Has the Tablet Industry Finally Caught up to Apple? Just ask Microsoft.

 Surface vs Ipad All Access GroupLess than a year ago, on June 18, 2012, Microsoft announced their series of tablets known as Microsoft Surface. Microsoft declared Surface to be: “A feat of engineering and a work of art… With casing made from ultra-light and highly durable magnesium, Surface will change the way you work and play. Run Office apps, watch movies in dazzling HD, catch up with friends and family. Do it all on one beautifully and thoughtfully designed device.”

The “tablet” is built with an integrated kick stand designed to prop up the device at an angle similar to open laptops, making viewing movies, listening to music, and the overall use of the device more preferable. Microsoft also offers a “touch cover,” (very similar to the iPad Smart Case) which clicks into the base of the tablet, doubling as a protective case and a touch sensitive keyboard. With the use of both the built-in kick stand, and the “touch cover,” Microsoft Surface looks more like a small laptop than a tablet, resulting in Microsoft describing the device as “a laptop in tablet form.” But ultimately, the real measure of success is the answer to this question: How does this laptop-tablet compare to the leader in the tablet industry: the iPad?

Let’s look at the user experience tech issues first. Microsoft’s Surface is longer and narrower in comparison to the iPad, however it is much thicker. 4.1mm thicker in fact, and it is 254 grams heavier than the iPad. In addition to Surface’s beefier external design, it falls short in comparison to iPad’s useable storage. Its battery life is also less than half of the iPad. The Surface retail price is around $500 and the Pro version is $900 /-, while the iPad ranges from $330 to $930 (the price increases with storage capacity and the usage of cellular data). However Microsoft’s Surface separates itself from the iPad in raw processing power, having the same Intel Core i5 processor found in Apple’s MacBook Air, which brings us back to the notion that the Surface represents the union of laptop and tablet.

Comparing Microsoft’s Surface series to either the Apple’s iPad or its laptops is simply unfair, as the Surface fits neither mold. But what Microsoft has indeed done is create a new piece of hardware, with a noticeable niche in the laptop-tablet hybrid field; one that may alter both industries in the near future.

It is these types of revolutionary inventions that foster competition and discourage stagnation. Just as blackberry and the iPhone competed for the smartphone heavyweight battle, resulting in ever expanding advancements, this new tiniest laptop (yet bulky tablet), may lead to unimaginable advancements in the new industry it has created.

We will need to watch closely to see if Microsoft’s “tablets” will challenge Apple in areas far beyond those of tablet sales.

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

Google Glass: A Curse or a Blessing?

google glassYes, Alice, we’ve definitely fallen into the looking glass. Google’s most recent project, Google Glass, will delve far into the realm of science fiction, bringing Tony Stark, Iron Man-esque technology to the masses. The Google Glass project delivers a wearable computer system in the form of glasses, offering hands free messaging, photography, and video recording. Straight out of 007, this offers the ability to share everything you see, live, in real time: directions, reminders, the web – all seen through the lens, right in front of your face.

The glasses have a display in the top right corner of the frame, making endless information available at all times, and will reportedly connect with either your Android or iPhone implementing WiFi, 3g, and 4g coverage. These revolutionary specs won’t just be a piece of spectacular hardware; Google is negotiating with Warby Parker, a company which specializes in the sales of trendy glasses, in an attempt to bring infinite data while still looking fashionable.

The best part of Google’s Project Glass is that Google is currently allowing civilians, not developers, the opportunity to influence product development. Google declared, “We’re looking for bold, creative individuals who want to join us and be a part of shaping the future of Glass.” Applications are being accepted through the use of Google and Twitter, through the hashtag #ifihadglass.

While this idea of unlimited data being available even more easily than at your fingertips is revolutionary, it raises more than a few questions regarding privacy. The ability to record everything right in front of you, in real time, is a daunting thought, covering everything from being photographed at a cafe, to making videos in airports. Beyond the questionable “Glass etiquette” that will certainly develop over time, the prospect that Google and the government will be able to access users’ data is shattering.

