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BLITZ Helps FX Network Roll Out FXNOW Windows 10 App in Three Months

In a bit of news of our own today, Forbes covers our work with FX Networks on their app, FXNOW, for Windows 10. Not only did we upgrade FXNOW by enabling voice commands with Cortana and refreshing the interface with LiveTiles, but we did it in half a typical production cycle. How? If you don't know, now you know.

Why is Microsoft Buying LinkedIn?

Today Microsoft just surprised the world with its LinkedIn acquisition. Valued at $26.2 billion – all cash! – it's no small price tag for a social network and it tops the charts as Microsoft's biggest-ever acquisition. While many are surprised at the cash figure, the question on everyone's lips is – what is Microsoft going to do with LinkedIn? The cost of a social network presence.

Microsoft's Move to Inclusive Design

Increasingly, we're all in the design business. Design as problem-solving. Design as the act of creation. Design thinking. You've probably read 100 articles this year already on the subject. At BLITZ, it's obviously a hot topic. In fact, modern business puts design at the center of the simple question, "What are you doing to solve your customers' problems?" Your answer to that question points to the importance and role of design in your organization, right?   Well, check this out. Microsoft, a massive maker of so many things that so many of us use, is rolling out new thinking in their design process. It's being called Inclusive Design - and while not wholly new, per se - it is different than most "start-with-the-happy-path" or "begin-with-giving-life-to-what-the-underlying-engineering-can-do" approaches we see in corporations today. Inclusive Design starts by studying overlooked communities; dyslexics, the deaf, physically-handicapped, special populations. This approach learns about how these special populations adapt to their world - and in doing so - it enables you to build better products for everyone else.   Take a look at the well-written piece at Fast Company. It's a great read.   "Microsoft's Radical Bet On A New Type Of Design Thinking"

  • 1 min read
  • February 18, 2016

If You Can't Beat Them, Copy Apple.

As I strolled through the Prudential Center in Boston, glancing down at my low-battery iPhone, I was surprised and excited to catch a glimpse of what could only be an Apple store. The sleek glassy store-front and roaming t-shirt clad employees that have come to symbolize the face of cutting edge technology greeted me. Much to my dismay I lifted my head to find not a glowing fruit, but a colorful Microsoft flag instead. In the following order, I realized: I can't charge my phone. Wow, they really jacked Apple's design. It looks pretty cool. Should I go in there? Image Source: Corporate Eye Hands down, Microsoft has completely and unapologetically cloned Apple's retail position, store design, and cult environment. It's interesting how, complete with a genius bar answer deck, they really aren't trying to fool anyone. Honestly speaking, I am tempted to write Microsoft off for their creative theft and inability to be cunning in their own right. How can cloning the competitor ever reap brand growth and success? Ironically, it just may be Microsoft's smartest move yet. Giving consumers a place to hang and actually partake in a brand experience is a big piece of the brand loyalty pie. Success is never certain, but the validation behind Microsoft's carbon copying approach is. As the old saying goes, if it ain't broke'?¦ Here are a few insights as to why you shouldn't fix it: 1. No explanation needed. Consumers who pass by the new Microsoft stores know exactly what to expect (they have seen it before), and time is not wasted on pitching a new concept to visitors. Instead, effort can immediately be spent on enhancing consumer experience, new gadget exposure, and helping them find those perfect accessories. All of which lead to the ultimate bottom line'making the sale and building a relationship with the customer. 2. Proven success. The Apple retail blueprint has paved the way for Microsoft to find similar success by incorporating the same key elements that consumers are used to and have made the Apple retail business a huge success. When Apple first introduced retail stores, they presented a model that capitalized on consumer insights to keep their customers happy and involved. Displaying their products in a user friendly environment captured people's attention (who hasn't seen a video filmed from an Apple store?). In addition, Apple added a genius bar to serve as a support system for buyers, which quickly became an essential and appreciated element for anyone stuck with a frozen screen or interested in learning more. These two elements may seem like common sense now, but it was an innovative approach that has proven successful. Microsoft made sure to present the same store environment because they know it will keep store visitors playing with their latest devices for hours and coming back for more. 3. Cultivation of a space where brand followers and the tech savvy can come together creates that fuzzy feeling. And we know this because we originally felt that same feeling at the Apple store across the street. Who is to say we won't feel it again? On the behalf of Microsoft, I would like to thank Apple for doing the dirty work. If you were to have mentioned the Windows brand to me a year ago, the Apple loyalist in me would have said Microsoft who? Ask me today, and though still devoted to my iStuff, I would say I'm interested. If that's not moving the needle, I don't know what is.  

