Is Getting More Free Time As Easy as Withdrawing Money from an Automated Teller Machine?

I will use my new free time to go for a walk. Thanks Microsoft!

As part of a publicity stunt for its 4G LTE Windows Phones, Microsoft set up Free-Time Machines (FTMs) across the country.

What exactly is an FTM, I hear you all cry?

Similar to ATMs, the FTMs essentially dispense free time in the form of free grocery deliveries, cleaning and dog-walking services, or support from a personal concierge to random users. A few select FTM users will win a new Windows Phone.

This is being done to emphasize how using a Windows Phone creates, well, more free time.

I had to double-check the date of the news release. Indeed, it was April 9, not April 1 – but you can draw your own conclusions just from the very fact that I had to check.

To underscore the point (if such a thing were possible), the FTMs were staffed by Free-Time Engineers who’d do anything from standing in line for food or theater tickets, or delivering a meal.

The machines were located in New York at Bryant Park and Madison Square Park, in Chicago at John Hancock Plaza and Pioneer Court, and in San Francisco at Union Square.

Microsoft also engaged a few celebrities for this promotion, the purpose being to show how a smartphone (at least for the given celebrity, none of whom I had ever heard of) makes things “fast and easy” thereby saving time, helps you “stay on top of your game” (this was for a sports-related celebrity), and keeps you “connected” to your business (and to your fans, if you happen to have any).

The paradox here is that any phone – including a Windows Phone – is unlikely to have a positive impact on your free time. A well-designed smartphone can allow you to accomplish things you might have otherwise had to do in a less-efficient manner, but so far I truly haven’t come across one that actually gives me free time. If anything, I find that smartphones typically open up a Pandora’s box full of potential time-wasting activities that more than counter any gains I might see. Of course, if Microsoft would add a free time deposit option to their shiny new FTMs, we could surely find a way to withdraw that valuable free time when needed.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex and author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.

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