If the Glass Project brings information right in front of your face, allowing you to communicate, to access the internet, contacts, etc., and share what you are seeing live, what will stop others from accessing your private information? Although a few decades late, Orwell’s 1984 has definitely caught up with us.

The issues that may arise from the mass production of Google Glass are met with equally impressive, revolutionary concepts around social networking and sharing. Glass would be the apex of social sharing, allowing people to be in constant contact, literally letting individuals step into other’s shoes, to view the world from a different point of view. You could be standing in New York’s Time Square and share and trade that experience with someone around the world, exploring the streets of Venice or Sydney, Australia. Such universal sharing would truly redefine the human experience.

At its best, this would also effect topics as broad as human rights and poverty – but the cost remains to be seen.Only time will tell if the Google Glass Project will be the vessel connecting mankind, Pandora’s box, or something in the middle.

Kelli Richards,

CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

The “New” Myspace: A Huge Flop

Justin Timberlake MyspaceThe rise and fall of MySpace has been pretty well documented – twice. In 2006 Google and MySpace reached a blockbuster deal, with MySpace allowing Google to advertise on its site in return for $900 million. The site was quickly bogged down with excessive advertisements, resulting in a slow, seemingly counterintuitive platform. These pitfalls were accentuated by Facebook’s ever-expanding clean and intuitive design. Even to the novice, MySpace was doomed and becoming quickly irrelevant. However, while Facebook has made MySpace an inferior product for almost all players, the latter has continued to provide substantial traffic in a unique niche – for aspiring and acknowledged musicians.

MySpace had recreated itself in the social networking industry as a way for musicians and fans to connect; for early releases, news and giveaways. So with the release on the “New MySpace,” in September of 2012 – stewarded by one of the leaders in music, Justin Timberlake – one would imagine that the company would expand on strengths, appealing to the only audience they had left. Well, they didn’t. Big mistakes were made. Instead of augmenting their niche in the music industry, the New MySpace disconnected from their prior self, forcing users to reconnect with every friend and band they were associated with on the “old” site. Britney Spears had around 1.5 million friends on the old MySpace; she now has fewer than 7,000 connections. Similarly Justin Timberlake, the creative director and a partner of the New MySpace, had about 1.5 million connections, and now has only 50,000.

So the question now is, can MySpace recover again? It is extremely difficult to see how they can. The errors are not only strategic, of course, the damage to their brand is almost beyond definition. The very last audience MySpace had, the music industry, now has little incentive to continue its use it. And where MySpace falls short, its biggest competitor, Facebook, has grown – gobbling up its real estate and users like PacMan chasing ghosts. Facebook is continuing to up the ante and grow its connections with sites like SoundCloud and Spotify, allowing for easy to use, intuitive sharing of music, targetting up-and-coming and well-known artists.

Today’s digital world is about conglomeration and collaboration, a worldwide effort towards expansion; and that is where the “Old” and the “New” MySpace BOTH fall short. As Facebook has embraced the production of applications from outside sources, MySpace stayed in-house. Shawn Gold, MySpace’s former head of marketing and content said, “MySpace went wide – and not deep enough – in its product development. We went with a lot of products that were shallow and not the best products in the world.”

And oh yes, they forgot to cater to their audience.

Kelli Richards,

CEO of The All Access Group, LLC

2012 Music Revenue: Time to Update Our Model

As 2013 starts to get under way, musicians and labels are starting to look back on 2012 to see how they faired. While the final numbers aren’t in yet, it appears that the music industry as a whole took a slight drop in album sales across digital and physical platforms. Preliminary Nielsen Soundscan data is showing a 4% drop in album sales, even with a 6% increase in digital downloads. This data can either be construed as good news or bad news depending on who you are and how you interpret it. Let’s start with the good news.

