Windows RT – It’s Dead, Jim

Windows_RT_logo

According to Bloomberg and other sources Microsoft is cutting the price of Windows RT, though that may be a mute issue since few hardware manufacturers are planning on fielding an RT device.

Windows RT was supposed to be Microsoft’s answer to iOS but, like the Zune, it turned out to be a poorly implemented imitation. Microsoft gave RT a few Windows tricks, but the platform is incompatible with many big Windows software applications. Coders had to choose between Windows 8 and RT and that was not a difficult decision for most developers.

Hardware manufacturers are unloading their RT devices faster than AT&T is dumping the Facebook phone. HP and Samsung have dropped support and Acer’s CEO announced today the company is still deciding if they intend to offer an RT device, but definitely seem to leaning toward abandoning those plans.

While the Zune was a blunder Microsoft, and the rest of the tech community, could laugh off one wonders how many high-profile blunders the company can sustain and still stay relevant. The Redmond giant trying to compete with Apple always reminded me of your dad hitting on your college-age girlfriends; part sad, part creepy and a little uncomfortable.

In fairness to Microsoft, Windows RT may have looked like a good idea in the days when Android tablets were really expensive and online productivity apps were still in their infancy. These days cloud productivity has improved to the point many businesses started questioning the cost of Office, Android tablets dropped to the $200 price range and 64 percent of smartphones sold the first quarter of this year will be running some flavor of Android.  The domination of Android makes Windows RT look out of place and Microsoft appear out of touch.

All this culminates with news from the Wall Street Journal that Microsoft is now engaged in a massive reorganization starting with laying off 200 employees in various marketing divisions. As the era of big PCs comes to a close it’s going to be interesting to see if Microsoft can find its footing and a path forward in a rapidly changing technology market.

How PR Has Affected Our View of the Latest Technology

Unlike ads (which are pretty easy to recognize) public relations efforts often affect our perception of tech products – and sometimes do it in ways that are too subtle for us to notice.

Public relations firms have developed many new strategies and tactics in order to draw the attention of consumers to products and services without relying exclusively on traditional advertising channels. The importance of public relations has increased dramatically since the introduction of new technologies like social media. A large number of the efforts that are being used today were derived from the wildly successful Apple campaigns in the last decade that introduced consumers to a completely new class of products and then made those items household names.

Strategy: showcase “normal” people using the product
One of the most successful recent strategies has been to show products or services being used by people who are just like the consumer. Samsung is currently using this strategy as part of a massive campaign that started in 2011 with the introduction of the Galaxy line of products. The company created excitement about the Galaxy tablet and phone months before the launch. When the tablet actually launched it was accompanied by a massive event in New York City that featured a celebrity endorsement. The product was then sent to thousands of different events and locations so that regular consumers would see the Galaxy in everyday use. The Galaxy was distributed to several childcare locations so that parents and employees could see it being used by children to play educational games and music. A brilliant campaign featuring an Elephant using a Galaxy Note even surfaced in March (video here: http://youtu.be/KBrmaE82uY4).

The result of the campaign is that the Samsung Galaxy tablet and phone received a combined 3.3 billion appearances in the media. That number continues to rise even today. Future advertising campaigns showed regular users on the street outperforming competing devices because of the new or better features of the phone. The overwhelming presence of the Galaxy as well as the large number of average consumers who were exposed to the devices throughout 2011 provided legitimacy to the company. This massive public relations campaign was very successful since Samsung tablets increased in sales by 100 percent. It reduced demand for the Apple iPad by 16 percent in late 2012. The Samsung Galaxy lines of phones became the most popular devices on the market. They are currently outselling all other competitors including Apple. This success is largely contributed to the guerrilla placement of the product as well as the good reception of the device by celebrities, media personalities and average consumers who actively use the devices in public.

Bing vs Google
Another example of how public relations efforts to convince consumers that friends and family are already using a product or services comes from Microsoft. The company has had public relations successes for a long time. It had a relatively decent launch for its Bing search engine, which increased Microsoft’s market share over its predecessor, Live.com.

Bing It On
bingitonA very recent public relations effort has further helped to increase public perceptions and the use of the Bing search engine. Specifically, the campaign that Microsoft launched had employees marching around San Francisco and other cities near Silicon Valley offering pedestrians a challenge. A special Bing website compared the results of the Microsoft search engine to the ever-popular Google search engine.

