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The Big Fight and Monetizing Your Life

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I’m an Apple Fan Boy. I don’t try to hide it with my MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad. They are great devices. But lately I’ve been… looking. It started with the HTC EVO. Based on the specs and the early reviews, this phone looks like a beast. Or as Engadget said

… its magnificent list of specs reads as though it was scribbled on a napkin after a merry band of gadget nerds got tipsy at the watering hole and started riffing about their idea of the ultimate mobile device: a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 4.3-inch WVGA display, 8 megapixel camera with 720p video recording, HDMI-out, and WiMAX compatibility.

A true powerhouse.

Google has positioned itself in a beautiful way with Android. The fact that I (and many other Apple loyalists) am considering jumping over to Android is a big deal. It’s all part of what I’m calling the Big Fight.

The Power Players of the Big Fight are:
Google
Apple
Facebook

And to a lesser extent
MySpace for starting it all
Twitter for introducing real time
FourSquare for introducing location

The Big Fight is real time, location aware and across all screens. The Big Fight is about control of you – voicemail to email to your social feed and texts; what you are watching on TV or Hulu and who you are watching it with, where you are eating lunch and what you are about to purchase. Your identity (online and off) and that of all your friends. Everything is content and it is all monetizable. That means the top contenders – Google, Apple and Facebook, need access to it all.

Google has established dominance in consumer mobile with Android. It has leverage on more platforms than Apple since Anroid isn’t device specific. Google also has a few social networks (That aren’t doing well, yet). It has massive ad capabilities. In some capacity, it has all the elements that Apple and Facebook have combined. Which is why it is no surprise that iPhone 4.0 is rumored to have tight Facebook integration. They need each other, while Google is able to do it on its own (with massive acquisitions and help from people like Sony and Intel). Apple/Facebook is all about a closed, secure, easy environment for ‘normal’ people. They are mainstream. Google is open but also geeky.

Google has their cards lined up in a way that should make Apple worried because this war has just begun.

Apple tried to get on your TV with their failed Apple TV. While they now have a true content consumption device with the iPad, it’s a personal consumption device. They are behind on taking over your living room. Google TV will (hopefully) bring the web video experience to the big (consumer) screen. No more hunkering around a 21in monitor to watch those funny YouTube videos. It will be seamless on Google TV.

I have been envisioning a dual device content experience for a while. Sit in the living room with the TV on and interact with a tablet or phone. That’s built in to Google TV. Say you are watching one of the new Fall shows on NBC with your HTC EVO in hand. During a commercial you’ll be able to push that funny YouTube video from phone to Google TV seamlessly, watch it with everyone, then get back to your show. That’s fun. That’s event / crowd driven in a new way.

And it’s only the start.

The Android tablet is coming out soon. Now we get some real interactive possibilities in the Android / Google TV ecosystem. For example, a new soap is set to air on MTV which has a choose your own adventure style ending. I don’t think choose your own adventure will have legs in any space, but picking the ending will at least feel natural when you have a device sitting on your lap (instead of having to remember your choice, then the next time you are at a computer remember to go to the Mtv site and pick it). The interaction here is probably more of a marketing hook than anything else and I doubt it will have any Android (or iPad) integration. What will be coming after that, however, is immersive interactive experiences that truly enhances the story.

Enhancing the story is vital. It’s the only way this stuff will stick around and evolve. If it’s not adding emotion, if it’s not helping the story, what’s the point?

Innovative interactive possibilities will surely come in the 2011 and 2012 fall lineup. At that point there will be a large enough group of people wanting to interact who will have the hardware to do it. Even if it’s 200,000 people it allows for HUGE advertiser play. Those 200,000 will be Hyper Engaged. They’ll interact with the show and its brands on their tablet or phone. They’ll investigate product integrations, or perhaps their device will notify them with coupons (or something less lame).

Google now has a complete TV platform, including heavy monetization capabilities.

