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An upcoming new era: personalised, pro-active search and discovery experiences for Office 365 (Oslo)

A great companion to the incredible Power BI experiences! Now it is already part of the Office 365 pre-release TAP (Technology Adoption Program) program, for general public will be available by the end of this year:

Code-Name Oslo – Next Generation Discovery and Search [OfficeGarageSeries YouTube channel, March 10, 2014]

In this show hosts Jeremy Chapman [Office Deployment Lead] and Cem Aykan [Sr Product Manager, Office] are on location at SharePoint Conference 2014 in Las Vegas. They take a look at Microsoft’s new Code-Name Oslo, a new way to let tailored content discover you without searching. Ashok Kuppusamy from the Oslo engineering team in Norway joins them to demonstrate Oslo in action. http://www.microsoft.com/garage

More information: Introducing codename Oslo and the Office Graph [Office Blogs from Microsoft, March 11, 2014] by Ashok Kuppusamy is a group program manager in the FAST engineering team based in Norway.

The goal for Oslo was not just to reimagine search, but to help people get their work done in a quicker, more The goal for Oslo was not just to reimagine search, but to help people get their work done in a quicker, more informed, and even delightful manner. After all, your job isn’t just to “search.” You use search as a tool to get your actual job done. This more ambitious goal drove us to ask how we could remove the information silos that exist across applications, better support information discovery, and enable teams to work together as a network. The result is not just a search solution, but a new way of working – proactive, transformational, and delightful. Oslo is the first in a new breed of intelligent and social work experiences.

Rather than list an exhaustive set of features, let’s see how Oslo transforms the world of work.

With Oslo, you can find anything you need by just remembering a person. It’s way easier for us humans to remember names of people than document names or keywords. This change, connecting to content through people, hints at something truly transformative: a new way to staying “in the know” about what’s around you. It’s the difference between working in an office with a closed door that gives you little exposure to what is going on around you, and working in an open office where you are exposed to information dynamically.

This transformation happens even in small teams. Here at Microsoft, when a team is “on Oslo,” we see fewer meetings. We send fewer status reports. We cut down “talking about the work.” Instead we all just do our work and see the latest work from each other through Oslo. We can reuse information from across our organization more effectively. We provide feedback on the work right away instead of waiting for meetings. The pace of work speeds up, yet we still feel “in the know.” It’s like our entire team is sitting in an open-space room where we’re aware of what’s going on but not being constantly interrupted. We call it “working like a network” because Oslo makes connecting with others, building relationships, and sharing information easier than ever before. Oslo is also founded on the openness and transparency that drives new levels of productivity.

Enterprise Social: Work like a network. [YammerInc YouTube channel, March 3, 2014]

Learn how your company can work like a network with Enterprise Social. Listen, adapt, and grow in new ways to respond faster and deliver better customer experiences. Visit http://www.enterprisesocial.com to learn more.

Work like a network! Enterprise social and the future of work [Office Blogs from Microsoft, March 3, 2014]

Jared Spataro is the General Manager of Enterprise Social at Microsoft.

My insert here: Jared Spataro speaks at SharePoint Conference 2014 #SPC14 [ToolboxY2K YouTube channel, published on March 10, 2010]

Jared Spataro speaks at SharePoint Conference 2014 at the Venetian in Las Vegas, NV.

As customers gather this week for the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas and Convergence in Atlanta, I want to update you on our enterprise social vision and road map—including several new announcements.

The world has become a giant network

Over the last few years, the world has become a giant network, and social media has rewired the way we connect with people and information. Today we build relationships with family and friends on Facebook, get breaking news from the other side of the world on Twitter, and find our next big break on LinkedIn. Indeed, the old saying still holds: It’s not just what you know but also who you know that matters. And in 2014, technology makes connecting with others, building relationships, and sharing information easier than ever before.

But the great apps and services that have changed our personal lives haven’t yet found their way into the office (at least, not in a consistent way). So we’re excited to introduce an integrated set of social, collaboration, and communication technologies that enable companies to work like a network—using the concepts that have changed our personal lives to transform the way we work. By tapping into the human networks that make a business tick, companies can listen to the conversations that matter most, adapt to an increasingly volatile market, and grow in ways never before possible.

Today, more than 400,000 companies worldwide are already using Yammer to work in this way, and in the remainder of this post I’ll explain how we’re extending this network effect to users of Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, and virtually any other app, service, or line-of-business applications that matter to your company.

Laying the foundation

We’ve always believed that enterprise social should be woven into the way people already work, so that the power of human networks (from inside and outside a company) is available to help people get their jobs done—anywhere and on any device. Over the past two years, we’ve been busy laying the foundation for this approach with a number of strategic investments:

  • In February 2013, we integrated Yammer into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, allowing users to participate in social conversations, share important data, and follow updates without ever leaving the CRM application. In the spring 2014 release of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, we’ll further enhance our customer-facing enterprise social capabilities by delivering a comprehensive set of new social listening, marketing, and service desk capabilities.
  • In November 2013, we announced the inclusion of Yammer Enterprise with all Office 365 Enterprise plans. This spring, Yammer Enterprise will also be included with the Office 365 Academic and Office 365 Midsize Business plans.
  • Last month, we released simplified login to Yammer from Office 365, in which Office 365 users are mapped to Yammer accounts. Now, when you click on Yammer from your Office 365 global navigation bar, there is no need to re-authenticate. This summer, we’ll surface the Office 365 navigation bar in Yammer, enabling unified navigation across Office 365.
  • Last week, we released SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which makes it easy to connect an on-premises SharePoint deployment with an in-the-cloud Yammer network.

Enterprise social and the future of work

But a foundation is good only if you build something interesting on top of it. And today we’re announcing three new social experiences designed to help companies work like a network.

Creating the Office Graph. First, we’re extending Yammer’s concept of the Enterprise Graph across Office 365 to create something we’re calling the Office Graph. When we acquired Yammer, one of the things we loved about the technology was how it mapped the relationships between people and information by simply recording likes, posts, replies, shares, and uploads. In what I think is a game-changing move, we’re extending this idea to Office broadly, using signals from email, social conversations, documents, sites, instant messages, meetings, and more to map the relationships between the people and things that make your business go. Just as consumer social networks connect you to people and information you’d otherwise never be able to keep up with, the Office Graph will plug you into the very fabric that makes your organization work.

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The Office Graph maps the relationships among people and information.

Oslo (the codename for a brand new app) is the first application to help people put the Office Graph to work, delivering personalized insights and connecting the dots to help people get their jobs done. By tapping into the Office Graph, Oslo provides a natural way for users to navigate, discover, and search people and information across an organization.

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Office Graph insights surface through Oslo.

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Learn more about your colleagues and their content.

