Everything Is Wired to Everything
In a word, this book is about convergence. Convergence is the
Everything is wired to everything!
This means your television, telephone,
I had just attended the Internet World trade show. It was the spring of 2000, the last gasp of the dot-com boom, although nobody knew it yet.
"What planet is this," thought I to
myself, as I wandered down the aisle in the first of several huge exhibit halls. This was the biggest, splashiest, richest computer show this side of COMDEX, and I couldn't figure out what the hell half of these companies were selling. I was somewhat relieved to discover many of the exhibitors themselvescouldn't explain what they were selling!
It took me a little while to figure it out, but now I know. They were selling convergence! Technology designed to spy on us, predict our needs, and fulfill our fantasies by selling us the appropriate products. Marketers want to
Suppose a new Pizza Palace opens in your neighborhood. They want your business, and you receive a coupon addressed to "
Figure 4.1: Pizza
What's the next thing they ask? Address, apartment number, and security code, please. The clerk is no slouch when it comes to typing. It's the main qualification that earned him the job. He inputs your information into their computer database. This will save time the
Chew on this! You just sacrificed your privacy to get a pizza delivered for $3 off. Your metamorphosis from anonymous occupant to identifiable customer took less than a minute and was entirely
I told you, you're a Manchurian candidate! Your personal information is being harvested without you even knowing it. You're being profiled and
The implementation of convergence is a relatively recent
I had just bit the bullet and gone broadband. Cable modem, digital cable ”"The Works!" as Adelphia, my scandal-ridden cable company, calls it. Five minutes after saying
Telemarketer: Mr. Weber, this is Wally Loman from Adelphia Communications. Pardon the intrusion, but I'm calling to see how the installation went.
Weber: Fine, thanks.
Loman: Mr. Weber, do you happen to have a pencil handy?
Harry Houdini called this technique "
Weber : For what?
Loman: You might want to jot down my employee I.D. number. It's badge 07295-B, as in boy.
Figure 4.2: Adelphia homepage
Weber (impatient): Would you mind telling me what this call is in reference to?
Loman: Our partner, TV Guide, wants to send you eight free editions of its digital cable guide at no cost or obligation. We want you to experience the full spectrum of benefits digital cable offers. It's our gift to you. Are you interested?
I usually don't engage
Weber: Sure. What do I have to lose?
Mr. Weber, without your objection I'd like to record the remainder of this conversation for
The short hairs on my neck rose.
Weber: I don't give a damn how you spell Finkle! Stop. I object!
Loman (persistent): What do you object to, sir?
Weber: I object to having my conversation recorded, and I object to you turning a sales pitch into a mock legal deposition! You and I both know every word you just uttered was scripted.
Loman: It isn't necessary to record the conversation if it makes you uncomfortable, Mr. Weber.
Weber: Listen! I want my name removed from all mailing and phone lists. I'm opting out! Do you understand me?
Loman: Yes sir. I'll put you on our "don't call" list right away. Sorry to bother you, Mr. Weber. Have a nice day.
This is a scary conversation when you break it down. What prompted my phone to ring in the first place? Convergence! The same Adelphia computer that activated my digital cable notified another computer in some remote telemarketing boiler room to put me in their sales queue. TV Guide paid Adelphia for my account information. Odds are if I had swallowed the bait, I wouldn't have
I call Wally Loman the "Telemarketer from Hell" because he was such a slick professional. He's a "closer." Had I consented to have the conversation recorded
If you tell a telemarketer to take your name off their list, that organization is required by Federal law to put your number on their "don't call" list and keep it in their database for ten
Figure 4.3: Telephone Consumer Protection Act Section 227
Unfortunately, opting out doesn't always work. It simply puts you on another list ”a company's "don't call" list. The problem is you're already on hundreds of lists! The word "list" in this context is a throwback to the sixties, when the number of people a marketer could contact was so small that the
Bill Gates is the P.T Barnum of convergence! The question is, can an all-encompassing conglomerate like Microsoft compartmentalize personal information gathered from a cornucopia of sources and be trusted not to commingle it and abuse our privacy? Let's look at one Microsoft product spawned by convergence.
The very name Xbox reeks of convergence. Xbox is a gaming console that consists of a hard drive, a CD-ROM, an NVIDIA 3D graphics controller, RAM, a modem, and an Intel CPU. In other words, Xbox is a personal computer equipped with an operating system that plays
Microsoft is burning cash on Xbox! It doesn't take an MBA from Harvard to tell you that will happen when you sell a souped-up computer for $199. Most analysts estimate that Microsoft lost $125 to $150 per Xbox before slashing $100 off the $299 retail price early in 2003. That means Microsoft is currently losing $225 to $250 on each sale. Add to that the $2 billon budget John O'Rourke, marketing director of Microsoft's Games division, estimates the company will spend over the next five years to make Xbox the leading video game console. If Microsoft sells 11 million units as
Bill Gates will tell you Xbox fits into Microsoft's overall online subscription strategy. Microsoft currently sells a $49.95 add-on package, Xbox Live, which includes a 12-month Internet subscription to the service and a headset microphone that connects to Xbox for real-time voice chat. This fee doesn't include a broadband connection, which is required.
Figure 4.4: Xbox Live Web site
Market analysts will tell you Microsoft can afford to give away the hardware because the games are selling so well ”an average of 4.1 software titles for every Xbox sold. Matt Rosoff, a research analyst at Direction on Microsoft, explains that "the profit is really driven by the games in this business. In selling Xbox, Microsoft is installing sockets into which they can sell more games."
Sony will tell you Microsoft is giving away Xbox to kill the competition, their PlayStation 2.
Conspiracy theorists will tell you there's a chip in Xbox that beams your activities back to Microsoft.
Take your pick. Personally, I think Bill Gates wants a Microsoft box attached to every television set that is in turn connected to the Internet. Adding a TV tuner to Xbox would cost around 20 bucks and convert Xbox into a fullblown "delivery on demand" set-top receiver. The point is Microsoft isn't just a software company anymore and the reason for that is convergence. Bill Gates is willing to lose money on Xbox now because he has always gambled on the future.