Goodbye Funnel, Hello Flywheel: How to Build the New Customer Experience (CX) (Source: MarketingProfs)

Christi Olson is head of evangelism at Bing/Microsoft.

LinkedIn: Christi Olson

Twitter: @ ChristiJOlson

 

From mobile devices to chatbots and other intelligent agents, new digital experiences continue to disrupt customer journeys. Leading brands are not just enduring the changes but embracing the disruption—transforming the customer experience (CX) into a more human experience with meaningful customer touchpoints that drive higher engagement and deeper loyalty.

source: https://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2019/42175/goodbye-funnel-hello-flywheel-how-to-build-the-new-customer-experience-cx

What is powering this new CX? The CX flywheel.

The concept of the flywheel in this context is simple: It’s essentially a virtuous cycle, whereing the more customer touchpoints that you create, the more data you acquire, and more data leads to greater personalization and ROI for more productive and plentiful customer touchpoints.

Like its mechanical counterpart, which stores rotational energy so that it can then be expended—to drive a train, for example—the CX flywheel fuels momentum for marketers by removing friction and blending the physical and digital worlds to propel growth in the digital era.

Businesses like Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix are already harnessing the flywheel, inviting customers further into the marketing process as customers rate and share their experiences, feeding the growth of the company.

In this customer-centric landscape, marketers are rethinking the funnel. They are looking to identify, target, and start dialogues with unique audience segments across all stages of the customer decision journey (CDJ), especially post-purchase stages such as retention and advocacy.

From funnel to flywheel, a new CDJ is taking shape, creating more meaningful touchpoints, and leading to increased revenue and ROI.

Goodbye Funnel

No doubt, future advertising will be completely different from what we know today. Marketers will use AI technologies like digital assistants, intelligent agents, and cognitive services like visual search and natural language processing to engage customers. It will be more natural, more customer-centric and friction-free. And it breaks with the traditional notion that marketers can reach their customers only in linear stages.

The funnel—a cornerstone of sales and marketing teams for over 100 years—is quickly becoming obsolete. Originally created in 1898, the AIDA funnel model (Awareness/Interest/Desire/Action) moved consumers in a linear model from a state of general awareness to a final purchase.

But that was then, and this is the data-driven now.

Hello Flywheel

Today’s consumers, especially digital Millennials, are shopping in new ways. They abandon carts in large numbers. They check reviews on mobile devices from the aisles of brick-and-mortars. They post their purchases on social. They may enter the CDJ at any stage.

In today’s world, a purchase can mark just the beginning of the CDJ as marketers turn their attention to new activity such as retention, expansion, and advocacy.

Powered by data science and customer momentum, a new customer experience flywheel is replacing the funnel as customers increasingly engage across multiple physical and digital channels. More touchpoints yield more data, which in turn yields more touchpoints—thus causing the flywheel to not only take shape but also spin faster and faster.

Microsoft Advertising’s Data-driven marketer’s blueprint for success study links the CX flywheel with more meaningful touchpoints and, in turn, higher ROI. We found that a better understanding of your CDJ leads to more customer engagement opportunities and up to a 45% incremental lift in ROI/ROAS.

In fact, today’s high performing marketers report that being able to create more customer engagement opportunities is the most important benefit of understanding your CDJ (see below).

How to Build the CX Flywheel

All businesses today should be moving toward a flywheel model that focuses on outstanding customer experiences to engage and empower customers. Here are some tips for success.

Start with the Cloud

The Cloud is the ultimate tool for flywheel success. It helps marketers unlock the potential of growing mountains of data: 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day—with 90% of the world’s data created in the last couple of years.

From the Web to customer service to POS systems, data should be collected, managed, and unified in the Cloud.

First-party data such as website visits, time on page, purchase history, geography, etc., should then be combined with second- and third-party data to create richer touchpoints. In fact, 78% of high performers say combining first- through third-party data is a top priority. [Microsoft and Advertiser Perceptions study of 213 marketers and agencies in the US & UK, December 2018—January 2019.] For example, combining real-time search data with second-party LinkedIn data can help advertisers reach a targeted professional performing a specific search.