Extending the Groups Experience. Next, we’re extending one of Yammer’s most powerful user experiences to the rest of Office 365. Broad posts are a fine way to make announcements or solicit feedback from across your company, but over the years Yammer found that the value of enterprise social goes up exponentially when people organize themselves into smaller groups focused on a specific process or deliverable. This simple Groups Experience is so powerful, in fact, that we’re making it a cross-Office 365 concept that will unify people, profiles, conversations, email, calendars, and files across the entire set of Office 365 applications. Creating a group anywhere in Office 365 will automatically provision a corresponding inbox, social feed, calendar, and document library that group members can use to get the job done. The group’s Yammer feed and inbox will both display the same conversation, so users who are more comfortable in Yammer can participate in the group through the feed, and users who prefer email can participate in the group through the inbox. And, just like in Yammer, groups are open by default to enhance discoverability and sharing.  But to be clear, groups can be made private as necessary. Transparency and openness can be incredibly powerful, but we recognize that privacy and access control haven’t entirely gone out of style.

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Group social feed in Yammer

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Group inbox in Outlook Web App

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Group calendar (green) viewed alongside personal calendar

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Group document library

Creating Inline Social Experiences. Finally, we’re weaving social into the apps that matter most by creating Inline Social Experiences in Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, and any other app, service, or line-of-business system that is important to your business. We’re adding Yammer conversations to documents in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business; we’re making it easy to post updates, documents, and emails to Yammer from SharePoint Online and Outlook; and we’re continuing to enhance the integrated social capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. In the future, we’ll integrate Yammer with Lync and Skype to enable a full spectrum of social interactions, from asynchronous posts to audio and video. We’re committed to helping you put your networks to work naturally—with integrated experiences that put people and information at your fingertips, anywhere and on any device.

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You can now see Yammer conversations side by side with PowerPoint Online presentations and other documents.

So, what should I do now?

Over the last 18 months, I’ve had a chance to talk with a lot of customers and partners about our enterprise social strategy, and my discussions have generally focused on two big action-oriented questions: (1) What about SharePoint social? and (2) What should I do now? So to close out this post, I want to respond to both questions and tie our announcements today to next steps.

What about SharePoint social? We shipped basic social features with SharePoint Server 2013, and over the last year and a half I’ve had many people ask me whether they should implement SharePoint social or Yammer. My guidance has been clear and consistent: Go Yammer! While we’re committed to another on-premises release of SharePoint Server—and we’ll maintain its social capabilities—we don’t plan on adding new social features. Our investments in social will be focused on Yammer and Office 365, so that we can innovate quickly and take advantage of the viral user adoption that is so important to the natural network effect that makes social so powerful. We recognize that many of our SharePoint customers will continue to have large on-premises deployments for many years, but we’re investing to help customers easily manage hybrid environments so that they can connect their on-premises farms to their in-the-cloud social network.

What should I do now? A lot of people have assumed that our enterprise social strategy was simply to “add Yammer feeds to SharePoint” or “unify identity and profiles for Yammer and SharePoint.” While we’re absolutely doing these things (and many more like them), I’m pleased that our enterprise social strategy—as articulated above—is much more than just a collection of the obvious. We have lofty ambitions and are aiming to literally change the way people get things done at work. And to do that, we’ve taken a step back and tried to capture the essence of how social has rewired the world—how it has reshaped the way we connect with the people and information that make the world go ‘round. These new innovations—the Office Graph, Office 365 Groups, and Inline Social Experiences—are important steps in realizing our vision. So what should you do now? That’s easy! Start working like a network today by joining Yammer—and then add additional social capabilities, from Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics, as they become available throughout 2014 and as you and your organization solidify your own enterprise social strategy.

So there you have it. The world has become a giant network. And now is the time for you and your company to start working like one. Looking forward to the journey together!

Jared Spataro, #worklikeanetwork

SharePoint Social And Other Platforms [Michael Gannotti YouTube channel, March 14, 2014]

Recently I have worked with several customers who, while they had adopted and implemented SharePoint, had decided to go another route with another platform like Jive for their Enterprise social efforts. Often the decision was made as a Product X vs Yammer or Product X vs SharePoint decision. The problem with decisions like that is it ignores the obvious in that SharePoint and Yammer are part of a synergistic whole, not simply discrete packages. In the cases where I have been working with clients around this after much by way of spending and effort they have come to regret that path and are looking for a way out. In this Michael on the Go video I discuss the benefits of SharePoint and Yammer together for Enterprise social with a special eye to the announcements made at the recent SharePoint Conference especially the Office Graph and Oslo. To see the entire post with resource links visithttp://michaelgannotti.com

Microsoft Office showcases future of work [press release, March 3, 2014]

From all-new Office 365 social and personalized experiences to new opportunities for developers, Microsoft emphasizes cloud scenarios that change the way people get things done.

LAS VEGAS — March 3, 2014 — Microsoft Corp. kicked off its SharePoint Conference 2014, highlighting new ways Microsoft Office 365 will enable people to accomplish more with new experiences for users, developers and IT pros. In a keynote speech to approximately 10,000 customers and partners, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper showcased innovation that brings together the power of the cloud, enterprise social, big data, machine learning and mobile capabilities into an experience made personal for every Office 365 user. These new technologies will enable a networked way of working together in teams, in groups and across organizations that can result in better customer responsiveness, collaboration, information sharing, discoverability and more.

“Today, the world has become a giant network where connections make information more relevant and people more productive. Most companies, however, are not working like a network, which we believe is vital for their ability to improve collaboration and respond to customers, competition and market changes,” Teper said. “The new Office 365 experiences powered by cloud, social, mobile and big data technologies enable people and teams to find the right connections and most relevant insights to get more done.”

Delivering on this vision, Microsoft showcased new innovations for end users, developers and IT pros coming to Office 365 in the near future, with an emphasis on the trusted platform fundamentals of security, privacy and industry compliance.

For end users, Microsoft demonstrated new personalized experiences that integrate social capabilities throughout Office 365, to help people spend less time trying to find information or looking for people working on similar projects and more time getting things done. Powering these new user experiences is the Office Graph, a new Office 365 intelligence fabric that remains unseen to the user but is constantly analyzing content, interactions and activity streams and mapping the relationships using machine learning to intelligently connect and surface the most relevant content to each user. These new experiences include the following:

  • Oslo” (code name). A new application powered by the Office Graph and code-named “Oslo” was previewed onstage. It uses personal interactions and machine learning to surface a view of the most relevant, timely information for each individual using Office 365 across SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, Yammer and Office.

