Mobile Events
Event Date Location

Video Insider Summit

09/14/2014 - 09/17/2014 Montauk NY

OMMA Chicago

10/21/2014 - 10/22/2014 Chicago IL

iMedia Breakthrough Summit: The Next Wave of Marketing

10/26/2014 - 10/28/2014 Stone Mountain Georgia

Ad Age Data Conference

10/28/2014 - 10/29/2014 New York NY

DEMO Fall 2014 

11/18/2014 - 11/20/2014 San Jose CA

2015 International CES

01/06/2015 - 01/09/2015 Las Vegas Nevada

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Tech Marketing Guide to B2B

News, video, events, blogs about Social Media Marketing for high tech business-to-business from IDG Knowledge Hub.

Tech Marketing Guide to B2B

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News, video, events, ideas and blogs about Lead Generation Marketing for high tech business-to-business from IDG Knowledge Hub.

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News, video, events, blogs about Mobile Marketing for high tech business-to-business from IDG Knowledge Hub.

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How to choose between the iPhone 6, Plus, and iPad

IDG Connect 0811 300x141 How to choose between the iPhone 6, Plus, and iPad

Like a great many people, I’m planning to pre-order one of the new iPhones on Friday –which you could call both very early Friday morning or very late Thursday night since Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint will all begin taking pre-orders at or just after midnight Pacific a.k.a. 3 a.m. Eastern

I’m still on the fence about whether to order an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

I didn’t expect to be on the fence. With so many details known well in advance of Tuesday’s announcement, I’d already written the larger iPhone off as too bulky and ungainly to carry around. Even the size of the iPhone 6 seemed big to me after years with mostly four-inch smartphones. As I wrote earlier this year, I’d developed distinct use cases for my iPhone 5 and iPad mini and presumed two devices that really met my different needs was the way to go.

Then Apple did something unexpected (besides mucking up its live stream of the event). It delivered differing functionality between the two devices. Although most of the specs are the same — the iPad Plus has better camera hardware and, being bigger, sports a bigger battery — the user experience wasn’t.

Some features like Reachability — the ability to have content slide down with a double tap of the home button for easy one-handed operation — extended to both devices. But Apple has also developed ways for the iPhone 6 Plus to make better use of its extra screen real estate. Apple’s built-in apps display more information or content in landscape orientation. The homescreen rotates like on an iPad. Although both devices have a larger keyboard with added buttons for enhanced functionality, the iPhone 6 Plus has more of those added buttons.

Put simply, there is a user interface and user experience difference between the two and I was intrigued enough about the added perks of the iPhone 6 Plus to begin considering it.

Since I wasn’t at Apple’s event and haven’t seen or either device in person, I realized all the photos in the world wouldn’t really give me an accurate idea of how big each of them are. Going a little old school, I decided to get as close as I could to finding out. Taking the dimensions of each device from Apple’s website, I used a rule and pencil to trace out their outline on a piece of paper.

I was genuinely surprised by the result. When I put my iPhone 5 next to it in the Speck case it’s been in since I got it, it was actually wider than the iPhone 6 and just millimeters shorter. The size difference wasn’t much different when I popped it out of the case, particularly the width. There was a much more noticeable difference between the 5 (in or out of case) and the iPhone 6 Plus, but it wasn’t as significant as I would’ve expected. I realized I could use either device comfortably even one-handed for the most part. I also realized that the iPhone 6 Plus would fit into most, but not all, of my pants or jeans pockets. Instead of clarifying the decision, the experience muddied it.

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Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news

Nieman Lab

Next year will be my twentieth in digital news. From the start, I had an underlying disposition that digital news consumers — sports or otherwise — wanted their content easily digestible: brief, formatted, convenient.

Five years in, that was the inspiration for the Daily Quickie, my column on ESPN.com. Ten years later, that was the soul of Quickish — a startup built around a quick-hit stream of editor-curated “money quotes” on the biggest news topics.

