Links of the day | 在网上找到

3UK scraps roaming charges – only four years after abolishing it. It was called 3 Like Home rather than Feel Like Home but the principle was the same

Yahoo to close its blogging service, |– an interesting move, I will talk about this in more depth

G2 Crowd – interesting aggregated opinions

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Just a simple post about five of the things that have made my day this week:

A former colleague from my time at Yahoo! Tomi Poutanen has a new curation / recommendation-based start-up called Milq this is worthwhile taking a look at. You can get the iPhone application here, they are currently looking for Android talent.

Only four years later than I should have done, I am finally getting around to read Ship of Fools by Fintan O’Toole which describes how the unholy trinity of corruption, banking and property became an Irish economic nuclear bomb.

There was this touchingly naive tweet from the UK Home Office account which warned in the kind of tone that reminded me of the average 20 year-olds parents. I wonder what happened to all that work on messaging that went into the Talk To Frank  and Pablo the Drug Mule Dog?


O2’s equivalent of its GiffGaff youth orientated brand in Ireland is called 48; it has some interesting call plans including ones that advocate the use of OTT messaging and VoIP usage. I love the style of the advertisements as well. On a personal note, after all the problems I had getting away from 3; it looks like they are reinstating 3 Like Home style free roaming on sister networks again according to TotalTelecom.


I love Vice’s content for Ray-Ban which gets Action Bronson to talk about cooking and rap with some rolling breaks underneath the dialogue. What is interesting is how Bronson realises his hip-hop career will have a finite life.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Facebook Pulls Physical Gifts From Gifting Program: Guess Why

BuzzFeed has a Medium problem | PandoDaily – media models challenged

Steve Ballmer and the Art of Managing a Monopoly : The New Yorker

In historic vote, New Zealand bans software patents | Ars Technica – interesting how this will fit in with the Trans Pacific Partnership

Android’s Hugo Barra Departs Google for China’s Xiaomi – AllThingsD

What’s Bad About TV? Just Ask Apple. | Light Reading

Chip daddy: Moore’s Law is about to be repealed, but don’t blame physics • The Register

Why Google brought its app store to Iran, and what it could mean for Syriathe Obama administration has followed a pattern of gradually relaxing export restrictions worldwide

Samsung Announces colorful Galaxy Tab 3 built for kids — GigaOM – I really like the design off this, looks road warrior proof

Feds Back Away From Forced Decryption … For Now | Threat Level | Wired.comcourts are not buying into the government’s theory that encryption is evidence of criminal behavior

10 things a cyclist notices about rural Ireland – The Irish Times – interesting comments on changing society

The need for social media planning

Way back a number of years ago, I learned to scuba dive. One the key things that was drilled into us was the concept of ‘Plan the dive, dive the plan’ meaning plan what you are going to do and the follow through with it.

It sometimes become clear when a brand doesn’t follow this approach on their social media channels:
Ronseal Facebook Facepalm
The moral of the story is having a calendar of conversation-starters that will be used as part of the ongoing brand dialogue.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

Not to be Overlooked – Japanese Outbound Tourists to Europe – Analyst Insight from Euromonitor International

Communities Dominate Brands: Ballmer Aftermath Part 1 – Future of Microsoft, especially in mobile

Ballmer Departure From Microsoft Was More Sudden Than Portrayed – Kara Swisher – News – AllThingsD

Richard Goodall Gallery Contemporary Art – prints by Central Station Manchester

Of Course Teens Think About Privacy, They Have Parents – The Atlantic

In surveillance era, clever trick enhances secrecy of iPhone text messages | Ars Technica – kind of like one-time pads but created on the fly

The Kids Aren’t All Right, and Neither Is Abercrombie & Fitch – Businessweek – part-time jobs aren’t what they used to be

The Steve Ballmer Post

At the end of last week Steve Ballmer announced his imminent retirement and the formation of a committee to find his successor. The narratives that went out with the media painted a picture that was a decade or so of opportunities squandered.

As with most narratives it hides more complex truths.

When did Steve actually take control of Microsoft?

That’s the big question that I don’t feel was answered or really taken into account by the media reports, Ballmer had the financial responsibility when he was appointed CEO in 2000, but Gates set the direction for the company for at least another six years until his retirement in 2006. As one of Microsoft’s largest shareholders; Gate’s still holds sway over the company that he founded.

What did Steve Ballmer achieve?

Steve Ballmer is a hyper-achiever – he went from being the first business manager at Microsoft, to heading up some of the companies most important projects:

  • The Microsoft sales and marketing machine
  • .NET development environment

He even headed up crucial versions of operating systems development. Ballmer played a key role in the success during the 1980s and 1990s.

