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Let the pissing match begin

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Competitive markets are the cornerstones of modern economy; the world wouldn’t work without them, and consumers would be much worse off if they didn’t exist. The need to get on top is especially important in today’s economy, and in the tablet market there are more people fighting for a piece of the cake then there are pieces of cake to go around. All of this has made some companies desperate, to the degree that they are doing everything and trying anything to get ahead. Unfortunately, a couple of these companies don’t quite know where the line between clever marketing and desperate behavior goes.

Thank you for waking half the neighborhood, Toshiba!

Just now I was sitting back in my chair reading through RSS feeds on my iPad. I came across an article about Toshiba launching a website (warning: read on before clicking the link)  for their new tablet, and to make a point about Flash support they made the site in Flash. If you visit the site on an iPad (or anything else that doesn’t support Flash) you’re greeted by a message saying “Such a Shame. Add this to the list of the interesting places on the internet you can’t see on your device. Of course, if you had a Toshiba Tablet you would enjoy the entire internet. Yep, Flash sites too”. Ignoring the fact that they’re capitalizing common nouns, forgetting to capitalize proper nouns and skipping a pronoun I still find this message rather idiotic and worthy of a Picard facepalm. Just to prove a point I fired up Teamviewer on the iPad and visited the site using Firefox on my PC, remote controlled from the iPad. I almost fell off the chair as my PC speakers started to blast out some horrible drumroll music that was part of the website’s autoplaying intro video. Keep in mind that this was at 2AM at night, so it’s safe to say that I rushed to make it stop. While you do need h.264 video for the iPad to play it, but at least that means you’ll have a nice and shiny “play”-button there to stop things like this from happening. I’m just glad I wasn’t using my Flash enabled, WIndows 7 powered Viliv S5 at the time as a site this Flash-heavy would definitely freeze it and require a hard reboot.

I then tried to find the specs for this new tablet, but that was easier said than done as everything on the site is Flash and the Flash plugin for Firefox started using 50% of the CPU (at this point I was back at the PC after trying to make the site stop waking my neighbors) trying to handle the menus on the site. I also don’t know who came up with the idea of white text on light gray, light blue and light yellow background but I must admit I had to look a bit harder to find the right animated thingy to click on. Lastly, I must say that I’ve seen many different methods for highlighting the item you’re hovering over on a web page, but rotating the item so you can’t see the text is a new one. When I finally got to the “specifications” page, I was greeted by a picture of the tablet with three pieces of information: it has buttons, it’s an adaptive display, and it’s widescreen. I then noticed another button saying “specifications”, and clicking that one brought up a new page with a few more pieces of information. OS, display, video processor, cameras, and usability. Not exactly the kind of specifications I was looking for, but maybe I’m too geeky. You can check out their specifications page yourself and decide. Unfortunately I can’t link you, as their Flash site doesn’t support hotlinking. I also can’t copy the specs here (wouldn’t take up much space, I assure you) as….well, their Flash site doesn’t support copying text. If you do find it though and are wondering what I was expecting to find, I was expecting to find something along the lines of what you find when you go to the website for the iPad and click on the boring old black-on-white link called “specifications”. I don’t need to tell you how to navigate there from the main page though, since it’s so old and boring that I can just give you a link.  You also don’t have to worry about waking the neighbors either- while they do have promotional videos, you have to choose to play them. Old fashioned, I know, but it’s Apple so you can’t expect them to be as hip as Toshiba.

On a sidenote, this experience did made me think. What would have happened if I had opened the site on a tablet that does support Flash? Aside from a low powered Windows tablet like the S5 of course, which would simply crash. I generally don’t mute my iPad in public places because I know that just surfing the web won’t suddenly make it below from the top of its speakers but if this whole no Flash situations ever changes I guess I have to start doing that. If that ever happens I might have to upgrade my 3G data plan as well; I have a limited number of MB each month and while those are more than sufficient now they won’t last long if all sites become as fancy as the Toshiba one- especially not when it starts buffering large Flash video files without me telling it to.

Mutual destruction in infinite combinations

I apologizing for the lengthy side story, but I think it serves to prove my point that while Flash is by all means a very useful thing to have on any device, there’s a time and place for everything. I think it’s great that there are products out there that take a different stance on the whole Flash thing than Apple does, as even though I’m with Apple on this one I realize that Flash is a big part of many people’s surfing experience and we need products to cater to those people as well. Even without Flash, I find the Xoom and the Toshiba tablet very tempting because of the screen resolution and general hardware. For someone who wants to watch videos on their tablet, there is certainly a lot to be said for widescreen 720p screens. For others, portability is more important, and for others again a physical keyboard might be the deciding factor. “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations”, to quote Spock.