That was my biggest bet yet that news was reaching a terminal velocity of format — the “atomic unit of content” in the form of, say, a tweet (or, as Quartz’s Zach Seward has put it, a Thing.)

I misjudged — I didn’t think nearly radically enough. The quick-hit stream of Twitter or the Facebook News Feed is giving way to a largely agnostic, mostly opt-in “notification layer” on top of the phone screen.

And yet even that notification layer feels larded in the context of the single-most-interesting media-industry detail from yesterday’s Apple presentation: We are about to enter the era of “glance journalism.”

 

“Glance” is the name of the feature of the Apple Watch that let Watch-wearers skim through a series of not-quite-notifications. Maybe they are notifications, but only as a subset of a new class of ultra-brief news.

 

“Atomic unit” was a helpful metaphor, but we’re now talking about the proton/neutron level. Glance journalism makes tweets look like longform, typical news notifications (and even innovative atomized news apps) look like endless scroll, and Seward’s list of essential Things (chart, gif, quote, stat) look unresponsive.

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3 mistaken assumptions about what Big Data can do for you

CITEworld

Big data is certainly all the rage. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece ondata scientists commanding up to $300,000 per year with very little experience. Clearly the era of embracing big data is here.

However, since the tools and best practices in this area are so novel, it’s important to revisit our assumptions about what big data can do for us – and, perhaps more importantly, what it can’t do. Here are three commonly held yetmistaken assumptions about what big data can do for you and your business.

Big Data Can’t Predict the Future

Big data – and all of its analysis tools, commentary, science experiments and visualizations – can’t tell you what will happen in the future. Why? The data you collect comes entirely from the past. We’ve yet to reach the point at which we can collect data points and values from the future.

We can analyze what happened in the past and try to draw trends between actions and decision points and their consequences, based on the data, and we might use that to guess that under similar circumstances, if a similar decision were made, similar outcomes would occur as a result. But we can’t predict the future.

Many executives and organizations attempt to glean the future out of a mass of data. This is a bad idea, because the future is always changing. You know how financial advisers always use the line, “Past performance does not guarantee future results?” This maxim applies to big data as well.

Instead of trying to predict the future, use big data to optimize and enhance what’s currently true. Look at something that’s happening now and constructively improve upon the outcomes for that current event. Use the data to find the right questions to ask. Don’t try to use big data as a crystal ball.

Big Data Can’t Replace Your Values – or Your Company’s

Big data is a poor substitute for values – those mores and standards by which you live your life and your company endeavors to operate. Your choices on substantive issues may be more crystallized, and it may be easier and clearer to sort out the advantages and disadvantages of various courses of action, but the data itself can’t help you interpret how certain decisions stack up against the standards you set for yourself and for your company.

Data can paint all sorts of pictures, both in the numbers themselves and through the aid of visualization software. Your staff can create many projected scenarios about any given issue, but those results are simply that – a projection. Your job as an executive, and as a CIO making these sorts of tools and staff available within your business, is to actually reconcile that data against your company’s values.

For instance, imagine you’re a car manufacturer. Your big data sources and tools tell you that certain vehicle models have a flaw that may cost a few cents to repair on vehicles yet to be manufactured, but would cost significantly more to repair in vehicles that have already been purchased by customers and are in production use. The data, and thus your data scientists on staff, might recommend fixing the issue on cars still on the assembly line but not bothering to fix the cars already out there in the world, simply because the data might have shown the cost exceeded the likelihood of damages across the board.

(Note that this scenario may sound familiar to you if you have been following theGeneral Motors ignition switch saga. However, this is only a hypothetical example, and further, there is no evidence big data played into the GM recall.)

Say your company has a value statement that quality is job 1 and safety is of paramount importance. Though the data suggests a recall isn’t worth it, you make the call as an executive to start the recall. You’re informed, but you’re not controlled by big data.

