Can Microsoft Ever Be 'Cool' Like Apple?

As I was sitting at my desk earlier this week checking out the stories surrounding Microsoft's Windows 8 Consumer Preview talk at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I was struck by something: the press event was very long and very boring.I then thought back to the many, many Apple events I've covered. Nearly all of them, with the exception of iOS- and Mac OS X-focused events, are compelling and deliver news from beginning to end. More importantly, they effectively convey the single message that has made Apple so popular: "we're cool and we know it."

Microsoft, though, isn't cool. And I'm starting to think the Windows maker knows it.

Whenever Apple holds a special event, like the one on March 7 to introduce the iPad 3, the company makes it an experience. Music is blaring before the show starts, and when it kicks off, the company gets down to business. Within minutes, there's something that will make a headline.

Microsoft's events, though, take an inordinate amount of time to get going. The company's executives usually recap things that we don't really care about and only get to the good stuff after about an hour. By then, our attention is elsewhere and we're wondering why we've dedicated that much time to something that, well, bores us.

[aquote]Microsoft's products just aren't as flashy as Apple's[/aquote]

One of Microsoft's biggest issues is that its products just aren't as flashy as Apple's. Getting to see all the latest details on the iPhone and iPad is fun and exciting. But getting to see the new way in which Windows 8 handles the Start button? Eh, not so much.

There's also the issue of Microsoft's executives. For years, the company used Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates to show off new products, but both men failed to excite crowds. With Steve Sinofsky taking the lead on the Consumer Preview at Mobile World Congress, it was a similarly snooze-worthy event.

At Apple, things have always been different. Steve Jobs had charisma, knew how to hold a crowd, and did a fine job of teaching his employees to do the same. Plus, Apple's market appeal, in particular, and its branding, in general, made people want to listen.

So, Microsoft is being hit from two sides. On one hand, its products aren't the kind of attention-catching devices one will find from Apple. On the other hand, Microsoft's executives and other presenters are boring crowds.

How, then, could things change?

I'm not sure Microsoft wants anything to change. The company knows that it still matters and its sheer size and importance in the industry make it a headline-maker no matter what it announces.

In other words, until Microsoft has to be like Apple, we can't expect it to try. Microsoft is more than content being, well, Microsoft.