Microsoft Pokes Fun at Google Apps with New ‘Googlighting’ Spot

Last year Microsoft created the ‘GMail Man’ spoof commercial (I’ve included it at the bottom), that cast things that are completely true — that Google has programs that ‘read’ your email and target you with advertisements based on keywords found in your messages — in a completely creepy way by personalizing the scanner. The intent was obvious – show personal and especially business users that their sensitive personal data and intellectual property was anything but safe in GMail.

Now they are back again, this time looking at Google Apps. Again Google is personified as an overly happy and self-confident man with no concern for what others think. But this time there is clear ‘Mad Men’ look about the character as he strolls into a corporate office, talking about how after years in advertising he has developed some productivity apps the company should try.

This targets Google in two ways. First, they push the same issue as I keep saying that Google is not a tech company but an ad agency. This is a simple truth – if you are a publicly traded for-profit company that gets 95% of revenue from advertising, you are an ad agency. Period.

The second way they target Google is the way that Google uses a ‘release now, fix later, change whenever, kill if they want’ software model. Microsoft stresses that sort of thing simply won’t fly in a corporate market. And they are completely right. I am amazed at how many people don’t get that – but I assume that those who don’t mind must work in small offices or for tech companies.

The majority of jobs are not in tech companies, and most people who work are simply accomplishing tasks. Messing with their core productivity tools means a loss of productivity, plain and simple. If core software providers did the crap that Google  has done to ALL of their products (e.g., can no longer directly search in folders in Reader, removed the sharing functions and so on) in a real corporate program, that would cost tons of money in productivity.

As for Microsoft themselves … well, it is nice they are doing cute commercials, but they might better focus on survival as the world transitions away from their traditional strong areas.

Here is the Googlighting video:

And as promised, here is the creepy GMail Man spot!

What do you think about the videos and their messages?

Categories: Editorials, News

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11 replies

  1. I should preface this by saying I’m a Google Enterprise professional who works frequently with Google Apps and Google Search Appliance, so there’s certainly reason for me to be biased, I guess. But this is kind of silly.

    First, Google is an advertising company AND a tech company. They use technology to deliver ads. The fact that they use technology to deliver ads, as opposed to delivering other products, doesn’t make them any less a tech company than, say, Microsoft (which also is trying its best to be an advertising company). Google is not an ad agency – they don’t produce ads or create ad campaigns, etc. They build mechanisms for delivering ads. But dismissing them as an ad company is as silly as dismissing Amazon’s cloud solutions because Amazon sells books and movies. Both Google and Amazon have built incredibly scalable systems and services to deliver functionality, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that these systems can do different things.

    Second, Google Apps “flies” quite well in the corporate market – this is why companies like BBVA, government agencies, etc are moving to Apps. Google seems to be doing quite well in the corporate market compared to Microsoft’s cloud offering, Office 360 … I mean, Office 365 – I shouldn’t subtract the downtime.

    Third, Google treats its paid products quite a bit differently than its free products. The core Google Apps suite is in no danger of going anywhere. Frankly, I’m more confident in its longevity than Microsoft’s cloud solutions, which have gone from “traditional” hosted Exchange, to BPOS (worst acronym ever), to Office 365. Microsoft has a history of dropping things that people pay for, when they feel they’re at the end of the road. Just ask a VB 6 programmer for more information about that. And Google is much more careful about making changes to these paid apps than they are with free apps like Reader.

    Fourth, Google’s model of frequent improvement offers something that you don’t get with standard products. When you buy Exchange and Outlook, they continue working the same way until you replace them. Meanwhile, Google constantly adds new functionality to Apps.

    Finally, the Gmail Man spoof doesn’t really apply to business users, who have completely different terms of service for Apps than free users.I could go on and on here, but I think you get the point.

    • Cool – thanks for the perspective.

      I can’t speak to the corporate implementation of Apps, but when I read your ‘fourth’ item I think of how they have ‘improved’ Reader by making it worse and less functional – but tying it directly into their Google- crap. So long as the efforts of the corporate products are directed to actual productivity rather than further advertising monetization, I will agree with you.

      As for the advertising distinction, you mention other companies but let’s be serious here – until you can name a *real* tech company that gets close to 95% of revenues from advertising you can’t even pretend they are in the same industry. It is just ludicrous. Microsoft sells software and hardware products, and enhances certain free cloud-based software with advertising. Amazon sells stuff, and likewise supplements with advertising. Google sells a very, very, very small amount of stuff, but is basically making money off of advertising. Their entire business model is based on advertising, which causes them to game search, behave anticompetetively, and hack browsers to plant 3rd party cookies amongst other things.

      And also thanks for the info on the GMail terms.

      • Well, for the non-free products – which are not just corporate but also available for universities, various non-profits, government – there is no advertising or any sort of monetization. You pay your $50 per seat per year (assuming you’re buying Apps for Business) and … that’s it. There are no ads, there is no parsing your mail to identify ad-relevant information, etc. So, yes, all the changes that happen to the non-free products are functional, rather than trying to serve more ads or collect more information. And of course the MS ad specifically targets the non-free versions of Apps, and they do this by playing off people’s knowledge of the free versions which are quite different. This is absurd; should I worry about Office 365 because Hotmail serves ads? (Probably not.)

