'The Office' visits Microsoft's office

A pair of faux Microsoft corporate training videos that star the makers of the British cult hit comedy series The Office and tweak founder Bill Gates and Microsoft corporate culture have become some of the most popular non-adult-oriented videos on rival Google's video search engine.

The ostensible training videos feature David Brent, the giggly, arrogant and self-deluding middle manager of a suburban London paper vendor Wernham Hogg, as a management consultant brought in to advise Microsoft's U.K. employees on how to better themselves.

Brent, played by Office co-creator Ricky Gervais, ends up making inane suggestions, blithely insulting Microsoft employees by calling them "little nerds," and riling up the Microsoft "employee" interviewing him to the point of physical violence. That character is played by Office co-creator Stephen Merchant.

The existence of the videos had been long rumored, as they were first made in 2003, just after The Office's run from 2001 to 2003 in the U.K. ended.

The first "Office Values" training video is now the 33rd most popular video on Google Video, behind an eclectic assortment of homemade spoofs and sexually themed video clips. Google Video competes with sites such as YouTube, iFilm and Yahoo Video, which all also host or have links to copies of the video.

A number of self-deprecating Microsoft-produced videos have come from the company in the last year, softening its normally humorless public persona.

Last year, the TechNet team for Microsoft UK released a video called We Share Your Pain that showed Microsoft programmers being zapped with electrodes or jabbed with metal points whenever a software bug they were responsible for creating causes a customer's computer to crash.

Earlier this year, a video titled "Microsoft designs the iPod package" that was commissioned by Microsoft's own marketing team showed how the company would have messed up the music player's alluring packaging by cluttering the box with dumbed-down jargon.

Click on the links to view video 1 and 2.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld

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