Rethinking Microsoft’s Brand

A really really interesting project by Andrew Kim where he re-thought and re-designed Microsoft’s entire brand and branding system. And right now, the company really needs a shot in the arm.

Kim’s core hypothesis is that when you compare Microsoft to Google and Apple (the “big three”), Microsoft is perceived as outdated, slow, corporate, conservative, while its only positive brand assets are its gaming (XBox) and Kinect. Compare this to Apple’s brand that is centered on design and engineering, and Google’s that is focused on the search engine and “don’t be evil”.

From a visual design perspective, he addressed this gap by taking the “traditional” old school, antiquated view of a (four paned) window and looked at it through a different lens. He thought about it through a more hip, urban perspective and visualized how people look at windows on an angle while looking at a skyscraper from the ground and used that as the core element of the “new” brand concept.

Hit this concept up against the generally bland, Finland flag like new Windows logo and it is definitely a fresh perspective on where Microsoft/Windows could go.

The other day while at a local mall, I was surprised to see the Microsoft Store had opened up. And the thing that completely dominated the experience was the gaming consoles – XBox, Kinect, etc. The PC’s, phones and peripherals that Microsoft “owns” were taking up space in the store and were complete afterthoughts to the customers. To me, that spoke volumes.

via Waxy Links.

Get Rid of Huge Files in Gmail

If you are pushing the limits of your allotted Gmail disc space, here is a handy widget that can make finding those huge emails easy. Find Big Email is a simple web based widget for Gmail to help you get rid of those 3 year old emails with EPS attachments that are collecting digital dust.

Basically, you just submit your Gmail address to the site and Find Big Email does a one time scan of your Gmail account email account. From a security POV, it doesn’t ask you for your password. I don’t know the technical way it is able to scan your Gmail account, but I have not had any issues. More details on security questions related to the service can be found here and here.

Anyway, the one time scan then creates a set of labels based on the different file sizes of your emails and it creates some custom labels (Biggest, > 2MB, > 500kb, > 100kb) using Gmail’s advanced label/search functions that then populate your label list. Go to those labels and all the emails that meet those size criteria are listed right there for you to see. From there, delete away and clear out your digital email attic. The nice thing is that if you ever start to encroach on your disc space limitation sometime in the future, just click on one of these labels (“Biggest” emails or emails over 2MB) and all of those emails will be there to pick off and delete.

Google Is Seeking Alpha

Google is taking a sliver of its vast wealth ($33 Billion in cash on hand, I read recently) to search high and low for the “next big thing” out there. And at no surprise to this author, it is using algorithms and data sets to help it guide where it invests.

Google says the algorithms have taught it valuable lessons, from obvious ones (entrepreneurs who have started successful companies are more likely to do it again) to less obvious ones (start-ups located far from the venture capitalist’s office are more likely to be successful, probably because the firm has to go out of its way to finance the start-up.)

If I were them, I’d look at ways to improve battery life, remove our dependence on wireless carriers and cable companies, and develop a legitimate flux capacitor to promote time travel (ok, one of those is a joke).


Hangout With Customer Service

Michael Dell posted that he was intrigued and interested in having Dell try to use Google+ Hangouts for customer service.

The reaction to his post was overwhelmingly positive, with hundreds of comments agreeing that this would be a good idea for Dell. And the idea is indeed intriguing: Some customer service needs are very similar, so having a service representative talk to a small group of customers at the same time could be more economical than the traditional one-on-one call. Using video could also humanize tech support, and group settings could even initiate self-help between customers.

I think the service that could be delivered by features like Google Hangouts is very interesting, however I’m really not sure if I’m prepared to see a video of the service rep staring at me from my desktop. I don’t mind them taking over my desktop (a la GoToMyPC) to solve the problem but video seems a little too personal in this situation/user experience.

Googleheim Museum

Google is taking its popular site YouTube to NYC’s Guggenheim Museum. The search company will set up shop in the Guggenheim’s main atrium with all sorts of TV and video displays promoting the finalists from a recent promotion they ran.

The exhibition, set for October, will showcase videos from as many as 20 finalists of YouTube Play, a contest for graphic artists and users of Googles GOOG video site. A celebrity jury that includes Japanese pop artist Takashi Murakami and The Wrestler director Darren Aronofsky will wade through about 200 videos whittled down from thousands submitted in July.

The goal of this initiative is to try to re-position YouTube as a site/service that can cater to a more upscale, arts driven clientele and move it beyond the perception that its content is, er, lowbrow.

Keep Your Distant Facebook Friends

Interesting article about how keeping Facebook friends you have not spoken to in 25 years is a benefit to your real life social standing and social interactions.

A decades-old insight from a study of traditional social networks illuminates one of the most important aspects of today’s online social networking. In 1973, sociologist Mark Granovetter showed how the loose acquaintances, or “weak ties”, in our social network punch far above their weight in their influence over our behavior and choices (American Journal of Sociology, vol 78, p 1360). Granovetter found that a significant percentage of people get their jobs as a result of information provided by a weak tie. Subsequent studies have revealed that weak ties benefit our health and happiness. Granovetter suggested that this is because these friends-of-friends aren’t like you, yet they are likely to be similar enough in social outlook and personal interests to have a positive influence.