The good news is that the music industry is still here! It seems like every year the RIAA and the major labels are warning us that the music industry as we know it will be forced to shut down completely due to piracy and copyright infringement but so far that hasn’t been the case. As a matter of fact, total music purchases are at an all-time high, selling over 1.65 billion units in 2012 (a 3.1% increase from 2011.) This could be in part due to changing revenue streams and models, as evidenced by the increase in digital downloads. It’s important to note that Soundscan data doesn’t account for revenue from streaming, radio, or subscription based platforms such as Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Rhapsody, etc. On that note, let’s look at the bad news.

While music sales are at an all-time high, streaming and subscription based services are on the rise as well. Spotify topped 5 million paid subscribers in 2012 while cancelling their paid download service that they unveiled in Europe in 2009, though it never quite made it over to the U.S. This is troubling for artists and labels because paid downloads returned more money to them. Similarly, Pandora posted a record number of listener hours and increases in revenue from the year before. The bad news is that both of these services pay fractions of a penny per stream. As a matter of fact, it would take 140 plays on Spotify and 700 plays on Pandora to be equivalent to the royalties paid from one download.

Credit: http://www.DigitalMusicNews.com

 So with no shortage of eager listeners and customers, the labels and distributors must find a way to start fairly compensating artists once and for all. Album sales may drop and revenue models may change but without the artist, the music industry will really self destruct. Let’s hope that 2013 will bring great new content to consumers by using new technology while the new technology and distribution platforms find a way to stay afloat while playing fair.

Looking Forward in 2013,

Kelli Richards

CEO of The All Access Group LLC

Something Special About Apple and iOS

The special needs community is rarely the target demographic for the tech industry. Many of the wonderful new gizmos and gadgets that come out simply aren’t designed for them. There are an increasing number of companies that are developing products and technology to make computers and mobile devices more accessible for the special needs community, however – and one of those companies happens to be Apple, Inc.

Apple’s VoiceOver technology was introduced with OSX 10.5 – better known as “Tiger.” It’s an accessibility feature that allows blind or visually impaired users to interact with a computer through sound. A user can use the trackpad or keyboard to scroll through the applications on the docked menu at the bottom of the screen. It can literally read the user any text that’s displayed on the screen and allows users to edit text where applicable.

VoiceOver is also available on iOS devices such as the iPad. Visually impaired users have been incredibly receptive and appreciative of this, especially considering the fact that it’s a feature many other tablets and readers lack. As more and more publishing companies, universities, and corporations look to switch to readers and tablets in the future, accessibility features for the visually impaired certainly help Apple market its products as the superior choice amongst the competition.

Another feature that benefits the members of the special needs community is a new feature in iOS 6 called Guided Access. Guided Access allows parents and educators to “lock” onto an app so that children can’t accidentally exit out of it by pressing the home button. While this may seem like a very basic feature, it’s incredibly useful for children with Autism or learning disabilities who may become distracted or lose focus on tasks. There are a number of educational apps available in the App Store but it’s often hard for learning disabled students to stay focused on them long enough to actually benefit. With Guided Access, the task of keeping a child focused has gotten a little easier for teachers and parents.

While full accessibility is an on-going battle as technology continues to evolve, Apple is certainly taking steps in the right direction. Many other companies in Silicon Valley are taking their lead and continuing to improve accessibility features for different technologies and we hope to see this trend continue. My own time at Apple saw many of these technologies discussed and drawn out on desks and white boards under the tireless leadership and direction of my colleague Dr. Alan Brightman, who was Director of Apple’s WW Disability Solutions for 12 years; and is now a VP at Yahoo focusing on Global Accessibilty. To see these things come to life and create impact all around the world is simply astounding (then and now).

