Rat spies hidden truths in Microsoft's send-up of Volkswagen TV ad

Packet Rat
R. Fink

While fellow attendees fought altitude sickness in Denver at Microsoft Corp.’s
professional developer conference, the cyberrodent collected tchotchkes to line the walls
of the burrow against the coming cold weather.

He sipped bottled water bearing the Windows logo and pondered the eternal question:
Just what is Microsoft’s enterprise strategy?

Bill Gates was on hand to deliver the keynote address, which included a Microsoft video
spoofing television shows, commercials and advertisements.

The one that stuck in the Rat’s tiny, attention-deficit-disorder-plagued brain was
a clever takeoff on the Volkswagen “Da da da” commercial. You know, the one
where two guys in a VW do some spontaneous furniture acquisition, then dump their armchair
prize because of its odor.

The gag commercial puts Microsoft veep Steve Ballmer at the wheel and a fidgety Gates
in the passenger seat.

The pair cruise aimlessly through a Silicon Valley residential neighborhood until they
spy loot at the curb: a chair with a Sun Microsystems UltraSparc workstation piled on it.

Bill and Steve drive off with their plunder, just as in the original ad. But in the
Microsoft universe, it isn’t the chair that stinks. It’s the Sun workstation.

As they dump the Sun and zoom away, the Microsoft Internet Explorer logo and
Volkswagen’s “Drivers wanted” slogan flash up on the screen.

To the Rat’s mind, the spoof works in many ways. For one thing, Gates and Ballmer
could be perfect stand-ins for the bland pair of geeks in the original commercial.

But the video delivers a perhaps unintended message. Has Microsoft formed its
enterprise strategy by wandering aimlessly until it finds some technology to steal, then
dumping it when it proves unattractive?

The wired one’s mental wheels spun:

The commercial, made just before the Justice Department opened its antitrust trial
against Microsoft, could have been more than a flight of fancy. Maybe Bill dreams of
taking his money and the PC model and shifting over into the auto business, where
megacompanies are the norm.

But the furry one doubts that Bill has his eye on Volkswagen. Volkswagens look too much
like Apple iMacs. 

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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