By Efrain H. Logreira
Bill Gates introduced a cheap freight car to be added to the powerful train of the U.S Hispanic market. In February, the software giant launched a seminar "tour" in New York City labeled "Build Your Business," which is running throughout 14 cities across the nation until next October. The purpose of the program is to attract and persuade Hispanic and other minority entrepreneurs to embrace e-commerce and to purchase Microsoft's desktop products and "bCentral which features various Internet tools.
In an article published in the May issue of Hispanic Business, Eugenio Beaufrand, vice-president of the U.S. Southern Region for Microsoft was quoted by saying, "We've done a very poor job of catering to the needs of small business." He also refers to this group as an "untapped territory." Not only has Microsoft done a lousy job by not reaching the "untapped" small minority-owned business market, but has also placed these groups in a sealed package that only benefits Microsoft.
I attended two of the seminars in Los Angeles, to learn that the "free technology workshop" was nothing but a sales pitch for Compaq and Softchoice as partners in these seminars. I was also surprised and annoyed by the fact that the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has endorsed these workshops. Did Elisabeth Lisboa-Farrow, the USHCC chairwomen attend one of the workshops prior to her endorsement? This so-called "The Big Day" workshop did not address the Hispanic's need at all; instead it intimidated them, especially the newcomers.
The pushy and unethical presentation of the newest software included Microsoft MapPoint 2001. One of the supposed features of this program (as it presented in the workshop) is to provide information to help the small business owner to market to the Hispanic community. The degrading offense to this effort is that the demographics and statistics about Hispanics in the U.S. are from 1991! When one of the attendees asked the speaker why this software did not include the latest census statistics, he answered "I don't know, I only sell the product." When will Bill Gates up-date the correct Hispanic statistics in this product? Did he ask the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic Business Magazine or the Milken Institute to provide better statistics? Another speaker, an Afro-American woman spent a half-hour advising the attendees (75% Hispanics) " not to copy the program and give it to your cousins." How insulting. If Microsoft wants to gain new users, they should reduce their prices for newcomers, which will in turn decrease piracy worldwide.
The same article mentioned that a national technology survey sponsored by Microsoft highlights the fact that, "Such entrepreneurs [the Hispanics] tend to see the Internet as viable but intimidating." You are right, Bill, workshops like this not only intimidate Hispanics, but also prove once and for all that you are still doing a poor job to help us Hispanics grow and benefit from your technology. Let us all hope than in the near future, Microsoft will build a first-class car to add to one of the fastest growing markets in this country's economy, the Hispanic Express.
Efrain H. Logreira is the President of Hispanic Media 2000, a company that writes articles about Hispanic issues in the U.S. Logreirea and be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org