Did the digital advertising industry ever think about asking the user for data in return for a reward?

With all the current news and concerns around user data privacy there is no doubt that ad-tech companies around the world are only adding more problems to the matter and not effectively tackling the issue at hand.

The methods and strategies that are used today to tackle ad-tech from a user targeting perspective likely started by mainly appeasing to the advertisers’ plethora of specifications and requirements, which eventually leaves the users in a dust storm of ad-tech junk that floods their browsers and consumes their precious mobile bandwidth.

A lot are asking “what are the users gaining from all of that tech if their data is that important to be labelled a ‘gold mine’?” I say they get nothing more than an ad delivery that leads to a bad enough user experience and campaign targeting that further promotes the use of ad blocks.

So much money wasted.

The way I see it where a lot of the discussed issues are resolved (in my opinion at least) is by getting consent from the user (across only his/her browser, device, etc) to provide machine readable data (not human readable) so that it’s encrypted and locked down in a “database” of some sort (blockchain makes sense in this case I suppose). This data will reside alongside the user’s devices, browsers, etc and not escape them. This is different from browser cookies and user web trails as it’s specific user inputted data.

From the advertisers’ side, they will provide their targeting parameters for their campaigns and it will be up to some sort of platform that matches those parameters to the user’s locally stored data. This is perhaps a very high level explanation/concept and would most likely be more complex, but the main idea is to keep the consented user data with the user.

Publishers can start promoting this platform first to ad-block users by telling them that they aren’t just supporting the site by white-listing them, but they’ll also get rewarded.

Why would the user supply data to feed this process? Mainly due to the fact that they will get rewarded and as a result their ad experience will greatly improve.  I personally think those users with ad blockers are the main audience to entice first as they are more likely to understand the pros/cons of such a technical problem. I mean, those users went above and beyond to block ads in the first place. If they know they will get rewarded and have a better ad experience, why wouldn’t they consent?

That platform would most likely require a whole new pipeline between buyer, seller and user but will dramatically improve the cost and efficiency of ad delivery and greatly reduce ad fatigue, fraud, ad blockers, and the hundreds of third-party ad-tech vendors that keep taking a cut out of the advertiser’s budget resulting in much higher eCPMs for publishers.

The key here is to get the user to supply their data and for them to know it’s stored and secured locally where it will be only used to match against existing advertiser campaigns and for that they get rewarded. There are some initiatives or discussions today around rewarding users for viewing ads, but that’s still not solving the user data targeting mess. It’s still placing the advertisers before the users to improve their campaign’s viewability.

Consumers all over the world are already used to such methods, especially with their credit cards that offer rewards in a form of either points or cash. They are already used to it and understand the value returned to them even though they are essentially giving up their purchasing trails and insights to some vendor.

Internet users have changed and they are more adaptable than ever. I totally see a future where users will be selecting their favorite brands, hobbies, sports, and more into a platform that is vendor, browser and device agnostic to improve their browsing experience and get rewarded outside the walled gardens of Facebook and Google. Could this platform become an open source initiative that gets native Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android compatibility?



One device to power them all

I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking about this being the real solution for the multiple devices nightmare that many of us are facing nowadays. You have a smartphone, a tablet, a personal laptop, and possibly a work PC. We are basically juggling devices. Each device needs to be maintained and kept up to date and they all come with their list if headaches.

But what is the only device that is always with you at all times?

Your smartphone.

It is the answer to all of that. Today, they are powered by powerful quad core CPUs, has oodles of RAM and enough disk space to accommodate your cloud storage for personal and work related files. So why can’t your smartphone be the power house? The device that powers them all?

Simply put, I believe eventually everyone will have a single “host” device (your smartphone), that will do the job of your tablet, your laptop, your office computer and your car’s
infotainment system. Those will be nothing more of cheap dumb terminals or hubs that your smartphone will either wirelessly communicate or dock with to transfer power and data. Of course by then, some of those devices may not even exist.

One device.

Windows Azure will be called Microsoft Azure

Branding has always been a problem with Microsoft. It’s like they never have meetings over choosing the correct brand name or even did their due diligence before choosing a non-copyrighted name (SkyDrive?). That being said, I was happy to know that Microsoft is rebranding Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure.

The new name will certainly remove any left over confusion around Azure being a cloud service provider instead of a standalone over the shelf OS product that average consumers or enterprises can purchase to run on server hardware.

Microsoft Azure is becoming the one stop shop for all subscription based cloud services. I believe that sooner or later Office 365 will also find a home in Azure just like Visual Studio Online did.

Does Microsoft’s Windows division have a vision anymore?

Am I the only one who thinks Microsoft’s Windows division has no vision? We all know the mess they put themselves in when the premature Windows 8 was released. And then Windows RT was a big failure among hardware manufacturers and caused even more confusion among consumers.

Then came Windows 8.1 that did correct many previous flaws but still faces many challenges. And now Microsoft is about to release a “Windows 8.1 Update 1”. Why not call it 8.2 since this is supposed to be a major update? Some may say this is a bigger update than 8.1.

And Windows Phone is in quite of a mess as well. Microsoft bought Nokia’s mobile division and paid them billions of dollars yet also approached other manufacturers and got a deal with four of them to release Windows Phone devices. Why?

So no one is left making Windows RT devices except Microsoft and we haven’t seen efforts from manufacturers other than Nokia (now Microsoft) in the Windows Phone area for years. Is Microsoft planning on releasing their own Windows RT and Windows Phone devices? Why did Microsoft sign a deal with those hardware manufacturers to make Windows Phones if Nokia owns that market right now?

