Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface RT: The ultimate mobile hacking tool for NCIS

Microsoft has been marketing Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet in more subtle and sophisticated ways, but is it effective?

Just to get the disclaimers out of the way, TechRepublic is part of CBS Interactive, which itself is part of the greater CBS Corporation media conglomerate. Among the more successful television franchises currently available on the CBS Network is NCIS: Los Angeles.

Now, my NCIS watching tends to begin and end with the original show, but I have watched the Los Angeles spinoff on occasion. It is like most crime dramas on TV these days - a bit over the top and more than a bit fanciful, especially when it comes to technology and what can actually be accomplished with a computer connected to the Internet.

Microsoft Surface RT

This week (10/30/2012), I noticed something odd showing up during the opening minutes of the NCIS: Los Angeles episode: a Microsoft Surface RT. The obligatory tech guy, you know the guy who can hack into any security camera anywhere (only for good-guy reasons of course), was doing this week's hacking using a Surface RT Tablet, which is humorous to me on several levels.

First, while the Surface RT Tablet may be a fine tablet, it is not really what I would consider a powerful computer capable of hacking into security cameras. I mean, we don't even have a good Angry Birds port for the Surface yet, but, according to the show, we do have some sophisticated sniffing applications.

Second, the direction of the sequence was noticeably fashioned as a prominent product placement - in other words: marketing. See the clip of the video below.

The clip is from YouTube, so it is possible CBS has it taken down at some point; apologies in advance if this happens.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind product placement in television shows and movies - I think it can be an effective marketing tool. And, I might add, since it was on CBS, I am sure Microsoft got its money's worth out of the placement. (Hello, number one network!)

The whole sequence just struck me, someone with a long history of technology geekness, as humorous. But most of what constitutes "technology" on television and movies these days is complete fantasy and mostly impractical, so it is not unusual that I see humor in such things. However, that does not mean it is ineffective.

Your thoughts

What do you think about the way technology is depicted in television and movies? Obviously, this is not new - there are numerous examples of product placements for companies like Apple, Dell, HP, Cisco, and other technology companies. But is the marketing effective? I'm thinking that if the idea is to raise product awareness, then the answer is yes. Do you agree?

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

46 comments
jberghuijs
jberghuijs

Alienware laptop is commonly seen on Big Bang Theory.

Afoollery
Afoollery

About as obvious as it can get.

ben@channells
ben@channells

Its been over 10 years since the olny mibile device we could use was a Psion 5MX to crack Cisco passwords and remote access testing, before WiFi and 3G. Last year I used a HP TouchPad to remotly hijack iPhone and jail brake them. but it was approved by the HMG officer as staff were useing iphone for work. there is pleny of Linux hacking programs I'm sure some will run on Anroid tablets. so running on Surface is not so far fetched :-)

kerry.sisler
kerry.sisler

Saw it and noticed it. I don't think it was too over the top. Much less so that all the i-pad's that frequent TV shows daily. Any know what similar tech is used on the new Hawaii 5.0? It sort of looks sort of like old Surface. So far I haven't seen any attempt to splash in a product placement... will keep watching!

stephenedgington
stephenedgington

We are so overwhelmed by product placements & adverts in every conceivable form and on every conceivable device, that they meld into the background. I use the internet about 5-8 hours each day. I am always connected and always have my 3 different e-Mail accounts Mailboxes open. There are also adverts on every printed and web page. I'm not going to pay to stop them. I could use an applet I have to block them and just leave "Blocked Ad" and white space on the screen, but I can't be bothered. I don't even see them. I would suspect most of us don't. Now whether they are being processed subliminally is another matter. I like to think that I make an informed and concious choice about the products I purchase. Perhaps there existence is subliminally planted in my mind and I can then find out some factual information and make informed choices. When I watch any TV; apart from the BBC channels which, thankfully, don't have any adverts: I always delay the start by an amount of time approximately equivalent to the amount of adverts I expect, I can then fast forward over them. before this technology, I would record a lot of things on tape and then DVD and watch them later, minus the adverts. If I want adverts I make a concious decision, subscribe and read about the products being advertised from other sources before making any decision to purchase. I am aware that the fact that people can skip the actual advert breaks, mean that the advertisers have to find even mopre inventive ways to sell their products and in the programme means you cannot avoid it, but they are likely to fall prey to the same as I've described above - In the end we won't even see them and they will hardly register on our conciousness. I definitely do not think we should be bombarded with product placements within a programme or film. To have someone working at their computer and the camera clearly showing the back on the open laptop with 'HP' or an apple on it, people quite clearly drinking a particular beer brand, etc, etc. The show makers should be content with being able to sell their products on the basis that the interested audiences will sit through streams of adverts in the break. I say 'Keep the adverts out of the programmes and films completely'.

