I thought that everyone did a great job with making the Halo universe come to life. Turning a game into reality is no easy feat as the litany of video game movie corpses can attest to. Although Forward Unto Dawn isn’t a movie it makes the universe come alive. There are not a lot of big science fiction franchises these days and would be glad if Halo in some form found its way into Hollywood, and this feels like the first step. I don’t play the games but I love the lore of the world. I look forward to the next chapter in Master Chief’s journey. Let’s get on deck for Tuesday, time to gear up.
I got an interview for a job at Xtreme Labs and they asked all the people who applied to write something up about the tablet wars on Monday due on Wednesday and this is what I sent to them. This isn’t perfect and I know there are several parts I would change but I hope that it isn’t completely without merit with its imperfections, that’s an ideal I am starting to strive for as I work on my craft. This is too long for a single post in our short attention span society but I thought I should just put it all on the table.
2012 will not only go down as the year of the tablet but the year when the post-pc era gathered steam and the competition decided to take on Apple’s iron grip of the tablet market as it enters the next phase of growth. Not that Samsung, Amazon, Asus, RIM, or the parade of challengers hasn’t tried before.
We just saw the launch of Windows Surface and Windows 8 the OS designed for touch. Google just updated their Nexus 7 tablet with more storage and mobile data access while completing the triumvirate with the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 10 tablet, whose display out retina’s the iPad Retina at 300 pixels per inch (ppi) versus 264 ppi.
Every company is bringing out the big guns to capture the imagination of the holiday shopper and their dollars. According to Strategy Analytics in an article for Engadget global tablet OS shipments for Android saw their market share increase to 41.3% in Q3 2012 compared to 29.2% in Q3 2011. They say that part of the uptake is because of the “collective weight” of all the Android tablets being brought to market which continues to change the tablet landscape.
As companies brought in the big guns so did Apple with the October 23rd reveal of the iPad Mini, a 7.89 inch screen device starting at $329 US compared to the Nexus 7 and Fire HD at $199 US. At the same time Apple brought the iPad’s third generation to a close just 7 months after it began in all its retina display glory. The fourth generation upgrades the processor to an A6X and adds the lightning connector while the design and screen remain the same.
The iPad mini shows how much the tablet market has changed since Steve Jobs first said in Apple’s fourth quarter 2010 earnings call that “seven-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.” The iPad mini’s debut feels like a defensive measure designed to limit the competition’s hold on the 7-8 inch tablet space while opening the door for consumers who found the 9.7 inch iPad too large.
The later entry of the iPad mini along with its premium price may keep it from dominating simply because the price floor for 7 to 8 inch tablets is so low to start with. The mini is just as likely to erode iPad 2 sales because of the new design, same hardware, and lower price but it could put more pressure on Apple to update the iPad Retina form factor sooner to resemble that of the mini in its fifth iteration.
Although Android runs smartphones and tablets like iOS does, Microsoft has taken a different approach with Windows Phone 8 being distinct from Windows 8 and windows RT. Windows Surface marks a major milestone for Microsoft, as Surface is the first time they have competed directly with their OEM partners.
Dan Poeter a writer for PC Mag says in an article that while Surface “may have been strategically necessary to get the ball rolling for Windows RT and to a lesser extent Windows 8” but it also complicates relations with Microsoft’s hardware partners who may be pissed at Microsoft’s first foray into PC hardware.
The 2 unique features that set Surface apart are the kickstand built into the tablet and a unique touch or type screen cover that does double duty as a keyboard. Combine that with a full-sized USB port, a micro SD slot, and Microsoft Office and you have yourself a notebook replacement as much as you have a tablet.
In early 2013 Microsoft will release Windows Surface Pro which will be a tablet device that runs a traditional Windows 8 supporting legacy applications and will be powered by Intel. Microsoft will have to tread carefully to prevent confusion Windows Surface and Windows Surface Pro in the marketplace.
Legacy apps won’t work on Windows RT, it’s a complete break from the past for Microsoft and they are taking their cues from Apple by creating their own walled garden which means you can only get apps from the Microsoft App Store. According to Patrick Moorhead, a principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy said in an article for Computerworld that having “5,000 (apps) is a reasonable number to be successful at launch.”
As of October 26, Wes Miller an analyst at Directions said to Computerworld said that the Microsoft App Store had a little over 9,000 apps available. Moorhead in the same article said that the Windows Store is still “not where it needs to be for a global app ecosystem but it has improved over the last couple weeks” and is well past his 5,000 app mark. Their app ecosystem just needs time to grow and as long as Microsoft continues to support it, their app numbers should continue to climb.
That is one of the advantages that Apple’s iOS and to a lesser extent Google’s Android have. Since their OS’s were developed for smartphones and then later extended to tablets, they already have a wealth of apps that at least theoretically can work on both. This is especially evident with iOS where some iPhone apps can also work on the iPad as is. Whereas Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT are much more separate, which prevent the cross pollination of apps that work on both.
