2473: Product Launch

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Product Launch
"Okay, that was weird, but the product reveal was normal. I think the danger is pas--" "One more thing." "Oh no."
Title text: "Okay, that was weird, but the product reveal was normal. I think the danger is pas--" "One more thing." "Oh no."


Three people are discussing the upcoming public announcement of their company's new product, apparently an electronic device shown on the pedestal between them. Hairy mentions that smart devices can make people uncomfortable. Common reasons include:

  • It is impossible for consumers to know what the device is really doing (since it is a "black box" with inaccessible software).
  • The device could stop working in the future due to poor quality or software problems;
  • The device could be used to spy on its owner or others, including ones who did not consent to this by purchasing the device.
  • The device could represent a security or even safety risk by allowing hackers or other groups access to the network or any systems that the device controls.
  • The device could significantly alter the life of the user via digital addiction.

To allay these concerns, the device should be presented as non-threatening. Cueball asks to confirm the non, implying that this was not clear to him before. In fact, it even appears he thought he was being asked to put together a threatening presentation, but does not explain.

Later, Cueball presents the device on-stage, with statements that have been styled to sound positive but carry double meanings. The subtlety of the changes in tone could make them harder to discuss for many.

  • He confirms that the product can "change the world for good or evil" (most would merely claim that their new product is good, or will change the world).
  • The "plaintive cries of [the company's] customers"; those cries may be because of the company's actions rather than customer demands for a new product.
  • The company wants to "give [customers] what they deserve," a phrase often associated with judgments that are as likely to punish as to reward.
  • Instead of being merely uncovered, the product is being exposed to the atmosphere (implying a chemical or physical reaction) and is to affect customers within five city blocks (nearly 1 km). This is further than common smart devices (using wireless technologies such as WiFi or Bluetooth) would reach. Worse, this event is supposed to be surprising, unlike, for example, the sudden availability of a new long-distance radio network.
  • When someone in the audience decides to leave in the middle of the presentation, Cueball reassures them that a "staggering" large number of people will survive; this is usually considered true of non-military fair-trade product launches,[citation needed] but this is also not a reassuring way to phrase that fact. Plus, there is no assertion that the "staggering" number is in fact 100%, which is the survival rate for most product launches.[citation needed]

In the title text, someone is saying that the actual reveal was uneventful. Cueball interrupts, implying that there is one last feature to demonstrate, at which point the first speaker assumes the worst (that the product's most threatening aspect was saved for last).

Besides the main joke of a product that is likely so unsafe as to be illegal, the comic could also be poking fun at the desire of tech companies to make their products sound important, which can undermine the message of benign safety.

This comic was released on the day of Apple's 2021 WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference) keynote, at which the company traditionally announces new features and products. "One more thing" is a tagline famously associated with Steve Jobs' product announcements and something of an Apple tradition.


[Hairy and Ponytail are standing to the left of a wrapped object. Cueball is standing on the right.]
Hairy: The press is here for the product launch!
Hairy: Remember, people are wary of smart devices, so we want to strike a non-threatening tone.
[Pan over to just Cueball; Hairy and Ponytail are off of the left side of the panel.]
Cueball: Hang on, did you say non-threatening?
Hairy: Yes. Why-
Cueball: Nothing. It's probably fine.
[Caption: Soon...]
[Cueball is standing on a platform next to the previously seen wrapped object.]
Cueball: They say technology can change the world, for good or for evil. Our new product will show how true that is.
Cueball: We hear the plaintive cries of our customers. We want to give them what they deserve.
[Zoom in on Cueball, who has his hand up in a gesture.]
Cueball: Now, let us expose our product to the atmosphere for the first time, surprising and delighting customers within a five-block radius.
(Voice off-panel): I'm leaving.
Cueball: No, don't worry! A staggering number of people will survive!

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Today, June 8, Amazon added a new feature to Ring and Echo devices that would allow them to communicate with similar devices owned by other people, thus sharing the owners' WIFI with each other. Through Amazon's "generosity" they are turning this on by default. No clue as to what the purpose of this feature is? Good or Evil? https://threatpost.com/amazon-sidewalk-to-sweep-you-into-its-mesh/166581/ Rtanenbaum (talk) 15:44, 8 June 2021 (UTC)

It's a feature, which is good. It's turned on by default, which is evil. 22:59, 8 June 2021 (UTC)

Some of the items that turn up with the note "Citation Needed" are hilarious. In this entry, Wiki is asking for a citation to back up the claim that the survival rate for most product launches is 100%. This sort of tag always adds to my enjoyment of these entries Paradox (talk) 13:46, 9 June 2021 (UTC)

Ahoy, Paradox! I don't think you intended to make your comment so time-stamped (used loadsa ~s as horizontal-rules?), but do revert this edit if you did. Take care if you didn't.
Otherwise, I agree that in moderation the Citation tag works. I personally like the current load here, but bear in mind that Mileages May Vary and others doubtless think less is more. It takes all kinds to make a world, of course. 17:06, 9 June 2021 (UTC)

The theme of foreboding smart device here seems similar to how we don't really know what will happen next regarding AI. 00:26, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

I think the "one more thing" part of the title text may be a reference to Columbo, who would often lure a suspect into a false sense of security, before hitting them with a 'one more thing' where the hammer drops (in this tech case, that the bad thing is now about to be revealed). 00:28, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

Given Cueball had apparently been aiming to give a "threatening" presentation and suddenly had to change it to "non-threatening", I think it's possible he just changed a couple of words in his speech. The words "surprising and delighting" look a bit odd in the final frame. I suspect he simply replaced the word "annihilating" with "surprising and delighting", and "a few" with "a staggering number of". See how that reads to you. 04:13, 10 June 2021 (UTC)

Are we missing the difference between "unthreatening" and "non-threatening"? Unthreatening would describe the product in ways that are not threatening. Non-threatening would describe the product in terms of threats, but neither confirm nor deny whether the product would result in such threats. 20:15, 19 June 2021 (UTC)

Actually the best comic in 2021. 10/10, especially the last panel. 16:15, 7 February 2024 (UTC)