Friday, 30 November 2012

Microsoft's Windows 8. Not delivering? Key moment in the life of a one-time giant.

The critical launch of Windows 8 for Microsoft didn't deliver the key bounce it expected, or so it would seem. Reports on Mashable indicate sales are actually down - 21% against 2011 numbers, since the October launch. Whilst it doesn't include sales of their new Surface Tablet and of course, holiday sales are ahead of them, it's still not a good sign. Especially since it's more than three years since the launch of Windows 7.

The advent of Windows 8 was expected to lift the market and Microsoft are really needing that bounce. Although during the week, Microsoft have blogged that they sold 40 million Windows 8 licences, this raised eyebrows on the retail reality ground and without detail of those sales, it's not clear what it means. Some of these will have been sold to hardware partners initially rather than sold on to users; some of them sold into Microsoft's own stores; some have been sold at a low price initially, so what will happen when the price goes up; and so on.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured) has said that their new Surface tablet sales have been "modest".

The PC market is of course, pretty dire at the moment anyway and one only has to look at HP awful numbers to see that, never mind Dell's continuing struggle too. The real growth here is in other multi devices (which Windows 8 does straddle to a point) and notably in business, a key Microsoft territory, where Executives now operate 2+ devices.

The PC issue explains why Microsoft isn't the power it once was. It had/has a monopoly practically, but in the wrong things.

Fundamentally too, having rumoured to have spent 1.5 billion usd on the Windows 8 launch, it hasn't had cut-through. Most of us are simply not aware of it unlike Microsoft launches of the past. So Marketing hasn't delivered I think.

The next few weeks will give a clearer picture but the retail buzz is not good and in that I'd trust. It is a critical juncture for the company, so we'll see.

In a lot of ways, make or break.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Samsung in the copying wars again. This time they're in court against Ericsson. They only have to lose once.

Fresh after Apple, Samsung now has another legal battle on its hands, against Ericsson. The Swedish company is the worlds largest marker of telecoms equipment and mobile infrastructure, going against the world's largest maker of mobile phones and is suing for breach of 24 of its patents. Ericsson say they re-invest about 15% of revenues annually in R+D so patents are real important.

You think it's a tradition in Samsung to copy? I wonder.... Have a look at The Samsung Commercial at the top of this blog and then the classic Apple Steve Jobs Ad that follows it (btw, voiceover is Richard Dreyfuss). Tell me it's not a copy? Please?

Samsung is the world's largest maker of TV's and cellphones but substantially lost a very similar legal battle to Apple in the US although won elsewhere, notably in Japan. It was claimed that South Korean Samsung, merely copied Apple designs and sold them for less. Samsung ended up paying Apple 1 billion usd and with all sorts of restrictions, following damages from patents on their mobile devices.

That Apple battle is still going on and now they have another with a company as large as Ericsson.

But South Korea doesn't have a rip-off culture? Or am I wrong there?

Ericsson is looking to block the sale of Galaxy phones, TV's, Cameras and Blue ray devices, so serious it considers the matter. If they won, all Samsung phones could be pulled from shelves. It's also a little bit more interesting because Samsung did ask Ericsson to renew licences at a much lower rate than competitors pay and Samsung say that it tried to strike a fair deal but Ericsson said no.

However, ongoing court battles like this against Samsung, have to take the sheen away from the brand which to be fair, has begun to dominate the world from nowhere. Their Galaxy 3 phone has sold more than 30 million units since its launch in May. They outsell Apple Iphones by 4:1 but they need to behave better. In this case, nearly two years of negotiation took place before the venture into court. 

Of course too, large techy companies will always be faced with continual court skirmishes - it goes with the territory - but Samsung seem to get into scraps more than most and it's mainly about copyright infringement. 

Samsung only have to lose once. Sure, fines they can pay but removal of equipment from retailers shelves will devastate the company and possibly finish it. You should never gamble with something that has the potential to collapse your company. 


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Fantastic new online Business starts today. Fresh Dish. Home delivery of ready-to-cook meals instead of ready-to-eat ones.

'Fresh Dish' launch in the US today with 500k usd in seed capital as another food delivery business. But this one isn't about ready-to-eat-meals but rather ready-to-cook ones. Clever or what?

