Dubai Taxis will offer free wi-fi by end-2014 as part of "Smart City" move

In a report in The National today, we're thrilled to read that all Dubai taxis will offer free wi-fi as part of the Dubai Smart City move. Already certain parts of Dubai have free wi-fi as in Downtown Dubai.

This is really putting Dubai on the smart map of the world. A city that's aiming to wow the world with Expo2020 is certainly making the right moves towards total connectivity for all. Having free wi wi-fi in public transportation is a key step towards enabling all Dubai  residents to stay connected. Amongst other connected devices will be traffic lights that could speak to each other and ease traffic jams.

The report says "People will be able to connect their smartphones, tablets or laptops and surf the internet as soon as they enter the taxi, said a Road and Transport Authority (RTA) official. The service is already available in 155 Hala Taxis across the city."

"It comes off the back of new initiatives recently launched, among them Wi-Fi services on intercity buses and internet connected bus shelters to help to achieve the government’s plans to become a fully fledged smart city in time for Dubai Expo 2020, where the aim is to connect the city’s infrastructure to the internet and make it more accessible to its citizens via smartphones and other smart devices."
Last year, more than 440 million passengers used public transport in Dubai, which includes buses, water taxis and the metro, up from 367 million in 2012. Every day, more than 1.3 million people use public transport in the city.

Facebook Paper for the Middle East region? And on Android? Not just yet!

Of course you've heard of Facebook Paper. Yes it's a great new app on the iPhone platform. No, you can't download it for your Android phones – because there isn't a version yet (and no immediate plans for one either). And hear, hear friends in the Middle East – or anywhere outside America – it is a US-only app.

So much for Facebook being the world's biggest social platform. The January launched Facebook Paper is a beta version of sorts created and developed for a test phase. Already the feedback is hugely positive (sites like The Verge, who called it, “The Best Facebook App Ever” and Tech Crunch, who said it, “might just be the Facebook of the future.” ). According to a paper released by UPG MediaLabs, it is intended "to give Facebook users a Facebook Home type interface to marry trending, sharable content with a well-designed social homepage; a one-stop-social-shop, as it were."

From what we are reading on blogs, the user experience perspective was prime focus for the small Facebook Creative Labs team that developed Paper. The easy to adapt to flip and scroll motions are very similar to what users interface on already-successful apps like Flipboard and The New York Times. The news flows are seamless, and the design is consistently good throughout all phases of use.

But let's focus on what it is: It is a news app. It is from Facebook. So, you are accepting the premise that news from social is news after all. And news packaging is important. And you have to accept that if you live outside the great big United States – it is not for you. Or if you just bought into a Samsung phone – bad luck. Try BBC.

Super Personalization is big for 2014

Personalization is going to be big in 2014 – but in ways more than we can imagine, or control. It's not really about how we personalize our own experiences with control in our hands – it is more about how the already 'personalized' seeks us out and bespokes the experience for us. Its about hyper targeted experiences.
 Today, with advances in technology – products, brands, experiences, shopping sites, social media posts are able to configure what we like and want and deliver them to us – often without even being asked.
This is a interweb culture change for the year – and we will see lots more of this. We are constantly seeking experiences online that we can wholeheartedly relate to and make our own – but guess what, they are already there and seeking us out. 2014 will be the year of the algorithim. This will be about how today's brands doing business online – and not just ecommerce – will find us in ready states because they know and can deliver on what we seek, what we find.

New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's letter to employees

With Bill Gates stepping out of the Window(s), India born Satya Nadella takes over the mouse control at Microsoft. Following is the text of Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella's letter to employees.

Today is a very humbling day for me. It reminds me of my very first day at Microsoft, 22 years ago. Like you, I had a choice about where to come to work. I came here because I believedMicrosoft was the best company in the world. I saw then how clearly we empower people to do magical things with our creations and ultimately make the world a better place. I knew there was no better company to join if I wanted to make a difference. This is the very same inspiration that continues to drive me today.

It is an incredible honor for me to lead and serve this great company of ours. Steve and Bill have taken it from an idea to one of the greatest and most universally admired companies in the world. I've been fortunate to work closely with both Bill and Steve in my different roles at Microsoft, and as I step in as CEO, I've asked Bill to devote additional time to the company, focused on technology and products. I'm also looking forward to working with John Thompson as our new Chairman of the Board.

While we have seen great success, we are hungry to do more. Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation. This is a critical time for the industry and for Microsoft. Make no mistake, we are headed for greater places — as technology evolves and we evolve with and ahead of it. Our job is to ensure that Microsoft thrives in a mobile and cloud-first world.

As we start a new phase of our journey together, I wanted to share some background on myself and what inspires and motivates me.

Who am I?

I am 46. I've been married for 22 years and we have 3 kids. And like anyone else, a lot of what I do and how I think has been shaped by my family and my overall life experiences. Many who know me say I am also defined by my curiosity and thirst for learning. I buy more books than I can finish. I sign up for more online courses than I can complete. I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things. So family, curiosity and hunger for knowledge all define me.

Why am I here?

I am here for the same reason I think most people join Microsoft — to change the world through technology that empowers people to do amazing things. I know it can sound hyperbolic — and yet it's true. We have done it, we're doing it today, and we are the team that will do it again.

