Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links of products I have tried and recommended.
It turned out Super Bowl XLVIII was a super bore despite featuring the most prolific passer in the history of the NFL and a Stanford-educated cornerback who likes to talk a lot right after he had walked the walk. I was doing some computer work during the game, and every time I looked up, the Broncos were backed up all the way back into their own endzone, fumbled the football, or punted; or the Seahawks made an interception, run a kickoff for a touchdown, or completed a pass over a several dozen hashmarks. The game was so lopsided that the game might as well featured a junior high school football team versus the Crimson Tide.
At least the commercials were pretty good. As always, there were some good commercials for beer (like Budweiser’s Puppy Love) and cars (like Jaguar’s British Villains and Maserati’s Strike). But a surprise standout was for a ginormous blue-chip tech company that, remarkably, had never produced a Super Bowl commercial before and whose marketing department had been derided for ad campaigns featuring dancing girls that did little to prevent an iconic new product from requiring a $900 million write-down. Yep, Microsoft.
It couldn’t be more fitting. Microsoft is based in the Seattle area. Their co-founder, Paul Allen, owns the Seattle Seahawks. I imagine the entire MSFT campus couldn’t be more thrilled to watch their home football team hoist the Lombardy Trophy for the first time in their history.
For me, being someone who recently has transformed from being a Windoze-bashing, virus-phobic Linux user to a full-fledged Microsoft fanboy, I was extremely pleased to see one of their commercials that actually resonated with people instead of making them shout with clenched-fisted fury, “Blue Screen of Death, Blue Screen of Death!” After all, I have reaped immense delight and utility from my Surface RT, Nokia Lumia 520 Windows Phone, Windows 8.1-powered HP workstation, Windows 7 Lenovo laptop, and xBox 360 (for multimedia, not games), in addition to OneDrive (né Skydrive), OneNote, Office, Bing, Skype and Outlook.com. All of the aforementioned hardware and services simply work and function extremely well together, and I’d like to see their total, well-integrated ecosystem increase in popularity so it can continue to thrive in the future.
Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad entitled Empowering outlined six case studies of how technology (and Microsoft products) have bettered people’s lives, the most tear-jerking of which was a Surface Pro enabling an ex-NFL player with ALS to speak to his son. Here it is in all its glory, even earning the second highest “effective advertising” score in history.
February 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting month for Microsoft in other ways too. In the 1-3 weeks after the NFL’s biggest game, here is some of the news that have been coming out of Redmond’s Headquarters:
- Microsoft has a new CEO in Satya Nadella. I am super excited by this! He seems like a thoroughly capable, even charismatic, man whom I have much more confidence in than crazy-man, sweat-heavy Steve Ballmer who famously laughed at the iPhone and reminds people of a used car salesman or infomercial man at times.
- Massive leak of Windows Phone 8.1 details: If even half of the leaked features come true, this free update (coming in Spring 2014) will be huge. Finally, Windows Phone’s native capabilities should at least be on par with, if not exceeding, iOS and Android’s. I am especially enthusiastic about Cortana, the almost-confirmed name of WP’s virtual assistant who takes the name (and voice!) of the AI assistant in the xBox Halo video game series. If this rumor is true, she stands to sound almost as sexy as Scarlett Johansson as Samantha in the movie Her, since actress Jen Thomas (the voice behind Cortana) sounds wonderful.
- Microsoft announced at the Mobile Word Conference in Barcelona that it had signed on with no less than nine new OEM partners to manufacture Windows Phone. With the existing four, that means there will be 13. Such OEM interest indicates that Windows Phone will continue to thrive and it is great to have more consumer choice (even though Nokia had been doing a fine job promoting and building great WP handsets).
- It’s been reported that the licensing fees for both Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 will be drastically reduced for low-end hardware. And there may be a future free version of Windows!
- Microsoft’s excellent Skydrive was rebranded as OneDrive due to a trademark dispute with Britain’s Sky Corporation. Personally, I think the OneDrive name is better anyhow. Regardless what it is called, Microsoft’s cloud service may have been the most important piece of technology I have adopted in the last couple years as it has been marvelous to be able to instantly access any and all content from my paperless, highly digitized life from a phone, tablet, computers and even the xBox.
- Microsoft Office, which I have gained a new appreciation for after using Java-slow OpenOffice for years (MS Office came installed on the Surface and Windows Phone), has an free web-based version that was just rebranded as Office Online (instead of the confusing name of Office Web Apps that hardly anyone had heard of or knew how to access).
- Windows Phone will be compatible with lower-end Android hardware and may even be dual-bootable with Android on some devices.
- Bill Gates will be in a much more hands-on product-creation advisory role than in years past when he was merely chairman of the board and spending virtually all of his time in his charitable foundation. (He also regained his title this month as the world’s richest man.)
All of the above point to an newly aggressive and innovative Microsoft that gives me, both a fan and enthusiastic stockholder, lots of hope as that the company will be winning the hearts and minds of computing device users everywhere in addition to significant chunks of market share. And these victories in mobile will have started with the big win in the Super Bowl.
Still skeptical of Microsoft’s awesomeness? Watch this extremely impressive video that shows off the Microsoft Surface‘s capabilities!