Microsoft's Kinect is fun to play, when you're not getting maimed

By David Kiefaber on Wed Nov 10 2010

Microsoft's Kinect motion detector is shaping up to be the Family Dollar Dart Gun of multi-player gaming, given the number of people who've injured themselves or their children (on film!) while using it. Of course, Microsoft has an out—most of the people in those videos weren't allowing enough space between them and other players, and you can hurt yourself doing anything if you're not paying attention to your surroundings. Look at all the WiiMote accidents that have been documented over the years (caution: not while you're eating), and this becomes less an indictment of the Kinect and more a harsh reality of physically active gaming. It also explains why, once upon a time, many of these simulated activities happened outdoors. Point is, if the risk of possibly-disabling ouchies didn't scare people away from the Wii, the Kinect will survive this, too. Not that long-term sales projections will make this kid's face hurt any less, but you know what they say about omelets and eggs.

Not a big fan of technology? You will love the Windows 7 phone

By Todd Wasserman on Mon Sep 27 2010

We've seen anti-technology ads from the likes of Dentyne before, but it's hard to recall such messaging bankrolled by a tech company. Until now, that is. A couple of ads for Microsoft's Windows 7 phone seem to make the claim that with the new device, we'll actually use our cell phones less. To underscore the problem, one ad (shown here) is a montage of cell-phone addicts missing real-life events to text or check their phones. One guy even drops his phone in a urinal and then retrieves it, eliciting a "Really?" from his neighbor at the next urinal. In another ad, a British woman chirps that her new W7 phone updates all the important stuff on the main window, allowing her to get in and get out, unlike the poor schlub behind her at the coffee shop who's holding up the queue. Maybe Microsoft is on to something here. After all, when was the last time you saw an ad from an oil company encouraging you to use more gasoline?

Suddenly, telenova satire ads are all the rage. ¿Por qué?

By David Kiefaber on Wed Jul 7 2010
Looks like I spoke too soon when I inferred that Old El Paso had the Spanish telenovela parody market all to themselves, because here comes Microsoft Bing with Los Links, in which hot women must choose between two men based on their search engine familiarity. Los Links is less concerned with passing for an actual soap than Mi Marido, Mi Angel, but the campaign has won viewers over because Bing's previous ads were, in typical Microsoft fashion, terrible. The ads are also a rare example of Spanish-language programming on mainstream American television, so this sudden embrace of telenovelas could be a) Madison Avenue's recognition of growing minority demographics and their common points of cultural reference, or b) Madison Avenue exploiting corny stereotypes for profit. It's probably a little of both, but even the latter option is a step up for Microsoft's marketing department.

Norwegian cinema dramatizes Java's battle against Microsoft's .Net

Posted on Thu Jul 1 2010

The debate between Oracle's Java and Microsoft's .Net software is heating up, at least in Sweden Norway, judging by this fake red-band trailer for a pro-Java movie. Java 4-Ever tells the story of a young Swede Norwegian who rebels against his father's strict devotion to .Net and gravitates toward the dreaded Java. Here, Java is presented as a choice akin to homosexuality. His son being queer for Java eventually hastens the father's death and leads to a moment of doubt for the young man, too. ("Maybe you were right, Dad," he says to the tombstone. "Maybe it's easier if Microsoft sets the standard.") But a young hottie played by "Scala Johansson" convinces him otherwise, and soon the two are entering Java code in a highly original way. If you see just one trailer for a fake movie about Java today, make it this one.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Naming experts feeling kinship for Microsoft's Kin mobile device

Posted on Mon Apr 12 2010

Kin

Microsoft seems to have a penchant for one-syllable product names these days. First there was Zune, then Bing and now Kin. The latter, which is the company's latest mobile device (which was actually made by Sharp Electronics; Microsoft created the software), appears to be a hit with naming gurus, who point to Microsoft's mixed track record in this area. Eli Altman, director of strategy for A Hundred Monkeys, dubbed Kin a "pretty good name," though he said it sounds a bit like "they were going for Kindle, but stopped halfway." Athol Foden, president of Brighter Naming, said it's "short and sweet and—a change for Microsoft—has some human emotion going on." Foden wasn't as big a fan of Bing, ("What's a bing?" he asked), but was impressed that Microsoft nailed down a three-letter word, a coup in an age where all the short names seem to have been taken. John Hoeppner, president of NameQuest, agreed that the Kin name was short and easy to pronounce, but he was less enthralled than the others: "Kin doesn't seem to differentiate the Microsoft product offering from existing telecom products." Does any of this matter, though? After all, lots of people snickered at the iPad's obvious feminine product connotations, but no one was chuckling last week when the product launched. "The only name Apple really cares about is Apple," said Altman. "Everyone thinks [the iPod and the iPhone] are great names, but in these situations, a name really only serves to get you out of the starting gate."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Has Google replaced Microsoft as the de facto evil corporation?