Above all, it’s vital to remember that sometimes the right answer appears to be the wrong one when viewed through a different lens. Make sure you use the right lens.

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Context is King: Points to Consider When Implementing a Contextual Marketing Strategy

IDG Connect 0811 300x141 Context is King: Points to Consider When Implementing a Contextual Marketing Strategy

For the past few years, marketers have focused on pushing incredible amounts of content to their consumers and prospects to fit the mold of content marketing, having been told that is the future of their industry. This isn’t entirely false. Marketers need content to communicate with their consumers. However, many don’t know the context in which the consumer is engaging with that content, making it impossible to deliver the most relevant information to the right person at the right time. Today, consumers expect an optimal experience when interacting with any brand. They are accustomed to on-demand, personalized information and want marketers to understand their preferences before they buy. Because of these heightened expectations, marketers have to recognize who they are talking to and accept that context, not content, is now king. What should marketers today consider when developing a contextual marketing strategy? Here’s a start:

Continuous profile development

In order to effectively communicate with a consumer and determine the context in which they are consuming content, marketers should be continuously building a profile of each individual that touches their brand. Points to consider are consumer value score, age, location, gender, etc. Once a profile of an individual begins to develop, the process of communication becomes easier and more natural. Consider this: you meet a friend of a friend at a cocktail party and have a 30-minute conversation. The next week, you run into that same person at the supermarket. You wouldn’t start the relationship over by re-introducing yourself. You have the history of the previous conversation, and you would pick up from where you left off. The same holds true when a consumer engages with a brand – the context from previous engagements is key to making the current conversation relevant and more likely to result in a positive outcome.

The mobile conundrum – a blessing and a curse

The definition of “location” has shifted as consumers now have the opportunity to interact with a brand from anywhere in the world without stepping into a physical store. This anywhere, anytime access makes it challenging to recognize each consumer as they move across multiple channels and locations during the path to purchase. As individuals increasingly adopt tablets, social media, mobile phones and other technology, the marketing approach must shift to provide an optimal experience based on that specific consumer’s location, meaning in-store or out, inbound or outbound.

Mobility has given marketers the chance to keep track of every consumer inside and outside store walls. This has the potential to be a great opportunity, but can make it challenging for a brand to identify where a consumer is located and serve them appropriate content. With the rise of geo-fencing and iBeacon technologies, as well as advanced consumer engagement systems, brands are learning to embrace mobility and use it to their advantage. Targeting a consumer with a relevant piece of content—be it an in-app offer, automated email or tailored website material—when  they are in the location most appropriate can result in a powerful touch point.

Bridging the online-offline communication gap

Marketers think contextual marketing is easy, largely because many people are talking about its value in the online world. In reality, most companies are struggling to turn that vision into practice because context is only fully valuable when all touch points – online and off – can be linked and a complete profile of a user’s engagement with a brand can be built continuously. Many retailers, for example, are missing the full power of context because they are often unable to connect consumers’ in-store experience to those they have online—such as understanding which products they may have purchased in store in the past, or how many times they have stepped in and out of a location. The key is for the marketer to be aware of every touch point regardless of where and how it happens, which cutting-edge technology can help to track. As more and more consumers begin to blend their online and offline engagements with a brand and technologies continue to evolve, it will be important for marketers to facilitate an omnichannel experience, understanding a consumer’s full profile and targeting them in the context that makes the most sense. For instance, if a consumer was researching a sports car on an auto maker’s website or app, they should be directed immediately to that model (or others like it) when they visit the showroom (and vice versa), acknowledging their past preferences and therefore strengthening the bond between brand and consumer.

Potential pitfalls

Marketers do have the ability to buy consumer profiles and derive context from third-party media channels. This route doesn’t have the same, immediate timeline idea and it doesn’t translate into an effective contextual marketing strategy. Furthermore, the information is not always related specifically to a consumer’s interaction with the specific brand and rarely is it detailed at the individual level. Taken out of context and with a lag in time, a brand misses a lot of the consumer’s story, and marketers can only take context into account if they know all of it—not just bits and pieces—and can act quickly to leverage it.

