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April 09, 2012

Microsoft Asks What You Would Do with More Free Time

By Jack Grauer, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Personally, I would spend it trying to avoid smarmy ad campaigns like this one. Microsoft (News - Alert) is giving away coupons for free services to promote their new phone: the Lumia 900.

Microsoft is hawking their new phones as "Free Time Machines" (FTMs if you prefer), along with a contest to promote the idea. They will staff these FTMs with concierges of a sort. You pay them in order to perform mundane tasks for you, i.e. wait in line for a food order, shop for groceries, walk your pet iguana, etc.

By packaging the new phones as "time savers," Microsoft wants to renovate the public image of their products as pragmatic solutions to everyday problems.

There is also this clever celebrity role reversal contest thing. If you are lucky (or the victim of misfortune, depending on perspective), you might end up with a celebrity as your time saver concierge. Imagine sending a professional football player or a Kardashian sister to the corner store to pick up a package of cigarettes and an iced tea while you play a game of Halo.

The truth is that Microsoft is running into some difficulty getting traction on the American market for their newer phones. Their suspicion is that they don't have cool apps. To rectify the problem, they threw $12 million at a Finnish company, AppCampus, to develop new programs that will run on their hardware.

Smartphone software developers are treating Microsoft platforms as black sheep. Not enough people use them, so why bother making programs they can run? It's a catch 22, and for good reason. Developing apps is expensive; The New York Times says developing an app can run you as much as $600,000.

The FTM gag and the $12 million to the Fins are both attempts at rectifying a classic marketing foul: not enough attention to application.

Let's say the most talented scientist in the world spends four decades developing a type of peanut butter that doesn't get your mouth all stuck together. When he runs out in the street to collect on all of the glories his forty years of sweat should have earned, it shocks and disappoints him to discover that his neighbors do not pick him up, and carry him down Main Street on their shoulders, throwing confetti everywhere.

If only he spent that time developing a deodorant that lasts a solid 24 hours and doesn't turn the armpits of your t-shirts into a crusty mess, the general populace would maybe have revered him just as he desired.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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