Big business and informal communication
by Giles Turnbull
Microsoft continues to impress me with its willingness to open up and communicate informally. This is something I've commented on before (and I got a lot of criticism for it, too) but watching Bill Gates' video interview at Channel 9 brought those thoughts swimming back into focus.
This interview shows Gates looking relaxed and cheerful. He happily answers a variety of questions covering everything from Microsoft's long-term strategic direction to what web sites he uses (Hotmail, Engadget and News.com all get mentions).
Also doing the rounds right now is a short article Gates wrote for Fortune, titled How I work, in which he reveals his fondness for multiple monitors and dependence on email. In both the video interview and the article, Gates is very revealing about his work habits, going into some detail about the actual steps he takes and the software he uses.
I said it before, I shall say it again now: Apple could learn a thing or two from all this.
Now I'm not suggesting they create a copycat blog along the lines of Channel 9, nor that they wheel out Steve Jobs for 17 minutes of frank discussion about what's on his Dock (although, I did try and find that out for an article once, but the Apple PR folks didn't want to pass my request on). Nor am I suggesting that Microsoft is doing everything right, and Apple everything wrong. Nor am I planning to rush out and buy a Windows box. And, yes, I *know* that Gates was essentially being interviewed by one of his own employees for the Channel 9 thing.
This is my point: it would be nice if, just once in a while, Apple's polished PR professionalism allowed itself to relax a little in public.
As a media professional I can only admire Apple's determination to keep its secrets secret, and its expertise in putting on a show (all the big announcements I've attended in recent years have been shows, not launches); but as a human being it would be nice to hear from them as people once in a while, not as marketeers.
And I'd still quite like to know what's on Steve's Dock.
Like you, I admire the slick production of Apple's announcements, and you have to admit that the limited access to Apple people allows them to stay on-message. Maybe that's a little cynical, but it produces results. Compare to Sun, which is totally disorganized and throws out announcements right and left, desperately hoping something will stick. Sun even requires many of its employees to blog and post forum messages about how great their stuff is... not realizing that everyone has already figured out that that's what they're doing, thus reducing its credibility to zero.
...but as a human being it would be nice to hear from them as people once in a while, not as marketeers. Actually, there are some cases of Apple engineers having seemingly free rein to engage the developer community, as individuals and not as Apple spokespeople. Tim Monroe and Bill Stewart are constant contributors to the
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I've been a Mac user since 1984 and had grown to like OS 9.x a lot. Especially the old "approximation" to "The Dock", i.e., the old, tear-off, floating Finder Menu. After nearly two years of grappling with X, I still have mixed feelings about its usability; I have a few choice expletives for the Dock and, more lately, for the newfangled Window Trays. But I digress; that's not the topic of the day. In my day job I use Windows-2000; don't much care for the XP GUI but it hasn't been forced on me yet.