Sep 10

Alert! The smartphone revolution is coming!

This just in: Microsoft is preparing a revolution in smartphones. It’s almost ready. Really.

I can only imagine the looks on their faces when they climb out of their news-proof bunker and discover that the revolution’s been going on for three years.

Does Microsoft honestly believe they can introduce Windows Phone 7 as a revolution? According to this video, yes — although (as reported by Kara Swisher at All Things Digital) it is unclear if this is their real marketing direction, or a one-time shot during a London event.

Let’s give Microsoft kudos for exuding confidence. Then let’s remind them that we’ve seen the Windows Phone 7 preview, and it isn’t exactly a revolution. It’s more like running after the train that left the station yesterday.

If they believe using the word revolution will somehow create Apple-like buzz, they’d better think twice. Everyone knows you have to use the word magic too.

If it weren’t for the laughable conclusion, I’d actually be crowing about the imagery and music in this spot. It has an elegant kind of power.

Senior citizens will recognize the desert image, soundtrack and typography from 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia. But most will probably just wonder Microsoft has been drinking — and what the heck that Arabian stuff is all about.

I’m anxious to see what happens when Windows Phone 7 actually does join the revolution-in-progress. Given the masses already in love with iPhone and Android, the market for a Windows phone may look eerily like that desert.

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  • Peter

    They will never get that, if you do copy something, than you should al least make it better than the original. And I am not talking about the windows phone 7 software, I am talking about a grand film scene of cinema history that is butchered by a Microsoft ad!

    Well, at least there is nobody to be seen that could eventually throw up;-)

  • Ken–

    As an ad vet, I’d expect you to laud the media buy for this spot. Cinemaphiles know and love Lawrence of Arabia. You don’t have to be a senior citizen (I’m not) to love Lawrence. It was created specifically for this very targeted audience, then was placed on YT, where is has garnered a very respectable 400,000+ views. As the kick-off to a half a billion dollar ad blitz, I’d call this one pretty subtle, and very un-Microsoft. To tie Windows Phone to one of the most epic movies ever made is a very clever move. How clever will the phone be? Who knows? But you gotta give this one to the Borg, doncha think?

  • ken segall

    This was apparently shown to a small crowd (I don’t see any real numbers anywhere), as part of the “Secret Cinema” series in London. Hard to laud the media buy on such a small effort, but perhaps the plan is to expand into a full-blown cinema campaign. That may strike a chord with cinemaphiles, but it’s still a tiny drop in the bucket given the task ahead. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t change the message of the video, which was the point of my post. To call your product a revolution when it’s actually three years late to the party — and everyone on earth knows it — is a huge, huge stretch. When Microsoft wonders to itself why it can’t shake the negative perceptions, they should think about things like this.

  • rd
  • sarumbear

    I was there, saw the ad projected on the big screen. It was in a Secret Cinema event at a converted petrol station. I think Microsoft was a or the sponsor. Almost everyone had a good giggle when they saw the ad. It was really sad for all to see a once great company and a huge corporation to act like this.

    I hope I am wrong, but Windows Mobile 7 shows every sign to be a huge flop.

  • Ian

    What surprised me was the Xbox brand tie-in at the end. So much for Zune.

  • ken segall

    Hilarious. I wish I’d seen that earlier. I think it would be interesting to research how many people have used the R-word in technology these last 10-20 years. I’m sure it would be quite a list. But I won’t because my fingerprints are on a few…

    I’m impressed! Had no idea you were from over there (or were you just visiting?). Good to have an on-the-scene reporter. I’m continually amazed, not that Microsoft makes some mistakes, but that they blow opportunities on such a massive scale. How Ballmer holds onto his job is beyond me.

  • sarumbear

    Live in Salisbury, Wiltshire for the last 15 years, but brought up in London, England and still have close ties with the town. Being a film/TV producer I am in Soho a few times every month.

    I think the only reason Ballmer is still the CEO is the number of shares he has. It maybe that I think Microsoft shares are ownded mostly by small investors. Unless a corporate raider enters the picture his position is quite safe.

    PS. Can you move the submit button below the captcha code? When browser remembered the previous entries and offered a pull-down menu, that covers the code.

  • ken segall

    Good point about Ballmer’s security. It’s just a shame. I’m obviously no Microsoft fan, but I sometimes wonder what a technology company with those immense resources could do if it had an inspiring leader.

    About the Captcha code. Yeah, that’s annoying, isn’t it. Unfortunately, my skills are limited and there appears to be no simple way to move that thing. However, the good news is, a site rethinking is in the works and that inconvenience will go away. Hopefully that happens within the next month. In the meantime, I’ll understand if you boycott :)

  • qka

    According to some other site I saw yesterday (and already forgot), this ad was to be shown at a revival of Lawrence of Arabia in London – hence the many homage cues in the ad.

    Yeah, without that context, the ad is lame-o!

  • sarumbear


  • Doug

    How do you feel about all the reports that Android and Symbian will be the market leaders by 2014? Is this the mid90’s all over again? PC vs Mac?

  • ken segall

    I don’t think there’s much question that other OS’s will outnumber iPhone within a year or two.

    The phone market does indeed remind one of Mac vs. PC history, in that iPhone is but a single system from a single manufacturer, offered only by select carriers — while Android phones will come from tons of manufacturers available on all carriers. However, it isn’t quite the same because iPhone has blazed the way in this market and well established itself as a major player with a large, loyal following.

    Apple doesn’t expect to win on quantity, however they can and will win on profitability. The competition on the “PC” side will force all those non-iPhone manufacturers to survive on razor-thin margins. Just as Apple makes far greater profit than other phone makers by selling far fewer units today, it’s hard to imagine that changing in the foreseeable future.

  • @Doug
    I don’t think we’re going to see the winner take all scenario from the Mac vs PC era. And that’s a good thing, even for people who don’t want an iPhone. It will be much better for consumers to have 3 to 5 major players fighting it out in the market, trying to out-innovate and out-feature one another. Competition is good, and I expect we will see a lot of it in the mobile space in the coming years.

    Have you seen or met Blaise Aguera y Arcas? Watch his TED videos. He’s smart, has charisma and stage presence. He recently got moved up out of LiveLabs to be Director of Bing Maps. Bing Maps will become more and more integrated into location based services, and by extension become central to any future Microsoft mobile platform. Bing Maps is also one of Microsoft’s (only) products that is best in class. Unfortunately you cannot get the full experience unless you’re on a PC, but it is a far superior product than Google Maps in every way (try the isometric view, the pan and zoom utilizing seadragon technology, and their 3D street view is far superior). Blaise is the best current contender, so far as I’m concerned, to eventually rise to the helm at Microsoft. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet him and he’s genuinely a really good guy, too.

  • I’m a .NET developer looking forward to getting a piece of this mobile-app pie. I’ve tried a little iPhone development, but it’s quite a jump from Visual Studio and .NET to XCode and Coco.

    Just as I’m gearing up for the Windows Phone 7 release, Apple announced that they are relaxing the restrictions on which development tools I can use to build iPhone apps.

    That is almost as exciting as Windows Phone 7.

    Also, the consumer in me is genuinely excited to try a Windows Phone 7 device. There is currently no good way to get my Flickr photos into my iPad.

  • ken segall

    Hello @Chris:
    Thanks for the tip. Very cool stuff. I don’t know Blaise beyond what I see in these videos, but it is a fun exercise to wonder if Microsoft could become a force for innovation under new leadership.

    And, by the way, I totally agree about the lack of a “winner take all” in smartphones. This category will be interesting for a long time to come.