When collecting, managing, or combining data, high performing marketers are concerned about privacy and data security issues. As more brands move to CX flywheels, they should be very clear about how they are using data and put appropriate safeguards in place to secure customer data. In addition, brands need to be transparent with their customers about how they are using customer data to fuel both experience touchpoints and audience targeting.

Create meaningful touchpoints that drive insights

Think of modern touchpoints as consumer “action points” that help to power your flywheel. They work to spur engagement throughout the CDJ.

For instance, local inventory ads enable customers to shop and buy directly from the SERP. Instagram also lets consumers buy products directly from the app. Skills, digital assistants, and chatbots all work to reduce friction and quickly move consumers to a state of action.

At the same time, these touchpoints should work to collect data and help you build out fuller customer profiles. High-quality, first-party data enables you to create more personalized touchpoints, which further powers your flywheel.

Establish trust

Internal studies at Microsoft Advertising have shown that the majority of today’s busy consumers are willing to share their information, especially when it brings them value and saves them time. That said, today’s consumers also expect brands to respect their privacy and safeguard their data. This needs to be done in a transparent and respectful way.

The key for successful data management is transparency along with safeguards in place to ensure protection. Consumers should have control of their data with opt-in/opt-out capabilities and full disclosure of how you are using their data.

Based on Microsoft Advertising research, other best-practices include shifting away from cookies to first-party data, creating new internal standards for data collection and usage, and reducing the amount of consumer tracking. [Microsoft and Advertiser Perceptions study of 213 marketers and agencies in the US & UK, December 2018—January 2019.]

Future Flywheels

For years, marketers have been talking about reaching the right person with the right message at the right time. But flywheel success depends on a newer mantra: The right strategy with the right data and the right technology.

How can businesses get their CX flywheels to spin faster? The answer lies in more data, AI, and machine-learning (ML). With the right strategy, the right data, and the right technology, businesses will further transform the customer experience, continuing to explore new ways to enhance the customer relationship.

From personalization to lead scoring to predicting consumer behavior, A/B-testing, website optimization, and more, AI is illuminating the way.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Christi Olson

Christi Olson is head of evangelism at Bing/Microsoft.

LinkedIn: Christi Olson

Twitter: @ ChristiJOlson

Why AI Is the ‘New Electricity’ (Source: Wharton)

Source: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/ai-new-electricity/

Just as electricity transformed the way industries functioned in the past century, artificial intelligence — the science of programming cognitive abilities into machines — has the power to substantially change society in the next 100 years. AI is being harnessed to enable such things as home robots, robo-taxis and mental health chatbots to make you feel better.

A startup is developing robots with AI that brings them closer to human level intelligence. Already, AI has been embedding itself in daily life — such as powering the brains of digital assistants Siri and Alexa. It lets consumers shop and search online more accurately and efficiently, among other tasks that people take for granted.

“AI is the new electricity,” said Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera and an adjunct Stanford professor who founded the Google Brain Deep Learning Project, in a keynote speech at the AI Frontiers conference that was held this past weekend in Silicon Valley. “About 100 years ago, electricity transformed every major industry. AI has advanced to the point where it has the power to transform” every major sector in coming years. And even though there’s a perception that AI was a fairly new development, it has actually been around for decades, he said. But it is taking off now because of the ability to scale data and computation.

Ng said most of the value created through AI today has been through supervised learning, in which an input of X leads to Y. But there have been two major waves of progress: One wave leverages deep learning to enable such things as predicting whether a consumer will click on an online ad after the algorithm gets some information about him. The second wave came when the output no longer has to be a number or integer but things like speech recognition, a sentence structure in another language or audio. For example, in self-driving cars, the input of an image can lead to an output of the positions of other cars on the road.

