Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

  • Google’s I/O conference was fascinating in an anthropological way. Whilst many of the products were fascinating they seemed to lack a clear understanding of how people (outside the ‘Valley) would incorporate them into their life. Nexus Q seems to be more a way to try and find a way for consumers adopt NFC rather than as a real product with a user case
  • It’s exhibition season in London with UCL Bartlett School of Architecture finishing this week and the Architecture Academy running for a while longer
  • I have been enjoying this mix by the Balearic Gabba Sound System.
  • I found out that Canford still sell new pairs of Sennheiser’s classic HD480 II open back headphones which are ideal for listening to music at home and annoying people on public transport with your personal selection of music
  • Thanks to Rik Ferguson for Trend Micro’s Site Safety Centre

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Star Trek app warps into TiVo space

New York Times Joins Weibo, Starts Chinese News Edition Tomorrow

Microsoft loses appeal against EU antitrust smackdown

China to rival US tech knowhow, say execs

What are your customers really worth?

Revised Nokia 2012 Market Share Projections, Revenues, Profits ASPs by Quarter | Communities Dominate Brands

Yojimbo iCloud Transition Update

The SEOgadget Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization | SEOmoz

From Islands To Ecosystem: Connecting Social, Digital + Mobile | Edelman Digital

,The coming tablet computer rumble – I, Cringely

Infrastructure for Startups – Paul Hammond

EU Commissioner Reveals He Will Simply Ignore Any Rejection Of ACTA By European Parliament Next Week | Techdirt

Facebook forces all users over to @facebook.com e-mail addresses | Ars Technica

Microsoft: We Won’t Build Own Windows Phones – Windows – Informationweek

On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels – WSJ.com – data like this is why eBay bought Hunch

How to use Pinterest for link building and blogger outreach | Econsultancy

Out and about: UCL Bartlett Summer Show

One of the best shows across the different schools in London is the Barlett School of Architecture summer show.
Wireframe model detailed view
Unlike other shows this only runs for a week. More information here.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

IS STEALING MUSIC REALLY THE PROBLEM? – FutureHit.DNA – despite shouty headline, an interesting article

Yahoo Chief Plots Return to Ad Basics – WSJ.com – trying to get back to a media portal positioning with an emphasis on events and quality content (paywall)

How NatWest’s IT meltdown developed | guardian.co.uk – according to this Guardian article offshored jobs and Computer Associates software were to blame

A Personal Assistant Mines Your Life to Help Out – Technology Review

Boehringer data competition produces academic-standard models in just three months – PMLiVE

OFT launches probe into Facebook’s Instagram deal – Brand Republic News

RBS IT cockup: This sort of thing can destroy a bank, normally • The Register

Inside Minority Report’s ‘Idea Summit,’ Visionaries Saw the Future | Wired.com

Failed HP Slate 500 behind Microsoft’s Surface tablet ambitions | The Verge

Teens turn from Facebook to fresher social-media sites

Why Do YouTube Views Freeze At 301?

Sony to make $623 million investment in Olympus, Nikkei says | The Verge

5 things you (probably) didn’t know about Google Analytics | PR Daily

Jail For File-Sharing Not Enough, Labels Want ISP-Level Spying Regime | TorrentFreak – interesting proposed layer 7 network surveillance system for Japan. The big question is where it stops, why not monetise the equipment and sell pertinent data to insurance companies or marketers?

Default Upload Settings for YouTube Videos

Why all the fuss about Habbo Hotel? | Snowblog

OLED TVs — Sony, Panasonic to announce partnership next week – think LCD screens peaked. Sales declined for the first time last quarter

Acer slates Microsoft’s hardware push | Reuters

WordPress Comes To Chinese Users Via Sina.com’s New Cloud Service – ChinaTechNews.com

Google slashes price 88% for using Google Maps API | CNET News

QRcode challenge

I picked up a leaflet put out by Lavazza to promote their tie-in with Wimbledon as coffee of the event or some such linkage. On the leaflet was a QRcode. A very small QRcode, one which wouldn’t work with the two QRcode readers that I tried on it.
Untitled
I wonder how that affects the campaign audience engagement and conversion rates?

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Microsoft poisons its partners | ZDNet – ZDNet’s take on the Surface launch

Microsoft wants a do-over with Windows Phone 8 | Digital Trends – interesting take that Microsoft is ‘doing everything it can’ to make an acquisition of Nokia more affordable. But would that be a Nokia that would be of value to Microsoft?

