Let me answer this quickly and definitively:
Microsoft isn’t cool.
Let’s review the facts.
1. Microsoft’s presentation included a new product called the Surface Hub, a digital teleconferencing whiteboard that lets you collaborate on PowerPoints and save meeting ideas to OneNote. None of the words in that sentence are cool.
2. Microsoft showed off improvements to Windows (which isn’t cool), including a feature that lets you talk to your computer (also not cool).
3. Until recently Microsoft ran an anti-Google advertising campaign called “Scroogled.” Say the word “Scroogled” out loud and then ask yourself if a cool company came up with it.
5. I will admit that Microsoft’s HoloLens appears sort of cool –– not to wear, but in what it can do. In essence, the HoloLens lets you exist in a virtual reality world where you are surrounded by holograms. But even if it works out and doesn’t collapse under the weight of its ambitions like other futuristic face computers, the HoloLens will still forever be the second coolest way to exist in a virtual reality world surrounded by holograms.
The coolest way to exist in a virtual reality world surrounded by holograms will always be taking mushrooms.
7. Imagine that, when you were a freshman in high school, you accidentally farted in biology class. This is your reputation, your persona. Word of your flatulence spreads throughout the halls. Within hours, you are The Kid Who Farted in Biology Class.
By junior year, you have managed to make varsity lacrosse, score a date with a cheerleader, and learn to skateboard. You grow your hair out and you have an older brother who will buy you beer, and your parents let you go to Burning Man. All of these facts might mitigate your uncoolness. But, still –– weren’t you the kid that farted in biology class a couple of years ago?
Microsoft has been farting in freshman biology class for a long time now. The Zune. Clippy. Windows Vista. Windows 8. PowerPoint, Excel, Word, Office, Clip Art. Microsoft Bob.
A rad skateboard and a case of Bud Light will not wipe clean Microsoft’s long tradition of farting in biology class. Maybe it should. But it won’t.
Microsoft and its employees should be truly proud this week. Its press conference blew out of the water the entirety of the Consumer Electronics Show and generally set a high bar for tech press events in 2015. Windows 10 looks like a substantial improvement over Windows 8. The Xbox One is growing into the monster gaming and entertainment machine it was destined to become. HoloLens, meanwhile, has the potential to transform video games, movie watching, online dating, and a whole bunch of other fields we haven’t even thought of yet.
But none of this makes Microsoft, as a company or as a brand, cool. The road to coolness is long: It must be attained over several years of cool and righteous acts and not by a single, flashy deed.
I’m not saying any of this to be mean to Microsoft. Nor do I pretend that I am cool; in fact, I am very, very uncool, and doubt that I have ever done a truly cool thing in my life.
But let’s be realistic about the reputation of Microsoft, as a company, in 2015, before we call it cool. A nifty face helmet isn’t going to instantly correct its long legacy of impenetrable business software, eyesore operating systems, and talking paperclips. Anyone saying otherwise should cool it.