Tag Archives | Windows

Good God, I Sort of Like Microsoft’s New Windows Ads

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning, the assumption was that we were going to get more Microsoft ads involving Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, and that they were probably going to be just as annoying as the first ones. Then we learned that the Seinfeld ads are over for now and that Microsoft was moving on to ads which respond directly to Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign.

The first new Windows commercials are up, and after Bill and Jerry, they feel like a breathe of fresh air. (Then again, ads for HeadOn–apply directly to the forehead!–would feel like a breathe of fresh air after Bill and Jerry.) Who knows–maybe Microsoft was engaged in some sort of evil-genius strategy that involved beginning with weird, annoying spots so that the real ads would look that much better when they started.

Here they are, after the jump:

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The Thirteen Greatest Error Messages of All Time

”To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.” So goes an old quip attributed to Paul Ehrlich. He was right. One of the defining things about computers is that they–or, more specifically, the people who program them–get so many things so very wrong. Hence the need for error messages, which have been around nearly as long as computers themselves..

In theory, error messages should be painful at worst and boring at best. They tend to be cryptic; they rarely offer an apology even when one is due; they like to provide useless information like hexadecimal numbers and to withhold facts that would be useful, like plain-English explanations of how to right want went wrong. In multiple ways, most of them represent technology at its most irritating.

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Microsoft Embraces “I’m a PC”

Curiouser and curiouser. An hour or two after news broke that Microsoft’s Windows ads would go Seinfeldless, the New York Times has lots of details on the new commercials in the campaign. They won’t be free of celebrities: Eva Longoria, Deepak Chopra, and Pharrell Williams will be on hand. (As will Bill Gates, but apparently only in a supporting role.)

But the most intriguing thing about the new ads is this: They will make explicit reference to Apple’s “Get a Mac” spots. The Times says that a Microsoft engineer who looks like John Hodgman (aka Apple’s PC) will even say thw words “I’m a PC”–before launching into what sounds like a possibly whiny, but accurate, complaint about being stereotyped by Apple’s ads.

I’m no ad critic, but I will take a tiny bit of credit for at least noticing that the phrase “PC” was used in the second Seinfeld/Gates ad, and wondering what was up with that:

At the end of the commercial, the phrase “Perpetually Connecting” turns into the abbreviation “PC.” I can’t think of another ad in recent Microsoft history that’s made reference to Windows-based computers as PCs–it feels like an almost direct response to Apple’s Get a Mac ads and their Mac and PC characters. I wonder if future ads will also call PCs PCs. (Actually, I hope not: I used to be a stickler for the notion that all personal computers, including Macs, are PCs; I’ve sort of given up, though.)

So yup, we now know that Microsoft will call PCs PCs, and it is a response to Apple’s ads.

Other tidbits from the Times story:

–The ads will use the theme “Life Without Walls”–I’m not sure if this is instead of the rumored “Windows, Not Walls.” or in addition to it. There will be a microsite called LifeWithoutWalls.com (which, right now, seems to simply redirect to the main Windows site).

–Microsoft will let real people upload video and photos explaining why they’re PCs, too, and will use some of this material in ads.

I’m done judging ads I haven’t seen yet, but we’ll all apparently get the chance to start critiquing these ones tomorrow. And I do have a few more questions:

–Can the campaign both be about PCs and not about PCs? Microsoft blogger Chris Flores said just a few days ago that the campaign “will talk about Windows in all its forms. Not just the OS for PCs we happen to be shipping today. In fact, not just an OS. And not just on PCs. Simply put, this campaign isn’t about Windows Vista. It’s about Windows.” Sounds logical enough, but possibly hard to reconcile with ads that take on Apple’s ads directly and talk about PCs.

–What does “Life Without Walls” mean, anyhow? And what does it have to do with PCs or operating systems? If Microsoft argues that Windows is better because it’s available in multiple forms on multiple devices, isn’t it contending that walls can be good?

–Will we ever learn whether Microsoft changed course with the Seinfeld spots? In a new post, Flores says that the company always planned to move beyond Seinfeld as the campaign progressed. I’m sure that’s true. But he doesn’t really address whether we ended up with less Jerry than was originally planned based on initial response to the campaign. (The Times article has a couple of research firms saying that buzz about the Bill/Jerry ads was highly favorable to Microsoft–news to me!)

