Ben Rudolph is what tech companies like to call an “evangelist”. Personally, I think a more realistic term is “paid fanboy”, but there you go. He works for Microsoft, specifically focusing on the Windows Phone 7 brand. But why’s he appearing in the news this week?
Well, it’s because he’s giving Windows 7 handsets to those who tweet their Android issues at him, and use the hashtag #droidrage. Yes, that’s correct. Tell him why your Android phone sucks, and he’ll send you a Windows 7 phone. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal. Unless you’re Google.
This is essentially the equivalent of being at school and offering anyone who calls Jimmy “fat legs” a chocolate bar. Few people are actually doing it because Jimmy has fat legs; they’re doing it for the free chocolate. But regardless of what their motivation is, Jimmy gets a load of bad press.
#droidrage could potentially become a trending topic in the United States today, and that’s going to cause Google a fair few PR problems. But what’s the right response? Offering Android handsets to those who tweet using the hashtag #wp7hasnoapps? Or being a little more mature and weathering the storm of bad-press anecdotes, some of them potentially fabricated?
It might be a new approach Microsoft are testing to see whether they can shake things up a little bit. Given that as I write this, news is going out that the head of Windows Phone 7 has been replaced, a new direction might actually be on the cards.
The legality of the issue is a little hazy, because neither the fans or Rudolph are saying anything libellous. But I think anyone who’s not waiting for Google’s reaction with bated breath clearly doesn’t have much interest in the future of the smartphone market. Android has a whopping market share (51%) simply because it’s not tied to one brand, as iOS is, and that’s its primary advantage. But if it starts to appear flawed in any way, all it will take is the average user becoming aware of the flaws, and Android’s grip on the market may begin to slip.
It’s a dangerous approach to marketing Windows 7 phones, but who knows? It just might work, provided Microsoft can get away with it. Thoughts?