Microsoft ditches Vista

14 April, 2010

What? The operating system that was going to change the world?  The one that would compete with Apple? The one that everyone would want to use?

Its passing is such sweet sorrow. (Sorry I’m getting mixed up with Twitter Romeo & Juliet here.) I remember when it came in and one of our clients was having to pre-install Windows XP over the top of Vista to make any sales.  Then it all settled down and millions around the world had to buy Vista operated PCs as that was all on offer. So what happens just over three years down the line? Microsoft dumps them in it with no support or security updates.

Nice one Bill – the hackers’ friend

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Just browsing?

1 March, 2010

Have you had your message from Microsoft yet directing you to use a browser other than Internet Explorer? Did it make you think, “yes, I am going to change to Maxthon now“?

Made me wonder just how many people do actually notice what browser they are using?  I have both Safari and Firefox set up on my computer and use Firefox out of choice. However, as I work on a Apple, when I click open a link it invariably opens it in Safari.  Do I notice?  Only if I then decide to go to my favourites and wonder where they have gone.

Is the ‘man in the street’ actually going to care what browser he is using or will he just be happy to have one that works and takes him straight to Google?  Oh well, if it makes the bureaucrats in the EU happy so be it but I doubt it will do anything to dent Microsoft’s market share and may well confuse the consumer.


Advertising is not black and white – Sometimes it’s both

26 August, 2009

A friend of mine said to me the other day that he objected to the internet.

“Object to the internet?” I cried, aghast! As a keen denizen of Skynet’s beta test version I found it hard to believe that anyone could hold this opinion. Still less could I understand it.

My friend’s objection ran thus: In the halcyon days, when we only had three channels of telly, we had central, skilled figures who would pick the programming. These ‘experts’ would tell us what to watch, and weed out the chaff. That would explain why we got ten years of The Generation Game.

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What about choice? What about the democratisation of content? Much of what I find to be the best content ever to have appeared in the history of anything ever would never have made it onto telly. Computer Man, Jesus Christ SuperCop, Teen Girl Squad, Weebl & Bob. The list goes on….

In my opinion, if you spend a little time on the web, you soon find sites and individuals that recommend the kind of content you wish to read; people of like mindsets, or people you find interestingly disagreeable. In that sense the net eventually becomes self-filtering.

However, this friend of mine had one particularly disarming argument; one I can’t really argue with. The internet allows nonsense to proliferate at an alarming rate. Take for example the popularity of videos of kittens falling over, or the mindless reproduction of rumours such as ‘On average we each eat eight spiders a year while asleep’. What about the balance of the current healthcare debate in America? On the internet nonsense breeds faster than a chubby-chaser in Fatsville.

This was the first thing I thought about this morning when somebody showed me the following: In a recent advert Microsoft has, supposedly, photoshopped out a black guy to make an ad more relevant to its Polish audience.

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Shocking stuff.

I recognise the paradox of propagating this image while telling people it’s a bad idea. But let me say this: As yet we have no proof of where this has come from. I have seen no proof yet that this image is genuine. We also have no proof that this image wasn’t simply a mistake made by an over-zealous ad agency, to which Microsoft was not party. And no, before you ask, I’m not Microsoft’s PR.

None of this matters, of course, in the final analysis. This will spread like wildfire And why? Because people want it to be true. It’s funny, it kicks into a large corporation, and it’s an easy size to forward via email.

This image, however, put a final nail in my argument for the internet’s validity as an information resource. As soon as I saw this image the first thing I thought was ‘Oh, that’s so old hat. I’ve seen precedent for this before. On the intertron!

That’s right. The net has filled my head with so much rubbish I am, essentially, unshockable.

Next stop, Kung Fu.


Bing

4 June, 2009

Microsoft has launched its latest attempt to gain market share on Google with its own search engine, the rubbishly named Bing. At least it gives me an excuse to use a photo of Barry Scott.
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Google holds around 80% of the search engine market with Microsoft trailing way behind with 5.5% so you can see why they’re trying to do something about it. Bing actually has a number of pretty nifty features such as being able to hold the mouse over a video search result and see a quick preview or if you type in a celebrity’s name you get a whole load of options such as photos, bio etc. Also much of the information you’re searching for can be found without leaving Bing which makes life easier.

