Ergo, those products are justified. Or so the story goes, judging from the second wave of Microsoft’s campaign to alter the public perception of its over-priced, under-performing, important-only-because-they’ve-already-been-pushed software products.
It’s quite telling that Microsoft’s marketers have conducted massive marketing research operations to prepare this pathetic advertising push, and yet have found literally nothing new or creative to say. Their claim is “people use Windows.” That’s it.
Well, of course people use Windows. Take me, for instance. I teach college and work in a law office, which dually compels me to use both Windows and MS Office. Why? Is it because of the superiority and/or the cost-savings?
Not so much. I must use MS Office only because most of my students and clients use it, and because it is designed to be as incompatible as possible with other word processors (purportedly but falsely by always being “more advanced”). And, of course, there is no Linux-friendly version of MS Office, for the obvious reason, so using MS Office in turn compels me to use MS Windows, despite the cost, inefficiency, and gross security risks of doing so.
And why do my students and clients “prefer” Windows and Office? Overwhelmingly for the same reason I do: Because they know it’s the most widely used software out there and that it’s basically closed to use with other platforms, so one needs to own and use it if one wants to play nice with others/get or keep one’s job.
So, Microsoft is “popular” because it’s already widespread and not having it is a risk to one’s career.
Not exactly the stuff of true genius, is it?
As usual in big business marketing, the truth — that the private software industry is a bloated, monopolistic, increasingly outdated racket — is not only nowhere to be found in Microsoft’s pitiful charade, but the weakness of the whole thing shows just how thin and vulnerable its whole business is. Like corporate capitalism in general, Microsoft is a mile wide, but only an inch deep.
In reality, the fact that MS is not better than Apple is a superficial, distracting point. The deeper point, the one that MS fears the most, is that neither Microsoft nor Apple are now better than open-source products. Their software empires are now all emperor and no entrepreneur, despite the infamous Gatesian claim to the contrary. Hence, we get this desperate, expensive attempt to distract attention from the most basic facts. Meanwhile, the billions-for-nothing continue to roll in to already disgustingly over-stuffed pockets.
Open-sourcers and public industrialists unite! You have nothing to lose but your indoctrination!
Microsoft, the private oligopoly founded on purchased, publicly-nurtured ideas and pure luck, has just purchased Navic Networks, the proprietor of software surreptitiously embedded in 35 million “set-top” cable TV boxes in the United States.
Ever heard of Navic? Know what it does? Find any mention of it in your cable contract?
Didn’t think so, because it’s 100-percent something nobody would ever permit into their home, if they knew it existed. Nonetheless, 35 million households have it. I’d wager less than 1,000 know they do.
What is it that Navic has going? It’s nothing that has to do with making your cable TV work. Instead, it has to do with making your cable TV serve its primary purpose: extending corporate spying on behalf of big business marketers.
Navic’s main product, the great jewel coveted by Microsoft, is Admira, which Navic describes as follows:
Admira is a media placement service that optimizes television advertising by utilizing settop box measurement data to increase the value of inventory. Efficiently matching advertisers’ desired target audience criteria with media owners’ inventory.
In plain English, Admira is secret spying software that, without your knowledge or consent, constantly tracks everything you watch on TV, down to the minutest detail, and also cross-correlates it:
based on behavioral characteristics, real-time viewership data, program content, and geography.
And you pay money to the very same criminals who sneak this past you, and who are also doing this:
The addressable [i.e., household identifiable] advertising market has had major momentum in recent months in the wake of Project Canoe, a consortium of the country’s top cable operators whose mission is to create universal metrics for video on-demand ad opportunities to national advertisers. Part of Canoe’s initiative will be to introduce its own addressable and interactive ad products to the marketplace, with an additional data-and-analytics product to help advertisers assess the effectiveness of Canoe’s ad-serving technology. Just last week, the venture officially appointed its new CEO, David Verklin, former CEO of Aegis Media Group.
This is market totalitarianism. Rarely, if ever, has such a central and cancerous social process gotten so far without even being perceived, let alone debated.
They can’t stop. The system they serve is literally insatiable. Every newly “penetrated” then saturated life-sphere can only serve as a stepping stone to the next. Unending profit-making simply must find new necks to bite, or more places in which it can bite existing ones.
The latest off-the-job time/place about to have its penetration level increased is none other than the insides of corporate capitalism’s most important product — the private automobile.
This week’s edition of Advertising Age contains a report titled “Why Your Car May Soon Be Driving Digital Advertising.” It is penned by one Steve Rubel, a marketing practitioner and blogger leading the coming overclass race to insert more and better videographic marketing stimuli into the car.