The way Apple pushes iOS updates to all eligible devices means that there is better unity across their entire product ecosystem, giving developers the confidence to develop for the latest and greatest version of iOS. The iPad mini has no impact on development since its processor and screen resolution are repurposed from the iPad 2, making all apps that work for one work for the other, no extra work required.
With many Android tablets and smartphones running different versions of Android, the entire ecosystem is heavily fragmented. This complexity has led to many fewer apps being tablet optimized because the process is messy at best. Reto Meier, Android Developer Relations Tech Lead posted a Tablet App Quality Checklist on the Android Developers Blog to help developers optimize their apps for tablets, but that continues to be a work in progress, and the number of Android tablet apps pale in comparison what is found on the iPad.
RIM’s failure to crack the tablet market with their 7 inch Playbook according to Moorhead was because the Playbook lacked high-quality apps and had a weak app store. Since its launch the Playbook saw several price drops and software updates that fixed many of the criticisms consumers had but the lack of apps continues to hurt the Playbook, rendering it almost a non-existent player in the tablet space.
Blackberry 10 (BB10) was originally slated for release this fall but was pushed back to Q1 2013. RIM is pouring resources to grow their developer ecosystem for BB10 with incentives for developers to get their apps on the store by BB10’s launch, so they will not repeat the Playbook’s mistake. The question remains is it too late? RIM still has a chance to change their fortunes but they have is no margin for error, BB10 will define whether or not RIM has a future or if it will fade out of view.
In March 2012 Microsoft Advertising released a study that took a look into the future of the digital living room in Canada which found that 19% of families surveyed planned to buy a tablet in the next year and that 10% of parents said their families watch video on the tablets in the living room.
These surveys reflects a broader trend towards the multiscreen world with recent research by Google, Ipsos, and Sterling showing that people use their smartphones to connect and have 38% of their media interactions there. While tablets keep us entertained and are used primarily at home at 79% versus 21% out of home. This further reinforces the belief that tablets are for consumption not creation which something that Microsoft is seeking to bridge starting with Windows Surface.
We are well into the growth phase of the tablet space as all the major tech players are now fully engaged in the battle of the second and third screen. The Market Research firm NPD Display Search in an article on Mashable projects that tablets will grow from 121 million shipments in 2012 to 416 million by 2017 which would mean that they would probably pass notebook shipments by 2016, which would seem to complete our transition to the post-pc era.
The tablet wars are dynamic with product iterations coming fast and furious as the 7 month lifecycle of Apple’s third generation iPad and launching of the iPad mini clearly shows (I give it 6 months). Microsoft is showing us their post-pc future through Surface. While Google brings organization to the Internet and tries to reign in the fragmentation monster that stocks its dessert filled Android. RIM is readying its last stand.
Technology is continually changing our lives, and computing is entering a new phase with mobile devices and tablets providing new ways to interact and create content. This is the post-pc era, a world of many screens, many choices, where the world’s information and society are never far away. So keep calm and turn your tablet on.
So here is the quote from the video itself:
A tablet that’s a unique expression of entertainment and creativity.
A tablet that works and plays the way you want.
A new type of computing. Surface.
I love how Microsoft is getting into the hardware game with Surface. They are taking their own unique approach to tablets but I do question the completely different platforms for the Surface RT version and the Pro. My problem with going with an Apple style announcement is that Surface was only half-baked. It still needs some time before it is good and done.
The keyboard covers are non-functional, the specs of both are unknown except that the consumer version will run on ARM and the Pro version on Intel. They revealed no pricing information, tech journalists could only experience specific demos but the video was rad. My only criticism is I wish they had done this closer to launch when all the details were set in stone.
The way they did it now means that a lot of the surprise will be over when they do get into the details of then when will it come out and how much will it cost. They have the surprise part down, now just make sure the stars line up.
The Microsoft Surface has a built-in kick stand, has a cover that is a keyboard, the case is made out of something called VaporMg. It is created by moulding metal and depositing particles that create a finish closer to a luxury watch, made of magnesium, it can be as thin as .65 mm which is thinner than a credit card. From all the hands on reports the case gave no flex which is great. Combine that with Gorilla Glass 2 protecting the screen and you come out with a tough soldier of a tablet.
On Monday Richard Dunmall, the Vice President of Global Accounts and Agencies for Microsoft Advertising was in Toronto talking to marketers and agencies. 2012 is a big year for Microsoft as it prepares for the launch of Windows 8 which represents the biggest change to the company’s operating system in more than a decade.
Along with growing their presence in mobile through Windows Mobile and the launch of the Microsoft Story Awards they continue to grow. Richard took a few minutes to talk to Marketing Magazine about what lay ahead for Microsoft, the industry, and their partners.
