I’m kind of in love with this LinkedIn post by Alex Kirk at Mediacom. In it, he traces out the battle lines for the impending Final Showdown between Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Spotify, and all their subsidiaries—basically everything we use in our online lives.

As we blissfully post Happy Birthday messages on Facebook or swap faces over Instagram or tweet our take on DC Comic’s movie universe-building skills, these platforms that we use so innocently…are trying to take over the world. Or at least the way we consume content and talk to each other.

I mean, we’ve been hearing this story for a while, although more as skirmishes for particular industries or outlets. Kirk, however, sees recent maneuvers by these companies as an escalation to Def-Con 6:

While years in the making, this is not business as usual. The events of the last few weeks and months show a far more cut-throat and ruthless approach from the major players. With such aggressive tactics in play, this is not a competition where a stalemate is a likely outcome. Rather, as a result of the great 2016 platform wars, 2017 is now more and more likely to be the year when we see casualties and champions emerge among those corporations that have defined the recent decade of the internet - and who will define the next one. Place your bets.

As much as I dig the idea in a kind of “watch Godzilla and Destroyah fight from afar” kind of way, I don’t know where to go with this idea. Part of me says, “As long as I have a place to post my selfies, I guess I’m okay.” The other part of me chills a bit over the broader fear of inherently untrustworthy corporations emerging as the “champions” of the war to control our public and private discourse…even as much of that discourse is commenting on surprise album drops and forwarding holistic eczema remedies. We hear stories every day of widely varying merit about this or that platform doing this or that icky thing with the information we’re getting and the data we’re giving.

We’re always debating Net Neutrality. And we can do that because the basic platform, the Internet, doesn’t have a dog in the fight. But if the basic platform or platforms that we use are inherently not neutral, it’s kind of a moot point. Which is the way it is right now, sure, but the only thing really protecting us is the number and variety of platforms that we have access to.

But the Platform War will, at least, be fun to watch until it isn’t.

Posted by Jason

Apparently, the British don’t just hate economic unions, they hate technology. According to the Telegraph and a soon-to-be-released Deloitte report, the British aren’t too keen on the Internet of Things.

In Britain, sales of connected home devices have flattened. Which is never a word you want to see around a nascent set of technologies. Especially one in the midst of a huge push from all directions, including everyone from lighting, home environment, and security companies to Big Tech like Amazon and Google. It’s the Internet of Things. It’s where we’re going. Right? Are the Brits backward?

Nah. Not in this case, at least. Their attitude toward IoT for the home is probably universal among consumers.

Right now IoT as applied to the consumer’s home life is exactly that. Things scattered everywhere. Piecemeal and random and with very little incentive to adopt.

Just look at the headline of that Telegraph piece: Internet of Things Struggles as Use of Smart Home Gadgets Flatlines. I mean, “home gadgets”? There’s not a worse word for a piece of technology than “gadget.” It’s a word reserved for frivolous ideas, the type of tech that’s meant just for playing around with as opposed to improving a person’s life.

When’s the last time you called your phone a “gadget”? It’s probably been a while. Because it’s important. It’s a lifeline, an entertainment center, a community hub, the thing that helps you navigate life. It’s important.

And as soon as people stop looking at connected home devices as gadgets, that’s when it’ll take hold. But that will take lower cost and easier, more streamlined integration. I’m bad enough at analog home improvement projects, much less adding a layer of digital atop it.

I almost want the connected home to be a packaged deal instead of so DIY. Like the way we buy cable and Internet access. Or the way we buy a kitchen remodel. “Yes, hello. I have a house. Can you make it smart? Next Thursday? Great.”

Regardless of how it happens, though, it’ll only happen when the Internet of Things is less “of things” and more “of the home.”

Photo credit: Vividrange

Posted by Jason

Video is taking over the Internet, and I don’t just mean those annoying auto-playing ones. According to Cisco, video will account for 84% of all U.S. Internet traffic in four years. Facebook’s VP thinks the social network will be all video in five years.

Ok, mandatory opening stats out of the way, let’s get to the topic.

People on the Internet want to watch videos. So naturally, that’s what businesses are giving them. And it’s not just B2C companies trying to get people’s play fingers. It’s B2B using videos to help establish their brand presence and to explain their complex offerings simply.

In other words, if you aren’t making videos, then, well, I don’t know, I guess you’re just hoping that people will parse all the text on your website.

But I’ll tell you this: No videos are still better than bad videos.

Videos are high-end collateral: High impact, high level of complexity, and high cost. They are investments, commitments, and a powerful part of a marketing strategy.

Except that a quick Google search will show you that you can get videos on the cheap…at least the animated kind most often used for explainer videos.

But there are few things more damaging to a brand than a cheap animation video. Cheap anything is a brand-damager. Unless, I guess, you’re like Wal-Mart, and they don’t even do cheap videos. No B2B brand should be associated with stock characters, cartoony animation, and generic imagery. And it’s not just mere association, video will be your leading collateral. And if your leading collateral is shoddy, so’s your brand.

But you still have a budget and it’s probably not in the Pixar range, so what can you do with limited resources to make videos that enhance your brand instead of detract from it?