Gates was the architect but Ballmer was a master-builder.

Gates’ design also laid the foundations of weakness in the Microsoft model. Their winner-takes all approach to partners meant that:

  • PC manufacturers innovated in process to try and claw back hollowed out margins rather than being ready for the kind of disruptive innovation that Apple brought in the hardware space

This is what a consumer PC offering looked like in the late 1990s / early 2000s
Free to Good Home
This is what Apple’s offering looked like
I think the pictures tell you everything that you need to say on that front.

If you look at Microsoft’s mobile strategy, there is a succession of screwed over partners including i-Mate and Sendo. Other sectors that Microsoft’s tries to enter look at Microsoft’s history and become very wary. Nokia themselves have admitted that Microsoft’s ownership and bundling of Skype with it’s Windows Phone software was hurting carrier relationships that were key to shift units. The fear and distrust killed competitors at the business plan stage as Silicon Valley kept out of the way of the Redmond juganaut; but it’s also the reason why we have a vibrant open source community and open standards.

So Steve Ballmer was playing with less of optimal hand than the media would have you believe. In spite of this Ballmer managed to keep Microsoft growing at an enviable rate of knots.

From Ars Technica:

Under his leadership, Microsoft’s net income has increased to $23 billion, with annual revenue climbing from $25 billion to $70 billion, with an average annual profit growth of over 16 percent.

Now those numbers depend on how long you think Ballmer was actually the shot-caller, but the trend is undeniable.

Secondly, in many key areas like mobile and tablet computing Ballmer was hamstrung by the too early investments. Microsoft had tablet computer products for a decade, smart TV/ set-top box and mobile / PDA software way longer. Yet according to Ars Technica:

Ballmer is responsible for expanding Microsoft’s reach into a number of new areas, including the heavy push into the “post-PC” era with its focus on portable devices. Ballmer’s Microsoft also created the Xbox and poured tremendous resources into gaining a foothold in the home entertainment market, and it developed an actual viable search competitor to Google.

You could argue that search was a mistake, but as an IBM advert in the latest US edition of Wired magazine says:

80% of the data currently produced is unstructured – coming from sources like images, videos, tweets, posts and e-mails.

That statement alone shows how important search capability would be for Microsoft across their business lines and whilst the Online Services division has been a spectacular under-performer; the company simply cannot afford not to have a dog in the search fight.

Does Steve still matter?

Ballmer as a retired executive is still a multi-billionaire; he could still make a difference through his investments, probably more so than other retired Microsoft executives have done previously. So it is worthwhile keeping an eye on what he does next.

Why now?

Your guess is as good as mine:

  • Microsoft is making a lot of transitions, it is has re-organised for its next iteration as a devices and services company. That road will be bumpy. If one looks at the likes of Yahoo! one can see the benefit of shareholder goodwill that a new CEO gets. Ballmer doesn’t have that, he has set the course but won’t be able to see this through
  • Microsoft could be taking pre-emptive action, since they have seen the way Apple is in the midst of being Icahn-ed. They already pay a dividend, so changing leadership would be next most likely demand getting ahead of that activism keeps the board in the driving seat
  • A new CEO, particularly one from outside the company has much more leeway to make big choices like breaking up or spinning off parts of the company

More information
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire within 12 months | Microsoft News Center
Sendo: why it went titsup | The Register
Nokia’s CEO Talks About How Skype Affects Carrier Relations | BusinessInsider
Microsoft, Ballmer, and the end of the PC era | I, Cringely
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire within 12 months | Ars Technica

Throwback gadget: Global Village TelePort modem

Back in the mid-to-late 1990s Apple computers weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now. If you had a Mac back then you were struggling to find compatible peripherals, you shopped at Mac specialists and often used specialist brand products.

In the case of sending a fax, dialing into a bulletin board or using an early Internet dial-up connection you would have used a modem by Global Village PowerPort card that plugged into your PowerBook or an external TelePort modem. I remember that the company used to have picture of a elven-looking alien on the front of the box and the PowerPort card.

Apple vendors back then had weird little brand touches that reminded you despite their hard yuppie price-gouging exteriors they were just as kooky as you were for ignoring the products of Microsoft.
global village
The TelePort modem was made in a platinum grey colour to match Apple’s desktop products at the time. To add to the confusion of PowerPort card users the modems were controlled by software called TelePort as well.
There was also a software application for sending faxes called Global Fax and a simple OCR software bundled later on called Global Fax OCR. The modem usually came bundled with software to sign you up to an ISP (in the UK I think it was Demon and My first iBook came with a built in modem and broadband started getting rolled out, so Global Village was eventually bought out by a company called Zoom who are still struggling along by selling directly to the consumer DSL routers and 3G dongles.