Indeed, deep learning — where a computer learns from datasets to perform functions, instead of just executing specific tasks it was programmed to do — was instrumental in achieving human parity in speech recognition, said Xuedong Huang, who led the team at Microsoft on the historic achievement in 2016 when their system booked a 5.9% error rate, the same as a human transcriptionist. “Thanks to deep learning, we were able to reach human parity after 20 years,” he said at the conference. The team has since lowered the error rate even more, to 5.1%.

“We have cheap motors, sensors, batteries, plastics and processors … why don’t we have Rosie?”–Dileep George

The Rise of Digital Assistants

Starting in 2010, the quality of speech recognition began to improve for the industry, eventually leading to the creation of Siri and Alexa. “Now, you almost take it for granted,” Ng said. That’s not all; speech is expected to replace touch-typing for input, said Ruhi Sarikaya, director of Amazon Alexa. The key to greater accuracy is to understand the context. For example, if a person asks Alexa what he should do for dinner, the digital assistant has to assess his intent. Is he asking Alexa to make a restaurant reservation, order food or find a recipe? If he asks Alexa to find ‘Hunger Games,’ does he want the music, video or audiobook?

And what’s next for the digital assistant is an even more advanced undertaking — to understand “meaning beyond words,” said Dilek Hakkani-Tur, research scientist at Google. For example, if the user uses the words “later today,” it could mean 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner or 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. for meetings. This next level up also calls for more complex and lively conversations, multi-domain tasks and interactions beyond domain boundaries, she said. Moreover, Hakkani-Tur said, digital assistants should be able to do things such as easily read and summarize emails.

After speech, ‘computer vision’ — or the ability of computers to recognize images and categorize them — was the next to leap, speakers said. With many people uploading images and video, it became cumbersome to add metadata to all content as a way to categorize them. Facebook built an AI to understand and categorize videos at scale called Lumos, said Manohar Paluri, a research lead at the company. Facebook uses Lumos to do data collection of, for example, fireworks images and videos. The platform can also use people’s poses to identify a video, such as categorizing people lounging around on couches as hanging out.

“Her job is to bring a spot of life to your home. She provides entertainment — she can play music, podcasts, audiobooks.”–Kaijen Hsiao

What’s critical is to ascertain the primary semantic content of the uploaded video, added Rahul Sukthankar, head of video understanding at Google. And to help the computer correctly identify what’s in the video — for example, whether professionals or amateurs are dancing — his team mines YouTube for similar content that AI can learn from, such as having a certain frame rate for non-professional content. Sukthankar adds that a promising direction for future research is to do computer training using videos. So if a robot is shown a video of a person pouring cereal into a bowl at multiple angles, it should learn by watching.

At Alibaba, AI is used to boost sales. For example, shoppers of its Taobao e-commerce site can upload a picture of a product they would like to buy, like a trendy handbag sported by a stranger on the street, and the website will come up with handbags for sale that come closest to the photo. Alibaba also uses augmented reality/virtual reality to make people see and shop from stores like Costco. On its Youku video site, which is similar to YouTube, Alibaba is working on a way to insert virtual 3D objects into people’s uploaded videos, as a way to increase revenue. That’s because many video sites struggle with profitability. “YouTube still loses money,” said Xiaofeng Ren, a chief scientist at Alibaba.

Rosie and the Home Robot

But with all the advances in AI, it’s still no match for the human brain. Vicarious is a startup that aims to close the gap by developing human level intelligence in robots. Co-founder Dileep George said that the components are there for smarter robots.  “We have cheap motors, sensors, batteries, plastics and processors … why don’t we have Rosie?” He was referring to the multipurpose robot maid in the 1960s space-age cartoon The Jetsons. George said the current level of AI is like what he calls the “old brain,” similar to the cognitive ability of rats. The “new brain” is more developed such as what’s seen in primates and whales.