  • Groups. Groups is a new feature unifying people, conversations, calendars, emails and files across the Office 365 suite, enabling a seamless collaboration experience across applications. Creating a Group anywhere in Office 365 will automatically provision a corresponding Yammer conversation feed, calendar, document library and inbox where members can collaborate and work as a team. Just like in Yammer, Groups are open by default but can be made private if necessary, enhancing discoverability and sharing.

  • Inline Social. Microsoft is bringing the power of social collaboration and conversations to everyone by offering Inline Social experiences throughout Office 365. The first experience planned for introduction is the ability to have social conversations inside documents stored in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business.

  • Office 365 Video Portal. Today, Microsoft previewed the new Office 365 Video Portal to support upload, storage and discovery of videos in a secure manner. Businesses will be able to categorize videos into channels for specific business needs and stream them on mobile devices, with all of the video compression, optimization and rendering work done by Office 365.

“Many organizations struggle with bringing together their content creation, collaboration and core business applications,” said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst, Constellation Research. “Today’s Office Graph and ‘Oslo’ announcements describe an integrated future that could greatly improve the way Microsoft Office 365 users will get their work done, with easily discoverable insights about important activity across their organizations that personally affect or may be interesting to them.”

With more than 3.4 million Office and SharePoint developers and counting, Microsoft also announced investments that open more doors for customers and partners to build contextual productivity solutions across browsers, PCs and mobile devices. On the Office 365 platform, developers can build integrated solutions and mobile apps to reach today’s leading businesses.

  • Exciting mobile possibilities. Today, the release of Office 365 SDKs for Windows 8 and Android will help developers build mobile productivity solutions powered by Office 365. Windows and Android developers can now connect to Office 365 data and services, including files, calendars, contacts, tasks and email.

  • Seamless Office 365 integration. Enhancements to Office 365 APIs for PowerPoint and Outlook give developers the control to build new, sophisticated solutions. PowerPoint presentations can be extended to surface poll or survey data directly within a deck, and Outlook Compose apps offer helpful insight alongside an email as it is written.

  • Robust APIs. In a continuation of Office 365 API growth, new APIs for files, people, email, calendar and tasks bring new light to the service with an intuitive, open- standards approach. The APIs also feature popularly requested enhancements, including self-service site provisioning and support for OneDrive for Business file actions.

  • Sharing power. Office 365 documents that include app information can now be more seamlessly activated by recipients. PowerPoint apps travel into the PowerPoint Online experience, allowing customers to share their favorite apps in a more viral way. Later this year, Office Online will bring similar capabilities to Excel.

For IT pros, Microsoft announced new capabilities that enhance Office 365 security and privacy, giving IT pros the tools they need to help protect their organizations. In addition, with the Office 2013 and SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1 release, it is now easier than ever for organizations to take advantage of Office 365, whether that means making a comprehensive move to the cloud, adopting a hybrid deployment, or making a gradual transition through easy on-ramps such as OneDrive for Business and Yammer.

  • Data-loss prevention. Microsoft demonstrated new data-loss prevention capabilities for Office content, enabling organizations to manage, track and audit content, while not getting in the way of user productivity.

  • OneDrive for Business. In April, businesses can purchase OneDrive for Business (formerly SkyDrive Pro) as a stand-alone SKU providing secured file, sync and share in the cloud with all the benefits of integration with Office. Also, with SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1, Microsoft introduced new admin controls to “turn on” OneDrive for Business in the cloud directly from the SharePoint Server 2013 admin console. This enables customers to keep their on-premises infrastructure intact, while still getting the benefit of cloud-based file storage and sharing.

  • Easy SharePoint social transition to Yammer. In Service Pack 1 Microsoft is making it easy for IT pros to replace the out-of-the-box SharePoint Server 2013 social experience with Yammer. Through simple controls in SharePoint Server 2013 central administration, IT can choose to activate Yammer, redirecting users to the organization’s Yammer network.

More information about today’s news can be found on the Microsoft Office blog.

The SharePoint Conference 2014 is the largest Microsoft SharePoint event in the world, offering developers, IT professionals and executives a range of presentations, workshops, Q&A sessions and networking events. More information on the news at the event can be found at the Microsoft Office virtual pressroom.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://www.microsoft.com/news. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://www.microsoft.com/news/contactpr.mspx.

Read More: Office 365, Developers, SharePoint Online, SharePoint Server, Cloud Computing, Office 365 Customers, Developers, Lync, Yammer, Outlook, Jeff Teper, Enterprise Social

Dux Quax at SharePoint Conference 2014: Jared Spataro and Adam Pisoni [avepointjc YouTube channel, March 5, 2014]

Dux Raymond Sy, AvePoint Public Sector Vice President for Customer Strategy and Solutions and SharePoint MVP, speaks with Jared Spataro, General Manager of Microsoft Office, and Adam Pisoni, Yammer Co-Founder and CTO, at SharePoint Conference 2014.

Technology is enabling new ways of working [Office Blogs from Microsoft, March 3, 2014]

Jeff Teper is the Corporate Vice President of Office Service and Servers group.

It’s an exhilarating time for our industry, our company, and for Office. At the last SharePoint Conference we talked about technology megatrends that are changing the way people work: cloud, social, mobile, and big data. These trends are still alive and well today, and they are active change agents in markets, industries, and companies across the world.

But this year, we want to do more than just talk about technology trends. This year, we want to show you what we’re doing with them and how we’re harnessing these powerful forces to transform work.  The innovation you’ll see from us here today—and in fact over the next few years—is based on four core beliefs:

  • First, we believe the future of work is all about working like a network. It’s about how we build relationships, share information, and respond to ever-changing conditions. And it’s founded on an openness and transparency that will drive a new level of productivity.
  • Second, we believe personalized and proactive insights are required to cut through the noise.  As humans, we have an incredible ability to achieve—but only if we can focus. And we need technology to help us, so that we can focus our energies on accomplishing big things.
  • Third, we believe in the power of an open development platform and a robust ecosystem. We recognize that one size doesn’t fit all, and that companies need customized solutions that can be developed in weeks, not years.
  • And finally, we believe that enabling this future of work is possible only if people are empowered to work anywhere and on any device, and if businesses have the tools they need to responsibly manage security and compliance.

We couldn’t be more excited to partner with you to transform work and dramatically change the way people get things done.

Empowering people and organizations

Today, the world is a giant network with people hyper-connected to information and each other. We talk to our friends and family using Facebook, brands can be made or broken with a simple Tweet, and we find our next job through contacts in LinkedIn. Information and knowledge move faster, and we’re able to accomplish more together because we are so connected. Meanwhile, many organizations continue to work the way they always have: they operate in hierarchies, with information coming from the top down or held up in unconnected systems and broken communication channels.

To be more responsive, we need to evolve. We need to flatten the information flow so that we can work better together and serve customers better, using a network of highly informed and highly connected people.

