The Future Is Software – This Week, Anyway

This week Microsoft and Apple made it clear that software is the new hardware. For the time being.

Microsoft is buying the business-oriented social network LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in cash, and Apple is pivoting away from its slow-selling laptops, tablets, and smartphones to focus on improving its software.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella called the purchase of LinkedIn key to the company’s corporate image building – a way to reinvent productivity and business processes. “How people find jobs, build skills, sell, market, and get work done and ultimately find success requires a connected professional world.”

LinkedIn has more than 433 million members in 200 countries, which means Microsoft will now own one of the largest social networks in the world.

That bold move is almost matched by the decision of the notoriously-proprietary Apple to allow outside developers access to some of its key apps, including Siri and iMessage. The thinking is that an infusion of fresh innovation will make the iPhone seem, well, fresh again.

Corporate image building aside, the moves by Microsoft and Apple are also smart public relations strategies that allow the companies to prove they can expand beyond their hardware offerings and more fully welcome software developers (Apple) and social media (Microsoft).

Both companies suffer from software that is – as the tech folks like say – “buggy,” so there’s some heavy lifting to be done before LinkedIn fully integrates with Microsoft and outside developers fully integrate with Apple’s closed culture. And it remains to be seen whether Apple and Microsoft can leverage these public relations moves to create more value.

Given that 60% of LinkedIn’s $2.9 billion in revenue comes from services sold to HR departments, that only 25% of users use the service each month, and that just a sliver of users pay for LinkedIn’s premium service, where does Microsoft expect to find growth?

The New York Times reported on Monday that “Apple is under pressure to fix its software and online services, which have become increasingly important to consumers. Apple has a lot of catching up to do … [because most of its] noteworthy … features [are] already offered by other internet companies, namely Amazon and Google.”

Microsoft and Apple have plenty of cash to devote to the secret sauces that will make these initiatives pay off. But tech consumers can be fickle – just ask Blackberry, MySpace, and whoever invented QR codes and laser discs – so neither venture is a sure thing.

The Knight Canney Group is betting, however, that Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella are – to paraphrase Lady Gaga – optimists, spontaneous, and ready to take the rapidly-evolving, software-centric tech world by storm.

ICELAND: PR Savvy And Connected To The World

Iceland: PR Savvy and Connected to the World. Who knew?

How can a whole country be PR and marketing savvy? The country in question is Iceland. It helps that the entire population is fewer than 333,000, and that more than two thirds of that population is concentrated in the business-centric capital of Reykjavik and its immediate environs. Despite centuries of seclusion from the rest of the world, modern Iceland may be the most connected place on Earth. Nearly 97% of the population can access the Internet and is busy spreading invitations to come visit and invest.

More than one million people—nearly three times the country’s population—now visit Iceland every year.

Recently, I was one of them. A business trip with lots of pleasure thrown in, found me in Iceland for six days. From the quirky and appealing factoids displayed on in-flight screens by Icelandair.

(“Despite their obsession with modern technology, 80% of the population believes in elves, trolls, and ghosts.”) to the visitor-friendly, multi-lingual service economy, Iceland is on a mission to make visitors—and investors—feel welcome. (WOW Airlines may have the PR edge, however, with its co-promotion with Tinder. “Flirt your way to Iceland.”)

As the country emerges from its 2008 financial collapse, there is still uncertainty regarding the pending lifting of capital controls. The controls are credited with stabilizing the currency, but also are blamed for hampering foreign investment. That investment is beginning to increase.

In the meantime, it seems that public relations and marketing in the realm of encouraging tourism and investment has become everyone’s business.

A visit to the Iceland Ocean Cluster is a prime example. The creation of Dr. Thor Sigfússon, its founder and CEO, the Iceland Ocean Cluster is all about creating greater value in marine-related industries, but it does so primarily by connecting people. Yes, there’s research, invention, and innovation, but those efforts are allowed to incubate and prosper, by making the right connections through networking, tours, and consultation. Investors find what excites them, what’s compatible with their interests and industry, while entrepreneurs find the means to realize their vision for adding value to the marine economy.

What they do at the Iceland Ocean Cluster is covered by media outlets as diverse as Iceland Fishing News Magazine and HA Magazine on Icelandic Design and Architecture.

And Sigfússon has exported his idea to the U.S. He and a local business partner in Maine will open the New England Ocean Cluster House in 2016.

With the possibility of an Arctic route opening a shorter more direct trade path to Asia (thanks, I’m afraid, to the warming climate), Iceland is poised to connect to the rest of the world in ways it never has before. The country with the oldest parliamentary government (est. 930 by its Viking forefathers) is turning out to be the newest big thing.