If a company doesn’t have inside intelligence on its own consumer, they’re coming in last in today’s data-driven, personalized world.

Brands need to recognize that context is critical to starting a conversation with their consumers and maintaining that dialogue throughout the customer journey. Brand loyalty and repeat purchases are results of a series of positive engagement—each linking to the one before. By aligning content with context, marketers can make educated decisions on how to proceed with communication by helping and guiding consumers along the buying journey. As a result, consumers get what they really want in a way that makes sense to them and ultimately drives them to purchase while simultaneously improving their experience across channels.

For more blogs and research from IDG Connect, click here 

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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“The tablet magazine has been flawed from the start”

Digiday

Magazine publishers have a tablet problem. According to one designer, they always have. Four years after Apple introduced the iPad, tablet apps are stagnating. A combination of design, pricing and discovery issues has made tablet magazines a hard sell, both for publishers and the digital readers they’re trying to reach.

“There are still a lot of issues,” said Joe Zeff, vice president of tablet app software company ScrollMotion, who helped launch apps for Fast Company and National Geographic.”These magazines are too hard to deliver, issues take a long time to download, and Apple’s Newsstand doesn’t make them easy to find. There are just too many things that have to go right.”

There was a time, not so long ago in the grand scheme, when the iPad was thought to be the savior of digital publishing. Magazines rushed out digital editions, many of which were flawed in both their pricing and in technology. The promised manna did not materialize. And now tablet sales are plateauing.

Zeff said that while publishers still have a lot of work to do with tablet apps, hope isn’t lost. Digiday spoke to him the magazine app’s successes, its failures, and why publishers should think of themselves as utilities.

Tablet magazines were supposed to save publishing. What went wrong?
The tablet magazine has been flawed from the start. They were conceived based on what publishers wanted and not what consumers wanted, so there was a lot of emphasis on extending old work flows and old reading habits rather than creating new products. We had the opportunity to put magazines on computers, which should have made magazines smarter. And that hasn’t really happened.

Are there any success stories?
There are some tremendous ones being created, yes. Wired is always a lot of fun, and Hearst, overall, seems to be doing a pretty good job at selling subscriptions, but I’d say that the success stories are few and far between.

Is this something that publishers can turn around? What are the opportunities?
There are some real opportunities to rethink the idea of a tablet magazine in order to recreate something that’s compelling. A tablet magazine should be smarter than the current set of publications. They should give me options about what content I receive and how and when it’s delivered. To do that, content has to be more modular. Today content is wrapped up in a magazine format, where everybody gets the same product. It really should be mixed and matched based on what works for me, not what works for the publisher. Content should be tied to where I am and what I’m doing, and become much more part of my regular routine.

That’s not happening now. Now, I’m getting a magazine that is very similar to what I can get anywhere else, and it’s not been created for me. It’s been created and looks in a way that suits the publisher, not the consumer.

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Organizational Tips for Leading the Marketing Transformation

IDC PMS4colorversion 1 300x99 Organizational Tips for Leading the Marketing Transformation

By Kathleen Schaub 

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the marketing transformation? You aren’t alone.  An IDC analysis of tech marketing staff changes since 2009 reveals that CMOs have had to squeeze traditional staff functions to accommodate five new roles: analytics/business intelligence, marketing technology, social marketing, sales enablement, and campaign management. In 2013, these new five roles collectively made up 14% of the total marketing staff. 

