Today, we find plenty of instances where clients want us to build websites that are highly dynamic in look, but not in functionality, such as animations that make the simple web pages more attractive.
The first thought that comes to mind when considering the addition of embedded videos, games, interactive graphics, etc., into a website, is the use of Adobe Flash or just “Flash” as it is more popularly known. Flash has been around since 1996, and with their popularity, various facilities and friendly plug-ins, Flash improvements have helped developers worldwide build fantastic websites. However, there are some drawbacks to these Flash improvements that have caused developers to seek new alternatives. Thankfully, a new alternative has come – HTML5. With its open source platform, easy access with mobile phones and other features, HTML5 has gained tremendous popularity in a short period of time. Interestingly, people have started comparing these two technologies, and we are seeing a great deal of discussion about Flash versus HTML5. (continue reading…)
Last year Microsoft introduced the world to an up-and-coming technology called “Project Natal”, its Xbox appliance that enables gamers to interact with Xbox games without any hand-held controllers. This week at the E3 conference Microsoft is finally introducing it for delivery this holiday season. But as part of all of the fanfare, Microsoft officially named the device “Kinect”.
Now, “Kinect” is actually a good name for the product, and the device has the potential to be incredibly successful, but that’s not the point of this blog post. Rather, I’d like to muse about the strategy to use one name for the many months leading up to the actual launch, and then change the name just before the launch. Microsoft has always done that with its operating systems. For example, Windows Server 2008 was referred to as “Codename Longhorn” from early 2005 through August, 2007, when Bill Gates announced its official name in anticipation of its February, 2008 release.
Although that might be fine with operating systems, especially those designed for the corporate server market, Project Natal – er, uh, Kinect – is different. It is a consumer product, not a corporate one. And 2010 is not 2005. When Microsoft announced Project Natal in 2009, it released a video showcasing its capabilities. That video has been on the Top 10 viral video charts every month since then. It has received millions of views, and virtually every gamer has heard about it. Moreover, forums and social media sites have been abuzz over it non-stop.
In other words, social media is the name of the game in 2009/2010, for those companies who know how to use it well. Microsoft certainly did use it well this past year, getting the whole gaming world knowing about and discussing their upcoming product. But they didn’t hit a home run because of their naming tactic. Some of that branding value will now disappear because the word “Natal” no longer exists for Microsoft. They absolutely can – and will – spend lots of money to imprint the new name in people’s minds, but a more nimble and cost-conscious company might have come up with the final brand name a year ago. Then they could have gotten their branding done for them without a massive advertising campaign (allowing that money to be used more effectively elsewhere).
Domus is a marketing communications agency specializing in integrating social media, digital, and traditional advertising and PR into effective brand strategies. For more information, please visit us at http://www.domusinc.com.
Microsoft might well have hit a home run with its Windows Mobile 7 announcement this past week at Windows Mobile Conference, and well into the 9th inning at that.(Nice baseball references with Spring Training just a couple of weeks away…) Although the first phones based on the platform won’t be out until the fourth quarter, they seem worth waiting for. The user interface looks sleek and fluid, similar to the Zune’s. Strong support for social media, photos, music, and videos is built in. Even some XBox Live integration is included. And for business users, the phones will support mobile versions of Office, including OneNote and SharePoint.
Moreover, Microsoft has not yet announced everything. At next month’s MIX10 event in Las Vegas, they will probably announce Silverlight 4 support for Windows Mobile 7. More specifically, they’ll probably announce that Silverlight will be the native platform for Windows Mobile 7 application development. That unleashes a huge army of .NET Windows developers onto the market, and it also means that Windows Mobile 7 phones will have full rich media web capabilities.
Coming into 2010, it seemed like the Apple recently announced iPad was going to be the year’s technological game changer, but the real game changer might be Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 7 phones . It will be a long wait for the fourth quarter, but an interesting one.
From one perspective, 2009 was a difficult year for Microsoft. It lost overall market share in the browser wars, MS-Office was being challenged by Google Docs, and Windows Vista was still being attacked by users and especially Apple. Overall, it missed its profitability targets and it was forced to do some cost-cutting (read: layoffs). Many have been saying that Microsoft has started its decline.
