The Blame Game

One of the problems with the Web marketing business is that it is very easy for new companies to come along and blame the previous company for all the problems. Some companies specialise in this approach.  Surprisingly, nothing is ever their fault.

It’s a bit like going to a doctor and receiving some help with an issue.  You never really know whether another doctor could have made you feel better or cured you more quickly. If you change to another doctor you might die or you might be cured completely.

This can lead some businesses to constantly move from one Web marketing supplier to another.  Unfortunately this means no one ever gets things working properly as the timescales can be too short.

Whilst I’m certainly not advocating staying with a supplier that isn’t performing, there is a benefit in building a long term relationship with the right supplier.

Chris

 

 

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Microsoft Explosive Poo Wonderland

Bill Gates’ charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have made a stink this week – in a good way. The charity is raising awareness of a significant problem all over the world today: the wasting of drinking water by traditional flush toilets. The husband and wife are seeking an end to the wasteful porcelain behemoths that sit hunched in bathrooms all over the globe, and this week, the charity hosted the ‘Reinvent The Toilet’ fair at its Seattle headquarters.

Twenty-eight different designs were unveiled at the event, each intended to cut back on energy expenditure and water wastage. The brief for inventors to follow was to produce a toilet which would operate without the need for a septic tank, running water or electricity. Three pence (five cents) per day was the maximum daily cost of running the device, and the invention would gain bonus points for being able to store or generate energy.

The winning team beat out the other twenty-seven competitors, whose designs included a device that transformed human waste into charcoal, one which replaced the running water element of the traditional flush toilet with urine and even one which used microwave technology to derive electrical power from solid waste.

The winning invention was spearheaded by Professor Michael Hoffman of the California Institute of Technology. Hoffman and his team had conceived a loo which would be powered solely by solar energy, and could generate electicity and hydrogen gas. Bill Gates was quoted at the event as saying “We couldn’t be happier with the response that we’ve gotten,’ as the winning team were awarded their $100,000 prize for first place.

A drop in the bucket, really, when you consider that the Gates Foundation has committed over $370m to its ‘future toilet’ initiative. The Foundation intends to launch a field test of its prototypes sometime over the next three years.

One of the designs from the Reinvent The Toilet fair aleady undergoing field testing is Walter Gibson’s creation, which uses the larvae of black soldier flies to biodegrade solid waste. The beneficial result of this process is that it also produces Earth-friendly animal feed, making it ideal for countries where livestock farming is difficult.

Gibson’s toilet is currently being tested in South Africa, where the lack of running water required for its use promises to revolutionise the country. Estimates from the United Nations name inadequate or ineffective sanitation measures as the cause of over 50% of the developing world’s hospitalisations. With the resources saved by removing the need to flush toilets with potentially drinkable water, new toilets like Gibson’s will give less priveliged countries a better chance of providing its people with safe water.

And as far as friends in high places go, the revolutionary toilet initiative couldn’t do much better than having the head of the world’s number one technology company on their side. And if they’re not number one – they’re definitely number two. No pun intended…

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Apple Stealth Their Way to the Top of the Gaming Market

After dominating the handset and app markets for so long – or at the very least, holding a significant market share – Apple have begun to close the net on a market they were once expected to revolutionise. The company are on track to edge out each and every one of the most popular p-personal gaming consoles of the past forty years, via their Game Center service.

Since the 1970s, computer games have been an ever-increasing success among audiences both young and old. And, becoming much more commonly in recent years, games are steadily evolving into a form of media comparable to film, in terms of personal involvement, plot and state of the art graphics. You have only to look at Microsoft’s wildly successful Halo franchise – a first-person shoot ‘em up series that broke new ground by alternately giving players the chance to blast through hundreds of hostile aliens, and immersing them in the alien culture. Halo is a prime example of how engaging plotlines are now a priority even for games that have previously followed a very simple formula – e.g. shoot everything that moves.

The audience reception to this change in the gaming industry speaks for itself. The Halo franchise has been liked over three million times. Final Fantasy XIII, a long-awaited instalment of a series famous for its storylines, sold over a million units in its first week. The gaming industry has come an undeniably long way since our parents spent their afternoons at the arcade playing Pong.

And that is what Apple are said to be overtaking.

An Apple Inc analyst has made the bold claim that accounts on Apple’s Game Center will outnumber personal gaming consoles, and become the world’s biggest gaming platform. Apple have stated that over 130 million accounts have been set up through their Game Center, and Asymco have expressed their belief that this number will exceed 200 million by the end of the year.

