LAS VEGAS—Robbie Bach, president of Microsofts Entertainment & Devices Division, spoke with eWEEK senior editor Darryl K. Taft at the Microsoft Mix conference here. This is Part 2 of the interview.
I looked back at my notes from the Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting last summer and you talked a lot about communities, especially around Zune, but also around other products. Can you expand on that?
Sure. Zune today probably isnt a great example in the sense that community is part of the process for Zune that we believe in, and we havent...really created the community environment. Now, thats something were obviously working on, and youre going to see a lot more of that from us. But today we have a store, we dont have a community, and thats something thats missing, and its part of why I dont think the product is complete yet, and something were going to continue to expand. And the people who have bought a Zune will get access to that community, too, so it will be a perfectly good environment for them.
More generally, we think about community as a place where people to go create their social network. And Ill be a psychologist for a moment here. I think the tensions and pressures of the world today, the pace with which we work, the pace with which things happen, the degree to which people move around, your social fabric just isnt very strong. Its not like you grew up in Appleton, Wisc., you went to school, you come back to Appleton, Wisc., you take your dads business there, and that was 30 years ago. That doesnt happen anymore. In that old world your community was the neighborhood you grew up with, its the friends you went to church with, its the kids of your parents friends.
In the new world your community is all over the country, and its your friend from high school who went to a different college, its the friend who moved away, its the person who my son plays on an AU basketball team with and has a bunch of friends who dont go to his school and dont live in his community.
And yet we have a strong desire to have community and to have social connections. So, what do we do? We use technology to create it. Thats what MySpace is about. Thats what Xbox Live is about. Its what the Zune social experience will be about. Its what creates that—thats what YouTube is about, although less so in their case, obviously. Most of the social experience happens actually in MySpace, with YouTube providing the vehicle to get the media back and forth. But youre going to see that continue to expand.
You use that social community actually as a marketing opportunity, because not only does this generation of people work harder to create their social community, theyre also perhaps the most cynical consumers weve ever had about advertising.
And the challenge that raises for the advertising agencies and the advertisers is your ad has to be more credible, more engaging, more real than ever before.
For me as a marketing person I say, yeah, thats true, but even more importantly what I have to do is Im not advertising to everybody necessarily, Im advertising to the influencers in your social network. Who are the people you look to for advice? Who are the people you look to for feedback? When a new movie comes out, what happens? Well, yeah, theres some advertising, but the first group of people that go to it come back and talk about it, they blog about it, they go to their space and say, Hey, did you see? They send a text message, and you watch what happens there, and instantly you know. And you know whether something is going to catch on or whether something is not going to catch on.
With that, what you were talking about, what kind of opportunities do you see for developers in that challenge?
Well, the premise Ill make today is I will say, hey, what Ray showed you yesterday was cool. Its going to give you a great set of tools. Youre going to be able to do amazing things. Thats exciting. Now, how are you going to get it to somebody? How are you going to distribute it? Who is going to know you did something cool? And how are they going to learn about it? And how do you use the same tools and concepts that you use to create this product or device or service or whatever it is to actually market and sell to your customers?
So, if Im a developer, on the one hand I say, gosh, I want to do cool work, and on the other hand I say I want other people to see my cool work.