Microsoft arguably didn't see the transformative power of the internet coming and missed the boat with mobile, but the launch of Windows 10 from Microsoft this week shows remarkable clarity and consistency on the future of the internet and the opportunities it creates for marketers.
Micosoft's Windows 10 is a software platform designed to pull content from anywhere onto everything. It's about a single app store with apps that work on every screen. It's about responsive design, where everything is optimized to the user's context. In short, it's about a philosophy of thinking about devices as relatively dumb screens through which we pull optimized content -- it's a world of thinking of media or the devices we use to consume it as a context, not as a channel.
This can have profound effect on marketing. Instead of looking at the world in terms of devices and aligning budgets and ads around specific devices -- whether it's a smartphone, tablet or TV -- marketers can now start to embrace this new world where virtually all media is digital, and start creating ideas around these new contexts for advertising.
Personalized screens create "flow advertising"
As the nature of the internet changes to become a vast cloud of data that our devices reach into and pull content from, something else changes -- the content becomes organized around people, not devices.
We've seen Google
Microsoft is taking this vision further -- now activity on Windows 10 will be remembered across the user's phone, laptop, game console, TV or HoloLens headset. This seems helpful for the moment, but the true potential comes when screens combine to work together. It's this capability that provides a powerful foundation for a new way to think about advertising -- as sequential communication that transcends screens.
I believe that over the next few years we will move from integrated advertising campaigns -- akin to matching luggage where all messages look and feel similar -- to a form of "flow advertising," where stories build over media to move people down the purchase funnel. Perhaps the first few ads perform a brand story on smart TVs; perhaps online videos give more product information and link to a mobile coupon that offers you money off a product. This is a whole new way to think about advertising experiences that wrap around people.
Cortana and predictive advertising
Search engines transformed the internet and allowed us to find what we knew we wanted to find. Retargeting endlessly works to turn this intent into action. But what about things we don't know we want or have yet to ask?
Predictive assistants like Microsoft's Cortana, Google Now, and to a lesser extent Apple's Siri, offer help proactively -- they see where we are, where we need to be, what the weather is like, what the traffic conditions are, and they offer real-time personalized suggestions.
With Windows 10, Cortana now has access to all our data across all our devices and all live information pulled from the web, and it's an assistant that offers people support on mobile, tablet and desktop. If advertising is about the right message at the right time and for the right person, has there ever been a more profound new way to impart messages to people?
Voice and gesture-based user interface
Windows 10 will let you log in to your computer just by getting a look at your face in the webcam; Cortana will let you navigate content with your voice; the new Edge browser offers a scribbling mode that lets you annotate webpages; and all Windows devices are optimized for gesture and touch control.
This is a little glance into a world where the internet feels more personal and more tactile -- more like an extension of ourselves: something that serves us and at the same time moves more into the background. Next time we think of apps to create for our clients, or new advertising units, let's consider this immersion -- how do we use voice, gestures, smiles or movements of the phone to control and engage in our communication?
There are times when a new technology shows a glimpse into the future we couldn't imagine before. Apple's iPad showed us a new way to think about personal screens; Apple's Touch ID showed us how the internet could become seamless and secure; and Apple Pay made the potential for frictionless commerce come to life. This time it's Microsoft and Windows 10 that offer an incredible glimpse into the future. Let's start reimagining advertising and marketing for this world.