Tag Archives: microsoft

Is the PC Dying?

For years, people have speculated that Personal Computers will eventually die out and be replaced by simple, cheap “interface devides” that will allow you to log onto the Internet (where all your software and data resides).  That’s what Google is coming out with soon (a simple appliance to sign onto the Internet with almost no hard drive, no actual storage space and no programs to upload or update).

For some, HP’s sudden decision to stop making PCs and write-off the billions they paid to purchase Compaq and later Palm (to power their now dead tablets) signals the beginning of the end for PCs as we know them.  This article from BNET further explores that topic.

By Erik Sherman, BNET.

Does HP’s (HPQ) recent move to spin off its PC business underscore the end of the PC era? Not if you ask Microsoft (MSFT), or at least its vice president of corporate communications Frank Shaw. To Redmond, the PC is the hub of technical existence, with e-readers, tablets, set top boxes, and smartphones anything but PC-killers. Instead, Shaw argues on his corporate blog, PCs do a lot more and will remain vital and necessary in the future.

In one sense, he’s right. The PC isn’t going away completely, because there are important things it can do more easily than the other devices. But a PC-centric world? Oh, no, sorry, those days are done. Furthermore, if you look at Microsoft’s strategy, management already knows it. The company just doesn’t want to let on, because it would spook investors — and tank stock prices.

PCs will never die and cars are a fad

Shaw’s argument that we’re in a “PC plus” age came down to two basic points:

  1. There are a set of important things that PCs do uniquely well, and they aren’t going away.
  2. PCs are rapidly and dramatically getting better at doing the things those companions do.

He’s right on number 1 — for now — and irrelevant on 2. When it comes to creating material, the PC still rules because it has a bigger screen, which means more working real estate, and greater horsepower to do what you want. That said, at least one artist for the New Yorker has created a number of covers on an iPhone. No, not an iPad … an iPhone. You can also shoot images and video from small handheld devices and even do some basic editing.

A growing number of people can do what they need with mobile devices that are becoming better at what PCs do. Are PCs getting better at what the other devices do? Of course, because the basic capabilities of software improve. But are PCs getting much lighter and faster? Nowhere near enough for people to tote them around they way they might a smartphone, e-reader, or tablet.

Look at us!

Shaw took the official Microsoft corporate line that the PC is the center of the known universe. Only, that’s got things backwards. The product isn’t the center; the customer is. Microsoft has assumed that the PC and the consumer are the same, and that what’s good for the PC — which means what’s good for Windows and Office — is good for the consumer.

Utter nonsense, of course, because a business can’t win in the long run if it expects customers to play second fiddle. That’s why smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and the like are gaining success, because they are doing what people want and not expecting customers to do what the vendors want.

But then, Microsoft already knows that it’s in a post-PC-centric time. That’s why the company created the Xbox and keeps pushing the services available through it. The console is Microsoft admitting that its vision of home entertainment centered around a traditional PC wasn’t going to work. If PCs were really that important to everyone, why bother pushing so hard on the smartphone front? After all, the client business wouldn’t go away.

Investors don’t heart tech

But Microsoft is pushing on all other boundaries because it knows the PC center will not hold. From the company’s perspective mere anarchy is loosed upon the industry, and it stands a strong chance of losing its relevance.

What makes it so devilish is that for Microsoft to lose, PCs don’t have to disappear. Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs was right in saying that PCs would be like trucks: large, powerful, necessary for commerce, and not what most people need to drive the majority of the time.

That doesn’t mean extinct. But in the tech world, if you make trucks and not cars, you don’t get to help form what consumers will use, and so you also lose influence over what businesses do with their systems and how they make them work for customers.

However, many investors have undervalued technology companies and Microsoft has been high up on the list. Management knows how Wall Street could suddenly get buggy should anyone in Redmond admit that the PC has seen its heyday. Look at the 20 percent drop that HP (HPQ) stock took after the company announced last week that it looks to get out of the client PC business.

Why else would Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer claim that an iPad was just a “different form factor of PC?” Microsoft practically trips over its own corporate tongue to avoid admitting that the emperor has no clothes. And yet, it also tries, at the same time, to gain dominance in these new areas.

No wonder the company has such troubles, because it’s living in a land of cognitive dissonance. Maybe that explains part of its internal reluctance to push technologies that might challenge the dominance of the company’s historic juggernauts.

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Four Essential Elements for Creating Captivating Websites

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Courtesy of Website Magazine

The four principles of design are balance, rhythm, emphasis and unity. Each one of them is essential for bringing together the different visual elements that are necessary to achieving a strong design, which, in turn, is imperative for a website to succeed on any level. What follows is an examination of each principle, with insights about how to incorporate them into your own Web design for optimal results.

Balance — Different colors, shapes and sizes can create different degrees of what is called “visual interest” on a Web page. It is important that pages are designed to hold a user’s interest without overwhelming them or causing distraction away from the elements most important to conversion goals. As such, distribution of this interest needs to be controlled and balanced by considering each element in a layout and its “visual weight” — determined by its size, shade and thickness of lines.

Symmetrical balance is achieved by placing elements in the design evenly. If you place a large, heavy element on the right side, you will have a matching heavy element on the left. Centering is the easiest way to get a symmetrically balanced page. But be careful, as it can be difficult to create a centered design that doesn’t look flat. For symmetrically balanced design, it is better to create the balance with different elements — an image on the left and a large block of text to the right of it, for example.

