— blending the mix


A while back, I postured that Microsoft had launched their coolest ever idea (touch-screen password control on their UMPC’s – although it didn’t make me cry!), they then usurped my ridiculous statement with the launch of Live Mesh, Worldwide Telescope and Photosynth to name but a few!

BUT, one thing that has been around quietly for a while, but only recently became available on the market has got me drooling: Microsoft Surface:

For fear of sounding like my good buddies and all round Microsoft fan boys 😉 , I use a Mac for work and home, don’t use a Windows Device (if I can help it), but boy…give me a Surface table and I would be in heaven.

Innovation Full-Circle
It’s a coming together of what Bill Gates said all those years ago about having a PC in every home but also, my thoughts of how Apple managed to win hearts and minds of their OS by controlling the look of the system their software came in. The machines look like the kind of object you might have in your house, or at the very least, are so pleasing to the eye that you wouldn’t object to having one in your house.

The introduction of the Microsoft Surface table puts not only fantastic technology into people’s houses, but does so in a way that is acceptable to THEM, a feat that I genuinely don’t think Microsoft has ever managed to do.

Not only will Microsoft be able to put a PC in everybody’s home, but it may well be the platform for them to deliver their innovative technologies in a much more acceptable way (I mean, images delivered to the table-top machine through touch-recognition of the device – imagine what drinks-makers could do with THAT).

Microsoft, if you are listening I would be happy to try a new coffee table out for you…I am in the process of redecorating anyway…

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I’ve been meaning to post something about David’s book for ages, but when Steve put up the Crowdsurfing video today, it kind of made sense to put it up today also.

David gives a pretty good summary to the Crowdsurfing by recounting the story of how Microsoft is allowing (and continues to allow) employees such as Steve and Rob to air their thoughts through blogs…and how the Blue Monster came about as a result.

Compare that to the way in which Apple manage their pr and suddenly Apple doesn’t look the cool company it thinks it is…

Enjoy. David…congratulations!

Book launch from David Brain on Vimeo.

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Something last week took me back to Steve’s post, and how PC design was turning the corner (despite IBM’s Thinkpad trying its best to bring back brick-based laptop design) and I decided to republish a post I wrote a year and a day ago regarding the “fad” that is Mac and why the battle Microsoft are facing is not with Apple’s software, but its hardware.

For some time now, I have underestimated the message behind the Mac versus PC ads.

Whilst the deeper message comes from largely listening to the audio – "macs are cool and easy to use and stunning and sexy and erm…well, just bloody better than the PC" (!!!) I think there is an greater meaning behind the actual look and appearance of the PC in the ads than is/has being/been discussed – and the issue is nothing to do with the OS.

When Apple talk about the PC, they actually mainly mean Windows – yet Windows has nothing to do with the design of the PC, so why are Apple knocking the PC? Is their OS actually so average that they have to knock something other than the Windows OS?! With Vista, Microsoft have brought themselves up to speed and have done a great job. It is more than a visual match for OS X Tiger and previews I have seen of Leopard does not seem to make much more dramatic steps ahead of Vista. But who also has control over how their product looks on the high street? Apple.

Microsoft’s biggest downfall, is losing/giving-up on/never having control of the dull, albeit improving presentation of the very machines in which their product is installed and as such, their OS gets tarred with the same brush. Even early Apple OS’s looked terrible, as did early Windows OS’s, but with design of the machine being so crucial to the Apple ethos, Apple have been able to control people’s perceptions of the software contained within – hence the dull, staid appearance of Mr. PC above. With good reason.

Would Ferrari be happy to put their engine in a Citroen C2? No.

Do Rolex package their unique mechanisms in a plastic case and strap? No.

Packaging is everything. And I am not talking about the box and wrapper!

With the Blue Monster representing a change in Microsoft’s approach to promoting itself as well as the market it serves, maybe it should also consider how the packaging of its product is seen too?

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Note: even though Silverlight didn’t work at the time, I was blown away with plenty in his demo (Seadragon, Deep Zoom, Mesh) so all good in the end!

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I got wind of this yesterday evening whilst in a sub-notebook Mac and UMPC frenzy and was utterly surprised at just how innovative it was:

When Bill said this week that touch was the future for Microsoft (but didn’t Ballmer say online advertising was the future?!) he probably underestimated just how far things have come since Samsung first launched the Q1.

