Friday, 10 August 2012

Microsoft's first hardware venture, The Surface, launches October 26th. Already it's causing problems.

On October 26th, Microsoft will launch its new "Surface" tablet and on the same day, Windows 8 and Surface will run on Windows 8. It's their first venture really into hardware.

In reality, this is Microsoft's attempt to take on the Apple IPAD and head-on. A ridiculous thing to do and as you'll see from the video above, shows no innovation, no creativity. Although the tablet market is in growth, there's plenty of other spaces where Microsoft could have gone - Book readers for example against The Kindle - but oh no, Microsoft want to take on Apple.

Its introduction was announced in June by CEO Ballmer and now we have an official launch date, which has also upset its hardware partners. Acer said it was "negative for the whole industry" and it's assumed there's an underlying threat that Acer (and others) might abandon the Windows platform. If I was them I would, so would you.

After all, Microsoft were their partners, now they are their competitors.

One of the potential propositions of Surface, is that it will also replace your laptop. With an innovative keypad, multiple data ports, a kickstand and with an effort to draw in developers to produce Apps, it does move towards laptop replacement. Techcrunch have their hands on the device and actually were quite impressed with it. But that's not the point, it's the problems a venture into hardware manufacturing causes.

Another big issue is that it would seem Microsoft have adopted a closed selling distribution (not unlike Apple who sell through Apple stores only) forcing resellers to order directly from Microsoft. The lack of stores will prove a problem never mind the actions of upset retailers.

So it has caused major issue with hardware manufacturers who were also Microsoft partners and now channel resellers. 

It would seem they have a good product and possibly a switchover product for laptops therefore, with an opportunity to target business users.

However, the loss of retail support and the irritation of manufacturers (whom Microsoft need for Windows sales) seems a less-than-thought-out strategy. In a brazen attempt to take the Apple Ipad head-on, they've left gaps because hardware production, is not something they know. Apple do.

And that's the problem that I've seen many times.

If you're good at something, stay with it and consider long and hard, the effects of moving into a new space. I know enough about Microsoft's demise to lack confidence in their ability to pull this hardware venture off as I have blogged before here

There's an old saying in business.
Stick to the knitting.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Rumours abound of Apple's entry into Social Media buying The Fancy? Or Pinterest?

There's no doubt about Pinterest being loved - it's not - it's adored.
Without a doubt it is THE Social Media site of the decade and being so visual it can actually be beautiful. (Have a look at Pinterest's Streamabout pins for example!

It's very much a sharing site for photos that really started mid 2011 and in May this year, raised 100 million usd valuing it at 1.5 billion usd. Some success.

Although its growth has slowed a bit in June to about 16% (still fantastic), it is on its way to be the 4th largest traffic site in the world after Google, YouTube and Facebook

Apple on the other hand, the highest valued company in the world, sitting on billions in cash, have lacked one thing - Social Media. Apart from Social Media bringing "members" in its own right, it also gives Apple a chance to showcase their products. If you own the's easy to promote the Social element and especially on Apple TV due late 2012 (yes, they've already sold 4 million but officially it's launched later this year).

The New York Times, a credible news source, indicated Apple were actually in talks to buy Twitter recently but they didn't go anywhere. An indicator of Apple's desire to get into social.

Apple also has to use its cash to invest. There's no point in sitting on it.

And so it was always felt that Apple would acquire Pinterest to deliver a Social site, but also because the style of Pinterest seemed very similar to Apple. It just made sense.

In fact, if rumours are true (and they're very strong, led by Business Insider), Apple are about to buy Pinterest lookalike, The Fancy. In some ways that's not fair comment because The Fancy has been there first (so the lookalike is actually Pinterest) but The Fancy is more like Ebay with better pictures. Kind of like an Instagram with a cart. No, I don't like it.

It's a shopping market site since, if you "fancy it", you can buy it. In today's crass world of monetisation, it does the job and with Jack Dorsey of Twitter fame, Eric Eisner (son of Disney's Michael Eisner), Chris Hughes (one of the 500 claimants as a Facebook co-founder) on the Board, it probably ticks all the investment boxes. But Pinterest it just ain't.

The Fancy is considered 2 years old and only has 20 employees yet the rumour is more than strong that Apple are about to acquire it. Apple CEO Tim Cook, notoriously social Media shy, opened a Fancy account and that started the guessing. Reportedly worth 100 million usd it's reported to be generating 10,000 usd a day in sales.

There's no doubt about Apple's need to get into the Social space - it will come and there's no doubt they have the cash to do it.