Future of the Web, Humanity, & Advertising

I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Qi Lu, President of Microsoft's Online Services Division and got to hear his views on what the future holds for the web and search. The presentation was really interesting and actually put me in awe of how much possibility there is. Here are some of the innovations that the web has had and will see in the future: Keywords ' search engines primarily ran on these in the beginning to gather search results Geo-targeting ' implemented to help the user find more location relevant search results Apps ' helped bring the web's information to user's on-the-go Social ' developed to connect you with your friends. Implementing this into search engines is the next step for Microsoft and by teaming up with Facebook, this gives them a huge advantage Task Completion ' another soon to be new frontier in the world of search engines. For example, right now searching 'dinner for two, movie after'? will not generate relevant results for what you want. But in a smarter web with task completion, you will yield results for restaurants and movies nearby, both with reviews or ratings from people you know, location information, as well as maybe an ad for cabs to take you from the restaurant to the movies, all in one search With all of these innovations, one person mentioned the printing press and how the invention of it indirectly cheap cialis sparked the Enlightenment. So with a smarter web that is even more accessible to everyone, what does this mean for humanity? Lu's take on it is that an increased interconnectivity of the world is going to bring people much closer together and that the idea of community will be radically transformed, as well as what constitutes a civil behavior. Also with a more streamlined and smarter web, one wonders how advertising will change and if it will even still be relevant to us anymore. Lu believes advertising is here to stay and with good reason. If there was no advertising then there would be no information to search for. Advertising is what informs us of new information regarding certain products or services that we would otherwise not know about. However, the portal in which that information is delivered is and will constantly change. This is why startups like Groupon have reached an unprecedented amount of success in today's market. Now more than ever, Lu believes startups have a huge opportunity to help shape the web's future. Web innovation is all about making the most out of everything the web has to offer. Streamlining it into your day-to-day life is what successful innovation is made of. Innovators eventually want to reach a point where the web can read your mind and your intent so well that it will be able to generate relevant results, as well as ads. It seems that a psychic internet may be a long way away but only because there is still much left to be discovered.

Future of the Web, Humanity, & Advertising

I recently had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Qi Lu, President of Microsoft's Online Services Division and got to hear his views on what the future holds for the web and search. The presentation was really interesting and actually put me in awe of how much possibility there is. Here are some of the innovations that the web has had and will see in the future: Keywords ' search engines primarily ran on these in the beginning to gather search results Geo-targeting ' implemented to help the user find more location relevant search results Apps ' helped bring the web's information to user's on-the-go Social ' developed to connect you with your friends. Implementing this into search engines is the next step for Microsoft and by teaming up with Facebook, this gives them a huge advantage Task Completion ' another soon to be new frontier in the world of search engines. For example, right now searching 'dinner for two, movie after'? will not generate relevant results for what you want. But in a smarter web with task completion, you will yield results for restaurants and movies nearby, both with reviews or ratings from people you know, location information, as well as maybe an ad for cabs to take you from the restaurant to the movies, all in one search With all of these innovations, one person mentioned the printing press and how the invention of it indirectly cheap cialis sparked the Enlightenment. So with a smarter web that is even more accessible to everyone, what does this mean for humanity? Lu's take on it is that an increased interconnectivity of the world is going to bring people much closer together and that the idea of community will be radically transformed, as well as what constitutes a civil behavior. Also with a more streamlined and smarter web, one wonders how advertising will change and if it will even still be relevant to us anymore. Lu believes advertising is here to stay and with good reason. If there was no advertising then there would be no information to search for. Advertising is what informs us of new information regarding certain products or services that we would otherwise not know about. However, the portal in which that information is delivered is and will constantly change. This is why startups like Groupon have reached an unprecedented amount of success in today's market. Now more than ever, Lu believes startups have a huge opportunity to help shape the web's future. Web innovation is all about making the most out of everything the web has to offer. Streamlining it into your day-to-day life is what successful innovation is made of. Innovators eventually want to reach a point where the web can read your mind and your intent so well that it will be able to generate relevant results, as well as ads. It seems that a psychic internet may be a long way away but only because there is still much left to be discovered.

