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'The Office' visits Microsoft's office

A pair of faux Microsoft corporate training videos that star the makers of the cult comedy series 'The Office' and blend 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 deluded middle manager of a Slough-based paper merchant, as a management consultant brought in to advise Microsoft's UK 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' - played by Stephen Merchant - interviewing him to the point of physical violence.

The existence of the videos had been long rumoured, as they were first made in 2003, just after The Office's run from 2001 to 2003 in the UK ended. The show won an Emmy in the United States and has spawned a hit American version on NBC. The US version stars Steve Carrell as the pompous boss.

The first 'Office Values' training video is currently 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 humourless 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.

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