I believe over the next decade computing will become even more ubiquitous and intelligence will become ambient. The coevolution of software and new hardware form factors will intermediate and digitize — many of the things we do and experience in business, life and our world. This will be made possible by an ever-growing network of connected devices, incredible computing capacity from the cloud, insights from big data, and intelligence from machine learning.

This is a software-powered world.

It will better connect us to our friends and families and help us see, express, and share our world in ways never before possible. It will enable businesses to engage customers in more meaningful ways.

I am here because we have unparalleled capability to make an impact.

Why are we here?

In our early history, our mission was about the PC on every desk and home, a goal we have mostly achieved in the developed world. Today we're focused on a broader range of devices. While the deal is not yet complete, we will welcome to our family Nokia devices and services and the new mobile capabilities they bring us.

As we look forward, we must zero in on what Microsoft can uniquely contribute to the world. The opportunity ahead will require us to reimagine a lot of what we have done in the past for a mobile and cloud-first world, and do new things.

We are the only ones who can harness the power of software and deliver it through devices and services that truly empower every individual and every organization. We are the only company with history and continued focus in building platforms and ecosystems that create broad opportunity.

Qi Lu captured it well in a recent meeting when he said that Microsoft uniquely empowers people to "do more." This doesn't mean that we need to do more things, but that the work we do empowers the world to do more of what they care about — get stuff done, have fun, communicate and accomplish great things. This is the core of who we are, and driving this core value in all that we do — be it the cloud or device experiences — is why we are here.

What do we do next?

To paraphrase a quote from Oscar Wilde — we need to believe in the impossible and remove the improbable.

This starts with clarity of purpose and sense of mission that will lead us to imagine the impossible and deliver it. We need to prioritize innovation that is centered on our core value of empowering users and organizations to "do more." We have picked a set of high-value activities as part of our One Microsoft strategy. And with every service and device launch going forward we need to bring more innovation to bear around these scenarios.

Next, every one of us needs to do our best work, lead and help drive cultural change. We sometimes underestimate what we each can do to make things happen and overestimate what others need to do to move us forward. We must change this.

Finally, I truly believe that each of us must find meaning in our work. The best work happens when you know that it's not just work, but something that will improve other people's lives. This is the opportunity that drives each of us at this company.

Many companies aspire to change the world. But very few have all the elements required: talent, resources, and perseverance. Microsoft has proven that it has all three in abundance. And as the new CEO, I can't ask for a better foundation.

Let's build on this foundation together.


2014 Marketing Trends we're probably going to see in the Middle East

Is the Middle East different from the rest of the world as far as marketing trends go? Is there a lag? Are we behind the curve? It's hard to judge, because in many situations this region is ahead, and in some, we are poorly behind. But let's keep an eye on some of the trends we will probably see in this region.

Big buzzwords floating around this year in this region are Content and Storytelling. Globally, 50% of companies have some kind of content marketing strategies already in place. And, remember, content isn't about brand stories, it's about customer stories that may (or sometimes may NOT) involve the brand directly. But content adds value to the customer-brand relationship. And storytelling – whether its via social, via visual web or via any other medium (blogs, anyone?) are going to be important, as Middle Eastern folks love a story, love to be involved and love to share a good tale.

Email is going to make a comeback. I've been saying this quite loudly, and I do believe that clever Subject Line Marketing in email is going to be a key factor here in the region. And do  remember the social sharing buttons in those emails because they get an average of 150% more Click Through Rates (CTRs).

Social Media budgets are already gaining over your typical ATL (advertising pure and simple) budgets. And I'm guesstimating they will double. Search will also gain ground. As many as two out of three (65%+) brand managers I have spoken to feel that they would increase their PPC budgets this year. Hooray for Google.

Not quite sure where budgets for online ads will go, but they'll certainly climb up – not nearly as much as the global trend of 25% but going there quickly.

Coming back to content, and keeping video driven markets like Saudi in mind, we'll see an increase of video on home pages or targeted landing pages. Any ways, most communications aimed at the Middle East markets are going to be heavily visual. It's going to be they year of the visual web.

Social in the way it is used might transform, because brands are often taking a bigger lead role in planning social content, so we'll see better synergy between brands and agencies towards producing social content. Content marketing may increasingly use testimonials (offers around a 90% better storytelling factor when from a customer angle), and posts on facebook and twitter are going to look "prettier" and have better images rather than just product posts.

5 Kinds of Brand Blindness in Digital Marketing

Why do people ignore online messages from brands?
Banner blindness: They’re so focused on content that they just auto-ignore any thing around it.
Color Blindness: When the color background, the text color etc just blends in or psychologically gets ignored. Or isn’t just plain appealing, or contextually irrelevant.
Position Blindness: It’s below the first fold. It’s in an obscure position. Doesn’t follow the eyeball movement (Z) pattern. Or, it’s really locked into a corner where the viewer simply will not see it. Intentionally or not.
Brand Deafness/Blindness: When one video’s audio (or on radio), you’ve lost the brand mention completely, or that it just doesn’t register. This is why brands often use signatures in audio (like Intel).