Moving on…

… to a new role at Microsoft. During my 4 years at Microsoft, first as the Belgian Consumer Marketing Manager for MSN and later as the Marcom Lead for MSN and Windows Live in EMEA, I’ve been experimenting with social media. Remember the Windows Live Sessions we did all over Europe (e.g. Brussels, London, …), inviting bloggers to events such as MIX, sponsoring and attending Barcamps or Girl Geek Dinners and bigger events such as Le Web for instance, the adventures with Steve and Hugh around the Blue Monster, speaking at events, getting the word out on ‘Bring The Love Back‘, engaging on blogs and twitter, etc… Although it was only a small part of my job (the main part was setting up online marketing campaigns), I’ve always been very passionate about it.

Since October 1st that has all changed. Since then I’ve started working in a new role as Digital Media Communications Manager for all Windows Consumer brands – PC, mobile and online – as well as MSN and Live Search in EMEA. I got to say, it’s like getting paid to do your hobby just like Steve seems to think about his job as well. And it’s also the reason why this blog has gone silent for a bit, as I’m still transitioning stuff from my old job to other people. Also our fiscal year started on July 1st so I got to get my new plans ready asap, expect more about that here soon.

Anyway, I’ve been waiting for the moment I could tell you all this, wish me luck and if ever you have ideas on how you think I should run this… let me know in the comments.

Business as usual

It seems ages since I last opened up Live Writer last time. This is not because I stopped loving it, but because the blogging rhythm on this blog (and on I Blog Mustang) have been very slow lately. It seems like the only times I get to do some writing lately is when traveling. The last posts were all (or almost all) written on trains and planes.

While I see people writing about how Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, … or whatever other service has taken over from their blogging, that is actually not the case with me. I am indeed more active on Twitter than on this blog, but that is because of the short and instant nature of the service vs the time you need to spend writing blogposts. I do still dedicate the time I need to reading my RSS, luckily enough as I’m addicted to news – couldn’t do without.

In the meantime we’re working hard on releasing some new campaigns for Windows Live and MSN in Europe (more on these at Live In Europe) and we’re also gearing up in the planning for next year as our fiscal year starts at July 1st and not January 1st like with most companies.

For now, I’ll just try and write some more posts about things that I’ve been meaning to write now that I am on my way to Stockholm. Share your travel via Dopplr if you want ;)

My mobile life

Sometimes I think I live on mobile. If there’s a device I really couldn’t miss it’s my mobile phone. Ask my wife, if on occasion I don’t take my mobile phone with me, she’ll wonder how it’s possible I forgot it. It’s just too odd for me to be without. According to my mom, it’ll grow on my ears one day. Whatever ;)

Anyway, it’s true that mobile is important for me, ever since I got my first mobile phone some 10 years ago. Every year I hope that mobile will really breakthrough, but unfortunately also this year won’t be the year of mobile, just like 2007, 2006 nor 2005 were the year of mobile. It’s that one prediction that I wish it were through, but you know it won’t be.

It’s not even in our hands. I think the devices are there, thinking of the N95, the iPhone and some Windows Mobile devices that are all capable of doing amazing things for such a small device. The iPhone has the interface to love, my HTC is less slick but comes with 3G, built in GPS and all the power of Office and Exchange on mobile. Or the N95 with it’s superb camera. And now I’m not mentioning a ton of other great features these phones have.

Apart from all that greatness, I’ve been a very active user of the mobile web for the last 6 years or so as well. First on WAP on my old Nokia 6310i for instance, later on Vodafone Live with a Sharp GX30. Back then I was still working on Kinepolis‘ new media strategy and we invested in this back then already. Today Kinepolis is still one of the very few Belgian companies with a decent mobile site, for which you got to give them credit. But even outside Belgium, there aren’t many mobile specific sites, which already resulted in a shout-out more than a year ago.

The mobile sites I currently use are: BBC, Bloglines, Gmail, Hotmail, Messenger, Dopplr, Facebook, Google Reader, Live Search, Kinepolis, MSN, Twitter, Technorati, Wapedia, Flickr, Yahoo and WordPress. I don’t really know many more that are of use to me, or that aren’t in a walled garden like Vodafone Live.

I also use client versions like Live Messenger (which you can download for all kinds of devices), the Live Search client as well as the Google Maps client, Yahoo!Go, … as well as apps that run in the Java environment on mobile like Gmail and Opera Mini. On the N95 I also tried the Widsets, but whatever the phone, the browse services still top them all.

Today, with the iPhone’s browsing capabilities, or other mobile browsers that enable better viewing of ‘normal websites’ on mobile we will probably skip the further development of mobile specific sites. With Skyfire for instance (see announcement) or Deepfish I expect to see more ‘regular’ browsing in the future.