Lots of unanswered questions in regards to both Windows and Windows Phone which only makes developers hesitate even more before thinking of making apps for those platforms. I can’t even imagine what the average consumer is thinking about when looking at Windows tablets or Windows Phones.

Is Microsoft’s Windows Everywhere becoming a reality?

Some say Microsoft should have taken Windows Phone’s OS and slap it on a tablet instead of taking the current Windows RT approach. And some say Microsoft should scrap Windows RT and use Windows 8 on tablets since RT comes with many restrictions, especially in Desktop mode. And then there are those who think completely outside of the box that came up with a different opinion, an opinion that may highly be true.

Windows RT is a massive milestone for Microsoft. Getting Windows running on ARM based devices is a leap in the future of Windows and computing in general. Microsoft was successful in porting and running Windows on thin and low power sipping hardware, making Windows extremely portable and mobile like never before. That’s what makes Windows RT so unique and of high interest to Microsoft, because we all know that the future (and almost the present) is mobile and touch ready devices.

Microsoft knew, a few years back, that they needed to re-enter the mobile market, but Windows wasn’t mobile and touch friendly at the time (Windows 7) and their Windows Mobile OS was outdated and had almost no market share and even that didn’t fit well as a tablet OS when compared to the competition (iOS and Android). They had to start from scratch, but a difficult decision had to be made.

Microsoft always wanted A “Windows Everywhere” world but knew it would take lots of time and money to make it happen. They had to make a choice:

  1. Assemble a team that worked day and night on a single unified Windows experience on both phones and tablets.
  2. Or, assemble two teams. One team worked on creating a “touch first” interface module for Windows to compete in the tablet market. And, another team worked on a brand new lightweight OS that competes in the smartphone market.

They knew the first option will take much longer to execute since they will be targeting a single OS to two markets; tablets and smartphones. But it will certainly allow developers to code once and release to both platforms as well as have a consistent UI experience across all devices.

The second option seemed more feasible in order to act quickly. Both teams have a specific market audience and requirements, and a quick V1 product can be released once those requirements are met. This way, they would still hit both markets but with the burden of having two mobile operating systems with different APIs. So while the Windows team were working on the new modern interface for Windows 8, another team was working on Windows Phone 7/8.

But the reality is that Microsoft never neglected or forgot about their main goal; Windows Everywhere. A unified OS that targeted all desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. While Windows 8 was considered the OS for desktops & laptops, Windows RT for tablets and Windows Phone for smartphones, Microsoft (in my opinion) still pursued their main goal internally, and that was the reason why Windows RT was born to be Microsoft’s risky attempt to fulfill their “Windows Everywhere” dream.

What made me come to this realization is a comment I read by a user called cool8man on Mary Jo Foley’s article (title: Why Microsoft isn’t going to dump Windows RT):

RT runs across multiple ARM chips, WP8 only runs on Qualcomm. RT runs almost all Windows 8 apps, WP8 runs no Windows 8 apps. RT runs the full versions of Office, WP8 runs mobile versions. RT has advanced print drivers, WP8 can’t print. RT has IE11 with Flash integrated & unlimited tabs, WP8 has IE10 with no Flash and only 6 tabs. RT has side by side multitasking, [WP8] does not. In a few months RT will have more apps than WP8 despite a 2 year head start for Windows Phone. RT has a full suite of Bing service apps while WP8 has a pared down Bing Hub. RT is already in 8.1 preview while WP8.1 is so far behind schedule it is pushed back to 2014.

Windows RT is already ahead of Windows Phone when it comes to delivering the next OS update as well as compatibility with new hardware and screen sizes/resolutions. While Windows Phone serves its purpose (to run on high and low end smartphones), it still just falls in one single market and therefore will always have its own API and associated maintenance and costs. But Windows RT also works on high and low end hardware, on a spectrum of screen sizes, is able to run all Windows Store apps and apparently it can also run the entire Office suite all while managing to stay running on battery for a full day.

So what does all that mean? It means that Microsoft might have already been working on a plan to merge Windows Phone into Windows RT, and therefore have Windows RT act as the core of Windows running on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Windows RT is the “Windows Everywhere” dream becoming a reality. A consistent and unified OS experience across all devices.

There is another point worth mentioning which may act as further proof that Microsoft is indeed moving in that direction. Windows Store apps have a “snap” view mode, where the app can run on either the left or right side of your screen alongside of another Windows Store app (or even Desktop, which is also considered an “app”). If you look into the dimensions of an app in snap view you would realize that it’s the same required (at least width wise) dimensions for apps to run in Windows Phone. In other words, snap view is the view you’d see if the app was running on a Windows Phone screen. Therefore, if Windows Phone OS was to be replaced by Windows RT, current and future Windows Store apps will most likely be compatible with current and future Windows Phone (or Windows RT) smartphone screens and will adjust accordingly based on how the developer programmed it (this is simply managed by the Visual State Manager in Windows RT’s API).

Of course, having a single OS to rule them all is a massive task for Microsoft and may have sounded as a futuristic concept for the average consumer today, and that alone could have been another reason why Microsoft staged the implementation through several OS iterations that individually targeted different markets. But all I can say today is that the time has come for Microsoft to cleanup and consolidate its current three operating systems and make their “Windows Everywhere” dream a reality.