Technology Marketing

    The Marketing Morass that is Google+.

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    “It will change the way people work, share and communicate” is a sentence we’ve heard hundreds of times. And a sentence we’ve read in ads, thousands of times.  This sentence was used in an article today to describe how businesses will use Goggle+ Circles.  According to the same article Google+ is a social network, like Facebook. It kind of looks like a clean version of Facebook but acts more like Twitter, organized to feed information of those one follows.  Then again, it displays pictures and videos in the feed as does Facebook. The buttons and apps in the side margins of Google+ are cool, offering the ability to gerrymander friends and acquaintances into groups and also to do video chats through an exciting feature called hangouts (which I have yet to try), so that feels new — but kind of hidden.

    The product managers at Google say Circle and/or Hangouts will change the way people work, share and communicate, and they could be right – but not based on the current mish-mash of free hand messaging in the market today.  Google+ released to techies in Beta because techies thrive on confusion.  They eat it for breakfast. But for the rest of the web Google+ still doesn’t have an Is-Does and so is compared to Twitter and Facebook.  The killer application (video circles) is underutilized and under understood.  I do believe video hangouts or cirlces (or whatever they are) will be a game changer – especially in training and education and problem solving.  But right now the whole Google+ thing is a morass of huh.  Were I Google, Google Labs or BBH, I’d be working on a Super Bowl ad (I know, it’s against their better judgment) that distills the Google+ value and showcases the ease of multiparty video chat to the world.  Google+ was a horrible name. A lazy name for what may be a huge product in 3 years. If properly brand managed. It is still a product in need of an Is-Does.  Peace!

    Blogger Turned Entrepreneur.

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    I first ran into Marshall Kirkpatrick in the blogger’s room at the Web 2.0 Expo in 2007.  At the time he was writing for ReadWriteWeb and one of technology’s top 10 bloggers; in the rarified air with Michael Arrington, Robert Scoble, Malik Om, Erick Schonfeld and Jeremiah Owyang.

    Sitting in on start-up product pitches for a living must have been hard.  Then under deadline, having to write about it, explain it and prognosticate — even harder. One would imagine that people like this would have at some point aspired to be involved in a start-up. But not so much. Mr. Kirkpatrick is an exception.  His company is called Little Bird.  If I got the Is-Does right (I sat through a webinar yesterday) Little Bird is a Social Monitoring 2.0 tool designed to help find category Posters rather than Pasters. The tool feels really smart at first pass.  

    Seeing hundreds of start-up presentations over the years has prepared Mr. Kirkpatrick for the “life.”  The funding period(s), naming, first hires, code-fests, Beta testing and pitching. And more pitching.  His tech blogging background does not insure a successful tech startup, though it certainly should give him a leg up. I applaud his derring do and look forward following Little Bird’s progress.  (Nice name by the way.) 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.

    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.    

    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?)

    The Rending of HP.

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    Meg Whitman, who is the CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, it seems to me, doesn’t have a marketing bone in her body. She is amazingly successful and a brand unto herself, but marketing is not a major care-about for her. If she cared she would have fought harder to keep HP together and invest into the PC and printer businesses. (Are you reading this on a PC? Is it 6 feet from your HP printer?)  Instead she split the company and took control of something called Hewlett Packard Enterprise, a huge battleship of a company with a stodgy, clunky brand, positioned around an idea “Accelerating Next.” Como se 1990s?

    Of the two diverged companies I’m kind of liking the PC and printer business, branded HP Inc. Its new CEO Dion Weisler seems a marketeer. He understands it all starts with a product and has smartly dialed up R&D resulting in some laptop forms that are beginning to create excitement. His printers are offering up consumer care-abouts like lower cost ink and faster printing. It also appears he’s a bit of a showman — introducing some laptops inside one another, as with nested Russian dolls.   

    When you think about it, Mr. Whitman got the business brands and Mr. Weisler got the consumer brands which was probably a good plan.

    That said, I always bet on a business person with marketing chops.  Let’s see what the future of these two brands bring.

    Peace.

     

    Hewlett Packard. To Whit.

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    Raise your hand if you think computers are going away? Raise your hand if you think the design form of computers will continue to change? Now quick, name 4 computer brands.

    If HP wasn’t among those listed, I’d be surprised.

    Where the R&D at?

    If I were to count every word of every story about Hewlett Packard over the last 5 years, I’m betting the words research and development doesn’t appear in 1% of the search. Why is that? I’m sure they’re doing some R&D, but they can’t be investing in it in a big way. In the PC and computer businesses, I’ve yet to read about any of their design or form breakthroughs. So what are they doing. They’re playing business Monopoly. Moving pieces around, marketing old stuff, managing loss and going to dinners.

    There is a huge, huge pot of money in computing. The design form is changing and is certainly not yet done. And HP is busy lounging around with the world’s second leading computer brand.

    Next year at CES, HP should quietly in stealth mode launch something big. With all the other big guys not playing in the CES sandbox it would be a highlight moment. But only if they were to launch something out of their R&D garage that mattered. (Como se Make it Matter.) Come on Ms. Whitman. 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!

     

    Yahoo! And Yippee.

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    I half disagree with Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!’s new CEO,  about Yahoo’s challenge.  When asked the question “Does Yahoo needs to define whether it is a technology company or a media company?” she responded “It’s not the right questions.  The most important thing is to give end users something valuable, inspiring and delightful that makes them want to come to Yahoo! every day.”  With that part of her answer I completely agree. But the way to get there — is to become content-focused.  In the NYT article Ms. Mayer’s quote came from, an eMarketer analyst suggested that Yahoo doesn’t own the operating system or the device and that there may not be enough room in the market for a 4th mobile platform. (I hate the “P” word, you can drive a truck through it.) Whatever he meant by platform, my take is there will certainly be enough room in the mobile world for a great content provider.

    Ms. Mayer accurately feels that mobile is a growth zone for Yahoo!. If she provides content that is mobile ready, not technology ready – she will grow. Technology-enabled (other people’s technology) content is her north star. Any apps or start-ups that result are gravy.

    This gem just needs a little cleaning off. 700 million people can’t be wrong. 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.