Shouldn't Microsoft do better than this?

The concept of a tablet that replaces your laptop is, in theory, a powerful one. So why launch the gadget with a prosaic ad?

levitate.png
He's about to levitate. But what about the product? Microsoft/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When someone tells you they're going to change your world, you want to believe them.

Very few people's worlds are perfect. Complaining is at the heart of the human condition. As is dreaming. Who doesn't hope for that one person to float into their lives, alter it in a myriad of wonderful ways, and create nirvana out of near chaos?

Which leads me to Microsoft.

The company likes to occasionally make big promises. Sometimes, I confess, I'm not sure what they mean. All that "devices and services" talk seems to describe nothing more than "we want to be your everything, whatever that everything might be, though we're not entirely sure what that everything is ourselves."

Still, when Microsoft whips out a product called the Surface Pro 3 and tells you it's a tablet that can replace your laptop, that's heady confidence.

I'm quite attached to my MacBook Air. It's light and it works. You see, I don't ask for much.

So if Microsoft is going to move me to the Surface, it ought to offer a little excitement, a promise of a deeper, wittier, more lasting relationship, where we'll both be happier than we ever thought possible.

Alas, instead it releases its first ad for this machine, and my heart sinks like a boat with too many drunken passengers.

Here is a man lying in bed with his clothes on, clutching his Surface.

He levitates. Is this supposed to be some sort of symbolism? Is the Surface about to levitate to an unimagined glory?

What follows is a rush of action ("sequences shortened" explains the tiny print, with extreme helpfulness) and a speedy voice-over about all the things the Surface adds or subtracts. Or divides.

There's something about having the best writing experience. There's something about USBs. There's praise for Microsoft Office. There's a man rushing around as if he's auditioning for a low-budget version of "The Matrix."

It's all just a swift series of product points, as if a salesman had barged into my house, high on a substance or two, and interrupted an intimate dinner with my intended. Or my Nintendo.

You'll tell me that this ad is targeted at business. And I'll tell you that, deep beyond their bones, corporate types are people too.

You don't just want them to hear (with half an ear at best) a list of product attributes.

You want them to pester whoever buys their corporate computers for one. You want them to buy one for their own personal use, so they can become evangelists for your cause.

I want to feel more than that I've walked into the supermarket's produce section and been interrupted by a lady behind a rickety table trying to interest me in soylent made from soil.

If you're going to make a big promise, please make me feel it's important, instead of it being like so many other adverts on TV.

If this is truly the post, post-PC era, give me something that's post, post-TV.

For too many years, Microsoft has struggled to create a positive emotional aura around its brand. At best, it feels utilitarian.

Yet when the company's own brands have different names -- like Xbox and Kinect -- somehow they inspire far more of a connection.

Now that there's a new CEO, Satya Nadella, one of his (many) great challenges is to imbue real people with the idea that the word "Microsoft" represents something tangibly uplifting, rather than a name that's simply been around a long time at work.

 

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