Stand by for more bulletins as events warrant…


Windows, Not Jerry: Microsoft to Can Seinfeld Ads?

[Update: See this post for the latest news on Microsoft’s next wave of Windows ads.]

It’s unthinkable. And astounding. But the world will probably survive. Valleywag is reporting that Microsoft will announce phase two of its $300 million Windows ad campaign tomorrow–a phase that doesn’t include Jerry Seinfeld.

According to Valleywag, Microsoft is maintaining that the company planned to say goodbye to Jerry all along. But it’s hard to imagine that they paid him $10 million to do two spots, or that the two spots we saw were all the Seinfeld that Microsoft intended to give us. And Valleywag quotes Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw as saying “People would have been happier if everyone loved the ads, but this was not unexpected.”

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VMware Fusion 2.0: A Better Way to Run Windows on a Mac?

For more than two years now, my primary computing platform has been Apple’s OS X with a virtualized copy of Windows XP and/or Vista running inside it. I started running the first program that could virtualize Windows on a Mac, Parallels Desktop, the moment it became available as a beta. And mostly, I’ve stuck with Parallels.

But Parallels’ archrival, VMware Fusion, is now shipping in version 2.0, after a few months of public beta. I’ve been using it for a few days and enjoying it. A few major features of the new version:

–The ability to do multiple snapshots of the state of a virtual machine, and to have Fusion create them automatically at set intervals, so you can jump  backwards if something goes wrong;

–Keyboard mapping so you can simulate Windows keypresses that don’t exist on a Mac;

–Better handling of file associations so Windows apps can open Mac documents and vice versa;

–mirroring of folders so that Windows’ My Pictures shows stuff stored in OS X’s equivalent, for instance;

–Support for DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 2 3D graphics, making Fusion a more plausible platform for gaming and other heavy-duty 3D apps (the previous version and Parallels only go up to DirectX 8.1; Parallels also supports OpenGL);

–A year of free McAfee Viruscan Plus security (Parallels comes with six months of Kaspersky’s suite);

–Support for multiple monitors;

–General polish and fit and finish improvements to make the app as Mac-like as possible.

I wanna live with Fusion for a while before I make any attempt to declare a winner in the Mac virtualization race; both it and Parallels are pretty darn good, and the competition between them has unquestionably resulted in two strong products. There’s no doubt, however, that VMware tried to catch up with Parallels or surpass it in a number of places where the latter product was in the lead until now.

Virtualization still can’t replace running a native operating system in every case. Both Fusion and Parallels exact a stiff tax in the form of reduced battery life on my MacBook Pro, I find. And there are still apps that run poorly, or not at all. (As an experiment, I just tried to run Real’s RealDVD, thinking that the DVD-ripping functionality would be a good stress test–but it wouldn’t even install in Fusion.) So I also use Leopard’s Boot Camp feature to turn my MacBook Pro into a true, non-virtual PC…and I have a Vista desktop, too.

Oh yeah–what do I run within virtualized Windows? Office 2007, for one thing–I like it much more than the Mac’s Office 2008. And Internet Explorer 8. And Chrome. And other applications as I need ’em–it’s a blessing to be able to run nearly any Windows application without leaving OS X, as any virtualization fan can attest.

VMware Fusion is $80, but it’s a free upgrade for current users. You need a copy of Windows XP or Vista to use it (or another of the 90 operating systems it supports, including Linux and OS X Leopard Server). More thoughts once I’ve spent more time with it…


Maybe They Shoulda Called It the McCainBerry

As you may have noticed, we rarely broach the topic of politics here on Technologizer. We endorse no party, nor any candidate for any office. But some stories are too entertaining not to tackle.
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Exclusive: The Seinfeld/Ballmer TV Ads We Didn’t Get to See

I know I’ve written about this before, and I don’t mean to harp, but to me the most interesting thing about the new Windows ad campaign is not that it costars Jerry Seinfeld, but that it costars Bill Gates. It was only slightly over two months ago that Gates retired from Microsoft with a barrage of nostalgic fanfare. I kind of thought that his departure would initiate a changing of the guard that would involve him stepping back as the public face of the company after thirty-three years.

