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Microsoft used to make fun of itself in a cringeworthy fashion. When a trade show or big Microsoft conference would roll around, you could count on Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer appearing in some silly, self-referential video. Witness, if you dare, their Night at the Roxbury dance or their play day in Seattle.
The underlying message meant to be conveyed through the videos was “we’re fun-loving nerds and proud of it.” Microsoft wanted to offer proof that it had a kinder, gentler side to counter the public’s impresion of it as the unstoppable dark empire of software. It was the sort of thing that a company would try in an effort to erase years of antitrust hearings, iron-fisted business dealings, and awkward performances from Gates and Ballmer.
Well, with the antitrust ugliness—and the company’s status as the unstoppable dark empire of software—now well behind it, Microsoft seems intent on making fun of other companies rather than itself. In particular, it has opted to pick on Google, issuing one video after another, mocking its rival to the south.
The lastest installment: Googlightinga sendup of the show Moonlighting, in which a character playing an all-too-confident Google employee tries to sell Google Apps to a corporation.
“My employees live on Excel and Powerpoint. Does it work like those?” asks the company boss.
“Potentially,” responds the Google guy.
Later the boss asks, “So, you’re going to change your software while we’re using it?”
“Absolutely,” says Google guy.
“But, I could come to work, and the software could be different from the day before?” the boss asks next.
“Different, better, completely gone. Who knows what the future holds for Google Apps,” says Google guy.
Moments later, a soul singer floats in on a cloud of smoke, bellowing about all the products Google has killed off due to a lack of interest among consumers and businesses. The pitch is predictable. Microsoft is offering stablity and familiarity as a counter to Google’s beta-culture mentality. Some people watching the video will buy in, while others will no doubt tease Microsoft for selling lack of change as a feature.
What’s surprising most to me is that the video is actually kind of funny. Microsoft is much better at ridiculing others than it was of ridiculing itself. There seems to be a bit of liberation that comes for its new role as the underdog.