Google has famously cooked up April Fools hijinks for many years. They range from fun Google Doodles, to humorous (and fake) product videos, and any other manner of zany fun they can come up with. Before midnight had even hit the West Cost, my Facebook feed was brimming with posts about Google’s new “Gmail Blue,” a revolutionary update to the popular Gmail service.
The video, framed as a serious product announcement, is comprised of members of the Gmail Blue team talking about how amazing Gmail Blue will be. They use a lot of flowery meaningless phrases like, “moonshot thinking” to build hype for the product which ultimately is simply making everything in Gmail blue including the font, buttons, and logo. The humor is derived from the straightfaced delivery of such a ridiculous idea.
Many may see this video, think it is funny, and think very little else of it, but those who are a little more in the know may notice some fun poking at the expense of Microsoft. The most obvious hint is the name of the video, “Introducing Gmail Blue.” Sound similar to the codename of a forthcoming update to a popular operating system? I could have considered it a superficial detail or a coincidence until I watched more.
The next line that jumped out at me was, “We experimented with a lot of different colors. We tried orange, brown – brown was a disaster. We tried yellow.” Who could forget when Microsoft entered the market of personal media players with the Zune, available in multiple colors including, you guessed it, brown. The brown Zune became the butt of many-a-joke including one by the talented John Hodgman (“PC” from Apple’s “Get a Mac” ad campaign) at the 2007 WWDC where he, doing a comical impersonation of Steve Jobs, claimed he was resigning because of Microsoft’s, iPod killer, “the Zune. It’s brown!”
The final nail in the coffin comes at the very end of the video when Carl Branch, the alleged lead engineer of the project concludes, “I think the first thought that’s gonna come to the end user’s mind, is ‘I can’t believe I waited this long for this,’” which is perhaps a jab at Microsoft’s slowness to update Windows 8 and address the complaints the fledgling operating system has faced.
Some have suggested that this is perhaps a jab at Facebook, which liberally uses blue throughout its website, but I think much more evidence suggests this is targeted at Windows Blue. I had similar feelings towards the 2011 Google April Fool’s joke, “Gmail Motion,” which seemed to playfully point out the impracticality of the Kinect motion sensor.
The question at the end of the day is whether or not Gmail Blue is funny, and while the little jabs at Microsoft are not baseless, I don’t find the video to be particularly clever or humorous. Many people love Google’s April Fools jokes, but some of them feel a bit forced, as if Google feels that they must come up with good April Fools jokes every year, but hasn’t had true inspiration since they changed their homepage to read “Topeka”.