The Grill: Microsoft's Chris Capossela on Google, Twitter and that Blue Screen of Death

Microsoft Office marketing chief talks about plans to beat Google Apps, adding Twitter-like features to Office, and the now-infamous BSOD

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As a marketing guy, do you use Twitter? I do, though I only just started playing around with it. I saw it in full force at the recent Business of Software conference, when you could read the tweets from all 200-300 people in the audience before, during and after my keynote speech. It was interesting from a gossipy point of view.

But what I found more interesting was how it helped me meet people who I have a shared interest with but didn't have a chance to say hello face-to-face. I'm following 10 more people because of this.

I still only write about work-related things. I don't do the "Hey, I'm making pancakes," sort of tweets.

Do your mainstream corporate customers want Twitter-like features in your products? They may not be excited about Facebook and Twitter being used by their people but they love the notion of their engineers learning and collaborating with each other on infrastructure that works with what they have and has great compliance.

So for SharePoint 2010, we are introducing the ability for user profiles to have a little bubble on top of their heads that lets people know what your status is.

What are your favorite features in the coming Office 2010? The one I use the most is the "Cleanup" button in Outlook 2010. When I come back after 3 hours of meetings, I can hit it and get rid of all the middle e-mails in a thread.

In PowerPoint 2010, it is how video editing is now a first-class citizen. You can also easily share your screen inside Office with remote co-workers.

Our reviewer, Preston Gralla, liked the beta of Office Web but also thought you were being a little stingy on key features. Will Office Web have every feature in Office 2010? Of course not. We think it's more interesting to try and give you a great productivity experience tailored for a browser or phone.

So for instance in OneNote, you can take a photo on your smartphone, and have it imported directly into the app. Or the Web version of PowerPoint -- it may miss some fancy animated transitions, but you can embed slide decks straight into a blog.

With Office 2007, you offered some aggressive pricing and discounts. Will you continue this with Office 2010? The biggest thing we did was make a distinction between the developed and developing countries. So we use geoblocking technology to prevent grey marketing so that we can offer a 40% lower retail price in India versus the U.S., both for English-language versions. We'll keep doing that.

We also offered lots of promos: back-to-school, dads and grads. There's no statement here on what we'll do, but expect us to continue to do lots of promotions tailored for local countries or groups.

What do you remember about the notorious "Blue Screen of Death" demo you did with Gates when Windows crashed? Could you feel the blood draining out of your face?

In the moment, it really wasn't that big of a deal. We were in this beautiful auditorium in Chicago for spring Comdex. It was the middle of a 16 minute demo. If you watch the video, you can see the audience applauding, laughing and cheering. Bill made a great joke. And then we did another 7 minutes of demo, which went fine. It only really hurt at night when I got online and saw all of the e-mails from the Windows team trying to figure out what went wrong.

By the way, Bill was really gracious about it. He came off stage, and said, "Gosh, thank goodness we're not shipping yet. Let's send these machines back to Redmond, and really figure out what happened."

It's amazing how many e-mails I got from random people afterward. I got one from a tailor in Bellevue, who said, "Hey, I saw the video. Your suit looked a little big. If you come in, I'll fix it for you."

People still love to joke with me about it. I'll probably never pass 2 million views on YouTube for anything else, but what can you do?

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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