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March 26, 2006

Microsoft dishes up more “people-ready”

Posted by David Hunter at 10:19 PM ET.

Two weeks ago, Steve Ballmer launched the “People-Ready” marketing campaign and we’re getting more this week:

Microsoft, customers and partners celebrate innovative applications that allow businesses to succeed in creating the people-ready business

Today at Convergence 2006, the Microsoft Business Solutions Group’s customer conference, Microsoft Business Division President Jeff Raikes outlined the future of the Microsoft Business Division and how it is delivering on a vision of roles-based productivity that combines people and processes to enable the people-ready business. A core component of this strategy is Microsoft Dynamics™, a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions. Microsoft Corp. demonstrated recently shipped solutions and upcoming 2006 releases that deliver on its Microsoft Dynamics product road map, first introduced at last year’s conference, reinforcing its strategy to deliver breakthrough innovation through a series of transformational releases in an iterative, nondisruptive manner.

Indeed. Renee Boucher Ferguson has a story on the keynote in eWeek, and while there may have been some customers celebrating “people-ready” business, most seemed to have rather more mundane concerns. All of which reminds me of Daniel Lyons’ report at Forbes on Ballmer’s original “people-ready” kickoff:

The new programs are phenomenally complex, with scores of buttons and pull-down menus and myriad connections among various applications. A Microsoft VP zipped through a demo, moving information from Outlook to Powerpoint to Groove to some kind of social networking program that lets you see how your colleagues and your colleagues’ colleagues rate various Web sites.

Meanwhile, 500 tech buyers sat there in the dark, their eyes glazing over from the sheer mind-numbing pointlessness of most of this stuff. The audience laughed out loud when the Microsoft guy showed off a kludgey system that lets you fetch Outlook e-mail messages using voice commands from a cell phone.

The system has all the charm of those automated phone systems you encounter when you call customer service: Your call is very important to us. And while it is cool and futuristic to have a computer “read” your e-mail to you, uh, dude–we all have BlackBerrys anyway. In fact, many in the audience weren’t even watching the voice-activated e-mail demo–they were checking mail on their BlackBerrys.

Even more ironic is that Microsoft has ginned up a new slogan, “People Ready,” which apparently is meant to describe its software, or maybe it describes companies that use its software, or whatever. Who knows? It’s one of those phrases that means anything, and so means nothing. Who makes this stuff up? Do they actually pay this person? And is Microsoft just figuring out now that its programs are used by–gasp–people?

Microsoft execs also talked about “Impacting People,” then they dragged out fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, who seemed very “impacted” as he sang praise for Microsoft programs. Actually, he was reading meaningless statements from a TelePrompTer. Here is one of his quotes, verbatim: “When you combine people and technology, you have a very powerful combination.” Think about that. Just let it sink in for a minute.

No thanks. Hit the link for more, but here’s a hint – it didn’t get any better.

One doesn’t expect marketing campaigns to have huge intellectual depth, but this one seems to have started on a particularly bad note. It doesn’t help that Ballmer was touting the soon to be delayed Windows Vista, but the real problem is the insistence on “people-ready” for offerings that seem to be anything but. Nicholas Carr hits the broader problem of tech companies offering “Neat!” features that only a tech geek could love and pointedly recalls Bill Gates’ cringe-inducing CES06 demo. The good news, of course, is that the problem is self-correcting. The bad news is for the companies that get corrected.

Update 3/27: Today, Bill Gates is doing the “people-ready” polka at the Convergence conference.

Filed under Dynamics, Executives, General Business, Jeff Raikes, MBS, Marketing, Microsoft, Public Relations, Social networking, Steve Ballmer, Technologies

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4 Responses to “Microsoft dishes up more “people-ready””

  1. Some actual Dynamics product news from the Convergence conference -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] It’s nice to see that, besides the “people-ready” marketing, there’s some actual product news at Microsoft’s Convergence 2006 this week: [...]

  2. IBM vs. Microsoft in big bucks business marketing battle -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] IBM is apparently feeling the “heat” of Microsoft’s dubious $500 million “People-Ready” marketing campaign targeting business customers ([1], [2]) and has decided to fritter away some money too. Yesterday, they announced a bounty for Microsoft Exchange customers, but today comes word that they are really putting some serious cash on the table. Rebecca Barr and Dina Bass at Bloomberg News: IBM Corp., the world’s largest provider of computer services, will spend more than $300 million on an advertising campaign to win customers and help revive its image with investors. [...]

  3. Tomorrow’s the big day for Vista, but does anybody care? -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Of course, “People-ready” is comedic gold, but strictly of the “laughs at” instead of the ”laughs with” variety. Well, we’ll see what tomorrow brings, but I’m anticipating an anticlimax. Filed under Office, Office 2007, OS – Client, Windows Vista, Servers, Exchange, General Business, Public Relations, Marketing, Microsoft [...]

  4. How come nobody told me that "people-ready" was cool? -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Silly me! I have always treated Microsoft’s latest corporate marketing slogan, “people-ready,” as merely another turgid catch phrase coined by an inept corporate marketing crew that provides an occasional humorous moment. Little did I know that they were really, really serious about it and they have reached deep into the piggy bank to get otherwise sensible people to extol its virtues as a bromide. [...]

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