NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I can tell pretty quickly when something I write about a company resonates.When I strike a chord, I notice an increase in company-specific lawyers viewing my LinkedIn profile; executives and public/media relations departments begin to "reach out" to "open a dialogue"; and/or I start hearing from current and former employees of companies under the microscope. Over the last month or two, I have heard from a considerable number of current and former Best Buy ( BBY) and Microsoft ( MSFT) staffers across ranks. When these folks echo your sentiment once or twice, you don't think much about it. However, as support from past and present workforces keeps rolling in -- as independent accounts -- it's logical to think you're on to at least a little something. The other day, a former 10-year plus Microsoft veteran sent me an email. This person's spouse still works for the company. The better half's tenure approaches a decade. The correspondence came in response to Does Steve Ballmer Even Know Microsoft Makes Xbox?, where I question Redmond's marketing apparatus. There's simply no connection between Microsoft's best work in recent years -- Xbox -- and its larger, more entrenched Windows ecosystem. I won't interject much because this former MSFT employee states it well. And, believe me, this person is not alone. Do some digging; you might find a similar level of bewilderment from unassociated Microsoft workers.
I lightly edited these comments, received via email, for space and anonymity sake. I put the comments from the employee in italics. My interjections use the standard, un-emphasized font.
Rocco, I was a 10-plus year veteran at Microsoft (until early last year) and my spouse has currently been with the company for 9 years; what your Xbox article mentions is what both of us have been screaming about to whoever would listen for as long as I can remember.That's solid stuff. When Microsoft introduced SmartGlass, I was excited. But, as the emailer points out, the company dropped the ball big time. Not only does most of the general public have no clue that Microsoft makes Xbox, they probably don't even realize SmartGlass exists, let alone know what it can do. For the record, this former employee doesn't have sour grapes:
At a party we had back in 2007/2008, we were in our mid/late 20's and the attendees were the same age. Everyone was either single or married without kids and everyone worked at Microsoft. This audience was the absolute sweet spot for the Xbox. But the only thing that people knew the Xbox did was play games. When we told them you could stream music directly from your PC or stream pictures from a connected USB/Zune, no one had any idea ...
Back then, this was not the most elegant UI
user interface, but it showed the capability of what could be done 6-plus years ago. And again, 25-year old males who worked at Microsoft and who had owned an Xbox since its inception had NO IDEA that this was possible.
Microsoft is just absolutely horrible at marketing
its hardware...horrible ... While the current Surface ads are snappy, they still are C+ at best. They need to show how you can play Angry Birds on 75% of the screen and change your music selection on the other 25%. Or they need to show how you can keep track of your entire social network across all apps at the same time. And why haven't they shown SmartGlass in action; that's a game changer in my mind.
And just to make sure you understand my view of Microsoft, I absolutely love the company and their products and have since the mid-80s ... I am a huge evangelist (almost to a fault) and am personally invested in the company (wife's job, investments, and a house in the Seattle market).Steve Ballmer. I know you read this stuff. Are you listening? What gives? Follow @rocco_thestreet --Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
I've always felt their marketing was their Achilles heel and also believe that while Ballmer is a great sales leader (he is adored within the company, at least from the 50k sales/marketing employees), the company's strategic track record under him could not be worse ... Even now, when I talk to friends who are developers, they continue to tell me that the company is focused on cool technology for the engineers and IT side of the business, but not on the cool technology the end user will actually be interested in.