Today we’re showing examples of innovation in the cloud that I’m really excited about, that serve unmet needs in most organizations today, and that allow organizations to work more like a network. By leveraging insights from Office 365 and mapping the relationships between people, groups, files and conversations through machine learning, we can intelligently connect and surface the most relevant content using the Office Graph. This is the power of social, cloud, big data, and machine learning coming together. Office Graph will power many new personalized and contextual experiences for people using Office 365. One of the first experiences to leverage the Office Graph is code-named Oslo. Oslo serves up in a single user interface personalized insights based on meetings, people, conversations, documents and more. The Oslo application surfaces what might be most relevant for each individual based on what they’re already doing in Exchange, Outlook, SharePoint, Office, Lync, and Yammer. We believe this is the start of something game-changing—building digital memory across applications to create a highly personalized experience that helps people get more done. You can learn more about Office Graph and Oslo here.

By helping people work more openly, we believe organizations will work more like a network and become more responsive (and successful). We’ve spent a lot of time studying trends, talking with customers, and thinking about how we can connect experiences in Yammer, Lync, Outlook, and Exchange with a social fabric that permeates Office, is intuitive, and helps organizations gain the benefits of network effects—just by people doing their natural work in Office. To that end, today we’re also showing Groups—building on the loved concept of Groups in Yammer—which will apply to all Office 365 applications. Groups will unify people, email, conversations, calendars and files together across Office 365 services in a common construct to ensure that people can collaborate similarly in the experience they love most. This makes the overall experience of Office 365 social and connected. You can read more about Groups here.

We know that not everything is best expressed in documents or conversations. Many organizations have created dynamic portals, web sites, and mobile apps to surface what matters most to employees. Here we’re also working on some bold new approaches. We believe next-generation portals should be simple to create and customize in the cloud, have high engagement via social interactions, deliver more relevant information, leverage multi-media, and—most importantly—be accessible anywhere and on any device. We have of lot of work going on in this area that will show up this year, but today we’re showing a new social video portal built on SharePoint, Yammer, the Office Graph in Office 365, and Azure Media Services, as a ready-made solution.

Office 365 for developers

There are already more than 3.4 million developers—nearly half of whom are SharePoint developers—building on the Office platform and Office 365, our fastest-growing product in history. We have two objectives in our development platform. First, we want to give customers maximum agility to adapt our products to specific business needs, whether you build or buy these solutions. Second, we want to bring partners a great opportunity to grow their business. You can find more information about today’s announcements for developers here. It’s been very exciting in the last few weeks to have partners ranging from GoDaddy to DocuSign building solutions and services around Office 365 that will help them grow, and that will also help our customers see more value by having direct access within Office 365 to the things they want to do every day. We see more of this great opportunity ahead for our developer partners.

A trusted platform

Beyond base reliability, we know security, privacy, and compliance are paramount, and we’re committed to delivering best-in-class enterprise cloud services. We’re doing this through a massive investment in physical data centers and application-level security, lights-out operations, architecting for zero customer data access, intelligent monitoring, and more. With the Microsoft Cloud and Office 365, you own and control your data. We don’t see or use your data for anything other than delivering the service to you. We know independent certifications for all of this are critical, and we’ve published our processes and met industry standards and regulations such as ISO, EU Model Clauses, HIPAA, FISMA, and CJIS for the largest and most demanding customers, such as the states of California and Texas. You can find out more about our trusted platform at the Office 365 Trust Center.

Partnering with you

We’re making adoption of Office 365 faster and easier than ever with our FastTrack deployment approach. But we understand that not every customer is ready to move their investments to the cloud all at once and so we’re committed to working closely with all of you and lower the friction for you to get started. And, we will ship new server releases of SharePoint and Exchange in 2015.  We’ll also continue to support hybrid deployments spanning both cloud and on premises technologies including expanded search and line-of business access. Our server releases will include some, but not all, of the experience you saw today due to the computational power and integrated aspects that only come with Office 365.

I want to be very clear — we know we can deliver more value to you via the cloud – as you saw today in these great new experiences.  I also want to be clear that we’re committed to helping you get there in the configuration and pace that works for you.

To help you make the transition at your own pace, we’ve made it easier to get started in the cloud with Social and Files.  With SharePoint Server 2013 Service Pack 1, you can connect your on-premises SharePoint 2013 servers to the cloud and to turn on OneDrive for Business or Yammer as the first workloads in the cloud and run those alongside existing SharePoint investments.

But we wanted to go one step farther. So today, we are introducing a new very attractive priced OneDrive for Business Standalone offer.  If you aren’t already using OneDrive for Business – now is the time to take your first step to embracing the cloud.

Technology is transforming the world and we’re using it to transform Office to help your organization be more responsive and agile—all while protecting your valuable information. This is just the start!

–Jeff Teper

Mark Zuckerberg’s personality is hyped (again) with a quite worthwhile initiative (otherwise) but with substantial global financial interests behind it as well

The internet.org initiative for the next 5 billion people is even a bigger announcement than the Steve Ballmer’s retirement from Microsoft announcement given The Upcoming Mobile Internet Superpower [Aug 13, 2013, with extensive follow-up & ‘The global forces behind …’ analysis, later in the post, as of August 22 at 9:08pm] and the substantial global financial interests (uncovered there and) otherwise also tied to the creation of the whole global Facebook phenomenon (also indicating that Mark Zuckerberg has been just a strawman of something significantly bigger going on behind the scenes from the very beginning). Just two images which were included into the The Upcoming Mobile Internet Superpower as a reminder of that (before documenting the internet.org initiative in this post):

While the true intent of this announcement is covered by things described above, here is what was officially told to the world:

Every one of us. #ConnectTheWorld [Internet.org YouTube channel, Aug 20, 2013]

Technology leaders launch partnership to make internet access available to all [joint press release available from http://internet.org/ and number of other sources, Aug 20, 2013]

Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, Samsung to be founding partners

MENLO PARK, Calif., Aug. 20, 2013 – Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, today announced the launch of internet.org, a global partnership with the goal of making internet access available to the next 5 billion people.

“Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect,” Zuckerberg said. “There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.”

Today, only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population – have access to the internet. Internet adoption is growing by less than 9 percent each year, which is slow considering how early we are in its development.

The goal of Internet.org is to make internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected and to bring the same opportunities to everyone that the connected third of the world has today.

The founding members of Internet.org –Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung – will develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online. These founding companies have a long history of working closely with mobile operators and expect them to play leading roles within the initiative, which over time will also include NGOs, academics and experts as well. Internet.org is influenced by the successful Open Compute Project, an industry-wide initiative that has lowered the costs of cloud computing by making hardware designs more efficient and innovative.