Kelli Richards,

CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

(Source: allaccessgroup.com)

The Cupertino Connection: iTunes 11 and iCloud

iTunes may be one of the best products that Apple ever developed, or at the very least, one of the smartest. Just a few weeks ago Apple released iTunes 11 with a myriad of visual and technical changes and improvements. iTunes will turn 12 years old in January, and in those years Apple has found a way to streamline, connect, condense, and centralize a user’s content and multimedia experience. With that in mind, I think it’s worth looking at a few of the existing features, the new ones in iTunes 11, and the future ones planned for next year to see just how they’ll continue to do that. First let’s look at how Apple already connects users and their content across multiple devices. One of the earliest features that did this was the “Library Sharing” feature that enables users to share their library across 5 devices connected to the same network using the same Apple ID. This was great because a user could have a whole collection on their desktop computer and access that same collection on their laptop. With this feature, users can also share content with other people on their WiFi network. A similar feature that’s been out for a few years is AirPlay. AirPlay allows users to stream media from one device across multiple devices on their WiFi network. For example, a user can start listening to an album or playlist in one room and stream it to their home stereo in their living room. Users can even adjust which devices are playing at what time and the volume of those individual devices. Apple TV even lets users stream a movie from their computer on their Apple TV. Of course, all of these devices are controllable with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad. Finally, with iTunes 11 and the updated iTunes store, all of a user’s downloads are automatically synced to the iCloud and accessible by any other iCloud capable device. This means a song downloaded in the iTunes store on your computer will be available on your iPod or iPhone. A similar service, iTunes Match, was released last year and allows users to pay an annual fee to have any of their music in their library uploaded to the iCloud, whether it was purchased or available in the iTunes store or not. These services could prove to be interesting competitors for Spotify, Rhapsody, Amazon, and other streaming/cloud based music delivery services. Lastly, Apple recently announced that it will launch its own streaming radio service to compete with Pandora in the first few months of 2013. Like the aforementioned services, it will be available across iPhones, iPods, iPads, Macs, and PC’s as part of iTunes. With all of these developments that have made Apple products so seamlessly integrated into a person’s life, it seems Tim Cook is moving forward to fulfill Steve Jobs’ goal of having an Apple device in every home. Cloud storage and online streaming is all the rage right now, and Apple’s solutions could prove to be big problems for its competitors. With so many solutions to a user’s content needs, why would they bother going elsewhere? Kelli Richards CEO of The All Access Group

(Source: allaccessgroup.com)

Beamz Interactive – Play Music with Ease and Add A Visual Element

Are you one of those people who thinks that they can’t play music or will never learn to play an instrument? I’ve heard people say things like “I’m too old now” or “I’m just not musically gifted.” Thanks to the great products from Beamz Interactive, you’ll never be able to use those excuses again. Beamz has created a great new interactive music system that uses lasers to enable users to create music.

Beamz is a great tool for anyone who wants to make music; from the seasoned veterans to the newcomers. It has over 100 instruments that can be arranged and triggered by breaking the light path of each beam with different gestures. With over 20 presets for different genres, fans of any music will be able to create, mix, and remix their own tracks or any number of the tracks that come pre-loaded.

With the spirit of giving so prevalent during the holidays, Beamz is giving away free interactive holiday songs as well as original songs created with their technology. They’ve got some great hardware and software bundles too. So if you’re thinking of buying a Beamz system, you can pick up Virtual DJ or Acid Music Studio as a nice stocking stuffer. For more info on that, head over to http://www.thebeamz.com/free-holiday-songs and check it out.

Happy Holidays,

Kelli Richards

CEO of The All Access Group

(Source: allaccessgroup.com)

The holiday season is upon us now that Thanksgiving has come and gone. If you’ve just surfaced from the post-Thanksgiving turkey overdose then you’ve already missed Black Friday, which is probably for the better. However, many e-commerce sites are extending Cyber Monday deals through the entire week. This blog isn’t going to tell you where to find the best deals or give you any general tips, but rather it will highlight the importance of Cyber Monday to the tech industry and its influence throughout the globe.

The term “Cyber Monday,” was first coined in 2005 by Shop.com as a parallel to Black Friday. Scott Silverman of Shop.com created the concept based on research that the Monday following Thanksgiving was the biggest online retail day of the year, presumably for anyone who missed out on Black Friday deals. In its first year, Cyber Monday generated over $600 million dollars in sales from U.S consumers. It has since grown to double that and is now “celebrated” in countries across the globe such as the U.K, Portugal, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia.