IDC invited organizational change expert, Dr. Rick Mirable, to advise our clients on insights for leading more successful organizational change initiatives. Here are some of the tips that Dr. Mirable, who has more than 20 years of diverse business consulting and academic experience, offered:
  • What we believe about change determines how we will respond to change. People hold beliefs about the capability of both company culture and individual people’s ability to change. Good change initiatives raise awareness of these biases.
  • Successful change initiatives require that leaders be included. It’s not only individuals deep in the organization that need transformation, but leaders must also be role models for the change they want to see.
  • People resist change for many reasons. Change can threaten our sense of security (What will happen to me?) and our sense of competence (Can I learn new skills?). People may worry they will fail. They may not understand why change is needed. Companies may inadvertently reward people who resist change by penalizing people who try new things and fail.
  • Some resistance to change comes from unspoken resentment. Companies must allow for expression of the relevant “inner conversations” that people have with themselves about the change — views that are not explicit to others. Resentment is like dirty laundry — if you don’t get rid of it eventually it starts to smell!
  • Some change initiatives fail simply because the organization isn’t ready.Assess your readiness and then bring those areas found lacking up to speed before embarking.
  • The communication portions of most change efforts are weak and not consistent over the long haul. The communication must be open and bidirectional. Messages and goals need to be regularly repeated and reinforced.
  • Company culture is essential to sustaining success over time. One cultural attribute proven to accelerate change is the empowerment of individuals to make decisions that further the change goals. It is a best practice to ask people what they want to do (and ask for management permission to do it) rather than telling them what to do. This practice encourages innovation and accountability and drives change deeper in the organization.
  • Don’t confuse “movement” with progress. When you get off the freeway during a traffic jam, you may be able to move faster; however, that movement doesn’t guarantee that you are actually moving toward your destination or will get to it any more quickly. IDC notes that marketing teams that measure activity rather than outcomes are making this error.
  • Create circumstances for people to motivate themselves. Motivation can include extrinsic rewards such as money. Proven to be even more effective are intrinsic rewards — challenge, learning, responsibility, contribution, and career path advancement. Intrinsic rewards tap into the power of people’s passions. Companies are advised to structure people’s work so as to allow passion to surface.
  • Reduce resistance by creating a “burning platform.” Clarify the risks and benefits of the change and involve the collective wisdom of the group. Give people a role in the change. Involve a person’s “head” and “heart” as well as the “feet” of required actions.

For more blogs and research from IDC, click here

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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Why Are PC Sales Up And Tablet Sales Down?

TechCrunch

When iPads first came out, they were hailed as the undoing of the PC. Finally, a cheap and reliable computing device for the average user instead of the complicated, quirky PC. After a few years of strong growth for iOS and Android tablets and a corresponding decrease in PC sales, the inverse is suddenly true: PC sales are up and tablet sales are “crashing.” What happened?

The tablet slowdown shouldn’t be a surprise given that tablets have hardly improved beyond relatively superficial changes in size, screen resolution, and processor speed. The initial market for tablets is now saturated: grandparents and kids have them, people bought them as Sonos controllers and such, and numerous households have them around for reading. People that want tablets have them, and there’s just no need to upgrade because they more than adequately perform their assigned tasks.

Businesses and consumers alike are again purchasing PCs, and Mac sales are on the riseyear-over-year. Businesses in particular are forced to upgrade older PCs now that Windows XP is no longer supported. When purchasing a new PC, the main driver to choose a PC versus a tablet is fairly obvious: If you are creating any type of content regularly, you need a keyboard, a larger screen, and (for most businesses) Microsoft Office.

Reigniting Tablet Growth with “Super Tablets”

For the tablet category to continue to grow, tablets need to move beyond what Chris Dixon calls the “toy phase” and become more like PCs. The features required for a tablet to evolve into a super tablet are straight from the PC playbook: at least a 13” screen, 64 bit processor, 2GB of RAM, 256GB drive, a real keyboard, an actual file system, and an improved operating system with windowing and true multitasking capability. Super tablets form factors could range from notebooks to all-in-one desktops like the iMac. Small 7” and 9” super tablets could dock into larger screens and keyboards.

