Nicholas Carr (former exec editor of the Harvard Business Review) has just posted a rumour on his blog that Microsoft may be planning to announce a move to push it’s applications into the cloud. It’s something that’s been expected but there hasn’t been any rumours that it’s impending for ages. Moving to web access for apps is a natural thing for Microsoft to do soon and could be huge!

Nicholas is highly respected (I’ve been a fan of his FT and Guardian articles for ages) and even if the rumour isn’t true it most likely does mean some kind of announcement is coming soon.

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Amazing news today that Microsoft are set to provide software blueprints on their website and promise not to sue developers who make use of them (for non-commercial purposes).

Have Microsoft grown up and realised that a closed environment is not the best for fostering innovation, something which Microsoft used to have in heaps but seems lacking lately?

Really good news for those working on online office solutions as interoperability should be much easier to proved. And great news for users as this could open up many opportunities to make software more accessible and open to all.

News here from ZDNet that some of the largest online travel agencies in the U.S. may shift their focus abroad in order to keep growing their business. Chief execs at Priceline, Orbitz and Expedia all said at a summit this week that they would be focusing on emerging markets in an aim to capture as much of those markets as possible.

Asia-Pacific seems to be the particular focus but there is still work to be done in Europe by some of these large players. Orbitz, Priceline and others such as Travelocity do not have the profile in Europe that Expedia have built up. I’d expect to see some more aggressive tactics over here from companies like them.

This could make it an even tougher year from domestic players especially with the economic climate in the U.S If the Americans stop spending I’d expect them to put their efforts into regions which are not so economically challenged.

Reuters have been holding a Travel & Leisure Summit in Los Angeles and this was one of the topics of conversation. The main answer seemed to be that deals will be key!

While consumers may tighten their belts, hoteliers may give better rates to online travel agencies as they will be more eager to fill their rooms. This should really benefit the large online agents such as Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz etc.

While a recession could erode demand generally it can also have the opposite effect in the activity of bargain and deal hunters as more people hunt for something affordable. This could benefit not just the big players but also the price comparison websites as they have access to so many rates they are the obvious place for any bargain hunter to start their search.

Another factor of economic weakness could be airlines who cannot fill all their seats, this should push them to offload unsold stock to online travel agents and may mean that there are some better deals than usual available.

Of course this is all conjecture, at the moment we have no idea how bad an economic downturn could get (wait for the commercial property market to show it’s weakness) or how long it could last.

My tip for this year is price comparison websites. They are positioned well as far as price goes for a year of weaker demand and this has to be the year that they finally improve their user experience to a point where they are so easy to find deals that they start to erode market share of slower moving websites (remember, a lot of price comparison sites are technology companies rather than travel). Looking forward to seeing how Kayak, Mobissimo, Travel Supermarket etc get on in this economic climate!

A study by ComScore, Tacoda (behavioural ad network) and Starcom has turned up some not wholly unexpected results regarding the profile of users who are frequent ad clickers in the U.S. online population.

It turns out that measuring your banner campaigns performance on click through rates may not actually signify brand engagement to the level that you’ve been expecting.

There is a small group of consumers out there who account for the vast majority of all banner click throughs. These heavy handed individuals make up just 6% of the online population in the U.S. and yet they account for 50% of all display ad clicks. Worse still, this small group is not fully representative of the public at large, rather it is made up on predominantly users between the ages 25-44 and with a household income of less than $40k. These people spend a lot more time online than the rest of the internet population but at the same time their spending online does not proportionately reflect this heavy usage.

What does this mean for marketers? Well, it could suggest that good click through rates do not correlate strongly with good brand awareness for the ads subject.

Time to diversify! Banners have their place, best used as a response mechanism to attempt to acquire or convert users, and that means best measured for effectiveness using other metrics than click throughs. Conversion rate and acquisition numbers are a far more accurate measure of success. A brand specific measure may prove to be engagement and their are now ways to measure engagement with banners and online adverts. Diversifying your online spend into other mediums is key, making sure you are represented well in search, more viral types of advertising and offline will have a better overall effect on your brand equity.

It’s up to web people to educate your marketing departments, many of you will have understood or suspected this for a long time!

The IDC have announced that the market for U.S. internet advertising grew by a massive 27% in 2007.

Interestingly though, while Google grew by 40% year on year in Q4 that was down on their growth a year earlier. That made their market share slip by 0.5%, but they do still own over 23% of the market. Something to do with the coming saturation of search marketing perhaps?

IDC says a merged Microsoft-Yahoo would command 17% of the U.S. online ad market, so still not enough to topple Google from the top spot.

One wonders if the figures for Google include DoubleClick yet??

The real Hillary Clinton?

February 8, 2008

Ok, this isn’t really a political post at all, rather it’s about a new suite of online image editing tools called Aviary. They’ve put a great screen cast on YouTube showing just how cool their suite of tools is. This is impressive stuff for an online tool, how long till we can all ditch our bloatware and move to these online tools?

Looking through the rest of their product blog this is going to be very cool indeed!

And it’s not just images; they have a whole suite of tools from images, to video and even audio related.