The Dressler Blog

When you build digital stuff all day, you develop opinions. Lots of opinions.


Digital Trends

Apple only obscenely profitable. It’s been a tough Q2 for our friends in Cupertino. But “tough” is relative. They only made $10.5 billion in profit. But that’s down from $13.6 billion in profit for the same quarter last year. So, is this a sign of the apocalypse? The great tech-tastrophe that some observers have been predicting ever since the passing of the late Steve Jobs? Not likely. Maybe their latte is starting to lose some of its froth, but Apple remains a ridiculous profitable and successful company. What does seem clear, despite CFO Luca Maestri’s happy talk, is that the iWatch has not proven itself the next explosive-growth product in the Apple pipeline. Application to Marketing: With declining sales in both China and the Americas (Apple’s two largest market), it’s appropriate to ask if the market for a premium smartphone has reached saturation. Cheaper Android handsets continue to gobble up market share, particularly overseas and in lower income domestic markets. Marketers need to start taking a hard look at their iOS-first approach to app development. The mass market is elsewhere. Next steps: Your CEO has an iPhone. Your customers have Android phones. Who are you really making the app for? Read More Technology goes skin deep. So far wearables have been long on hype and short on successes. You can attribute that to bad products, bad rollout or bad press, but I think the big failure has been the predictable form factors. Google glass was just a set of remarkably unattractive eyeglasses and the iWatch is, well, a watch. Not much innovation to see here. Now, researchers at the University of Tokyo are experimenting with e-skin, a super thin and flexible material that can contain very thing electrical connections. Other groups have experimented with e-skin in the past, but the Tokyo group has improved performance, longevity and power consumption. Application to Marketing: At present, nothing. E-skins and digital tattoos are still the stuff of science fiction. But consumers are going to become less understanding about the size and weight of their personal computing devices in the future. A skincare brand or a nicotine patch manufacturer may find an early marketing application for e-skin. But it’s not going to happen soon. Next steps: The article below suggests we may begin to see commercial application of e-skin by 2020. That feels optimistic.rstand something specific. Then I allow myself to get distracted by other, interesting topics. I encourage you to do the same. Read More AI for all. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and IBM have been buying up artificial intelligence researchers at a ridiculous rate. AI principles are already helping these companies recognize faces, respond to internet queries and recognize commands spoken into a smartphone. Let us leave aside the big question of whether or not this is truly “intelligence” in any form. The fact remains that something revolutionary is happening in computer science and that it is closely tied to the abilities of neural networks. Elon Musk (of SpaceX and Tesla) and Sam Altman of Y Combinator have watched the development and corporatization of AI with misgivings. Both men believe that AI represents a credible threat to mankind. But they believe that the best way to control that threat is to open source cutting edge AI research, rather than allowing corporations to guard it as private IP. Having attracted a group of like-minded researchers from the top companies in Silicon Valley, they have launched OpenAI. OpenAI will be a research lab dedicated to studying and sharing AI technologies. Application to Marketing: The failure to recognize patterns in digital environments is holding marketing back. We cannot recognize the patterns of a real user vs. a bot. We cannot recognize the patterns of an individual user when they are not accessing technology through their usual device. We cannot recognize the inputs that turn a browser into a purchaser. Digital technology was supposed to allow a calculable return on investment for the first time. Instead, random streams of data have hopelessly muddied the waters. Instead of trusting Google and Facebook to generously share their information, we should be working with companies like OpenAI. Next steps: It’s dismaying that no leaders in the marketing industry seem to be focused on neural networks. Still trying to catch up with the last technological revolution, I guess. Read More Chill with the Chatbots Suddenly, chatbots are everywhere. And goodness, they are annoying. For a chatbot to successfully handle some basic task, say searching for a flight or ordering a pizza, a huge amount of quite complex natural language processing needs to take place. Otherwise, chatbots conversations more closely resemble a lost Samuel Beckett play, misunderstanding and non sequitur conspire to an uncertain end. While chatbots have been successful in China, some observers believe that non-native Chinese speakers are actually missing the fact that many “chatbot” interfaces are actually much more conventional. For example, some chatbots feature multiple choice questions embedded into a chat to make simple transactions simpler. Application to Marketing: If your CEO demands a chatbot, don’t be shy about integrating some old-school interface elements to make it run smoothly. Don’t be a purist about this. If your CEO is not demanding a chatbot, don’t bring it up. Yet. Natural language processing is another things neural networks do very well. Once the neural cloud goes live, true chatbots will be a more realistic possibility. Next steps: Give chatbots a couple more years to work on their issues. Read More

Give us your email to sign up for our weekly Dressler Digital Trends. Stop trying to keep up and start getting ahead.