Can Microsoft Be Cool?

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 26 2011 9:02 AM

Can Microsoft Be Cool?

"There's a big difference" said hip-hop artist Cee Lo the other day, "between being in touch with your feminine side, and being a lady's man ." This insight came at a panel discussion held in a crowded room in an event space in Park City, where the annual Sundance Festival is currently taking place. In giant letters, projected on the wall behind Cee Lo and fellow panelist Hype Williams, was a single word: "Bing."   

/blogs/browbeat/2011/01/26/can_microsoft_be_cool/jcr:content/body/slate_image

Welcome to Microsoft's ongoing cool campaign. There are always, of course, corporate sponsors at cultural events like Sundance. But rarely maybe never has a tech corporation done so much, spent so much, and reached so hard to try and be cool. The effort, of course, begins from a pretty tough place: MS-DOS, Windows and Excel are not exactly bumpin'. Yet with Bing, Microsoft apparently believes the key to one day breaking Google's chokehold on search is to be cool, and Sundance is very epicenter of the effort.

What I find particularly fascinating is the fact that Microsoft, unlike Google or Apple, isn't just aiming for nerd-cool, a more predictable embrace of the inner geek. Not good enough. Instead, while it may seem a stretch, Bing wants to be associated with the unassailably coolest part of the Republic: black America and rap culture. Ergo Microsoft's sponsorship of Jay-Z's new book, and its hip-hop events and the rest. With that kind of challenge going, no wonder Google felt they had to replace Eric Schmidt.

Advertisement

Who knows whether it can work or even what working would mean. One of Bing's marketing directors told me that it's aiming for "urban audiences" who are "passionate" and that some large percentage of Sundance has a positive association with Bing. How that relates to actually changing search engines is a slightly more complex question, but who knows?  Yet the amount of effort itself does raise the eternal question isn't the key to being cool not actually trying too hard?

 

Photograph of Cee Lo Green by Rick Diamond/Getty Images.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?