In this week's edition of Eyes on the Wise, we're shocked to learn that Microsoft has a lousy sense of humor. But we're pleased to discover that some of the housing bubble's biggest cheerleaders aren't afraid to tell it like it is, at least when they figure the rest of the country isn't really listening.
Mr. Softy's stunted sense of humor
I guess it should be no surprise that the company that brought us Steve "Monkey Boy" (opens video link) Ballmer would miss out on a great chance to prove it's got a sense of humor.
Word hit the wires this week that Microsoft
So what was Microsoft's reaction?
Imagine trying to slip a dirty knock-knock joke past a humorless corporate android with 500 CCs of Botox in her face, hunkered behind a bulletproof gray desk, and you'll pretty much be able to predict Mr. Softy's reply.
"These videos were produced for internal use and were never intended to be viewed by the public," a Microsoft spokeswoman told Reuters. "We are actively working to investigate how and why they have appeared now."
Are you kidding me? Whoever leaked these videos presented Microsoft with a golden opportunity to earn a little genuine goodwill. The company should have been glad to see the responses, glad to see people laughing along with Microsoft laughing at itself.
Instead, it apparently requested that the vids be yanked from YouTube. (As of this writing, a version was still available for viewing here, perhaps because Google
Unfortunately, this is all too much like Coke's
No wonder these yahoos are desperate to get me to drink Coca-Cola BlaK. They wouldn't know a grassroots marketing opportunity if it bit them in the bottle.
Just as Coke should have seized the day and sponsored a nationwide series of Mentos rocketry and fountain contests, Microsoft should buy a clue and capitalize on this surprise success. Step one: Let these videos out into the wild. Step two: Ring up Gervais and cowriter Stephen Merchant and have them for Vista's launch.
Microsoft is never going to be cool like Apple
One mouth, two sides
I've had some pretty harsh words for those home-industry yes-men out there who've been mercilessly pumping the idea that, first, there was no housing bubble, and, second, it would deflate slowly, giving us a nice, soft landing.
Prime among my nominees for the "most likely to dupe the public" award are the folks at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the outfit we have to thank for those low, low 6% commissions. I consider this industry group especially hazardous because -- despite its solid work putting together housing data -- it pursues policies I consider directly harmful to the rest of America, such as lobbying lawmakers and policy setters toward short-sighted, self-serving policies, and constantly promoting the myth that all is well in housing, and that a home is an "investment" at any price.
Every month, the words of NAR's chief economist, David Lereah, and its president, Thomas Stevens, are dutifully duplicated all across the country by business journalists too tired, busy, or clueless to look a bit deeper.
But thanks to an alert reader, I've learned that the NAR is, in fact, capable of some tougher talk. It's just that it comes in the form of PowerPoint presentations made to colleagues, not happy-time press releases sent out on the wire. Do take a look at this presentation, from the NAR website. It's called "Real Estate Reality Check," and it paints a picture far grimmer than the story spoon-fed to the press once a month.
It shines a light on major problems, such as the 25% drop in second-quarter existing home sales in markets such as Virginia and Florida. It highlights record home inventories, and shows days on market nearly doubling in some of these locales. It shows that real incomes are not even close to keeping pace with home-price increases.
And it says this stuff in language you'd never see in a NAR press release, stuff like: "Boom ended August 2005," and "Speculative investors pulled out," and "High debt burdens not healthy for economy," and most ominously:
"Correction Necessary." (Slide 18.)
Finally, something the NAR and I can agree on. But I don't think shareholders in builders such as Centex
At the time of publication, Seth Jayson was long Microsoft common and calls, but he had no positions in any other company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.