The "Handcrafted" Audacity of Microsoft Signature

Microsoft has introduced a new flagship service for its Windows Store customers called 'Microsoft Signature.' Here's an excerpt from the Signature product page copy:

Many new PCs come filled with lots of trialware and sample software that slows your computer down—removing all that is a pain, so we do it for you! Every PC the Microsoft Store sells is put on a software diet and performance is tuned to run the best it can. 

We call this process Microsoft Signature.

As we all know, the parallels between Windows Stores and Apple Stores are plentiful. Whether it's the Genius Bar equivalent, the Answer Desk, or just the general aesthetic, Microsoft's brick and mortar locations irrefutably borrow a great deal from Apple. And really, do you blame them? Apple found a remarkably successful model for its stores -- so much so that it has become an industry-defining standard. Microsoft, insofar as it is a competitor, is simply competing. Fair enough.

What bothers me is that Signature is even a selling point in the first place. Luring customers into a store based on a feature that should unquestionably be standard is just ridiculous. Microsoft is adopting the equivalent of  a standard characteristic of the Apple Store experience and marketing it as a "beautiful," "handcrafted" service. 

In some respects, it's a positive thing. Microsoft is addressing a flaw endemic in the Windows PC shopping experience. This is certain to benefit the end-user, maybe even the platform as a whole, but why is it only happening now? Have they really only just grasped the benefits of walking out of an Apple Store with the device equivalent of a blank slate? If so, how were they competing effectively before?

Honestly, the sheer audacity to market this as a selling point is just a depressing indictment of the Windows PC buying experience as a whole.

Having left Windows to the will of the vendor for over a decade, the Redmond giant is only now taking accountability for the user's experience and only now are they trying to simplify the experience for their users. That is highly suspect behavior. What's worse is that Signature warrants an extensive, flashy website dedicated to marketing the service.

A "handcrafted" experience? Really? Pathetic.

If you dig even further you'll notice, in true Microsoft style, Signature Premium is also available for $99 per year. With this extra service you get the equivalent of "Find My Mac," support priority, and an otherwise free antivirus made by Microsoft. Fantastic.

While I'm pleased Microsoft has identified a gaping flaw so many years after it initially became an issue, the marketing of the service as if it's some sort of luxurious tuning service is difficult to swallow. What's worse is that this service being limited to Windows Stores relegates the potential benefit to a smaller audience. Unlike Apple, Microsoft has very little control over the sale and distribution of Windows touting devices. As such, this seems more of a drop in the ocean than it is a sweeping force for change. I certainly hope it prompts vendors to ponder doing something similar, but setting the tone as some sort of exclusive service does not bode well for the customer whatsoever.

Incidentally, it's interesting to note that some applications do come pre-installed with Signature. The usual Microsoft Live suspects are there, but, don't panic, so are Adobe Reader and Flash. What a relief!

(Via Matt Gemmell)