Corporate vids: Chock full of fail?

Update:

According to Microsoft, the first video is an inside joke — poking fun at such cringe-worthy corporate videos. Suuuuuuure it is. Whatever makes you guys feel better. I suppose all of these incredible lame videos were in jokes too, right?

Original post:

The following video will likely make you cringe, even if you aren’t a Springsteen fan — and even if you aren’t a Windows fan (thanks to David Crow and MG Siegler for this one):

But is it as bad as the following one, or better? At least this guy can sing:

Microsoft Vista launch is cold as ice

As part of the more than $500-million worth of advertising and marketing that Microsoft has been doing to promote Vista, the company paid to build a state-of-the-art home made entirely out of ice in the public square at the corner of Yonge and Dundas in Toronto (no doubt they got the idea from this place).

IceHouseBed.jpg

A local blog called Torontoist (part of the placeblogging network started by Gothamist) has some pictures and a description of the 1,800-square-foot “home,” which comes complete with a working ice toilet-paper-holder, an ice bed and even an ice microwave (presumably good for only one use). The home took 270,000 pounds of ice to construct, and has computers running Vista and Office 2007.

Classic comment from the website: “I can’t help but think that this is analogous to how my computer is going to freeze if I try to install Vista.” That’s marketing for you.

Wow — and Vista has great packaging too!

I don’t want to be a gigantic wet blanket or anything, but looking at the top of Techmeme right now makes me despair for the future of the human race. Okay — that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But seriously, do we really need to get that excited about the fact that the latest and greatest upgrade to Microsoft’s 15-year-old operating system has been sent to the place where they burn it onto CDs or whatever?

microsoft-1978

But of course, saying that isn’t cool enough, so we have to use an acronym and say that it’s “gone RTM” (for Released To Manufacturing”) or “gone gold” or whatever the heck they call it. And for all the bitching and moaning about Google getting love for every Web 2.0 release it does, there seems to be an awful lot of blogger love out in Microsoft-land right now.

“Breaking news!” one site proclaims breathlessly. “VISTA IS GOLDEN!” another one hyperventilates. Not to be outdone, someone pulls out this humdinger: “A new era of desktop computing is upon us.” Sweet Jesus. And a week or two ago there was a similar landslide of links at the top of Techmeme that were all about — yes — the cool new packaging for Vista.

Come on, people. This is embarrassing.

Gates to leave MSFT — ho hum

“Gates leaving Microsoft” makes for a nice headline, and plenty of speculation and commentary over at techmeme, but it doesn’t really bear any relationship to reality. For one thing, Bill isn’t leaving his “day-to-day role” (whatever that really is) for another two years or so, and in any case he will likely remain chairman of Microsoft until he passes away or is accidentally crushed by a giant bag of money.

For a glimpse of what the announcement actually means in concrete terms, it’s always instructive to look at the share price. What did it do? The square root of you-know-what. Its movement on the news wouldn’t even qualify as a rounding error. In other words, it’s neither good nor bad because nothing much is going to change. Microsoft is still spinning off lots of cash, but seems otherwise “infirm of purpose,” as Lady Macbeth said of her husband.

I was talking about this latest development with Paul Kedrosky — who as some of you may know is no friend of Steve Ballmer’s — and he said that he found the phrasing of the announcement very interesting, in that Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie were both elevated to higher positions (with Ozzie taking over Bill’s title as “chief software architect”) and Ballmer got nary a mention at all, not even lukewarm praise.

Is that a signal that Bill isn’t too happy with Steve’s stewardship of the great ocean liner known as Microsoft? Perhaps. It’s true that the software giant continues to spin out great gobs of cash flow almost without even trying (which is why I think it should become an income trust) , but it’s also true that Vista keeps slipping, Microsoft seems to be pursuing a shotgun strategy — if any — when it comes to the Web, and MSN continues to be an also-ran.

So what should Bill do? Fire Steve Ballmer and put Ray Ozzie in charge. That would shake things up. Unfortunately, in many ways, Microsoft is too comfortable and too handcuffed by its Crown jewels — Windows and Office — to do anything that interesting.

Doing journalism out in the open

It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of the blogosphere’s reaction to the Microsoft Vista and Apple stories – both of which started out as big headlines (complete with exclamation marks) about a lot of code being rewritten in the Microsoft OS and Steve Jobs selling a bunch of stock, but evolved as smart bloggers responded to both with skeptical posts. It turns out that rewriting 60 per cent of the Windows Vista code is likely not what is happening, and that Steve selling stock is a little more complicated than it appears, and not as negative as outlets such as The Register made it seem in their initial story.

In writing about these stories, Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 makes a reference to sausage in his post about it, which I assume is a nod to that great quote from German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck about how “People who enjoy eating sausage and obeying the law should not watch either one being made.” Scott says this kind of thing is “what happens when the ‘community’ is in charge of the facts,” but I think that is overstating the case somewhat. No one was “in charge of the facts,” and in fact very few newspaper reporters are ever “in charge of the facts,” or at least rarely all of them. Facts emerged, and some things emerged that were not facts, and were (relatively quickly) shown to be not facts. In other words, sausage was being made.

More recently, there has been some backlash against Robert Scoble of Microsoft, who lashed out at the writer of the original Vista story – and at The Register (which has a bit of a history with The Scobleizer if you want to look it up). Scoble said that:

“We should now start deriding people who link to non-credible sources. I will. Anyone who links to that jerk down in Australia anymore is simply not doing bloggers any favors. Same for anyone who links to the Register.”

This got Phil Sims’ back up over at Squash, since he knows David Richards, the author of the original story on Vista – and provided a somewhat mixed (ethically speaking) description of his media colleague. Following Scoble’s rant, Phil has said he is aghast at what the Microsoft blogger is recommending, particularly since he is the co-author of a book called Naked Conversations. Domenic Jones has accused The Scobleizer of censorship, and the two have bashed it out in Scoble’s comments section – a wonderful illustration of what a comments section can be for.

Is Scoble recommending censorship? Domenic may have a point, but I think that’s going a little far. He has definitely flown off the handle, however – and is that in part because the story was about his employer? Perhaps. But while there has been noise and fury, and errors a-plenty, there has also been reasoned response and correcting of errors – although not by the original authors, which is something to note (Shelley at Burningbird has her own inimitable response to Scoble’s proposed link policy). In other words, journalism has occurred. It may not be the best-tasting sausage you’ve ever had, but there it is. And to give Scott credit, he ends his post on a reasonable note:

“Consumers will ultimately benefit from greater access to more varied and more accurate information, but they will be witness to the ugly process of the truth being made.”

Update:

Scoble has posted something like a “mea culpa,” and gets some support from James Robertson after what he sees as an attackby Nick Carr – and there are some interesting points made in the comments on Nick’s post, which Scoble takes part in, that are worth reading. Mitch Ratcliffe also has some perspective on the whole affair, and so does Rick Segal (clever headline, Rick).