Monday, February 02, 2004

The Super Bowl, Janet Jackson, and Microsoft

The Janet Jackson incident at the Superbowl has spawned a zillion conspiracy theories. Justin acted alone. Justin and Janet acted in concert but MTV didn't know. MTV knew but CBS didn't. I'd like to toss a new theory into the ring: Microsoft paid CBS to do it.

If you go to they not only report on the Janet Jackson story, they have a link to a video under a headline "Janet Exposed."

If, for scientific purposes, you click on that link from a Windows 95 computer, you are offered a chance to see the video using Real Player or Windows Media Player. But you must have WMP 9. If you click on the Real link, it attempts to download a codec update and fails. You can't get Windows Media Player 9 for Windows 95.

So if, for scientific purposes, you click on the Janet Exposed link from Windows XP, the default WMP for XP isn't good enough; you need WMP 9. Click to upgrade to WMP 9, and a new dialog box pops up offering a free trial of Microsoft Plus Digital Media Edition.

Now think about all this. CBS News is reporting on how CBS covered (or uncovered) the Super Bowl halftime show, which was produced by MTV. Viacom owns MTV and CBS.

CBS claims to be shocked, shocked that Justin Timberlake tore off Janet's shirt. Justin claims it was a "wardrobe malfunction." But CBS News is compounding the incident by putting the video online. 140 million people in the US saw part of the Super Bowl; maybe a billion people worldwide saw it. Obviously the Janet incident will be buzzing at water coolers and bars worldwide.

And obviously some huge number of millions of people clicked on CBS News' video link today. Millions couldn't see the video because the don't have current software. Millions will upgrade to Windows XP and Windows Media Player 9 as a result. Microsoft has a great interest in seeing those upgrades take place.

This was no wardrobe malfunction -- it was a stealthy ad for Microsoft!