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IFA September 2014: World Tech Update

IDG News Service

From Samsung’s new curved Note Edge to the flurry of Google Android Wear watches from LG, Sony and Asus, we’ve got you covered on the hottest products launched at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.

Tablets with voice calling functions take off in Asia

IDG News Service

Using a tablet to make a phone call may sound unorthodox. But in Asia’s emerging markets, vendors are increasingly shipping 7-inch tablets with voice call functions, according to research firm IDC.

During the second quarter, electronics vendors shipped 13.8 million tablets to the Asia Pacific region, excluding Japan, IDC said on Wednesday. Of those tablets, 25 percent were designed for voice calls over a cellular network. This marked a jump of 10 percentage points from the first quarter.

Voice call tablets are taking off in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, said Avinash Sundaram, an IDC analyst, who added that it had become a trend unique to Asia.

Although large screen phones are already popular, some consumers in the region have tighter budgets, and want a product that merges all their electronic needs into a single device, Sundaram said.

“They don’t want to walk around with a phone, tablet and PC,” he said. “This is basically addressing budgetary needs.”

Vendors releasing these products include Samsung, which early on incorporated voice call features into its tablets, along with Asus, Huawei and Lenovo. But smaller vendors such as India’s Micromax and Indonesia’s Advan Digital are also fueling the market with rival tablets.

“We definitely see this as a vendor strategy to help differentiate their products,” Sundaram said. Many of these tablets cost between US$100 to $300.

It’s still not known how many consumers in Asia use their tablets for voice calls. But vendors are marketing the features in their advertisements.

“If we look at advertising campaigns in India, Indonesia, they call it a tablet with voice option,” Sundaram said. Vendors could conceivably put cellular features into all their tablets. But bigger companies such as Samsung might refrain from doing so, to better position their smart phone products, he added.

“From a vendor perspective, they want to target every single kind of device, as opposed to selling one kind of device,” he said. “There are no technical hurdles. It’s more about product strategy.”

9 Inexpensive Ways to Get Your Business Noticed Online

IDG News Service

Congratulations on launching your startup business. The only problem is, no one knows about it. So how do you get the word out online, without having to spend thousands of dollars on advertising or PR, or buying Facebook or Twitter followers?

Dozens of small business owners and social media, SEO and marketing experts share their nine top tips for how new businesses can get noticed online, without having to spend a lot of money.

1. Establish profiles on the major social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest). Before launching any social campaigns, take time to figure out which social media site or sites your target customers frequent. Then set up pages or profiles on those sites — and post content regularly, at least once a week. To centrally manage your social media posting, consider using a service such as Hootsuite.

2. Create fresh, shareable content. “Business blogs are the most cost effective way to boost your organic traffic,” says Lisa Chu, owner, Black N Bianco Children’s Formal Wear. “Google loves original and valuable content. By [creating] informative articles, not only will Google reward your site, but people will organically start sharing your blog posts. [Just] remember: Write for your target audience not for Google.”

“Create interesting videos [and graphics with your target audience in mind] and share them across all of your social media profiles,” suggests Hannah Diamond, marketing coordinator, UrbanGirl Office Supply. “Offer something fresh and unique [that speaks] to your company,” without it coming across as an ad.

Finally, “make it easy for your followers to share your content,” says Melissa Johnson, content editor for Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal. “Make sure that people can follow you on Facebook or Twitter [or Pinterest] directly from your site [by including hot-linked buttons to your social media pages], and add buttons so that they can share your content and products on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, StumbleUpon, [Reddit] and other networks.” The easier it is to share content, the more people will share it.

3. Ask friends, family members and employees to get the word out — and reward referrals. Even if you don’t have many (or any) followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, chances are some of your friends or family members or your employees do. Ask them to follow you/your new business on social media sites and spread the word. Better yet, reward people for sharing links to your site or products by offering them referral discounts, say 10 percent off their first or next purchase, or a freebie.

4. Offer influencers/bloggers free product(s) in exchange for mentions and/or reviews. “When you first start your business, it can be difficult to direct traffic to your site,” notes Chu. “A simple way to start a buzz around your product and website is to send out free samples to influential bloggers. Most bloggers will be happy to take your free sample and review it on their blog,” she says. “Once the review goes up, there will be a link directly to your site. That link will give you a nice SEO boost on search engines” and will drive traffic to your site.

“If a company has not yet been in business long enough to grow a substantial customer base, they can gain visibility online by conducting a product sampling campaign, [where you offer] consumers free products in return for accurate, unbiased, and insightful reviews (which can include text, photos, and videos),” says Matt Krebsbach, director, Global Public & Analyst Relations, Bazaarvoice, a platform for consumer ratings and reviews.

“A product sampling campaign helps generate accelerated word of mouth and increased sales for a product launch,” Krebsbach says. Moreover, “each sample can result in a review that influences tens, hundreds or thousands of prospective customers for each free product. And Bazaarvoice’s research shows that, depending on the product category, increases in both the number of reviews and the average rating for a product can increase orders 10 to 50 percent.”

