This article originally appeared in "The Bacon" Volume 1, Issue 2.
It was without a hint or irony that Microsoft proudly announced that they had designed a wireless internet-enabled portable toilet which they would be pushing at summer concerts. I feel almost guilty writing this because it so blatantly begs for ridicule. Microsoft, one o the world's most hated and despised companies, is really asking for it by releasing this. An inevitable storm of pee and poop related jokes are soon sure to follow and I'm hardly too resist joining that fun!
Microsoft has a long reputation of stealing ideas from other companies. This is why the eMachines new peeMachines line of portable toilets won't be seeing the light of day this summer. Instead concertgoers will be forced to have very little choice about how they surf the web while pooping in 2003. Netscape's "Crap Navigator" and Mozilla's "Crapzilla Browser" are being edged out of the picture by Microsoft's strangle-hold on the doo doo internet market. Don't expect to see a Linux open-source toilet either. If you want to surf the web while going number two this summer it's going to be strictly with MSN.
A lot of people are quick to make cheap jokes at Microsoft's expense since they just really set themselves up beautifully for this one. I would, instead, like to seriously express some of my legitimate concerns involving the iloo and briefly highlight why it's going to be a marvelous train wreck and an overall embarrassment to Microsoft.
1. The Name
The iloo is perhaps the best they can really do with what they have. The Microsoft "Poop-N-Surf" and the "MSN Turd Shed" just don't have the same appeal. Each and every time I look at the name "iloo" I can't help but think someone is misspelling the word "igloo".
2. Lines, Lines, Lines
My previous experience with portable toilets has been this: If you absolutely have to use one you do it as fast as you can (holding your breath if possible) then you get the hell out of there! With a web-enabled toilet the objectives aren't so clear. Have you ever been in the middle of an interesting book or magazine while going to the bathroom and just stayed in a little longer than you planned? Well imagine having the entire collection of man's knowledge and ridiculousness at your fingertips instead. People are going to just sit in there checking their email and downloading pornography for 20 or 30 minutes! Meanwhile people who need to use the toilet are going to be lining up outside. As soon as they get a turn in the iloo they too will not want to leave when they get a taste of how great it is to surf the internet to the smell of human waste.
3. The Wireless Keyboard
In MSN's graphic of the iloo layout they out line that the "Wireless Keyboard can be used on lap". This could be read as "Wireless keyboard can fall in the toilet". We know how people act in bathrooms that are not their own. We've all been to various public restrooms in our life and, unfortunately, even been forced to use the occasional portable toilet. I have visions of wireless keyboards being tossed into the john or peed on. And even if that didn't happen would you really want to put a keyboard in your lap that had sat on so many sweaty, disgusting, stinky laps before yours? Would you want to press the keys that had already been pressed by smelly, unhygienic fingers. I might consider it if they had disposable keyboards, but I'm not touching any keyboard that has been used after 100 people who just wiped their butt.
4. Sometimes Poop is Thrown
We are evolved from monkeys and because of this sometimes we throw poop. We've all gone into a stall in a restroom and thought: "My God! What has happened here?" Portable toilets are usually even worse. There will flat screen monitors smeared with excrement and urine-soaked mice hanging from the wall. There is no way of avoiding this.
MSN boasts that certain elements are "waterproof". Who cares? I don't care if their keyboard or plasma screen display are able to survive the inevitable spraying of various liquids! The fact is I'm not going to want to look at a monitor smeared with crap nor am I going to want to tough a keyboard that's wet just because it is still functional. Besides, who are they fooling? We all know that "Water" means "Urine" and that's just not cool.
This blunder will go down with the long line of terrible ideas that Microsoft has had in the past but they will be relatively unscathed from the whole thing. It must be nice to be part of a company so wealthy and secure that you can just hire people to come up with concepts like this. You know some bigshot Microsoft Executive's idiot nephew or daughter was kept busy with this little project and the end result shows. I can't wait until the footage after the first concert where they show how all the iloos have been systematically pooped on and destroyed by rowdy attendees.