The results were turned into a marketing campaign that encompassed every outlet from television to social media. Regular users were encouraged to visit Bing and complete the challenge. This was coupled with other efforts such as the appearance of the search engine as the main information resource in a blockbuster movie. Microsoft also made certain that every Surface tablet and other product clearly displayed Bing when shown in advertising pictures and videos. What many users who did not take part in the interactive challenge saw were real-time results of the campaign that seemed to indicate that more average people preferred Bing to Google. This left the impression that a public consensus had formed around the search engine by late 2012.

The public relations effort was successful in several ways. Microsoft increased the positive perception of the company by the public. The positive perception and awareness of the Bing search engine also increased from 10 percent to 17 percent. Still, Bing’s share in the search engine market has only increased to around 15%, which is very low compared to the behemoth that is Google.

Microsoft has continued to create new public relations efforts to sell the search engine. The search engine itself is now being used as a public relations tool to give consumers the impression that friends and family are using the service. Searches on Bing now bring up recent social media postings from actual users who are not associated with Microsoft or the search term. This is giving users the impression that the search experience is an interactive and social activity. This is having some short-term success although it is still too early to see whether this public relations strategy will be effective.

About the author:
Molly Cutler is COO of the Cutler Group Startup PR and tech PR agency. She is an avid technologist and food junkie. Her favorite apps are Waze and WhatsApp, and she loves anything to do with Apple.

Sometimes The Best Gear Is What We Already Have

I’ve been bitten by the new laptop* bug. Hard.

I’d love to see a sleek new ultrabook or Macbook Air sitting on my dining room table desk, instead of this 6 year-old secondhand Acer. Don’t judge me. I got this thing for a Coke and a smile.

Acer Aspire 3680

I wish mine still looked like this…

Or maybe a sleek new iPod Touch to replace my aging MP3 player, since I only stream music from my phone and don’t want to kill my battery after a few hours of listening.

But then I got to thinking.

What do I use these things for? I use my computer as a word processor, a browser, and storage. And local storage is becoming less and less of a priority. Sure a sleek new unibody looks fantastic, but I’ll never use it enough to justify the $1,000+ I’d pay for it, and I’d probably mess myself when my daughter came at it with a Sharpie (like this one). It’s no workhorse, but I don’t have the need. A RAM upgrade last year got her purring like a kitten, and the $40 battery replacement that I’ve been putting off will have it running better than the day she was made.

My cheapo Sansa Clip won’t run apps, and it sure isn’t pretty, but I’ve never once had to baby it. It’s a cheap little plastic box that’s nothing more than a glorified flash drive with a postage-stamp sized screen on it. And I love it. It holds more music than I could ever hope to listen to in a day (or three). It’s been covered in dust, rained on, sweated on, dropped, and never once have I worried about it. If it breaks, no big deal. I’m out $40 instead of $400.

Sansa Clip MP3 Player

I love this little guy.

That’s when it hit me — I don’t really need these shiny new things. I just want. My computer and MP3 player, both of which I literally spend hours with sometimes, work just like I need them to.  If we step back and take a closer look, most of the time what we have is plenty good enough. It’s just that the honeymoon’s over. 9 times out of 10, a little maintenance and some minor upgrades, most of which don’t require much more than a screwdriver and a few spare minutes, will get us years out of the gadgets we already have right in front of us.

As much time as we spend with our electronics, they become like old friends. Every bump, scrape, scratch, and rumpled old sticker tell a story, and you just don’t get that with something brand new out of the box.

Have any “old tech” you still can’t bear to part with? Tell us about it in the comments.

*Do we still call them “laptops”, or are they “notebooks” now? I’m so confused.

Signing Off

As of this past Monday, I’m a Reviews Editor for The Verge. It’s a new (well, not-yet-born so far) site, where we’ll be covering news, writing reviews and features, and doing much more. It’s a fantastic team and a fantastic publication that I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of.

There’s only one downside: I don’t have time to write Digitizd anymore. (I don’t have time for anything anymore, actually, but that’s a different story.) This site has been my baby, the thing I’m most proud of over the last few years, and has introduced me to people and opportunities I never dreamed of being able to get. As sad as I am to see this phase end, it’s time.

I’ve written this post a million times, and it’s different each time, but the one running theme has been how grateful I am to all of you, the readers and friends of Digitizd. You’ve all made this site fun, useful, and hopefully worthwhile. You’ve corrected me the billion times I’ve been wrong, shown me cool things, inspired me to keep working, and much more. I’m grateful to each one of you.

The Verge is going to be amazing, and I can’t wait to show you what we’re working on when the site launches. I’ll be writing ’til my eyes bleed over there, so if you miss me make sure you come say hi!

 

My New Project: The Frontcourt

For the last few weeks, you may have noticed that posting has slowed down here considerably. First of all, for that I’m truly sorry. Second of all, I’ve got a good excuse: It’s because I’ve been working on something new.

