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Twitter’s first step at monetization of social networks

Posted in Revenues and Monetization by Manas Ganguly on April 8, 2009


Monetization happens to be a tag in my blogs because of the simple reason that i have written a lot about “How to monetize social networks?” in ample.

Twitter’s first attempt to monetize its huge and unique base of tweets is an interesting one in terms of the effort being a coordinated one between itself, Microsoft and Federated Media. Essentially the idea is to collate the tweets of business executives and other insightfull and business related tweets for interested people to follow. In essence it is following the top business executives on Twitter. It is called . The website is essentially a collection of tweets from top business heads on Twitter like Virgin’s Richard Branson, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, Digg’s Jay Adelson and Kevin Rose, Twitter’s own Evan William and yes, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg amongst a whole others.

The partners are fairly interesting in the terms of background competencies. While Twitter, champions conversational media, Federated Media is versatile in the conversational mode of advertising and Microsoft is one of the largest users of online advertising. Thus the Twitter promoted website may be an online branding/advertising solution for Microsoft. The neat part is that Microsoft is able to address its cream audience: the business executives through this venture. Twitter would in the back end have a revenue arrangement with Microsoft, though the details are missing at this point of time.

Business heads who want to get into, as a branding opportunity, need to follow@exectweets and the team at exectweets would decide whether to add the twitter stream to their website or not.

Thus this is a convergence of social media vehicle with a very precise audience and a large marketeer. One interesting alliance and effort to follow up.

Microsoft’s “Apple” Scare

Posted in The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on April 6, 2009

One of the general principles of advertising is not to mention your competitor by name in your ads. That limits the field of your offering and also gives the feeling tht you are acknowledging the competitor as a benchmark (to Consumers/in products) or a threat (to yourself). This is especialy true for Market leaders.It is in this context that Microsoft’s Lauren ad has raised a few eye brows. After all, Microsoft retains a whopping 90% market share in the OS markets world over.It shows a young woman, Lauren shopping for a under $1000 laptop with a 17 inch screen and mentions Mac by name and feaatures the Mac Store. The ad is essentially about Bargain hunting (a reference to recessionary times) and comes up with a $699 price tag for the 17 inch Hewlett Packard laptop that Lauren wants. Watch the ad here.

The swipe at Apple may look like a reaction to losses registered in numbers of Windows users who have switched away from cheap PCs to Macs, and tiny losses in market share to Mac! However, it has more to do with other aspects in which Microsoft and Apple compete in the world markets. The ad is probably a reaction to the following that Apple has been trouncing Microsoft at:
1. The Music Space (with iTunes and iPods)
2. The Smartphone space
3. The Apps store space
4. Apple’s positioning campaign redefining PCs and Macs and adding the “cool” quotient. (View here)

It starts in the Music space, where Zune (Microsoft’s answer to the iPod) has made no headway in gaining market share from the iPod. Zune features down in the matching the “sexy” iPod looks and iPod trounces it when it is combined with the iTunes. (Read the comparison here)

Microsoft’s famous forbearance “errors” plagues it in the smartphone space as well. When Apple announced the iPhone in January 2007, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer infamously dismissed the iPhone as too expensive. to quote Steve Ballmer in the April 2007, USA Today interview, ““There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share”. “No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60 percent or 70 percent or 80 percent of them, than I would to have 2 percent or 3 percent, which is what Apple might get.”As it has turned out in the 2 years since, Apple has come from 0 to 10.4% in smartphone OS space, where as Microsoft has been at the 11.8 – 12.4% for sometime now. Covered in a previous blog:

To complement its smartphone growth and popularity, Apple already has the first and currently most popular (and “profitable”???) business in distribution of applications world over. This is something that Microsoft has not ventured in though one may have expected it to be a pioneer in this field given its technology advantage.

