Microsoft Strong.

    Technology Marketing

    Dumbed Down Utility.

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    Today The New York Times had a cover story on geolocation dating services. If you’re looking for a date and have a smart phone these new apps tell you who is nearby and available. Text, text, plan, plan and you can grab a drink with little social awkwardness. The services are Grindr, Bendr, OKCupid Locals, and How About We.

    I was a doofus at bars as a young ‘un and couldn’t walk up to interesting girls with a good rap. For someone in the selling business it was a skill I needed to work on. Had I an app for that, would I have learned the skill faster? 

    Here’s my take, socially inept kids hide in their cell phones. Heads down, active in the ether, they appear to be busy. Some kids feign being on the phone to look popular so they can troll for interaction, they hope will come their way. Not good. Unless these are kids who might never make it out of the house to begin with. I suspect that these geolocation apps will soon come with “sorry” buttons so users don’t have to deal with ending these pseudo dates.  Rather than look someone in the eye and say “Thanks for meeting with me but…” the daters will simply hit sorry and the app will ping the date is over. (I can just hear these unique ping tones, ringing across the bars of NYC in 2012.)  The human behaviorists and sociologists are going to have a field day with this stuff.

    We need to move beyond a dumbed down utility with apps and think about skill enablement and development. Peace is not an app. (Or is it?)

    IBM’s Unclean Idea.

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    Ogilvy is a great advertising agency.  Always has been.  It loves big ideas, big productions and big brands.  Lately, it has made a name for itself on services companies.  Other than American Express and IBM, I’m not quite sure what accounts they have – which is my bad, but partly theirs. 

    IBM’s “Solutions for a smarter planet” was a big idea. Already well entrenched with big businesses on the hardware, software and services (consulting) side, IBM decided that rather than grow by increments, it would focus on large-scale advances targeting countries and industries.  That’s some enchilada stuff, there.  “Solutions for a smarter planet” helped IBM take on the planets ills (traffic, energy, food) and showcase some future technology.  By going big, it covered small (corporate) and positioned IBM as vendor of choice for massive overhauls.

    Then the economy tanked. And companies started having a difficult time making payroll. And saving the planet lost a bit of luster.  Rather than returning to an advertising idea that supported product and services sales, IBM tasked Ogilvy with keeping revenue up by evolving the idea — the planet will be back at some point (knock wood).  Enter “I’m an IBMer, I’m an IBMer.” For the purposes of continuity (agencies are big on that) the campaign is tagged with “solutions” but focuses on smart employees.  Mistake.  It milks a campaign idea that is no longer the business idea.  Like the Microsoft Bing work that straddled two ideas “information overload” and “decision engine,” IBM is pushing an unclean idea.

    Come on Ogilvy, bring on the new work – the new idea. Peace!

    Leo’s Brilliant, Mistimed, Cloudy Future.

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    Today there will be lots of stories written about Leo Apotheker’s plight at Hewlett-Packard. And of the HP board, and potential replacements for Mr. Apotheker. One lens I like to look through when doing strategic planning is the “history” lens.  When viewed over time – a long time – will the company, product or leader have made a historic contribution?  Typically, that means looking at strategy rather than tactics.

    In Mr. Apotheker’s case, it is clear to me that his PR handlers were at fault.  His moves to purchase Autonomy, shed the PC and tablet business, and stop investing in WebOS were historic moves — looking well beyond the dashboard.  One might say, and say accurately, that when you put a software person in charge of a mixed media multinational, the road to the future is paved with software.  Mr. Apotheker saw deteriorating PC sales, reduced profitability in services (the cloud is getting not only bigger, but smarter), and device manufacturing (especially sans Steve Jobs) under enormous cost pressures. Think device kudzu.  Rather than stay and fight for integration of solutions hard and soft around his OS — which code-wise may not have been ready for primetime and perhaps at risk from new OS pushes by Microsoft and Apple — he decided to retrench with eye toward the future. Very ballsy.

    The cloud is the future. Device complexity will reduce over time and when it does, the cloud, run by software, will become the electricity of business. And that is where Mr. Apotheker was going. Sadly, he had a lapse in judgment and bad guidance and announced it at the wrong time and inelegantly.  Como se billions in lost shareholder value?  Some strategies (read historic) are better left unannounced. Is that not so, Mr. Jobs? Peace.    

    The Logged and Tagged Workforce.

