If you're launching a new product, the last thing you want to have happen is for it to become shorthand for "spectacular failure." That's what happened to The Coca-Cola Company when it attempted to foist New Coke unto the world in 1985.
The second-worst thing? Being called the new New Coke. That's what's happening to Microsoft now, with the utter failure of Windows 8 to raise anyone's pulse above a flutter, despite the alleged sale of 100 million copies.
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It's not me calling Windows 8 the new New Coke. That comes from the staid and conservative Financial Times, with some piling on by The Economist -- neither of them typical sources for Redmond bashing.
In this world where everyone is a publisher, there is a trend to the extreme -- where those who want to stand out opt for sensationalism and hyperbole over nuanced analysis. In this world where page views are currency, heat is often more valued than light. Stark black-and-white caricatures are sometimes more valued than shades-of-gray reality...
So let's pause for a moment and consider the center. In the center, selling 100 million copies of a product is a good thing. In the center, listening to feedback and improving a product is a good thing. Heck, there was even a time when acknowledging that you were listening to feedback and acting on it was considered a good thing.
Windows 8 is a good product, and it's getting better every day. Unlike a can of soda, a computer operating system offers different experiences to different customers to meet different needs, while still moving the entire industry toward an exciting future of touch, mobility, and seamless, cross-device experiences.
This is the same Frank X. Shaw who took to Twitter to pick a very public spat with Google PR exec Jill Hazelbaker last December over Microsoft's ill-conceived Scroogled campaign. It's the same guy who sarcastically accused Facebook of stealing Microsoft's ideas for its new Home app last month and got into a multitweet fight with several big-time Twitterati over Bing's "borrowing" of Google search results in February 2011.
Shaw's newfound conversion to moderation is, let's just say, well timed. (Also, I've been Robert X. in print and online for far longer than he's been Frank X. I want my middle initial back, please.)
Shaw is right about one thing, though: Windows 8 is not a can of soda pop. There are a couple of key differences between what Coke faced with its new caffeinated sugar-water concoction and what Microsoft is facing now.
Where Coke and Microsoft differ
After 79 days of getting beaten like a pinata, Coca-Cola relented and restored the old formula. (Some suspect this was the intent all along -- if nothing else, the debate got people declaring their undying allegiance to a product that had been around for nearly 100 years.)
Microsoft, on the other hand, released its latest operating system 199 days ago as I write this. The complaints about the "missing" Start button and other interface changes started flowing in about 15 seconds later, and they haven't stopped. The top-selling apps in the Windows Marketplace are those that replace those very features.