To quote the origami blog:

Origami Picture Password allows you to login by tapping on a sequence of points on a picture; this not only makes it easier to login on a UMPC but also personalizes the login experience. You can choose your own picture and select points that mean something to you. It’s fun and secure.

Cute AND secure – very Apple!

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UK Windows Live Hotmail Product Manager Jo Wickremasinghe (god, I hope I got that right!) presented some of Microsoft’s latest developments regarding the addressing of spam and suggested what we as email marketing professionals can do ensure deliverability for our clients to Windows Live Hotmail (WLH) inboxes.

In short, Jo’s seminar was by far and away the most interesting (especially given the 60% market share WLH has!) so I have broken it down into smaller chunks.

Windows Live Hotmail:

  • Hotmail is now 10 years old and has 11.9 million customers making it the largest web-based email service in the world.
  • It accounts for 58% of all web-based email activity.
  • WLH handles 5billion messages DAILY of which >80% comes form unknown sources (not necessarily spam, but otherwise unidentified sources like COMPANY YOU who may not have authenticated yourself with WLH).
  • WLH handles 300 million active email inboxes
  • >1million new IP’s identified daily
  • <10% these IP’s are from recognised sources

WLH is strictly focusing on protecting the consumer – be aware. If you are not meeting their requirements, you WILL end up in the "bin".

Industry Lowlights:

  • Spam + Fishing attacks are up 40% since 2006 (of which 80% is from bots).
  • PDF, mp3 and image-based spam increased 30% since 2006.
  • "Pump+Dump" stock-market spam actually affecting share prices and providing indirect financial rewards for spammer.
  • Spammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated (and are great direct marketers).
  • Big brands and governments are being hit hard.

Industry Highlights:

  • Online travel activity has increased by 21% since 2006.
  • Banking, despite phishing attacks, has enjoyed 27% growth.
  • Increasing collaboration between ESP’s and legal organisations seeing more spammer being prosecuted. There have been 400+ legal actions since 2003.
  • Reported online fraud has actually reduced by 10.6% compared to 2006.
  • The reporting of fraudulent emails has also fallen by 50% since 2006 as a result of improved spam filters.

More later…

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Steve pointed me over to this tonight and I am amazed.

I feel like I have become a bit of a Microsoft evangelist of late, but my recent discoveries of their products have blown me away.

Check the screen shot out and look at the online demo.

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Steve Clayton point to Greg Stirling’s thoughts on the Microsoft buy-in to Facebook being about Live Search but I can’t help but think Greg’s quotation is wrong.

With the several billion-dollar investment and acquisitions MS has made recently in advertising and tying up with what Mr. Ballmer was saying about how Microsoft wants a significant stake in the multi-billion billion global advertising market ($60 if I recall rightly), I just can’t see how search alone is going to bring in the return that a $240 million investment requires.

On a simple level, it would require a fundamental shift in they way Facebook operates. I refuse to say the words "closed is the new open" but in this case I am ashamed to say it is relevant. 😉

Has Microsoft, with its 1.6% stake really got the influence over Facebook to push for the implementation of Live Search thereby allowing users to go and find content OUTSIDE of Facebook? I don’t think so. Facebook search might not be rocket science compared to Google but no search engine can understand Facebook better than that designed by the site’s very founders – especially not one which has taken such a pasting in terms of its ability to provide relevant results as Live search.

Let’s be honest, however good or bad Live search is, it has taken such a bashing by the critics that it is going to take a hell of a job convincing Facebook to permit its use as the search facility of choice.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing Microsoft, I find myself enjoying almost all the Live product suite – except search, because it quite simply doesn’t give me the results I know Google does. That said, Microsoft has bought itself into a significant position. Almost no other global players now have the ability to build a search and advertising platform based on our behaviour around social objects better than Microsoft does now.

I see Microsoft benefitting from the Facebook deal in one of three ways:

1) The Google Effect – cashing in
They hold out to see if Orkut bombs and Google decide it is better to buy Facebook at an inflated value than to miss out entirely. Microsoft then cash in their chips after learning how to advertise based on social interaction…unlikely.

