Microsoft is trying so hard to be cool. It really isn’t fair, why is Apple considered
cool just because they have pretty white cases? How has Apple managed to break the
nerd image that Microsoft is so desperately trying to shake with the mainstream audience?

The Xbox and now the Zune are Microsoft’s best attempts to break the spell so far.
They have recognised the importance of the community and are getting their people
out there spreading the message.
This personification of Microsoft through blogging breaks down the corporate monolith
image and helps evangelise technology. Blogging has been embraced by Microsoft more
than any other company. For example Microsoft flew
a group of influential music bloggers
to Seattle for the launch of the Zune. This
is a clear recognition of the importance of community acceptance and support of their

But it goes further than blogging. Just because your friends are talking about something
does not necesarily mean you will find it cool, you need to get some kind of peer
interaction and build a community around your products. Xbox
gamer profiles
, Windows Live Spaces and
now sharing music wirelessly with your friends (see picture) are all ways of building
communities. This push into people's personal lives is an interesting change for Microsoft,
the Microsoft of the past focused on business efficiency and tools.

In fact even their corporate marketing is changing with their massive push to promote People
. Personally I respect the fact that their executive
of People Ready doesn’t even include the word technology. It is legitmately
about people and how to put them first when developing a business.

Zune Song Sharing

Some people may regard this influencing of the blogosphere may
be regarded by some as a deceptive form of advertising. This disrespects the community
however, as it essentially says that people are not smart enough to differentiate
marketing from genuine company insights. If you read any kind of business
blogging case
you will notice a number of things.

If you are just regurgitating the company line then you are not going to get read.
Blogging is about pushing the boundaries and attracting attention through strategic
risks. This means breaking the company mould and putting your passion out in the open
(then it is up to the community to make or break you). It takes guts to candidly criticise
yourself, link to your competitors and ask for public comment on your work. Taking
these risks will get you credit with the community. This two way conversation has
benefits for both the company and the blogger, feedback and information flow freely.

In the end blogging is Microsoft's way of building a corporate persona that is open
and people focused. Apple did it a completely different way with people focused products
and by trying to make people forget they are a tech company. In the end neither
Apple or Microsoft is the winner, the community is. Technology is created
to make our lives better (and not just for efficiency and technology's sake).

Note: This is cross-posted from my original post on TechTalkBlogs.