Thursday, 26 August 2010 23:55

Microsoft Australia makes Meter Maids 'apology'


Microsoft Australia has been forced to apologise for choosing to use the Australian Gold Coast's 'Meter Maids' during its Tuesday-night welcome party, with Microsoft Australia MD Tracey Fellows declaring it 'just wrong' and 'unacceptable'.

An unexpected brouhaha has erupted during Microsoft Australia's annual Tech.Ed event concerning the hiring of the Gold Coast's iconic and skimpily dressed 'meter maids' as hosts of a remote control racing competition for Tech.Ed delegates during the Tech.Ed welcome party. 

Founded in 1965 to thwart the then newly installed parking meters with attractive young women dressed in gold coloured bikinis, who went around putting extra credit into parking meters that have either expired or have nearly expired thus saving street parked car users from parking fines, Meter Maids are said to be a Gold Coast tradition. 

Given that Microsoft was hosting a 'Women in IT' event at this year's Tech.Ed, and given the high proportion of women employed at Microsoft, there has been concern from some at the event, including some Microsoft employees, that the use of Meter Maids was decidedly inappropriate.

Some are questioning why using the world-famous, Gold Coast-based Meter Maids at a Gold Coast event is 'just wrong' and 'not acceptable', as local Microsoft MD Tracey Fellows is reported to have said, but Microsoft Australia insists it apologises for any offence caused.

Microsoft Australia is blaming its local marketing department for hiring the Meter Maids, and reports say that Microsoft's initial denial of knowing what attire the Meter Maids would wear at the Tech.Ed event was incorrect, given the report by Asher Moses in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) that the MD of Meter Maids says she has emails spanning a 2-3 week period in which Microsoft's local marketing people chose from a selection of outfits the Meter Maids could wear.

However, Moses' SMH report quotes Microsoft Australia saying in a statement that: "We do stand behind our first statement, however, it's our show, we take full responsibility, and it was the wrong choice.'

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the issue has received worldwide attention in the tech press and will probably be looked upon sternly by Microsoft HQ in Redmond, right when Microsoft is much keener for people to focus on its upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices.

The brouhaha has given Microsoft and the Meter Maids a great boost of free publicity, while also highlighting the trend away from using or even outright banning of 'booth babes' at technology events such as the E3 gaming conference in Las Vegas, and from next year's Australian CeBIT expo.

So, um'¦ back to the Windows Phone 7 and other Microsoft stuff now? The IE 9 beta is due on September 16 apparently. Presumably it will be launched without the assistance of booth babes or booth blokes. Windows 8 is due in a couple of years, maybe longer - no-one at Tech.Ed would officially or unofficially say anything about it, despite my sort-of best efforts. Oh yeah, Apple's having a reality distorting iEvent on September 1.

The Australian Tech.Ed event officially closes on the 27th of August, 2010, with the 2011 and future local Tech.Ed events presumably to be highly scrutinised by management to ensure no Meter Maids, Meter Men, Ninja Nerds, Psychic Pokemons or any other potentially Offensive Objects make an appearance.

Alex Zaharov-Reutt attended Tech.Ed as a guest of Microsoft.



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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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