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    Last winter I worked on an assignment for two of the world’s biggest brands (pat on back); one an ad agency, the other a software company.  And I used the following quote from Larry Ellison to help make my point about the logged and tagged workforce:                                                 

    “If you want to go faster and you want a
    system that is more reliable, you have to
    be willing to spend less.”

    Larry Ellison, Oracle, 9/10

    Because of technology and the powerful corporate drive to improve shareholder value, the once invaluable knowledge worker is more easily replaced in American business.  Those owners of corporate history, those who understand, live and propagate the culture, those who have seen good times and bad, are no longer a company’s strength. Their work product, however, still lives at these companies. Behind the fire wall. 

    Why?  Because if you have a log-in at a company and your work is tagged (searchable); any goober behind the firewall can come along and access it. Your replacement. A freelancer. An intern.

    Salesforce.com, perhaps the most successful enterprise software product of our time, is based upon the logged and tagged workplace. And it’s brilliant. It is not only a repository for all company sales data, it is a platform for the “logged in” to work more efficiently.

    This is no screed against technology. Or against two-tier pay levels. No poo-pooing of freelance nation here.  This is progress and we have to learn to manipulate it to our advantage. My recently graduated daughter has two jobs. One, at a low-ish annual wage, is for the benefits and experience. The other, at a restaurant, is for beer money. Were she really working the new economy and the logged and tagged workforce, she might have 3 jobs. And make more and in less time.

    These are exciting times. We need to see trends like the “logged and tagged workforce” and exploit them before our neighbors.  Have at it people! Peace.

    My Spanking by David Poque.

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    David Poque, a technology columnist for The New York Times, is a very interesting character.  He’s a thoughtful, important and market-moving purveyor of what’s hot and what’s not.  Sometimes his columns are a bit like a PC Mag review, but mostly they’re a fun Anthony Bourdain-like travelogue through the tasty streets of technology.

    I have seen Mr. Poque on public television and he has a subtle nervousness about him on camera that doesn’t come across in print… so if I were my mother and in an advice-giving mood I suggest he stay in print.  Interestingly, Mr. Poque’s public and private personas are a tad different.  I posted about one of his columns once with a differing point of view and it really rubbed him. (I advocated not providing in-box instructions with new products to save paper.) His angry and personal comment on my blog surprised — telling me there is a bit more to Mr. Pogue than meets the eye.  (A side that might be fun to read outside of the NYT guardrails.)

    My prediction:  Mr. Poque will either leave The New York Times within the next 3 years and create his own branded site or AOL will make him an offer he can’t refuse.  Yahoo could, but they have a lazy eye.  Peace.

    The Digital Triangle. The Perfect Start-up Womb.

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    The digital triangle, located in NYC, bears three distinct corners.  DUMBO in Brooklyn. SOHO in Manhattan. Union Square, also in Manhattan.

    DUMBO is where the coders are.  A youthful tech workforce who live digitally-centric lives, they are smart and have engineer-friendly minds. (A lot of gamer consoles burn out in DUMBO.) It’s a little men and boy heavy.  Union Square is where the money is.  Where the incubators are.  It’s where the DUMBO denizens with entrepreneurial spirit visit with their hands out.  It’s close to NYU and also has a lovely, youthful energy. Parking is expensive in Union Square but the smart money walks the streets.  SOHO is what makes the digital triangle different.  It is where designers, the truly creative and exceptionally beautiful like to call home. They don’t live there really, just work, shop and hang. If you can’t get inspired in SOHO with all its art, nubes, soft tacos, fashion, and vibe, you can’t get inspired.  All these neighborhoods are a subway or bike ride apart and feed off of each other. It is a perfect storm for start-ups.  

    Unlike Sand Hill Road (money), its surrounding neighborhoods of Menlo Park, Palo Alto, etc. (tech engineers) and San Francisco (ad people) the Digital Triangle is close but not really connected. The west coast likes campuses. It works but not like the digital triangle. As technology’s pull increases and more and more of the economy is tied to digital commerce, NYC will grow in importance globally and will become a tech capital with no peer. Just ask Fred Wilson. Peace.

    Bi-Polar Disorder at HP?

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    Leo Apotheker CEO of HP in a recent interview came off as a really smart, refreshingly calm captain of the tech industry.  You know the type, not smiling but almost, methodical and thoughtful in his delivery. Confident, not cocky. He knew his numbers, his trends, margins (everyone’s margins, in fact) and had a plan – a future-proof plan.  Use WebOs as the connective tissue for all computing and communication devices, bolstered by an enterprise cloud play.  Lovely.  Sprawling but lovely. Anyone smell an apple?