In order to achieve its goal of connecting the two-thirds of the world who are not yet online, Internet.org will focus on three key challenges in developing countries:

Making access affordable: Partners will collaborate to develop and adopt technologies that make mobile connectivity more affordable and decrease the cost of delivering data to people worldwide. Potential projects include collaborations to develop lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy internet access in underserved communities. Mobile operators will play a central role in this effort by driving initiatives that benefit the entire ecosystem.

Using data more efficiently: Partners will invest in tools that dramatically reduce the amount of data required to use most apps and internet experiences. Potential projects include developing data compression tools, enhancing network capabilities to more efficiently handle data, building systems to cache data efficiently and creating frameworks for apps to reduce data usage.

Helping businesses drive access: Partners will support development of sustainable new business models and services that make it easier for people to access the internet. This includes testing new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access than has previously been possible. Other efforts will focus on localizing services – working with operating system providers and other partners to enable more languages on mobile devices. 

By reducing the cost and amount of data required for most apps and enabling new business models, Internet.org is focused on enabling the next 5 billion people to come online.

Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, Samsung and other partners will build on existing partnerships while exploring new ways to collaborate to solve these problems.

“For more than 100 years, Ericsson has been enabling communications for all and today more than 6 billion people in the world have access to mobile communications,” said Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson. “We are committed to shaping the Networked Society – where everyone and everything will be connected in real time; creating the freedom, empowerment and opportunity to transform society. We believe affordable connectivity and internet access improves people’s lives and helps build a more sustainable planet and therefore we are excited to participate in the Internet.org initiative.”

“As a world leader in mobile solutions for emerging markets having powered more than 300 million smart devices within 2 years, MediaTek whole heartedly supports the Internet.org initiative,” said MK Tsai, Chairman of MediaTek. “Global internet and social media access represent the biggest shift since the industrial revolution, and we want to make it all-inclusive.”

“Nokia is deeply passionate about connecting people – to one another and the world around them,” said Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop. “Over the years, Nokia has connected well over a billion people. Our industry is now at an exciting inflection point where internet connectivity is becoming more affordable and efficient for consumers while still offering them great experiences. Universal internet access will be the next great industrial revolution.”

“Today, more than 300 million people use Opera every month to access the internet. Tomorrow, we have a chance to serve the next 5 billion people connecting on mobile devices in developing countries. It’s in Opera’s DNA to save people time, money and data, and through Internet.org we think we can help advance these goals,” said Lars Boilesen, CEO Opera Software.

“Mobile has helped to transform many people’s lives in the emerging regions where often a computing device will be the first and only mobile experience they’ll ever have” said Paul Jacobs, chairman of the board and CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated. “Having shipped more than 11 billion chips, Qualcomm is a market leader that is committed to the goal of bridging the digital divide. We’re pleased to be a part of Internet.org and to be working with key ecosystem players to drive this initiative forward.”

“This new initiative has big potential to help accelerate access to the internet for everyone,” said JK Shin, CEO and President of the IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics. “We’re focused on delivering high quality mobile devices to ensure that the next five billion people have great mobile internet experiences.”

The Internet.org website launches today and provides an overview of the mission and goals, as well as a full list of the partners. In the coming weeks, it will feature interviews with technology leaders and experts, along with the latest news on Internet.org activities.

The embedded video on the internet.org site explains further: Mark Zuckerberg aims to put the entire world online [CNN YouTube channel, Aug 21, 2013]

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to connect five billion more people to the Internet.

adding more fuel to the campaign, as two follow-up videos on CNN channel as well:
Zuckerberg, tech companies look for “next 5 billion… [CNN YouTube channel, Aug 21, 2013]

Facebook CEO is teaming up with tech companies to bring the web to every single person on earth. Erin Burnett reports.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet plan: realistic or impossible? [CNN YouTube channel, Aug 22, 2013]

Tom Foreman examines how realistic it is for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to expand Internet access by 5 billion people.

And the leading global media was awash with extensive coverage of this as evidenced here just with the following videos:
Mark Zuckerberg’s World-Wide Plan for the Internet [Bloomberg YouTube channel, Aug 21, 2013]

Aug. 21 (Bloomberg) — “Lunch Money” Host Adam Johnson reports on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new plan to bring internet service to 5 billion people in the world currently without it.

Mark Zuckerberg Announces Plan To Get Billions More People Online [HuffPost Live YouTube channel, Aug 21, 2013]

Facebook Inc. announced a partnership called Internet.org on Wednesday. The company says its goal is to “make Internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected.”

Facebook-led project pushes for wider internet access – corporate [Euronews YouTube channel, Aug 22, 2013]

Facebook’s boss wants to make internet access affordable for the two-thirds of the world’s…

Chinese manufacturing grows and Facebook wants to spread the internet worldwide [FRANCE 24 English YouTube channel, Aug 22, 2013]

The Facebook Internet initiative (internet.org) story is from [5:15] to [6:20]

From the participant companies we had the following corporate communications in addition to the joint press release:

Ericsson and Internet.org – providing the internet for everyone, everywhere [Aug 21, 2013]

The Networked Society will bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits to hundreds of millions of people, one of which is providing internet access to the remaining two-thirds of the planet. Today (Aug 21, 2013), Ericsson, Facebook and a number of other tech giants took a step closer to realizing these benefits through the announcement of a global initiative we call Internet.org. Through this, we aim to reduce the cost of delivering basic internet services and make them available to everyone, everywhere.

So, why is this initiative so important? In the Networked Society, connectivity is the starting point for new ways of innovating, collaborating and socializing. It’s about creating freedom, empowerment and opportunity, transforming industries and society while helping find solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing our planet.

Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson, says: “For more than 100 years, Ericsson has been enabling communications for all, and today more than 6 billion people have access to mobile communications. We are committed to shaping the Networked Society – where everyone and everything will be connected in real time; creating the freedom, empowerment and opportunity to transform society. We believe affordable connectivity and internet access improves people’s lives and helps build a more sustainable planet, and therefore we are excited to participate in the Internet.org initiative.”

Some of the initial areas that are considered barriers to increasing access to the internet are the cost of smartphones, the cost of delivering data, and inefficient data-hungry applications. Cheaper phones, improved data compression techniques, and apps that use less data and reduce battery usage are some of the initial areas of investigation. Others include more efficient allocation of spectrum, edge caching, sharing hardware design, and efficiency optimization.

Ericsson has several areas of expertise to offer the initiative, including: knowledge of scale, its global presence and local expertise, and its technology leadership in the area of mobile networks and supporting service enablers.

Ericsson believes that communication is a basic human need, and fulfilling this has been our mission since the foundation of our company.

