I know some great people up at Microsoft, including top-notch software engineers. And these days -- more and more -- I find myself feeling sorry for them.
I don't believe it's my place to ask them how embarrassed and humiliated they've become working for a once great firm that increasingly is sinking to tactics that one would ordinarily associate with Tea Party wacko campaigns.
Yet, Microsoft's increasingly bizarre, anti-Google "Scroogled" campaign is doing exactly that, and while we thought Microsoft had "jumped the shark" in the past, their new chapter is even more strange and inexplicable. In fact, when I mentioned this to a few people this morning, I got responses back suggesting that perhaps the new campaign hadn't really been approved, or that the site had been hacked. One person told me they did a WHOIS lookup just to verify that it really was a Microsoft site at all (it is).
I'm not going to provide any link juice to Scroogled in this posting, but the gist of Microsoft's latest weird assertions is clear enough.
Microsoft is attempting to make a "Google is evil" argument by suggesting that Google is purposely trying to confuse Gmail users into not knowing the difference between legit email and advertising.
And if you merely look at the home page for this new campaign (which has a key contextual label obscured!) or watch the associated scary sounding video (which has that same key contextual label blurred!) you might actually fall for Microsoft's misdirection.
But if you dig a little deeper, you discover that -- as has become the modus operandi for Microsoft these days -- the real story is nothing like what Microsoft claims.
Yes, Google has a Gmail ad style that delivers in the format of an email message within Gmail. But there are two crucial reasons why it's virtually impossible for anyone to confuse these ads with normal non-advertising mail.
First, the ad messages are clearly and uniquely labeled as ... ads! Not only that, the labeling is in a format that is different from that used for any other email you receive via Gmail.
But as if that weren't enough, these ad messages don't appear in your primary inbox tab as implied by Microsoft, but in the new Gmail "Promotions" tab (that's the label I noted as being covered or blurred in the two instances mentioned above).
The Promotions tab is specifically where Gmail attempts to sort emailed promotions, ads, and related materials that aren't categorized as spam.
So, quite literally, Microsoft is complaining that Gmail is labeling its ads as ads, and placing them in a Gmail tab specifically designated for ads, separate from all your other email.
Perhaps this might confuse a completely inebriated Homer Simpson, but it's hard to see how anyone else could possibly confuse such ads with the rest of their email in the manner that Microsoft's Scroogled campaign is breathlessly claiming.
If Microsoft is planning to keep repeatedly jumping the shark with this kind of pathetic, misleading material, they might wish to consider opening up a marine research facility and giving up on computers entirely.
On the other hand, then we'd have to worry about Microsoft posting exaggerated and misleading (wait for it ...) "fish stories."