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Why No One Is Interested in Microsoft's "Home of the Future"

Nobody wants to see the "Microsoft Home," the software-maker's "home of the future" concept video in which it documents the company's Jetsons-style ideas for household appliances 15 years from now. Fewer than 60,000 have viewed the film as of this morning.

Although the concept for the video is appealing -- Microsoft (MSFT) envisions wall-sized video screens that can switch between your Twitter feed and a wrap-around view of the ocean floor, all in an actual house it has tested prototypes in since 1994 -- it's executed in typical Microsoft style: clunky, over-explained, littered with instructions, and coupled with the repeated insistence that everything is "really cool":

By contrast, 12.6 million people have viewed an obscure video from Corning called "A Day Made of Glass," which documents what a "home of the future" full of intelligent, flexible glass products might look like. The Corning video was originally intended only as a sales tool for Corning reps to show manufacturers. Its online popularity is an unexpected benefit:

The difference between the two videos tells you a lot about the way Microsoft's marketing and product design so often disappoint consumers.

Why Microsoft sucks
Microsoft's home of the future is filled with doubtless-awesome ideas, such as a wall-sized screen that can effortlessly switch back and forth from any task you want it to. But the film spends a lot more time with two Microsoft geeks explaining the concept to each other than actually showing you the product.

Similarly, although Microsoft envisions these products as being like functional furniture, they still seem to require an endless series of text-based menus and sub-menus to operate. Hasn't Apple (AAPL)'s iPhone taught us that text-based menus are a thing of the past? And hasn't the iPod Shuffle taught us that even screens may not be needed to operate complex devices with intuitive-enough interfaces?

There are a couple of unintended Freudian slips in the Microsoft video, too. Two of the products, a digital mirror and a digital kitchen bulletin board, aren't shown and viewers are assured they'll be available "next time." Awaiting an update, no doubt.

And when prototype program manager Flora Goldthwaite activates the icon that switches the daughter's bedroom wall theme from "skateboarding" to "underwater world," the first thing that appears is a rotating wheel, indicating that the command is being processed. There appears to be some deft editing before the jellyfish actually appear. Ending the "please wait" wheel does not seem to be a problem that Microsoft believes will ever need fixing.


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