slobodan.hajdin
slobodan.hajdin

As JJFitz wrote a day ago: "I don't mind product placement as long as they show a product doing what it is truly capable of doing". Everything else is cheating. And I do respect a good product placement. Remember 007 movies? How many products have you seen there (counting vehicles, of course)? :)

neil.postlethwaite
neil.postlethwaite

You forgot the disclosure of Microsoft being a show sponsor, which is why they are the only people in the world using Windows Phones in previous seasons.

4goTTen21
4goTTen21

"I mean, we don’t even have a good Angry Birds port for the Surface yet, but, according to the show, we do have some sophisticated sniffing applications." How do you know it's RT and not PRO version of Windows 8 ? xD

G.DeC
G.DeC

It isn't just the TV fiction that fantasizes the capability of e-devices. The ads are often even worse. I can barely get my iPhone for calls and texts (maybe because I live in Michigan and not LA). Getting it to find a nearby restaurant or find a highway route usually takes longer than simply stopping and asking someone. And battery life? I'm lucky to get 4 hours.

cmaritz
cmaritz

This makes me think of the movie Independence Day, and how they managed to upload a virus to the alien spaceship :-)

jqbecker
jqbecker

Looks like Microsoft finally paid more than Apple to get their stuff placed on TV. they also are now guilty of accelerating the BYOD trend, clearly it was the dude's personal device.

Tyral
Tyral

HE could be remoting to a more powerful PC. Using a a VPN token setup. Truly the VPN does not work from where I am with Win 8 But a good programer should be able to work around that for his own easy.

kitekrazy
kitekrazy

I hate it when Apple uses that music which I call "Fanfare for the Common Moron", with the ipad and the mini. I want to change the channel every time.

mrdt
mrdt

at least that's how advertisers and network execs think. Will most people even realize what product that is? If we were to beleive that TV reflected real life, then Apple would dominate the desktop/laptop world because damn near everyone on TV uses a Mac.

brandon
brandon

With a little knowledge of current security products in the pentesting arena there are everything from simple samples such as droidsheep, fancy UIs like Armitage used on various TV shows, and most can be ported to virtually any platform. Not alone most security tools / brute force hacking etc, are run on a cluster of servers we ssh into. The GUI or interface can be ran on many small items, I can even run metasploit on my iPad. There are tools that allow for image enhancement, security camera attacks (well published during defcon). We see product placement all the time, I prefer it over regular commercials, and while the producers do put a higher tech spin on it much of the basis of the technology is there. Some items actually do exist just do a little research in the security arena and it might surprise you (PWNIE express).

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

As a techie myself, I can, and I'm sure most of you can too, immediately tell when they start making stuff up from the point where I/we [i]don't[/i] know what they're talking about. However, most of NCIS's viewers aren't techies, so CBS doesn't need to worry too much about how accurate their tech jargon is. As far as cinematics are concerned, as long as it looks flashy, it sells. Pretty much the same anywhere in Hollywood, whether it's computers, chemistry, forensics, or any kind of sci-fi. As well, CBS naturally doesn't want to advertise on it's shows how to [i]actually[/i] hack into remote systems. So, I don't criticize them too much on this point. As for Windows 8 being advertized in NCIS:LA, I'm glad they're showing it for what the "Start Screen" is really good for. Tablets, not desktops.

al
al

I don't mind the "stretch" for product placement, as long as we all know what is and what is not fantasy. Served on a jury a while back where other jurors were seriously wondering why the prosecutor didn't have any "DNA Evidence" to show. They believed that crime scene investigators should have been able to process and then find the person within hours. Trying to tell them that overnight DNA is just fantasy was an exercise in futility. I suppose we (IT) will now have to be able to tell our customers that the tech that is in their hands is not the "fantasy" version they see on TV.