The thing that strikes me about this type of marketing however, is that they directly attack competitors rather than trying to succeed on their own merits. Motorola did the same thing last year with a teaser ad for the Xoom, in which they called the iPad a big iPhone and the Galaxy Tab “Android for smartphones”. The latter was another Picard facepalm-moment in my book as the people they’re trying to reach with these ads are the same people who might not know that there’s a difference between Android 2.2 and 3.0 (mainstream consumers), and so they’re basically devaluing their own product in the ad for it. I did also find it quite ironic that while the iPad now has tens of thousands of iPad-specific apps that turn it into something besides a big iPhone, Android has to start from scratch when 3.0 comes around and build a library of tablet specific app, making the Xoom more of a large smartphone at launch than the iPad was back in December of 2010 when said ad was released. I might be over-thinking these ads, but it seems to me as though they’re trying so hard to piss all over everyone else that they don’t care if they piss their own pants in the process.

All the major devices on the market have up to several advantages over the others, the difference is just what these are. The iPad for example, has several that Android is still far away from matching, like software availability and accessory availability. On the negative side it’s more locked down and (at least the current generation) is lagging behind hardware wise (though that might not be the case in a few weeks). This of course means that the Xoom and the Toshiba tablet (among others) have the advantage of being more open and have better hardware, but seriously lacks third party software support for tablet-optimized software, and good luck trying to find any accessories for it besides the odd case of two. The difference is that Apple doesn’t market the iPad as “like an Android tablet…but with software”. if they actively did that, I’m pretty sure that judging by Apple’s marketing history, that campaign would end up costing Toshiba and Motorola more reputation than they ever gained from their own campaigns. Mutually assured destruction is often the result of game theory which is often used for explaining behavior of competing companies, and the only thing that stops those principles from applying here is that Apple don’t need to use such methods to sell products- they’re doing perfectly fine just by inventing stupid marketing terms like “retina display” and convincing people that a fancy UI somehow equals pure magic.

In the end I don’t know what’s worse, trying to convince customers that a product is better than the competition just because it has a single minor feature the other doesn’t, or trying to convince them that a product is magical (seriously, sometimes I wonder if Steve Jobs is on drugs). Unfortunately, sheep-like mainstream consumers are the ones who end up making these companies big money, not people like you who read tablet sites like NBT and have the ability to look at your own needs and find the device that fits the best based on facts, not propaganda. As long as that’s the case, we’ll continue to have all sorts of “clever” marketing campaigns that my German Shepard would be right in tilting his head at.

Grain of salt? Try a truckload

So what’s my point with all of this? Basically I’ve just grown tired of all the stupid marketing campaigns that these companies come up with in a desperate attempt to get 5 minutes of attention. I feel as though I spend half my time explaining to people why a 0.6 mega pixel smartphone display should not be named after a 100+++ megapixel human eye regardless of how pretty  it looks and the other half fending off crazed Android fanboys who can’t fathom why I choose to study on my locked down iPad when I can play pirated Nintendo games on a choppy Android emulator instead. No one should ever rely on any marketing campaign for their information about a product; to say that the reality presented by the companies behind a product is distorted is like saying that there’s a few trees in the Amazon, so take anything a company says about its own product with a grain of salt. If a genie came to me and granted me one wish, I honestly don’t know whether I’d pick world peace or give people an immunity towards propaganda. Then again, I have a theory that picking the latter would eventually lead to the former happening naturally.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

32 thoughts on “Let the pissing match begin

  • People shouldn’t care this much about marketing. Simply put, one shouldn’t believe anything that is in an ad. Sure, it informs me of a new product, and I go “ah, look, they’re putting out a new SuperPhone 12”, but when they get to the part where they say that it cures blindness and turns ordinary armchairs into living unicorns, I figure they probably aren’t _really_ telling the truth. It’s like those detergent commercials where they go on and on about “smart-nano-molecules(TM) that clean your underwear”. You don’t buy that, why should you buy these other commercials? Other than the hard facts on the specification part of their site, the only other thing you can do with these ad sites is to ogle for 10 seconds at fancy renders flying all around your screen. But I guess that’s about it. So the 2 main actual uses of ads, I believe are: product awareness and ogle-factor.

