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As a marketing analyst, my day is governed by digital media. My nights are equally dictated, as I am guilty of sleeping next to my phone, just like 83% of other Millennials. Tech-dependant as we are, I’d expect this “generation of digital natives” to be very fond of online experiences. In fact, according to statista, 85% of UK 16 to 34-year-olds used Facebook in 2014. Can we infer from these numbers alone that digital experiences are always the preferred choice by us Millennials? As you might have guessed, I intend to make it a tad more difficult by contrasting some digital vs. offline experiences:

Education: While traditional education has undeniable benefits such as direct peer and teacher interaction, over 6.7 million students were taking a minimum of one online course in 2011 – an increase of more than half a million year-on-year. Online education will enable people from poorer families or rural areas receive valuable skills. Interestingly, print reading is highest among 18 to 29 year old US students, according to a Pew study, as the text book layout benefits comprehension and distractions and skimming are less likely.

Work: Similar to traditional education, being physically present at work has huge benefits, such as your boss knowing what you are up to. However, home offices will be an important factor in juggling work and family, as a survey in the Microsoft whitepaper points out. Further benefits of home office are a less stressful environment, a quieter atmosphere, commute elimination and increased environmental sustainability.

Dating & Friendships: Dating apps allow us to roam potential partners whenever and wherever we want. Some portals such as EHarmony and OkCupid ask personal questions that supposedly match you to people with similar opinions and interests. Therefore, online dating is a form of offline speed dating, as you don’t have to waste precious minutes getting to know someone to figure out later that their love for cats doesn’t match your allergies. Digital, in this case, gives you a wider range of opportunities, while you will most likely want to meet your online encounter in real life before getting married. Regarding friendship building, technology also works as a facilitator. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 57% of US teens have met a new friend online, with 30% having made more than five. Due to their love for video games, boys are more likely than girls to make online friends.

Family: Most of us can speak from experience that being around your family in person is superior to a Skype call, where the video quality is sub-par. Nonetheless, apps and platforms allow us to reach out more often and share little, yet important moments as well.

The endless list of things we do online includes mobile banking (enabling female farmers in Africa build their own businesses) or sharing hobbies, such as cooking, sports, art and photography. Due to Instagram filters, everyone can now be a “photographer” and we can share our successful or not-so-successful cooking experiences with the entire world. We can also share calories burnt after our first mile or half-marathon and make our Facebook friends envious. Most of all, we can find people who share rare hobbies such as a fondness for pigeons. It’s much easier to find like-minded people online or strangers to talk to confidentially. Privacy goes both ways online: you can be anonymous and share fears and thoughts, but at the same time, you can gossip and insult others without being identified. Negative factors seem to increase online where it is also much easier to voice your opinion to a greater audience. The latest incidence being the refugee crisis in Europe, where a lot of celebrities voice themselves supportively online, but allow fans with negative sentiments to comment and reach this wide audience as well.

As it turns out, the digital landscape is widely complex. Deciding on what experiences are more enjoyable online is further hindered by factors such as your audience’s background, preferences and motivations. As the recent Economist article “Myths about Millennials” points out, “individual differences are always bigger than generational differences.” One should not make assumptions about a group of people just because they were born in the same time period.

Generally speaking, however, digital is always better. Not because we replace real experiences with digital ones, but because digital adds options to our means of communication. Every communication tool in history has had its pros and cons, but the tools have been improving over time. Improvement meaning enhancing communication, bringing us closer together. We started with smoke clouds and can now communicate with people on several continents at once and in colour. We want to share information and experiences – sad moments, achievements and joy. Yes, there are still many improvements to be made, technically and personally (be it privacy issues or us constantly looking down on our phones while walking in the streets). Ultimately, communication is what we’re all about and digital communication is a further added benefit along the way – and not just for Millennials.

