Mac Versus PC Ad War.

Six months ago I began to notice that Microsoft was finally taking a crack at Apple (after two years) in the “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” war waging on TV. I did hear some comments from Apple users regarding how “stupid” PC users were, which is to be expected. I suppose it either shows fierce brand loyalty or that Apple owners need to take some time off.

The agencies for which I have worked used both PC and Mac…a testament to the strengths of each platform. I do applaud Apple for putting the smackdown on Microsoft regarding customer service. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of trying to get anything out of Microsoft that is not available on their web site, good luck. There are a billion steps to go through, and no easy way to do it. In fact, even if you do get through, the answer is usually not the one that fixes the problem. Such is the empire of Darth Gates.

Microsoft didn’t make much of an effort to fight against Apple’s Get a Mac campaign when it launched 2006. Finally in 2008, Microsoft announced a $300 million ad campaign to fire back.

The company’s first few bullets shot at Apple appeared ineffective, beginning with some quirky commercials starring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, followed by a friendly campaign called “I’m a PC.” Microsoft’s latest Laptop Hunter commercials are the fiercest yet, delivering sarcastic lines such as “I guess I’m not cool enough to be a Mac user” that appear to be echoing in the chambers of consumers’ brains.

Not sure yet if they are working but this may be their best attempt…aside from the “I’m not cool enough” comment which I would take offense with if I was in the 18 to 24 demographic. Let’s see if it puts a dent in Mac’s image.

Quicksilver’s New Flagship Store in Tokyo

Sairis Group and Activate team up to deliver an exciting new Quicksilver branded mobile game for the launch of Quicksilver’s new flagship store in Tokyo. The Quicksilver surfing game uses the latest patented Mobiactions mobile interactive video and voice response (IVVR) technology where users can “dial in” and immediately be immersed in a surfing game where they can move around on the wave and pick up prizes using their phone keypad.
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“With the advent of advertising in mobile games, consumers are now interacting with brands in a more engaging and meaningful way – something which youth marketers have found it increasingly tricky to do.” says Tim Smith of Sairis Group.

“Now we can enable advertisers like Quicksilver to engage consumers in a new and exciting manner, giving the consumer a unique and fun experience whilst at the same time the brand is remembered as an entertaining innovator”.

“In terms of memorability and value of experience this branded gaming concept far outranks simple web based, IM or SMS promotions.” says Gerald Gentemann of Activate.

“It is a totally non-invasive method of engagement, and we can provide a brand with an interactive experience that their consumer chooses to partake in. With over 100 million mobile phone users in Japan alone, we provide a key touch-point for a brand and literally put them in the hands of their target consumer.” says Tyron Giuliani, co-founder of Activate K.K.

The MobiActions patented platform seamlessly integrates synchronous call-to-action based game play, providing high levels of customer-brand engagement across multiple channels including mobile, PC and in-store. The experience is 100% “in call” and requires no downloads or additional applications on the handset.

The platform may be extended across any number of media, thus providing a 360 degree approach to brand campaigns. Users may experience the action on PC, mobile and in-store. At each point of contact usage statistics are gathered.

MobiActions also provides incentives to the customer since the ‘wins’ may be easily converted to in-store premiums. This makes it an ideal platform to enhance any loyalty or premium marketing program.

Mobiactions is built around specially integrated components and features the VEEDIA® Flash Gateway as one of the core systems. Sairis Group is an authorized reseller for VEEDIA® in Asia and Oceania.

The VEEDIA® The Flash 3G Video Gateway is a platform that permits mobile users to access Adobe Flash-based web applications with video and multimedia content by simply placing a standard video call from any 3G or SIP device. This means users can access live streaming webcams, pre-recorded and interactive video, games, animations and more. No WAP portal or installation is necessary.

Sony Ericsson Launches DRM-Free Music Store

All Xanga readers love to download music…here is the latest about downloading to your phones from your PCs.

Sony Ericsson has rolled out its PlayNow arena, an over-the-air download service that will sell DRM-free music as well as games and applications.
PlayNow
The expanded mobile music service will go live in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway on Aug. 25. Each country will have localized content in the relevant language.

