The last thing a company wants to do at a keynote speech is clear a room. But that's just what Microsoft succeeded in doing during Tuesday's keynote at MIX 07 in Las Vegas.
Following a talk by Microsoft's president of entertainment and devices, Robbie Bach, Microsoft introduced a panel of ‘experts’ to talk about the role of marketing with the growing complexity of digital entertainment on the web. But soon after the panel began, several hundred attendees, many of them web designers and developers, began streaming out of the room. By the end of the talk, there were only a few dozen attendees remaining.
Users of Twitter.com, a website where users can chatter in real time about where they are and what they are doing, were especially gleeful in pointing out how disinterested attendees were once Bach left the stage.
One user who uses the handle ‘krohrbaugh’ and lists his name as Kevin Rohrbaugh on Twitter wrote during the panel, "Bailing on the marketing keynote like most of the rest of the audience; isn't rule number one of marketing to know your audience?"
Another Twitter user, who according to his Twitter profile actually works for Microsoft, also reported on the mass exodus. "People are streaming out of the keynote and it isn't even done. Pretty bad," said Tobin Titus, who posts by ‘tobint’ on Twitter.
The keynote began innocently enough, as Bach stepped on the stage and promised to shed light on why, from a marketing perspective, Microsoft is so interested in building out a web-based platform and community of high-impact designers.
As part of this, Bach said he would elaborate how Microsoft is delivering on what it calls a strategy of "connected entertainment”. He defined that as a strategy to use the web to provide consumers the ability to have multimedia content whenever they wanted and on a range of devices.
"These are the things they want to tie together," Bach said. "Our job is to make sure we can deliver that connected entertainment experience."
Microsoft has been ramping up its strategy to move much of its revenue-generating future to providing the latest multimedia experience on the web. The company has invested significantly in the past several years in web-hosted services, tools for cutting-edge web design, providing web-based entertainment on the PC and its internet-enabled game devices, such as the Xbox 360 console.
To prove his point, Bach proceeded to trot out a series of Microsoft partners and customers who were using the company's technology to build creative ads and services. But according to keynote attendees, Bach did not succeed in proving his point.
It's true that some of the applications on display from companies such as Nissan, Disneyland Hong Kong and BBC Radio were impressive. The BBC application, which delivered in high-definition web experience that provided personalised media clips based on preferences to users, especially impressed attendees.
Richard Rasala, associate dean of computer science at Northeastern University, called the BBC application "the best by far" because it actually provided a unique entertainment delivery mechanism for the end user, unlike some other examples.
Still, an impressive demonstration does not point a prove, Rasala said. He said that when Microsoft and other companies create communities around their technology, it's usually accidental, not created by any ad placed strategically on a web page or in a game.
"The Xbox community existed, but the Microsoft ads [in games and on Xbox Live] then got moved around quite by accident, not by design," Rasala said. "It's unclear that many companies can replicate that pattern by design."
After Bach's keynote, it was difficult to find attendees in the hall that did not work for Microsoft. Nine out of 10 attendees approached for comment after his talk were from the company.
A representative from Microsoft's public relations agency insisted that the show was at "maximum capacity”, defining that as 5,000 attendees. But another member of the press at the show said that a Microsoft representative reported that there were about 1,500 to 2,000 attendees at MIX 07.