George said the “old brain” AI gets confused when small inputs are changed. For example, a robot that can play a video game goes awry when the colors are made just 2% brighter. “AI today is not ready,” he said. Vicarious uses deep learning to get the robot closer to human cognitive ability. In the same test, a robot with Vicarious’s AI kept playing the game even though the brightness had changed. Another thing that confuses “old brain” AI is putting two objects together. People can see two things superimposed on each other, such as a coffee mug partly obscuring a vase in a photo, but robots mistake it for one unidentified object. Vicarious, which counts Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as an investor, aims to solve such problems.

The intelligence inside Kuri, a robot companion and videographer meant for the home, is different. Kaijen Hsiao, chief technology officer of creator Mayfield Robotics, said there is a camera behind the robot’s left eye that gathers video in HD. Kuri has depth sensors to map the home and uses images to improve navigation. She also has pet and person detection features so she can smile or react when they are around. Kuri has place recognition as well, so she will remember she has been to a place before even if the lighting has changed, such as the kitchen during the day or night. Moment selection is another feature of the robot, which lets her recognize similar videos she records — such as dad playing with the baby in the living room — and eliminates redundant ones.

“Her job is to bring a spot of life to your home. She provides entertainment — she can play music, podcasts, audiobooks. You can check your home from anywhere,” Hsiao said. Kuri is the family’s videographer, going around the house recording so no one is left out. The robot will curate the videos and show the best ones. For this, Kuri uses vision and deep learning algorithms. “Her point is her personality … [as] an adorable companion,” Hsiao said. Kuri will hit the market in December at $799.

“About 100 years ago, electricity transformed every major industry. AI has advanced to the point where it has the power to transform” every major sector in coming years.–Andrew Ng

Business Response to AI

The U.S. and China lead the world in investments in AI, according to James Manyika, chairman and director of the McKinsey Global Institute. Last year, AI investment in North America ranged from $15 billion to $23 billion, Asia (mainly China) was $8 billion to $12 billion, and Europe lagged at $3 billion to $4 billion. Tech giants are the primary investors in AI, pouring in between $20 billion and $30 billion, with another $6 billion to $9 billion from others, such as venture capitalists and private equity firms.

Where did they put their money? Machine learning took 56% of the investments with computer vision second at 28%. Natural language garnered 7%, autonomous vehicles was at 6% and virtual assistants made up the rest. But despite the level of investment, actual business adoption of AI remains limited, even among firms that know its capabilities, Manyika said. Around 40% of firms are thinking about it, 40% experiment with it and only 20% actually adopt AI in a few areas.

The reason for such reticence is that 41% of companies surveyed are not convinced they can see a return on their investment, 30% said the business case isn’t quite there and the rest said they don’t have the skills to handle AI. However, McKinsey believes that AI can more than double the impact of other analytics and has the potential to materially raise corporate performance.

There are companies that get it. Among sectors leading in AI are telecom and tech companies, financial institutions and automakers. Manyika said these early adopters tend to be larger and digitally mature companies that incorporate AI into core activities, focus on growth and innovation over cost savings and enjoy the support of C-suite level executives. The slowest adopters are companies in health care, travel, professional services, education and construction. However, as AI becomes widespread, it’s a matter of time before firms get on board, experts said.

10 most reputable companies in the world – Business Insider

The luxury watch brand Rolex is the most reputable company in the world, according to the Reputation Institute’s annual rankings.

Source: 10 most reputable companies in the world – Business Insider

The Reputation Institute sorts companies according to the public’s perception of their performance in seven areas: products and services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, leadership, and performance.

The chocolate maker The Hershey Company is the most reputable brand in the US, but the brand is much less well known internationally, so it did not make it onto the list. Facebook did not even make it into the top 100.

After the emissions scandal that engulfed the company last year, Volkswagen dropped from being the 14th most reputable company in the world in 2015 to the 123rd spot this year.

To compile the rankings, the Reputation Institute collected more than 240,000 ratings from 15 countries. You can see the full results here.