They can be prepared easily and quickly (under 30 minutes) and directed at those who haven't got time to cook for their family and yet want a real, healthy alternative to Pizza and Chinese. It also skips frozen food too because you get a good, wholesome healthy meal delivered to your door at lower cost than the traditional take-away. Meal for two about 24 usd, meal for a family about 32 usd. Delivery is free. And it brings you back to the dinner table. How bad?

Basically it's ingredients that are being delivered based on recipes prepared to top chefs, without the fuss so you feel you're "doing your bit". Nothing is frozen and everything is pre-prepared so vegetables arrive washed/diced for example. Fresh Dish have also spent time on getting their packaging right, keeping everything fresh for up to 50 hours.

It also saves you the trip to the Supermarket and the whole notion of meal planning. And they're encouraging you to show your dishes on Social - Facebook, Instagram and tweeting how you got on.

An App also shows video as to how to put things together.

Seems to me to be a pretty good alternative to the traditional take-away and a healthy idea at that. Ordering online is the perfect solution and an App just adds to the concept.

Another start-up that's taking business from Supermarket retail. 
Why didn't they think of this? 
Maybe they're just a little too comfortable.

Like an awful lot of big players, they're not getting digital.
And we know what happens then, don't we.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Black Friday and Thanksgiving online sales surge up again. High Street Retail sales go down. Online is the main channel for Retail now, no doubt.

In case you haven't heard, one of the biggest online retail days is Black Friday, driven by the Thanksgiving holidays in the US. The biggest is probably 'Cyber Monday', the Monday just coming up.

This year, online selling/buying has been up dramatically with most reporting an increase of about +23% and well over a billion usd. Without a doubt, the biggest day ever. Over 57 million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday probably trying to avoid that "shopping experience" you can see in the video above.

Thanksgiving day itself was up +32% online.

Black Friday gets huge prominence in the offline world as a big traditional shopping day so the growth of online may be people wanting to avoid the crowds. Or just simply, the ongoing dominance of online at a retail level - everything points to this becoming the preferred channel for all products and even growing at a grocery level. Black Friday ordinary retail high street shopping was DOWN this year by about -2%.

It seems that Amazon have done best, followed by Wal Mart, Best Buy, target and Apple. Amazon just keeps posting higher year-on-year growth rates.

Top growing categories were Digital Content and Subscriptions,followed by packaged goods, video games and consoles and general electronics. But the highest shopped segment was Apparel, in other words clothes, accounting for 25% of all dollars spent. And they said you could never sell clothes online. Never. Ha!

This annual surge is certainly one to which all online retailers should take notice and try to capture some of the activity through special offers or discounts. Remember it's a global world now and retailers need to take heed of things that happen internationally rather than just their local calender.

One thing is for sure. Online retail is going to dominate shopping, no doubt about it. And if you're in retail, you need to be online. Very few of the leading Department stores in fact are and so there's opportunity after opportunity for new start-ups to take that business.

It's just waiting to be done.

Monday, 26 November 2012

30 million views in a week. An Ad for the Railway on YouTube. Zero media cost. Traditional TV Broadcasters better look out.

Almost 30 million views in a week (250,000 likes), greater than the population of the country it came from - Australia. In fact it's an Ad but also a public service announcement and trust me, they're very hard to get right. 

This, you're going to love.

Now tell me a commercial can achieve that amount of views, almost all unique? And at a media cost of eh, zero, nothing, nada. Traditional Broadcasters need to watch out. This is real competition.

This commercial, broadcast onYouTube, of course doesn't look like a commercial, but rather a piece of animation with a very original, strong music track made to look like an informational piece. In fact it's an Ad for the railway and again, something I know quite well.

I looked after Irish Rail (Ireland's national railways) for many years and helped developed many campaigns including one quite well known called "We're not there yet but we're getting there". I also worked on many safety campaigns for the railway including one called 'Head Height' created by the great John Walsh which won many awards. But this viral for Melbourne Railway, is something special.

Called 'Dumb ways to die', it's a real clever way of showing you how to behave around trains and does so in an amusing (listen to the lyrics) and visually entertaining way. Ideal for the kids who notably get themselves killed around railway tracks - so it will save lives.

Created by McCanns, the soundtrack is being played at railways stations to remind passengers and railway staff are seeing something they're not used to - smiles. So good for them and good for McCanns and good for Melbourne Railway.

They deserve every award going for cracking something as tricky. I know, I couldn't have done it.