Links of the day | 在网上找到

My author profile page on Amazon – go there and buy the books.

Windows 8+TPM: Germany Warns of ‘Loss of Control’ – Open Enterprise – concerned about NSA back door

“People just don’t ask for better anymore. I think we’ve lost the knowledge of how to do that”: Jeff Mills versus the modern condition – FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music.people just don’t ask for better anymore. I think we’ve lost the knowledge of how to do that. I assume that we’ve reached a point where that to expect more from entertainment is a request that often get over shadowed by the powerful marketing machines and the waves of popular persuasion

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

BMW’s Vision for the computer game Grand Turismo reminded of what performance cars should look like. It makes the styling of the original Audi Quattro look like a pacifist in comparison to its own aggressive styling.

BMW Vision for Grand Turismo
More information over at the BMW Group Pressroom.

Coca-Cola’s global campaign to reposition itself as a product that can be consumed responsively as part of a healthy lifestyle came up with this great looking advertisement from Argentina.

Ironically for the ad agency, the life on the righthandside looks suspiciously like agency life dressed up in a suit and tie…
Crossed web comic cover
Garth Ennis’ The Crossed has a free web comic from the franchise.

I love the eclectic selection of music that IF Music came up as their sounds of the summer which is Giles Peterson meets Balearic beats

That play list:

  1. Four Tet – Kool FM (Text Records)
  2. Michael Garrick Sextet – Prelude to Heart Is A Lotus (Gearbox)
  3. Dominick Martin – Valentia (Signature)
  4. Floating Points – Wires (Eglo)
  5. Fat Freddy’s Drop – Black Bird (The Drop)
  6. Itinerant Dubs – Spirit In The Underworld (Itinerant Dub)
  7. Ninja Tune & If Music Present – If (Ninja Tune)
  8. Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines (Startrak)
  9. Machinedrum – Eyesdontlie (Ninja Tune)
  10. Sampha – Dual (Young Turks)

I noticed this great animated toilet direction sign in Seoul:


Links of the day | 在网上找到

People Are Changing Their Internet Habits Now That They Know The NSA Is Watching | Co.Exist | World changing ideas and innovation

Jing Daily: Gold iPhone debate on WeiboTo speak the truth, when I first saw the gold iPhone, my immediate reaction was, ‘This is too tacky for me.’ But after a few minutes, I calmed down a lot–every time Apple makes something, it always smashes people’s existing notions and broadens the world’s possibilities. –  I guess everyone in Apple’s brand marketing can now die happy after that remark

Jolla wraps up its first production batch, but remains fuzzy on numbers — Tech News and Analysis

Yahoo #1 Web Property Again In US, First Time Since Early 2008 [Updated with comScore Statement]

Embedded Posts Now Available to Everyone- Facebook Developers

Yahoo, Foursquare In Talks Over Data Partnership – ok this could be an interesting contextual map: location versus mobile ads and behavioural targeting or even re-targeting

Millions stolen from US banks after ‘wire payment switch’ targeted – Networks – SC Magazine Australia

LG GD910 Mobile Phone – LG Electronics UK – I remember seeing Iain Tait with one of these before he went to W+K a number of years ago, that he got as a going away gift from a client. I guess that’s why the smart watch will have a bigger reaction from others than from me.

Don’t also forget the Sony companion devices for Android phones, the Bluetooth enabled G-Shocks and Microsoft Spot. Looking forward to the contextual device future

Ethnic minority consumers keenest on gadgets, reveals Ofcom study – mirrors similar patterns in the US

6 ways to use the new PR and social media measurement standards |

Samsung China smartphone revenues: lower than expected | BGR

Mark Cerny: The Man Behind the PlayStation 4 | MIT Technology Review – I’ve had decades to get used to the increasing complexity of video games. But these days children learn how to play games on iPads and smartphones, which are buttonless. So we have a gulf between the beginner players and the blockbuster game players

Groklaw – Forced Exposure ~pj – Groklaw has gone offline. It feels like the NSA is dismantling the whole of US geek culture. The bad news is these are the kinds of people who gave the US competitive advantage in cyberspace

Experimenting with WebGL

WebGL is a 3D language in the HTML5 standard. You can find out more about WebGL and it’s importance in web site development and 3D video by Brian Bourke. Nick Briz did this video on how you can create with WebGL.

More information
What is WebGL and why should you be using it by Brian Bourke | The Wall Blog play gnd

Links of the day | 在网上找到

3D printing technology deemed unprofitable in China| – however they are smart and will learn fast

Tech industry slips into a surprising slump – – not that surprising

Apple sucking triple the phone switchers as Samsung – report • The Register – BMW versus Ford….

