Republican National Convention Aims To Be ‘The Most Tech-Savvy’ In Party’s History

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Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's presidential campaigns continue to take advantage of social media, hosting Google + hangouts, launching Twitter accounts, and aiming to engage voters online.

Republican National Convention organizers have big plans to show they're on the forefront of technology, too, from live-streaming speeches to finding new ways to use Xbox tools.

Shortly after announcing that Google would be the official Social Platform for the Tampa, Fla., event from Aug. 27-30, convention planners said Microsoft would be its official Innovation Provider for the third election in a row, setting an ambitious goal of the most tech-savvy convention in our party's history.

We're taking the convention beyond Tampa, communications director James Davis said in a phone interview, so people can have a front-row seat.

By being an Innovation Provider, Microsoft will be providing tools -- like Skype, Kinect, Web application SharePoint -- and consulting services to convention organizers and participants in the planning and execution of the Republican National Convention.

They've secured the tools, but organizers are still figuring out what they can do with it. The GOP convention is currently brainstorming on how they can use Kinect, a camera that connects to the video game console Xbox to detect movement, to their advantage. Davis said they already plan on using Skype to video chat with delegates or broadcast television interviews.

We're going all-out, Davis said, adding that we'll have to wait and see how the RNC decides to use the Xbox technology.

In the past, both parties used SharePoint to share and manage documents online; Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for e-mailing and scheduling; and other products for Web conferencing and instant messaging, Microsoft detailed in a 2008 press release.

Google will be used more for social, Web-based services. The Internet giant has been tasked with taking care of live-streams of the Republican speeches, hosting video chat hangouts and providing gavel-to-gavel coverage of the speakers even when television and cable networks shift their attention elsewhere, the New York Times' Michael D. Shear reported earlier this week.

Presidential candidates have increasingly made use of technology and new media in the past two election cycles, bypassing television networks and traditional media outlets to speak directly to voters. That can include setting up a Google+ hangout, like GOP hopeful Mitt Romney did on March 20 or President Obama did in January, asking Americans to weigh in on the State of the Union on Twitter, or even battling sexual harassment allegations with ads by targeting keywords on Google -- like Herman Cain did last year.

Social media has had a special role in shaping the political narrative. Just Google Etch-A-Sketch or Hilary Rosen Ann Romney to see how influential Twitter has been in creating or ratcheting up attention on stories in the past few weeks.

Microsoft spokesperson Christina Pearson said the company was unable to comment on any possible participation with the 2012 Democratic National Convention just yet, but the company served as an Official Software Provider in 2004 and 2008.

On both issues and political engagement, Microsoft has a longstanding record of working on a bipartisan basis, Pearson said.

Microsoft said its sponsorship doesn't mean it is pro-Democrat or pro-Republican, but does this mean the GOP is opposed to Microsoft's chief rival Apple? Davis said Apple products are not being banned from the area. It just means that we're using [Microsoft's] technology in these ways ... we worked with Microsoft on this role. No other sponsors were considered.

The RNC has also said that PR Newswire is the official provider of news releases. There may be additional sponsors, but they are not being named at this time, Davis said.

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