5. Co-market with an established business/brand. “Pair with an on-brand company that already has a loyal following to offer something unique and sharable,” suggests Zoë Scharf, cofounder & creative director, greetabl. “When greetabl wanted to increase awareness, they paired with Strange Donuts, a popular donut shop, to celebrate National Donut Day,” she explains.

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How Social Networks Are Changing Mobile Advertising

IDG News Service

For digital marketers, the road to riches on mobile screens has been long and riddled with holes of divergence. But the pursuit, which harkens back to the pre-smartphone era, has gotten more promising thanks to social media.

More than 60 percent of the $6.8 billion expected to be spent on social advertising in the U.S. this year is controlled by Facebook, Google and Twitter, according to eMarketer. Overall, mobile advertising revenue in the U.S. is projected to grow to $58 billion and comprise 71 percent of all digital ad spending by 2018.

eMarketer also expects mobile ad spending to overtake desktop PC advertising by 2016 and TV advertising by 2018. Facebook has reformed its business to capitalize on this opportunity in mobile to great effect. The company currently controls 71 percent of the market, which is the equivalent to 10 percent of all digital ad spending in the U.S.

Why is Facebook — and now Twitter to a lesser and more recent extent — doing so well in mobile advertising while most others continue to struggle? Mobile advertising is on course to comprise 68 percent of Facebook’s revenue and 84 percent of Twitter’s by year’s end, according to eMarketer.

Are they doing something different or are their platforms so unique and powerful that no advertising network or ad technology could possibly contend with?

Mobile Advertising Has Arrived on Social

“There is no question mobile has arrived — it’s here, it’s big, it’s growing,” says Lars Albright, co-founder and CEO of the mobile loyalty platform SessionM. “The bottom line is it’s working.”

Mobile advertising went through various formats and implementations before it reached the scale now enjoyed by Facebook, Twitter and Google. This last leg of innovation, which is now paying off for marketers and advertisers, has been all about the granularity of targeting that these platforms can bring to deliver a successful transaction or sales conversion, says Albright.

“They have so much scale in mobile now that they’re able to do targeting to clusters that are meaningful,” Albright adds. Now they can take that top-level targeting and go much deeper… All of a sudden you start to get much more focused, and even though you’re so much more focused you still have the scale that you can deliver meaningful results. So having that big audience, then having very detailed information and that relationship is where you’re seeing things separate.”

That direct relationship with users coupled with all the data and behavioral traits gleaned from their social activity makes all the difference.

“Traditional networks, as they are, are the ones that are really going to hurt here because they don’t have that first-party relationship with the consumer… That’s one of the key differentiators to bring to marketers,” says Albright, who previously founded Quattro Wireless, a mobile ad network that was acquired by Apple in 2010.

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Shadow cloud services pose a growing risk to enterprises

IDG News Service

A growing tendency by business units and workgroups to sign up for cloud services without any involvement from their IT organization creates serious risks for enterprises.

The risks from shadow cloud services include issues with data security, transaction integrity, business continuity and regulatory compliance, technology consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) warned last week.

“The culture of consumerization within the enterprise — having what you want, when you want it, the way you want it, and at the price you want it — coupled with aging technologies and outdated IT models, has propelled cloud computing into favor with business units and individual users,” PwC said in a report.

Increasingly, workgroups and even individual users in companies are subscribing directly to cloud services for business reasons because it is easy and relatively inexpensive for them to do, said Cara Beston, cloud risk assurance leader at PwC.

“There is a new form of shadow IT and it is likely more pervasive across the company” than many might imagine, given the easy access to cloud services, Beston said. “It is harder to find, because it is being procured at small cost and is no longer operating within the bounds of the company.”

Some typical use cases for shadow cloud services include collaboration software, storage, customer relationship management apps and human resources.

The Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model allows business units and workgroups to quickly deal with business process challenges without having to wait for IT to help out. The fact that the cost for such services is usually an operating expense rather than a capital expense is another advantage.

“Shadow cloud is happening under the radar” at many organizations, Beston said. Without governance, such cloud services present significant data security risks and the potential for technology and service redundancies.

Risks include inadvertent exposure of regulated data, improper access and control over protected and confidential data and intellectual property and breaching of rules pertaining to how some data should be handled.

Companies in regulated industries face a real risk of becoming non-compliant with data security and privacy obligations without even realizing it. Importantly, while many business users sign onto cloud services because of the perceived lower costs, a lack of control over how the services are being used can often result in service duplication and higher-than-anticipated operational costs, she said.

Cloud services for work groups of between five and 10 business users can range from as little as a few hundred dollars a month to a few thousand dollars. But the costs can quickly get out of control when all the different groups that might be using similar services within an organization are counted.

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World Tech Update- August 22, 2014

IDG News Service

Coming up on WTU hackers steal data on 4.5 million U.S. hospital patients, Sprint launches a bezel-free smartphone and a Silicon Valley hotel tries out a robot bellhop.

Samsung buys SmartThings in ambitious push to connect your home

IDG News Service

Samsung has agreed to buy SmartThings, a two-year-old startup that makes software to connect household objects and let them be controlled from afar via smartphone.