Opera helps connect the next 5 billion online [Opera News, Aug 21, 2013]

Today, only 2.7 billion people are connected to the internet. The cost of getting online is one of the biggest challenges for users worldwide. We want to help get the next five billion online.

For the last 17 years, we have built products and services to get people online. We believe in the power of sharing ideas. Opera Mini is our mobile browser that uses compression technology to save you time and money. Operators around the world have embraced Opera Mini and Opera Web Pass as the best choice for their users to get online.

WE HAVE PARTNERED WITH FACEBOOK TO GET THE NEXT 5 BILLION ONLINE

Meet Internet.org – a partnership between Facebook, Opera, and other technology companies. This is a global effort that will also involve help from local communities, non-profit organisations and experts across the world. We are proud to contribute to the project with our competence in Internet technology.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

Are you among the few in your country who has access to the internet? Tell us how you spend your time online. How has the internet helped you? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook or byemail.

image“Today, more than 300 million people use Opera every month to access the Internet.

Tomorrow, we have a chance to serve the next 5 billion people connecting on mobile devices in developing countries. It’s in Opera’s DNA to save people time, money and data, and through internet.org we think we can help advance these goals.”

— Lars Boilesen, CEO Opera Software.

Further information about the other companies’ involvement you can find in the following article also linked on the internet.org homepage:
Facebook Leads an Effort to Lower Barriers to Internet Access [The New York Times, Aug 20, 2013]

MENLO PARK, Calif. — About one of every seven people in the world uses Facebook. Now, Mark Zuckerberg, its co-founder and chief executive, wants to make a play for the rest — including the four billion or so who lack Internet access.

On Wednesday, Facebook announced an effort aimed at drastically cutting the cost of delivering basic Internet services on mobile phones, particularly in developing countries, where Facebook and other tech companies need to find new users. Half a dozen of the world’s tech giants, including Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm and Ericsson, have agreed to work with the company as partners on the initiative, which they call Internet.org.

The companies intend to accomplish their goal in part by simplifying phone applications so they run more efficiently and by improving the components of phones and networks so that they transmit more data while using less battery power.

For Mr. Zuckerberg, the formation of the coalition is yet another way in which he is trying to position himself as an industry leader. He has been speaking out more forcefully than other tech executives on topics like immigration overhaul, which the industry sees as critical to its hiring needs. With Internet.org, he is laying out a philosophy that tries to pair humanitarian goals with the profit motive.

“The Internet is such an important thing for driving humanity forward, but it’s not going to build itself,” he said in a recent interview. “Ultimately, this has to make business sense on some time frame that people can get behind.”

But the effort is also a reflection of how tech companies are trying to meet Wall Street’s demands for growth by attracting customers beyond saturated markets in the United States and Europe, even if they have to help build services and some of the infrastructure in poorer, less digitally sophisticated parts of the world.

Google, for example, began a program with phone carriers last year that offers wireless users in some developing countries free access to Gmail, search and the first page clicked through from a search’s results. Google is also reaching for the sky with Project Loon, an attempt to beam Internet access down to earth from plastic balloons floating more than 11 miles in the atmosphere.

Twitter, which is preparing to offer shares to the public in an initial stock offering, has struck its own deals with about 250 cellphone companies in more than 100 countries to offer some free Twitter access, and worked to make sure its service is easy to use on even the cheapest cellphones.

These companies have little choice but to look overseas for growth. More than half of Americans already use Facebook at least once a month, for instance, and usage in the rest of the developed world is similarly heavy. There is nearly one active cellphone for every person on earth, making expansion a challenge for carriers and phone makers.

Poorer countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America present the biggest opportunity to reach new customers — if companies can figure out how to get people there online at low cost.

The immediate goals of the new coalition are to cut the cost of providing mobile Internet services to 1 percent of its current level within five to 10 years by improving the efficiency of Internet networks and mobile phone software. The group also hopes to develop new business models that would allow phone companies to provide simple services like e-mail, search and social networks for little or no charge.

While that sounds far less exciting than, say, Google’s idea of delivering the Internet by balloon, Mr. Zuckerberg says small efforts can add up to big changes.

“No one company can really do this by itself,” he said.

Facebook is already working on techniques to reduce the average amount of data used by its Android mobile app from the current 12 megabytes a day to 1 megabyte without users noticing.

Qualcomm, whose chip technology is prevalent in advanced cellphones, has created new designs to stretch a phone’s battery life, slice the amount of data needed to transmit a video and extend the reach of mobile networks through tiny devices similar to Wi-Fi routers.

The coalition partners have also begun trying new ways of reducing the data charges paid by cellphone customers while still enabling phone makers and carriers to make money.

For example, Nokia, the Finnish cellphone maker, ran a recent experiment with Facebook and the Mexican phone carrier Telcel, in which it bundled free Facebook access with some of its Asha feature phones. Sales rose significantly, and the company decided to run similar promotions for customers of Bharti Airtel, a mobile carrier in India and Africa.

[Note that with new Nokia Asha platform, which is a full platform enhancement of the earlier Asha Touch upgrade of the legacy S40 platform, Nokia has done already the most among the internet.org founding members to achieve the now declared common challenges of Making access affordable, Using data more efficiently and Helping businesses drive access. You can check that by reading the posts behind the indicated tags on this blog.]

However, the Internet.org team does not plan to tackle some thorny infrastructure issues that are huge barriers in the developing world, particularly the long-distance transmission of data to far-flung places.

Michuki Mwangi, regional development manager for Africa at the Internet Society, a nonprofit group that has long worked to expand global Internet access, said the continent sorely lacked local interconnection points, forcing most requests for content like YouTube videos to be routed through Europe at high cost. Creating more connection points would require navigating a thicket of government interests and powerful incumbents. But at the very least, the group would like Facebook and Google to put copies of their content on a greater number of African servers to deliver it more quickly and cheaply, something that both companies say they are considering.

As with the Open Compute coalition started by Facebook in 2011 to improve the efficiency of data centers, Facebook will seek to add other partners to Internet.org, including national governments, wireless phone carriers and Microsoft, a longtime Facebook ally that has its own projects to expand access.

But Google — whose search and YouTube video products are as fundamental as Facebook’s social network to many Internet users — is likely to remain outside the group.

For one, its own efforts to expand Internet access are aggressive. In addition, the company is constantly refining its Android software, which runs the majority of new smartphones sold, to improve efficiency and battery life.

“We’re always making investments in technology and programs to help people get online,” said Courtney Hohne, a Google spokeswoman. “We have teams around the world working on products tailored to local needs.”

Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft and co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recently suggested that Project Loon and similar projects were not the best use of resources to help people in the poorest nations.

“When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no Web site that relieves that,” he said in a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged that basic health care is essential, but said that “if you can afford a phone, I think it would be really good for you to have access to the Internet.”