If you think there’s already enough to distract you in your life, just wait. With Americans spending 100 hours a year commuting, according to the Census Bureau, the internet is coming to your car in a big way — and not just to the front seat either.
As is so often the case in our super-capitalist society, the technological basis for this coming penetration is an artifact of past marketing operations:
Dashboard navigation systems provide a natural entry point. Year-over-year unit sales of GPS devices grew nearly 500% during the 2007 holiday season, according to NPD.
This seems to me to be a textbook case of big business marketers turning a molehill of legitimate need into a mountain of profitable sales. I haven’t seen hard numbers (which may itself be a sign of the importance of the corporate pushing behind the “demand” for GPS), but the actual use of GPS systems almost cannot be high or important in the large majority of automotive trips, which are commutes to and from highly familiar places. Instead, I’d wager heavily that GPS marketers, probing like all BBMers for profitable buttons to push, know full-well that most people think they get lost much more than they actually do, and are thus susceptible to the sell. Pair that vulnerability with a back ground of marketing-encouraged techno-festishism and the difficulty of thinking of Christmas and birthday presents in this hyper-commodified society, and there you have it…
But whatever the rational and irrational reasons for their spread may be, the fact is that GPS units are now inside a great many cars. That has big meaning for corporate marketers, as Rubel explains:
Several GPS manufacturers such as Tele Atlas, which supplies systems to the automakers, already display the logos of nearby fast-food restaurants’ gas stations. However, the screens are quickly getting more useful — or cluttered, depending on your point of view. Navigon’s high-end model, for example, features helpful restaurant reviews and ratings from Zagat.
Soon, devices that can both send and receive data will hit the market. Dash, for example, is integrating Web 2.0 crowdsourcing into its systems, allowing cars to send information back to the company to improve traffic calculations. As mobile broadband becomes more ubiquitous, it’s conceivable that these devices will soon talk to your cellphone via Bluetooth and, thus, talk to social networks as well.
With send/receive capabilities and overall bandwidth improving, local contextual advertising, perhaps rich-media-based, is just around the corner. Google already allows users in Europe to send directions from the web to maps on connected dashboards. Microsoft is working in a system through its Sync technology to provide ad-supported, location-based information for which users would normally pay. (Disclosure: Microsoft and Zagat are clients of Edelman, my employer.)
As is so often the case, the primary victims of the coming blitzkrieg will be children:
The back seat offers perhaps more immediate promise for TV advertisers in search of new venues. In March Sirius and Chrysler launched an in-car video network called Backseat TV. The subscription service carries kids programming from Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. Kids weaned on the service will surely demand more as the technology gets more sophisticated, perhaps to the chagrin of parents.
And therein lies the rub: Marketers will need to strike a careful balance to protect privacy and to not push into a space that many consider sacrosanct. However, given the size and captive nature of the in-car audience, the digital-advertising potential is becoming very clear.
Translation of that last bit into honest English goes like this: “Marketers will have to be careful and gentle as we insert our tools of coercion into another place (like every prior place) where we know people don’t want it. Despite our constant public professions that we only use marketing to gather information to make us better servants of people’s independent desires, clear knowledge that we’re utterly unwelcome in this new sphere, of course, will not and cannot stop us.”
The moral of this story? To the extent it can continue to outrun its own mounting wastes and dangers, corporate capitalism means the eventual total destruction of free time. Genuinely independent free time, of course, is nothing less than a necessary prerequisite for intelligent citizenship and, thus, democracy.
As somebody once remarked, to such questions, the capitalist asks: “Ought these to trouble us, since they increase our profits?”
Alas, the corporate capitalist investors who dictate which technologies we may use are also intractably addicted to selling cars. They will continue to attempt to do so, no matter the costs, until we remove them from power.
Meanwhile, ponder the Huxleyan/Orwellian (that’s the worst-of-both-worlds character of our unchallenged, rampaging overclass) nature of the waste-pushing propositions they continue to foist upon us. The latest to strike my eye is Ford’s shocking attempt to sell people new cars by saving them 5 or 6 button-pushes a day: “Sync.”
Yes, friends, what we all need to do is boost “our” economy by spending $40,000 on another huge, toxic, petroleum-guzzling contraption, all so that we can turn on the stereo without having to move our fingers! “All things are possible,” say Ford and its partner-in-this-crime, Microsoft, as they announce this glorious breakthrough in human civilization!
Not only is this tag-line mega-laughable in this bought-and-paid-for, market-totalitarian madhouse of a nation, but it is also patently, egregiously, and especially relevantly untrue. The laws of thermodynamics that govern the known universe contradict the childish statement that “all things are possible.” Some things are possible. That’s it.
Meanwhile, very high on the list of impossible things in this universe is the sustainability of the USA’s auto-über-alles transportation order beyond another few decades, at most…