Microsoft Meeting: Will Another Demo End Up On YouTube?

Microsoft's top brass are hosting the company's Financial Analysts Meeting at company headquarters in Redmond, Washington today. I was going to be there as well, but at the last minute, changed plans for several reasons. And it was probably a good idea, at least for Microsoft.

The company just released earnings last week, so there likely wouldn't be any major new financial developments today. Microsoft wasn't offering any executives for taped or live interviews. And the company wasn't allowing any cameras into the meeting so we couldn't "show" anything.

And then of course there was last year's tech meltdown when I WAS allowed inside the meeting with a camera and a Microsoft product manager showed off the voice recognition component of Vista. The demo jumped off the tracks, and our video of the ensuing, embarrassing failure, has now been viewed more than a million times on YouTube. Here it is in case you missed it.

You'd think after a year, and so many YouTube views, that any new product demo this time around would be bullet-proof, particularly one involving Bill Gateshimself. But this morning we got a kind of digital deja vu dispatch from senior executive at an investment firm who says this year's tech demo was equally disastrous. Says our source who was on hand for this: "Gates' first demo on that 'table' Surface display (the one Microsoft made a big deal about) didn't work." (Remember this product, unveiled earlier this year? The coffee-table sized computer that, um, acts as a coffee table?) "Supposed to be a 'touch screen' control but Gates touched it and tried to move things on the screen; nothing moved, it was frozen." Gates' quote, according to our tipster: "It's a lot more fun when they work." He added: "Gates looked kinda embarrassed, but he's still talking and things going fine now."

"He later got it fixed," our tipster writes, "but it took two tech guys 7 to 8 minutes to fix it."

It gets worse. The same analyst says the crowd can't connect into Microsoft's own network to view slides on their laptops during the executive presentations: "IT guys running around like crazy here trying to get things fixed."

Microsoft has no official comment on any of this, as you might expect. One Microsoft insider brushed off the reports from inside the meeting, asking instead whether anyone talked about the food. Apparently they're pleased with the catering.

Another notable observation: the crowd seems a little thin this year. One analyst wrote me, jokingly, "Am here. Only two other people showed up. Kidding."

From another: "The mobile mapping demo had a snafu because of some issues with the wireless network." But this one also reported that "they announced a small acquisition, Ad ECN, which is one more addition to the advertising platform and strategy. The advertising presentation was one of the best ones in years at the analyst day." That's a little nugget you might want to tuck away as we try to determine whether Microsoft is indeed closing the gap with Google, and how fast.

As far as our original tipster is concerned, keep this quote he also sent along in mind when trying to figure out his motivations: "Whenever you are tempted to buy Microsoft, just pinch yourself really, really hard, and buy Apple instead." I'm told that all seems to be working just fine now.

FYI: I'll be away tomorrow and Monday but back on Tuesday with new content. See you then.

Questions? Comments?