Last week at the Velocity conference in Santa Clara, California, a pair of Microsofties gave a 10-minute sponsored keynote presentation entitled "Not Your Parents' Microsoft." The talk seemed intended to convince the dev and ops folks in attendance that Microsoft has shed its long-time reputation as an "evil empire" and is now "the biggest startup on the planet."
The effort by "recovering sysadmin" Jessica DeVita and technology evangelist Jennelle Crothers was fast-paced, clever, and occasionally pretty funny. This take on the company's old org chart slide (below) got a big laugh, for example.
And this parody ad (below) drew knowing snickers from the audience, many of whom no doubt have used the phrase themselves over the years.
But even as I gave grudging props to Microsoft for a willingness to acknowledge some of its past faults and promote a new openness (Linux on Azure! Who'da thunk?), I was also struck by the obviously scripted, slightly creepy nature of the proceedings. I didn't actually see the script, but it was easy to picture it with notes like "laughter here" and "don't forget to smile."
It's the same type of slightly over-eager attempts at humor and hipness that has led to savage critiques of some of the company's recent ad campaigns, including attempts to parody Apple and go after Google.
I really do believe that Microsoft has made real, substantive progress under new CEO Satya Nadella, but somehow it remains tone-deaf in many ways. That's going to have to change if the company wants to convince the new generation of digital leaders that it really isn't their parent's Microsoft. Watch the entire presentation here to see if you agree with me: