Is Microsoft kinda cool now?

07/17/2009

Windows 7 pre-orders are flying off virtual shelves. Sony’s PlayStation 3 has lost the market to the Xbox 360. Some Microsoft commercials are being pulled because they’re too racy, and Apple is demanding they pull others. The ZuneHD actually looks cool. Natal is hailed as revolutionary. What the hell is going on?

Is Microsoft cool all of a sudden?

It’s been good sport for years to pick on M$ for being incompetent, for failing to be innovative, for being the makers of software that we didn’t really want, but reluctantly were forced to use for one reason or another. Apple wins creatives, Linux wins nerds, and Microsoft wins those that don’t know any better.

A designer on my team who has always been a Mac user installed Windows 7 on his PC this week, and conceded that it “blew him away” and had him considering a switch to Windows.

But there’s mounting evidence that that’s changed. Microsoft has had a string of wins lately. It’s been a long fight – for example, only recently has it become socially acceptable to have a Zune. But we have at least two years without any Bob-level catastrophes (those who would argue Vista qualifies probably have never used it). I had a chance to visit the Microsoft Technology Center in Las Colinas recently, where they had a Surface computer among other toys, and it drew lots of positive attention. People really loved playing with it. A designer on my team who has always been a Mac user installed Windows 7 on his PC this week, and conceded that it “blew him away” and had him considering a switch to Windows. That is a big time shift.

So maybe Microsoft has proved again that you should never bet against them. Despite their size, they have managed to be a real leader in the technology industry, pushing us in directions that hip little startups haven’t been able to.

So what say you?