Jazzed-up Microsoft is cooler than before -Reuters/Ipsos

Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:59am EST

* Reuters/IPSOS poll finds Facebook, Apple remain popular
    * Older PC generation static in brand perception

    By Gerry Shih
    SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp is
cooler than you might think.
    A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that just under half of 853
respondents between the age of 18 and 29 thought Microsoft is
cooler now than it was a year or two ago.
    The software maker, often derided in Silicon Valley for
failing to dream up products that captivate a new generation of
social media and mobile savvy consumers, managed to pip Facebook
Inc in the survey - only 42 percent of young adults
thought the world's largest social network is cooler now than in
the past. Twitter scored 47 percent, below Microsoft's 50
percent.
    Part of Microsoft's lift appears to stem from a
well-coordinated marketing blitz around its all-new Surface
tablets, which have revamped the familiar Windows interace with
a tile-based, mobile app-friendly look and feel. Its Xbox gaming
console and "Kinect" accessory, which can respond to gestures
and voice commands, has in the past year also burnished its
image around younger consumers.
    Josh Johnson, a 24-year-old media arts student at the
University of South Carolina and self-professed gaming
aficionado, said he has been impressed with Microsoft's
consumer-oriented push with Windows 8.
    "It's more customizable, and not as rigid as an Apple phone,
where you have to buy all the products from Apple," Johnson
said. "If you want a ringtone, you don't have to pay iTunes." 
    He added: "I know Apple is the cool, hip brand right now,
but if Microsoft keeps coming out with new tech I'm sure it'll
be back soon."           
    Apple Inc, despite falling out of favor with many
Wall Street investors, still scored well in the Reuters/Ipsos
poll, the first in a series that aims to measure brand
perception and usage over time for major consumer tech brands.
    About 60 percent of 18- to 29-year-old respondents still
thought Apple was cooler now than in the past. But Google Inc's
 Android brand did even better, with a full 70 percent
giving it the thumbs up. 
    Although "coolness" remains, at best, an amorphous concept,
consumer perceptions are pivotal in determining the longevity of
products, particularly in the fast-moving consumer electronics
industry.
    Microsoft dominates the personal computing industry and is
still far larger than most other tech corporations on the
planet. But it has seldom won plaudits for cutting-edge consumer
technology and its share price has plateaued for a decade under
CEO Steve Ballmer's watch.
    Apart from Xbox and Kinect, Microsoft's past is littered
with failed attempts to conquer the consumer gadget marketplace,
from clunky early tablets and wrist-watch computers to the Zune
music player and Kin phone. 
    Gartner estimates that Microsoft sold fewer than 900,000
Surface tablets in the fourth quarter, a fraction of the 23
million iPads sold by Apple. Windows phones now account for 3
percent of the global smartphone market, Gartner says, far
behind Google's Android with 70 percent and Apple with 21
percent.
    The survey "definitely shows that Microsoft's efforts are
paying off, but we'll have to see how cool translates into
customers," said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. "It's also
hard to compare 'cool' factor as a quantitative measure against
Apple, a company, and Android, a platform."
   
    
    SOCIAL MEDIA
    The poll of about 4,800 people produced fewer surprises in
other areas.
    In social media, 90 percent of 18- to 29-yearolds said they
log in to Facebook, including 54 percent who use it
"continuously throughout the day." Nearly 30 percent of
respondents in their 50s, and 18 percent of those over 60, also
say they use it nonstop. 
    Facebook's usage figures dwarf those of Twitter and Tumblr,
as well as new kid on the block Pinterest, the visual "pinboard"
sensation. Despite its influence in media discourse, 50 percent
of young adults say they do not use Twitter. By comparison, 58
percent said they do not use Pinterest and 68 percent said they
do not use Tumblr.
    Harley Pruitt, an 18-year-old high school student in Newnan,
Georgia, said Facebook remains the only social network she logs
onto because it's the easiest way to contact friends from many
years ago, while other social networks feel less accessible.
    "Myspace is long gone and Twitter is confusing as all
get-out," Pruitt said. "I'm a creature of habit, so I can't
predict that Facebook will fade off."
    The poll, which will be repeated in coming months, included
responses from 4,798 people surveyed between Feb. 5 and Feb. 19.
The data is collected online from a pool of pre-screened
candidates. 
    The accuracy of the poll is measured using a survey
technique called a "credibility interval" and is precise to
within 1.6 percentage points. Among the young adult aged 18 to
29 subset, the credibility interval was 3.8 percent.

 (Additional reporting by Bill Rigby in Seattle and Maurice
Tamman in New York; Writing by Gerry Shih; Editing by Edwin Chan
and Leslie Gevirtz)