In Confusing Turn of Events, Microsoft Appears to Be Cool Again

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Kevin Turner, chief operating officer of Microsoft Corp., stage right, Panos Panay, general manager of Microsoft Surface, center, and Melinda George, Times Square store manager, attend the Microsoft Corp. store grand opening in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Microsoft Corp. introduced the biggest overhaul of its flagship Windows software in two decades, reflecting the rising stakes in its competition with Apple Inc. and Google Inc. for the loyalty of customers who are shunning personal computers and flocking to mobile devices.
Do not get. At all. Photo: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg/Getty Images

I'm confused.

I'm confused because, today, I learned that Microsoft is cool again.

In my mind, it has been years — nay, a decade — since that particular adjective has been attached in earnest to that particular company's name by someone not doing paid marketing work. I'm being serious here. Yesterday, if you had asked me what the last truly cool thing Microsoft did was, I'd have had to dig through my historical memory. Windows 98? The Xbox? Minesweeper? 

Now, granted, I live in a small, insular, Cupertino-branded bubble. In the last five-ish years, every desktop, laptop, phone, and tablet I've bought — or even considered buying, frankly — has been an Apple product. Most of my friends and colleagues are similarly snobbish. Still, I thought I was squarely in the mainstream with respect to characterizing Microsoft as a company that was focused on price and functionality, and had all but given up on trying for style points. It even seemed to admit as much a few years ago with its post-cool, "I'm not cool enough for a Mac" ad campaign.

And yet, here are photos from the New York launch of Microsoft's Surface tablets and its Windows 8 operating system yesterday, which appear to show sentient, well-informed humans in a state of excitement about Microsoft's new products:

Customers purchase Microsoft Corp. Surface tablets inside the company's store during its grand opening in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Microsoft Corp. introduced the biggest overhaul of its flagship Windows software in two decades, reflecting the rising stakes in its competition with Apple Inc. and Google Inc. for the loyalty of customers who are shunning personal computers and flocking to mobile devices. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photo: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg/Getty Images
People watch the new Microsoft Surface system during the opening of Microsoft's store at Times Square in New York. -- Microsoft, the American multinational corporation that develops, manufactures, licenses and supports a wide range of products and services related to computers opened its new store in Times Square in New York.
Photo: VIEW viewpress / Demotix/Corbis

When did this happen? Seeing a joyous throng of cosmopolitan techies frothing at the mouth over Microsoft products feels like seeing your 1998 Airwalk shoes on a Fashion Week runway, or hearing Weird Al at an Ibiza rave. It's even weirder that, per TechCrunch, some of the Microsoft fans were displaying Apple-fanboy-like behavior, such as waiting in line for a voucher that entitled them to a future product.

[N]one of the people who waited in line for so long actually walked out the door with a Surface in their hands. Instead they were directed to pay for their hardware, and were told that they could either come back at midnight to pick up their spoils or have it delivered to their homes or hotel rooms by noon tomorrow.

I know! Luckily, we all have the weekend to process.