Preston Gralla

Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign bites the dust. Or does it?

April 15, 2014 11:41 AM EDT

Microsoft's controversial anti-Google "Scroogled" campaign finally seems to be at an end, with a Microsoft corporate vice president saying the company is "done with the campaign." But not so fast -- the Scroogled site still lives, and Microsoft has left itself wiggle room. Is Scroogled really done?

The Scroogled campaign certainly wasn't to everyone's liking, me included. I found it annoying, simplistic, and at times hypocritical. The campaign had two components: One criticizing Google for privacy invasions, and another saying that Chromebooks weren't real laptops and couldn't do real work.

It was created and run by a controversial executive who came to Microsoft from the political world, strategist Mark Penn, who had a history of using similar techniques against opponents of politicians for whom he worked.

The campaign's hypocrisy when it comes to privacy was made clear last month, when Microsoft snooped on the Hotmail emails and instant messages of a blogger during an investigation by its Trustworthy Computing Investigations team into a leak of Windows 8 code. That's a far bigger privacy invasion than anything that Google has done.

Mary Jo Foley reports that Derrick Connell, a Microsoft Corporate Vice President in charge of the Bing Experiences team, said in an interview on Yabbly that Scoogled was over. (Note: Since Foley published her article, the interview was taken down at Microsoft's request, but Foley has part of what was originally published.) When asked what he thought of the Scroogled campaign, Connell said this:

"That campaign had a primary purpose so let me explain that first. The main purpose was to bring attention to some activities that we didn't like as a company (for e.g. the idea of scanning email for the purpose of selling you ads seemed wrong). As a company we deeply care about trustworthy computing and user privacy. We felt there were things happening in the industry that didn't match our world view, and the campaign was aimed at providing information to consumers.

"It is tricky as you want to raise awareness and do it in a fun way. I think we achieved that goal, and changed some policies, and we are now done with the campaign. Mostly I feel proud that we decided to do it regardless of how we might be perceived."

Saying that "we are now done with the campaign" certainly sounds definitive. But if so, why would Microsoft pull the interview? And when Foley asked Microsoft if the campaign was done, they essentially hemmed and hawed, implying that it was, but not saying so directly.

So is Scroogled dead?

Most likely yes. Someone as high up as Connell doesn't make statements about something as big as big as Scroogle being killed, off the cuff. And since Microsoft's recent reorganization, Penn has been given the vague title, "Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer," which sounds like the kind of title someone is given for a while until they're shown the door. And as Foley points out, Penn doesn't control the marketing budget any more.

For more evidence that the campaign is likely over, head over to the Chrome Store today. You'll find that Office has just been added. Office has been available for a while, but Microsoft never bothered to have it listed. It's tough for Microsoft to say that Chromebooks can't get any real work done, and then list Office on the Chrome Store for getting work done.

The campaign also goes against Microsoft's new multi-platform direction. Office for the iPad was released before touch-based Office for Windows 8. Through Nokia, Microsoft will be manufacturing Android phones. Having the company attack one platform while working with other, larger ones, simply doesn't make sense.

So yes, the campaign finally appears to be over, even if the Web site remains as a relic.