    And, since your mini-rant rubbed off on me, I wish they would just stop it with these sites that blast video and audio at you. It’s like walking down the street and being whacked in the back of the head by a malevolent billboard. Especially when it’s buried in some tab you forgot about and you only start noticing after 5 minutes that the music you’re listening to sounds off, because you don’t remember there being a turntable in any of Schubert’s quartets. :) Nothing should be this flashy and obnoxious without the consent of the user.

    Anyhow, this sentence pretty much sums up the article for me and I couldn’t agree more: “they’re trying so hard to piss all over everyone else that they don’t care if they piss their own pants in the process.”

    Reply
  • Avatar of macilaci457

    You know, this is funny. In one way I don’t care about the lack of flash. In the other way I found funny people making jokes for it just because it doesn’t have flash support. By the way. My watch doesn’t have flash support even. :-D (as it doesn’t need it obviously)

    Reply
  • I have no love for flash, and hate the absurd CPU utilization that flash typically requires. That said, it does suck how much of the web does depend on flash. Anybody running a Flash Block extension can see, even unnoticed elements are often flash. Why? I have no idea. But more often than I care to, I have to enable elements on a page to navigate it properly.

    Reply
  • “The thing that strikes me about this type of marketing however, is that they directly attack competitors rather than trying to succeed on their own merits.” –> This is one of the things that bug me most about political campaigns. Why should I vote for you/buy your product? I don’t care about YOUR stance on the opposition, I care about what makes you better for ME.

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  • “I might be over-thinking these ads, but it seems to me as though they’re trying so hard to piss all over everyone else that they don’t care if they piss their own pants in the process.” –> You’re not. I totally agree.

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  • Avatar of frododorf

    i actually blame apple becuase to the best of my knowledge they stated the trend of bashing opponents in ads, granted they were much more subtle at first, but have move to straight out bashing ( although it is still cleaner and more clever bashing than this.also i have not completely researched this, so i could be wrong, but everyone wishes they had apples marketing, so i am thinking tht is hy a lot of companies have started bashing, even if they suck at it

    Reply
  • Avatar of macilaci457

    You’re wrong. Most people love to watch and hear one pissing to another. This is why they do it.
    And the best campaign (even in marketing) is when people talk about it. This is what You do here now in this page too. They won.

    Think about reality shows. It is disgusting what people do in them, and almost everyone watches it.

    Reply
  • The problem is that tablets have’t gone mainstream yet. They (mainly the iPad at this point) have gained mindshare, but the average consumer doesn’t have one as commonly as they have laptops or smartphones. I feel that marketing will die down to less competitive and more self-interested levels as laptops are at in a few years when tablets go physically mainstream.

    Reply
    • There’s surely strong competition/aggressive marketing now because the tablets are the thing of the moment. However, it will be interesting to see what will happen after it, I’m not sure they will necessarily go the laptop way. Tablets might be marketed as a more personal product, if that’s the right word. Like mobile phones, for example. Like something that they feel they can still put on a billboard. Come to think about it, how do they decide what to market like this? They don’t market desktops and laptops, but they do tablets and phones. I suppose the perceived “hip” factor is one reason.

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      • I think they’ll just market it. It doesn’t need to replace anything. The first device is already marketed very well (smartphones/PMPs) and the second is so important it doesn’t need to be marketed (desktops/laptops). For the time being tablets will just be the third device, not replacing anything. This may change in the future, though.

        Reply
  • Avatar of Allen Schmidt

    I agree wholeheartedly with the article…..but I’ll tell you why they do it. When Apple ran the Mac vs PC commercials for the last decade it came out in Apple’s favor. The reason you won’t see Apple do the same with the iPad/iPhone is simply because they have the lead and the market share. When you have the lead, you don’t attack the “inferior” products. But when you are coming from behind, it is important to market why your product is better than the lead dog.

    That being said you are completely right. Face palms all over the place, especially for the Xoom commercial calling out the Galaxy Tab. 95% of the population doesn’t get Android, but rather understands “Droid does.” You can thank Verizon for that.

    Reply
    • I didn’t know about this Xoom commercial before this. Facepalm indeed. But like you said, not as far as the marketing guys are concerned. They speak a different language and it’s only about projecting an image. The two could’ve run the same Android for all they cared, if they could’ve spinned it the right way, they would’ve.

      When you think about them out of their intended context, most marketing one-liners are so laughably unremarkable. That’s kind of funny.

