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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

“Hello, Newman.” Or, “What’s the Deal With This Mojave Experiment, Anyway?”

The “Mojave Experiment,” if you haven’t seen it already, is a new Microsoft ad campaign intended to spiff up Vista’s poor image. You can find a link most days on the Wall Street Journal web site.

If you follow that link, you’ll find a “Mojave Experiment” video in which a Proctor & Gamble-style hidden camera captures the reactions of “regular people” when they are shown cool stuff they can do on “Mojave,” which they have been told is a new Microsoft operating system.

The camera then shows their embarrassed reactions when they are told that “Mojave” is actually “Vista.”

It is straight out of the Proctor & Gamble soap-selling playbook, which should be no surprise, because Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer started his career at P&G.

Unfortunately, the fundamental premise of the “Mojave Experiment” and those video clips is flawed. Only 43% of Microsoft Vista users call themselves “very satisfied” with it. And only 46% of Microsoft Vista users say they are “very likely” to recommend Vista to a friend or family member.

We are not making those numbers up, by the way: they’re right there on Microsoft’s own “Mojave Experiment” web site, in the footnotes.

As for the hidden camera video itself—well, anybody can videotape a bunch of people reacting with delight to product demos run by highly competent computer engineers from the company that created the program.

What they should videotape is a bunch of people attempting to load Vista on a computer and start doing stuff themselves, which is where the trouble has been, and show that to Microsoft engineers.

Years ago, Ford Motor’s advertising slogan was “Quality is Job One.” The slogan didn’t actually mean anything, but it sounded great. Unfortunately for Ford, consumers didn’t care about the slogan, they cared about the cars. Eventually consumers stopped buying Ford cars to the point where Ford is now being forced to actually do something about quality, instead of advertising about it.

Microsoft is looking more like Ford Motor every day.

But they’re not stopping with hidden camera laundry detergent-type web videos. They’re reportedly paying Jerry Seinfeld $10 million to appear in ads for Vista, presumably to counteract the devastating “Mac vs. PC” ads.

We’ve tried to imagine what will happen when Microsoft’s clunky, acronym-laden and user-unfriendly technology is combined with Seinfeld’s “What’s the deal with airplane peanuts?” schtick.

The first Seinfeld ad might go something like this.

Seinfeld stands at a microphone on stage in a nightclub setting: “What’s the deal with the ‘iPhone’ anyway? I mean, Apple didn’t release an ‘a’-phone and a ‘b’-phone and a ‘c’-phone…so why do they have an ‘I’ there? What’s the deal with that?”

[Modest laughter.]

He holds up an iPhone for the audience: “And how does it have “phone” in the name? I mean, come on, people—there’s no antenna, is there? [He mimes pulling an antenna out of the phone, as he always did on his TV show.] Hey, I don’t hear a dial-tone either. [He holds it up to his ear and shakes his head.] What’s the deal with that?

[Some chuckles.]

Seinfeld starts playing with Google Maps on the iPhone: “And have you seen how you move around these web pages? You move them around with your finger. [He touches the map, makes it bigger, smaller. Zooms in on a satellite image from Google Earth] I mean, hasn’t Apple ever heard of a mouse with a sophisticated interactive touchpad? What—are they afraid of mice now?

[No laughs.]

Seinfeld plays with the phone interface and notices he has a voice mail. “Hey, this thing actually tells you who’s left a voice-mail?” [Under his breath.] “I like that.” [Taps the phone and holds it to his ear, then says in a stage voice.] “Hello, Newman. I see you called me.”

[Laughter, applause.]

Seinfeld smiles, acknowledging the applause, then speaks sternly. “You know, Newman, this thing actually isn’t so bad. I just looked at my house in the Hamptons on this screen, and then I found out you can actually see who left you a voice mail. I can’t do that on Vista. You know what I think, Newman? I think you tricked me. Hello? Hello?”

[Scattered laughter, some confused murmers.]

Seinfeld clicks off the phone and starts scrolling through software programs: “And what’s with this ‘Apps Store’ anyway? I guess you can download these software applications…just incredible stuff here…”

[Newman enters the stage from behind the curtain with a team of Microsoft security men.]

Seinfeld, reacting as expected: “Oh, hello, Newman.”

[Some laughs.]

Newman, mechanically: “Hello, Jerry. Let’s make this easy for both of us. Just give us the iPhone and leave.”

Seinfeld: “I want my $10 million first, Newman.”

Newman, sweating, pulling at his collar as the audience begins to boo: “No chance, Jerry. You—shall we say—strayed too far from the script.”

Seinfeld, surrounded by Microsoft men, picks up the microphone stand and starts swinging it like a sword. “I want my $10 million, Newman! I’ll finish the script! Don’t take this iPhone!”

Newman makes a sign and the security men back off. Sweetly, he says: “Anything you say, Jerry. Just finish and you’ll get your money.” Seinfeld resumes reading from the offscreen cue cards, unenthusiastically: “So what’s the deal with the ‘iPhone’ anyway. It’s not a phone….”

Newman: “That’s not good enough, Jerry!” He grabs for the iPhone.

Seinfeld, keeping it away from Newman: “All riiiiiiiiiiiiiight, keep the $10 million. I just want this iPhone, Newman!”

[Now other Seinfeld characters begin to appear on stage from different angles.]

Kramer: “Giddyyup, Jerry. You need that $10 million. Your career isn’t what it used to be. Just hand over the iPhone, buddy.”

Elaine: “Hello, Jerome. How’s about you giving that old phone to little old Lainy?”

George: “Jerry, is hanging onto that piece of plastic really worth giving up $10 million? You give it to Newman and I’ll tell you what happened in The Contest

Newman, giggling: “You haven’t got a chance, Jerry.”

Seinfeld, seeing someone else in the audience, shouts: “Uncle Leo! Help me!” Uncle Leo comes up on stage, shouting: “Jerry! Hellooooooooo!” He viciously grabs for the iPhone.

Seinfeld falls to his knees, clenching it in his fist as they try to tear it away. He scrunches up his face and hisses: “Microsoft!” The screen goes black.

Jeff Matthews I Am, In Fact, Making This One Up

© 2008 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice. It should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Nor are these comments meant to be a solicitation of business in any way: such inquiries will not be responded to. This content is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.

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