This is not saying that the company is not spending millions of dollars to tell everyone who will listen that it is the greatest company ever put on planet Earth.

Oh, yes, there’s enough Microsoft presence – hardly a day goes by without most of us seeing some sort of ad for the company. The problem is that the ads are poorly planned, and say only that Microsoft is great – no real explanation of that greatness is provided.

Another problem the company has with self promotion is that too many times things for the loyal user are hidden away, and then once found, that user tends to be treated as suspect.  Neither of these conditions puts a sheen on the Microsoft reputation, and frankly, discourage many from finding out more.

One of the problems I have always had with Microsoft is how badly their own site works. It is often slow, difficult to traverse, and the ability to search, using standard search vocabulary and syntax, is worse than poor. It is easier to find something that has been released on the Microsoft site by using Google, or any other search engine, to find it. With the site, fully under their control in such disarray, and so user unfriendly, why should anyone trust their ability to deliver a desktop search program of any consequence, or, for that matter, a search engine for the web?

An article at PC Mechanic questions the abilities of the Live! initiative from Microsoft. Who wouldn’t? As a person enters, the interface looks like any other search engine, It doesn’t get terribly helpful anywhere. I’m all for clean and neat, with not too much stuff assaulting the user at once, but this site is positively beyond spartan. There is no mention of the Live products. No wonder their version of Craigslist had to close down – did many outside the halls of Redmond know it existed?

As much a critic of Microsoft as I am, I give them credit for these Live programs, which go a long way toward making one rethink any hostility to Microsoft. The problem is, how many use these products? Even then, once used, the products, which are usually fairly stout, sometimes have problems. Getting help for any of these programs is difficult, as the user typically will find absolutely no help unless he  subscribes to a mailing list.  In the parlance of my young daughter, 13, that method is so ‘80s.  Most people will not put up with this, and when the first problem arises that cannot be dealt with, the Live product is removed from the machine. I have helped customers through some of these difficulties, but I have been specifically told that, had I not been there to diagnose and repair another problem, the Live product would simply get ripped away, and from that point another dissatisfied customer would be happy to share a tale of woe with anyone who listens. If you’re thinking that Microsoft creates much of its own problems with customer perception, you would be absolutely right.

Sadly, the problem does not appear to be getting dealt with, as nothing seems any better over the last 5 years. The company could remove many problems that many have with its sites if the addition of a ‘What’s New’ area, with the changes of the last 30 days included.

Small steps are all it takes, but everyone who works on these things seems to be crippled.

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