Apart from stiff competition, the popularity of the iPhone presents another problem for Microsoft: like the iPod, it’s introducing Apple technology to millions of Windows users. Among the factors in the rise in the Mac’s market share, the iPod “halo effect” cannot just be ruled out. Positioning oneself as a cool technology provider versus, Microsoft’s “straight jacketed, pin robbed, stiff and official” is where Apple is also making astatement with consumers. In face of that, “Lauren” could get nastier at taking swipes at Apple! Steve Balmer is already at it talking tough about overpriced Macs! (So he’s exploiting the bad economy with an ad like “Lauren” to depict Macs as an impractical choice. )

Cost advantage may be good speaking point in these recessionary times, but with Apple’s kind of brand equity building up steadily, one wonders if Microsoft is really the cocky confident it once was.

Providing better mobile browsing experience

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on April 3, 2009

(Been off for a while now on a vacation and other work. This is my first post after 10 days and concerns mobile internet experience.)One of my earlier posts covered the proliferation of mobile devices as the window to internet to an increasing number of people around the world.
This covered the stats and the emerging trends in mobile internet. As a mobile internet user, my experience with mobiles has been very frequent although the quality of experience is certainly not the best. Data transfer speeds in India are not all that great and 3G is still some way off. However, one other aspect where i face a problem in terms of usage experience of mobile internet, is page loading. This has to do with cookies, frames and other technical aspects which in general make a broadband experience great but a mobile experience relatively weak. Certain sections of pages dont load and this is especially true for commercial/business driven/business sites. Try booking a train/flight ticket from your mobile to experience the problems and hitches.


The question that i had posed to an open group of experts/commentators of Web 2.0 (a Linkedin group) was: How can websites be customized for a better mobile device based browsing experience?

I had a fairly wide range of answers, which i am documenting in this blog post in the form of views. It is necessary to realise that these views may not be mutually exclusive thoughts, in fact, they are quite inter-related to each other at various parts of the delivery chain.

1. View 1: The most popular answer (referred by Lee Curtis / George Lehman /Rachin Kapoor) that emerged from a web developers perspective was the use of CSS styled xHTML, a tool that semantically describes presentation lay outs separately from the content. CSS is useful in presenting the fully loaded site on a lap top/desk top, where as the HTML presents a small aand effective, quick loading and light mechanism for mobile phones. Thus the accessibility features are customised according to the screen and the device and streamlines site indexing more effectively.
(View 1 extended by Kabari Hendrick/ Nial Kennedy) While websites use the CSS/xHTML tools, user agent determination techniques travel from the cloud/net to the access window and determine the agent and direct the CSS/xHTML for suitability of the download (in terms of Lite or Heavy). This happens within a very short interval and doesnot extend the download time significantly.

2. View 2: While view 1, is about back end web site compatibility with device, the second view (by Andy Foote and Vincent Graux), is about how hardware evolution is taking care of the fundamental resstiction of a small screen, by creating larger and richer interfaces. The case in point being netbooks, which were born out of the fusion of browsing experience and mobility.

The analogy here is creation of a bridge across a chasm. One side (devices) is starting to build smaller and mobility centric devices to bridge the chasm. The other side (website / internet / programming) is trying to do the same by customizing the presentation formats on the websites.

View 3: While the earlier views were hardware and software based, this view, forwarded by Jim Vezina , Poorna Kedar and Gianluiggi Cuccureddu is business focussed and thus the most relevant. This advocates, the understanding of web traffic i.e the reason why people would visit some website. Thus having identified the raison d’ etre of the website, the experience has to be tailored. For example a website, which is e-commerce led, should see to it that the payment portals are easy to load and secure and provide the relevant user experience without getting into elaborate frames and pages etc as far as a mobile experience is concerned. A lap top experience can be the full monty as it is. A mailing site, needs to see to it that the mobile experience includes written text content provided to the user without too many buttons, frames and others. A social networking site probably needs to go a little bit more in terms of pictures and videos and nothing else. This can be done through the standard View 1 and View 2 tools as described earlier. Or further yet, if required, have two different web sites, one for regular users and the other for mobile users if your traffic is so profiled ( Rick Dane)!

Other contributors: John Rodrigues, Dipak Dave, Wallace Jackson

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