The potential is already obvious in places like the Philippines, where the second-largest mobile phone company, Globe Telecom, has used free Twitter, Facebook or Google access as promotions to increase the number of its 37 million users who also subscribe to a mobile data plan to 20 percent from virtually zero in two years.

“Once you’re connected, you’re connected, and you don’t want to look back,” said Peter Bithos, Globe’s senior adviser for consumer business.

For Facebook, which generates most of its revenue from selling advertising that it shows to its users, the immediate profits from expanding Internet access will be minimal, Mr. Zuckerberg said, although he acknowledged that the long-term potential was there.

“We’re focused on it more because we think it’s something good for the world,” he said, “rather than something that is going to be really amazing for our profits.”

Simpler, more focused and human friendly social media–that’s the future?

It’s Official: Teens Are Bored With Facebook [Business Insider, March 3, 2013]

Teenagers are a good measure of what’s “cool.” Observing which apps they use and how they interact with technology can help the rest of us spot budding trends.
And lately it seems teens have grown tired of Facebook.
Adam Ludwin recently launched a social photo album app called Albumatic. Before its launch, he showed the app to a focus group of 20+ people under the age of 25. Most told Ludwin they didn’t like how reliant the app was on Facebook.
“They gave me the typical teenage response: ‘We’re bored with Facebook,'” Ludwin told Business Insider.
His test group doesn’t seem to be an outlier. Branch CEO Josh Miller recently asked his 15-year-old sister if she still used Facebook in a blog post titled “10th Grade Tech Trends.” According to his high school sibling, teens are obsessed with Instagram and Snapchat, but they’re less enthralled with Facebook.
“She mentioned that she tries to visit Facebook as infrequently as possible,” he wrote. She also told Miller she only visits Facebook after she’s thoroughly stalked people on Instagram.
Even Facebook Chat isn’t as appealing as it once was. “When you go on Facebook Chat the people you don’t want to talk to are always the ones who immediately chat with you,” his sister said.
Even Facebook has admitted it has a teen problem.
From its annual 10-K report:
We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook. For example, we believe that some of our users have reduced their engagement with Facebook in favor of increased engagement with other products and services such as Instagram. In the event that our users increasingly engage with other products and services, we may experience a decline in user engagement and our business could be harmed.
Why isn’t Facebook “cool” anymore? The Verge’s Ellis Hamburger asked a few social media experts for their thoughts.
“I think it has less to do with kids consciously looking for ‘the next big thing’ than Facebook just no longer being a space that serves them,” one said. In other words, it used to be “cool” to brag about yourself and show pictures to friends on Facebook. Now people are looking for more intimate places to share items with a handful of people, like Snapchat. There’s a sense of privacy there, and it meets a need Facebook has grown too big to serve.
Of course, this doesn’t mean teens are deleting their Facebook profiles. They’re just looking to use the service less, and they’re open to communicating on other platforms.

Snapchat Application Is Latest Teenage Trend, But Do Photos Disappear? [ABCNews YouTube channel, Jan 3, 2013]

New smartphone app encourages kids to share short-lived photos with friends.

Snapchat and the Erasable Future of Social Media [Bloomberg Businessweek, Feb 7, 2013]

In the fall of 2012, Sally Ike, a senior at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., heard from a friend about a hilarious new app you could download on your smartphone. Snapchat was free, her friend explained, and allowed you to share photos. And like a lot of photo apps, it was simple: just shoot and send. The hook was that when your friend opened the message, the photo self-destructed within 10 seconds.

In the U.S., Snapchat was the second-most popular free photo and video app for the iPhone in early February, just behind YouTube and ahead of Instagram. It was the 19th-most popular free app overall, according to App Annie, an analytics company. Snapchat’s website claims that more than 50 million snaps are sent every day.

It’s made rivals anxious enough to build similar products. In December social networking giant Facebook (FB) unveiled a Snapchat-like app called Poke that allows users to send self-destructing media. Instead of burying Snapchat, however, the competition from Facebook appears to have made the upstart stronger. In January tech industry blog TechCrunch named Snapchat the “Fastest Rising Startup” of 2012.

Adults have long warned kids that if they weren’t careful, questionable behavior would end up on their permanent record. Over the decades, that record has become larger, more searchable, and more available to the public. With cloud computing, the digital space for it has expanded exponentially. Just one institution, the Library of Congress, is busy archiving more than 170 billion tweets.
The business model of today’s free social media networks and search engines, of course, is collecting and storing behavior and interests of every kind, and selling that information to marketers. And companies are getting better at organizing and finding out about every last bit of a user’s social life, whether it’s a party picture or a preference for a certain kind of shoe. Last month, Facebook began rolling out Graph Search, a tool to retrieve details from the pasts of its billion users.
In this environment, unease about one’s permanent social record is logical. Danah Boyd, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research (MSFT), says it’s not surprising that teenagers would be the first to appreciate the advantages of impermanent social media. “This cohort has grown up with the expectation of surveillance by people who hold direct power over them,” says Boyd. “It’s not about surveillance from companies or the state. It’s surveillance from their teachers, their college admissions officers, their parents.”

Pinterest Puts the ‘Sales’ in Social – Marketing Technology Minute [SyneCoreTech, Feb 21, 2013]

Businesses continue to turn towards social media for an easy boost to their marketing efforts, but a lot of them aren’t seeing huge results. The functions of every social media site differ. Misunderstanding how a specific digital platform should be used may account for some of this slow turnaround, but a another huge culprit might be the fact that a lot of these sites were not built to be used by marketers. According to a 2012 report from Bizrate, 69% of online consumers who visit Pinterest have found an item they’ve purchased or wanted to purchase.

Facebook Backer Hansen Bets on Pinterest and NBA’s Kings [Bloomberg Businessweek, Feb 27, 2013]

California investor Chris Hansen, an early Facebook Inc. backer, is making high-stakes bets across the state, from investing in Pinterest Inc. to a bid to buy control of the capital’s marquee sports team and move it north.

Hansen’s hedge fund, Valiant Capital Management, led a $200 million financing round in Pinterest last week at a $2.5 billion valuation.

Hansen, 45, is also leading an investor group including Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)’s Steve Ballmer that last month agreed to buy a controlling stake in the Sacramento Kings — valuing the franchise at a National Basketball Association record of $525 million — and proposed a relocation to Seattle.
Both deals are high-profile and controversial. Hansen’s foray into sports has met vocal opposition in Sacramento, where the Kings have spent 28 years, including 19 sold-out seasons and 10 playoff runs.

Valiant’s funding of Pinterest ranks the online bulletin board among the most valuable closely held Web startups, even though it generates no revenue.