The search results are largely the same as those from Google which therefore begs the question why would you switch? So many people use Google already and it delivers everything you need in a pretty simple manner so why would you switch to a new search engine? Especially for UK users as our version is still at the beta stage.

It will be interesting to see the stats in a few month’s time to see if Microsoft has managed to gain any ground on Google.


Games at the E3: The fallacy of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo

15 July, 2008

Never let it be doubted that gaming is a serious, serious business. Over the last few years, the cost of producing a ‘blockbuster’ videogame has begun to creep towards ‘Hollywood’ figures; many tens of millions of dollars.

And just like Hollywood, marketing people are now stepping in to define the content and schmaltz it up for the rest of us.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that, while I’m a fan of many of the biggest modern videogames (and there’s certainly no apparent dearth of good ideas), part of me pines for the days when two programmers in their bedrooms could simply write whatever game they wanted (a la ‘Codemasters’).

Now it’s very much more of a corporate engine and, like films, those big games *have* to be massively profitable.

As the BBC has reported, in a move that would put Tinseltown to shame, Sony and Microsofts marketers have ‘done a number’ on their brand positioning. Apparently Sony and Microsoft want to get a slice of Nintendo’s pie by producing more cutesy lifestyle / family-oriented games (think brain-training, bowling, Nintendogs).

You can see how Sony and Microsoft’s thinking has gone here. “Our platforms are well-respected, graphically-amazing machines. But only serious gamers care about that. What we need it to produce games that are cheaper (and therefore graphically less good) that hit the majority-market of families”.

Well, I’m sorry, but does anyone else think Sony and Microsoft, having spent countless millions developing these machines, are now missing the point? a) That’s not what these machines were created for, b) this has always been the strength of Nintendo’s brand, and c) where’s the brand-image separation if they all head for the middle ground?

Ok, so maybe I’m just fighting marketing-speak with marketing-speak, but I feel like S&M are on a hiding to nothing.


Out of this world

14 May, 2008

We all know of Microsoft’s plan for world dominance but I didn’t realise they were intending to take over space too.

This week sees the launch of the beta of its Worldwide Telescope project which links together images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey giving all of us the opportunity to scan the heavens as never before.

All great fun I am sure, and very educational, but it does leave Microsoft with a problem – what is there left to take over?


Search me

11 April, 2008

So it hit the news today that Yahoo is considering a strategic alliance with AOL in order to keep the wolf from the door, following Microsoft’s much-publicised takeover bid. At the same time, Yahoo is considering channeling the lucrative advertising system of its competitor Google (itself a shareholder in AOL) in an effort to generate revenues.

Michael Holland of New York Investment fund Holland & Co. said, rather uncharitably, “The AOL-Yahoo thing reminds me of two men drowning, both grabbing on to each other”. [Guardian 11.04.08, p26]. The consensus over Yahoo seems to be that these are the acts of a company in dire straits.

Are Yahoo running away from their problems?

More interesting, I thought, and more broadly relevant to the search space, was the story that hit the press on Monday (07.11.08). A European Commission advisory body has issued a warning to search engines concerning the lengthy periods for which they retain users data. By analysing the websites you visit, search engines can build up a staggeringly comprehensive picture of our likes, dislikes and personality types. Yahoo is one of the better search engines in this regard, retaining its users’ data for only 13 months, compared to Google’s 18. However, whether used for marketing purposes, or purely for internal development, I suspect most people remain unaware that their data is used in this way.

Without naming any names, one of the elements of PR work we do is in the open source enterprise search space. One of the things such companies are understandably passionate about is the transparency of their software: anyone can see how they work and what they’re doing. Yahoo, Google and MSN search are ‘closed books’ to the outside world in terms of their intellectual property. Many would argue that we can only know as much about a search engine’s privacy policies as they are willing, or are forced, to tell us.

Who's looking at your personal data?These high-profile data-gathering systems, facebook included, are a cause of mounting concern amongst net users. Following the recent PR disaster connected to the ‘Phorm’ advertising system, which was decreed to gather user information in a way that was genuinely illegal, you’d think that Yahoo would manage its PR extremely carefully regarding their ‘experiment’ with the Google advertising system. But with all eyes on the share price, Yahoo are, I suspect, keen to play down this partnership. Perhaps it’s time these companies threw open the doors to show, if only to a regulatory body, exactly how their market-information software works.