A spokesman can make or break a product. I truly believe SaaS is at least five years ahead of where it could have been thanks to the tireless evangelism of Marc Benioff. Guy Kawasaki had as much to do with the Mac's early success as Steve Jobs. And if Linus Torvalds was merely a good programmer and not extremely well-spoken and charismatic, Linux would be in the same niche as Free BSD.
On the flip side, a good product can die without a good spokesman. That was something I watched with great sadness 20 years ago as one of the last Amiga owners in my area. Commodore was sitting on technology far ahead of its time (and in some ways, it still is) but they couldn't sell air conditioning to Arizonans.
A similar problem is happening with Windows 8. Quick, can you name the person who took over for the high-profile Steve Sinofsky, who was dismissed late last year? It's um, *snaps fingers* whatshername…, um, *snaps fingers* Oh right, Julie Larson-Green.
Someone put her picture on the side of a milk carton, because she's been missing for months. Her last interview was in December, right after the launch.
As Windows 8 gets murdered in the press to the point some people are calling for mercy (the most common refrain is "Oh come on, it's not THAT bad."), Windows 8 has gone without a single defender drawing a paycheck from Redmond, and it needs to start with Larson-Green.
A few analysts I've spoken to said that her silence is not a surprise. When new high-level executives take over at Microsoft, they spend many months with their noses to the grindstone, learning every little detail from all of the people under them. It's a deep dive so the executive can be fully informed and brought up to speed on everything.
I would find that easier to accept if she was new to the position, the way Sinofsky was when he came to Windows from the Office group. But Larson-Green is not new to Windows. She was joined at the hip to Sinofsky for the development of Windows 7 and 8, so it's not like she doesn't know what's going on.
The fact is Windows 8 is now being really misrepresented. The Windows Vista comparisons are constant and wrong. Vista was a bad piece of software, period. It was just terrible the way it managed memory. Plus, a few too many vendors did not have their drivers ready for the new driver model (*side eye at Nvidia*). No one can say Windows 8 is poor software. The few people I know who use it say it's actually faster than Windows 7 and rock solid. It's just that awful UI we're forced to use.
As for blaming Windows 8 for declining PC sales (I was guilty of that, too), some have pointed out that Mac sales in Q1 fell 22%, way more than PC sales. So how is that Windows 8's fault? It's not; it's evidence that the real problem lies with the PC sector overall and not an OS.
I'm all for her spending the days talking to Microsoft dev team, getting feedback from third-party developers and OEMs and making sure to fix as much as possible in Windows Blue to get it back on track. Windows 8 wouldn't have the problems it has if someone had listened before the launch, because the reaction to the beta was very negative. The rumors of a returning Start button and booting to Explorer are signs someone is listening now.
But at some point she really needs to talk to a few influential people, analysts or reporters, and defend her product. Call CNBC, call Gartner, call Walt Mossberg, hell, call me. Waggener has my number. I'll give you an open mic. But Julie, defend your product before it's slandered out of credibility. I hope at Build you come out swinging.