Microsoft Corporation (MSFT): Remember Pepsi Blue?

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Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has become a bit of a soda jerk.

A couple of outlets dared to compare Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s poorly received Windows 8 operating system — and the company’s reaction this past week in promising an update that will restore some missed features — to The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO)‘s flop with New Coke.

For those unfamiliar with the pop star’s sugary blunder, The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) shocked the carbonated-beverage industry with the 1985 introduction of New Coke. The reformulation was a disaster, and the soft-drink titan responded quickly by bringing back the original beverage as The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) Classic.

“Microsoft is preparing to reverse course over key elements of its Windows 8 operating system, marking one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO)’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago,” the Financial Times wrote on Tuesday.

“The comparison with New Coke actually understates Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s problem,” The Economist followed, correctly arguing that Coke’s solution was an easy fix. Some even speculated at the time that Coca-Cola did it on purpose, triggering a strong reaction from Coke-sipping loyalists.

No one’s suggesting that Windows 8 was an intentional job of self-sabotage. It’s not as if Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) can mea culpa its way into reintroducing Windows 7 and all will be forgiven.

Windows as an operating system is in trouble, and it doesn’t matter that 100 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold. New Coke probably sold briskly at first. It’s all over when the consumer sentiment turns.

“Where are the Windows 8 attack ads?” I recently asked, wondering why Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) hasn’t gone for the jugular the way it did with its Vista-slaying “I’m a Mac” ads several years ago.

The sad reality is that even Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) can’t be bothered with the fading relevance of Windows-fueled devices. It’s too busy trying to keep up with Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)‘s Android as the mobile operating system of choice in the only computing niche that’s growing. It doesn’t need to crack open its billfold to muddy up Windows when jaded tech watchers are doing that already on their own.

Microsoft isn’t taking the pop shot lying down. Frank X. Shaw, the company’s enthusiastically outspoken head of corporate communications, fired back.

“Unlike a can of soda, a computer operating system offers different experiences to different customers to meet different needs, while still moving the entire industry toward an exciting future of touch, mobility, and seamless, cross-device experiences,” he wrote in Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s official blog on Friday.

He argues that the “sensationalism and hyperbole” given this past week to the New Coke comparison is no match for nuanced analysis. Selling 100 million copies of a product is big. Taking in feedback to improve a product is a good thing.

He has a point, but it’s hard to resist the path toward sensationalism when consumers relish pop comparisons. Watch me.

Is next month’s update to Windows 8 really codenamed Windows Blue? As in the old “blue screen of death” in Windows? As in Pepsi Blue?

Remember Pepsi Blue?

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