This would be a historic achievement on Apple’s part – no home gaming system, neither handheld nor console, has ever broken the 200 million mark. The current top-selling gaming system is the Nintendo DS, which has sold over 150 million units since it was released; despite the considerable jump from this figure to 200 million, Asymco remain confident.

It’s not just Game Center accounts that are used to measure the success of iOS devices as gaming devices. OpenFeint, a third party social/gaming platform available to iOS and Android devices, reports over 180 million active accounts which us their service. Couple these numbers with the active Apple Game Center accounts, and it’s easy to believe that soon iOS gamers will outnumber those who still cleave to the traditional gaming model.

As unsurprising as this news may be, given Apple’s relentless growth, it brings to light the disturbing possibility that the gaming industry might be starting to downsize. In spite of the steps taken by games like Halo, gaming may be sidelined into becoming an activity only indulged in by mobile phone owners waiting for a bus, or snatching a few minutes of Angry Birds on their lunch break.

We can only hope that the next generation of console gaming is able to remind players of the limitless heights a console can achieve. With Microsoft’s Xbox 720 rumoured to make an appearance before 2014, we may not have long to wait.

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Mountain Lion

Apple have once more upped their game in the personal computing field, with the recent release of the new Mac operating system – Mountain Lion. Not the first operating system to be released under an unorthodox moniker – the last few incarnations of Google’s Android operating system have boasted bizarre names including Jelly Bean, Honeycomb, Gingerbread and Ice Cream Sandwich – Mountain Lion appears at first glance to be extremely similar to Apple’s previous OS, Lion. However, the new system brings in a number of new features which once again demonstrates Apple’s flair for reinventing the wheel in ways that users will find exciting, time and again.

First, one of the underpinning elements of the Mountain Lion design is a greater degree of integration with previous and future Apple products. Mac users who also own an iPhone or iPad are most likely to notice this functionality, as the new OS leans heavily on cloud-based functionality. A new instant messaging service has taken the place of the iChat of previous generations, which is cross-compatible with all Apple devices via the iCloud. If you’re at home, chatting with your friend over iMessages on your Mac, and you have to leave to catch a bus or something – the conversation doesn’t have to stop. You can pick up exactly where you left off via your iPhone or iPad on the go.

Any personal reminders or notes to self are also available across all of your Apple devices, regardless of which you used to enter them.

Despite Apple’s undeniable gift for innovation and revolution, everyone needs a little help sometimes. This certainly seems to be the case with Mountan Lion, as Apple seem to have taken a sizeable leaf out of Google’s book with the Android-style Notification Centre, which garnered considerable praise with its inclusion in iOS 5.

Perhaps one of the most exciting inclusions in the Mountain Lion OS, depending on your interest in computer gaming and online media use, is AirPlay Mirroring. This feature allows you to stream HD video and audio – essentially whatever is currently on your Apple device at the time – straight to your HDTV. So if you’re streaming a video from Youtube and you’d like to share it with the group, you can beam it directly to your TV – and then you might as well be watching it on a HD television channel. The same goes for games – anything you can play on your iPhone, iMac or iPad can now be played on the big screen for a more social experience.

The Gatekeeper feature should go some way towards reaffirming the old myth that it’s nigh impossible to pick up a virus or malware on a Mac. Gatekeeper allows you to set your own level of security intervention – if you choose to, you can set the program to notify you every time any website or software attempts to download something to your machine. This allows you to tailor your hardware’s level of security to suit you, whether you’re a whizz kid or a fledgeling techie.

While Mountain Lion may not be the revolutionary operating system some consumers were expecting, what it represents is an updated incarnation of the existing system, in which each feature is that little bit more polished. Mountain Lion is sure to enrich the lives of those who use Apple hardware on a regular basis, and the new system might even help to recruit more die-hard Apple fans.

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Facebook may have 54 million fake users

Facebook said earlier this year that it estimates 5 – 6% of those registered with the social network may be fake Facebook accounts. So not real people reading the ads that we are seeing on the site. Does this matter or do you factor in a percentage of fake accounts when you price up your marketing spend?

These fake Facebook accounts may be old ones that people have let lapse or they may be ones that have been set up by marketing companies or computer programmers in an attempt to spam the Facebook system.

In an interesting story on the BBC website Rory Cellan-Jones the Technology correspondent at BBC News investigates what impact this may have on Facebook now that the companies first financial results since flotation are soon to be published.