The article goes on to talk about how the explosion of everyone’s “loose network” of friends and acquaintances that are connected via social networks will create profound effects on social evolution. A study cited in the article from Cornell University stated that those who more frequently shared information online were more likely to be liked and to “win people over” in real life.

The most interesting element for me is how everyone’s ever expanding social network will prompt people to go to their network first for information, references, advice, support, and referrals. This is one of the main reasons why Google is so concerned about the ever and rapid influence of Facebook as a “go to” source of information over Google’s search engine.

All these social networks are a sociologist’s wet dream!

Oh, the Humanity

The interactive Google Pacman logo that celebrated the game’s 30th anniversary pretty much crushed productivity in the US on Friday. Using some pretty straight forward calculations, it’s been estimated that a collective 4.82 million hours were wasted on Friday playing the game on Google’s homepage. I’ve wasted two posts on the topic! Now get back to work!

Flash Forward

Here is a really interesting take on Apple’s recent war on Adobe and their Flash platform by Charlie Stoss (whom I’m not at all familiar with, but has written a nice piece here). His basic take is that the PC industry is in a death spiral (true), wireless broadband and the reality of SAAS/Cloud computing is here, and the companies that will be relevant in this new world order will be the ones that are able to control the delivery (sales) channel and sell the applications/software. In order for Apple to be relevant today and in the future, they can not afford to support a cross platform solution like Flash.

Apple are trying desperately to force the growth of a new ecosystem one that rivals the 26-year-old Macintosh environment to maturity in five years flat. That’s the time scale in which they expect the cloud computing revolution to flatten the existing PC industry. Unless they can turn themselves into an entirely different kind of corporation by 2015 Apple is doomed to the same irrelevance as the rest of the PC industry” interchangeable suppliers of commodity equipment assembled on a shoestring budget with negligible profit.

There is a massive steel cage death match going on in the tech world between Apple, Google, along with HP (now that it has Palm OS) and Microsoft. Microsoft’s head is so “in the clouds” they are rapidly becoming the Sears of the technology world and on the fast track to being “Walmarted” by Google. They won’t know what hit them until its too late (if that has not happened already). From its very early years Apple has always been one to have tight controls over its ecosystem and we are starting to see Apple’s transformation from a PC maker to a platform developer. They acquired Lala recently and just today, I received an email from them saying that they will be shutting their doors. Why shut such a great service? So Apple can seamlessly integrate it into iTunes, put all your music on the cloud, and turning a desktop app into software as a service that Apple can use to charge a monthly/annual fee. Take this model and scale it to everything Apple does. This is where it is going. With all the rapid changes taking place around media, data, technology and how people consumer information, it will be very interesting to see how this all nets out. The big wildcard in all of this? Google and its Android/Chrome OS.

Posted via email from Stephen’s Posterous

The Future of Display Advertising

…runs through Google. On the official Google Blog today, a “pat on the back” post about the future of display advertising, and the integrations they have launched over the past two years since the acquisition of DoubleClick. Yet another step towards ensuring that all significant online advertising will be run through either Google’s AdSense platform, or DoubleClick’s display platform.

I find it ironic that Google assails Apple for creating a “closed” platform when it comes to technology and applications via iPhone/iTunes, yet it is turning around and building just as closed, centralized a platform when it comes to online advertising.


So its been about a month in which I’ve owned my Motorola/Google/Verizon Droid phone. And I have to say that I am just loving this phone. But I don’t even think it can be called a phone, because the phone function is just one of many applications and features that the device runs. I’ve found the Android OS very easy and intuitive. The applications that I use are very well engineered and designed. There is deep and intuitive integration with social sites like Facebook and Twitter. When I first got the phone from Verizon, I didn’t have to deal with transferring information or setting up my contacts. I simply logged in with my Google Username and password and instantly, all my information was there ready to go. One of the slickest features is that whenever I see someone’s “icon”, I just long press on it and all the different ways I can connect with them slides into the screen – whether its email, IM, Facebook, or where their address is. It’s pretty cool. And the Droid’s much publicized killer app is its GPS Navigation application. It is just fantastic and just as good as any TomTom, or Garmin product (Note to each of them: be afraid, be very afraid). The Navigation app is fully integrated with Google Maps and Google Street View. I’ve used it several times and I have been nothing short of impressed. Since its open source, I’m hoping some enterprising soul adds an app so you can choose different voices for the Navigation’s audio.

With all the positives, there are a few items that I’d love to see them address:

  • With the Audio player, they should not allow two audio based applications to run at the same time. A few times I’ve had podcasts running and have hit music songs by accident and then had two things playing at once. If Podcasts are playing, you should not be able to play music and vice versa
  • The camera could be improved a bit. And the button to take pictures is on the screen, not on the hardware itself. So if you are taking a photo and you can’t see the screen/button, its not the easiest thing in the world to do.
  • Whenever I connect it to my computer, you always have to click on a button to enable it to sync with your machine. There should be a setting to just do that automatically.
  • The Keyboard is just ok. It could be improved, especially with its alternate characters and numbers.