2) Live Search and Social Context PPC – getting more revenue out of the same search
Microsoft learn about our interaction around "Social Objects" on social networks from everything they gleam out of Facebook. They then spruce-up Live Search to show far more relevant PPC ads based on so much more than keywords alone…getting wamer but unlikely…their portion of the search market is too small to generate the return that their investment would require. It is still PPC after all and there is a far wider use of the data going on in Facebook than better-targeted PPC can deliver.

3) Revolutionalise Online Advertising
As above but the resulting advertising solution they create will be as revolutionary to online contextual advertising as adwords/adsense (arrgh!) was to conventional banner ads…there you go, that’s where the money is!

Microsoft learn to target ads based on much more than basic demographics or site visitor numbers and make an absolute killing. They become the only people in the world who can provide an ad delivery system that is targeted according to information on social aspects in our life. In fact, so much so that a) we don’t mind the ads appearing in our social networks and b) we actually find the ads interesting (ok, maybe I went a bit too far on that one!)

If MS have bought into Facebook because of this last point, then I think we are in for a very exciting time. After all, look how much information we can already gleam from Facebook Flyers Pro…this is only the beginning.


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Techcrunch reports tonight that Microsoft are looking to invest between £150-£250million in Facebook for a 5% stake. This values Facebook at around £5billion! The WSJ reckons Facebook are holding out for around £7.5 billion – certainly a damn sight more than Yahoo’s original £500million!

Anyway, what makes this move really exciting is that it enables Microsoft much better access to something/anything that NONE of their competitors have.

  • Google blows MS away on Search and Online Ads.
  • Yahoo has display ads nailed
  • Microsoft has…Vista (to be fair, its Windows Live and office 2007 products rock!).

Microsoft is crying out for something in its portfolio that nobody else does and Facebook is that thing. Furthermore, I can’t help but think that becoming a bigger part of Facebook is a sign of greater things to come out of Microsoft – and it is all down to the one thing it doesn’t do very well at – advertising.

I can’t help but think that with access to so many social graphs at its disposal, Microsoft (with Facebook’s assistance) can’t learn enough to create a killer advertising platform that will be able to serve such contextual and massively relevant ads that it would blow anything on the market out of the water. And when it finds a way to create this killer contextual ad machine – it is able to serve them to the fastest growing social network out there.

Maybe I am simply finding some more love for MS after spending more time with my Dell laptop but I can’t help but feel that this is the start of a massively exciting road for Microsoft.

Either that or the little blue monster just can’t help mixing it with other little blue monster’s!!

UPDATE: WSJ is on the same line of thought as me:

But an investment in Facebook could give Microsoft or Google greater opportunities to tie their services in with Facebook at a time when they’ve both recognized that social networking is changing how consumers tap into their core activities, such as Web search and email.

The Facebook approach is also part of Microsoft’s urgent attempt to strengthen its ad "platform," which lets advertisers automatically place ads on Web sites and on Microsoft’s Internet search engine.

Then again, this news might be just as exciting.

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Mobile Web


Dave Winer, in his first-month report on his experience with the iPhone makes an extremely good obvservation about not just the iPhone, but mobile web browsers in general.

“there’s the limit of how much detail our eyes can see and how big our hands are”

And he is absolutely right. PDA’s have been around for long enough and developed by enough big companies for the product to have evolved into the perfect web browsing device – yet screen sizes remain largely the same as those of 10 years ago.

If screens on mobile devices really could be bigger and more importantly manageable, it is not unreasonable to believe that they would be by now – making a “one internet for all devices” situation highly likely.

OK, we all remember the infamous Microsoft Origami (UMPC) launch, but what has happened since? Barely smaller than a small laptop, are UMPC’s really the future of the mobile web?

I agree with Dave:

“It also seems we’re going to have a long-term discussion over whether it makes sense to have a “mobile web” or take the iPhone trade-off, more effort to use its web (lots of scrolling and pinching), but making the whole web accessible, mobile sites or non-mobile sites. I think what Apple has attempted is noble, but it’s not going to work.”

With the real promoters of mobile web (not surprisingly) being the mobile operators and therefore dictating the size of a) the device size b) the screen size and c) the mobile browser – a split mobile/static web can be the only direction for the foreseeable future.

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