Screw you, Brits! Google says UK privacy law doesn’t apply to it • The Register – it is the underlying form that is interesting Google is trying to avoid a precedent that would allow governments to rein it in country-by-country

What PR people need to know about online ad boycotts | The PRWeek Blog – really nice 101 on online advertising exchanges

Do Your Employees Really Love You? | Fast Company – failure of internal communications and employee engagement or reputation is as reputation does

Samsung, Sony Said to Plan Device Debuts Ahead of IPhone – Bloomberg – battle royale, my money is on Sony and Apple blindsiding Samsung

Musician calls for big bands to come clean on secret backing tracks – News – Music – The Independent

Stack « Mugi Yamamoto – I haven’t wanted a printer this badly since my old Apple StyleWriter II that I used at college and saved me fighting for IT resources in the college computer labs

The entertainment industry and online media: Pennies streaming from heaven | The Economist

TelecomTV | Gartner’s peddling its ‘Hype Cycle’ – yet more chance for them to get it wrong, I think that they have it a little bit off in terms of 3D printing

A helpful image sizing guide for social media profiles | Econsultancy – so useful

Headphone Compatibility with Smartphones – Lauri Cular | Headphone Reviews & News Blog from HiFi Headphones

Pay-Per-Gaze Advertising: New Google Patent May Reveal Plans For Monetizing Google Glass – interruption advertising or contextual?

Big Data: the backlash begins | Econsultancy

Happy birthday MIDI 1.0: Getting pop stars wired for 30 years • The Register

Microsoft to kill Tag barcode program, licensing technology out | The Verge – can’t say I am terribly surprised given the difficulties in printing Tags rather than QRcodes. Interesting the level of sunset period Microsoft has given it though in contrast to Google, Yahoo! et al

HBA Global Expo 2013 Recap – The Future of Beauty Retailing – Analyst Insight from Euromonitor International

Samsung Japan smartphone sales analysis: Sony doubles GS4 sales | BGR – not surprising given the lukewarm reaction to the S4

Facebook Study: User Happiness Declines as Facebook Use Increases | BGR

Daring Fireball Linked List: Microsoft on Google’s Blocking of Their YouTube App – for those of a technical bent over the age of 25 the irony of Microsoft complaining about access is rather ironic. The secret APIs in Windows that hampered Borland and Lotus or the campaign to crush Netscape spring to mind…

Gmail concerns highlight privacy disclosure challenges facing EU businesses using cloud services, says expert

BBC – Culture – Micro movies beat China’s censors – expect stricter government regulation of online video

James Surowiecki: Why Do So Many Jobs Pay So Little? : The New Yorker – or why can’t America have more higher value jobs?

Microsoft to bring Skype app to ‘front and centre’ of Windows 8.1- The Inquirer – interesting move that is going to make life difficult for efforts to shift units through wireless operators

China mulls probe into IBM, Oracle, EMC after NSA hack claims – report • The Register

Google goes dark for 2 minutes, kills 40% of world’s net traffic • The Register – sounds like the start of a Tom Clancy novel

Throwback gadget: Apple adjustable keyboard

Back in the early 1990s the PC revolution was under way as was related industrial injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. So Apple designed the Apple Adjustable Keyboard. At 219 USD, it was over 200 GBP when it went on sale in the UK, so I couldn’t justify buying one; especially as I was about to head off to college.
Apple Adjustable Ergonomic Keyboard
In addition to the steep price the wrist supports tool up a lot of desk space which made it unpopular with many people. Despite these failings it was a great piece of design from the dark period in Apple’s life.

Media industry reputational problems

Back in the 1990s when sampling was driving a lot of the creativity in music there was a big issue regarding hip-hop and dance music bands not playing live. Instead they would rock up with a backing track pre-programmed on a sequencer or recorded on to a DAT tape. It seems now that ‘real musicians’ are falling into a similar trap if allegations in the Independent are to be believed.

I think that this time the issue is different and a lot worse. For starters with electronic dance music there was an expectation that it involved computer replication and artists had a certain amount of opportunity to ad lib around the recording and make the live performance a difference experience. Rappers changed the lyrics, their DJ’s laid down some additional scratching on top, electronic brands changed the arrangements on the fly.

Secondly, in the 1990s the music industry had a cash cow in recorded media: the 12″ single and the CD album to bank roll it. Live gigs were promotional marketing. Now in a day of digital pennies rather than analog dollars for content; live performances are the bulk of the artists opportunity to earn.

Given that every performance is recorded on smartphones and broadcast to friends over social networks; any backing track mess-up is likely to become public very fast and cause a reputational issue for both artist and promoter.

More information here.

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week