For me, The Fancy is not it. It's too small and too "commercey" to be able to scale more than it is. And it's just all too ugly.

I've no doubt on the rumours - I've heard them too much - but sometimes a company will do that in order to negate a target's value. In other words to show that it has plenty of options.

The Iphone 5 is due out on September 12 too (by all insider reports) and Apple have a lot riding on it, so it's a busy time to be looking at acquisitions just right now. Another reason I'm doubting it.

No, I think this is an Apple game.
Pinterest is the target.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Visa 100 million usd Olympic Sponsorship goes pear-shaped. Social Media backlash follows.

I was very taken by David Jones commenting on the BBC regarding Visa's sponsorship of the Olympics. David is CEO of Havas, a large multi-national ad Agency group.

Visa have paid 100m usd to sponsor both the Olympics since 2010 Winter Olympics and including the London games. I agree, a significant sponsorship.

But in return, Visa insisted that it was the only credit card with which you could buy tickets or that were acceptable as payment, at all Olympic venues. Visa actually replaced 27 ATM's at Olympic sites with 8 of their own.  

In David's view (and mine) a big mistake, because it irritated people who went to pay with other cards. Some were left unable to pay at all because they'd no Visa card. Presumably because Visa think that's a good result in forcing customers to get one! Whereas, the more likely result is that the customer will say that they never will! Those disappointed customers are already tweeting about it.

And Visa went to the trouble to "rub it in" by having Point of Sale material (as shown above) beside retailers saying "proud to accept only Visa"(!). A ridiculous twist and poor advice.

Ron Delnevo of the UK Payments Council said the move appeared to be designed to "compel those visiting Olympic venues to use only Visa cards. The Olympics are going to be cash-starved by design. This is plainly unacceptable in a world where 85 per cent-plus of all transactions continue to be made using cash.The Olympics do not belong to any sponsor, however much money they have paid for brand awareness" reported in The Telegraph.

It actually prompted a statement from The Office of Fair Trading in the UK which contained in summary;

Based on the OFT's initial assessment of the facts at its disposal, the OFT proposes not to open a formal investigation at this stage. This is because the OFT considers that the aspects of the sponsorship arrangements under consideration are unlikely to give rise to material consumer harm. Therefore, the OFT has decided not to prioritise this matter at this stage. However, it does not rule out investigating the matter in the future should there be any evidence of material consumer harm going forward.

Which doesn't help anyone and it would seem to anyone, that a restrictive sponsorship deal such as this one, is the antipathy of "fair trade". Anyway.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, according to The Guardian, on the other hand said: 

"We think it's outrageous that some UK sports fans should be discriminated against in this way. We want the London 2012 Committee to take steps to ensure there's a level playing field and that UK consumers have equal access to the Games, whether or not they are Visa cardholders. If it doesn't, we'll call on the government to step in."

Whilst everyone accepts that spending that kind of money is deserving of some direct 'return on investment', annoying people won't do it - despite the sponsor wanting certain rights. Visa's image has been prominent at the Olympics and it will be damaged over this.

As David Jones said;

"But to actually go to the extent of only allowing Visa payments to be made at the Olympic stadiums and sites, to remove all the other cash machines that are non-Visa actually starts to really annoy people.

"And there are lots of signs around the Olympic Park saying 'we are proud to only accept Visa'. This is so out of touch with what is in people's heads.

"My view would be that Visa will probably end up damaging themselves through what they have done, rather than enhancing the brand."

It has also meant the start of a Visa backlash on Social Media which doesn't just target Visa but also The Olympic Council who agreed to these restrictive deals. Rightly. Because if you take the sponsorship too far, it will ultimately damage the brand and Social Media is now the outlet to do that.

According to a Visa online statement;

Visa Inc. (NYSE: V), a proud and long-standing worldwide sponsor of the Olympic Games, today announced that it will extend its Olympic Games sponsorship for a period of eight years. 

In renewing its sponsorship, Visa will retain the rights it has enjoyed since 1986 and remain the exclusive payment services sponsor and the only card accepted at the four Olympic Games that follow London 2012 Olympic Games, including the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and the 2020 Olympic Summer Games.

So it will go on until 2020. Pity.

Because Visa will ultimately suffer for such a restrictive deal.
They, like so many other large corporates, forget the power of Social.
Ask NBC.

(And as an aside-

David Jones also mentioned British Airways 'London Calling' as being the example of advertising for the games given that it asked people to stay at home and not to travel. 

"They kind of get the gold medal for understanding their target group - that people aren't going to be wanting to travel away when this amazing event is happening. And I think they show they actually get what is in people's heads."

