Windows 8: what marketers need to know

Microsoft has rolled out what it has heralded as a “new era” for the company in the launch of its Windows 8 software, which marks a radical transformation of its popular desktop and mobile operating systems.

windows 8

The redesign is in places at stark contrast aesthetically and operationally to rival software from Apple and Google, which could afford marketers new opportunities to create stand-out campaigns in the mobile computing space.

Awareness

Microsoft is reported to have invested as much as £1.1bn in marketing to back the launch of Windows 8, which will include promoting its Surface tablet that launched on 26 October as well as its new software.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, said at Windows Phone 8’s launch event this week that soon “you won’t be able to turn on a TV or open a magazine without seeing a Microsoft Windows ad”.

Research firm IDC forecasts that while take-up of Windows will be the second biggest smartphone OS with a global market share of 19.2 per cent by 2016, overtaking Apple’s iOS as it incrementally raises awareness and customer preference towards its new software.

This is up from the 5.2 per cent share predicted for 2012, suggesting it is worth brands planning their Windows 8 strategies now – if not implementing them quite yet – in order to take advantage of its estimated mass adoption beyond the coming year.

Ecosystem

In Windows 8, Microsoft has sought to create an operating system that unifies compatible devices, meaning it will be easier and more cost-effective for brands to create consistent apps or browsing experiences across desktop, mobile and gaming, rather than developing separately with limited functionality and hardware optimisation, Arun Pattabhiraman, global developer marketing lead from mobile ad network Inmobi says in a blog post.

The ecosystem approach could particularly appeal to brands in the finance sector that have not traditionally spent heavily on mobile apps and marketing so far, according to Andrew French, trading director at mobile marketing company Somo.

He says the interoperability between devices and security of Windows 8 software may see an influx of corporate enterprises rolling out compatible devices to their employees, offering a highly engaged audience for brands to offer productivity apps or run targeted mobile ads.

Live tiles

The Windows 8 interface is centred around “live tiles”, which constantly update with information such as headlines, photos or the current weather for the apps they represent – potentially garnering more attention than other OS’ simple notification systems or static menu displays.

ESPN is among the first brands to develop an app for Windows 8: ESPNcricinfo.

Arne Rees, vice president, digital media, ESPN International says live tiles is one of the standout features of the new OS : “The new Windows 8 operating system allows for the creation of an intuitive user interface that allows fans to access content quickly…which provides users with dynamically updated content, such as live cricket scores.”

In-app ads

Brands and media owners creating Windows 8 apps have the opportunity to feature rich media ads – such as video, interstitials and many games – inside their products, thanks to the operating system’s inclusion of HTML5.

Dan Beasley, head of mobile at Jam, an agency division of The Engine Group, says Windows 8’s ecosystem approach will amplify brands’ in-app campaigns, by allowing them to tell a story continually across platforms relevant to the device the user is on, making the most of rich media formats.

Nick Dillon, senior analyst at Ovum, says Windows 8’s compatibility with Xbox in particular will help create a distinction from its rivals Apple and Google who are still struggling to make an impact in the TV market.

“Windows 8’s Smartglass for Xbox will have interesting opportunities for brands as it’s a pre-built second screen app. Xbox is also highly integrated with partners like LoveFilm and Blinkbox, which – [alongside all the other ad and app products across other Windows 8 devices] – will bring content [and advertising] opportunities you can’t get get elsewhere.”

Andy Hart, general manager of advertising and online at Microsoft Advertising UK says Windows 8 presents brands and agencies with a “canvas that delivers a free-flowing brand integration” across its ecosytem – offering a platform with “immense reach” and the opportunity to create effective campaigns against the backdrop of changing consumer behaviour towards multiple connected devices.

He adds: “It also sends a powerful message about what’s to come and the direction in which we are heading. We look forward to working with our partners to develop customer-centric advertising experiences that meet people where they are across the various devices they use, and invite engagement with brands. With consumers now more connected than ever, interacting through streams of touch points on different devices, such ‘people powered’ advertising is the future.”

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