        The fact that they make money from ads generally, though – that doesn’t make them any less of a tech company. They’ve built a huge, unique, complex infrastructure and set of services to help them deliver ads, and they can use that same infrastructure to do other things. That’s why I compared them to Amazon. Amazon built a huge infrastructure for an online storefront, and then turned around and sold access to that infrastructure: S3, EC2, AWS, etc. If I’m looking to provision cloud services from Amazon, is it especially relevant or important that they built those services to sell books and DVDs? Google is no less a tech company than Microsoft – in many ways, they do more for technology than Microsoft has in years. They create programming languages, browsers, OSs … just like Microsoft. The fact that they pay for all this technological development with ads is not that much different from how Microsoft pays for their technological development with Windows and Office (and you should keep in mind that everything else they do is intended, one way or another, to drive sales of those two core products).

        Finally, I don’t see why having an ad-based business model would lead them to “game” search. I’m also not sure where you’re seeing anticompetitive behavior – who exactly are their competitors here? As for the “hacking browsers” bit, I suggest you read this:

        As usual, things are slightly more complicated than they seem.

        • You can’t be serious with that obviously biased and totally inaccurate ‘battellemedia’ crap, can you?  I mean, did you ignore the hundreds of reliable and accurate potential sources to find the only one that would portray your beloved Google as doing a good thing by hacking advanced security and planting tracking cookies for people who paid them to do so.

          I can’t even begin to address anything serious related to the rest of the stuff Google has been doing if you are in such a state of reality distortion regarding something as simple and clear as that.

          Sometimes things are complicated … but in this case it is very clear and simple.  Unless you need to figure out a way for the guilty party to be innocent at all costs, THEN they get complicated.

          • Can you point out the total inaccuracy in it? Specifically, which parts are inaccurate?

            I don’t necessarily think Google is “innocent” or that Apple is “wrong” – we’re talking two huge corporations here whose job above all other things is to make money, and neither one is always aligned with the consumers’ best interests – but the fact is that Safari lets some third-party cookies work, and is intended to prevent others from working, and Apple came up with the settings in question. I also didn’t say that Google “did a good thing” – I think it was an obvious mistake to make, and they shouldn’t have done it.
            And as a web developer myself, I can safely say that what Google did, while tone-deaf to privacy concerns, does not qualify as “hacking advanced security”. If you can set one third-party cookie, there’s nothing stopping you from setting other third-party cookies the same way. I can also tell you that I don’t really trust the WSJ to explain technical issues, and being a Murdoch-owned media outlet I don’t really trust them to report on Google impartially – Murdoch’s hate-on for Google is well known, as he thinks Google is “stealing his content” by serving it in searches, news aggregators, etc.I could just as easily have started my first post with “you can’t be serious with that obviously biased and totally inaccurate ‘geardiary’ crap”, but I didn’t – because I took your arguments in good faith even where I disagreed with them. I think you might consider extending the same courtesy to others.Dave Watts, CTO, Fig Leaf Software

  2. I’m not sure that I buy that Google is an ad agency argument, either. CBS earns most of their revenue from advertising sales, but they are not an ad agency. The New Your Times earns more revenue from advertising than from circulation, but they are not an ad agency, either. Google is more like a television broadcaster or newspaper than they are like an ad agency, really.

  3. I have to agree with the statement that Google is not an advertising agency because the primary function of an ad agency is the creation of advertising campaigns – not Googles primary function at all.  However – they ARE a marketing firm because the primary functioning of a marketing firm is to deliver advertising content to a target audience(s) and delivering an audience to potential advertisers.  Anyone who thinks Google’s primary purpose is other than this is deluding themselves.  Tech is simply the tool they use to do this.

    The CBS model doesn’t hold water because, although they make their money from advertising, their primary function is to deliver content (paid for by advertising) to an audience.  Subtle difference, but there nonetheless.

  4. Yeah, I am fine with the fact that ‘ad agency’ is at best imprecise and at worst just plain wrong.  But as Chris mentions, traditional terms and analogies really don’t work well.

    When Google pushes links and ads and ‘sponsored’ pages and videos and images … that is marketing.  I like that term, Chris – it makes sense.

    But suddenly when Google is creating campaigns using one of their products (i.e. advertising) to direct you to another of their products in order to push your eyeballs to a third-party (marketing) … it gets confusing … 😀

    But ultimately what Chris said about ‘tech being the tool’ is the core thing.  What started as a lightning fast pure search company – which was an awesome tech company who earned the massive dominance of search – is now something very different.  Their core product is now diluted because it is serving the goal of selling ads, rather than the opposite.

  5. Microsoft products are frustrating in their own way. Windows Live Mail takes forever to launch on my computer…granted it’s just an i3 processor, but older versions of Windows Mail launch a lot faster on older operating systems. When the most up-to-date product they offer on their most recent operating system on a faster computer takes five times as long to run, something is wrong.

    I don’t use many Google apps, so I can’t comment there, but Google’s search engine sure is dependable. I can get search results quickly even on the dial-up connection at my office. I don’t use Gmail or Hotmail for my regular email, but something is definitely tracking me on the internet. I see so many ads for sites I recently visited that it’s obvious my browsing is being converted into ads. Here’s a hint…if I didn’t buy anything when I went to the site willingly, it’s not very likely I’m going to buy anything with it constantly in my face. Of course, I don’t know whether to blame Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, or who. Maybe the secret evil tracker is Gravatar.

    • Google (and it’s advertisers) have already been shown to be playing games with the cookies on Apple Safari and MS Internet Explorer (which they sort of promise they will stop doing, but they only sort of promised).  The search result they give you have been shown to be related to your other browsing habits under certain circumstances so it is likely simply your use of the Google search engine driving those ads you are seeing.