The London based joint venture between Sony and Ericsson has secured the global rights to five million tracks. Universal Music Group is the only major not to sign up the service and the company says it is in discussions with UMG as well as 30 other labels.
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Around one million tracks will be available from Aug. 25 in the Nordic markets with the rest to be added at a later date. Sony Ericsson says the service will launch in other European markets this year followed by Latin America and the Asia Pacific region in 2009.

In Sweden, full track downloads will cost 9 kronor ($1.42). In Finland, tracks will cost €0.99 ($1.46).

Sony Ericsson’s Walkman and MP3-enabled phones from the 2006 K800 model will be compatible with the service, a total of 25 handsets.

Customers will get a high quality DRM-free MP3 delivered to their computer and a protected lower quality file sent directly to their phone. The PlayNow arena can also be accessed via a computer and MP3 purchases could then be transferred to music players or other MP3-enabled devices.

PlayNow first launched in 2004 to provide polyphonic ringtones and later added mastertones, games and some full music tracks.

Lenovo, The Only Chinese Official Global Partner of the 2008 Olympic Games

I thought that since the world was coming to Beijing for the Olympics it might be interesting to introduce people to Chinese brands that will someday be exported to the world from China.
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Has anyone heard of this high powered brand? Lenovo is the largest Chinese PC manufacturer, and the third largest in the world, providing products to more than 160 countries around the world.

In 2005, it completed the acquisition of IBM’s PC business and by the end of 2006, more than 60% of Lenovo’s turnover came from markets outside Great China.

The company is focusing more on transactions with individual and SME customers, and this transformation is paying back in the U.S. market where it showed profitability in first quarter of 2007.

Though Lenovo faces declining margins for the whole PC industry and fierce competition from HP, Dell, and Acer, the
brand managed to grow its value by almost 60% this year.
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We attribute this growth to a huge investment in marketing and branding activities,including replacing IBM to become
the only Chinese official global partner of the 2008 Olympic Games. As one of the most successful brands in China,
Lenovo carries high expectations from Chinese people and can do more to more clearly assert its brand differentiation.
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Lenovo has also announced a brand new laptop, seemingly, in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Straying from their usual business themed thin black notebooks, Lenovo has went with red plus spiral motifs around the Thinkpad. Though internal specifications are not present yet, inside information hints that this notebook will sport a 12.1-inch XGA display and Intel’s L2400 Core 2 Duo.

Microsoft Makes Deal with Facebook

Microsoft recently failed in its pursuit of Yahoo. It is paying people to use its search engine. Now Microsoft thinks it has found a promising source of users for its foundering search service: Facebook, the social networking site.
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Microsoft said Thursday at a meeting with financial analysts at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., that it would soon begin providing Web search services and associated advertisements by the end of the year on the American portion of the popular social network.
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It makes sense in business the adage location, location , location is the mantra retailers use as one of the keys to successful business. “One of the issues with Microsoft search is that people just haven’t been exposed to it,” said Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence, a consulting and research firm. “Familiarity and inertia keep people using what they use on the Web.”
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To Microsoft, Facebook is a quick way to expand the audience for its search engine. More than 29 million people actively use Facebook in the United States. They will soon see prominent displays of Microsoft’s Live Search box on their friends’ and their own Facebook pages.

The agreement augments an existing advertising deal that the companies struck in 2006 and later expanded globally. Microsoft already sells and manages display advertisements on Facebook. Last October, the companies inched even closer together when Microsoft invested $240 millionfor a 5 percent ownership stake in Facebook.

The search deal could be a lift to Microsoft as it seeks to catch up with Google and Yahoo in the search business. In June, Google accounted for 61.5 percent of search queries in the United States, dwarfing Yahoo, with 20.9 percent, and Microsoft, with 9.2 percent of queries, according to tracking firm comScore. One of the reasons Microsoft pursued Yahoo so doggedly this year was to increase its share in the overall market.

The deal marks the second important distribution agreement for Microsoft’s search service in as many months. In June, Hewlett-Packard, the world’s largest PC maker, agreed to put Microsoft’s service on its desktops.

Korea is Wired

I have been in Seoul, Korea quite a bit these past few years working with Korea Telecom, LG and SK.
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Seoul has a metropolitan area population of more than 22 million people and is the second most populated metro area in the world and second to none in terms of modern technology.

