Barbarians Led By Bill Gates (continued)

Griggs and Anderson performed their focus groups, comparing Microsoft with other companies such as VisiCorp and IBM.

The survey results provided pretty compelling, if not damning evidence. People said they wouldn't purchase Microsoft's software because they couldn't understand the packaging-pure techno-babble. People were also turned off by Microsoft's own forest green logo, dubbed the "Blibbet," that had the name Microsoft, with the letter O crisscrossed with horizontal lines, which to this day has defied interpretation.

The results told Hanson how people viewed each company and exactly what it would take for people to perceive Microsoft as the industry leader. He took that input and developed the necessary message. It was a very disciplined, systematic approach-something totally alien to the boys' club of techies who relished their Animal House ways.

Hanson and his team knew the company had to have a sole spokesman to make sure the message to the public remained controlled and focused. Before Hanson arrived on the scene, the absence of formal Microsoft marketing procedures left developers calling the shots. They chose the awful names and wrote the impenetrable lingo on the back of the boxes. They talked freely to the press, improvising randomly, trying to evangelize the company, but instead spreading inconsistency and wild incoherence.

In Hanson and Edstrom's view of the world, Gates should be Microsoft's spokesman. Microsoft's cofounder, Paul Allen, had resigned in 1983 after battling Hodgkin's disease, and Gates fit the consummate developer image.

Hanson sent around a gag order-no talking to the media. This was, to say the least, not a popular decision with Microsoft's developers.

Developers were also skeptical about Hanson's decision to change the manuals and the packaging based on consumer feedback. Some developers thought if the consumer was too stupid to understand the manual, they probably shouldn't be using the product in the first place.

Hanson ignored this arrogance. For him and for Microsoft, the Griggs and Anderson research was proving invaluable. As their study showed, other leading companies had the same problem of consumers not making the association between a company and its products. Almost everyone knew the premiere word processor at the time, WordStar, yet no one knew that MicroPro made the software. The company never appeared on the radar screen. Likewise, consumers participating in the study knew dBASE, the predominant database product, but no one had ever heard of its maker, Ashton-Tate.

The key to Hanson's and Microsoft's success was to have a naming strategy for Microsoft products, and for the company to enforce the brand. Instead of "Word" as a word processor, it would be called "Microsoft Word." Multiplan, Microsoft's spreadsheet, would be called "Microsoft Excel."

Hanson knew that products and product versions would come and go, but that the Microsoft brand name would live on. Microsoft-and Bill Gates-would be the hero.

Not everyone shared Hanson's affection for brand awareness. In fact, he ran into an uproar with the developers. Naming strategies, branding strategies, whatever those were-the developers didn't know, and didn't care. It all sounded like grandiose flackery to them.

The developers, as a whole, still wanted to call their new windowing system the Interface Manager. That was a name they had come up with and it was the flag they were carrying. In the developers minds, this was their product. They had built it-not Hanson.

But from a marketing standpoint the name sucked, big time, and that's all Hanson cared about.

Knowing they wanted to keep Microsoft as the hero, Hanson, Edstrom, and the corporate communications team began brainstorming new names for I.M. No one, including Hanson, understood what a windowing environment was. There were different products from companies like VisCorp, and they all had hip names like "VisiOn," but the names had nothing to do with the product itself.

To sort through the confusion, Hanson took all of the editorial clips and news stories on these windowing systems and looked to see what they had in common. Consistently, the press was calling this new thing a windowing shell, a windowing manager, or a windowing system. If Microsoft wanted to set a de facto standard in the industry, the logical generic name to call the new product was "Windows."

The developers held onto Interface Manager. Gates didn't want to get involved. He insisted that Hanson convince the others that the name should be Windows. But Hanson was stonewalled. To the developers, Hanson was the "cosmetics guy," the guy who knew nothing about computers or software and sure as hell wasn't in a position to name their product.

Frustrated, Hanson went back to Gates.

"I've given everybody the logic on this and nobody is buying it," he said. " You have to make the decision. I can't convince them. We've got a naming strategy, which is based on our branding strategy. Our branding strategy is based on how we want to position Microsoft. Now we've got this 'thing' that fits within our naming strategy, and the only logical thing to call it, if we believe in all this crap we've been talking about, is 'Windows.' There is no other name.

Just before the Windows documentation was to be printed, Gates the oracle spoke. Then the developers lined up behind him with their support.

So now they had a name, but Hanson and Edstrom still weren't sure whether Microsoft was ready to make an announcement. A technical neophyte, Hanson had no idea what was realistic timing on the product side. In his experience in the food and cosmetics industries, when someone promised a product would be delivered on a particular date, the schedule was simply a function of safety testing. It was guaranteed. Hanson's job was never to question the date, but to line up behind it and salute.

Edstrom, coming out of Tektronix, was technically more savvy, and she provided Hanson with wisdom born of experience. Hanson would walk out of a meeting with developers thinking everything was "golden." Edstrom would look at Hanson and shake her head.

"Big problem," she'd explain. "This stuff isn't going to be ready."

Hanson remained unconcerned. From a communications standpoint, everything seemed to be in order. But Edstrom knew better. Sure she told him, if nothing went wrong, if there were no bugs in the software, if the gods smiled, if the Red Sox won the World Series…the developers might make the date. But in the software industry…dream on.

Gates, who should have known better, gave the go-ahead for Windows's launch, and he sanctioned not one, but two announcements, a spectacular coming-out party for Microsoft as well as for Windows.

The first would take place on November 10, in New York. Microsoft had successfully romanced twenty-four different computer manufacturers who would publicly pledge their support for Windows. Noticeably absent, however, was IBM. Big Blue didn't care about graphics, and it wasn't buying Windows.

Despite IBM's wariness, Microsoft was able to show that Windows would run on a slew of different machines. The beautiful part of the New York event was the twenty-four original equipment manufacturers, OEM's, which Microsoft had recruited to the Windows bandwagon, assembled together. Many of these companies were blood rivals who normally wouldn't be within spitting distance of each other. Yet Microsoft, in the name of what must be one helluva new product, was able to pull them all together.

As Edstrom, Hanson, and Gates saw it, this was the shape of things to come-Microsoft became "the" company to watch!!!

The second phase-the pièce de résistance-would be Las Vegas, the computer industry's biggest trade show, COMDEX.

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