    Those who read these musings know I am all about focus.  That’s the brand planner in me. HP has been anything but focused over the last 10 years. A printer company. The world’s leading PC company. Outsourcing. Big iron. Smart phones. Tabs. And operating systems. But let’s not forget in the post Carly Fiorina era, this company’s financials have been smoking. So the company’s scale has been a positive.

    In a stunning announcement yesterday, Mr. Apotheker went on record as saying he wants to jettison tablets, smart phones and the WebOs as businesses, sell the PC business as a standalone unit and buy Autonomy Software for $10B. Normally, I would support this type of move, especially for a floundering company, but this almost feels other-worldly.

    The reported for the New York Times Verne G. Kopytoff (also sounds fishy) used words to describe the PC move such as “dump” and “unload.” What PR person was handling this briefing?   

    I understand the need for focus and I get the desire to increase margins through upping the software and cloud quotient, which by the way dials down the need for headcount, but this business move feels bi-polar. I wonder how the story is playing in the HP Personal Systems Group today?  Check the meds. Peace.

     

    Google’s All You Can Eat Strategy.

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    Google’s “culture of technological obesity” reared its really big head yesterday and the company in early 2012 will be getting into the hardware business — following its intention announced yesterday to buy Motorola Mobility.  We’re not talking a nail salon breaking out pumice stones and getting into the foot care business, were talking about a software company buying manufacturing plants, accountants to manage depreciation, thousands of other-continent employees, and then playing the materials engineering,  just-in-time game.  No Beta release here.  No limited invites here.  (I don’t know how Apple does it, frankly.)

    This is one bold, bold move. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t work.  There are hundreds of reasons it shouldn’t work, but no one reason.  The justice department had better staff up me droogies.

    Unless someone comes along and proves that mobile computing causes brain or pituitary cancer, mobile computing is here to stay and with one company owning the OS, device, search and funding (advertising), it feels like quite the monopoly.  And don’t think Larry Page doesn’t have his eye on Sprint or Metro PCS. Google can eat. And eat. And think. And plan. And spend. This is going to be one wild planet-changing ride! If there was a global, publically traded law firm, I’d say buy stock today. Peace!

    Google, One Step Closer to Trivestiture

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    In February of last year I predicted Google would split into 3 companies.  With its intent to purchase Motorola Mobility, announced this morning, Google is one step closer.  The point of my original prediction post was lost in favor of a searchable sound bite reposted by Steve Rubel: “Google’s culture of technological obesity” but that trivestiture angle may now take on some weight.

    This is a very big move for Google and will continue to blur the lines between hard and soft ware companies no doubt with an expected response from “Guess who?” Microsoft. (Look for a potential full purchase of Nokia within the year.) Mobile is so hinky and malleable right now I think the Android/Moto thing will work. And then open may be out the door — guess we’ll see.

    For all the tech prognosticators this announcement will create some serious buzz and take eyes off of Google+, a half-baked though still tasty cake.

    Como se wow!  September should be an interesting month. Peace! 

    Microsoft Office 365 Crack.

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    Microsoft is a pretty amazing company. Its roots are in operating systems with its second version (Windows) transforming personal computing. Blah blah, I know. But the real invention was taking very complicated technology instructions and creating a user interface that enabled regular people to navigate it, using the open and closed window as a metaphor.

    (Their new mobile operating system should be called Tiles, but that’s a story for another day.)

    In the 90s, Microsoft only hired the smartest people on earth.  It gave Mensa style logic quizzes to all prospects, figuring if  you populated your company with Harvards, how could you lose. And it worked for a while.

    But as the company evolved the Harvards — and please, I love Harvard, no offense meant — began to develop more and more products, the products became hugely over-built and complicated. Microsoft’s second most famous product “Word” has 88 features, or there about, with most people using only 12.  And that was okay because what you didn’t know didn’t hurt you.  But as the company moved into communications servers, SharePoint and other software ditties in the productivity world, usability became quite a chore. And a major impediment. If  it didn’t come with corporate training it wasn’t intuitive enough to pass the mass appeal test.

    Microsoft’s new cloud product called Office 365 is quite robust and has the ability to change the business world.  It’s the best of all MSFT products for the enterprise. The kind of stuff small businesses only dream about. But it’s overly complicated. It needs a beginner slope. A beginner product for small business that, like crack, will create addiction.  If they crack the code on a usable version of Office 365, a big if, Microsoft may just double its revenue. Peace!