One of the reasons Cyber Monday has grown so steadily over the years is because the rapid advancements in tech. In 2005, few people were browsing Amazon.com on their cell phones, now however, more than 12% of Cyber Monday purchases are made from a mobile device. Similarly, the rate at which technology is released has sped up in every direction, meaning more cool new gadgets for people to buy. As online sales soar with Cyber Monday, some brick-and-mortar locations and small businesses have complained that the deals online are taking money away from local economies. The sad (and great) news is that really, as technology and e-commerce rapidly evolve, everyone along the retail trail will have to find a way to keep up.

So happy hunting! There are so many cool new products on the market – from the iPad Mini to the Kindle Fire to all the great new laptops that have come out. Hopefully you won’t go overboard and max out all your cards, though I know it can be tempting! Kelli Richards CEO of the All Access Group.

A Message of Thanks and Giving

Greetings everyone, With Thanksgiving almost here, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday, abundant with loved ones. One of the many things I’m grateful for is your definitely your friendship this past year. 2012 has been amazing and successful for me, and that definitely doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I continue to work on new and exciting things to foster that same success and abundance in your own companies and projects.

I am launching a new coaching program to help companies and brands adopt best practices and implement them into their goals and initiatives. If you’ve read my latest book, “The Magic and Moxie of Apple: An Insider’s View” then you’ll be familiar with some of these best practices (but not all of them). If you have struggled to hit your goals, successfully launch your projects, or create the relationships you need to truly move forward, this is the program for you.

A new, updated edition of my bestselling book “Taking the Crowd to the Cloud,” comes out on 12/12/12. This eBook will feature new chapters on Pinterest, the new Myspace, and on funding sources for musicians (and any of us with a great project that the “crowd” could get behind. In addition to the new chapters, I will be updating all of the book’s topics to account for updates and renovations on the various social networks, such as promoted posts on Facebook – and the ability to share video on Linkedin. While this book does cover some very advanced capabilities, I always endeavor to approach each space with a beginners eye, for those of us who need that point of view as well.

Best wishes,

Kelli Richards CEO of the All Access Group.

(Source: allaccessgroup.com)

One of the things that I do when I work with clients is help them find new revenue streams and funding sources. They’re two of the most important aspects when it comes to business growth and development. It’s not any different for musicians. If you want to take music from a hobby to a full-time job, you’re going to need funding to survive and support your music. One of the great ways to do this is through online crowd funding platforms.

Crowd funding is essentially like having a fundraiser but it can be utilized to raise money for new companies and projects. There are literally dozens of companies out there, each with their own pro’s and con’s, that help raise money through crowd funding. Some of the bigger ones are: IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and RocketHub. There are even crowd funding companies that focus exclusively on music such as ArtistShare, Sellaband, and PledgeMusic. One of the best and earliest examples of crowd funding is the rock band Marillion, who raised $60,000 for a U.S tour in 1997 and has since used it to fund the recording and marketing of 3 albums.

The over-arching premise is simple: fans donate what they can with different levels of donations that get different gifts. For example, a $10 donation will get a free copy of the CD they’re funding, a $25 donation gets a CD and a shirt, and a $50 dollar donation gets a CD, shirt, and personally autographed poster. Don’t sell yourself short, even in today’s economy people are willing to shell out the few extra bucks to help local music and get something cool in return. Who knows, those signed posters could be worth big money some day because they helped fund the album that made you famous!

Crowd funding is so much more than a simple fundraiser, it’s a really fantastic way to engage your fans. Many platforms allow, or even require, artists to post updates, pictures, videos, etc as a way of maintaining momentum during their campaign.

Will crowd funding replace traditional funding sources and revenue streams? Probably not; but they are a great way to get those precious few extra dollars that you need to record, produce, distribute, tour, film, etc. With crowd funding, you no longer need a major label budget to put out a great record. Simply ask your fans for help and everyone wins.

Kelli Richards, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC