Excuse this self-indulgence but I think Microsoft likes me.
Yes, Microsoft – the company accused of monopolistic practices, sued by the US and the EU, and considered by free software advocates as the “evil empire.”
But hey, I’m easy – I’ll take whatever I can get.
Except that I’m not so sure what the software company can offer me.
After all, I’m not a big Microsoft fan. Nor do I think I fall within its market demographic.
I avoid Word, I stay away from Outlook, and I dislike Internet Explorer. (I use Tex-Edit, Thunderbird, and Firefox).
But that’s at home.
At the office, Microsoft reigns supreme, providing software applications for virtually every task I undertake, save for snacking and sleeping.
This probably explains my indifference when Microsoft – through a public relations outfit – invited me for Bloggers’ Night last January 28 at its Makati offices.
The company wanted me to join its employees and other fellow bloggers for a night of – and I am not making this up – “Fun! Fun! Fun!”
Unfortunately, fun is the last thing I associate with Microsoft.
But all that changed when the company decided to spice up its event.
Attendance to Microsoft’s Bloggers’ Night was only available to the first 100 bloggers who could comply with two criteria: First, their blogs had to be at least one year old and contained a minimum of 20 entries, and second, that bloggers had to be eighteen years or older.
I was up to the challenge and could very well comply with both.
However, my interest was unnecessarily piqued.
What were the restrictions for?
Was the company about to launch the equivalent of software expos in Las Vegas that featured adult film actresses? Did guest bloggers include personalities such as Mocha Uson and pioneers of Philippine adult entertainment such as Boy Bastos?
Close but no cigar.
The first rule was to ensure that only serious bloggers would be able to go while the second was imposed to prevent minors from attending. The company was serving alcohol during the event, reportedly the first time it was doing so in the Philippines, an executive told me.
This announcement alone convinced me that Microsoft was reaching out to computer users such as myself.
And it was doing so through the cheapest and most effective means possible – free beer.
On the appointed day, bloggers of all colors, shapes, and sizes assembled at Microsoft’s offices, eager to meet fellow netizens.
While I shared their enthusiasm, I was more interested in locking lips with a cold bottle of light beer, the brand of which will not be mentioned to avoid giving free advertising to San Mig Light.
An hour or two into the event, everyone was pretty much enjoying each other’s company, an experience enhanced by eating free food and drinking free beer.
By eight o’ clock or so in the evening, it was payback time.
Since Microsoft Philippines at that time already had a captive audience – members of whom were in various stages of intoxication – company representatives seized the opportunity to demonstrate various enhancements found in the beta versions of the Microsoft Office Suite 2010.
While nursing a beer during the demo, I learned that Microsoft’s new version of PowerPoint allowed videos to be embedded, trimmed, and edited, all inside the application.
Using this new feature, regular, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety office drones can spruce up their presentations by using videos from YouTube.
Moreover, Microsoft’s latest version of Word and Excel apps also permitted simultaneous online editing through a browser – a feature demonstrated live between two laptops manipulating the same file.
Under another application, multiple photos of the same subject taken from different angles can be “stitched” together to come up with one panoramic shot.
Overall, I must admit I was impressed with Microsoft’s latest iteration of its Office Suite.
I’ll seriously think about migrating to Microsoft apps anytime I get the chance. Yes, including – gasp! – Internet Explorer.
In the meantime, how about another round, Bill Gates?
Picture from the Facebook account of MSFriends Philippines.
Microsoft in the Philippines is trying out what looks and sounds like the second-oldest sales strategy in the book.
It’s the soft sell — except that this one has a Web 2.0 twist written all over it.
With some help from social media platforms, blogs, and their users, the strategy intends to generate buzz about its products that will hopefully make its cash registers ring like alarm clocks gone haywire.
It’s simple enough.
Instead of creating a shotgun approach to promote its products, Microsoft Philippines Inc. has decided to target its users, pinning them down by segment, and creating a dialog between software maker and end-user.
Besides possibly leading to product improvement, the dialog could also enhance the company’s ability to spread and heighten awareness about its latest applications, attracting prospective users and customers.
“The move will also grow the scope of [Microsoft’s] reach,” Tim Vergel de Dios, Microsoft Philippines Inc.’s academic developer evangelist told GMANews.TV.
Starting late last year, the Philippine unit of Microsoft launched what it called its exclusive VIP events to which only a hundred or so participants — usually a segment of its wide range of software users — were invited. (These events are completely different and separate from the meetings it holds with local software developers.)
To secure a free VIP invite, a prospective guest needs to comply with certain requirements previously set by the company.
Last December, when it held its first VIP event just for students alone, the software company chose the top 100 students with the most number of friends on Facebook.
Those who emerged on top of the pile had an average of 2,000 Facebook friends, an achievement made possible by their extensive networks, de Dios said.
Although Facebook friends may not be an accurate barometer of popularity — whatever that might mean, especially since Internet metrics have yet to be standardized — these statistics are nothing to scoff at.
Microsoft certainly didn’t ignore it.
During the event, employees told the audience that Microsoft also gave away free software through downloads, prompting students to post URLs on their status updates which, in turn, were accessible to their thousand or so friends.
Microsoft’s download links went viral on Facebook in no time.
The impact was “huge,” de Dios said.
This explains why Microsoft will be holding its VIP events series until March this year.
These events will be extended if “community feedback is good,” de Dios said in an email message.
It already scheduled web designers for February.
And last January 28, Microsoft invited 100 bloggers to join the fun as part of its Blogger’s Night.
As of posting time, blog entries about the event and the beta version of Microsoft Office 2010 suite have already been uploaded.
An unofficial Facebook account of Microsoft friends in the Philippines — known as MSfriends Philippines — has also been created.
Who knows how much buzz that will generate?
No one does, as of yet.
But one thing’s for sure: Bill Gates is smiling.
(This piece can also be accessed on GMANews.TV. Picture on upper right shows sign at company entrance by Derrick Coetzee)