Should Microsoft buy itself some cool?

What if Microsoft, still replete with cash, decided to buy up some supposedly cool tech brands? Imagine Digg and Twitter, with "a Microsoft company" below the logo.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Cool is a slippery customer. One minute, you have it, and the next, it seems to desert you like a bon mot on a date.

Once, for perhaps four minutes, Boy George was cool. Yet today he appears to be somewhat over the weight limit for the dohyo, and he was in court apparently admitting to handcuffing a male escort. Against, in this case, the escort's will.

Which leads me to thinking of Microsoft. A fine company that still sometimes endures the image vestiges of an accountant in, um, an office building. So very PC. Yet, like so many accountants, Microsoft knows how (and where) to stash a little cash, which, in times of recession, can prove to be very seductive.

So what if Seattle's finest decided to spend a little of that money on buying itself some cool? You know, the tech equivalents of a Viktor & Rolf shirt and a Comme Des Garcons jacket.

Yes, Twitter and Digg.

Oh, of course, these bastions of sexitude might say they're not willing to sell. But what if Microsoft put enough Splenda (and that might not be so very much Splenda just at the moment) into the deal that even Messrs. Williams and Rose could not avoid the rush?

CC Zappowbang

Naturally, there would be massive aversion, and riots both online and in the streets. Just as there were when News Corp. bought MySpace. You don't remember the riots?

I'm not suggesting that Microsoft, instead of the discreet manner in which it has involved itself with Facebook, would create an ad campaign around its new acquisitions. On the other hand, what if it went along the marketing path of General Electric and slipped the magic words "a Microsoft company" under, say, the Digg logo?

Would the cool techy kids head for the hills? Or are they already so wedded to brands like Twitter and Digg that they'd roll with it? Especially if the Twitter and Digg offerings actually improved with Microsoft's munificence?

I know that Microsoft wants to reduce its reliance on the desktop and head for the clouds. But wouldn't that be a far more enjoyable and, dare one suggest it, image-friendly trip, with Digg and Twitter safely tucked under its perspiring armpit?

Yes, Microsoft's ideal future cloud-filled mesh platform could ultimately see many Twitters and Diggs come and go like NBC pilots. But in the short term, with Mac's market share crawling up Windows' trouser leg like a highly skilled ferret, perhaps a little financially reckless splurge on two brands with some Web cool might have a strangely emotionally positive effect on the Microsoft entity.

Let Windows, Vista and future operating systems carry on as a jiggly infrastructure somewhere below the human eyeline, and allow a variety of "Microsoft-powered" cool brands blossom. In our faces, just where we get seduced the quickest.

See, I wondered about this as I was wandering around Ross Dress For Less on Black Friday. I found myself counting all the coolness that is actually owned by one company, LVMH: Kenzo, DeBeers, Donna Karan, Tag Heuer, Fendi, and Marc Jacobs. Oh, and let's not forget Dom Perignon.

They all sit, apparently happily, next to slightly more mundane names such as Thomas Pink and Sephora. No one seems to mind. Perhaps few even know. Even though there was a time when Louis Vuitton, the LV of LVMH, really wasn't so cool at all. Now, strangely, not only is LVMH daddy to many cool schools, but its own Louis Vuitton brand has enjoyed quite the renaissance.

This is a poor analogy, of course, because there is no such thing as trendiness in tech, right?

But they once said men would never wear Spanx. Now look at this. Yes, "helix-mapping body-response technology" to hide your every manboob.

You see, recessions do have a tendency of creating the strangest of occurrences. Strangest of bedfellows, too.