October 14, 2013
Surreal Microsoft Austin Powers Spoof Goes Viral
And I thought it was just The Simpsons, which is now in its 25th season, that is usually behind the curve when it comes to pop cultural references, but in the past couple of weeks an Austin Powers spoof that shows Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as “Dr. Evil,” and past CEO Bill Gates as Powers began to make the rounds.
The Los Angeles Times noted this spoof has been on YouTube since 2009, but only has now started to get noticed. The odd part is that no one seems to know why it was made, but the paper speculated that it was for internal purposes or for a trade show.
“Back when the movie was popular, Microsoft created a fun internal spoof video as part of a company meeting,” a Microsoft spokesperson told the LA Times.
Is the video that old? It is hard to tell, especially as Gates is wearing a wig and Ballmer could easily be a robot whose appearance hasn’t changed much in the past dozen years. However, the last Austin Powers film – Austin Powers in Goldmember – came out in 2002. So were Gates and Ballmer that behind the curve?
In fairness, these are the guys who tried to release the Zune.
But let’s also consider that these two billionaires do like to make silly videos that sometimes poke fun at the competition as well as themselves.
I saw their silly video at the 2005 Microsoft press conference for the Xbox 360 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, where the pair was supposedly in line to see Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith. The video isn’t over the top funny, but it worked with the audience – even if the fact that it made no sense that these two guys would have to wait in line to see a movie!
Don’t they have people they can pay to wait in line and, more importantly, couldn’t they have requested or even been invited to see the film at Skywalker Ranch with George Lucas? Rich, famous guys like to hang out with one another, after all.
The truth is that Gates and Ballmer are a bit out of touch with the common man, that’s a fact, but they take the time to try to relate. Perhaps part of the fun is that they create something that is really stupid – like the above noted videos – and it is all the more fun because they tried. Gates really never gave good speeches and by all accounts he hated it. So instead they had fun with it.
Here, too, is where I give them credit. They could have taken the Steve Jobs approach and be that charismatic leader and sell overpriced products to the faithful, while claiming they’re different; but instead, they know they’re out of touch and do something kind of wacky and, in a word, surreal. There is also the fact that they are really rich and powerful and they don’t have to really impress anyone any longer – which could be a problem.
Gates and Ballmer created an empire and there is little argument that this is what Microsoft is today. However, while they aren’t afraid to act silly – even if it was for in-house use – it also shows that maybe they’ve lost touch and could that be why Microsoft has failed to connect with consumers with every other release of Windows?
Consider that Windows 95 was a hit – and arguably Windows 98 was an update. Windows ME was a minor bust. Then Windows XP was a huge hit, and Vista was a major bust. Microsoft came back strong with Windows 7, but Windows 8 is another dud – and no amount of silly videos is going to change that fact.
However, Ballmer is on his way out; and Gates could be forced out of the company he founded – if some rumors are to be believed. Microsoft will survive this transition and likely better than Apple has in the post-Steve Jobs era. It could also mean that perhaps Ballmer and Gates will have more time to work on their videos.
Image Credit: Bloomberg / YouTube