10. Apple. RepTrack Points: 76.6.

Apple’s reputation is getting worse, according to the study. The company has dropped from seventh place in 2014’s rankings to eighth in 2015’s, and it now sits at 10th. The tech company, however, came out on top in both the innovation and the leadership categories.

Here’s everything Apple announced at its Keynote on Monday, including its new, cheaper-than-ever iPhone.

9. Sony. RepTrack points: 76.7.

Sony proved to be a truly global brand. The company was among the 10 most reputable brands in 10 of the 15 countries surveyed. On this metric, it was beaten only by Rolex.

This year Sony faced criticism over its failure to release singer Kesha from a six-album contract with one of its record labels, Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records. Kesha alleged that her producer at the label, Lukasz Gottwald, sexually abused her.

Aside from music, the Japanese conglomerate makes electronics and produces movies and video games. The company was founded in 1946 by Masaru Ibuka.

8. Canon. RepTrack points: 76.9.

Canon is the third most reputable brand in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The world’s biggest maker of cameras and printers has been expanding further this year. It just announced that it would buy Toshiba’s medical devices unit for nearly $6 billion.

 

7. Microsoft. RepTrack points: 77.0.

Microsoft has returned to the list after it dropped out in 2015. It came out as the third most reputable brand in Asia. Microsoft is performing particularly well in the detachable tablet market, outperforming Apple.

Microsoft is predicted to take a 74.6% share of the detachable tablet market by 2020.

The company’s biggest businesses in 2016 include the Windows operating system, the Xbox, and Microsoft Office.

6. Lego Group. RepTrack points: 77.4.

Lego remains the most reputable brand in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

This year Lego faced a serious backlash after the company refused to sell artist Ai Weiwei a bulk order of its plastic bricks. The Chinese artist had planned on using them to make a political point, which went against the company’s rules. The toymaker later reversed this policy.

According to a report by Brand Finance, Lego is the world’s second most powerful brand after Disney.

5. Daimler (Mercedes-Benz). RepTrack points: 77.7

Daimler dropped from third place to fifth in the global reputation rankings this year.

Daimler sold 2.9 million cars in 2015, up 12% from the previous year, it was announced at the company’s annual press conference.

The Daimler-owned Mercedes could soon become the car brand most closely associated with Uber, as the taxi app just announced an order for 100,000 Mercedes S-Class cars, according to Fortune.

4. BMW Group. RepTrack points: 77.9.

BMW dropped from first place in 2015, but it retains its lead on its fellow German carmaker Daimler.

BMW celebrated its 100th birthday this year. To celebrate, it released the concept car it predicts everyone will be driving in 100 years.

As well as producing BMWs, the company makes Mini cars and oversees productions of Rolls-Royce vehicles.

3. Google. RepTrak points: 78.1.

Google came top in the performance and workplace categories this year, but it slipped from second place — which it had held in 2015 and 2014.

The search-ad business has had another important year; in October it reshaped its corporate structure to form a new parent company, Alphabet.

2. The Walt Disney Company. RepTrak points: 78.2.

The Walt Disney Company came in the top 10 in each of the seven categories. The huge media and entertainment company came first in the citizenship and governance categories, making it unlucky to miss out on the top spot.

The company is not afraid to stand up to things it disagrees with. On Wednesday, Disney Film Studios announced that it would boycott Georgia if the state brings into law a bill allowing officials to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages, The Guardian reports.

The California-based company employs about 185,000 people across various divisions, according to its website.

NOTES: 1. All tokens are represented by ‘$’ sign in the template. 2. You can write your code only wherever mentioned. 3. “DO NOT” alter the tokens in the template html as they are required during publishing.

1. Rolex. RepTrak points: 78.4

Rolex’s position as the most reputable brand in the world is due to its incredibly high reputation for products and services. It was in the top 10 for every category.

Luxury watch brands have suffered over the past year after facing a declining market in China. Consumers in the country bought 40% fewer Swiss watches — including Rolex, Swatch, and TAG Heuer brands — than they did in 2014, Sky News reported.