If a newspaper says it has 10 million readers it tends to be able to charge more for the advertisements in the paper than one that has 10,000 readers and with Facebook making money from advertising are they going to be forced to clean house and aggressively shut down suspicious accounts?

It is an interesting situation and one that needs to be monitored, anyone paying for advertising on Facebook needs to be factoring these fake accounts into their thinking when deciding where to spend their marketing budgets.

To read the full report from Rory Cellan-Jones go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18813237

Please feel free to share and comment on this story.

 

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Ch-Ch-Changes – Facebook Press On

Facebook certainly aren’t afraid to rock the boat when it comes to updating their services. The company has come under fire a few times in the past couple of years after updating the user interface with little warning. The now-default ‘Time-line’ interface sparked user outcry – mostly through Facebook itself, ironically – with hundreds of thousands of Facebook users complaining that the new UI was ugly, functioned poorly or introduced features that they didn’t feel should be available by default.

Another raft of changes have been put in place by Facebook recently – but whether or not this latest batch is positively received has yet to be seen. If we had to guess, though, our gut feeling would be that the latest updates will be no more favourably-received than the last batch. We’ve summarised the updates below, so you can see exactly what has changed and how this is likely to affect your Facebook experience, as a personal or a business user.

E-Mail Change

The main change to be implemented lately by Facebook has been subject to considerable criticism – and has been since its unannounced release. Users that opt to display their e-mail addresses on their profiles, allowing friends and family members to send messages to the user outside of Facebook, were outraged to find that Facebook had without warning removed their e-mail addresses from their profiles.

In their place, Facebook announced that each user would now have their own Facebook-oriented e-mail address – john.smith.3452@facebook.com, for example – which would be displayed on a user’s profile instead. E-mails directed to these new facbook.com addresses are delivered directly to a user’s Facebook messaging inbox. This has essentially removed the possibility of corresponding with your Facebook contacts outside Facebook, unless you already know their external e-mail addresses. Users can opt to remove their @facebook.com e-mail address from their profile and list their original address instead, but this is made far from clear in Facebook’s brief explanation to users of the implications of this latest update.

Quite apart from user outcry over these changes being put in place with no prior warning and no opt-out measures, the new Facebook e-mail addresses have also come under fire amid speculation that the feature is too similar to Google’s heavily-criticised Buzz service.

Removal of Facebook Credits Currency

One other update that has been announced (though not yet implemented) is the removal of the Facebook ‘Credits’ currency. Credits were originally implemented as a three-year experiment, testing the feasibility of users exchanging real-world currency for greater access to social games and so on.

Although this practice is set to continue, the Credits themselves will be phased out by the end of the year – instead, users’ Facebook accounts will most likely have a registered payment card, which will be attached to a user’s profile and charged directly when a paid service is purchased or used. This is essentially the model used by iTunes and similar online services, and according to Techcrunch, could be just the first step in Facebook’s foray into online payment.

With so many users happily entrusting their card details to Facebook by purchasing apps through Facebook’s own App store, it’s possible that Facebook might be heading for a future as a competitor to PayPal. If users are already happy for Facebook to handle a transaction with their payment cards, it would only be a short jump for Facebook to start offering users the ability to pay on e-commerce sites through their Facebook accounts.

As Facebook continue to implement updates left, right and centre, it seems that only time will tell whether or not the changes will improve Facebook’s services to users, or whether ongoing user frustration will push more users to jump ship.

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Happy Birthday iPhones

Tomorrow marks the fifth birthday of one of the most popular devices of the past decade – Apple’s iconic smartphone, the iPhone. January 2007 brought us the first whiff of a versatile, high-powered mobile device, with the iPhone being displayed at the Macworld convention in San Francisco – it wasn’t until June 29th 2007 that the world was officially introduced to the device that so many of us would eventually come to own.

Ahead of this week’s milestone, Apple have released a short press release detailing the profits made through sales of their various incarnations of the iPhone. According to the company’s financial research, over 250 million iPhone handsets have been shipped all over the world – that’s a quarter of a billion units – resulting in revenue generated for the company in the region of $150bn.

When the iPhone first came on the scene, it first and foremost represented two things. First of all, it represented a tremendous leap forward in terms of the technical capabilities of a handheld device. Smartphones were only just beginning to emerge, and the iPhone did it more stylishly than any other devices around at the time. It also represented a badge of honour for trendy technophiles – early incarnations of what would come to be affectionately know (mostly) as the Apple hipsters.

