Posts Tagged Microsoft

August 21/22 roundup

On Web Strategy, a post about Facebook’s new “Engagement Advertising” program. It’s based on an interview with Tim Kendall, Director of Monetization at Facebook (which, by the way, is the worst job title in the history of job titles;  the word “monetization” always makes me cringe).  What the new program does is allow for users to comment, purchase virtual brand-related gifts, become fans of certain ads and brands.  You might wonder why someone would want to do that.  It all depends on the nature of the ads.  From the post “Brands will only succeed with these “WidgetAds” if they create content that puts community first, lean on new interactions, integrate with other tools, plan for the long haul, and change how they measure success –traditional internet advertising tactics won’t apply.”  I’ve heard this referred to as social ads (except Facebook seems to define social ads in the 3rd party realm – see below), and has been described as organic.  Basically, people are engaging with products and services all the time, talking about what they like and don’t like. Word of mouth has always been a very powerful method of advertising.  Now brands are trying to engage word of Web, more or less, by using the social graph on sites like Facebook to encourage conversations, comments, interaction with their brands. The post says that Facebook will offer this to only a few brands at first, then later in the year a more comprehensive rollout.  The post also points out that this is unlike the failed Beacon or what is proposed for Facebook connect, in that it is not a 3rd party strategy – getting data from third parties about users activities and posting to Facebook. There’s also a neat list of Facebook’s “marketing toolset” that would be worth covering in Mass Comm courses: engagement ads, standard ads, social ads, traditional banner graphics, Facebook pages – fan pages, event features, Facebook Connect – like OpenSocial remains to be seen how successful, and Apps (brands become associated with successful ones or even make their own).

Here’s a quickie – Michel Gondry, famous director (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) is directing some new Microsoft commercials starring Jerry Seinfeld.  Not sure how much hipster cred Seinfeld has these days to compete with the Apple ads, as the article states. But, most significant is that agency  Crispin Porter + Bogusky is responsible for the $300 million campaign. They typically know what they are doing, but it’s usually in interactive strategies, not 30-second spots. Look for the ads to start on Sept. 4.

Here’s a good TechCrunch on one of Facebook’s weaknesses, music. I have long said that the only reason that MySpace is still a player is because of the music sites it hosts. For many bands, it is their Web site, and has become an important way to communicate with fans, labels, venues, etc.

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Is this a Social Revolution?

Great post on Social Media Today by Brian Solis entitled The Social Revolution is our Industrial Revolution.  We need to start thinking about things differently and our direction with the social usage of the Web is a major shift.

This NY Times piece discussed some of the legal implications of blogging, subpeona’s being delivered to blogging platforms to release information on anonymous posters.Very significant in terms of our understanding free speech online.

And, also by NY Times, a pretty fascinating read from the Allen & Company conference.  Billionaires comment (sometimes anonymously) on the Yahoo/Microsoft saga.

And a piece from Web Strategy: Dell let’s the community create green advertisements; and

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Lively, iPhone and Congress on Twitter

The Silicon Valley Insider details the differences between Google’s Lively and Second Life.  Mainly, no sex in Lively.  It’s the PG virtual world.

This Yahoo/Microsoft/Icahn just won’t go away, and it gets uglier by the minute.

NY Times had two views of Apple on the same page. One was very complimentary about the efficiency of the apps for the small screen of the iPhone. The other talked about the companies problem with back-dating options. There are lawsuits.  Still unsure as to how it will be settled and the exact damages. This occurred between 1997-2001, prior to Apple’s current reigning status.

And, finally, there’s an argument in Congress about Representatives ability to use tools like YouTube and Twitter. Supposedly, a Democratic contingent wants to limit usage of commercial sites that generate ads.  A proposal for guidelines was made by Michael Capuano that “intended to prevent members from using public money to communicate on outside Web sites featuring commercial and political advertisements.”  John Culberson of Texas thinks it would limit free speech, and is worried that it will apply to things beyond YouTube, like blogs and other Web sites.  Culberson uses Twitter.  When Congress starts using these things, you know it’s hit the mainstream.

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Lively, Vista, iPhone, and YouTube Ads

At the beginning of class today, I relayed the story of one of my students from last semester and her quest for a job.  I hope she’ll be blogging about it soon on WebPubNET, but basically she was successful in securing employment for working a personal network. She made a point to come to a guest speaker engagement (consisting of one of my former students and her employer), asked questions during the session, introduced herself afterward, traded contact info.  Had a few followup conversations, received an invite to a lovely party, and then ultimately found herself getting called in for an interview.  She is now gainfully employed by Trademark Media as a Design Technologist! Participating in a community really works. And, this isn’t a random situation or one-shot deal.  I have been constantly impressed with the power of tapping my former students to place my current students.

We talked about the frenzy for the new iPhone and Apple’s processes to handle the demand come the release of the 3G version on Friday.

Google just announced its own entry in the virtual space with Lively.  It’s sort of a Second Life competitor, but right now, it is different in that it is not one cohesive “world.” Here’s the YouTube video we looked at for Bobcat Village, TX State’s Second Life island.