I couldn't agree more and here it is if you're interested.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

TuneIn. Internet Radio with 22 million in funding, 40 million monthly listeners, growing 267% pa, coming soon. Radio is changing.

TuneIn, the online radio service has just raised 16 million usd from VC's on foot of the 6m it has already raised.

It's using this capital to scale the business worldwide and in other words, bringing their station to local markets - such as Ireland + UK - and promoting it directly to advertisers. In the same way that Irish advertisers and UK ones can advertise in US online paper The Huff Post - media has become cross boundary, quickly.

TuneIn has 40m active users (listeners) a month and growing at a rate of 267% a year, by offering free access to 70,000 stations and unlimited programming. Stunning.

Irish stations 'Today FM', 'RTE', 'Newstalk', '104', 'Q102', 'Clare FM' are all there. And I noted 'play fm dublin', 'dublin coast guard', 'radio kerry', 'radio ri-ra', 'the freak', 'triplag', 'athr', 'beat', 'dublin city fm' and 'dublin physics live' are already there too (!) with some I hadn't heard of (triplag, athr, freak etc so good for them starting their own online radio presumably without the need for a licence or BAI interference. Breakthrough! And I hope existing stations start to demand their BAI money back because they can no longer police this). 

But so is everything you could possibly want to listen to. Global Sports being one clear winner.

It's almost back to the concept of 'portals'. And a recent study reported on the reliable Mashable reported that 42% of US households with internet access, listened to streamed radio. Of course, they also continue to listen to AM/FM but in the younger segments of 18-35's, it's in decline. They prefer to hear their radio online and with the advent of good, wireless streaming audio boxes it makes sense.

Internet streaming devices (as well as tablets and iphones) are replacing standard audio equipment and so, internet listening will increase and eventually, take over. It has to. As indeed TV will go exactly the same way.

I would imagine that a radio 'portal' idea like tunein is going to find some way to distribute its listeners (streams they're called) across various channels and then share that revenue. So you might buy a million streams in Dublin from the tunein sales office who in turn, will get some of these provided by RTE, Today FM, Play and so on because no single station can deliver solely that number of ads.

If that's the case, you now have stations sharing in advertiser revenue sold by tunein, rather than generating their own. RTE (Ireland's state broadcaster) no longer selling its own inventory? Interesting idea.

The development of internet radio is here and now starting to attract good funding. Online listening will grow (it has to) and will overtake AM/FM listenership. That's not even arguable.

So stations now need to promote their online offering (which generally here are so poor it's hard to believe) and encourage online listenership. They also need to forge alliances with large global players such as tunein.

Local radio stations need to get ready and get onboard.
The internet is coming.
Take heed from those who've ignored it in the past.
Have a look

Monday, 6 August 2012

NASA Mars Curiosity landed 531 GMT and broadcast online and a great success. Live link is here.

You'll forgive me a short blog because apart from it being a Bank Holiday weekend in Ireland, it's also that the Nasa "Curiosity" has landed on Mars today. Incredible.

So far, everything is looking good and pictures are already back. It was streamed live at 530am GMT and amazing to watch which shows the power of web broadcasting. This is one of the first pictures.

And some more

(The last one is a joke. Really.)
Amazing too that ironically today is Neil Amstrong's 83rd birthday.

It's a real pioneer project that's really been promoted and broadcast online.
Really a true internet project with plenty of youtube video and dedicated web followers. They're broadcasting live but it's so significant, they're broadcasting live to the big screens in Times Square NYC. Some saying this is the greatest space development since 1969.

You'll get it here in the NASA TV excellent website.

Having difficulty, try here
Or here

It landed at 532 GMT but you'll find exactly where it is at any given time here$SERVERURL/content/documents/msl/edl.xml but you'll need Java.

There was the infamous "7 minutes of terror" whilst they awaited to see if it all worked out, nearly 3 billion dollars later. It takes 14 minutes for a signal to reach Earth from Mars being 154 million miles away. It will then seek out of evidence of life on mars. I'm 100% sure they'll find George Burns giving a concert.

Curiosity will be investigating for 2 years and it's part of President Obama's pledge to put people on Mars. This will lead the way.

It is a triumph of man's science and engineering.
And a triumph of webcasting because you cannot see it live anywhere else.
And a triumph for America who lead the way in space.

Even if it all failed, it will have opened the door to the next explorers because every explorer in history, had a bad day. As someone wise once said, it's far better to have tried and failed, than not have tried at all.

So they had to take a risk with money and effort.

The world just changed.