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Meg Whitman has one of the toughest jobs in America. She runs HP and has spent the past year attempting to fix what is broken or stale.  The HP brand, known by all, owned by all, is experiencing stasis during one of the most exciting times in all of tech-dom.

The HP “Is-Does” is clouded; covered with a glauchoma-ed gauze. Amazingly, a couple of years ago, in the years following Carly Fiorina’s ouster, the company was humming along.  

The last great brand idea HP had was “Invent.”  Don’t get me wrong, they’ve had lots of great ads over the years and many excellent agencies, but not much with brand ballast.  Invent was actually developed under Ms. Fiorina’s watch, however ended up being little more than an idea.  The company did not truly invest in or operationalize it, not the way Apple did. Or Google. Or the media socialists.

Stanford, MIT, Harvard and their dropouts don’t wake up aroused in the middle of the night thinking about working at HP.

27,000 layoffs in today’s flat world is not news to an up-and coming engineer – not the way the next gigatron device is.  HP has to marry the future with the current. We do need printers and tablets and PCs, but what will take back the hearts and minds of consumers and the next gen of consumers is packaged imagination. HP has work to do. Peace!   

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MOOCs are the haps these days.  The acronym stands for Massive Open Online Courses.  Coursera, started by two Stanford University scientists, is one such MOOC and it’s a for profit enterprise.  MITx began this whole movement by offering a couple of free online courses then deciding to brand itself MITx —  a good idea. But this past it partnered with Harvard and rebranded the venture edX.  Today Cal Berkley joined edX which is a not for profit.

This is an nascent and exciting category but one has to wonder if these aggregated Xs will soon become exes. The university brands by themselves are so powerful that an online holding company with a master brand atop seems a short term solution. Let’s wait and see. Peace.

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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!

 

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According to Harvard’s Dr. Urs Glasser, “By age 20, kids will have spent 20,000 hours online – the same amount of time a professional piano player would have spent practicing.” Were one to calculate all the television children of the 80s and 90s watched, I’m sure we’d see a comparable number. That said, TV is one-way (inbound) and online is two-way (read-write) and therefore a little healthier.

 

Regular readers know I have dumbed-down Forrester Research’s Technographic segmentation study into two simple groups “Posters” and “Pasters.” According to Forrester and a couple of other sources only 8% of social media users are “posters,” or original content creators.  But, according to the Book “Born Digital” written by John Palfrey and Dr. Glaser, 35% of millennial girls and 20% of boys in the U.S. are blogging, meaning these so-called “digital natives” index very high as Posters. As such, they need to be treated differently. 

 

While writing my anthropology thesis in college, I sent out letters to leading professors around the country asking for input. It took months and lots of effort on everyone’s part to gather, process and exchange all the info. Today, using email, the net, and links, I could have done this work in a day. (Digital Natives get this in ways others don’t.)

 

As a brand and communications planner, understanding this culture and how Millennials buy and are sold is going to be quite a fun ride. Peace!

 

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As fast as Facebook is growing and as many smart decisions as it has made technologically, I am amazed by some of its miscues. The latest is to passively allow a research study of an unnamed East Coast college over Facebook. Conducted by Harvard and UCLA, this study will report on users’ social networking values, behaviors and attitudes. 
 
I work for a social computing property called Zude. Our reason for being is to promote user freedom, so internally we often find ourselves in discussions about what we should allow users to do on the site. We most always decide in favor of freedom. So, were this research project to take place on Zude, you would think I’d be okay with it. Wrong.
 
In my view the project should be allowed, but the users should be alerted they are being studied. Let them decide whether or not to participate. As far as I can tell from the press the Facebook study has received, the unsuspecting college students don’t know they are being monitored and that is an invasion of their privacy. 
 
Shopping malls let research people in to conduct research but you see them coming a mile away. Would they allow researchers in with surveillance cameras? I think not.
 
Facebook, college kids are your franchise. You have just found another way to piss them off.
 

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