John C. Dvorak: Build 2014 and the New Slovenly



aNewDomain.net — Maybe it’s me, but has Microsoft just decided to give up and present itself as slovenly?

That’s the immediate indication you’d get if you watched the opening presentations at Build 2014 in San Francisco on April 2.

I did. It all began with Joe Belfiore, VP of Windows Phone Program Management, a weird title if ever there was.

He comes out on stage, and you’d swear he just rolled out of bed with the world’s worst hangover. Wearing an ill-fitting kind of a zippered hoodie made of some indefinable fabric, some ragged running shoes, and what appeared to be the jeans he actually slept in, Joe has just introduced the world to the new spiffy Microsoft “look.”

Barely able to open his eyes, his hair hanging over his face, Joe looks as if he’s 20 years old going on 70.

johncdvorakreportingfrombuild2014newslovenly

As he warms up/wakes up he does a good job of outlining some of the new features of Windows Phone 8.1, including the introduction of the Microsoft Siri-clone named Cortana.

Cortana, which sounds like the name of a line of discontinued European Fords, is Siri with a more-pleasant voice. These sorts of things always perform better when staged, but Cortana still screwed up a few times much to the dismay of the presenter.

Joe’s explanation for the Cortana module sounded a lot like Timothy Leary’s old product “Skippy.” It would learn more and more about you until it knew you. Skippy never functioned properly either.

It was fun to hear Microsoft talk about how Cortana would be constantly scanning and analyzing email, being careful to say that the app and all this snooping was only local and for your own good. They were  hoping nobody would notice that Microsoft’s theme is “Mobile First, Cloud First,” and everything was indeed in the cloud, in one way or another, for easy government access.

Anyway, Joe stayed on stage for what seemed like an eternity, showing us things nobody cared about. Things were said such as “creative flexibility” and “massively invited to engage with it.”

A couple of other people came on stage wearing jeans that were reminiscent of what used to be called “originals,” as worn by the Hell’s Angels in the 1960s.

These were denims that the members of the same local gang, such as Oakland, would pee all over and then make sure to never wash. Supposedly after they were dried and crusty enough, the jeans could literally stand up on their own.

These are the sorts of pants the Microsoft presenters were wearing. Originals.

Other minor gaffes came and went when Stephen Elop came out.

Elop was presentable. At least he wore a jacket and an actual shirt. His look did not benefit from his cheesy sneakers, though.

He was definitely the highlight insofar as presenters were concerned, although he looked terribly overdressed even with the sneakers. Elop introduced a bunch of new Lumia phones with a bunch of new numbers.

The Lumia 930 seems like the phone you’d want to try if you had $500 to $600 to throw away.

Microsoft intends to roll out these new phones all over the world then to the U.S. last.

Apparently, Nokia never got the memo about smartphones and how they were invented in the USA — and how Americans buy them like crazy.

Elop then introduced the new CEO, Satya Nadella.

At this point, the camera caught a slight look of annoyance on Elops’ face, or it seemed so to me.

The new MS CEO’s appearance was a huge disappointment. Although I was at first a fan of the appointment of Nadella, I had no idea he was not presentable.

I also didn’t know he has an incredibly annoying speech impediment.

First of all, if you are making your first keynote as CEO you do not start off by complaining that you haven’t been given many opportunities in the past to do keynotes because you were “kicked upstairs.”

And, if you are the CEO of Microsoft I’d think you’d be able to at least pronounce the word Windows correctly rather than incessantly saying “Vindows.”

It was Vindows this and Vindows that.

To make it worse all his V’s were transposed to the “W” so there was wersus instead of versus, conwersational instead of conversational, wolumes instead of volumes, ewolwes instead of evolves. Sentences such as “Ve haf Vindows” were spewed.

As a stammerer myself I’m not one to mock someone who fumbles, but for the new face of the company, a CEO making tens of millions of dollars a year, I expect more. He apparently can correctly pronounce both a W and a V, but in the wrong places.

And as I said, as for being not presentable, he also came out in yet another pair of grungy originals and a short sleeve t-shirt. This while wringing and rubbing his hands together in a very nervous fashion, blathering god-knows-what while pacing back and forth like a praying mantis.

He looked like the Montgomery Burns character on the Simpsons.

I rate the whole thing a D minus.

These people may as well have come out wearing pajamas.

At least that would have been funny.

There are reasons companies have dress codes, and Microsoft needs to revisit the rationale. This was appalling.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m John C. Dvorak.

aNewDomain co-founder John C. Dvorak is well known via his columns in PC Magazine and Dow Jones Marketwatch. He’s everybody’s favorite crank, always ready with news commentary that’s straight up and unfiltered. A national gold award winner for best online column from the American Business Editors Association two years in a row — and a featured regular guest analyst on CNBC — John C. Dvorak is one of the most respected business tech columnists, editors and authors in the trade. Find him here at aNewDomain and at the No Agenda Show with John C. Dvorak and Adam Curry.

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  • henry

    Harsh! But true …

  • http://ARMdevices.net/ Charbax

    This sounds hilarious, now I wan’t to see this thing, or maybe not, I got to see the Amazon box video first if there is one. Leo’s Vint Cerf interview was way too short.

    I hate how Microsoft claims with FUD stories that Android makers are paying them a licence for Android, they have never shown any evidence of that.

    And it’s also ridiculous of Microsoft to suggest it’s news for Windows Phone to be free, it has always been free, I don’t think you will see them show any evidence any of the Windows Phone makers have paid Microsoft any licencing for Windoiws Phone.

    • conspiracy

      More insane conspiracy theories from Charbax. Love seeing them all over the ‘net.

  • Mike Rothman

    John, taking cheap shots at Microsoft is getting old and tired. I was in the room for the keynote yesterday, and it was polished and smooth in every way. Have you noticed recently how the tech workers dress, particularly in the bay area. So MS leaders present themselves professionally and in a way appropriate to the time we are in. Not slovenly.

    Microsoft’s new announcements yesterday may in some ways be playing catch up to Android and iOS, but they also appear to be extending functionality in innovative ways while delivering the best designed mobile interface in the market today. I was able to get hands on with some of these phones and tablets, and they are sleek, with lots of attention to build detail.

    But John, you hit bottom on your comments about Satya Nadella. On stage he is clear, forceful and a strong proponent of his organization. If he speaks as someone who is not native born to the US, perhaps we can accommodate that rather than ranting John, your comments come off as a bit racist.

    I understand that your brand of humor earns clicks. And that knocking Microsoft is cheap and easy these days. But John, you can do better.

    • alrui

      Come on Mike did you really have to stoop so low as to insinuate ANYTHING in this article (let alone the comments on Mr. Nadella) is somehow “racist”? John even noted he has a speech impediment. Is he also “racist” against himself by mentioning it? Your alternate view of the presentation was interesting till you pulled the race card!

  • kzoodata

    Heh, Microsoft is being led by Pavel Chekov. And I agree – these guys should take their sartorial queues from Vint Cerf.

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