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Microsoft Australia have a new promotional offer and new website – http://www.itsnotcheating.com.au/ – pitching Office 2007 at Australian university students. As The Age notes:

Microsoft sells the premium version of its new Office 2007 software suite for $1150, but in a new promotion it is offering the package to Australian university students for just $75. The almost 95 per cent discount for Office 2007 Ultimate is offered through a website made specifically for the promotion, itsnotcheating.com.au. It comes as Microsoft’s cash-cow office productivity suite – which has more than 400 million users worldwide and accounts for about 30 per cent of the software giant’s income – is being increasingly threatened by free alternatives. Most notable is OpenOffice, but there are also a number of web-based competitors such as Google’s Docs & Spreadsheets and Zoho Office. […] When asked why the discount was not being offered to TAFE or non-tertiary students, a Microsoft spokeswoman said: “Microsoft has targeted universities in the roll out of this three month pilot program. If the program is successful, we will look at extending the offer to TAFE students as well as K-12.”

In many ways this is a clever strategic move by Microsoft to ensure that the university students of today – and leaders of tomorrow – are thinking Microsoft when they move out of the universities. It certainly speaks to the competition coming from other options – I must admit I’m musing Google Docs more and more as their export to PDF function makes editing documents intended for the web far faster than using Word and the Acrobat plugin.

Microsoft are also try to tap the web2.0 world of blogging:

Microsoft hopes to spread the word about its offer virally by running a blogging competition, and the first prize is a Vespa GT200 scooter. “All you have to do is mention the word ‘Office’ and the link ‘www.itsnotcheating.com.au’ in your blog,” the website reads. “Winner is judged on creativity of the story.”

Of course, there is real potential for that competition to turn against Microsoft, especially when students find their new spiffy formats of Word aren’t compatible with previous versions. Then again, perhaps someone at Microsoft is either feeling ironic this week – or is rather ignorant about Microsoft’s ongoing anti-piracy war – as this ‘cool’ list appears on the competition page of the It Not Cheating website:

So … “It’s not cheating if … you don’t get caught.” That’s certainly not the message my university wants to send. Nor, I suspect, it is what Microsoft really wants to say. Rather, in the push for blogging credibility, Microsoft haven’t thought through their own campaign! It may be intended as satirical, but I suspect most people will find these attempts at being hip rather ironic!

Update (1.35pm, Tues 6 Mar 07): Long Zheng has a more robust argument about why this Microsoft initiative is a bad idea here. (Of course, all those criticisms aside, I have to admit: were I currently a student without a copy of Office, I’m pretty sure I’d be looking to get myself a $75 legal copy tomorrow!)

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I’m giving a couple of lectures this semester in the Ecotexts: Nature/Writing/Technology course which has some great books and films on it. I’m getting to give lectures on Blade Runner and the anime Metropolis, but I’ve also been exploring links between these and other films on the course, including Code 46 and Children of Men. Of the three non-animated films, one of the most interesting textures they use is advertising; the bleak landscapes and cityscapes of the near-future are awash with commercials and warnings! In my online explorations, I’ve found a wonderful clip produced as a portfolio piece by the Foreign Office, the design company which worked on many of the media textures in Children of Men:

The future imagined through these advertisements and warnings is one easily extrapolated from today, yet cleverly different enough to suggest a future setting!

[View/Download High-Quality H264 Version] [Via WaxyLinks]

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The Age has a revealing article on work done by Alex Malik which concludes that the delay between the US/UK and Australia release dates for television are one of the primary reasons what people turn to bittorrent:

Huge delays in airing overseas TV shows locally are turning Australians into pirates, says a study conducted by technology lawyer and researcher Alex Malik. It took an average of 17 months for programs to be shown in Australia after first airing overseas, a gap that has only increased over the past two years, the study found. The findings were based on a “representative sample of 119 current or recent free-to-air TV series or specials”, said Malik, who is in the final stages of a PhD in law at the University of Technology Sydney. […]

Malik admitted there had been some signs of progress recently – programs such as The O.C. air within days of being shown in the US – but he insisted the overall delays had become longer. “Over the past two years, average Australian broadcast delays for free-to-air television viewers have more than doubled from 7.6 to 16.7 months,” the study reads. Malik also studied comments by TV viewers on various internet forums, and concluded: “These delays are one of the major factors driving Australians to use BitTorrent and other internet-based peer-to-peer programs to download programs illegally from overseas, prior to their local broadcast.”

Malik’s findings are perfectly in line with the idea of the tyranny of digital distance which I’ve written about before (see “The Tyranny of Digital Distance” and “The Battlestar Galactica Webisodes & The Tyranny of Digital Distance“). Malik’s study is further evidence that as long as media distributors continue to enforce ridiculous national/geographic-based release dates in an era of global information (and promotion, and fan actvitity), then bittorrent will continue to be a major source of TV for Australians. However, if we could legally download episodes at the same times as our US and UK neighbours, then media companies may very well discover that they could make more money, not less, by giving Australian consumers the choices we want!

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The big news for YouTube watchers is that YouTube’s first megastar – New Zealander Jessica Rose aka Lonelygirl15 — is making the transition from the tube to the silver screen.
LonelyGirl15

As The Age notes:

Web video star Jessica Rose – better recognised by her YouTube alias Lonelygirl15 – will play a role in an upcoming film starring Lindsay Lohan. The film – I Know Who Killed Me – has reportedly been in production since late last year, and filming is scheduled to wrap up this month. A number of photos of Rose and Lohan on the set of the film have cropped up on celebrity gossip websites. It is a reassuring sign for budding filmmakers and actors seeking to use video-sharing sites such as YouTube as a launch pad for Hollywood success.

While not a huge shock, Lee’s move to the cinema will no doubt further fuel the millions of YouTubers hoping that their webcam home movies can be the beginning of a Hollywood career!

For background, see Lonelygirl15: The Story So Far…

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