Volkswagen Masters the Viral Video

Great viral videos are hard to come by, but Volkswagen (or rather ad agency DDB Stockholm) appears to have hit the bullseye. Their new campaign “The Fun Theory” is a series of experiments, captured on video, to find out if making the world more fun can improve people’s behavior. The top video, Piano Stairs, has achieved over 1 million views on YouTube – I can’t count how many times friends have shared it this week.

Among the experiments: does turning a set of subway stairs into a real-life piano encourage people to use them (answer: yes, 66% more). Another experiment asks whether making a trash can sound like a 50ft-deep well will make people pick up their trash. An upcoming experiment, meanwhile, will turn a bottle recycling center into an arcade game.

The brand placement is as subtle as it could possibly be: a simple VW logo dropped in at the end. And yet the content carries that logo all around the web, as tens of thousands of people pass around the video, along with their positive associations for the VW brand. Isn’t that the definition of a perfect brand campaign?

Hands-on with the Zune HD

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Can Microsoft’s latest Zune, the Zune HD, take down the king? It depends on which king you’re talking about. As it stands, the iPod Touch is a whole different beast because of the App Store. What Microsoft has done with the Zune HD is nothing short of spectacular, but who is it really competing with? My BlackBerry can play videos and show me pictures taken on a recent trip. The HTC Hero and/or myTouch 3G can stream music from the likes of last.fm or Slacker. I can download MP3s from my iPhone. Everything the Zune HD does, I’ve been able to do with a slew of different devices that I already own.

You see, the features that the Zune team has been touting don’t interest me much. I don’t really care to see an artist’s bio, their pictures or anything of that nature. Sure, the modified IE browser is nice and works great, but I want to know how deeply integrated the Zune HD is going to be with other Microsoft devices like the Xbox 360. I don’t need to fork over extra cash for an HD dock to stream 720p content onto my TV. I can already do that through my Xbox 360, FiOS and whatever content is stored on my NAS. Tell me what the plans are for the next six months. Tell me when the damn thing is actually going to launch.

With that being said, please enjoy the short video that I took of the Zune HD in action. One thing I failed to capture was the on-screen keyboard. MS has taken a different twist, which may or may not be unique to the Zune HD, but it’s different than most other on-screen keyboards that I’ve seen. Unlike the iPhone (or any other device that lacks a physical keyboard) when you’re tapping away at the Zune HD’s on-screen keyboard; characters don’t pop up by themselves. Tap a character and its neighboring chums to the right and left will create a small arch with the center character popping up just a little more than the rest. It seemed to work well, but the firmware isn’t final so I’m unable to fully comment.

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The only other misstep I noticed was with the home button and Internet browser. When you’re navigating through every other feature of the Zune HD, a single tap of the home button brings you back to the main page, but when tapping the home button from within the browser it chorks hard. It takes two or three taps to get back to the home screen. But, again, the Zune HD I took a look at was definitely not final in any way. Also, the Wi-Fi at our meeting location was spotty.

Things are looking good for Microsoft and the Zune team with the HD, but I’m still waiting to hear what they have in store for the device because everything else is old hat.

Google Offers Optimized Search for Mobile Phones

One of our top goals on the mobile search team is to bring you the comprehensiveness of Google’s web search while optimizing the search experience for your mobile device and in your language. Here is an update on our progress.

After launching new optimized search results pages last December for iPhone and Android-powered devices in the US, our team has been working hard to bring universal search results to more devices in more countries. In March, we expanded the availability of the new iPhone and Android format to over 20 countries. Since then, we’ve also launched the new experience for feature phones in the US and in Japan. Today, we’re happy to announce that the new format is available on all device models in over 60 countries and 38 languages.

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Windows 7 Goes On Sale October 22

windows_7_graphicMicrosoft has announced Windows 7 will officially go on sale to consumers on October 22, 2009.

Microsoft has been consistently saying it plans to release the next version of its flagship desktop operating system, Windows 7, before the end of 2009—and computer maker Acer spilled some beans a month ago by saying it expected to launch Windows 7-equipped PCs in October—but now the word as finally come down: Windows 7 will go on sale to consumers on October 22, 2009.

Microsoft posted a release candidate of Windows 7 last month to the general public, inviting Windows users—or at least Windows users with a lot of bandwidth—to download and try out the operating system for free. Response to the RC has generally been positive, with the broader Windows community seemingly eager to put Vista behind them and move on to Windows 7. Windows 7 offers a number of technology, performance, and interface enhancements, but is based on the same fundamental design and architecture as Vista.

Consumers’ eagerness to move on from Vista mirrors many enterprises’ and organizations’ hesitations about Vista: although Microsoft claims Vista sales have been strong, many enterprise customers have skipped Vista entirely, sticking with the ever-aging Windows XP. Those organizations have long since been expected to skip Vista entirely, opting for Windows 7 instead as they bring in new hardware and get the operating system certified with their operations.

Microsoft hasn’t announced any plans, but the company is widely expected to offer some sort of rebate or discounted upgrade program for new buyers of Windows Vista or systems pre-loaded with Vista so as not to cannibalize new PC sales in the interval before Windows 7 ships. Specific details of any rebate or discount program will likely vary between computer makers; industry watchers don’t expect Microsoft to offer any stepped-down path ti Windows 7 for Windows XP or Windows Vista Basic users.

Microsoft Project Natal Xbox 360 Controller-Free Gaming

At last Microsoft has unveiled most rumored and interesting Project Natal motion controller for Xbox 360 console, in E3 press conference at Los Angeles. Natal is a gadget fully hands-free control system, embedded with motion control sensors. This highly fictional technology used complex facial recognition technique, biometrics and captures each and every individual movement of the body.
Natal allows users to play video games more lively without touching hardware and control games with their body gestures. More than one user can interact at a time with this device. Microsoft says that Natal is capable to work with previous, current, and future versions of the Xbox 360.

According to the company device will not be released in year 2009 and no information is available regarding its price. So, let’s see when it comes to hit the market.