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Special Report: Marketing proves first can be an unenviable position

Proceed with caution

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Skeptics should take note of "Agility," said Aubrey Balkind, CEO of the integrated marketing agency Frankfurt Balkind, New York.

Microsoft has engaged in announcing products ahead of delivery—so-called vaporware in the computer industry—to stifle real technical advances. Until Microsoft backs up the current campaign with working software, business buyers should be cautious, Balkind said.

" 'Agility' is a campaign about open computing systems and, although every software company talks about open systems, 95% of them don’t want open systems, Microsoft included," Balkind said.

Microsoft is innovative in some areas of b-to-b marketing, said Peter Horan, CEO of DevX.com Inc., Palo Alto, Calif. In support of its new enterprise operating system, code-named "Whistler" and more recently branded as "XT," the company has launched a developer Web site designed to win beta customers among software developers, and to gather information as quickly as possible from the software design set, he said. The goal is to get 10,000 b-to-b tech-heads kicking the tires of XT before the end of March, Horan said.

"Microsoft has recognized that the Web is a terrific place to gather feedback," said Horan, who a decade ago ran the Microsoft advertising account at Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles.

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