Comment by Patrick Avenell

Inside the Crystal Bar at the magnificent GPO building at 1 Martin Place, a collection of retailers and resellers mingle with tech journalists, PR representatives, Intel staff and our hosts, PC vendor Asus.

The occasion is the launch of the new Zenbook, a remarkably thin, powerful notebook computer with solid state drives and an elegant silver chassis. After hearing about the remarkable advances in battery life and performance that Ultrabooks would deliver, one would think these new computers would speak for themselves. But alas.

Presenting these new PCs to the audience are scantily clad women covered from head to toe in silver body paint. At a time when Australia has its first woman prime minister and first woman governor general, surely it is now time for us to forever dispense with the objectification of women in the promotion of a technology product. I have chosen not to publish images taken from this launch, though examples are currently available on The Australian website.

Asus are far from the only guilty party in this insidious practice. At its launch for a smartphone range in September last year, Acer employed models to showcase the new handsets. One month earlier, in August 2010, Microsoft employed ‘Meter Maids’ to walk the lines at its TechEd conference on the Gold Coast.

Technology suppliers love to promote their goods as ‘sleek and sexy’ – and there’s no doubt the Zenbooks look great – so the use of young women to mirror this appearance would present a visual synergy. The problem here, however, is that the Zenbooks don’t need mirroring – they look fine all by themselves. The conclusion drawn, therefore, is that these women were at the event solely for the purpose of having them.

After the furore Microsoft encountered at TechEd, the company apologised, telling the SMH’s Asher Moses that it “take(s) full responsibility” and that it was “the wrong choice”. Acer has also changed tack: replacing models with a much more light-hearted Star Trek theme when it presented the new Iconia tablets to retailers and media earlier this year.

Asus makes great computers – as it happens, this piece was written on an Asus – let’s hope it also makes great choices on how to launch its products in the future.