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?


Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to,, and TechRepublic.

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