We looked at an article on Microsoft’s Vista, the much criticized operating system.  Apparently, Microsoft is going to take a harder line, not letting customers purchase new hardware with XP on it, the old, reliable OS.  This looks more like a PR move, in combating criticisms from competitiors (read “Apple”).  Good luck with that.  Anyone I know that has used Vista thinks it is a piece of junk, a big step backward.  Now that Bill Gates is gone, I think you will see more of this hard line approach to customer issues  via the management style of Steve Ballmer.

Finally, we discussed YouTube’s strategy for adding pre-roll and post-roll ads to some of their videos.  Most of my students felt that it was something that was bound to happen eventually, the free ride was going to be over sooner or later.  As we know, Google owns YouTube.  They are only going to be placing ads on a small percentage of videos that are preapproved by advertisers.  That does two things, insures advertisers that their products/services won’t be associated with potentially questionable material in some YouTube videos and it limits their liability for potentially generating revenue on copyrighted material.

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Search and Social

Gee, I hate that Microsoft is one of my most prominent tags, but they are just in the news so much lately.  They announced yesterday a cash back plan for purchases made via their Live Search site.  Paying people is a nice idea.  I’ll take any money Microsoft has to give me, but is that really a meaningful substitute for innovative products?  Google continues to not only dominate the search space, but their share continues to grow. According to this article, Google’s share of search queries is 61.6%, Yahoo’s 20.4%, and Microsoft a piddling 9.1%.  Interesting quote from Citigroup analyst “As Google continues to take share, we continue to believe a deal between Yahoo and Microsoft would be necessary — though not sufficient — to compete effectively with Google.” Agreed.

Business Week has a special section on the Future of Social Networking. Definitely in my current interest area, as I look at the diffusion of social networks. There are several parts in this section, but the study that talks about the gender gap is fascinating.  Apparently, women dominant the social networking space, and women ages 35-50 are the fastest growing segment.  It’s the social aspect that made these “killer apps” for women.

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Microsoft’s Days are Numbered – Naturally

Today’s New York Times had a good article about the natural decline of Microsoft entitled The Computer Industry Comes With Built-In Term Limits (Randall Stross). Defining a phenomenon called the Single-Era Conjecture, Stross talks about the “invisible law that makes it impossible for a company in the computer business to enjoy pre-eminence that spans two technological eras.” Coming near the time that Bill Gates will retire from the company he created (check out the Bill Gates timeline in the new Wired, not yet available online), it seems appropriate to talk about Microsoft’s future.  Stross identifies that regardless of how prepared a company is for the arrival of new technologies, they will still lose market leadership.

What Stross fails to discuss, however, is why this happens.  He makes it sound like it is a natural law.  But, the elements of a mature company that in many ways has acted like a monopoly are the true culprits.  Once one invests heavily in a business model, and thus a way of life, it is difficult to steer the behemoth in new directions.  In Microsoft’s case, it was an operating system tied to a platform that became a commodity and shrink-wrapped, proprietary software that was delivered inefficiently to the end user.  It wasn’t hard for smaller, more nimble companies to come along and exploit those weaknesses.

Traditional media, particularly newspapers, are experiencing the same challenge, although they have enjoyed a stronghold for much longer than Microsoft.  The Internet just made old ways seem inefficient.  Why ship products when they can just be downloaded, why print on paper and distribute via trucks when we can just read online?  And, ultimately, why should we be bound to an inferior hardware and OS platform, when there are open source options?

Once a company is of a certain size, they must take a “head-in-the-sand” approach to these new things that threaten their livelihood.  If we ignore it, maybe it will go away.  If we insult it and make people fear it, the more likely it is to go away.  But, the Internet was a no-brainer.  It was pure potential, and had Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard in the 90s instead of the 70s, Microsoft’s roots would have been firmly ingrained in an online world.

So, does that make a computer company’s demise naturally inevitable? Sure, the origin of a company is married to the environment in which it comes up, but is its path pre-determined?  Companies like IBM (founded in 1888 as Tabulating Machine Company, became International Business Machines in 1924)and NCR Corporation (founded 1884) are still around.  And after many ups and downs, they are even considered somewhat successful. But, neither has the market dominance that they once enjoyed.  Companies like Compaq have been swallowed up by larger bloated behemoths (HP). They were once lauded for their ingenious business model of managing reseller partners, that was quickly unseated by Dell with their direct-to-customer model.  Was it impossible to see the ultimate weaknesses in that strategy?  Now, Dell suffers due to lack of innovation, not to mention being tied to the Microsoft Vista debacle.  We’ve seen Yahoo slip as our search engine of choice, while Google figured out a way to create a business model around it.  And, forget about tracking the diffusion of social networks, Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Ning…

Money is part of the problem.  Companies rush to go public or sell to a larger company, then lose control of their destiny.  It all becomes about short-term profit.  Maybe it’s the market that we refer to when we blame “Mother Nature.”

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WSJ Blog interprets Ballmer letter

I knew it was just a matter of time before someone tried to read between the lines. This WSJ Blog post does a great job.

I was definitely getting the “thanks for nothing” vibe, imagining Ballmer gritting his teeth as he wrote it.

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