It wasn’t that I thought we’d never see him represent Microsoft again…just that he might take a breather and let Steve Ballmer, Ray Ozzie, or other execs step into the spotlight, as it were. They may not represent a fresh new face for Microsoft, but they’re the guys who are responsible for the company’s present and future. (Gates may be unshakably synonymous with Microsoft, but he also represents its past.)

So when the news about Seinfeld/Gates broke, my first thought was this: What if the ads had costarred Seinfeld and Steve Ballmer? It wasn’t such a crazy thought–the man is, after all, the CEO of the company, and he’s anything but shy and retiring. And then it hit me: Thanks to the miracle of modern video technology, I didn’t have to wonder about Seinfeld/Ballmer Windows commercials. With enough painstaking effort, I could create a reconstruction that would reveal with uncanny precision what such ads would have looked and sounded like.

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Seinfeld/Gates: Not About Vista

Back in my post Twenty Thoughts About a Microsoft Ad Campaign I Haven’t Even Seen Yet, which I wrote when the news broke that the company’s spots would costar Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, thought thirteen was as follows:

13. To what degree will these be Vista ads? The immediate goal, of course, is to move copies of Vista and PCs that run the OS. But I think there are signs that Microsoft is already trying to move past Vista and prepare itself for a Windows 7 launch that goes better than Vista’s spotty history to date. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the ads feel more like they’re about improving Windows’ image in general than bolstering Vista specifically–and if Microsoft sees them as an early salvo in the Windows 7 rollout, even though the chances of the ads mentioning Windows 7 directly are less than nil.

There’s lots we still don’t know about the ads, but over at the official Windows Vista blog, Microsoft’s Chris Flores has provided some information that’s relevant to my thoughts above:

“[This] campaign, when fully unveiled, will talk about Windows in all its forms. Not just the OS for PCs we happen to be shipping today. In fact, not just an OS. And not just on PCs. Simply put, this campaign isn’t about Windows Vista. It’s about Windows.”

So yeah, the ad campaign is about Windows, including versions that don’t exist yet. (Flores doesn’t mention Windows Seven explicitly, but the “Not just the OS for PCs we happen to be shipping today” is presumably a reference to the campaign aiming to help out with future versions of the OS as well as Vista, Windows Mobile, and other current cariants.) Makes sense to me–if I were spending $300 million on ads, I’d want them to be about a lot more than a single product which already ships on the vast majority of the world’s PCs.

Flores also reiterates that if the two ads that have aired so far have gotten folks talking, they’ve done their job. It’s later ads in the series that’ll more explicitly promote Windows.

I’m kind of a hidebound traditionalist when it comes to advertising–I wonder if any campaign that needs to be explained by the company behind it can be as successful as one that’s so clear that no explanation is necessary. (The “Get a Mac” ads and just about every other famously successful campaign I can think of, such as “Got Milk?,” speak for themselves.) But I’ll hold off on coming to any conclusions about these ads until I’ve seen more…and once I have, maybe I’ll go back and revisit more of my original twenty thoughts.


Windows Vista: Bring in the Gurus!

Okay, I’m already sick of talking about Jerry Seinfeld and churros and shoes and Bill Gates’ underwear. There must be more to life. Or even to Microsoft’s plans for Windows Vista.
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Guys, That’s Unlikely to Perfect Windows Vista

It’s no secret that people who write for newspapers, magazines, and Web sites often don’t write the headlines that appear on their stuff–and are even less likely to be involved in the art associated with it. And Steve Lohr’s article over at the New York Times on Microsoft’s plan to breathe life into Windows Vista is a good read.

So I mean no disrespect when I say that the juxtaposition of headline and art on his story is pretty damn funny:

And it brings four thoughts to mind–my mind, anyhow:

1) Bill and Jerry are stretching those shoes pretty vigorously, but that won’t perfect Windows Vista;

2) Spending $300 million on quirky ads won’t perfect Windows Vista, either;

3) Actually, come to think of it, only making Windows Vista better will perfect Windows Vista;

4) Windows Vista is so far from perfect that the immediate goal just needs to be to make it into something that more people see as a compelling improvement on Windows XP.