Dan Martyn
Dan Martyn

Perhaps, just perhaps, Eric was using the Remote Desktop application to access the hacking power of his network back at the office!? Remote desktop works great on my Surface RT (using it right now for this post)!

zynn
zynn

I think it was a well done product placement.....they were definitely told to stretch out the moment and make sure it was obvious! But hey, why not! My daughter came running to me yesterday with the Surface as her number 1 on her Xmas list telling me it would be perfect for College so she doesn't have to lug her brand new 17" laptop to class!! I can lock my laptop to my desk in my room and just carry the Microsoft thingy (she didn't know it was called Surface) to class with me. It has a cool keyboard that clicks on and off..... I said "you don't want an Ipad?" she said "no because it doesn't have flash and besides the microsoft one will connect to my laptop." I have an Ipad 3-- she still wants "the microsoft one". :) Flash is King among teens !!

fishcad
fishcad

Seems every TV crime show has someone who can access every security camera in the country in spite of most security systems being a closed circuit and not accessible online. There is just no internet connection to the security system. Prosecutors now have a problem with the "CSI effect." Juries expect the cops to have all the minute evidence that the CSI teams always seems to come up with.

JJFitz
JJFitz

I manage the video surveillance system at my company. Every once in a while someone will ask to review a recording and at some point will ask me to "enhance" the video. Some people think that if techie on TV can use a tool to zoom in on a person's tattoo 500 feet away to positively identify him as the killer, it must be real. Video "enhancement" is a mostly a myth. You can zoom in but you can't capture images beyond the camera's ability and any algorithm that can clear up an image makes guesses at what the image should look like. I don't mind product placement as long as they show a product doing what it is truly capable of doing. Like someone already said, the NCIS techie is probably using the RT to remote into more powerful systems. It can do that. - but it won't be able to enhance video. :)

joeyramone2
joeyramone2

If I only had a dollar for every apple logo in movies and TV... every laptop or phone you've seen in the past 10 years is an apple logo, sometimes the occasional Dell log creeps in... Yes this tablet is obvious marketing, but a tech guy like him WOULD have that tablet as soon as it came out, for personal use at least (thus pulling it out of his coat). It is cutting edge technology. The pro version which looks the sameas the RT can run all your hacking tools...

gremlincomputers
gremlincomputers

Is it possible that the was just used to interface the computer at the office remotely? I think that Is a more plausible.

8string
8string

I wonder who paid for the product placement for the tricorder on Star Trek? These things are all props. They help tell a story, and Surface is the latest cutting edge cool looking techno prop. Something most folks haven't yet seen. Helps the teens watching the show want to buy one of them. Most computers screens shown on high tech shows are CGI based anyway. Just read a story about the production of ARGO, and most of the scenes in it are amazingly enough, CGI, which fooled me. Spending time on a high budget production set like NCIS you'll find most things don't work. Just for show. Two years ago they used iPads. Now Surface. Good for MSFT for getting it in there.

rmaccara
rmaccara

For a refreshing lack of modern technology, take a look at the Canadian series, "Murdoch Mysteries" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1091909/ where early radical mystery solving is a nice change from the magic technology shown in "modern" shows.

ben_j_dover
ben_j_dover

Am I the only one who saw a very early Bill Gates whipping out the new Surface here? Or is everyone else too young to remember - - -

pweber
pweber

I think the advertising is well done. I'd rather see that than a commercial. Do you ever wonder why Gibbs on NCIS is still using a big CRT?