Posted on Thu Feb 18 2010

Is Google the new Microsoft? This video from Comedy.com certainly seems to be channeling a kind of rage against the Google machine that harkens back to the late '90s, when many thought Microsoft would soon control the world. Here, a putative Google spokesman responds to complaints about Google Buzz by reminding people that Google can kill you and then giving the camera the finger. ("Index this!") The script then lays out a very Microsoft-like indictment: "We have never had a single, original idea ever. Our business model is to find something successful that already exists and then use our trillions of dollars to make a Google version. MapQuest sure seems to be popular and profitable. Boom! Google Maps." He goes on to say that when Google can't figure out how to copy something, like YouTube, it just buys it. "We may look innocent with our cutesy holiday logos and April Fool's pranks, but we run your fucking lives," he explains. "We are fucking Google. If we tell you to buzz, you will buzz." On a related note, check out this Onion video in which Google offers to protect your privacy by relocating you to a remote village.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Across the board, Microsoft is out to beat Apple at its own game

Posted on Mon Oct 26 2009

By now, it's conventional wisdom that Apple was the innovator of the graphic user interface that's dominant today. The trash can, the mouse, the file menu system—they all came from the first iteration of the Macintosh computer in 1984. (True, there's a good argument that Apple lifted a lot of those things from Xerox.) As a consumer in 2009, you're unlikely to care who did what first. As Windows 7 gets glowing reviews, you could argue that although Microsoft wasn't the first to market, it now has the best operating system. But Microsoft is opening itself up for another round of Apple comparisons with its new retail stores. This video, shot in the company's first such store, which opened in Scottsdale, Ariz., this past weekend, makes it clear that as Windows is to Mac OS, so is the Microsoft Store to the Apple Store. Not only does the design mimic Apple's, with its rows of open laptops, but there's even an "Answer Bar," which a rep points out in this clip is similar to Apple's Genius Bar. It doesn't take a genius to see where Microsoft's inspiration came from. But then again, only an idiot would bet against Microsoft.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

OK, Microsoft's sponsorship of 'Family Guy' could very well suck

Posted on Mon Oct 19 2009

Well, this won't do much to calm the critics. Here's a first look at the upcoming Family Guy special with Microsoft playing the intrusive co-star. The marketer is sponsoring the "commercial-free" episode, airing Nov. 8, and is written into the content via a deal with the show's creative team, led by Seth MacFarlane. I had been cautiously optimistic about the idea, but if this clip is any indication of what the rest of the show will look like, it doesn't bode well for fans, or anyone who curses advertiser creep into television programming. I'd envisioned a more obvious, fourth-wall-breaking pitch for Microsoft's new Windows 7, with characters staring straight at the camera and delivering the lines like infomercial pros. That could've been funny. Instead, there's Brian the martini-swilling mutt of the family spouting the operating system's attributes like he's reading a brand brief. Since that wouldn't serve either purpose—engendering goodwill toward Microsoft and not ruining the show—let's hope this is a red herring. If not, expect a boycott. Via The Live Feed.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Don't get bunched up about a Microsoft-sponsored 'Family Guy'

Posted on Thu Oct 15 2009

Familyguy

Lighten up, everybody. There may be a bit of old-school Kraft Television Theater-style branding in Microsoft Windows 7's sponsorship of an upcoming Family Guy special, but chances are it'll involve 30 Rock-like blatant product plugs and unmistakably tongue-in-cheek shilling. This is Seth MacFarlane, after all. The half-hour, commercial-free special, tentatively dubbed Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show, will air Nov. 8 at 8:30 p.m. It will star its creator, MacFarlane, and Alex Borstein (voice talent/producer/writer) and feature "unique Windows 7-branded programming that blends seamlessly with show content." OK, not so commercial free. The creative team is working with Microsoft and agencies Universal McCann and Crispin Porter + Bogusky to "develop, write and produce the customized branded integrations," Fox said in a statement. Reasons not to be upset by this: Microsoft already knows what it's getting with the in-your-face Family Guy, and execs seem to have enough of a sense of humor to play along. Plus, MacFarlane, with a first-time Emmy nod for best comedy under his belt and a mega-money network deal, has proven he's nobody's bitch. At least so far. Let's hope a deal with a big-spending advertiser doesn't change that.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Windows 7 spot shows off kindergartener's mad slideshow skills

Posted on Tue Sep 15 2009

Tying your shoes is not a prerequisite for making an awesome slideshow. In this commercial for Windows 7, by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a little girl named Kylie finds "happy words" on her dad's computer, all of which praise the new Microsoft operating system. So, like any normal kindergartener, she decides to match them with pictures of a piglet wearing bunny ears and a cat swimming in marshmallows. Then she sets everything to a pumping glam-rock hit. The resulting slideshow is pretty impressive, considering many adults with years more technological experience can't even figure out what PowerPoint does, let alone how to use it. The ad, part of Microsoft's "Good News" campaign, tips off viewers to the late-October release of the new operating system. This half-minute spot is pretty cute, but "The Final Countdown" is too overplayed to be enjoyable. Sometimes what happens in the '80s should stay in the '80s.

—Posted by Elana Glowatz


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