It’s called The Frontcourt, and it’s an online magazine all about sports. But it’s about sports in the way that Digitizd is about tech – we care for its own sake, and like following the nitty-gritty stuff because we love it, but we’re more interested in the broader implications; how the world affects sports, and how sports affects the world.

We’re going to be publishing “issues” every week, with a daily blog to keep us busy at other times. I’ll be writing there a ton, and serving as the site’s editor as well. It’s myself and a group of very smart people I’m lucky to call my friends, and we’ll be adding more folks to the team as we really get going. (Want to join us? Please do!) It won’t be for all of the readers of Digitizd, but I’m betting it’ll be for a few of you.

It would mean the world to me if you would go check out the site, tell me what you think, and maybe even share it if you find something you like.

Now if you’ll excuse me, supposedly there’s a hurricane coming my way. Stay safe!

A Renter's Nightmare

Airbnb, if you don’t know, is a service that allows you to rent out your home as a mini-B&B. It’s a huge service, and generally gets rave reviews. One user “EJ,” didn’t have such a positive experience:

There is little I know at this stage, but I am slowly putting the pieces together. Someone named Dj Pattrson (was it a guy? A girl? I still don’t know – but I have noticed much too late that the person misspelled their own last name) came into my home earlier this month (apparently with several others, according to witnesses) and set out on what I believe to be the carefully-planned theft and destruction of my home and my identity.  With an entire week living in my apartment, Dj and friends had more than enough time to search through literally everything inside, to rifle through every document, every photo, every drawer, every storage container and every piece of clothing I own, essentially turning my world inside out, and leaving a disgusting mess behind.

They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother’s jewelry I had hidden inside. They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals… my entire life. They found my birth certificate and social security card, which I believe they photocopied – using the printer/copier I kindly left out for my guests’ use. They rifled through all my drawers, wore my shoes and clothes, and left my clothing crumpled up in a pile of wet, mildewing towels on the closet floor. They found my coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond and used the discount, along with my Mastercard, to shop online.  Despite the heat wave, they used my fireplace and multiple Duraflame logs to reduce mounds of stuff (my stuff??) to ash – including, I believe, the missing set of guest sheets I left carefully folded for their comfort. Yet they were stupid and careless enough to leave the flue closed; dirty gray ash now covered every surface inside.

A while ago, I wrote about a similar online service, called Couchsurfing. What I wondered about, and wound up being so impressed by, was the fact that this type of thing never seemed to happen with Couchsurfing; the people I met, and that everyone else I knew met, were universally friendly, kind, and good housemates. I’m sure Airbnb is the same, but EJ makes an important point that can’t be overstated:

I do believe that maybe 97% of airbnb.com’s users are good and honest people. Unfortunately I got the other 3%. Someone was bound to eventually, I suppose, and there will be others.

We’re all going to need to figure out where online relationships are allowed to extend into our real lives. We place a lot of trust into people we simply don’t know, and I’m all for that, but our trust might need to end somewhere before our unlocked front door. That makes me sad.

Update: Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO, responded on TechCrunch.

(Via TechCrunch)

The Soothing Power of the Power Button

As of today, I’m the proud owner of a big, silver box that takes up space I don’t have, an extra remote I can’t figure out, a $50/month extra charge that I can’t afford, and for some inexplicable reason, a landline phone line. You guessed it: I’m New York City’s newest Time Warner Cable subscriber.

I moved into my apartment in October, and lasted almost ten months before breaking down and getting cable. Now that I’ve had it for a few minutes, I can’t believe I was ever without it.

As I write this, I’m watching Bones. Now I’m watching NBC Nightly News. Now I’m watching TMZ (TMZ has a show?). You know why? Because I CAN, that’s why. In less than the time it took me to write the phrase “NBC Nightly News,” I could watch any of like 600 different things.

Now I’m watching Spongebob. This show’s not nearly as funny sober. But it’s totally as creepy.

For the last ten months, anything I wanted to watch I watched on purpose. I could watch almost anything, but it took real effort. Is it on Netflix? No. What about Sidereel? Yeah, but it’s on some weird Japanese site and Megavideo, both of which are going to take six hours to load and only let me watch for 20 minutes at a time. Okay, open three or four of those and pause them, let them buffer. Are there torrents? Yeah, but only all eleven seasons, and Starbucks might not like me downloading 17.3GB. Or camping out for three weeks while it downloads.

Now King of Queens is on. Kevin James is a funny man, and this show makes it clear that fat + funny = hot wife. Who says you can’t learn from TV?