  1. The first thing is to understand that videos are not a one-off investment. No collateral should just check a box, and that’s triply true for videos. They should be part of a detailed, overarching strategy. That way, it’s easier to secure the necessary funds for a great video, while on the other, being a part of a broader strategy increases the reach, relevance, and shelf-life of the video. In other words, those videos will provide more value to both you and to your audience.

  2. Make your videos shorter. For brand videos, that’s easy. You can communicate lasting impressions in under 30 seconds. B2B explainer videos are more difficult. Two minutes is a maximum many people use for explainer videos, but even at that length you’re looking at walls of narration and a lot of points to remember and connect. In reality, your audience will already need to be vested to even try to watch that length of video, and then they’ll probably only watch it once, and probably not all the way to the end. It can be tempting, when explaining a complex challenge or solution, to say everything in a video instead of just the absolute most important things. And even then, you should cut those things in half. Maybe by 90%. Break them into multiple videos is another option.

  3. Discuss a concept in advance with your vendor that will be less expensive to produce. In the same way that a $2 million indie flick can be more compelling than a $150 million Hollywood blockbuster, so too can a simple concept do more than a complex one. Google has told entire brand stories with four colored dots and a search field. And, again, those commercials were part of a larger, strategic story and were well polished.

Of course, we’re only dealing with half the battle here. Just because videos are priorities in the budget doesn’t mean they’ll be great B2B videos. Throwing money at something never guarantees quality. But that’s a different topic. Like a great video, I’ll keep this post short.

In the end, certainly make sure you’re making videos…but only if you’re making them smart and making them right.

Posted by Jason

Drinks were on the house at the first annual Maark Makes Mixer last week. And I mean that literally, as we were 21 stories above the streets of Cambridge. There, on a rooftop deck above a Charles River pointy with sailboats, we watched the sun go down and the Boston skyline get dark and dotted with window light as we ate food and drank cocktails catered by one of our favorite local restaurants, Commonwealth.

The theme for the night was “Maark Makes…” a nod to all the services we provide—brands, embedded applications, digital campaigns, digital products, mobile applications, business stories—but the point was just to hang out with friends, colleagues, and clients and really take in what a cool town Cambridge is to work in.

This was our first public event, and it was a really enjoyable time. Even better, nobody fell off the roof. So, automatic success. We can’t wait until next year’s event. It’ll hard to top 21 stories, but we’ll find a way.

I mean, “Holofone Phablet.” I think we’re finally to that point in tech-speak where we’ve just gone full Dr. Seuss. The tech world’s language problems have always been glaring: Its inability to move beyond generic words like “mobile” and “devices.” Attaching the word “smart” to everything. Software startups that leave out vowels or sound like children’s products. Heck, the “Internet of Things.” Holofone Phablet, though, that’s a whole ’nuther level.

But I’m going to defend it.

The product. Not the words. I just needed to address the Horton in the room.

We’ve long reached a crest in smartphones, where they’re all basically the same. It’s a good kind of the same, as they all do mostly what we need them to do. But nothing really differentiates them from each other and most of the things that they advertise as differentiating are either gimmicks or extremely obvious improvements that don’t really get people excited.

But I’m digging the defining feature of Akyumen’s Holofone Phablet: A built-in 45-lumen projector that projects a 100-inch screen onto any surface.

Projectors in phones have been attempted in the past, for sure, although the results were less than compelling. A big difference here is just the size of the phone. Or tablet. It’s a seven-inch screen, hence the phablet moniker. But that gives it room to incorporate a more powerful projector.

Here’s why I like the direction (again, assuming it works well). The far-future of mobile devices, when they become revolutionary again, is when they’re not around anymore. When actually interacting with the device itself will be considered highly primitive, like walking across the room to change a channel.

The projection feature of the Holophone Phablet doesn’t really put us in that direction, but it at least gets us thinking in that direction. Now that small rectangle of glass can be a more communal device. “Check out this video” becomes a real experience shared side-by-side with other people and enabled by the technology instead of confined within it. It gets us thinking about every surface being interactable, making the entire world our interface instead of shrinking the world down to a few inches and placing it under glass.

On the enterprise side, this could be wildly invaluable for sales people. We make sales enablement apps for iPad a lot here, and there are always lingering questions over how many of the sales force actually have iPads or engage in the few scenarios where sales people would choose iPads over laptops. The “Here, let me show you real quick” scenarios get brought up a lot, where a sales person is chatting to a client at the bar or sitting next to them at a conference and hands them the iPad. But being able to address the more common use cases of a conference room full of people or even just one person on the other side of a big desk without the ritual of finding the right wires and connectors and updates and channels that inevitably goes on in order to share a screen across even compatible devices will change the whole tenor of a presentation. You walk in, you aim at a wall, you press a button. That’s style points.

The Holophone Phablet debuts September 1, and dual boots Android and Windows 10. While, I can’t believe it will have a big uptake despite everything I’ve said so far, all the preorders are at least sold out.

In the end, though, this is probably what it will take to evolve the phone. Or the tablet. Some random-seeming company showing the big guys how to think outside the phone. You know, unlike that last turn of phrase.