Microsoft is singing the right tune with some wrong notes


In an episode of Elementary, a TV reinvention of Sherlock Holmes, there is an audacious product placement for the Microsoft Surface tablet. Holmes, a techno-adept detective working in New York, whips out a Surface to do some quick research. He snaps on the keyboard with the same hearty click made famous in Microsoft commercials. Then the kickstand! The patented three-step maneuver is so distinctly set apart within the scene, there might as well be a blinking “Advertisement” notice across the sequence. (Holmes follows up by searching on Bing, turning the product placement into an ecosystem placement.)

I don’t know whether seeing a fictional genius using Surface helps sales, but if so, it’s not helping enough. The Surface slate is on the skids in retail, as are Windows 8 computers. It is perhaps not surprising that Microsoft’s retail users are slow to migrate from the familiar (PCs running Windows 7 and XP) to the unfamiliar (PCs running the radically different Metro interface, and a new product category in Surface). But swampy sell-through is definitely surprising financial analysts, some of whom are cutting Microsoft’s revenue forecasts.