  • 2 min read
  • May 19, 2011

Thoughts from the Search Desk: Google +1

Social media scored big points yet again last week as Google announced the new +1 feature to its search listings. Essentially, this is their response to Facebook's 'Like'? as it integrates social signals into their search results.  Searchers will be able to select a +1 button listed next to paid and organic search results (and in the future can be placed by webmasters next to content a la Facebook connect) for listings deserving of positive feedback. Why is this important? It indicates Google's continued transition toward weighting personalization and actual user feedback into their results beyond algorithm based indicators such as inbound links.  It is also a direct counter move to Microsoft's Facebook integration into their Bing search results.  Yet it moves one step further in enabling +1 on both paid and organic search listings. At this point distribution of +1 is extremely limited (less than 1% of searches) but will expand over the coming weeks. Initially, my thoughts surround a few topics. How should advertisers respond? The bottom line remains the same. It's rather simple actually - create value for the customer. Provide relevant, fresh content and a quality user experience and you will be liked, +1nd, retweeted, friended, shared and rewarded. Paid search: For advertisers we've relied on CTR as a measure of relevance, adding the +1 feature will help provide insight into consumer perceptions of messaging. Advertisers will be able to leverage this data in their search copywriting. As for other measures, according to Google, Quality Score will not be impacted. Campaigns should therefore be monitored for performance variations as the +1 buttons are distributed more widely. Organic Search: Google's evolution toward personalization is a good thing in my opinion and should be encouraged. Yet, whenever they make changes to their algorithm there are always those that are going to try to beat the system. We can expect a whole new suite of black hat SEO tactics to surface. While I certainly do not condone these antics, they should be acknowledged and monitored. Some general items to note: Google +1 is currently available only by the opt-in method by using the Google Experimental link: http://www.google.com/experimental/index.html A Google profile must be activated. Full +1 functionality will be available when a user is logged into a Google account; When logged out ' users will be able to see the total of +1 votes without the user names Search Results: Paid Search:  All Adwords listings will get +1 buttons. Advertisers will not be able to shut them off; quality score will not be affected.  Advertisers should monitor impact on CTR. Organic: +1 feature will influence search engine rankings based on activity within an individual's social network Reporting: Google Webmaster Tools will be able to provide stats behind both organic & non-paid listings For Webmasters: +1 buttons (similar to Facebook 'Like'? Buttons) next to content are expected to roll out within months and should be added to content Privacy: By enabling the +1 feature, Google will take note of the following: Gmail/Google chat contact lists, Google Contacts, and people you follow on Google Buzz/Google Reader

Welcome to Th_ Clo_d

Have you heard enough about it to fill in the blanks? If you haven't, I'm referring to 'the cloud'? ' the tech industry's newest piece of marketing wonderment. In layman's terms, 'the cloud'? is all about cloud computing ' where storage of all your personal pictures, music files and other tidbits live in a storage 'cloud'? that hovers out in cyberspace and becomes accessible from any device. Those devices could be multiple computers, tablets, smart phones or any other internet-enabled device. In short, cloud computing isn't that much different than the networked nodes of yester-year, but has certainly gained a resurgence in popularity and marketing prosperity. Creating a cloud-based storage system isn't limited to a single manufacturer, but in a stroke of marketing genius, Microsoft is working to quickly own the term. Their latest campaign, which features constant references of 'to the cloud'? cleverly builds ownership of the idea and the term for Microsoft. This is likely to pay off in about 8-12 months when mainstreamers begin building, maintaining and utilizing their own cloud networks. There are many opinions out there that Microsoft is being deceptive by trying to take ownership of 'the cloud'? and showcasing technologies that don't necessarily need 'clouds' to exist. But to that logic, we should also be mad at Coke for trying to own 'happiness'? or Walmart for trying to encourage us all to 'live better.'? These companies are making claims about what their brands can do for consumers ' so who really cares if they step outside the boundaries a little? You be the judge. http://goo.gl/siI2H

