muuuuch easier time working with Macs. 5 minutes with my mom got her set up on a mac. I’d still be there trying to explain a PC to her.
But the real loss is that Microsoft for all of its market share and reach doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo that the power is now in the hands of the people once again. I think it’s nice that they’re selling computers so overly complex they come with training wheels (like being actively discouraged from seeing any of your files on ‘My Computer’ the first time you click there. love that one). But stop saying that you have ‘options’ for everyone. You don’t. You have a narrow range of predetermined options and you drag everyone along for whatever convoluted gimmicks your marketing department happens to install. You’re late to the social marketing party, so instead of actively trying to build your own social networking site, you just simply decided to co-opt your Hotmail users and force them to inherit a social networking site.
Win-Win in the boardroom logic, right? After all, you get to make sweeping claims that your social networking site has millions of users immediately after launch. Right? And your hotmail users, well we all get the joy and privilege of suddenly finding our web-based email platform has become a pathetic attempt to Microsoftize a social networking site. Because, really, that’s what we all wanted, right? Right? I mean, you -did- think to ask us, right? And you used good statistical sampling methods and patterns to develop a strong cross sectional analysis of your target audience.
Oh wait. I keep forgetting. Microsoft’s target audience is anyone complacent enough to just slug along.
Well, the best news about all of this for me is that hotmail is not the only free site for non-gmail web email. I’ll be switching my account from there and voting with my feet, completely deactivating my account with hotmail so as to remove myself from the statistics bullcrap game and also to register protest at the continual attempts to force “improvements” down my throat to something I neither wanted, needed, nor asked for.
And the other good news is that this Microsoft-based job site will be earning me money to get myself back on a Mac powerbook.