Microsoft aired its first Windows 8 commercial on Sunday, and boy, is it caffeinated.
I caught the Windows 8 ad during late afternoon football on Fox, and now it’s on YouTube as well. Instead of calmly and carefully explaining the operating system, which is drastically different from its promos for previous versions of Windows, Microsoft opted for loud and crazy.
The ad begins with a countdown from ten that gets stuck on the number eight, as a punk rock track (“Only Want You” by Eagles of Death Metal) kicks in. All the while, the video cuts between esoteric images (including a laptop exploding and a cartoon dog freaking out), footage of the operating system, more images of the number eight, and shots of people using Windows 8 or doing completely unrelated things. All this happens in 30 seconds.
I’m hoping this is just an early effort by Microsoft to grab people’s attention, and that the company switches gears soon, because getting people to understand Windows 8 will be crucial.
Windows 8 is unlike any past version of Windows. It replaces the familiar pop-up Start menu with a new Start screen full of tablet-friendly apps. The software is opening the door for new types of hardware, including laptop-tablet convertibles, touchscreen laptops, and all-in-one PCs with multitouch displays.
Windows 8 also has some neat tricks that other tablet operating systems don’t, such as side-by-side app-snapping and a universal search feature that can sniff out content within apps, and it still allows people to access the desktop they’ve always known.
All of these changes will take some explaining. Microsoft needs to tell users how they’d benefit from a laptop-tablet hybrid, or why the features of Windows 8 are better than those of an iPad or Android tablet. Confusion and fear are the the worst possible outcomes for Microsoft. If people don’t know what to make of Windows 8, they’ll cower away and stick with their existing PCs.
Microsoft will reportedly spend $1.5 billion on Windows 8 marketing, according to Forbes, so this commercial won’t be the last effort to introduce the new operating system to the masses. As October 26 approaches, Microsoft should slow down, take a breath, and explain to the non-techie public why Windows 8 makes sense.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.