Seoul is home to some of the biggest telecommunications and technology companies in the world, including SK Telecom, KT Corporation, Samsung and LG. If you’re looking for the latest and greatest cell phone or miniature wifi gadget, Seoul should be your first stop.

When it comes to broadband penetration, South Korea is the world leader with an 83 percent penetration rate. This is in part due to the full-blown broadband revolution that has been taking place in Seoul for the past 8 years.

Seoul is full of Internet cafés, wireless hotspots and gaming areas (called “pc baangs”) making it the ideal city to use the Internet on the go. In most areas, a pc baang can be found on every corner. How’s that for service?

Koreans have a fascination with PC gaming unlike any other country in the world. In South Korea, there are multiple television channels dedicated solely to broadcasting the day’s video game events. Talented video game players are treated like celebrities similar to famous basketball players in the United States.

At the center of all of the gaming is Seoul, which has played an important part in expanding Internet usage throughout all of South Korea.

Internet access in Seoul is extremely cheap, averaging around $20 per month for a 10Mpbs connection — that’s more than 4 times as fast and half the price of the average broadband connection in the United States.

Some areas of Seoul boast commercial Internet speeds of more than 100Mbps for merely $30 per month. With speeds that fast it would only take you 5 minutes to download a two-hour high definition movie.

Seoul’s current expansion plans include a $439 million project to add wireless Internet access to the subway trains. “The plan would be to create a wifi network, and then charge roughly $20 per month for access.”

With such a huge broadband presence and a dedication to offering cheap, fast Internet solutions, Seoul is the definition of wired.

Apple’s Recent Approach to Business

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I find Apple’s approach to business fascinating and I believe it is a result of their, as Steve Jobs likes to put it, West Coast mindset. Over the past five plus years Apple has undergone tremendous changes internally and have also been lucky enough to change the way people get their music.
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Internally they have changed to the “just in time” inventory virtually copying the process that made Dell a success…this has saved the company hundreds of millions of dollars that they have continued to put back into R&D. The R&D is fueling the successful new products that are leading to record profits…In Japan Mac sales and periphery items sales are up over 30%.

I also determined from my friend who was CFO with Apple Asia Pacific for the past 5 years that Apple has virtually no debt and as an investor I think that would be a very convincing stat if I were determining whether to invest in the company. Of course Apple has other key issues to face.

The most dramatic change is the decision by Jobs to put the Intel processor in the newest Macs…industry experts also believe that this move signals a change that could lead to more changes including a move to have closer ties to Windows operating systems.

While as a user I am excited the following note in the 10K report is of concern because it points out that the switch could adversely affect the “in time” inventory that was so positive and that support from third party suppliers of software could be lost on the company’s non-Intel products. It also illuminates the fact that people may not purchase Mac products until the launch of the new product…I was one of those consumers.

Note:
The Company’s ’s transition from PowerPC microprocessors used by Macintosh computers to microprocessors built by Intel is subject to numerous risks.

In June 2 2005, the Company announced its intention to transition from the use of PowerPC micro processors to the use of Intel microprocessors in all of its Macintosh computers by the end of calendar year 2007.

This transition is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including the Company’s ability to timely develop and deliver new products using Intel microprocessors, the timely innovation and delivery of related hardware and software products, including the Company’s applications, to support Intel micro processors, market acceptance of Intel-based Macintosh computers, the development and availability on acceptable terms of components and services essential to enable able the Company to timely deliver Intel-based Macintosh computers, and the effective management of inventory levels in line with anticipated product demand for both PowerPC and Intel-base based Macintosh computers.

In addition the Company is dependent on third-party software developers such as Microsoft and Adobe be continuing to support current applications that run on PowerPC-based computers and timely developing versions of current and future applications that run on Intel and PowerPC-based Macintosh computers.

The Company’s inability to timely deliver new Intel-based products or obtain developer commitment both to continue supporting applications that run on PowerPC microprocessors and timely transition of their applications to run natively on Intel-based products may have an adverse impact on the Company’s results of operations.

The Company’s announcement of its intention to transition to Intel microprocessors may negatively impact sales of current and future Macintosh products containing PowerPC micro processors, as customers may elect to delay purchases until the Intel-based products are available.

Additionally, there can be no assurance that the Company will be able to maintain its historical gross margin percentages on its products, including Intel-based Macintosh computers, which may adversely impact the Company’s results of operations.