View From Above

Sep 19 2013   7:37AM GMT

Microsoft’s pathetic attempt to buy Windows 8 mobile customers

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller

Desperate for sale sign in front of a home.

Microsoft’s attempt to buy Apple products in exchange for Windows mobile ones smacks of desperation.

Microsoft’s latest gambit to get people to buy their tablets and smartphones is to pay Apple customers to give theirs up. Good luck with that.

In fact, just a week after offering a $200 gift card to Apple owners, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reports that they’ve upped the ante to $350. It’s worth noting that’s what a new Surface RT costs, so they would be making exactly zero dollars on this deal. Do I hear $400?

I love the smell of desperation in the morning.

I can just see the Microsoft brain trust sitting around spitballing ideas about how to jump-start their mobile business. Ballmer enters a room surrounded by Microsoft’s sharpest marketing minds. A large white board and several magic markets sit at the wait in the front of the room. Ballmer sets the stage.

So far, every attempt by Microsoft to capture mobile marketshare has been stifled. They tried making their own tablets and it’s gone so poorly, Microsoft had to resort to giving them away to schools. The phone business remains mired in the single digits in the US and is not doing terribly well outside of a few pockets of popularity in the rest of the world.

The mission, Ballmer tells his marketing minions, is to find a way to get that market fired up. He opens the floor to suggestions. One particularly sharp young woman suggests they build better devices that people actually want. Ballmer pulls a Tim Armstrong and fires her on the spot.

This stifles the conversation for a bit, but after a few minutes somebody cautiously raises their hand and suggests paying iPad and iPhone owners to sell their equipment to Microsoft in exchange for a Windows phone or tablet. The room goes silent. Ballmer stares at the employee, then raises his eyebrows and triumphantly declares the idea brilliant!

OK. That never happened, but just how did such an idea actually see the light of day and why would they think it would work? Ideally any product lives on its own merits and doesn’t require gimmicks to make people buy it. That Microsoft believes it needs to pay its competitor’s customers to give up their devices to use Microsoft’s smacks of the worst kind of desperation.

And seriously, how many devices are they going to sell with this stunt? I’m guessing not very many. The thing is if Apple owners wanted a Windows device, chances are they would have bought one. It’s not as though the market is teetering towards Microsoft’s favor, and with just a little push, Apple owners are going to go running to Microsoft. That’s not going to happen.

One thing is clear from this attempt, Microsoft has a serious problem with their mobile device market and it’s letting the whole world know about it. Look, Microsoft probably made a smart move buying Nokia’s handset division, but they need to come up with a better approach than paying for customers. Even if they were able to buy marketshare, which is highly unlikely, they wouldn’t make any money doing it. No, Microsoft has to go back to the drawing board and earn marketshare the old-fashioned way.

They have to earn it.

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo

4  Comments on this Post

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  • CharlesThe3rd
    No, you are an idiot.  The deal is a minimum of $200 dollars for your old iPad.  They are being competitive since Apple offers a similar program to upgrade.  They aren't desperate, they are just being competitive.  Apple is desperate, that's why they offer the program to keep Apple customers because people are started to evolve and understand Microsoft's eco-system is fully developed, while Apple's is a fly by night.
    20 pointsBadges:
  • Ron Miller
    Thanks for the insightful and thoughtful comment Charles. You've really contributed to a civil discussion and we here at TechTarget truly appreciate it. The big difference between what Apple is doing is they are trying to get their own customers to buy the latest model, whereas Microsoft is simply attempting to get people to use Windows mobile devices by bribing them to switch. And yes, that's pretty much as pathetic as it gets. You can't sell your products on their own merit, so you try to buy marketshare. Apple users have no compelling reason to switch.
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  • UsedToKnow

    On the face of it, it does seem a bit like they're trying to buy favour with the market, rather than relying on their own product's merits, however I think their approach makes some sense.

    Take an iPad owner who is seeking an upgrade from their current device: can we assume that they will consider what is available both from Apple and other manufacturers before making a purchase? 

    If so, then let's assume they will consider features vs. cost and some intangible factors.

    If we assume that they are comparing Microsoft's product to Apple's product, and that the features are more or less on a par, then their decision will be based on cost.

    Given that Apple has already offered them $200 for their old iPad if they go for an upgrade, and assuming that they can sell it for less than this on eBay, then unless there is a compelling reason to forgoe the trade-in benefit and move to Microsoft's product, they will go for the Apple upgrade - it would be cheaper for a comparable device.

    So for Microsoft to compete with Apple for current iPad owners who are seeking a replacement product, they either have to offer a significantly better product, or they have to drop their price to mitigate for the $200 trade-in benefit that Apple is offering.... or they could match the trade-in.

    This is common place in other markets, for example where McDonalds might honour Burger King discount vouchers and vice versa.

    If I owned an iPad and was looking to upgrade, and Apple was offering me a $200 trade-in, I would see a matching counter offer from Microsoft as levelling the playing field - and I would be more likely to base my choice on product features.

    20 pointsBadges:
  • Ron Miller
    That assumes all things are equal and there is no evidence that suggests that most iPad owners are unhappy with their Apple products. To get someone to shift would mean it would very likely take more than a $200 incentive because they would have to give up their iPad (rather than passing it to a family member), and they would have to want a Windows tablet. Given that, it's not very likely. Apple has offered me money to trade in my old iPhone for a new one, but I won't be doing that. I'll be giving my iPhone to one of my children and getting a new one anyway. Simply offering monetary incentive to buy doesn't mean the market will take it. My guess is in the end the program will be a failure.
    580 pointsBadges:

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