Steve Ballmer photographed on stage with an Apple laptop in the background (via Paint.It.Black and Choubistar). So who is to blame for this glitch in corporate branding? Some bloggers, including Fake Steve Jobs, are pointing the finger at Adobe, or at least Photoshop, and Fake Steve Ballmer apparently agrees.
Tim Berners-Lee, who is older (and therefore wiser?) than Steve Ballmer, puts a sticker over the label of his own laptop to avoid endorsing any particular brand. A BBC journalist, who interviewed him on television recently, dropped large hints in his blog about the brand identity underneath the sticker, but is rightly criticized for this disrespect in the comments to his blog. [Talking to Sir Tim, 17 March 2008] At least he didn't airbrush the brand logo back on.
Actually, it would be very easy to create the Ballmer shots in the old-fashioned way - simply by arranging objects for the camera. One of the supposedly incriminating photos doesn't actually show Ballmer at all, merely a slide with his name on it, together with a Microsoft logo on a bit of cardboard. The other photo shows Ballmer in the foreground with an Apple laptop in the background, possibly belonging to the hotel. Very easy to set up.
But to take such photos in the real world, either you have to be alert to accidental juxtapositions, or you have to be able to rearrange reality to create these juxtapositions yourself. For some people in the Blogosphere, Photoshop might seem like the lazy option. I think that reflects an interesting trend in attitudes about software versus reality.
I sometimes share this attitude. My first thought on September 11th was that someone had hacked into the flight control software. I thought it would probably be easier and safer for someone to create such terrible mayhem via software. I hope I am still wrong about this.
Software is amazingly powerful, but there are still lots of things it can't do, and lots of areas in which old-fashioned reality actually works better. We are not yet living in a purely Photoshop world, thank goodness.