Microsoft can't really get people to use its web products, Bing is only growing because it's taking Yahoo's users, even changing its name every six months doesn't help Hotmail slow down Gmail's growth and so on. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as the saying goes.Microsoft isn't desperate enough to actually start building better products, but it is desperate enough to hire a former political campaign manager, infamous for his negative campaigns.
Which is how you get Scroogled, a series of ads in which Microsoft sheds light on the secret known by everyone since 2004, Google uses algorithms to match ads in Gmail to the stuff in the messages.
Or as Microsoft would put it, Google reads your email. Of course, Google doesn't actually read your email, that is to say, no one at Google, no person reads your email.
Algorithms scan the text and try to find suitable ads. The same type of algorithms that Microsoft uses to "read" your emails and check for spam, but that's a minor detail.
Still, all's fair in war and love, to continue to with the tired clichés. The problem, for Microsoft, is that it doesn't seem to be working, so far, only about 6,000 people have signed its anti-Google petition.
Millions of dollars spent on ads to convince 6,000 people that may not all be Gmail users to maybe switch to Hotmail doesn't seem like a good idea, but as long as Microsoft keeps selling you Office every couple of years, it has money to burn. In fact, there's a new Scroogled ad out in which Google reads your love letters.
Meanwhile, Google security researchers are responsible for discovering more than half of the vulnerabilities fixed by Microsoft in its "patch Tuesday" most recent update.
Google is paying people to find Microsoft's bugs, perhaps even spending the money it made "reading" your love letters to make using Windows safer for you.
Plenty of people are arguing that Microsoft should just stick to building better products and educating users on why its products are better.
But Microsoft argues that "mainstream" users don't care about features, they just care about how they "feel" about the products they use. Apparently, the thinking is that if they feel scared, they'll run off to Microsoft. Treating your users as a bunch of simpletons can have its advantages.
Yet, Google managed to attract plenty of mainstream users to Gmail, or Chrome or any of its other products without any FUD, so maybe it is possible to stand on the merits of your product alone.
Maybe Microsoft's campaign will yield great results in the end. But the safer bet is that the only one getting Scroogled in the long run is Microsoft itself.