Why Silicon Valley Tech Wunderkinds Will Only Ever Have 1 Good Business Idea During Their Entire Lives – Forbes

Issue: Incorrect Pin Counters Resulting in Missing Pins : Pinterest

LeWeb Keynote 2012 Covering Altimeter Research Themes | Jeremiah Owyang

Data point: Gen Z attuned to fiscal realities | JWT Intelligence

Employees skeptical of execs touting enterprise social, survey finds — GigaOM

State of US Internet in Q1 2012 – comScore, Inc – Global search market grows 22% year over year, more than 4.1 million searches a minute

TDWI kicks 12 common Hadoop project myths to the curb

The Kinect Effect – Xbox.com

Global LCD TV shipments fall for the first time ever

Pictures of the Future in a Digital World by TNS Infratest – WPP

Yahoo! & Starcom MediaVest Group ‘Brave New Moms’ Global Study Finds Brands Can Leverage Technology to Capitalize on New Mom Movement / Yahoo

Japan posts first trade deficit with EU – FT.com

Jargon Watch: expandables

BBC documentary series The Men Who Made Us Fat is a fascinating mix of health, marketing history and the law of unintended consequences that has affected the modern diet. One phrase struck me as being a quite interesting. Expandables was a term to use a category of food products that would be part of multi-pack or buy-one, get-one-free deals. The products couldn’t be economic substitutes for instance discounting one type of meat would have it substituted over another meat-type.

In the case of food products it is usually items that people graze on.

More information
Zoe Harcombe’s blog has a complete summary of the TV episode to put expandables in context.

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that have made my day this week:

  • Having grown up with with 2000AD pretty much from the age that I could first read, I was excited by the idea of a new Judge Dredd film – Dredd
  • LaWeb 2012 felt to me as if things have started to stand still in social media at least in the western hemisphere. I wasn’t prepared to pay £1,000 for an actual attendance at the conference, but had some of the presentations streaming in the background whilst I worked. However I am not disappointed as I suspect that this will drive a new wave of innovation that we will see in the next 18 months-to-two years time
  • Windows Surface convinced me that Microsoft was going to attempt to drive innovation no matter what it cost their partner eco-system. This is likely to spell a faster cycle of innovation from rivals like Apple and Google. The wild card in all this process is whether it will kick-start innovation in the Android eco-system with over-laid UI, exclusive applications and more integrated software | hardware design. Things are going to get interesting
  • Starbucks one-click free wi-fi in the UK makes my life so much easier. I didn’t notice this week. I thought it was just my oversight, but meeting Rax made me feel better as he hadn’t realised it had changed either
  • I was speaking at a client event held at wallacespace near Kings Cross station and loved the brand details that the event space brought to its venue

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Facebook likes wimpy cores, CPU subscriptions

Meet the Millennials: 9 Things You Must Know When Talking To Us – Sense Worldwide

Surface tablet intro no Moses event for Microsoft

Cathay’s Discovery to go digital – in-flight wi-fi get in!

Wen: 100m Chinese live in poverty CCTV News – CNTV English

Using Your Smart Phone to Mix Video Clips with Others – Technology Review

Social Media Before the Internet: Tales of Victorians, Comic Book Fans, Phone Phreaks and CBers

Privacy Fundamentalism On the Rise in the UK – trust trumps better deals

Rise of China’s Creative Class? | China Power

Pinterest allows Pharma to Manage Commenting | Pharma Digital MCM Blog

Social Networking Watch: Odnoklassniki Starting English Version

Nokia’s Mobile Patents Are Its Last Line of Defense – Technology Review

Analysts Blasting Walgreen-Alliance Boots Deal as Shares Fall

Silicon Valley bank invests $100 million in Ireland’s technology sector (IrishCentral)

AKQA, the world’s leading independent & most awarded digital agency, to join WPP – WPP

Apple vs. Microsoft: Today is Windows Phone 8 day – Fortune Tech

Windows 8, Surface and the post-PC world: avoiding Cobol 2022 | The Guardian

Microsoft kept PC partners in dark about Surface | Reuters – Microsoft should be careful of its partners moving forwards

Sharp Explains How It Realized 8k4k 85-inch LCD Panel – Tech-On!

Et tu, Ballmer, or Microsoft’s stab at tablets | EE Times

California Economy Expands In April, Reports Comerica Bank’s California Economic Activity Index | PRNewswire

The Olympics and Monty Python

Living as close to the Olympic site as I do, my surroundings have taken on a bit of a Monty Pythonesque quality.
Untitled
All of this to protect Visa, Samsung and the other sponsors marketing opportunity that would send a jet-fuel powered fire-ball likely ploughing up neighbourhoods in Tower Hamlets instead?

