Prepare to cringe: Microsoft's video ads across the decades

Microsoft's latest videos mocking Apple and its new iPhones are part of a long tradition of corny commercials.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read
Look, not everyone has the film sensibility of a Steven Spielberg. Case in point: Microsoft, which has an inadvertent flair for turning out corny videos, decade after decade. The latest example came Friday, with Microsoft first posting and then pulling and apologizing for a series of online video ads mocking Apple's newest iPhones. The ads had invited widespread ridicule.

The list of corny Microsoft vids is long, and the competition is fierce, but here's a selection of some of the more cringe-worthy moments, courtesy of Messrs. Gates and Ballmer. The first is one of today's now-infamous "fly on the wall in Cupertino" videos, supposedly depicting a product get-together at Apple headquarters. Kitsch, here we come.

Here's a 2012 Microsoft ad titled "Beware the Googlighting Stranger." A goofy salesman comes across as a transparent phony as he attempts to pitch a prospective client to move her company's apps over to Google's productivity suite.

Here's a 2009 ad for Songsmith, Microsoft's GarageBand competitor. The scenario revolves around a father who's flummoxed trying to compose a jingle, when he comes across his daughter using Songsmith. One of the commenters on the video wrote "Stunningly stupid. Everyone in this video should be captured and shot." Enough said.

Windows 7: This just might be the worst Microsoft commercial ever. It's like being forced to watch Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point" over and over until your head explodes.

What could be more fun than an advertisement for Internet Explorer in which one of the actors pukes all over her husband? Yuks abound. Film buffs will note that Bobcat Goldthwait, who played "Zed" in Police Academy 2, 3, and 4, directed the spot.

Goodbye DOS, helloooo Windows 95. Rumor has it that interrogators at Guantanamo were ready to use this video but were warned it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

A 1980s spot for Windows 386. A "Mission Impossible" theme, taking a poke at OS/2 as well as mainframe processing. Most memorable moment: The spot includes someone who's a dead ringer for the receptionist from GhostBusters. Otherwise, grit your teeth.