After this peek into the facets of digital, I want to invite you to join W2O Group’s PreCommerce Summit that is part of London’s Social Media Week, to further expand your knowledge. Hear industry experts talk about marketing’s future and share your opinion on whether digital is always better. You can RSVP here: http://w2oevents.com/

Like a few folks, I’ve been interested to hear what Microsoft would announce at this year’s Build Conference. At the beginning of the year, the company highlighted the unified code base that Windows 10 will bring. You can take a look at this Techmeme snapshot to get a good sense of what news the company shared yesterday. Microsoft’s strategy continues its focus on getting Windows 10 on as many devices as possible, to the tune of having it run on over 1 billion devices within the next two to three years.

So, how do they plan to get there? Several different ways: 1) By offering free Windows 10 upgrades to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 consumers 2) By offering developers two software developer kits (SDKs) to help port over both Android and iOS apps and 3) By offering the maker community Windows 10 on Internet-connected devices 4) By winning new Windows 10 customers on the operating systems own merits and finally 5) By enticing corporate customer running Windows XP (really) and Windows 7 to upgrade to Windows 10.

Windows 10 - 1 billion devices

Some of the above tactics to grow the user base will be easier than others. One big question mark is whether developers will bite on porting their iOS or Android apps to Windows. While I’m glad to see they didn’t go the emulation route, it’s still going to take some convincing on Microsoft’s part. Another variable is how much effort porting these apps will take. We’ll see. Corporate OS transitions always take years, and these days IT decision makers have a lot more options than they did years ago. It remains to be seen how the general public will perceive Windows 10 overall, but the negative perception of Windows 8 is there and will have to be overcome. On the easier to execute side, offering free Windows 10 upgrades to consumers for a year will definitely help the cause. Also, there’s a good chance that Microsoft will have success with the maker community/ Internet-connected devices for one main reason: the security expertise that Microsoft brings to the table. Yes, lack of security is a huge problem in the Internet of Things space. Poking around SHODAN for even a few minutes shows just how big of a problem.

Marketing opportunities aside, the race to 1 billion exists for one reason: to attract developers back into the Windows fold. Developers write apps for the platforms where the most customers are. That’s a fundamental reality that has driven the tech space for decades. Smartphones and tablets have altered the landscape a bit in that they’ve created app ecosystems, but the game is still about getting developers to write for iOS, Android or Windows. Beyond just lots of users, Microsoft has created a unified code base around Windows 10, which they refer to it as the Universal Windows Platform.  Essentially, that means a developer can write (or now port an iOS or Android app) a single app that can run on a PC, smartphone, tablet or Xbox with minimal tweaking, while preserving a consistent user experience. That’s what Continuum is all about. Here’s how it will work on next-gen Windows Phone hardware:

If you’re a diehard Apple or Google fan, why should you care? Because solid competition paves the way for innovation. That’s why I say the tech space is better with a strong Microsoft. When companies innovate, it keeps pressure on their competition. In general, that means more capability for end users.

Looking at Microsoft’s competition, the Apple train continues to roll on. Their recent Q2 earnings confirmed a staggering 61 million iPhones for the quarter. And all those iPhones are by far the biggest chunk of Apple’s $193.5 billion(!)  in cash. With Android, Google continues its dominance in terms of smartphone volume worldwide. According to IDC research, surpassed the 1 billion unit mark for an 81% share of the mobile OS market. While new Chromebook offerings have some level of traction, seems to me that Google is more vulnerable in that it doesn’t have a foothold in the desktop OS space like both Apple and Microsoft.

Will the strategy work? No way to say for sure. Like I’ve said many time before, there are no guarantees in the tech space. Microsoft fired its best shot yesterday at the Build Conference. Time will tell, but in my opinion, it looks like a pretty competitive one. And that’s good for all of us.

mike marinelloAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Next up is Mike Marinello, Head of Global Communications, Technology, Innovation and Sustainability at Bloomberg.  For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Michael is a member of Bloomberg LP’s corporate communications team, currently responsible for a cross-platform positioning and reputation effort that he created for the Technology, Innovation and Design organization at Bloomberg (R&D and Office of the CTO). He recently also created and now leads Bloomberg’s Brand Integration efforts, working more strategically and pro-actively with the entertainment industry. Before moving to Bloomberg LP, Michael managed the brands and created the communications operations and social and digital platforms for both Bloomberg Philanthropies and the C40 Cities Climate Group (at the time Chaired by then NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg). Prior to that he was at Microsoft for four years, working in communications for Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), and then running communications and analyst relations for Office (enterprise).

