The latest round of Windows 7 ads is resonating. Sales are up, bloggers are coming to Redmond’s defense; basically MSFT marketing is partying like it’s 1995. But something is missing from the campaign. They say customers came up with the ideas for Win 7. Microsoft has so far provided little evidence to back this up. What’s worse they don’t have anything to capture all the ideas for the next version already under development.

Where is the “Suggest a Feature” or “Fix a Problem” area of the Windows site? Are they going to give us what we want from reading our minds? Sure, they do focus groups and Voice of the Customer stuff behind the scenes, but why hide it? Microsoft put your money where your ad budget is and start getting our input directly.

Give us a Win 8 online suggestion box, create a “I Want Windows 8 to…” Facebook group, advocate hashtags to Tweet new ideas. Use that for the Windows social microsite and the Macy’s Holiday window display instead of the Win 7 love fest. At Microsoft stores, flip the whole Genius Bar/Answer Desk around and get customers to give suggestions.

This latest marketing effort is quite smart in that it touches on one unspoken weakness of Apple. The “Think Different” cabal builds products from on high and Steve Jobs carries them down from the mountain. We are in awe at how cool and perfect they are, yet have little say in the process.

If MSFT wants to really get the microphone back from Cupertino they need to show that the success of the “I’m a PC” message is not an accident but the direct byproduct of being fanatical at turning feedback into products.

Disclosure: I used to work for Microsoft and have a Windows 7 PC and a Mac.


 

There has been a little (pun intended) bit of buzz around the litl computer since it launched earlier this month. Part laptop/netbook and part Internet appliance – they call it a webbook – it can work much like a normal laptop or be flipped over to work in a very simplified screen only mode. There is no user facing operating system, no local file storage, no multiple USB ports, VGA, or Ethernet.

One more “less is more” aspect, the price is a whole lot more: $699 (plus $19 for the remote)! The blogisphere is hammering them for that. But that is not litl’s big problem.

 

What I can’t figure out is the target market for the device. Litl CEO John Chuang likes to think it is the whole family since “kids to parents and grandparents” all use the Internet as part of their daily lives. I am hard pressed to think of an early adopter stage product that targets these three VERY diverse demographics out of the gate. You just won’t be able to make the value proposition resonate with all of these constituents simultaneously. You have to pick one.

 

Which to pick? Teens will bypass this device and go for mobile and social plays like the iPhone. Seniors will likely be confused by it’s internet-only approach and more so, very turned off by the high price tag. That leaves the parents as their best hope. I would slice it even further and focus on the stay at home parent. This family member won’t have a work laptop so the traditional form factor mode is valuable. In their role as CFO (Chief Family Officer) the glanceable mode would be useful for things like meal prep and family calendar.

 

Litl needs to get some cool apps and scenarios for this audience. Show how you can go from searching for a recipe online to having the step-by-step instructions in the easel mode. Organizing the kid’s soccer schedule with a full-blown web UI and have big screen sized alerts with game photos.

 

The lesson here is to get crisp about who you think will get the most out of your product and build from there. Nail it, then scale it.