Example: [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2003]
This is not a joke: Microsoft Corp. is bringing Internet access to the portable toilet.
The iLoo, developed by Microsoft's MSN division, will be a standard portable toilet (or "loo," as the Brits so quaintly call it) equipped with a wireless keyboard and an extensible, height-adjustable plasma screen located directly in front of the seated user.
MSN plans to install an external "Hotmail station" on the outside of the MSN iLoo so people can do something useful while they queue. This will include a waterproof keyboard and plasma screen enabling users to surf the Internet while waiting.
MSN says it's in talks with toilet-paper makers to produce special paper imprinted with URLs that users may not have tried.
MSN marketing manager Tracy Blacher said: "The Internet's so much a part of everyday life now that surfing on the loo was the next natural step. People used to reach for a book or mag when they were on the loo, but now they'll be logging on! It's exciting to think that the smallest room can now be the gateway to the massive virtual world."
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Origins: The iLoo? A portable toilet complete with wireless keyboard, plasma screen, and URL-imprinted toilet paper? Plus additional "Hotmail stations" so people queueing up for the toilet can "do something useful"? If the announcements touting Microsoft's supposed latest innovation in consumer computing convenience had been issued on
"This iLoo release came out of the UK office and was not a Microsoft sanctioned communication and we apologize for any confusion or offense it may have caused," Microsoft spokeswoman Bridgitt Arnold said late Monday.
In an e-mail sent last week to The Associated Press, Red Consultancy's Ben Philipson wrote "MSN is really working on building a prototype for the Summer festivals, perhaps
Malina Bragg, who helps with MSN's account for Waggener Edstrom, also verified last week that the project was true.
Microsoft said it had relied on bad information from a Microsoft employee in the United Kingdom who said it was a hoax, Gurry said. After more talks with people in London, the company determined it was a real project, after all.
The U.K. division likes to run clever and innovative marketing campaigns, Gurry said, and had thought an iLoo would appeal to the British. MSN typically allows its units to tailor their own campaigns to their regions, she said.
"Corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, looked at it and decided maybe this wasn't a good idea," said Lisa Gurry, MSN group product manager.
Gurry said the iLoo had been intended as part of a public relations campaign to promote the company's money-losing MSN service in unexpected places. The same campaign had previously featured Web access on London park benches and beach chairs in France.
It's still unclear how much work was ever done on the iLoo. Gurry said she did not know how much time or money was spent on it.
The company had said it was building a prototype and was in the process of converting a portable toilet. But MSN marketing manager Tracy Blacher said Tuesday in London that the company had not done that. Rather, Blacher, who described the project in the original news release that quoted her repeatedly, said MSN had some discussions with portable toilet manufacturers, which she said she could not name because she was not at her desk.
Jung, Helen. "Microsoft: iLoo No Hoax After All." Associated Press. 6 May 2003. Richman, Dan. "Internet Invades Portable Potties." Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 6 May 2003. Stevenson, Reed. "Microsoft Tries Flush Away Its iLoo Snafu." Reuters. 14 May 2003. Associated Press. "Microsoft: 'iLoo' Internet Project a Hoax." 13 May 2003.