The deal, announced Thursday, gives Samsung a solid foothold in the burgeoning “Internet of things” market. IoT generally involves connecting objects such as cameras, sensors and appliances using a wireless Internet connection and controlling them or collecting data.

“SmartThings supports an open and growing ecosystem of developers, who are producing new types of connected devices and unique apps in the cloud that change how everyday objects work,” Samsung said in a press release.

Terms were not disclosed, but a report in Re/code cited a roughly $200 million price tag. Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SmartThings makes a mobile app for controlling a range of devices, as well as a software platform for outside developers and device makers. Samsung has become active in this area with its Tizen mobile operating system, which is designed to let consumers control utilities and appliances with their smartphones and other mobile devices.

The acquisition should broaden Samsung’s efforts and let it expand the SmartThings platform to more partners and devices.

SmartThings will operate independently under SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson but will move from Washington, D.C., to Samsung’s Open Innovation Center in Palo Alto, California, where Samsung works on bringing new types of software applications to its hardware.

“While we will remain operationally independent, joining forces with Samsung will enable us to support all of the leading smartphone vendors, devices, and applications,” Hawkinson said in a blog post.

IoT activity has heated up over the past year. In a high-profile move earlier this year, Google announced its acquisition of Nest, the smart thermostat maker, for $3.2 billion.

SmartThings got its start on Kickstarter.

World Tech Update- August 14, 2014

IDG News Service

Coming up on WTU Microsoft and Samsung introduce new smartphones, a high tech helmet goes on sale and tech CEOs join the ice bucket challenge.

Study: Virginia has the fastest Internet in the US

IDG News Service

If you want the fastest broadband Internet in the US, consider moving to Virginia. That’s the takeaway from a new bit of research from communications firm Broadview Networks, which ranks average broadband speeds for all 50 United States and the District of Colombia.

Virginia tops the list with an average connection speed of 13.7 megabits per second (about 1.7 megabytes per second), while Alaska pulls up the rear at a relatively meager 7Mbps (about .875 megabytes per second). Delaware and Massachusetts are tied for second fastest at 13.1Mbps; Rhode Island and the District of Colombia round out the top five with average speeds of 12.9 and 12.8Mbps, respectively.

broadview internet speeds 100369919 large Study: Virginia has the fastest Internet in the USBROADVIEW NETWORKS

Broadview’s research—an analysis of data provided in Akamai’s State of the Internet Report—shows that California ranks 20th, with an average speed of 10.9Mbps (1.36MB/sec): A surprising result, perhaps, given the fact that it’s home to Silicon Valley.

In general, Broadview found that Midwestern and Southern states lagged behind the Northeast and West Coast in average speed.

It goes without saying, but average Internet speeds don’t tell the whole story: Actual connection speeds can vary widely depending on your provider, your connection type (DSL, cable, and so on), and where you live. If you would like to get an idea of how your provider stacks up, YouTube’s Video Quality Report can give you a snapshot of how your ISP compares to others in your area.

Microsoft still believes in basic phones, launches Nokia 130 for $25

IDG News Service

Microsoft’s Devices Group has unveiled the Nokia 130, a mobile phone that costs just $25 but lacks an Internet connection and apps.

The focus of Microsoft’s mobile device strategy is on building both high-end and low-cost smartphones running Windows Phone, but there is still a need for “ultra-affordable” mobile phones, the company said on Monday.

With the 130, Microsoft is going after people in emerging markets who are buying their first phone. It’s also a good fit for people who want a backup to complement their existing smartphones, according to the company.

The $25 price tag (before taxes and subsidies) is about $90 cheaper than the Lumia 530, which is the lowest cost Windows Phone Microsoft has introduced so far. The price difference with the cheapest Android-based Nokia X — which was recently killed in favor of Windows Phone — is about the same.

For many people in the emerging markets that Microsoft is targeting, a price tag over $100 is simply too much. The company hence feels it needs to offer them a more affordable alternative to prevent them from going to another vendor from whom to buy a phone today and possibly a smartphone in the future.

The 130 has a 1.8-inch color display and will be available with one or two SIM cards. Microsoft also brags about a month-long standby-time, which is a boon for users that live in parts of the world where access to electricity isn’t always a certainty.

The phone also has a built-in video player, music player, an FM radio and a flashlight. It’s expected to begin shipping in the third quarter, and will be available in countries such as India, China and Indonesia.

The choice of this trio is far from a coincidence; they added the largest number of new mobile phone subscribers in the world during the first three months of the year, according to a survey conducted by telecom vendor Ericsson.

There might be a market for products like the 130 today, but the window of opportunity is closing quickly thanks to a continuing decline in smartphone pricing.

For example, Mozilla Foundation and chip maker Spreadtrum have developed a reference platform and partnered with Indian vendors Intex and Spice to launch ultra-low-cost Firefox OS smartphones in the next few months, they said in June. Spreadtrum has said the phones will cost about $25.

That means Microsoft has to continue to work on making Windows Phone available on smartphones that cost well below $100, which is what Google is doing with Android.

The 130 will also go on sale in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam.