Mojave Experiment = Pepsi Challenge

Mojave Experiment = Pepsi Challenge

In his brilliant book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell describes the tremendous impact that the Pepsi Challenge had on the soft drink industry in the 1980’s (see pp. 155-159). Pepsi was trailing way behind Coke in market share, but it looked like there might be a sea change. Pepsi began running ads featuring the Pepsi Challenge. The ads showed Coke drinkers being given a blind taste test between Coke and Pepsi. To the delight of Pepsi and the consternation of Coke, Coke drinkers preferred Pepsi by 14 percentage points. See? All you have to do is try Pepsi, and you’ll like it better.

Microsoft seems to be trying to channel the Pepsi Challenge with its new plug for Windows Vista: the Mojave Experiment. They’ve rounded up a bunch of Vista haters (or at least Vista skeptics) and they’ve led them through a sham market research study. Subjects were told that Microsoft, in response to criticism of Vista, had developed a new operating system called Mojave. They wanted to get some early feedback. Turns out that the Vista haters really liked Mojave … and it turns out that Mojave was really Vista. See? All you have to do is try Vista, and you’ll like it better.

Of course, not everyone has read Blink, and I wonder if that that includes the folks at Microsoft market research, and perhaps some of the bloggers who’ve been impressed with the Mojave Experiment (this means you and you and you and you, among others). Because here’s the thing about the Pepsi Challenge. Although the results were accurate, they were also very misleading.

It turns out that people really do prefer Pepsi over Coke … when they’re drinking them both one sip at a time! But give those same people the opportunity to drink full cans of both sodas in a natural environment, and it turns out they’d rather drink Coke. How do we know this? Because Coke responded to the results of the Pepsi Challenge by creating New Coke, which was engineered to taste more like Pepsi. And New Coke turned out to be one of the biggest marketing debacles in history. After returning to the old formula, which supposedly tastes worse, according to the Pepsi Challenge, Coke re-established its market dominance.

Microsoft seems to be suggesting that the Mojave Experiment is evidence that people would really like Vista if they only gave it a try. That assertion may be true, but it’s not what the Mojave Experiment shows. What Mojave shows is that Microsoft can design a short, controlled demonstration that makes Vista exceed expectations. That’s really not that hard to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone could replicate the results by doing a demo of Windows 98 instead.

Some questions NOT answered by the Mojave Experiment:

  • What would Vista skeptics think of Vista if Vista suddenly got installed on their own computers and they had to work with it for a week or a month?
  • Which operating system would Vista skeptics choose if they were given side-by-side demonstrations of Vista, XP, Mac OS, and Linux?
  • How much would the new fans of Vista be willing to pay to upgrade from what they have now to Vista? Would they be willing to upgrade their hardware as well if that were necessary to get Vista’s benefits?

I’m not anti-Vista. But I’m not pro-Vista, either. And a cheesy marketing gimmick like Mojave won’t change my mind.

Posted in All, Business, Software, Technology, Vista, Windows XP on Jul 30th, 2008, 3:26 pm by David Schrag   

4 Responses

  1. briwlls
    July 31st, 2008 | 2:11 pm


    In the Mojave expirement if they do the following:

    1) Install SP1
    2) Adjust Visual effects to ‘Performance Optimized’ i.e. turn off AERO
    3) Set the Start Menu to ‘Classic’ view
    4) Set the Control Panel to Classic
    5) If testing against a ‘Vista/Mojave desktop’ connected to a Windows 2003 server assume that that Microsoft testers have properly optimized the network settings.

    I gaurantee that nearly all non-tech folks would notice no negative issues.

    Then, if Desktop Search 4.0 is installed on the ‘Mojave desktop’ along with Desktop Search installed on the ‘Server 2003 Box’ and they then try searching for files and documents that they will be absolutely delighted with what they find.

    If the Mojave project has video demos showing the look and feel with what folks are comfortable with i.e. Windows 2000 and XP it will be a success.

    My two cents.

    Thanks David

  2. August 4th, 2008 | 8:43 am

    FYI, the criticism of the Mojave Experiment is now in the mainstream media:

  3. August 16th, 2008 | 12:51 pm

    […] P.S. upon further research, I found that in the Malcolm Gladwell book Blink he points out that the Pepsi Challenge was actually misleading because people prefer Pepsi’s sweetness when they have the initial sip, but prefer the satisfaction that comes from drinking a can of Coke. The similarities to the Mojave experiment are intriguing (a test of Vista in a controlled environment is a “sip”), and I’m not the first one to realize this. […]

  4. September 20th, 2008 | 11:05 pm

    […] Mojave Experiment = Pepsi Challenge […]

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