Where does that leave Apple and Facebook? Facebook has already demonstrated its ability for social viewing with CNNs election coverage integration. It was a good small screen experience. How will Apple and Facebook get into the big screen market? Apple must find a TV strategy if it is going to be a contender in the Big Fight. The iPad is obviously their first step. I’m designing content for it. I think its game changing. But Apple needs to find a way to leverage me on the couch watching TV, because that experience isn’t going anywhere. It’s just going to get better.

Written by Nicholas Robinson

May 20th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Screen Size Democracy

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Nick talking about his iPad again. Awesome.

I’ve been watching old episodes of Arrested Development and The Office in ‘passive mode’ on my iPad for a while. They play like music in the background. I’ll glance over while making dinner or brushing my teeth. Why not, right? The iPad makes me want to have content playing at all times. Examining this experience, and the other options available through this device, is important in understanding how it’s going to work in 5-10 years.

The next Story Telling Revolution.

Having exhausted my tolerance of comedy I’d seen ten times before, I put on this lecture by Amy Jo Kim about social game design.


(It’s long but worth it)

The lessons learned from the above video I will save. Instead, I want to examine my habit. I took my netbook out and started writing down thoughts and questions. This was an active experience. But the active element was not contained within the iPad environment. That option isn’t available. Yet. The lecture wasn’t scripted or story driven but the habit of ‘doing’ while watching seemed natural.

Since it was a lazy Sunday, I next fired up the DailyMotion app to watch Compulsions. I had a pre-release DVD of this and watched it months ago, but I watched it on my computer. At work. On my second monitor. While I emailed. And Tweeted. And caught up on RSS feeds. And cycled between 5 different browsers with 10 tabs in each. A multitasked nightmare.  I have tons going on every computing second. It’s not an optimal way to consume content; to get lost in a story. It’s a passive experience. Computing habits are deeply engrained, however, and hard to break.

Luckily, a new habit is being formed now.

The iPad habit. First, you aren’t multi-tasked to death (The iPad despertly needs the 4.0 update to support multitasking, but even with that, you’ll be focused on one thing at a time. My iPad is jailbroken so I’ve already got multitasking). Second, all content is treated the same. Screen size democracy. The 9-inch screen feels bigger than it is. I’ve watched a ton of TV shows and features, so Compulsions was no different than LOST. You lose that stigma of ‘It’s on your computer so it’s bad’. Third, it’s a ‘lean in’ experience. The iPhone OS has been CREATED to lean in. No one has yet capitalized on viewing filmed entertainment in a ‘lean in’ environment. That will be here soon.

On a tablet you want to TOUCH. It feels right. That’s where our new form of entertainment is going to shine. You won’t have a million things going on, but since the habit of doing while watching has been established, some sort of interaction will be natural. I was ready to touch and play with Compulsions. The option just doesn’t exist.

On your 52in web connected tv, you’re gong to want to sit back and watch. That will be your tradiational content experience, indistinguishable from what’s on TV today (Except there will be more options with lower budget and niched targeted shows replacing what we today call Web Series). The hybrid experience will be consuming content on the big screen while you interact via the tablet. This will be great for tentpole events.

With a million iPads sold and people downloading (and paying for) Apps at a breakneck speed, the new market is creating itself. The options are emerging. Now we just need the platform and story. Two parallel paths that need to be developed in tandem. You’ll be seeing that from me very soon.

Written by Nicholas J. Robinson

May 10th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Touch That Video

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I remember a huge fight I had with my parents when I was around 12. It was a Sunday night. Simpsons night. Back when that show was the holy grail of edgy humor every 12 year old craved. But there was a problem. Schedule change. The Simpsons were on a half hour later this year. That half hour put the show past my bedtime. My parent’s bedtime policy was adapted from the Guantanamo handbook with no wiggle room. Thus, a major Sunday night crisis begun. My ultimate solution was to throw a fit well past 9:00, thus proving, in my 12-year-old opinion, how draconian this sleeping regime was. Of course, I never got to see that episode of the Simpsons.

If only I had an iPad…

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Written by Nicholas J. Robinson

April 8th, 2010 at 10:12 am