The top 10 ballads never heard at IT product launches

Every time I go to a product launch of user conference keynote I think the same thing: Why does that devil music have to be so damn loud?

You never know what’s going to happen once an executive takes the stage and a demo gets underway, but you can pretty much guarantee the soundtrack beforehand will be fast-paced yet impossible to dance to, repetitive and played at full volume. In some cases they play actual songs, which makes you feel you’re walking into a hip club rather than a faceless convention centre. A lot of the time it’s the aural equivalent of stock art: synthesized drumbeats and a tune that sounds like it was designed for some sort of corporate version of a rave. Microsoft’s launch of Windows Server, SQL Server and Visual Studio 2008 was no different.

Hearing this stuff first thing in the morning is presumably supposed to get everyone excited, energized about buying the products and putting them to good use, but the effect once the music dies and the event actually begins is pretty deflating. Then, when the music picks up again once the event’s over, you kind of feel like you’ve reached the end of a game show, except that no one is rolling the credits.

As I waited for Microsoft to walk through its enterprise software lineup today I imagined how much better the world (or at least the IT industry) would be if some innovative company were to take the opposite tactic. That is, what if they used ballads, instead of dance music, to introduce their breakthrough products? Sure, a lot of IT guys are metalheads, but even the heaviest thrash-rockers have been known to take it down a notch or two occasionally.

I tend to have the musical tastes of a pre-teen girl, but the following is a list of suggestions that could help set the tone for a new kind of relationship between vendors and the kind of IT managers they hope to woo.

“Wish You Were Here” (Pink Floyd) – the yearning in the chorus would be a perfect fit for remote access technologies connecting branch offices to corporate headquarters, or even mobile workers operating somewhere in the field.

“All By Myself” (Eric Carmen) – Yes, it’s a little dreary, but can you think of a better way to pitch collaboration software to siloed enterprise users?

“I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” (Aerosmith) – systems management and application monitoring tools have never had the anthem they deserved. Until now.

“Inspiration” (Chicago) – The whole point of business intelligence is sifting through data to come up with great ideas. Peter Cetera probably never realized the real context of this tune.

“Imagine” (John Lennon) – Sounds so much like something Apple would use to unveil a personal computing device I’m surprised they haven’t yet (as far as I know). Would also fit for application development tools.

“I’ll Stand By You” (The Pretenders) – Network vulnerabilities can give you a lonely feeling. Here’s the jingle Symantec, McAfee and other security specialists should use.

“I need you now” (Alias) – Outsourcers only wish their customers felt this way.

“Hello (Is it me you’re looking for)” (Lionel Ritchie) – enterprise search is a journey, not a destination.

“Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” – Okay, it would only be good for Sun Microsystems, but at least they’d be able to tell a story about how mission-critical their infrastructure is.

“Fallin’” (Alicia Keys) – It’s about a roller-coaster relationship. Just like the one Microsoft has with its customers.

I’m open to other suggestions, of course. The point is that vendors aren’t necessarily conveying the right message with their fast-paced musical numbers. They should be aiming for the slow dance – the one where you really get to know each other.

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