Geek Trivia

Which Of These Products Did Microsoft Design But Then Deny, Claiming It Was A Hoax?

An iPhone Clone
A Real Life Clippy Robot
An Internet Enabled Porta-Potty
A Zune Tablet
The Search Engine Equivalent Of The 555 Telephone Numbers Seen In Television And Film Is?

Answer: An Internet Enabled Porta-Potty

In April 2003, the UK division of MSN, MSN UK, announced a rather curious product: MSN iLoo. The product was a futuristic porta-potty that was both a bathroom that could be deployed, like other portable toilets, to festival sites and other locations, and simultaneously an internet station like a self-contained internet cafe of sorts.

As absurd as the product sounds, it was a very real initiative undertaken by MSN UK to expand upon their other projects like MSN Street, MSN Park Bench, and MSN Deckchair that sought to raise MSN brand awareness and put early hotspot-style Wi-Fi access into the hands of consumers around Britain. The internet-enabled portable bathrooms would sport an adjustable plasma monitor, a membrane wireless keyboard, a six-channel speaker system, and toilet paper embossed with popular website addresses. Even the outside of the iLoo was to be set up for internet access so that the person waiting to use the bathroom next could log into a workstation attached to the outside and browse the web.

The whole idea, that someone would be using the bathroom and browsing the web while someone standing right outside could also browse the web, was all just a bit too much for anyone to take seriously and—as you can imagine–the iLoo was widely ridiculed in the press. So ridiculed, in fact, that Microsoft denied that the project was even real and insisted (despite previous press releases and two PR firms handling the project) that it was actually a belated April Fool’s Day hoax. Here’s a sample from one of the press releases:

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.

In reality, it was an actual project and Microsoft scrapped it both because of the poor branding that resulted from associating MSN with portable toilets and because it turns out that someone in Britain had already invented a nearly identical product called the “i-Loo”. In the end, nobody got an internet-enabled porta-potty and the world moved on. Now, thanks to smartphones, however, anywhere can be a spot for browsing the web, porta-potties included.

Image courtesy of MSN UK/Microsoft.