Still, the problem remains, now even more than ever I guess. We will have access to every site we want, with great browsers but at what cost? There’s a good explanation why I use so much mobile: I can use it obviously but more important is that I don’t have to pay for it. The day I have to pay for it, I’ll cut back for sure, need or no need. How much I love the Wifi on these phones, that’s not truly mobile for me. It’s when in a taxi, or before checking in a plane, while waiting on someone, … that I love to use all my catching up. Not only in my sofa at home for instance.

So unless operators change their models on data costs, mobile will never really breakthrough and that’s sad. And yes you can discuss devices etc aren’t ready yet either, allow me to say they’re well ahead of the game when you compare them to operator attitudes. And I’m afraid they won’t change that soon either. There’s too much money to be made with TXT messages to allow you to use IM on mobile instead for instance. What’s your take?

PS: Also check out the upcoming FF for Mobile now we’re at it ;)

PPS: And Twitter, for god’s sake, at least add a replies tab to m.twitter.com will ya!

 

Celebrity Worship Syndrome

I just received this email about a campaign from my Australian colleagues and I thought this one was definitely worth sharing with you. The team at Ninemsn have just relaunched their entertainment channel called The Fix and they did some great marketing to do so.

The Australian team hired this British woman below named Camilla Shadbolt (who has an uncanny resemblance to Victoria Beckham) to come to Australia.  There is tons of video footage of her arriving in Sydney and people absolutely thought that she was the real thing (her stay ‘happened’ to coincide with David Beckham’s soccer tournament in Australia).  Take a look at this video for instance.

TheFix

Camilla represents the face of real Celebrity Worship Syndrome obsession. Through the campaign Camilla will talk about her obsession and how sites like The Fix get her through her addiction, because they have all the latest on celebrities. In case you aren’t sure if you are maybe an obsessed as well, take this test to make sure: Are you obsessed? Obviously, when you do think you’re a celebrity, you can upload your image to the site and maybe win a trip to LA. There are some stunning photos from The Irish Hoff if you ask me :)

Online video advertising

It was no real surprise that this was coming, but it’s still interesting to see how every video service is trying out different kinds of advertising on and around their videos. I honestly expected it to happen earlier as we all know the daily costs for services such as Youtube are quite high and there’s little monetization just yet.

The solution that most services seem to bet on is the advertising pre-roll: showing a short ad before you see the video you actually chose/came for. Also here are some differences as some have a pre-roll for every video while on MSN Video for instance this is based on time spent on the site. So regardless of how many videos you watch, you’ll only get a pre-roll every 3 minutes. It’s interesting to see how ads are not tied to pageviews anymore although also this model will continue to improve. (disclaimer: I work for Microsoft)

Another solution is the advertising that shows as a partial overlay on the video. VideoEgg has this for a while now and it is also what Youtube introduced on their service not so long ago. After user complaints they made this an opt in for content owners since many weren’t happy at all. It would be interesting to find out how many content owners opted in for this.

And since online video is so popular, it attracts other types of advertising especially when people share videos. Google just introduced their Adsense Video Units which is basically a way of embedding video into your site/blog with ads surrounding it. People who do embed this can make a bit of money (similar to AdSense) but they could have done with a little bit less ads I think.

A last type of advertising with video that I found just recently is the Wildfire Network. It’s less related to advertising before and during online video, but I thought it’s still somehow part of this discussion. Basically it’ll pay bloggers to post videos on their blog, and it’ll show it’s a sponsored entry. Pay-per-post for video basically and I guess the whole pay-per-post discussion applies here as well.

Anyway, will any/more of these solutions attract advertisers? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I remember back in 2001 or 2002 (I still worked at Kinepolis Group, which is a cinema operator) we changed all online movie trailers from Quicktime to Flash (which back then was hardly used for video). At the same time we introduced the possibility of adding a 7 second commercial before each movie trailer and I always found it weird we were never able to sell that to anyone. And cinema advertising was big part of our business remember. Curious to see if that changed today, 5-6 years later.

Wait and see.

Now with 5GB

I’ve been a Hotmail user for quite a long time already, long time before I started working at Microsoft. I always found it easy to have this email address that was not linked to your internet provider (remember de ‘free’ dial-up services etc) and later on it became even easier when I got to use Messenger.