Welcome to Th_ Clo_d

Have you heard enough about it to fill in the blanks? If you haven't, I'm referring to 'the cloud'? ' the tech industry's newest piece of marketing wonderment. In layman's terms, 'the cloud'? is all about cloud computing ' where storage of all your personal pictures, music files and other tidbits live in a storage 'cloud'? that hovers out in cyberspace and becomes accessible from any device. Those devices could be multiple computers, tablets, smart phones or any other internet-enabled device. In short, cloud computing isn't that much different than the networked nodes of yester-year, but has certainly gained a resurgence in popularity and marketing prosperity. Creating a cloud-based storage system isn't limited to a single manufacturer, but in a stroke of marketing genius, Microsoft is working to quickly own the term. Their latest campaign, which features constant references of 'to the cloud'? cleverly builds ownership of the idea and the term for Microsoft. This is likely to pay off in about 8-12 months when mainstreamers begin building, maintaining and utilizing their own cloud networks. There are many opinions out there that Microsoft is being deceptive by trying to take ownership of 'the cloud'? and showcasing technologies that don't necessarily need 'clouds' to exist. But to that logic, we should also be mad at Coke for trying to own 'happiness'? or Walmart for trying to encourage us all to 'live better.'? These companies are making claims about what their brands can do for consumers ' so who really cares if they step outside the boundaries a little? You be the judge. http://goo.gl/siI2H

This Week's Buzz within the Digital Space

Google imitates Facebook. Rumors have been flying about Google's Facebook copycat product:  Google Me . The company has already tried and failed to foray into social networking by their own means (e.g. Google Buzz, Okrut). But I, personally, wouldn't mind a Facebook clone ' encouraging fragmentation in the market and a check on Facebook's power. Because of Facebook's privacy negligence, consumers are now looking for an open alternative. It's feasible that Google Me could be the right solution, at the right time - capturing Facebook drop outs who are fed up with the network's omnipotence. Google can now attempt to persuade their 900M loyal users to follow them to a more secure and democratic social scene. I see this resulting in one of two scenarios. Facebook is approaching saturation. Consumers may become sick of Facebook and try Google's clone out of rebellion'?¦ or Facebook may listen to our complaints, adapt, and maybe even expand their search functionality as an added crack at Google. And, Google should feel threatened.  In March, for the first time ever, Facebook had a larger weekly market share than Google, making them the most popular website in the country (at least for that week). Facebook is increasingly web users' portal of choice. From a consumer's perspective, I want to see competition in this space. Facebook, right now, doesn't need to fight for my loyalty (with clear and simple privacy settings, for example). If I want to socialize online, they're the easiest option; I'm stuck with them.  In the end, though, we only want to participate on a single social portal. Would you make the switch? Google challenges Microsoft. This week, Google acquired major travel search company ITA Software ' as well as revised their business strategy. The search engine giant now aims to focus on vertical search, which is (not coincidently) their rival Bing's main differentiating feature. For those who know the information they're searching for, and want to find it fast, Google is their go-to engine. Alternatively, Bing is promoted as a discovery tool. It's the difference between needing neutral results or filtered, customized outputs.  Many consumers rely on the Internet to make their travel plans (about 90M Americans in the past year), making travel search a huge opportunity with a huge audience. Google obviously wants to remain king of this vertical and sees Bing as a contender. But, Bing's 3% travel search market share seems very insignificant next to Google's 30%. The buy makes strategic sense. Purchase-orientated search is just another opportunity for Google to monetize ' potentially charging airlines and travel aggregators on a cost-per-action basis. And ITA Software, the company they've chosen to partner with, powers a part of Bing's search.

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