Microsoft isn’t cool. There, I said it.
I know this might be hard for some of you older folk to hear, but that’s just the way it is. I, however, am not a closed-minded individual, so when I sat in front of my MacBook Air (yep) awaiting the live stream of Microsoft’s Wednesday event, it was the company’s last chance to impress my millennial soul.
I would be lying if I said I never thought Microsoft was cool. I mean there’s no denying that Microsoft is an impressive, successful company and all, but as a tech-savvy 23-year-old who must unwillingly tote around the label of “millennial” every day, Microsoft is nowhere on my radar.
There was a time between 1999 and 2007 when Microsoft did have some semblance of coolness. In those glory days, Microsoft Paint ruled the computer labs in elementary and middle school and the Start menu was the glorious start to my day.
Then somehow, things fell apart between Microsoft and everyone below the age of 40. As dial-up internet (yeah, yeah, I remember dial-up) disappeared and serious tech competitors like Apple arrived on the scene, Microsoft and millennials reached a disconnect. Microsoft became the old man in the gray, crumpled suit stuck in his cubicle eating stale cake. Me? I’d moved on to Apple.
What even is Microsoft?
TBH I have very little knowledge of Microsoft’s existing hardware or services. I have never seen a Surface Book or Surface Pro. I don’t play Xbox and I think Bing is a joke. By the time Microsoft bought Skype in 2011, I had moved on from Skype. And Windows phones? What even are those?
At some point I started to wonder if I was alone in my opinion of Microsoft. To help me better understand my Microsoft indifference, I decided to reach out to some fellow Mashable millennials prior to Wednesday’s event.
I turned to Slack and posed the simple question: “Do you think Microsoft is cool?” The first to respond was Jessye, one of my coolest and most trusted colleagues.
With a simple yet powerful lowercase “no,” Jessye confirmed my thoughts about Microsoft’s lack of relevance, but she also made a very solid point: this generation would be nowhere without Microsoft Office.
As Jessye so eloquently put it, Microsoft Office is “dope as hell.” That’s one point we can all agree on.
An ode to Clippy, a true Microsoft win
There was a time when Microsoft reached its peak level of cool among my generation, all thanks to a paperclip that became the face of the brand. The animated paperclip named Clippit was an Office Assistant, which was introduced to Microsoft Office in 1997 and revamped in the year 2000. As Clippit captured our hearts, he became better known as Clippy.
To me, Clippy was the original legendary companion. I would even go so far as to say that the primitive assistant could have easily served as an early inspiration for Siri. (Sorry, Apple.)
Using my millennial thought process, I decided a throwback Instagram post was the perfect way to test my theory that Clippy is indeed Microsoft’s coolest invention. In the name of journalism, I boldly strayed from my usual Instagram aesthetic — photographs of food, sunsets, BFF birthday shoutouts and pictures of John Krasinski with no filter — to post a simple shot of Clippy.
If the likes were high, old-school Clippy would win. If the likes were low, modern day Microsoft would prevail. I anticipated the post would get at least 11 likes, based on pure nostalgia alone, but it ended up receiving an impressively respectable 50 likes. This proves that Microsoft Office was once beloved and celebrated by young people that associate with me.
Solid evidence, right there.
In what was a deadly move for Microsoft among the millennial set, the company removed the Clippy feature in 2007. With the death of Clippy came the birth of the iPhone. Just let that sink in.
Giving props to MS Paint (but heavily questioning why it’s still relevant)
At Microsoft’s Wednesday event, it was anticipated that the company would announce “exciting” releases like a Windows 10 Creators Update, support for 3D in Word, Excel and PowerPoint and… Microsoft Paint 3D.
A flood of nostalgia overcame me upon hearing “Microsoft Paint,” and I recalled how cool the application used to be. Then the Microsoft team dropped a bombshell. Can we just discuss the fact that Microsoft is celebrating 30 years of Paint? 30 YEARS OF PAINT. It might be time to move on, Microsoft.
Naturally, I followed up with Jessye to get her thoughts.
Jessye confirmed that Microsoft Paint was “all the rage,” but we’re not in second grade anymore, Microsoft, why are you still updating it?
The event didn’t help our relationship
On Wednesday, I decided I would give Microsoft one last chance. Perhaps Clippy would make an appearance? Perhaps they would switch things up with a talking robot? They had to really bring it. I went in with an open mind, but much to my dismay, the presentation proved to be appallingly uncool.
Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, set the stage for failure with the line: “Windows is your kitchen table, where everything just gets done.” I’m sorry, what?! Come on, people. Millennials can’t even afford a kitchen table.
In between unveiling new products, the two-hour-long event was essentially comprised of presenters babbling on and on about their family members, which made things feel more like a colleague sharing baby photos rather than a hip, game-changing event. Microsoft then proceeded to demonstrate “cool, new” features, most of which were available to people using Photoshop in 2012.
Big reveals, such as Microsoft’s Windows 10 Creators Update, set out to emphasize 3D multimedia, gaming and social-sharing but came off as a complete joke, simply due to the ridiculously uncool way in which they were presented.
The reputation of advanced 3D features — which sound cool in theory — was completely tarnished after Microsoft chose to demonstrate the technology using a random sandcastle before using 3D Paint to create the world’s worst snow globe.
This was your time to shine, Microsoft. Not draw a beard on an emoji.
Though at times the presentation was utterly painful and terribly lame, there is no denying the 3D drag & drop holograms of the Microsoft Edge, “affordable” VR headsets and the lean of the Surface Studio were pretty darn cool.
As the event came to a close, I found myself torn. Did my pessimistic view of Microsoft change for the better? Then I remembered the snow globe.
You blew it, Microsoft.
You had one shot to win my love and what did you do? You used this crucial moment to re-vamp the ancient relic that is Microsoft Paint. There was no mention of Clippy at that event, no attempt to appeal to my generation aside from targeting our basic love of the beach and creating a hipster-esque emoji.
You could have raised the bar and reclaimed the youth by announcing something groundbreakingly cool like bendable phones with flexible displays, some sort of teleportation device or an exclusive partnership with Beyoncé, but alas, you remained that old man in a cubicle. Your suit is even more crumpled and your cake is now so stale that you would break your dentures trying to nibble at it.
I am extremely disappointed in you. It’s over.