As April Fools' arrives, Google flips out and T-Mobile goes to the dogs

The search giant pulls an about-face and the wireless carrier puts on a dog-and-pony show for April Fools' Day. Also: Microsoft's MS-DOS Mobile, Motorola's premium selfie stick and Samsung's smart knife.

Tech Industry
An informative text from Muffles the poodle. T-Mobile; screenshot by CNET

Google has thrown things in reverse for April Fools' Day, and, not to be outdone, T-Mobile has announced its latest "Un-carrier" pet project.

It's a rite of spring: Tech companies regularly use April 1 as an occasion for jokey press releases and "Well, aren't we crazy?" pranks about too-good-to-be-true products and other off-the-wall ideas.

At the stroke of midnight ET, Google launched a flipped-out search page that gets everything backward. It's a simple conceit, particularly when compared with more elaborate schemes such as inventing snail-mail boxes with a high-tech twist, or turning Google Maps into a game of Pac-Man. But it manages to be strangely satisfying. You can give it a lrihw at -- where else? -- https://com.google/.

It's backwards day, if you look in the right place. Google; screenshot by CNET

T-Mobile, meanwhile, pokes fun at itself and its frequent attacks on rivals AT&T and Verizon, while also skewering the seemingly irresistible allure of smartphone screens, the latest trendy apps, and even, um, pony porn. It seems Fido can't wait to whip out a phone at the dinner table, and that Trigger is desperate to giddyup. Luckily, T-Mobile has just the plan.

"For years, the old guard carriers have had the audacity to shill their so-called 'family' plans when, in fact, those plans aren't even available to the entire family," T-Mobile's famously mischievous CEO, John Legere, says in a blog post. "This is a huge problem. The scope of this carrier scam is shocking. But, today, we're setting it right. Today, we're launching Pets Un-leashed and expanding our family plans to include your entire family" -- that is, your cat, boa constrictor and turtle too.

Legere's blog post includes a satirical promotional video that manages to be quite amusing, not least because it has fun with the company's own frenetic approach to advertising. It's embedded below, for some April Fools' high jinks. The joke also has a charitable element, which you can check out by visiting the official Pets Un-leashed webpage.

To the tomfoolery of the day, Microsoft added a real product, sort of: MS-DOS Mobile. It's a joke, but you can actually install and run MS-DOS Mobile to see the command-line interface of yesteryear's computers running on a modern Lumia phone. Going into the C:\PROGRAMS\PHONE directory shows programs like MAPS.EXE, MARKET.EXE and INTERNET.EXE; running them from the command line launches the appropriate Windows Phone app.

The cleverest, though, is probably the camera app, which launches the camera but takes photos composed of ASCII-art characters or dithered monochrome pixels -- ASCII being the venerable alphabet-focused encoding system for text on computers. To get there, though, you'll have to risk seeing text like "HIMEM is testing extended memory" and "AUTOEXEC.BAT," which might cause shuddering among people who suffered through DOS difficulties that lingered all the way up through Windows ME in the 1990s.

In a lesser but perhaps more effective prank, calendar app Sunrise, which Microsoft acquired in February, announced it would be bringing back Clippy, the infamous and unhelpful anthropomorphic paperclip haunting Windows' past.

"Clippy will always be here to help, at all times," Sunrise's blog post read. "Can't see him anymore? Don't worry, he'll pop back soon. Clippy knows Sunrise inside and out. No need to email our support anymore, Clippy has all the answers you need."

Microsoft's MS-DOS Mobile joke app for April Fools' Day comes with a camera app that takes photos in ASCII-art style.
Microsoft's MS-DOS Mobile joke app for April Fools' Day comes with a camera app that takes photos in ASCII-art style. Stephen Shankland/CNET

This month doesn't just bring you April Fools' Day -- it's also time for the Apple Watch to go on sale. In mocking homage to the fervor over the wearable cousin to the iPhone, and to its own ambitions for a new product line, electric-vehicle maker Tesla Motors unveiled the Tesla Model W, a smartwatch that models itself after one of the most famous timepieces on the planet.

tesla-motors-model-w.jpg
Tick, tock, Tesla. Tesla Motors

"This incredible new device from Tesla doesn't just tell the time, it also tells the date," said the company's blog post. "What's more, it is infinitely adjustable, able to tell the time no matter where you are on Earth. Japan, Timbuktu, California, anywhere! This will change your life. Reality as you know it will never be the same."

Where the Apple Watch has a gold version, the Tesla Model W counters with platinum.

Apparently, not everyone recognized the prank for what it was. Shortly after word of the Model W got out, Tesla's stock shot up -- a $2 increase, on "heavy volume," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Microsoft also came to the table with its own smartwatch parody. The company's Australia channel tweeted out an old concept image of a clunky timepiece running Windows with the line, "Introducing Surface Watch: Because reaching for your phone is so 1995."

Apparently, folks at Redmond may have felt the joke didn't land, as the company scrubbed the tweet shortly after posting it.

Meanwhile, back over at Google, there were a bunch more April Fools' Day pranks. And there are plenty of other jokes circulating, too:

Google Fiber announced dial-up mode to bring you back to the Internet's pre-broadband days. "By incorporating dial-up technology into the fiber, we were able to slow the photons down by 376 times to give you more time to load the dishwasher or hug your kids," Google's video said.

Then there is Google's Panda search-powered stuffed animal, equipped with "state-of-the-art emotional and conversational intelligence so all you have to do is speak your mind" to perform a search. Ironically, the prank's name might make it harder to search for information about Google's Panda project, an effort to keep low-quality websites out of Google search results.

Also from Google comes a self-browsing Chromebook extension. "With just one click, you're off surfing the Web -- no input needed. Just lean back, and we'll take you there," posting on social media, writing email to relatives and booking travel.

Fresh off the launch of its latest smartphones, Samsung announced the Galaxy Blade Edge, "world's first smart knife with smartphone capabilities." Its stylus doubles as a meat thermometer.

Samsung showed its Galaxy Blade Edge smart knife for April Fools' Day.
Samsung showed its Galaxy Blade Edge smart knife for April Fools' Day. Samsung

Certain Google Maps locations have become a gameplay field for the historic Pac-Man videogame. The company's Ingress real-world videogame also got a dose of Pac-Man.

The #ChromeSelfie feature in Google's mobile browser lets people share website links with an attached self-portrait photo. Think of the time it'll save, Google said in a blog post: "With so much of our time spent browsing online, most Chrome users lose up to 6 hours of selfie-taking time every day!"

Meanwhile, Chrome competitor Opera Mini announced a texture-enabled version of its mobile browser. "Touch your screen to feel the fluff of the sweater you want to buy online," the prank site said.

Motorola Mobility got into the mix with a video highlighting a new accessory: a premium, customizable Moto Selfie Stick. The 90-second clip hits all the right comedic chords with a tone that's super serious, making it all the more entertaining. Not a joke: Motorola is offering a $140 discount on an off-contract Moto X, which sells for $400.

Packing supplies maker Rajapack announced bacon-scented bubblewrap to fire up a smell-linked emotional response when people open their packages. Other options include coffee, bread and flour.

From the world of streaming music, April Fools' Day brought Rdio-Meowz, billed as a "new platform for cats, by cats." Because YouTube can't have all the feline fun.

Streaming-video destination Hulu, meanwhile, apparently has a broader audience in mind. Hence, Hulu Pets, for the "four-legged TV lover."

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