Links of the day | 在网上找到

US employers post fewest job openings in 5 months | AP

menshn | talk on topic – trying to take the anonymity out of online political discourse

‘Microsoft Is Still Searching For Its Own Identity In The Post-PC Era’ – Business Insider

SpinVox: the shocking allegations in full – The Kernel – has Milo gone too far with these allegations?

Ofcom opposed to media ownership limits – FT.com – (paywall)

BBC – Expanding the BBC’s Global Experience Language

Ford Key-Free Technology Can Unlock Your Car and Sign You Into Facebook – Creativity Online

Dispatches From The Tween And Gen Y Panels At The Millennial Mega Mashup | Ypulse

TelecomTV | Has Nokia passed the point of no return? – it really depends on how good Windows Phone 8 becomes

Facebook blocked from cashing in on Olympics – Telegraph – so what does this mean for commercial television and newspaper sports coverage?

6 Ways Social Media is Revolutionizing Marketing Research | NM Incite

Health in Europe Information & Data Interface – HEIDI Wiki

Inside Google’s Plan to Build a Catalog of Every Single Thing, Ever – The Atlantic – knowledge search

Mozilla takes aim at the iPad browser market with its ‘Junior’ prototype | The Verge

The Lawrence Journal-World gets out of the CMS business, losing out to freebies like WordPress » Nieman Journalism Lab – interesting offer by Matt Mullenweg to sponsor the developers in order to build WordPress plug-ins that provide similar functionality

Intel Reveals Neuromorphic Chip Design  – Technology Review

Thoughts on Microsoft Surface

Some thoughts on the implications of Microsoft’s Surface launch:

Microsoft and tablets

I found the Microsoft a curious device full of interesting design choices. It was interesting because it seemed to be defined by what it wasn’t. The device was a world way from the clunky tablet keyboard combos by the likes of Fujitsu and Motion Computing who had helped Microsoft get tablets a niche place in the enterprise many years ago.

The keyboard covers were also an acknowledgement that whilst keyboards are useful tablets aren’t really content creation devices in the sense that ultra books are. The keyboard looked like the kind of membrane keyboard found on industrial computer kiosks or the vintage Texas Instruments Speak’n’Spell toy. For the supposed ultra book competitor it was an interesting choice. As a MacBook Air user, I already chafe at the limited travel keyboard on the device with its limited haptic feedback which acts as a limiting factor on my touch typing speed.

What I haven’t been able to reconcile is where a tablet fits into my life. I have used one to enjoy my South China Morning Post subscription and have skimmed the online version of Wired magazine (give me the print any day). However most of the time it just services as an ancillary screen displaying ambient media like TweetDeck or the occasional Skype call. Quite how tablets will revolutionise my life is at the moment unclear. My architect friend who evangelised the iPad to me originally seems to be using it a lot less since upgrading to an iPhone 4S, and isn’t in the market for a new iPad unless something radically changes.

Curious design language

When I saw the pictures of the Microsoft Surface, the first thing that I thought of when I saw the magenta and cyan keyboards was Nokia’s design language for the Lumia handsets. The Windows 8 colour palette may naturally dictate some of the colour choice, but it did make me think that Nokia could be integrated into a newly muscular hardware division at the right (fire sale) price. Quite how Microsoft would keep the complex carrier relationships and channel together is another matter, maybe I am reading too much into this design choice?

Microsoft and the PC manufacturer

Whilst some articles have talked about the Surface as signalling a post-PC age; I think that this lacks a certain amount of nuance. It more resembles the approach of corporations who ‘right-size’ their organisations cutting out swathes of management and flattening the organisation to get closer to the consumer. In this respect the Surface is an expression of an aspiration for a post-PC manufacturer age.

Let’s reflect for a moment on the relationship between Microsoft and its manufacturer partners. The Microsoft monopoly was started off by IBM back in 1981 and innovators like Dell and Compaq were instrumental in driving the PC into the corporate arena. Compaq is now just a memory as part of HP’s business pioneered portable computing, Windows-based PDA devices and the MP3 player. IBM’s ThinkPad line was a mix of robust engineering and clever product design that popularised the notebook as an enterprise computing device. Dell innovated on process, allowing customers machines tailored to their needs, developed new techniques in global supply chain management and pioneered direct-to-customer telephone and online sales.