Asymmetrical balance is an arrangement of unlike objects of equal weight on each side of the page. Color, value, size, shape and texture can be used as balancing elements. However, asymmetrically balanced pages can be more challenging to design, as elements are not matched across the centerline of the design.

For example, you might have a large element placed very close to the centerline of the design. To balance it asymmetrically, you could place a small element farther away from the centerline. If you think of your design as being on a teeter-totter or seesaw, a lighter element can balance a heavier one by being further away from the center of gravity. You can also use color or texture to balance an asymmetrical design.

Sometimes the purpose of the website itself makes an off-balance design the right choice. Designs that are off-balance suggest motion and action. They make people uncomfortable or uneasy. If the content of your design is also intended to be uncomfortable or make people think, a discordantly balanced design can work well.

Rhythm — Rhythm in design is also known as repetition — a pattern created by repeating elements that are varied, allowing your designs to develop an internal consistency that makes it easier for your customers to understand. Once the brain recognizes the pattern in the rhythm it can relax and understand the whole design.

Repetition (repeating similar elements in a consistent manner) and variation (a change in the form, size or position of the elements) are the keys to visual rhythm. Placing elements in a layout at regular intervals creates a smooth, even rhythm and calm, relaxing mood. Sudden changes in the size and spacing of elements creates a fast, lively rhythm and an exciting mood.

Gestalt is a general description for concepts that make unity and variety possible in design. The mind has the ability to see unified “wholes” from the sum of complex visual parts. Some principles of gestalt are proximity, similarity, continuance, closure, uniform connectedness and 1+1=3 effects.

Emphasis — Emphasis (or dominance) in design provides the focal point for the piece, enabling the most important design element to stand out. To draw the reader to the important part of the piece, every layout needs a focal point.

Generally, a focal point is created when one element is different from the rest. However, to maximize emphasis, it is necessary to avoid too many focal points, so as not to dilute the dominant effect. When all elements are given equal emphasis, it can make the piece appear busy, at best, or even boring and unappealing.

Emphasis can be achieved in the following ways:

• Using semantic markup to provide some emphasis, even without styles.
• Changing the size of fonts or images to emphasize or de-emphasize them in the design.
• Using bold, black type for headings and subheads and much lighter text for all other content. Placing a large picture next to a small bit of text.
• Using contrasting colors. For example, using a series of evenly spaced, square photographs next to an outlined photograph with an unusual shape.
• Placing an important piece of text on a curve or an angle while keeping all of the other type in straight columns.
• Using colored type or an unusual font for the most important information.

Unity — Unity (or proximity) helps all the elements look like they belong together. Readers need visual cues to let them know an article is one unit — the text, headline, photographs, graphic images and captions all go together. Elements that are positioned close to one another are related while elements that are farther apart are less so.

Unity can be accomplished through the following methods:

• Being consistent with the type font, sizes and styles for headings, subheads, captions, headers and footers throughout the website.
• Positioning elements so that those close to one another are related, while elements that are farther apart have less of a relationship.
• Using only one or two type styles and various size or weight for contrast throughout the site.
• Repeating a color, shape or texture in different areas throughout.
• Choosing visuals that share a similar color, theme or shape.

Web users rely heavily on visual clues when making decisions about a website — whether to click and explore, consider a purchase or sign up for a service. This is even more pronounced for first-time visitors when the decision to stay on-site or abandon is made in just a few seconds. Follow these four design principles and you can be sure that your users and new visitors will stay engaged with your website.

About the Author: Guillermo Cedillo is responsible for the design and implementation of modifications of different Web, desktop and mobile applications as a User Interface Designer for Sieena. Sieena is a Nearshore software development firm specializing in Microsoft technologies, with operations in Los Angeles and Monterrey, Mexico.

Search Marketing & Small Businesses

A Microsoft AdCenter study of 400 small-business owners in the US indicated that a majority invest in developing websites, but do not take steps to enhance their online business presence (throuch paid search marketing). Fifty-nine percent of respondents don’t currently use paid search marketing, and of those, 90% have never even tried!

A Microsoft AdCenter study of 400 small-business owners in the US indicated that a majority invest in developing websites, but do not take steps to enhance their online business presence (throuch paid search marketing). Fifty-nine percent of respondents don’t currently use paid search marketing, and of those, 90% have never even tried!

Despite the low participation among small businesses, they still see the value. In fact, 86% of the small business owners surveyed said that they could be missing out on oppotunities to grow their business, while three in four believed prospective customers could be searching online for the type of service their business offers.

The primary concerns most cited by the surveyed group included cost, time and compexity as major hurdles to conducting search marketing campaigns for their business. Other interesting statistics include:

  • Nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) feared keywords may become too expensive.
  • Eighty-one percent questioned if paid search marketing is the best use of their marketing budgets.
  • One quarter of respondents believe paid search marketing is too complex.
  • Twenty-one percent thought it would be too time-consuming.
  • Thirty-five percent felt they would need an agency to help set up a search marketing campaign.

Despite the low participation among small businesses, they still see the value. In fact, 86% of the small business owners surveyed said that they could be missing out on oppotunities to grow their business, while three in four believed prospective customers could be searching online for the type of service their business offers.

The primary concerns most cited by the surveyed group included cost, time and compexity as major hurdles to conducting search marketing campaigns for their business. Other interesting statistics include:

Nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) feared keywords may become too expensive.
Eighty-one percent questioned if paid search marketing is the best use of their marketing budgets.
One quarter of respondents believe paid search marketing is too complex.
Twenty-one percent thought it would be too time-consuming.
Thirty-five percent felt they would need an agency to help set up a search marketing campaign.