As the years went by and the world took notice of the burgeoning app market, the iPhone gradually opening itself up to a wider range of users. iPhones were no longer being solely used by kids and teenagers – the vast array of apps that a user could customise his or her phone with was starting to draw in older, more mature users.

Apple continued to assess the results of their ongoing customer satisfaction studies, ensuring that they constantly put out products, apps and services that would interest all aspects of the markets. New incarnations of the iPhone came along, increasing the technical capacity of the device once again, allowing for even greater functionality than before. In spite of a host of competitors springing up to lock horns with Apple (Samsung, Google and Blackberry, to name but a few) the company has remained at the head of the industry.

With the figures reported in this week’s birthday press release, it’s apparent that Apple’s diligence in adjusting to fluctuations and developments in the market has paid off dividends.

What makes the figures even more impressive is the fact that more than a hundred million of the units included in Apple’s ’250 million sold’ figure were actually shipped in the past year – which just goes to show, the company’s growth is far from slowing down.

With the newest version of the iPhone on its way later this year, smart money (and indeed smartphone money) is being placed on Apple’s financial growth and technological success continuing to increase. With Facebook stock failing to perform as expected, it may be that Apple stock is the way forward for the technophilic investor. Savvy techies will no doubt be very closely following Apple’s movements over the next few months – and we’re no exception. We’ll keep you updated on the latest iPhone news and developments.

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Losing Ground – Further Setbacks For Google Maps

Google have taken another sizeable blow this week; just the latest in a long line of recent setbacks. Everything from legal intervention and criminal investigations to the loss of a portion of traffic to their eponymous search engine, following outrage over recent algorithmic updates, have plagued Google of late – and now bitter rivals Apple Inc. and Microsoft are putting the boot in, too.

In May this year, it was revealed that Apple’s iPhones would no longer use Google’s seminal aerial imaging program, Google Maps. The software has been a part of the iconic Apple product for years, but the company have now decided to end their agreement with the search engine giant, ditching Google Maps in favour of a mapping app of their own. Although by no means the end of the world for Google, this does mean that the number of users accessing their Google Maps service – and by extension, other Google services – will be heavily curtailed following the removal from Apple devices.

Microsoft have been swift to follow up the news with a bodyblow of their own. News broke this week of a massive update to Google Maps’ direct competitor, Bing Maps, which more than doubled the amount of aerial imaging data the software could access. Prior to the update, Bing Maps used around 129 terabytes of imaging data to render its image of the world. This week’s update brought a further 165 terabytes into play, including the additional images necessary to render Bing Maps’ coverage of the USA complete, and fully comprehensive.

Similar updates are planned throughout the rest of 2012, which will bring Bing’s coverage of the rest of the world up to a similar standard by the end of the year.

These drastic updates to the Bing Maps service – publicised here on the Microsoft blog with some impressive still images – could spell disaster for Google. It seems that after so many years of Google operating as the proverbial big fish in a small bowl, the other fish are now starting to grow large enough to present a threat.

Couple Bing’s constant improvements to its aerial imaging service with the recent scandal over Google’s home-grown alternative, Google Maps, and it’s not hard to imagine that Google’s share of the virtual mapping market could be about to shrink dramatically.

This is only going to spell further trouble for Google, as fewer users will be likely to access Google Maps, with many opting instead for their iPhone’s integrated maps package, or Bing’s more regularly-updated maps feature.

The recent changes Google have made to their search engine ranking algorithms have also caused no small amount of strife. Despite Google’s assertions that the updates were intended to improve the quality of the top-ranked Google search results for a specific phrase, the landscape of the search results is currently both volatile and, in some cases, of very low relevance to the searched term.

As more Google users become frustrated with inadequate Google services, and more user-friendly alternatives are pushed upon them by devices they’re already using, only time will tell if Google are about to lose customers by the boat-load.

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One If By Land, Two If By Sea – Three If By Waterway

Google made the news once again in June with the announcement that Google Maps would soon be updating its database to include canals and waterways as viable routes for travel.

The announcement came after Google partnered up with the Canal and River Trust, the charity body that will be responsible for the United Kingdom’s network of waterways, as of July this year. Over two thousand miles of canal and river routes will be added to the Google Maps database, allowing users, for the first time ever, to plan a journey based on canal- or river-travel.

In addition to improving flexibility and functionality for the end user, the Google Maps changes are also set to benefit the environment, by cutting down on the amount of essential road journeys – and therefore pollution. As of the current system, using Google Maps to navigate between two relatively close-together locations may send the user off on a half-hour car journey.