neil.wright
neil.wright

It's about as accurate and realistic as a lot of the stuff posing as "news" that's pushed through this site and most of the others like it

Skruis
Skruis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjGbvpr_dB8 Can anyone take technology placement in Hollywood serious? Though I will address the Angry Birds situation on Surface: I've been playing AB Space for the last couple of weeks and it doesn't strike me as a bad port. Also, I've been playing around with it and it might not actually be that bad: supports the command prompt (nslookup, ping, tracert, nslookup, etc), supports native vpn, supports mapped drives, includes Office 2013, supports RDP client, etc. I'm not saying it's a hacking tool but it definitely does more than I expected.

gpjonesii
gpjonesii

I've been a fan of NCIS and NCIS:Los Angeles for some time. The latter has been placing Microsoft products since season one. NCIS was placing a lot of Cisco products, which I never understood because they weren't easy (or even really available at all) for consumers.... I actually think the MS product placement great. One of the biggest problems with getting a product to market is getting the user to be able to visualize how it might work.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What do you think about the way technology is depicted in television and movies?

dogknees
dogknees

Commercial television's "product" is not what you see on the screen, the product is you/us and our attention is sold to advertisers.

Joanne Lowery
Joanne Lowery

Jurors do seem to believe that DNA can be processed in a snap of the fingers. Hopefully though we will never see the day as per Gattacca, where a pin prick can show who the good guys are versus the "inferior" genes of the species.

dogknees
dogknees

it's fiction! You know, not true, like movies and novels and .... The problem is people that seem to think television programs are somehow a representation of the real world. Of course the exception is news, but that's just about as unreal as the rest in many cases.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

I opened Photoshop and placed a lovely border around it. They soon got the message about a low resolution image being a low resolution image, no matter what you wanted.

mbrandon
mbrandon

...while you can't enhance the VIDEO, you can create and enhanced STILL from the video. The is software out there now that will use frame interpolation and video jitter to build a compostite still from multiple frames of video to produce an image with more resolution then the original frames. I wish I could remember the name - but can't. When/if such "enhancement" would be useful as more than guidence in an investigation is a different story. :)

joeyramone2
joeyramone2

I remember a funny mug shot of Bill gates for a speeding ticket arrest when he was like 17... he looked kinda cool actually, nerdy but havin fun

Alienwilly
Alienwilly

Gibbs probably has vision issue at close range. Notice the cues, reading glasses when in use.

zynn
zynn

I have wondered about that often!!! Love Gibbs and the show, I only watch NCIS, Las Vegas.

dogknees
dogknees

Amateur astronomers use this. You shoot a video of the area of interest and the software then stacks the frames after correcting for star movement and you end up with a much higher resolution result. The software uses a database to figure out what direction the camera is looking and uses that to work out how the view moves. It's been around for a while now. It's not traditional interpolation and doesn't "guess" at anything. Similar is focus-stacking where you take a bunch of stills changing the point of focus (closer/further away) and the software finds the sharpest parts of each image and combines them into a single image with perfect focus across the whole depth of field. This is great for macro work where you generally have a very thin depth of focus.

JJFitz
JJFitz

I would worry about interpolation. - and so would a clever lawyer For example a "B" on a license plate could easily get [i]enhanced[/i] to an "8".

JJFitz
JJFitz

could accurately distinguish an "8" from a "B" or an "O" from a "D" on a license plate that's half of a mile away. My guess is that star fields are less variable and thus more predictable. Presumably their software has access to a database of what you [i]should[/i] see in the night sky given your location and time. So it is fair to enhance those images. Regardless, most companies do not have the tools to enhance images captured on their video cameras and it is annoying when users come to my office expecting me to be able to do what they do on TV shows. Just like most crime scene investigators don't drive Hummers (as seen on CSI) and most medical examiners don't have access to holographic projection screens (as seen on Bones). Imagine what the tax-paying public would say if a state or federal agency had those unnecessary toys! :)