Category Archives: Brands

Practically giving in on the future of the tablet as a tablet, Microsoft announced Surface Pro 3 yesterday as a laptop replacement that oh yeah, can also serve as a tablet for those “lean back” moments that may come your way during the day. But the big bosses in Redmond are really pushing their new 12″ glass as a MacBook Air killer, and not an iPad killer. Claiming that “96% of iPad users also buy a laptop” new CEO Satya Nadella and Corporate VP for Surface Computing Panos Panay did all they could do to exclaim how much better Surface Pro 3 is as a get your work done laptop than an entertainment device… which is an interesting strategy. They’re also pricing it as a laptop with the most powerful version sporting an i7 Intel chip and a 512GB SSD at almost $2000. We’ll see what this does for the folks in Washington, but I have a sneaky feeling that the folks across the land are gonna have a really big yawn on launch day with this one… More about the announcement here at Wired.

Panos Panay introduces the Surface tablet during the Microsoft Surface unveiling. Photo: Andrew White/WIRED

Panos Panay introduces the Surface tablet during the Microsoft Surface unveiling. Photo: Andrew White/WIRED

UPDATED THROUGHOUT THE DAY

For years now, April Fool’s Day has taken on a special life across the Internet, with big companies and brands getting in on the act. Sometimes I think about the meetings and planning that went into a few of these pranks and just shake my head. Note that all the Google departments and companies have their own April Fool’s Day joke, which The NextWeb has listed for us already. Here are a few more I’ve come across today:

Last night, Google Maps announced their Pokemaster contest. Over 150 Pokemon are spread out across the world. Find all 150 and become a Pokemaster, in the running for a job at Google and a Challenge Match. I have no idea if they’ll carry through on the job thing, but I couldn’t sleep last night and found all 150 Pokemon. It’s addictive, and the Googlers who put this together have a definite sense of humor as to the placement. (Don’t forget to look on the Apple and Facebook campuses.)

Google Maps April Fools Joke

Google Maps April Fools Joke

TvAddict announces the Firefly reboot by Netflix (how many of us wish this one was real?)

Pick and grow your favorite facial hair with the Mr Beard Beard Machine from ThinkGeek

Google AdBirds from AdWords – taking your ads to new heights (I love this one!)

Netflix new movie in the style of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”: Rotisserie Chicken

Google Plus is AutoAwesoming your photos as usual, but this time more #Hoffsome with Hasselhoff photobombs

Twitter is introducing the Twitter Helmet (like Google Glass but for tweeting)

LinkedIn is adding LinkedIn for the stars of the Internet: LinkedIn Cats

Nest teamed up with Virgin Atlantic for Total Temperature Control in your airplane seat (not a bad idea, all things considered), and Richard Branson is in on the joke

While Apple itself doesn’t seem to have released a joke yet, iFixIt has announced that they have been acquired by Apple

Tumblr has Tumblr Pro. You have to go a long way for the joke – as in watch a video and then click a button and there’s a small payoff, but I laughed.

CERN has switched to Comic Sans. Nice to know the Really Smart Folks have a sense of humor.

UPDATES:

Julep introduces Cat Color (manicures for your kitty).

Microsoft Office (at Office.com) has re-released Clippy. Remember Clippy?

Hulu has announced spin-offs, including In the Kitchen with Hannibal.

Let me know what else you see out there as the day progresses.

 

sxswWe’re here at SXSW Interactive with a day 1 recap (find more info here). Friday’s weather held for us here in Austin with semi-sunny skies, but we’re expecting rainfall off and on all day Saturday. There are masses of people, but the number seems flat from last year — the surge of the crowds is quite evident when you try to get into a club or a lunch hotspot, or some of the Festival sessions at the smaller venue — however it’s not as packed as 2013.

Thursday was all about the state education for us and the role of technology as its transformational agent. The best session of the day was facilitated by John Hagel from the Center for the Edge. His group conducts research on workplace efficiency. His main thesis was how today’s companies are in a war for talent — acquiring the best people so they can stay ahead of the competition — but Hagel presents a “paradox of talent” explaining that once companies acquire talent they fail to effectively develop talent. He went on to explain that most executives speak about acquiring and retaining the best talent, but they speak little about developing said talent once they’re on board. He goes on to say that companies need to apply the principles of design thinking and design methodologies to the workplace environment to help  employees connect with each other and innovate faster.

Later in the day, we attended an informative session about MOOCs (massive open online courses) led by Dave Hinger and Jeff Meadows from the University of Lethbridge in Canada. They focused on what the key challenges of MOOCs are and what are some potential solutions. They relied on audience participation to get the conversation going. Most of the room were from Higher Education and there were almost as many opinions as participants. Some consensus included:

— MOOCs are plagues by low completion rates

— How do you effectively assess MOOC students?

— Most MOOCs are boring and have low production value

— MOOCs are not financially viable for institutions

Some in the audience discussed how Georgia Tech is offering a MOOC-based degree in Computer Science for only $6000, which they found to be very disruptive to the traditional university model.

Day 1 ended with us relaxing in the PayPal lounge where there are endless outlets for device charging and free schwag. Today, we’re gonna hit the Oreo Cookies 3D printer where… yes, you can print and EAT your own Oreo cookie!

cashIt seems like streaming services are all the rage lately. Beats just released their app (known mostly for headphones, the company bought MOG, and re-branded it) which gives you unlimited downloads and access across 10 devices for $14.99 a month. Spotify has now removed the limit to the number of songs subscribers on the free plan can access each month, as well. So the services are upping the ante by trying feverishly to differentiate themselves. Beats is adding a human element by bringing curators to the service instead of a computer algorithm to help you discover songs/artists you like. Spotify is stressing its social utilities and focusing on playlists based on your mood.

To carve out market share, the streaming services have offered subscriptions at a ridiculously low price: $9.99 a month on average, or even better discounts if you buy a year’s worth in advance. The paradigm shift for the general public has been moving from “owning” songs to “renting” them. While the streaming services seem to be taking hold, there’s new research that shows they can never be profitable. According to the report, the number of streaming users will balloon to 1.7 billion by 2017, up from 767 million in 2013.  Paid subscribers will leap to 125 million, up from 36 million currently. It seems like the labels are the culprits: taking 70% of the profits for themselves in royalties. On top of that, the freemium model that Spotify has adopted is convincing consumers that music is a commodity, and not really worth paying for. And, of course, there’s the controversy with what the artists are actually being paid.

As the services evolve, they’re going to have to figure out a revenue model that allows for scalability. And consumers, at some point, are going to have to pay up.

I was checking into a new book on Champagne on Amazon this afternoon when I noticed a new button – “Add to Collection.”  Imagine my surprise when I realized that Amazon is launching their own version of Pinterest.

collections

This makes sense. After all, why have people posting Amazon things on Pinterest when they could be pinning to Amazon directly, sharing with others and shopping right at that moment. One of the annoying things for me about Pinterest is that I don’t always know where to get the things that are pinned. But if it’s pinned on Amazon, I can get it at Amazon. Brilliant.

Basically, the concept is the same as Pinterest. You can create collections, customizing each name and adding as many things as you want. You can browse other people’s collections as well, pinning their finds to your own collections.

Not all products have the “Add to Collection” button yet. But if you click that little “Learn More” link in the dialog, you’ll find you can add a “Collect” button to your browser, allowing you to pin anything on Amazon’s site. Right now, this feature seems to be limited both in scope (you’re confined to Amazon’s site and not the rest of the web) and in release (not all products have the magic button). We’ll see how well it takes off and what Amazon does with the data.

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