Microsoft Advertising is running a contest called the Windows Story Awards, why do this content now?
What we are seeing in the industry is a new form of storytelling or a new opportunity around those experiences. This allows brands to come to life, for agencies to delight the clients they work for, and for creatives to build new experiences. So we feel like we have a great opportunity to celebrate that through competition.
The people we work with are ferociously competitive with each other and we want to celebrate that creativity. Particularly with younger talent that has grown up in the digital age and so it is strategic for our partners to get involved because they are trying to grow digital and it is strategic for us because it means more opportunities.
How is Microsoft competing against the likes of Google, Facebook and AOL for ad dollars?
We see the opportunity for us is to create and introduce new advertising experiences across new devices and new forms of content. Xbox is still a relatively small advertising business for us but clearly, very exciting. Increasingly Xbox is less just about gaming and more about media. We have more subscribers on Xbox than on Comcast in the States, the introduction of Kinect democratizes the living room and the TV experience even more that will help us to grow.
I think our acquisition of Skype allows us to continue to play in the social video space and brands are really excited about how they can build experiences around that which is a very emotional connection between people.
What are advertisers and agencies looking for from partners like Microsoft and your competition today?
Generally speaking and I’ve met with plenty of agencies in Canada and its similar in most mature markets. We want to grow the total digital share of wallet, so I think Canada today is at 14% of total media investment goes into digital. There is clearly a shift from a consumer perspective on to more devices, more different forms of content and yet media expenditure lags behind that. So the audience opportunity is behind the media investment.
Where do you see innovation coming from, niche digital agencies or traditional, full-service ones?
It’s an ongoing debate and I think it varies by market and by company. Clearly digital of some description will always be the tip of the spear and be driving the initial agenda. But what I think we are seeing more and more globally is that the bigger players are continuing to consolidate and their digital capabilities are increasing rapidly.
That is also the case on the brand side as well if you look at Proctor, Unilever, Nike, and Coca Cola. They are really doubling down from an innovation perspective because that’s where their next billion consumers are going to come from.
What role does mobile play for Microsoft?
There are two parts to mobility, what is happening from a consumer experience and what is happening from an advertising perspective. So we come from very humble beginnings in the mobile space, we have a very low market share globally. That said most projections would have us the number 2 smartphone operating system by 2015, after Android interesting enough.
What we realize coming from a lower market share position we had to do something a bit different. A lot of that innovation is around the metro interface. The tiles really pops the things that are really the most useful in your life whether it is your social connections or the tasks you want to complete its all just there. It’s quite a fluid experience and what we’ve learned is that has a direct impact on the advertising experiences that you’re going to see on the platform.
Why has mobile advertising never really taken off?
The reason mobile advertising has never taken off is that it is fundamentally a different experience. What we’ve seen with what we would call the appification of the web is people are looking for ways to complete everyday tasks.
I think increasingly you are going to see two things within the mobile space. You are going to see more personalized experiences based on the apps most relevant to your life and that’s a really interesting opportunity for brands. Secondly I think a lot of what we will see is going to be geospatial so local, promotions, information, activities, and search.
Last year Microsoft introduced polymorphic ads, which makes it easy for ads to scale based on the device. How have brands and agencies responded to them?
There is a lot of excitement for it and we are still in the process of working with key partners to scale it out. But I think it has a number of benefits, there is a level of efficiency in creative production because of good cost efficiencies around building creative experiences. It allows them to use a partner of Microsoft’s size to get that scale rather than having to do it exclusively themselves. I think number three is it gets away from what I would describe as matching luggage.
So a lot of creative in the digital age is still essentially TV creative that is sort of jammed into a mobile experience or into a PC experience and I’m not sure that’s a strategy for long-term growth because they are fundamentally difference experiences. So I think this is the first stake sort of stake in the ground from us to make it an intuitive process.
How do brands and agencies use display ads, social media and content in their advertising today?
One of the big things on marketers and agencies minds is what’s the balance between paid, owned, and earned media? Facebook has done a tremendous job of being the largest word of mouth platform in the world today.
I think those things are interesting but the big debate for marketers though, is what is the value of that fan base? Coca Cola have more fans than anyone on Facebook but I’m not sure they know what to do with them. I think what’s interesting as well is does that mean I need to pay for advertising on Facebook because I’ve already got terrific connections with consumers.
What the industry is questioning is OK so I have all these people talking about my brand, why would I need to advertise in a tiny little box on the side and I don’t think it matters at the moment because Facebook is such a phenomenon but over time the lifetime value of those consumers is that environment will be questioned.
***UPDATE*** I did this interview for Marketing Magazine in late February with Richard Dunmall, who was the VP Microsoft Advertising Global Accounts and Agencies but they never ended up publishing it as far as I know. My gut is telling me that since Richard left Microsoft soon after he came to Toronto, that may have killed its chances of it ever getting published but I may never know.