Lacking Innovation, Microsoft Patents the Obvious and Spends $300M to Rebrand

The USPTO has granted Microsoft a patent for a “method and system for navigating paginated content in page-based increments.” That would be the page up function. Specifically, it’s for a function that moves your view exactly one page, rather than one screen.

Of late, Microsoft has been more prolific in producing press releases and security fixes than real innovation. Its answers to Craigslist, Google search, Flash, and SalesForce are “me too” products that fail to measure up to their competitors. Microsoft’s efforts to convince the market that the Vista operating system isn’t a complete train wreck show just how much the market leader has weakened.

This is part of a larger $300 million effort to rebrand Microsoft as cool, or at least hip. The problem, of course, is that when nine out of ten kids in the class use the same operating system, it’s more likely that the one hold-out is cool or hip, rather than the vast majority.

Leading this new charge for brand invigoration is Jerry Seinfeld. One critic asked, “What, was Michael Bolton not available?” Ad Week agrees that Seinfeld, the funnyman from the ’90s, was a funny choice. Doubts about Seinfeld aside, what ails Microsoft isn’t that it has a brand problem or, as Ad Week suggests, that they’ve changed agencies too frequently.

Microsoft is slowly losing its central position in communications and information technology. There’s only so much more value Microsoft can create at the OS level, and search companies, social networks, media, Adobe, Apple, and service carriers are all more expert and nimble at innovating in their niches. And most of these competitors are not restrained by regulators from making acquisitions which would substantially increase their capacities.

Though Microsoft can innovate at its edges, its core is increasingly hemmed in and distrusted by customers who are eager for real options to its operating system. Microsoft is crossing a new kind of chasm in tech marketing as it moves from “hip” to “venerable.”

In tech years, Jerry Seinfeld is venerable. He may be just the right choice after all.

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