Now onto the interview:

You’ve had an interesting journey career wise including stints working in politics and a VERY large software company. Can you tell us about your journey?
It has been an interesting journey. I never started out with a specific plan. Well I actually had one initially. From the time I was in seventh grade I wanted to be an architect. I took private study and all types of classes and went to Lehigh University as an architect major… But when I actually started to study to become one – for real – I didn’t like it at all. So I dropped it and moved to International Relations. Yeah, that was the last time I ever had a real defined career plan. But I digress… Seriously though, while my path does not look linear on paper, each experience led to the next either directly or indirectly. So for me it has felt like a natural career path from the US Senate, to a Microsoft consultant, to building my own agency practice at GCI and then head of Corporate Development, to starting the corporate PR function for Becton Dickinson, to being in-house at Microsoft and now my transition from creating and running comms for Bloomberg Philanthropies and C40 to my current job at Bloomberg LP. While not initially intended, the one constant has been creating, building, growing and expanding a communications operation. Those experiences have really taught me the business – and business value — of communications. Not a lot of people get that chance. But I have led a professionally entrepreneurial career, love that part of my work and have enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. My Mom once asked me why I do what I do, and I told her “because I get paid for being me.” Which doesn’t suck. (That was her response…)

Your talk at PreCommerce is going to focus on turning communications outcomes into business values. Can you give a preview?
Well, it goes back to what I was just saying. Having had a long history of building and running communications operations, I have learned great lessons about the business of and business value communications brings to a company, a brand or a client. And I think that gets lost a bit. I stumbled on it, so trust me I’m no genius. Maybe just fortunate to have learned it early. Our discipline – primarily those new to it – should think of ourselves as business units not strictly service centers. So I hope some of what I talk about will get folks – even if just a few – rethinking their approach to creating business value, not just communications outcomes.

What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
Well you know me, and I have always been a huge fan of storytelling so it is not new to me or more important than say a decade ago. However, what is exciting to me is that we have so many different ways to tell stories and reach our audiences directly and unfiltered. That is exciting and something that constantly challenges me and my team – to be more creative and innovative in our approach because we now have so many tools and outlets to tell our stories. The trap to avoid however is telling the same stories on multiple channels, or at least trying to tell them the same way. What works on Twitter, might not work on our blog or Facebook, or it might work but it needs to be retooled for that audience and platform. That is the challenge we face every day – what’s the platform, what’s the audience, how do we tell the best story keeping both in mind…

How do you see the world of communications evolving over the next five years.
Wow. No idea. Really… What I’d like to see though in five years is a whittling down of social media platforms. There are too many right now, and I think there is a lot of noise and activity and not a lot of outcomes. So I’m hoping in the next five years we have a shake out of the platforms that really matter and those that don’t. Sure there will always be disrupters. I love that. But I just don’t want to see more of the same… Honestly though as practitioners –no matter the number of platforms– we still have to understand the different platforms and utilize the ones that are most relevant to us either because of audience or business objective. So even though I’m hoping to see fewer platforms (does that make me lazy? old? both?) our need to understand them and utilize them accordingly won’t change.

I know you attended SXSW last year since you were at a number of our events. What was your biggest takeaway?
My biggest take away – and I’m serious here – is that the Pre-Commerce event proved to be a great “community event” re bringing like-minded comms professionals together to listen to and learn from one another. That was great.  So I would love to see a “comms startup” community spur from this year’s event. Quarterly maybe? Bloomberg/W2O sponsored? Also, my biggest takeaway was that I should have paid more attention to the gaming thingy going on in the room. I paid no attention and ended up coming in like second place. Had I actually paid attention maybe I would have beaten that dude from Coke. Did I just say that? Is this mic still hot? Wow, I’m just riffing now and failing miserably at everything I ever taught in media training classes… Next question.

