Preston Gralla

Microsoft tops Facebook and Twitter for getting "cooler," survey finds

February 21, 2013 12:01 PM EST

You might think that the words Microsoft and "cool" rarely come in the same sentence, but a new survey finds that more young people think Microsoft is "cooler" today than in the last few years than think that Facebook or Twitter is "cooler" today than in the past few years. So finds a Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The poll found that 50 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds believe that Microsoft is cooler than it was a year or two ago. Only 42 percent thought that Facebook was cooler than it was a year or two ago, and 47 percent thought that Twitter was cooler.

Microsoft still falls behind Apple and Google, though. About 60 percent of the young people surveyed thought Apple is cooler today than in the last several years. And 70 percent thought that Google is cooler than in the last few years.

As to what exactly coolness is, like beauty it's in the eye of the beholder, and even less clearly defined. As you might imagine, the survey didn't bother to try to define coolness.

Why the sudden surge for Microsoft? Reuters attributes it at least in part to the marketing onslaught for Microsoft Surface tablets, as well as the popularity of the Xbox and the innovative Kinect.

Of course, being considered "cool" is one thing, and selling products another. And it's not clear yet whether Microsoft is being helped by its newfound coolness among young people. Reuters quotes Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg as saying:

"We'll have to see how cool translates into customers. It's also hard to compare 'cool' factor as a quantitative measure against Apple, a company, and Android, a platform."

For example, even though the Surface marketing blitz might have raised Microsoft's coolness factor, that doesn't seem to have translated into actual Surface sales. iSuppli estimates that only about 750,000 Surface tablets have been sold to consumers. The tablets also have a high rate of return because people are confused by the Windows RT operating system, iSuppli adds. And a report from Canalys found that "only 3% of pads shipped in Q4 2012 used a Microsoft operating system."

And even though Microsoft Surface Pro tablets were sold out for a short while, many people believe that the shortage may have been artificially induced as a way to make it appear the tablets are in high demand. Windows Phone 8 sales have been poor as well, with comScore and Kantar Worldpanel ComTech finding its U.S. market share in the 3% range.

So yes, Microsoft certainly has to be pleased that it's considered cooler than it has in the past. But where it counts -- in smartphones and tablets -- that has yet to translate into product success.