Even when something was on Netflix, I had to use my computer to add it to my queue because the search on my WD TV Live Hub sucks, stop whatever I was torrenting because it was killing my Internet connection, and scroll one by one through all of South Park’s 207 episodes to find the one I wanted to watch. I always got to watch what I wanted, but it was just so much effort.

The longest step involved in me watching TV tonight was finding the bottle opener and popping the cap off my Yuengling. Then it’s lean back, hand-on-belly time, and one button later I’m watching TV.

Right now, it’s Seinfield. Is this show ever not on? Though Kramer did just suggest wearing silk underwear, so that’s lesson #2 for the evening.

The biggest advantage of TV, the unexpected wonder of my first night of cable, is that I don’t have to decide what I want to watch. I turn on the TV, and I have a few hundred options in front of me. I haven’t heard of most of them, and I’ve seen a few others already, so I make a quick mental list of what’s on that I might like. I don’t have to wade through my giant list of shows to watch, and upon choosing what fits my tastes for this evening go through all the steps required to watch it. I choose among available options, and when it’s over I choose another thing. There’s something soothing in not having the whole world and history of television available.

There’s an awful lot of crap on TV. There’s also a lot of good stuff, stuff that I watched one episode of and forgot; stuff that someone recommended to me but I never wrote down and thus never had a chance of remembering; stuff that I watched years ago and want to watch again, but only for a half-hour before the Yankee game starts. If I was wrong in my decision, if I want a comedy instead of an hour-long drama, I don’t have steps to repeat. I just switch. Just tonight, I’ve remembered that I need to start watching Archer again, that The Simpsons has seriously degraded over the last few seasons, and that The Goonies TOTALLY holds up.

SportsCenter’s on! And the NFL lockout is either over, or it isn’t, and everyone’s very optimistic but they’re all very pessimistic. Oh, pontification.

Speaking of sports, when you get down to it, the biggest reason I broke down and got cable was sports. I love sports, and I’ve developed a new appreciation for a) good sportswriting and b) highlights over the last few months, but nothing replaces watching the game; the game, after all, is mostly the moments outside of the big moments. Luckily, living in Brooklyn means there are always bars around showing games, but that’s bad for my wallet–and my beer belly. Cable’s at worst tied, and it scores big points for the beer being cheaper and not requiring shoes or shirts.

Swamp People’s on! Some guy with a camo hat and an accent that makes him say everything at a third of the speed I’d like just shot a gator from 50 yards away. Like I said, sports.

Much is made of the lean-back versus the lean-forward experience. You’re either actively involved, choosing and interacting, or you’re sitting back, letting something wash over you. TV, at its best and most mind-numbing, is a lean-back experience, designed to help you wind down after a day of work or zone out when you’re stressed. I missed that, and I’ll stoked to have it back.

Except commercials. Commercials suck.

Technology and the Church: Enemies?

On CNN’s Belief Blog, Lisa Miller wonders how technology is affecting religion and, more specifically the church, that group of people that get together every Sunday for a service:

This yearning for a more unmediated faith – including Bible verses live in your pocket or purse 24/7, available to inspire or console wherever and whenever they’re needed – has met an enthusiastic embrace.

For growing numbers of young people, a leather-bound Bible sitting like an artifact on a stand in the family living room has no allure. It’s not an invitation to exploration or questioning.

Young people want to “consume” their spirituality the way they do their news or their music. They want to dip and dabble, the way they browse Facebook.

Normally, religion is a topic I tend to avoid here – it’s rarely on-topic, and in my experience has, for better or for worse, generating more hate-mongering and trolling than any other subject. But I’m fascinated by this piece, and the argument behind it, and I’m curious what you all think.

The argument as I read it is this: Religion is a deeply significant, important thing that requires time, attention, and other people. In the realm of Facebook, Twitter, and the like, it’s harder and harder to make room for. So the response has been, from some of the new age-y churches, to meet people where they’re at. YouVersion is an online Bible, The Bible is the Facebook page with the most engagement, and so on and so forth. With religion and scripture available for easy, personalized, bite-sized consumption, now there’s no reason to gather together in a group. And that’s bad for the church.

It’s sound logic, but I think it falls prey to the same ideas that plague so many people during the tumultuous times the Internet has brought on. We tend to hold on to the notion that things were always done a certain way, and thus still should be so. Hand-written letters mean more than emails, phone calls are more personal than text messages, and religion is supposed to be an enormous commitment, filled with big books and pastors.