What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
Not sure, but I just pray it isn’t “Big Data” – I’m “Big Data-ed” out quite frankly…

I tuned in to listen in on some of the Windows 10 details Microsoft shared last week. They shed light on features users can expect when the company rolls out the operating system later this year. Before last week’s news, Microsoft had already made it clear that  a big part of the Windows 10 strategy is to unify the code base that runs across devices.  In case you didn’t follow, Terry Myerson’s post on Blogging Windows does a good job highlighting a lot of those features. And if you want to dig further into some of the news, here’s a page on Techmeme that highlights much of the online activity that happened soon after Microsoft’s Windows 10 event. One of the biggest aspects of what Microsoft announced: Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for the first year after it is commercially available.

Microsoft Windows 10 details

So, why do this? It’s the simplest way to a large user base. And that’s key for attracting developers. Microsoft is offering  the free Windows 10 upgrade to licensed users of Windows 8.1 (and Windows 8) , Windows 7 and Windows Phone 8.1. A few numbers to consider:

I couldn’t find confirmed numbers of Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 users. But even without them, getting a fraction of the millions of users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free will help Microsoft get more developers on board. There’s no question Apple (and Google) deserve much credit for changing the PC landscape. These days, developers and the platform apps they write are the key to success or failure of a platform. Much of the shift Apple started was getting developers to focus on mobile and tablet app development for the iPhone and the iPad. Google has also attracted legions of programmers to write smartphone and tablet apps, but there’s no question Apple still has a big lead in getting developers to write tablet-focused apps for the iPad. It’s been well-documented  that Microsoft is behind here, both in terms of getting developers to focus creating apps for Windows Phone and tablet-optimized versions of those apps. While the nature of apps developers write has changed, attracting developers to code for a platform is still the name of the game.

Years ago, long before Windows 8 was ready to ship, I wrote a post that Microsoft’s Windows 8 gamble just might work. Back then, I thought the plan was to ship Windows 8 with a unified code base. We now know that will happen with Windows 10. As everyone knows, there are no guarantees in the tech industry, even for well-established players like Microsoft. When you look Microsoft’s plans to complete development of its next-generation operating system and that it will roll it out as a free upgrade for many Windows users, and you compare that to their recent moves to offer Microsoft Office on Android and iOS devices, no one can accuse the company of playing it safe.  It may be too early to say Microsoft is cool, but it is clear that Microsoft isn’t afraid to change the way it does business to change with the times.

It’s no secret that over the last few years, the relationship between Microsoft and Nokia has been getting hotter and heavier. It all started about 2 years ago when Nokia announced that it would be launching its new Lumia devices equipped with Microsoft’s newest METRO OS. Many felt that the move would pair two of the once great platform leaders and position them for success against growing Android and iOS dominance. The original device received a lukewarm reception but showed potential. The devices smooth lines reestablished Nokia as a strong industrial design alternative while the METRO UI showed that Microsoft finally figured out mobile. With the purchase of Nokia, Microsoft now has a hardware platform to take its OS to the masses and level the playing field with Android and Apple.

What this means for us:

More options:
Microsoft will undoubtedly release a number of new handsets and try to get them into the market with all carriers. This would likely translate into higher subsidies for new devices and they try to grab market share. Implications for Marketers and Brands: Start looking for Windows to take a stronger market share and adjust platform development accordingly.

 More Apps:
The Zune marketplace will finally have enough action to become a viable app store. While the marketplace does have a number of solid apps, they fail when it comes to the more common ones that you’d expect (surprisingly, think Instagram). This expansion will likely mean more apps will show up in the marketplace as new deals are struck. Implications for Marketers and Brands: Start looking at distribution on the Zune store as well as paid media options for Zune specific apps.

A change in the mobile experience:
The METRO UI is notoriously flat and devoid of a lot of the shadows and textures and works within a Grid system ( notice anything interesting apple). While iOS 7 is moving in that direction, METRO also brings more information to the forefront with active tiles. Implications for Marketers, brands and designers: as the market changes, the design of apps and interfaces will need to adjust to meet the need. Also with live tiles, apps will need to be created with that “always on” approach in mind.

 Mobile payments power:
With Microsoft stepping into the fray with its own device, their control over how those devices are created will expand. Integrating a payment system into the devices will be less of a conversation to be had with an OEM and now sit firmly in the hands of the OS developer.Implications for Marketers: We will finally be able to start thinking through mobile payment solutions as something at is within reach.