However, another way to look at 2009 is to look at the company’s actions in response to the changing marketplace. The most successful companies are not always the ones who lead the innovative charge, but the ones who keep building on their own and others’ innovations, responding one step at a time to consumers’ desires. Microsoft, in fact, is famous for this – most of their major products became industry leaders only after four or five generations of updates.
So how has Microsoft responded to the competition and marketplace in 2009? The list is pretty impressive. On the legal front, Microsoft successfully got the European Union to stop bullying it (for now) – it just dropped its antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. On the product front, Microsoft introduced new versions of Silverlight, a new HD Zune player, a new version of Internet Explorer, a completely revamped search engine (Bing) with a continuing stream of new features, a Bing App for the iPhone, and its Surface computing hardware. On the partnership front, Micrsoft signed significant deals with MySpace and Yahoo, and it launched a significant WebSpark program for small developers. On the advertising/promotional front, it launched massive campaigns supporting both Bing and Windows 7, it consistently posted some of the most watched videos on the internet, and it opened the new Microsoft Stores. And, on the R&D front, there are advances for the XBox (Project Natal), a new version of Office (Office 2010) with web-based availability, a possible new tablet computer (their Courier Tablet), and new work on IE 9.
Microsoft is certainly not standing still. And if 2009 is any indication, 2010 will be another interesting year. Anyone who discounts their competitive potential is making a mistake. In fact, most companies who are struggling in this recession should exude the same energy as Microsoft in updating their products and services to fit the changing marketplace. This is not a time for complacency.
Microsoft consistently scores well in its overall internet marketing efforts. It’s regularly has one or two videos in the top-10 viewing lists; it gets wide-ranging online news coverage; and it has large social networking interaction. But a close look at their traditional advertising campaigns shows where they are lacking.
Often, brand management’s marketing intentions are hidden on the internet because there are so many things going on at once and so many of them are outside of the control of them. However, in the offline world, where marketers have total control over their message and its distribution, their strategies and tactics become much more transparent.
And that’s where we see Microsoft’s strengths and weaknesses. Let’s look at three of their current campaigns.
- Bing – I actually like this campaign a lot. It stakes out a brand position for Bing vs. Google – Bing is a “Decision Engine”, not a search engine. And it tries to make the claim that there is too much clutter in results pages with search as we know it, but not so with Bing. Microsoft has a number of hurdles to overcome with their product vs. Google and with Google’s overall presence, but at least they have focused their product design and their marketing effort around a grounded brand position.
- Windows 7 – I don’t know what to say about this. What is their brand position? What is their message? People are PCs? People designed Windows 7 while showering? (And of course, who can forget those memorable Windows 7 launch parties that they promoted?) Contrast their ads to Apple’s. Enough said.
- Xbox – For a company locked in a major battle for supremacy in the gaming console business, Microsoft has been relatively quiet on this front. Their gaming division is finally profitable and they have a great product, especially with their Xbox Live service. I would think that now’s the time to ramp up their efforts. No effort is sometimes worse than bad effort.
Microsoft’s Silverlight platform has been gaining ground as a rich internet platform. The installed base of Silverlight has been consistently growing, reaching over 30% of computers this summer. Moreover, Microsoft recently released version 3.0, which adds many new features for developers and media providers. For example, Silverlight 3 (and Microsoft’s Media Services 3.0) supports streaming video in high definition (1080p). And in 2010, Microsoft will enhance digital rights management (DRM) capabilities, making it easy for content providers to distribute their media digitally. Moreover, Microsoft is pushing Silverlight along many other fronts. It is now supported on the Xbox and on a number of Nokia phones. It will also be supported on all Windows 7.0 mobile phones (2010).
Silverlight is fast becoming a great cross-platform development platform. And Microsoft is making it easier for legions of individuals and small businesses to develop Silverlight applications by giving away development tools under its WebSpark program.
The next 18 months should prove very interesting in the number and type of applications being developed and delivered using Silverlight. The possibilities available to marketers should be just as interesting.
Domus, Inc. is a marketing communications company based in Philadelphia, with a development network that includes expertise in a number of areas, including Silverlight. Please visit our web site at http://www.domusinc.com.