“Pinterest doesn’t have its business defined yet so you’re betting all on potential,” said Anand Sanwal, chief executive officer of CB Insights, a New York-based research firm that tracks venture capital and private equity. “You have to take it on a case-by-case basis, but we generally worry that there is bad money chasing these rock-star companies.”

Facebook Stake

Hansen left Blue Ridge to start Valiant in 2008, and now manages about $3 billion in assets. The firm invests in a variety of securities, including stocks, options, swaps, bonds and illiquid securities. Its private investments include technology, energy and health-care companies.

Pinterest is just the latest high-priced Internet bet for Valiant. The biggest was Facebook. Valiant, along with co- investors, started backing the social networking site in late 2010 at $12 a share, and bought stock totaling about $500 million, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the terms weren’t disclosed. At the time of the IPO, the Valiant Capital Opportunities Fund owned 36.3 million shares worth $1.38 billion.

In late 2011, Valiant participated in a $250 million investment in online file-sharing service Dropbox Inc. at a $4 billion valuation. In November, the firm contributed to an $85 million financing round in Evernote Corp., about six months after the Internet note-taking service was valued at about $1 billion.

Biggest Risk

Pinterest, where members share photos of clothing, food and art, may represent Valiant’s biggest risk in private technology investing, because the company hasn’t proven it can make money. And while user growth is up 300 percent from a year earlier, the disappointing public market performance of Facebook, Zynga Inc. (ZNGA) and Groupon Inc. (GRPN) shows how challenging it can be for Web companies to live up to their startup hype.

“It’s a strategy that works pretty well when things are going up, and it’s only matter of time before things go the other way,” said Eric Risley, a managing partner at investment advisory firm Architect Partners LLC in Palo Alto, California. “Then you’ve got a challenge on your hands.”

Still, the bet could pay off, Risley said. “Pinterest is a cool company that can do a lot of interesting things,” he said.

Why retailers are pinning hopes on Pinterest [Reuters, Feb 27, 2013]

After a tough day at work as a publicist in Minneapolis, Becca Bijoch would often indulge in a little retail therapy. She usually headed out to the stores as she did not care much for online shopping.
That changed last year when the 26-year-old joined Pinterest, a photo-sharing website that allows users to “pin” images to online bulletin boards based on their interests and to follow others. Bijoch says she has found all sorts of things that she bought after seeing them on Pinterest, from great kitchen tools on CrateandBarrel.com to clothes at Asos.com.
“I’m probably spending more now. I’m on the couch at night, after having two glasses of wine,” Bijoch says, but she has no regrets. “I tell everyone that Pinterest has changed my life.”
Pinterest, which was the fastest standalone website to hit 10 million unique visitors a month, now has 25 million members, of whom many – like Bijoch – are young, female, well-educated and have disposable income.
Retailers are hankering after these users, but it is sometimes difficult to nab them because Pinterest is an ad-free website and “pins” flourish virally. While many retailers have learned how to interact with consumers on Facebook and Twitter, they are still struggling to figure out Pinterest and the ways to make money out of reaching shoppers through it.
In that effort, many retailers have installed Pinterest buttons on their main websites, created their own Pinterest pages, and allocated marketing dollars to acquire followers. While Pinterest says it does not track metrics internally, many ancillary businesses have popped up to help companies harness the revenue-driving possibilities of the site.
It’s a huge window-shopping platform,” says Kyla Brennan, chief executive of HelloInsights, a Santa Monica, California company that provides analyses of Pinterest use. “It helps people find what they really like. Does it encourage people to be a little impulsive? Of course.”
E-commerce experts say Pinterest generates more dollars per users than some other social media sites, even though Facebook, the world’s largest social network with more than a billion users, is a leading driver of shopping by volume.
Pinterest shoppers, on average, spend nearly $170 per session, according to a study by RichRelevance, an e-commerce consultant, which tracked 700 million shopping sessions. In comparison, Facebook shoppers spend $95 per session, while Twitter shoppers spend $70.
Major retail brands with a presence on Pinterest include L.L. Bean, with more than 5 million followers; Nordstrom Inc, with more than 4 million followers; and Lululemon Athletica Inc with close to 2 million. Other major players like Gap Inc and Urban Outfitters Inc have fewer followers on the site, but are growing.
The three-year-old Pinterest recently closed a $200 million round of financing, which raises its value to $2.5 billion.
PINNING COSTS
Most companies’ Pinterest activity is handled by their social media teams, but the efforts differ from promotions on Facebook and Twitter because Pinterest boards are interest-based and not timeline-based. Nordstrom’s Facebook page, for example, features a couple of products daily that are on sale or seasonally interesting, but its Pinterest page is an evergreen collage of fashion lifestyle images.
As there is no direct advertising and Pinterest is still growing, the marketing cost to businesses of acquiring new users is lower than other sites, says Daniel Maloney, CEO of PinLeague, a consultancy that tracks social media usage.
“The current cost of acquiring a Pinterest follower is a penny to 50 cents, depending on type of business. That compares to 50 cents to $2.50 on Facebook,” he said.
One of the top ways to reach followers seems to be to do anything but try to sell products. L.L. Bean’s most popular board, for instance, is devoted to pictures of woodland creatures – its most popular pin is a picture of a cat dressed up to look like a bat.
“While we do measure traffic coming to llbean.com and llbeansignature.com from Pinterest, we are not currently promoting the platform as a selling channel,” says Laurie Brooks, senior public relations representative for the company based in Freeport, Maine. Internal metrics show Pinterest users spend more than others, and that traffic is on the increase even if, overall, it is less than what comes from Facebook, she adds.
L.L. Bean, like many other retailers, has not offered discounts through Pinterest, but it has sponsored contests. So has Nordstrom, which did a bridal-focused sweepstakes in January.
“Our followers share and save compelling imagery and merchandise – period. Our boards aren’t focused on bargains or coupons,” says Bryan Galipeau, who is group manager of social media at Nordstrom’s Seattle headquarters. “We think it’s important to take a broader view of Pinterest because that’s also how our customers see it.”
Fashion retailer Gilt.com’s “Pin to Win” contest offered a $2,500 shopping spree to women who shared certain images from their wedding dress collection. Gilt also rewarded those who received 50 re-pins of a children’s dress the chance to buy the item for 77 percent off.
Similarly, fashion-seller Karmaloop.com offered a trip to Paris for the best outfit pinned to one of its boards.
Other goodies from retailers include AMC Theatres’ giveaway pinboard where users can win movies posters and other memorabilia. Wal-Mart Stores Inc ran a contest about inspiring people to be environmentally conscious.
Even if you could win something by shopping through Pinterest, consumers need to exert some impulse control.
Since most of what is “pinned” on the site is aspirational, people can end up spending way more than when they click through from other social media sites.