I’m not going to go out and call this an iPhone killer…yet. But the Droid does everything I need, its easy to use, and its on the Verizon Network where you can actually make phone calls. In fact, the other day I left my iPod at home by mistake and I did not miss it at all.

Google Goggles

So yesterday I downloaded onto my wonderful new Googomotozion Android phone Google Goggles. No, its not an application to optimize drunken hookups. It is visual search. Basically, you fire up the application, take a photo with your phone’s camera, and Google will scan the photo and look up information on that item. I gave it a quick test run yesterday and I have to say I was blown away. But its Google, I would expect as much. I took a quick photo of my work Laptop, which is a Lenovo, and ran it through Goggles. Not only did it spit out information on lap top computers, it actually delivered results specific to Lenovo!! Impressive to say the least. So similar to the Barcode Scanning applications for Android and iPhone, this app has a wide variety of possibilities from commerce and product comparison, to just looking up something that you encounter in your travels. I look forward to trying this out on other things to see how it performs.

Three straight posts on Google, but they appear to be in product release mode these days.

New Google Calendar Features

I was adding a few appointments to Google Calendar this morning and saw that they have released some new and very slick features to their Calendar product. Now, when you set up an appointment, there is a mini calendar view that enables you to quickly, visually, see your calendar and what times you have available. You can then add the other people you want to invite to this view and see their availabilities, to find the best time that works for all people attending the event. It appears that the “attendee” has to have their calendar synced with Google Calendar in order for you to view their calendar, but this is ideal for Small Businesses or groups that are using Google Calendar and everyone in the organization uses the application. As you move the translucent “event preview” area (the blue striped area in the screen grab below), it changes from striped to a clear display depending on if there are any conflicts for the meeting time. Very slick. Here is a screen grab of it:


Google Launching Chrome Extensions

From Techcrunch, it appears that Google will be launching extensions for the Google Chrome browser.  I am a huge Firefox fan however from a web development perspective, Chrome is amazingly fast.  I can edit an area of my site and while it takes Firefox a few minutes for it to pull the update from the server, Chrome does it instantly.  It’s a significant difference and much faster.  If the Extensions for Chrome as as good and useful as they are for Firefox, this could get very interesting.  Google is taking over the online world!

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A DM Piece. From Google.

Google DM

Check this out. I got a direct mail piece from Google, offering me $100 coupon for AdSense. The poster child for the Internet and all things online and digital is using the old fashioned, dreadfully offline, less than 1% response rate channel of Direct Mail to drum up business. Oh, the irony.

One piece of feedback: I’d advise them to actually know the recipient’s name rather than addressing it to “Adsense Customer”.

A Challenge to Google?

This is a very interesting post about how Twitter search is dirupting Google from Silicon Alley Insider.

…time and time again disruptive business confuse adjacent innovation for disruptive innovation. They think they are still disrupting when they are just innovating on the same theme that they began with. As a consequence they miss the grass roots challenger, the real disruptor to their business. The company who is disrupting their business doesn’t look relevant to the billion dollar franchise, it’s often scrappy and unpolished, it looks like a sideline business, and often its business model is TBD. With the AOL story now unraveled, I now see search as fragmenting and Twitter search doing to Google what broadband did to AOL…

Obviously, Twitter is still in search of its business model, while Google is one of the most profitable companies in business. But the idea that something like Twitter could truly disrupt Google is a fascinating concept.

Google Flips Off Net Neutrality

Google wants its own HOV lane on the information superhighway so they can avoid doing more evil.

Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers.

The contentious issue has wide ramifications for the Internet as a platform for new businesses. If companies like Google succeed in negotiating preferential treatment, the Internet could become a place where wealthy companies get faster and easier access to the Web than less affluent ones, according to advocates of network neutrality. That could choke off competition, they say.

The above quote is the critical one here. Providing preferential treatment to specific companies on the Internet completely flies in the face of the principles in which the Internet was created. The internet is a series of tubes…no, sorry…was created on the principle of open standards for communications. It’s the great equalizer. After all the opportunity that the Internet has created, and is still yet to create, giving preference to bigger organizations would be a monumental step backwards. Come on folks, let’s not screw this up.

Beam Me Up, Scottie

You Tube is testing out some long form video. Its added several episodes of Star Trek, Beverly Hils 90210, and MacGyver in a very “tech-geek” influence choice of programming. Similar to other online streaming video, the episodes will have pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads.

Now I’m not terribly surprised by this move, you knew they could never make a decent dollar on user generated content. Advertisers avoid this like the plague. I do find this interesting for several reasons:

  • Google has been testing out digital TV advertising and reporting via Dish Network. Obviously, this is the next extension of that
  • The obvious popularity of watching video online and the digital convergence of over the air and digital TV. The fairly strong debut of Hulu, the joint venture from NBC and 20th Century Fox Studios, along with Joost is proving this out.
  • The challenges they have had in finding a viable revenue stream for YouTube.

If this ends up working, then the implications of this are wide and deep. Google has been dabbling in original content partnerhsips and I am sure this may give them some leverage in dealing with the studios.