Multichannel integration:
Microsoft Mobile and Xbox were made for each other. Now that there is a robust platform, Windows METRO users will undoubtedly link to their other home devices (xBox one), and we can expect Microsoft to expand on this with other home devices that can integrate to the phone.Implications for Brands: Start thinking seriously about home integration and second screen functionality.

The end of Blackberry
If the writing on the wall wasn’t clear enough, It should be now. The last place player at least had its own handset. something that is much less of an issue now. Also, Exchange has a very high level of adoption, ands much lower price point for integration over Blackberrys proprietary email delivery methods.Implications for users: throw away your blackberry – if you haven’t already.

All in all, this purchase, looks to push an industry forward that may have become a little too complacent. Speaking personally, Ive always seen the METRO UI as being fairly innovative and its good to see if finally having a dedicated and suitably stylish shell.Please share your opinions. I’d love to continue the conversation as the deal goes through.

 

During my Microsoft days, it was sacrilegious for me to own or support anything produced by Google. They were the arch-rival, the antithesis of establishment, and the pesky yet incredibly agile innovator. These days I fancy myself as an impartial tech enthusiast and avid believer in free market forces, and like my fellow Austinites I can barely contain my excitement over Google Fiber’s expansion into the heart of Texas. From this marketer’s perspective, the rising tech-tide will lift all boats.

Infrastructure costs/timing/regulations aside, let’s assume the Google Fiber announcement signals a not-too-distant future expansion of affordable broadband to the masses (Google or any other ISP). Consumers and brands alike should have plenty of reasons to rejoice. I’ve explored only a few of the reasons below, but as always I’ll welcome your feedback.

CONSUMERS

1.  The entrance of new broadband technology puts pressure on established ISP’s, which drives down cost, boosts service quality, and ultimately drives more rapid innovation

  • Benefit: affordable and flexible internet, cable, and wireless plans
  • Caution: the hidden cost is privacy, Google now knows EVERYTHING about you

2.  Ubiquitous connectivity leads to the genesis and availability of value-added on-demand services and applications

  • Benefit: a fully-connected and “always-on” home, internet in every device in every room and on every street corner, startup paradise
  • Caution: “with great power comes great responsibility” – once again buh-bye to privacy

3.  Enhanced digital access leads to greater interactive and connected experiences for events, products, and services

  • Benefit: adding a social “surround sound” to your favorite shows, concerts, and shopping experiences
  • Caution: human social interactions regress exclusively to six second loops and 140 characters

BRANDS

1.  Expansive broadband will enable rich, high-fidelity media options, ultimately enhancing commercial experiences and customer touchpoints

  • Benefit: videos, banners, and ad placements won’t be device or bandwidth dependent, technologies such as augmented reality can flourish
  • Caution: brand saturation and customer intrusion, focus on consistent/relevant vehicles and messages

2.  Increased interactivity –> bigger data

  • Benefit: digitized dialogue can lead to loads of data, which can be distilled into insights revealing unmet customer needs, market opportunities, and competitive activity
  • Caution: data and insights are not synonymous, and organizations can drown in irrelevant datapoints

3.  Organizations can separate themselves from competitors with the adoption of digital collaboration tools, which will be critical for partnerships, employee and team dynamics, and customer connection

  • Benefit: no longer will you be constrained geographically for access to talent or customers, face-to-face interactions can literally happen anywhere, any time, on any device
  • Caution: as Marissa Mayer discovered, remote-connectivity may actually depress productivity, and sometimes there’s no substitute for the good ol’ fashioned water cooler

Google’s investment in Austin perpetuates our reputation as one of the most innovative, vibrant, and exciting cities for commerce and entertainment. We have a unique combination of academic thought supported by The University of Texas, and an active, diverse, and growing population of progressive thinkers, resulting in rapid startup incubation and corporate growth. You couldn’t design a better petri dish for invention and investment. South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, and Formula One may be the most recognizable symbols of our city’s distinctive culture. But those of us living here know that beyond all of the bells and whistles, it’s really just a damn cool place to be.

(Check out the video here)