Depending on the locations in question, it’s possible that there is actually a far shorter route, simply requiring a quick float down a local waterway, or a ten-minute walk, down along the riverbank. Because users aren’t told of these alternatives, they are often going unused in lieu of extensive car travel. Updating Google Maps to highlight these alternative routes will cut back on the number of essential car journeys, and therefore carbon emissions.

The example given by Canal and River Trust spokesman in a discussion with the BBC was travel between Paddington and Camden in London. The spokesman, Jonathan Ludford, said: ‘I’m by a canal in Paddington and I want to go to Camden, and I put this information into Google Maps as a walking route – it wouldn’t send me to the canal… it would send me by road.’

It is hoped that the new Google Maps will encourage those living close to canals and waterways to explore their local area, as well as discovering the fun and practical applications these waterways can fulfil.

This update wasn’t the only reason Google Maps hit the news this week. When Apple unveiled its latest technological triumph, the iOS6 operating system, which will feature on upcoming iPhones, iPads and iPods – essentially powering Apple’s entire range – the company also announced that they would be dropping Google Maps as its satellite tracking and global positioning platform. Apple would instead be integrating their own ‘Apple Maps’ app into the system.

This is likely to have resulted from Google’s recent decision to start charging large users – businesses and corporate entities – for the use of Google Maps. This decision prompted a slew of free alternatives to be released by various competitors both big and small – Apple aren’t alone in their decision to take this particular feature in-house.

With so many internet users now accessing the web through Apple devices – everything from iPhones to iPads – it’s not yet clear if Google Maps’ decision to add waterways and canals to their database will be enough to keep up user interaction with the application. Since Apple are now pushing their own alternative on their customers, Google may find that Google Maps is about to experience a large-scale drop in user numbers.

As always, only time will tell how this will play out – we’ll bring you more news as it becomes available.

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New Microsoft Device To Lock Horns With Apple’s Iconic iPad

Microsoft, perennial rival of Mac masterminds Apple Inc, have this week announced that they will be expanding into a niche in which they have so far been dominated by other companies – the lucrative tablet industry.

It has been speculated for a long time that Microsoft would soon be diversifying into the tablet market. As early as 2008, there was talk of a hushed-up Microsoft project known only as ‘Courier’. It later emerged that Courier was to be a dual-screen tablet PC, capable of reading digital input using touch-screen technology, as well as a stylus. The dual-screen feature was something that would have set it well apart from its competitors – the Apple iPad, the BlackBerry PlayBook, the Motorola Xoom, and so on – as well as giving the device a wider range of uses for business users. One screen could be used for research, while the other was being used to make notes, put together a report or design a Powerpoint presentation.

Unfortunately in 2010, news broke that the Courier project had been scrapped – just a few weeks after Microsoft’s main rival, Apple Inc, released the first incarnation of their iPad device. Many questioned the wisdom of this decision, as it meant that Microsoft would be starting the battle for supremacy over the blossoming tablet market on the back foot. It’s harder to follow in your competition’s footsteps than it is to blaze the trail, when it comes to a new industry.

Microsoft sparked rumours in June 2010 that the Courier project was not quite as dead as had been reported – the company filed a patent for a ‘dual-screen device’. Many industry experts expected the announcement to come, sometime towards the end of 2010, that the Courier would soon be going into production and would be made available to consumers in early 2011. But the announcement was never made.

Now, two years after the debut of the iPad, Microsoft have finally announced that they will be setting foot in the tablet arena. The Microsoft Surface range, announced at a press event in Los Angeles on Monday June 18th 2012, will include many of the features incorporated into its Courier predecessor. Although technically not a dual-screen device, Surface tablets will be sold with state-of-the-art magnetised magnesium cases, which fold out to create flat, touch-sensitive keyboards, and the devices are supposed to be on par with other top-end tablet devices.

Criticism still runs rampant over Microsoft’s decision to wait this long before entering the tablet market, however. Their absence from the tablet niche has allowed heavyweight rivals to get a substantial ‘foot in the door’ – in March this year, Apple released the third incarnation of their critically-acclaimed iPad. The Surface tablets will certainly need to deliver a high standard of user experience and useability if Microsoft hope to dent Apple’s considerable lead in market share.

Little information is available concerning the Surface range’s release date, although estimates suggest that Surface devices may be hitting shelves around October 2012. We’ll keep you updated when more information becomes available – but for now, watch this space.

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