      Reply
    • Avatar of Helena

      I agree with you. Apple had in the past more than one “pissing” opponents advertising. It seems nobody remember how shameful was Apple marketing in the PowerPC era. And of course, now they don’t need to do it with products that have no competitors.

      Anyway, I have seen tons of other tablets marketing that don’t attack other products. In last instance, it depends on what Toshiba asked the marketing guys to do…

      Reply
  • Avatar of imran

    I think its worth looking at apples own advertising campaigns, and how they focus on the features and usability of ITS own products rather than others. I mean even if your not an apple fan, when you see an ipad ad on the tv it does make you want one. Other companies should do the same.

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  • Well met, Andreas. Your cynicism is highly welcome. One of my life goals to leave people less gullible than when I met them, so it’s good to know I have an ally.

    Reply
  • Avatar of seroson

    Very true, couldn’t agree more.

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  • I went and looked at the Toshiba Tablet website after I had read this article. Everything you say in the article is true so well done.

    It also seems to me that increasingly the only flash content on most websites is advertising, so in many respects not being able to play flash could be seen as an advantage!

    Reply
    • Avatar of macilaci457

      Good idea! Apple could advertise Ipad as it blocks out unwanted ads. :-) I’d love this.

      Reply
  • That was a refreshing read, couldn’t agree more. People’s gullibility being exploited to it’s fullest.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Daniel

    Thanks for this article. It will be interesting to see how all this falls out as tablets become a true consumer product.

    Reply
    • Avatar of macilaci457

      Why do you thing they aren’t consumer products yet?

      Reply
  • I personally cant live without Flash, but I would have say…Adobe is lazy ass I mean seriously, they should work to make flash better and faster becoz so many sites depend on ittt

    Reply
  • Avatar of nedjinski

    I found the tone of this article to be a bit whinny – spilt milk and all that. Get over it. You’re attempting to rag on a device you actually don’t know anything about yet. It could be a turd or it could be so many things the ipad isn’t. Oh yeah, it’s about advertising . . . . and mind control – something that the apple marketing machine is expert at – hence the numbers of ianythings sold. In a few years or less we will see if there is buyers remorse for buying something that fits into the toy category. And I include all tablets in that toy box. Why? They aren’t practical – try being seriously productive on one. Oh yeah, but they’re so cool . . . .

    Reply
    • I suggest you check out my student diary article, you’ll quickly see I have absolutely no problem being “seriously productive” on a tablet. I think you’ll also find it difficult to convince those politicians on the news who carry around iPads that it isn’t productive. Even ignoring the fact that content production is perfectly doable on a tablet, suggesting that something that can hold millions of documents for reading on a very portable, always connected device with great battery life can’t be productive makes me wonder if you’ve ever been in a position where you’ve had to consult documents of any kind.

      Reply
    • Avatar of allen schmidt

      While the current crop of tablets leaves a lot tk be desired, I would hardly call them toys. Executives, doctors, and even congress are using iPads in their every day business as we speak. Plus all of this is regarding a 1st gen product. If this next crop of tablets has more power and features (hdmi ports, usb, priniting capabilities, etc), I am considering dropping my laptop and using a tablet setup with a keyboard setup and a mouse. The extra portability with a tablet is starting to speak volumes to me.

      Honestly, its really something that you have to have to appreciate. While I am still not a big fan of the ipad1, I can see the direction of the market. Simply put, a laptop is way more than 90% of the population needs.

      Reply
  • Avatar of the larch

    I’ve always hated that peeing Calvin. On way too many trucks in my area.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Matthew B.

    When I started reading this, I was afraid that it is another fanboy’s story- I was wrong. BEST OBJECTIVE ARTICLE I’ve read in a long time!! I can’t agree more!! this one i’m going to share with all of my “tech” friends, as it shows that there still are smart people who see behind the words “magical” and “flash support” :D

    Reply
    • Thank you, I appreciate the kind words! While I generally like Apple and agree with many of their ways of doing things, I’d be the first in line to beat some sense into Steve Jobs when it comes to certain things.

      Reply
  • Avatar of Jason

    Still totally rooting for the Xoom. Let’s just hope it’ll be cheaper than $800…

    Reply
  • I went to the site just to see it for myself. My Viliv x70ex did not have a problem at all. I was somewhat surprised that you would think that your Viliv S5 would freeze up while accessing the site.

    Reply
  • When I first heard of the ipad with its lack of flash support I couldn’t help but feel how pointless it was. But now, being more aware of HTML5 and the revolution that’s going to have on the internet, I’m in the other camp of, why would you include flash?

    Reply

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