The luxury watch brand was founded in London in 1905 before moving operations to Switzerland at the end of World War I.

Here’s how the rankings have changed over the past few years:

heres-how-the-rankings-have-changed-over-the-past-few-years.jpg

Forget the Everything Store—Amazon’s an Everything Business | WIRED

Amazon is known as the “everything store.” But now more than ever, Amazon isn’t just about selling everything. It’s an everything business.

Source: Forget the Everything Store—Amazon’s an Everything Business | WIRED

dk_113014-181Click to Open Overlay Gallery

Twitter will soon dominate TV on Xbox One

Microsoft has announced that a number of popular apps including HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Comedy Central, and others will launch on Xbox One by year’s end. But easily the biggest aspect of today’s news is the huge role Twitter will soon play in Microsoft’s TV plans. Twitter will be directly integrated in the Xbox One’s TV experience, and this is much more than the mediocre app that came before on Xbox 360.

This time, Microsoft says Twitter has been “optimized for the biggest screen in your house in a smart, contextual way.” It will automatically display tweets related to the shows you’re watching on cable, for instance. And Twitter will also have a place in Xbox One’s OneGuide: you’ll see hashtags in TV listings, and a new “trending” section will highlight shows that are currently being discussed across the service. In one fell swoop, Microsoft just became a key partner to Twitter’s interactive TV ambitions. Comcast has rolled out similar Twitter support for its X1 cable platform.

Twitter is no longer relegated to the smartphone or tablet next to you on the couch. It’s now on the other screen you spend hours staring at each day. But will the result prove engaging or annoying? It’s up to Microsoft to find that balance. Here’s what the company has to say about the new integration right now:

A commercial break turns into a quick and easy opportunity to see what other viewers are tweeting about without pulling out your phone, swiping at a tablet, or taking your attention away from your TV.

Microsoft’s Ballmer retiring in 12 months… VIDEO: Remember 10 years ago: “I love this Company”

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 23, 2013 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

Can Microsoft be right about tablets and Apple, Amazon, and Google be wrong? | TechRepublic

Can Microsoft be right about tablets and Apple, Amazon, and Google be wrong? | TechRepublic.

Takeaway: If you haven’t realized it yet, Microsoft is trying to do something different in tablets. But, the strategy has three big question marks.

Microsofts Panos Panay shows off the Microsoft Surface tablet. Photo credit: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Panos Panay shows off the Microsoft Surface tablet. Photo credit: Microsoft

I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll repeat it. I don’t really like tablets.

I’ve carried all three iPads, several Galaxy Tabs, the Kindle Fire, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and the HP TouchPad. I always run into the same roadblocks. Almost every time I use a tablet I end up trying to do something like sharing a story to a social network or emailing a photo to someone and I get frustrated because it’s just a lot more efficient to do it on my laptop. Plus, on a laptop I can control the experience a lot better. For example, for social sharing I can shorten the URL with the service that I prefer so I can track analytics or I can quickly and accurately crop and edit the photo the way I want before sending it.

Microsoft thinks it’s got the tablet solution for people like me.

The software giant is building Windows 8 with a full-screen reading and app experience like the iPad (and its competitors) while also offering the ability to jump into a full desktop experience to do the kinds of things that I was just talking about.

I think it’s great that Microsoft is turning its attention to users like me, and naturally I believe there’s an opportunity there. But, there are three big questions marks.

1. How many people want a no-compromise tablet?

Microsoft either believes that current tablet owners would like to do a lot more with their tablets or that there are many more people out there who would buy a tablet if they could do more with it. Or both. Two years ago when Apple first released the iPad, I believed the same thing.