Now when thinking about Hotmail about 3 years ago that wasn’t all that good anymore. With the coming of Gmail it became more clear than ever that Hotmail needed work…. and a lot of it. The old interface, advertising, 25MB storage vs Gmail’s 1GB,…

But today we are 3 years further down the line, Gmail has close to 3GB of inbox (and you can buy more if you want) en is still in beta and Hotmail has been renewed completely. The backend, the interface it’s all new. Drag&drop, rightclick, … are only few of the new things and this week they announced some other new updates and some pretty cool ones as well:

  • More storage: Hotmail users will get 5GB of inbox for free and 10GB for the paying Hotmail Plus accounts
  • Contacts de-duplication: This will run each time you try to add a contact but there’s also a wizzard to clean up your existing contacts
  • Forwarding messages: You can forward your account to another Hotmail account if you have more accounts and want to handle things easily, this also works to non-Hotmail accounts if you’re a Hotmail Plus user
  • OOF: Hotmail now as an Out of Office as well, to your contacts only if you wish
  • Turn of the today page: I want to go straight to my inbox so I like that one as well

Remember as well that Hotmail is available on mobile as well for quite a long time (http://mobile.live.com) , and that there’s a desktop client in which you can sync all your Hotmail and other webmail accounts as well, called Windows Live Mail. I use the desktop client and mobile version quite a lot myself.

If you only remember Hotmail from ‘back in the days’ then I think you should check it out again: http://mail.live.com

And yes, for the xxth time, I work for Microsoft.

Most watched

I just read the press release of MSN around the streaming of the Live Earth concerts across the globe. These concerts are the most watched entertainment event in online history with more than 8 million people that watched part of the live coverage that was exclusive on MSN. This resulted in more than 15 million streams during the event and with the on demand that you can still watch we’re now already at more than 30 million streams. The event streaming peaked with 237.000 people watching simultaneously at a certain time with is a new record. Now I believe that’s pretty impressive, here’s the full press release… and here’s the link if you want to watch part of the concerts again.

Surface not innovative?

While working for Microsoft I’m getting used to the fact that there will always be a good deal of negative comments on everything we do – it’s just how it is. When we postpone our OS it’s a scandal, when the competition does it’s a smart move. When we announce something innovative, someone else has done it before because copying is what we do apparently.

surfacedeskisland

After the announcement of Surface, the same happened. Although there was a really good buzz about this, the negative feedback poured in as well. Several arguments came in to show that this was no innovation at all, others had thought of this before and one of these arguments pointed out to the movie ‘The Island‘. In a certain scene you can see a sort of future office where one of the main characters uses a kind of interactive desk – surface computing really (you can see the clip below).

Since this movie dates already from 2005, it’s clear that Microsoft was it’s usual copycat again. But here’s the funny part: the ‘interactive table’ you see in ‘The Island’ is actually Microsoft’s Surface computer. Long Zheng who reported this on his blog also has an interview with someone on the production team talking about this. Great, isn’t it?

It really shouldn’t have that much of a surprise either really, as Microsoft was present with MSN and Xbox as well in that movie. Anyway the movie was from 2005, talking about something that happens in 2019 en here we are, 2 years later and the Surface is for sale ;)

[Via Bink.nu]

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Soapbox back open

Soapbox – the MSN video sharing service – is back open for full video viewing. The service started as a closed beta, opened for full public a few months later but went back into closed beta soon after. The reason for this closure was related to the many piracy issues video sharing services have to deal with and the Soapbox team wanted to fix that first before going public again.

soapbox

Next to a few updates on performance, Soapbox is now also using CopySense technology from Audible Magic for proactive automated filtering of copyright content. Other tools to fight piracy will be added as well. Soapbox is still in beta so expect more updates to come soon.

Soapbox offers much of the same as the other known video services (tagging, embedding, commenting, …) but what I find really differentiating on it is the link with Live Messenger. You can very easily IM a video, which means you’ll watch it at the same time with a Messenger buddy whil in a chat conversation. Good fun, I’ll tell you.

Earlier this year (in april) Soapbox already updated much of the UI and better integration with MSN Video.

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Something is about to happen…

First of all there’s I-Merge. This Belgian interactive agency is about to change into it’s new … shape and therefor they launched a teasing campaign to build awareness of this. A lot of us knew that there were big changes to be expected and they could have done the classic PR approach + email to clients to announce it but… that’s not the I-Merge way :) If you go to the I-Merge website, you will be able to get one of the pixels out of their actual logo, basically helping it to fade out. By doing so you get a very real certificate that you’re the proud owner of this pixel… and obviously it’ll help the agency to update you once the news gets out. I own mine already, make sure you do as well. More about this on their blog.

The second thing that’s about to happen relates to ‘Bring the love back‘, something I spoke about earlier. We’re coming really close to the release of this short video and I’m sure many of you will like it. Hopefully it’ll fuel the conversation with advertisers on reaching today’s consumer. I’ll put up a post with the video once it’s live so keep an eye on this blog ;)