Now, I’m not going to get into my religion-based argument against this piece. (If I were, it would say something to the effect of “religion, at its most basic, is about reaching people. Jesus started the church by going to people where they were, and believing in him never required a special, graduation-given Bible. If part of religion is sharing what you believe, how can you not get the gospel out there in every possible way?” But I’m not going there.) But what I do object to is the notion that there’s a “right way” to do church or read the Bible. This part irks me in particular:

It is now possible to imagine the extinction of the family Bible, long given as a gift on graduation day or other big occasions and inscribed with special dates: births, marriages, deaths.

Instead, the Bible may someday exist exclusively online, with features that allow for personalization: Link to photos of weddings and baptisms! “Share” favorite verses!

Though I know she doesn’t mean it as such, that passage reads as a positive to me. Universally available, easy to share, find what matters to you: isn’t that a win for the individual and the church?

I love this piece as a part of the technological debate, because religion is a potent example of what’s being discussed much more broadly in nearly every industry and social circle: does the disconnection and personalization that technology promotes – watching sermons as podcasts instead of going to church, sharing and seeing only Bible verses you like – matter? Is it really a problem, is it even really happening? Are we just getting used to new paradigms and cultural norms, or is something deeper and more dangerous going on? I don’t know the answers, but I’m sure curious.

NPR's Guide to Blogging

NPR published guide to blogging in October of last year, but somehow I never noticed it until this week. It’s a fantastic presentation, with lots of right ideas and useful tips.

The whole slideshow is below, so check it out. Two things stick out to me: slides 34 and 35. They total four words. “Feed > Post” is one slide, and the next reads “Subscriber > Visitor.” Those two ideas have, in my mind, totally changed how I’m doing this blog from here on out.

Essentially what those ideas suggest is that the principal advantage of a blog over any other medium is that it’s a running discussion, always in-flux and changing. The value of a blog, unlike a book or a magazine article, doesn’t come from a single piece. The whole of a good blog should be much more than the sum of its parts.

I love that idea, and looking around, it’s what I love about my favorite blogs. Jason Kottke has become someone I trust to provide cool things, and to give a liberal arts take on technology and the Web. John Gruber’s Daring Fireball, over thousands of posts, becomes the most compelling argument I’ve ever seen for why Apple is so successful, and why it deserves to be. Andrew Sullivan (referenced a lot by the NPR guide) spends his time filtering opinions, agreeing and disagreeing, and forms a worldview (but one that’s always subject to change). I love these blogs because they’re thinking out loud, over time, never sure or certain and always learning new things and refining others. They want other people’s opinions, want your opinions on those opinions. One post is interesting enough, typically, but a hundred posts creates something that none of those hundred can create alone.

That’s what I’d like this site to be. I’d like to, over time, begin to understand what in the world it means to live in this crazy, shifting, digital world we’re all being thrust into. Posts here should be part of a larger whole, one toothpick in the crazy toothpick sculpture that I hope Digitizd will be.

Anyway, here’s the slideshow. It’s a great one, and a must-read for anyone who blogs.

When You Tweet What I DVR'ed

More than a few times, I’ve had to avoid Twitter like the plague because I haven’t seen something that already aired on TV. American Idol winners, season premieres and finales, critical sports games; they’ve all lived on my DVR for a couple of hours before I saw them, and yet Twitter was abuzz.

It’s a weird mix, really, that these two technologies are coming up together. Splitsider’s Benjamin Birdie explains the tension:

Both sides could alleviate their sides of the problem pretty easily. Quoters could maybe wait a few days before spoiling their favorite gags. If you know you’ll be watching 30 Rock on Friday while you’re supposed to be working, you could stay off Twitter between 7:58 PM EST and 10:31 PM EST. (Or you could just start unfollowing people. Wait, no, don’t do that. We can change. We promise. Just don’t unfollow us.)

No one is forcing either party to suffer through yelling or being yelled at. But it’s a strange conflation of two technologies reaching their heights of popularity and ease at the same time, even as they work at cross purposes. DVR and Hulu has made it easier than ever to watch what you want, whenever you want; while Twitter and Tumblr (and every program that lets you convert video footage into a GIF) have made the instant regurgitation of whatever happens to be running through that head of yours simpler than it’s ever been.

Basically, the problem is this: it’s easier than ever to watch something when you want to watch it, and harder than ever to not have it spoiled for you before you ever get to sit down to watch it.

What’s the solution? Birdie suspects it might be a return to Appointment Television, where at 8:30 we gather around the TV; it won’t be because we want to watch it together anymore, but rather because we don’t want it ruined.

I don’t buy that as the solution. I think we’re too used to watching what we want, when we want, to give that up – but I do think something’s going to have to give. What do you think?