However, usage of the iPad has confirmed that a high percentage of people are mostly reading and viewing things and only occasionally have to do much typing, input, or creation. For these users, the fact that the iPad is so much more convenient and easier to use for viewing things than a laptop far outweighs the fact that it’s a lot less convenient for data input, content creation, and the kind of stuff I mentioned above. For most users, the iPad is good enough for most of the stuff they want to do and it’s a heckuva lot easier to operate than a PC.

Most of them aren’t ditching their computers altogether, but an increasing number of iPad users are spending more time on the tablet and less time on a computer. I think this is the mainstream and these numbers will accelerate in the years ahead. Heavy content creators like myself, programmers, and other kinds of specialists are likely to become the equivalent of CAD workstation users in the PC world. Remember when we all used to spend $2000 or more on a computer tower? Now, the CAD specialists are the only ones doing that.

2. Is Windows 8 doing it right?

In theory, Microsoft is going to offer the best of both worlds. Its ARM-based Windows 8 tablets (the ones running “Windows RT”) will cost a little less and will not run all of the Windows applications that currently run on Windows 7. Meanwhile, the full Windows 8 tablets will run on traditional x86 hardware and will boast the full desktop operating system embedded within the tablet experience.

There are going to be power users who like the idea of having more flexibility and capability in a tablet and the might love the x86 Windows 8 tablets. The challenge for Microsoft is that in trying to have it both ways, it is creating extra complexity that is going to confuse and frustrate a lot of regular users.

For example, instead of making its ARM-based tablets “Metro-only” and focusing on making them a great tablet experience that is separate from the desktop, Microsoft is still falling back on the crutch of the desktop environment for certain settings and utilities. Sure, that will be fine for power users on an x86 Surface tablet with a full keyboard and touchpad, but trying to fiddle with that stuff on a touch-only tablet is going to result in yelps and screams from average users.

While that full desktop environment on a tablet could be the killer feature for power users, it could also be the crutch that kills the Windows 8 tablet experience for everyone else.

3. Are Apple, Amazon, and Google wrong?

What Microsoft is doing in tablets is essentially a more refined version of its original stylus-based Tablet PC approach, adapted for a multitouch world. Microsoft still believes one machine can do it all and can excel at multiple experiences and multiple use cases. With Windows 8, it’s betting heavily on the convergence of tablets and laptops.

Meanwhile, the iPad has mostly been about addition by subtraction. It has purposely removed the complexity of a desktop operating system. Sure, it also threw out a bunch of capabilities along the way. That makes it a deal-breaker for people like me, but the majority of users are shrugging it off. They seem to barely notice or they consider it a reasonable trade-off for a machine that is easy to operate and offers instant-on, long battery life, minimal malware worries, and lots of cheap software.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Google’s nascent Nexus 7 follow the same tablet model that Apple has established and both are seeing some success with it. While Microsoft is taking a few cues from that model — like the low-cost software app approach — overall, it is going in a different direction. It is sticking to its original tablet strategy from a decade ago by betting on a more powerful, multi-use device that harnesses all the power of a PC but just delivers it in more friendly and portable hardware.

Bottom line

Most people don’t need a tablet that can also act like a workstation. They just want a tablet that can perform really well as a tablet. Microsoft is building the CAD workstation of tablets. It could be awesome for the people who want that kind of thing and are willing to pay for it.

But, just as people no longer pay over $2000 for computers like the ones CAD workstation professionals use, it’s unlikely that the masses are going to pay $800 or more for a high-end tablet. And while many enterprise companies are going to like the ability to easily connect Windows 8 tablets to their backend Windows infrastructure, the higher price tag and the added complexity of using them could limit the number of users who will get a Windows 8 tablet from the IT department.

Now, if Microsoft changed course and went with a Metro-only, ARM-based Windows 8 tablet that cost less than $500 and could seamlessly connect to Active Directory and other backend Windows systems, then I believe a lot of enterprise businesses and individual business professionals would be interested. But, that’s not the product we’re going to see this fall.

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Microsoft’s big announcement: Loser + Loser = Winner? | VentureBeat

Microsoft’s big announcement: Loser + Loser = Winner? | VentureBeat.