By the early noughties however, the PC as a product offered little margin of profit for the manufacturer. Manufacturers like Sony and HP relied on software distribution deals to subsidise the cost of a computer and IBM had realigned its business towards services and consultancy so saw no need for its own PC business.

It is hard to invest in continual product innovation when you are running flat-out to stay afloat. By this time, Microsoft had maximised its profit on these computers, but its partners had reached the end of their usefulness so a vertically integrated model became inevitable.

This antagonistic and excessively exploitive approach to business is likely to act as a warning for future Microsoft potential partners like cellular phone and fixed line telecoms providers or handset manufacturers. Every step forward that Microsoft takes disrupts an intricate thread of relationships in markets that are key to the company’s future.

Microsoft and technical capability

One of the arcane features of using Microsoft Windows over the years has been getting the different components to talk to each other. A PC gaming rig at one time needed as much care and attention as an MG sports car, tweaking, prodding or even replacing components to get the machine to work with a new game. Prior to Windows’95 it was the Sound Blaster series of audio cards that allowed multimedia playback. A standard that coalesced in spite of Microsoft rather than with their help. All the different hardware permutations that need to be accounted for take a toll on code creation, integrity and innovation.

By taking control of the complete product including both industrial design and hardware, Microsoft has reduced this effort massively. It means that the all-in-one vertically integrated model of old computing (DEC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, CDC etc) that was considered to handicap Apple is now economically sensible again. It is like the swing of a massive pendulum with a forty year sweep is finally going backwards.
Rogue on Mac Classic
When Steve Jobs was commissioning the original sit-up and beg Mac design he looked to the likes of Sony and Cuisinart for inspiration. Apple’s concept of the computer as an appliance took about three decades to get mass-acceptability and the Surface gives it the Microsoft seal of approval as an approach.

Microsoft and the channel

The fact that Microsoft is prepared to go to the mats with the manufacturers that have supported its business for the past three decades indicates that Microsoft doesn’t need these people to reach out to the channel. Of course, Microsoft has its own retail channel relationships for software, the XBox and accessories like mice and keyboards. The question is how receptive and/or passive will the channel response be to Microsoft? If Microsoft will roll on partners like Dell and Acer with this tablet launch what will it do to the channel partners?

Secondly, as the PC industry became unprofitable companies like IBM, HP and Dell moved into services; for large enterprise clients the very manufacturers that Microsoft has just spurned become the channel. Awkward.

Microsoft and the supply chain

Looking at the Surface immediately brings home the fact that Microsoft must have worked closely with an original design manufacturer such as the likes of Foxconn, Compal or Quanta to create their tablets. This is a calculated risk by the company involved as it is likely to lose business from affected PC manufacturers.

The choice of original device manufacturer will be instructive, if it was Quanta in particular, Microsoft is likely to be relying on their patent portfolio to provide the Surface with ‘air cover’.  Foxconn is more likely to invest in specialist production facilities like the thousands of milling machines it uses to produce Apple’s i range of devices.

Innovation is lumpy

I was chatting with a peer of mine who now works for a media buying agency earlier this morning and we were talking about how we no longer spend so much time doing the circuit networking. Things had got boring, we were seeing the same people or new people just like the old ones so that it all blurred into one. It wasn’t driving new business except for the bars were they were held and services like Eventbrite.

Part of the reason why it was boring is that we felt we were in a period (at least in Europe) of relatively little innovation at the moment and it seems to come on a ten-year cycle with the last period probably around about 2001/2. Twitter now feels like an old friend, Facebook looks increasingly like AOL circa 1998 and Foursquare becomes almost invisible like toothpaste, which you don’t really consider unless it doesn’t work properly.

That was reinforced whilst I listened to some of the LeWeb London stream this morning. I am also looking forward to the new new thing that should be coming around the corner in the next 18 months or so that will blow my socks off again.

This post is archived here from my former blog at PR Week.

Brand touch points

I was talking at a client event about how a conversation in marketing relies on every single brand touch point, not just the social content spewed out on to the web by marketers.
Taxi bar - I thought this biscuit had gone to brand hell?
Afterwards, I was making myself a cup of tea (I know, I live a rock’n’roll lifestyle) before returning to the office and came across this closed circuit security camera warning from wallacespace. It was there not to prevent pilferage of Taxi biscuits (I didn’t realise that these were made beyond 1985), but to fulfil a legal obligation – you can’t be surveilled on these kind of video systems without disclosing via notices that you are in a CCTV area.
Cctv
Even this touch point, which could have been covered by a sign from the Viking catalogue, incorporated the wallacespace brand ethos.