With the latest releases from Microsoft, it is obvious that they no longer wish tobe a software focused organization. The XBOX 360 – 67 million sold – and Kinect –19 million – have clearly been their most successful non-software ventures to date. I give a shout-out to the Zune – 9 sold (this number isn’t validated, and yes, I was 1 of the 9), prior Windows phones, the plethora of MS branded keyboards, mice and webcams that have all been widely regarded as utter failures.
Individually, these new product offerings from Microsoft aren’t really ground-shattering: Smart Glass, Windows 8 (single OS on PC, phone, tablet, etc.), and the Surface tablet are all pretty standard individually. It is this new “Micro Way Galaxy” that peeks my interest, where the Xbox is the sun that the other devices orbit around in supposed seamless fashion.
You can actively move content between your TV, computer, tablet or smartphone, pause and resume movies between all of the devices, and even use those other devices for complimentary things. You will be able to play a video game on the Xbox, use your Windows Phone as a controller, have a friend reading strategies on a Surface Tablet for the current level you are stuck on, meanwhile another friend is playing a mini-game for extra gold, while competing online against 5000 other people. Your coworkers will assuredly make fun of you if they ever saw you doing this in real life, but it is still an amazing idea and YouTube has proven that people will do it, film it, post it online and consider themselves awesome for doing so.
What does this mean from a marketing perspective? One of my hobbies is being active in the Film/TV community and marketing is already a huge player in movies, television, and even video games. One of my favorite shows a few years ago was the short-lived “Heroes”, an obvious rip-off of X-Men, but the first season was arguabley one of the best single seasons of programming of all time (up there with the first season of Lost). I remember how they placed an in-your-face advertisement for the Nissan Versa in the show and it made me chuckle about how obviously blatant the placement was. Then again, it is almost five years later, and I still remember it (hmmmm… Hiro and Claire loved it, shouldn’t I)? With these new Microsoft technologies, what if when that advertisement ran, it listed the closest Nissan dealer and their latest campaign alongside additional backstory on your phone or tablet? Or what if you are watching a TV show and just love the sweatshirt that your favorite actor is wearing and on your device it automatically pops up a link where you can purchase that exact sweatshirt immediately?
This opens an entirely new channel of possibilities around target marketing to the consumer through home entertainment and second screen. The data would be more structured and easier than the unstructured Social Media challenges marketers face today. Only time will tell if this new roadmap for Microsoft can be the next Xbox success or the next Zune failure, but I am giving the potential a rating of 360.