Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Do not write Microsoft Off!

Google is cool. Facebook is cool. Salesforce.com is cool. So is Twitter.

SAP? Oracle? HP? Microsoft? Forget about it!

We have a common tendency - out with the old, in the new. But as Microsoft has proven over the past year or so, Elephants can dance! Let's examine some places where it has been playing catch up for a while, but now seems to be getting somewhere:

1. Windows Mobile - One of the biggest announcements of MWC? The announcement of Windows 2010. With integration with Zune AND XBOX Live, Microsoft seems to have gotten the concept of a phone for the user (rather than the enterprise) right finally. As show in this screenshot, Windows Phone has a rather cool tile based dashboard for messages, people etc. which can help you keep on top of your social and work life from the same place. And with a Windows Phone probably being something easier to digest for IT Departments than the iPhone, I think it will be a strong contender in the Mobile Space. What is the one factor that can prevent it from succeeding? Apps.

2. Search - I like Bing. Not more than Google, but so many parts of it are easier to use. Especially the Image and Video Integration that is so much easier to use than Google, combined with restaraunt reviews from Yelp and the integration with Farecast, Microsoft Bing is a strong contender for sure.

3. Windows 7 - I tried to load Windows Vista as a virtual machine on my MacBook. It sucked. Windows 7 worked beautifully. Enough said.

4. Cloud - The cloud is where the future lies, correct? Well, yes and no. I like MSFT's strategy of three screens and a cloud. Why? Just like how Blogs did meant a decline in magazines, but NOT the end of magazines, I believe that the cloud will coexist with desktop applications. A lot of systems - especially Enterprise systems that are not super compex, like Email, should move to the cloud sooner than later. More complex systems like ERPs might follow long long after, especially given the investments companies have in existing installed versions. But would everything move to the cloud? I am sceptical. I like Steve Blamer's recent comments on how he doesnt see cloud as one big opportunity for Microsoft, but more as a necessary layer of all the other big opportunities that Microsoft has ahead of it, namely Search, Natural Computer Interfaces, Advances in Personal Computers, Enterprise etc.

So my final take? Apple, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook and salesforce.com. All will do well, in their own way.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Do Social Networks make for better advertising?

I have read numerous articles mentioning how Social Networks make for really lousy places to advertise, and generate high quality traffic as compared to search. It makes sense to some extent: when you are searching for something, you are somewhat more likely to be ready to purchase something from the category, rather than when you are just looking at which of your friends did something stupid on Facebook.

So what advantages do social networks have, that they can use, over search? I feel that Social Networks are more tailored to brand advertising than direct response advertising. In what ways? I feel that Social networks can do this in the following manner:

1. Innovative advertisement format - Social networks have the ability to tailor the ad formats and ad copy, based on your unique profile. For example, I have seen advertisments on Facebook that say 'If you are a 29 year old male in Illinois, and looking for car insurance, click here.' Now the ad is not particularly targeted at 29 year old males, but just the fact that is mentions that makes me notice it more

2. The user mood - I believe there is hidden potential in social networks predicting a user's mood based on their last post, and tailor the type or content of the ad based on that. This could be done in several ways. For example, a commercial for beer when I am expressing anger, disgust, frustration might be powerful.

3. Responses to user posts about the Brand - For example, if I post 'Delta Sucks' (it doesn't, I quite like Delta Airlines actually), Delta could serve me an ad, or even better, American Airlines could serve me an ad. Would this ad lead to an instant purchase? Probably not.

4. User profile data - Ads could be targeted based on user profile data

So what plagues growth of more brand advertising on social networks? Perhaps the right metrics. A Bain study focused on this aspect, proposing metrics more relevant to brand advertisers, and creating more segmented offerings catering to requirements of direct response marketers and brand marketers respectively. Who is likely to take the lead on this? No doubt, Facebook. With an intense emphasis on monetization, I predict that we will see some significant new developments in the next year or so. I look forward to it.