TechCrunch is reporting insider information that the big and much-anticipated Microsoft announcement tomorrow is an e-reader and streaming media tablet produced in conjunction with Barnes & Noble. If that’s true — and that’s a big if — I’m more than a little shocked by the massive build-up and pre-launch tension-building secrecy.

One loser

Let’s be honest: Windows on a tablet is, at the moment, a loser. Currently, Windows is a tiny, insignificant slice of the tablet market. There’s hope in Redmond, and maybe even belief, that this will change soon, but no-one else is holding their breath.

In this chart from IDC three days ago, Windows is “other.” Get out your microscope.

A second loser

A second moment of honesty: Barnes & Noble is a loser. We all know its chief competitor — the one named after warrior women tough enough to saw off a boob so they could kill their enemies with greater efficiency. And yeah, Amazon is exactly that tough.

Amazon is worth almost a hundred billion dollars; Barnes & Noble under a billion. Amazon had over $50 billion in revenue in the last 12 months; Barnes & Noble just over seven. Amazon’s revenue per employee is triple Barnes & Noble’s … the list goes on. Wolfram Alpha tells the story:

One plus one (plus one)

I believe it was the indubitable Mr. Holmes who said that one plus one has never failed to equal two. Pairing an unpopular and as-yet-unproven operating system with a failing and marginal content partner is not exactly a recipe for success.

However, there is a wild-card: Xbox live streaming.

Microsoft has been adding content partners to Xbox streaming with increasing velocity, announcing 35 new ones in just the past month at E3, including Nickelodeon, NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter, WatchESPN, and The Weather Channel. These additions, with all the other content partners announced previously, have led to plenty of speculation that Xbox could replace your cable or satellite TV provider.

Now you have something interesting.

If Microsoft’s play is indeed to create a new kind of tablet that can replace — perhaps better than iPad — your TV provider, watch out.

I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

Microsoft ‘to launch tablet to compete with iPad’ | Technology | The Guardian

Microsoft ‘to launch tablet to compete with iPad’ | Technology | The Guardian.

Event invitation to journalists leads to speculation that Microsoft plans to take on Apple’s dominance with own-brand tablet

Microsoft logos

Microsoft is expected to unveil a tablet running a new version of Windows. Photograph: Rick Wilking/Reuters

Microsoft appears to be preparing to launch an own-brand tablet running a new version of Windows in an effort to compete with Apple‘s iPad.

An invitation to an event in Los Angeles on Monday evening sent out by the software company late on Thursday – but lacking venue details – has sparked expectation that Steve Ballmer’s company is now ready to take on Apple’s dominance in the tablet market.

This would be a dramatic break from Microsoft’s usual moves in computer hardware, where it develops the software and licenses that to hardware makers to ensure the broadest possible market. But Microsoft has fallen behind Apple and Google in the fast growing tablet market – already one-eighth as large as the PC market and forecast to be 40% by 2016. The fastest growth in tablet sales is in western countries, where PC sales are slowing, reducing sales in the Windows division in four of the past six quarters. Windows 8, to be released this year, is designed to be used on a tablet as well as a desktop PC.

“If Microsoft wants to control the entire user experience and the entire quality of their products, they have to build their own hardware,” Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Redmond-based market research firm, told the Bloomberg news service.

The location of Monday’s event, near Hollywood, could indicate that Microsoft may announce a content deal using its new SmartGlass app, which bridges the gap between the TV and the smartphone or tablet. Other speculation is that the tablet will have access to an ebook store using Barnes & Noble’s technology, following a $300m deal made at the end of April.

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

The timing of the launch would also spike Google’s guns. The search giant is expected to unveil an own-brand tablet at its Input/Output event on 27 June although Microsoft’s forays into own-branded products have had mixed success. Microsoft has declined to comment. Its invitation says: “This will be a major Microsoft announcement – you will not want to miss it.”

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