The computer industry is littered with the detritus of failed attempts to simplify PCs ranging from Sun Micrososytems’ Sun Ray to Oracle’s Network Computer to Microsoft’s Windows CE. But this time, it’s actually different. The power of mass-produced, 64-bit ARM chips, economies of scale from smartphone and tablet production, and — most importantly — the vast ecosystem of iOS and Android apps have finally made such a “network computer” feasible.

Businesses Need Super Tablets

As the former CIO at CBS Interactive, I would have bought such super tablets in droves for our employees, the vast majority of whom primarily use only a web browser and Microsoft Office. There will of course always be power users such as developers and video editors that require a full-fledged PC. A souped-up tablet would indeed garner corporate sales, as Tim Cook would like for the iPad … but only at the expense of MacBooks.

The cost of managing PCs in an enterprise are enormous, with Gartner estimating that the total cost of ownership for a notebook computer can be as high as $9,000. PCs are expensive, prone to failure, easy to break and magnets for viruses and malware. After just a bit of use, many PCs are susceptible to constant freezes and crashes.

PCs are so prone to failure that ServiceNow — a company devoted to helping IT organizations track help desk tickets — is worth over $8 billion. Some organizations are so fed up with problematic PCs that they are using expensive and cumbersome desktop virtualization, where the PC environment is strongly controlled on servers and streamed to a client.

And while Macs are somewhat better than Windows, I suggest you stand next to any corporate help desk or the Apple genius bar and watch and learn if you think they are not problematic.

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Neura’s novel approach: Baking intelligence into connected devices

CITEworld

A well-known problem in the Internet of Things is that many connected devices operate in silos. Your Fitbit doesn’t communicate with your Nest thermostat, for example.

One way some companies are trying to solve this problem is to create a hub, like Revolv. The idea is for all devices to connect to the hub, which serves as a central point for users to control all the devices and allows certain events to trigger activity in different devices.

Neura, a startup chosen as part of Microsoft Ventures’ accelerator program, has a novel approach to the hub concept. “The phone and potentially in the future the watch is how we treat a hub,” said Gilad Meiri, CEO of Neura.

Neura aims to be like a central clearinghouse for IoT data collected from fitness trackers, home automation products, and phones. But then it interprets that data into useful information that it supplies to other devices.

Here’s one scenario. Neura works around the idea of events in a person’s life. An important event could be waking up in the morning. Neura may figure out that a user has woken up based on information from a variety of devices like a sleep sensor, a Nest thermostat, motion sensors in a phone, and historical patterns.

Once Neura has detected such an event, it supplies it to partners that subscribe to that event data. For instance, a TV vendor might want to know a user has woken up in order to turn on the TV to the user’s favorite morning program. Waking up could trigger events like turning on the coffee maker or starting up the hot water heater.

“This is our model. To understand people and events and allow devices and services to subscribe to that,” Meiri said.

Neura offers its business customers a confidence scale around the information it delivers. For instance, the TV app may not want to turn on the TV unless Neura has 100 percent confidence that the user is awake because it wouldn’t be a great user experience if the TV turned on while the user is still asleep. But the app on the hot water heater might instead like to know when Neura is 60 percent sure the end user is awake since it takes some time to heat the water and it might be better to err on starting to heat the water before the user is awake.

Healthcare applications envisioned by Neura get even more interesting. Neura could detect that a user is driving to the gym and predict that in 20 minutes the user’s glucose level is likely to drop, based on historical data collected from the user’s glucose meter during previous workouts at the gym. The service can suggest to the user that it’s a good time to eat an apple.

Neura could also provide information to services so that, for example, a music service like Spotify can get a notification that a user only has 15 minutes left to her run so that the service can start playing music that might motivate her through the final stretch.

On the backend, Neura ingests the sensor data into its translation machine that it calls Harmony. It’s an abstraction layer that normalizes the data that’s coming from different sources. On top of that sits what Neura calls its Trac Event Machine which looks for patterns in user behavior. Its artificial intelligence layer makes sense of the data.

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