Microsoft Envisions “One Microsoft”, Instagram Adds Web Embed Codes, Secret.li, Out of the Box Festival

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Top Story: “One Microsoft”

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That was the subject line of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s internal email to the entire company yesterday, which subsequently announced a major company overhaul that will bring all divisions under one united strategy.

“Although we will deliver multiple devices and services to execute and monetize the strategy, the single core strategy will drive us to set shared goals for everything we do,” wrote Ballmer. “We will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands.”

The changes include shifting senior management in a way that will allow senior managers to work together across all categories- from game consoles, mobile devices and PCs to services such as the cloud. Microsoft will be organized by function: Engineering, Marketing, Business, Development and Evangelism, Advanced Strategy and Research, Finance, HR, and Legal and COO. The company intends to give deeper focus to its engineering systems, processes and tools such as OS, apps, cloud and devices. New personnel changes and re-structuring of company divisions aim to settle the rivalries that have developed between them. Ballmer hopes that these new divisions will effectively force Microsoft’s groups to work together in completing products.

Ballmer’s e-mail also introduced a refocus on Microsoft’s core values. He highlighted the values of nimbleness, communication, collaboration, decisiveness and motivation given the shortening time frame for product releases in an ultra competitive market. Microsoft has been criticized for being late in their release of smartphones and tablets. In addition, its Bing search engine is far behind Google and loses billions of dollars a year for Microsoft. Perhaps this revolution is coming at a much-needed point in time for the company.

 

Under the Radar: Instagram Adds Embedding Capability

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The hype about Instagram isn’t slowing down, as the image sharing company just released web embed codes on Wednesday. Users are now able to easily embed photos and videos on their websites to share their favorite content.

A new share button on the right side of a photo will appear when users visit an Instagram photo or video on their computers. Clicking the button will bring up an embed code that users can copy and paste into a blog, website, or article. The photo or video will show up once the user hits publish.

The new embed codes ensure that Instagram users receive credit for all their photos and videos if someone else decides to share their content. The embedded content will appear with the user’s username, and a clickable Instagram logo will take people to the user’s page on Instagram.com to see more photos and videos.

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Adding embed codes of course does not affect the privacy of photos and videos. According to an Instagram blog post, “Nothing has changed.” If a user’s account is private, people will not be able to share their content unless the user changes their privacy settings.

The new feature is helping news organizations, brands, and creative professionals enhance their Instagram experiences and interact with people outside of Instagram. It allows businesses that already embed tweets and vines to share Instagram photos and videos as well. This feature is especially useful for news companies posting image-oriented content of breaking events.

Company spokeswoman Tiffany Testo said, “A sports publication can take you behind the scenes at a game with videos or photos from the athletes,” “a news organization can provide a real-time view into a breaking news event,” or “a magazine can bring their readers behind the scenes at a fashion show or Hollywood event.”

The new web embeds will amplify Instagram’s web presence as people begin sharing photos and videos online. How do you think web embeds will impact online content sharing?

 

Tool of the Week: Secret.li

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Ephemeral picture messaging is on fire. The front-runner and leading app in self-destructing image messaging is Snapchat with more than 8 million users. Facebook jumped on the temporary photo bandwagon with Poke, a Snapchat competitor, though not nearly as widely used. Now, a new photo vanishing service has been added to the growing list: an iOS app called Secret.li.

The app lets users “timebomb” selected Facebook friends with photos that disappear into the abyss after a pre-set time period—regardless of whether they have been viewed. Sounds almost identical to Snapchat, right? Don’t jump to conclusions. There are a few twists that make Secret.li unique and innovative in the vanishing picture messages field.

Secret.li distinguishes itself from Snapchat by never storing any “clear” images on its network or Facebook. Users can choose a visual encryption style to apply to their photo, allowing it to be partially or entirely disguised before the recipient views it. Secret.li hopes that the visual encryption feature will appeal to brands with the idea that they can tease followers with masked imagery and encourage them to view the full photo. As we’ve seen with other social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, brand fans enjoy the game of unwrapping a visual gift in addition to engaging with brands on a personal basis.

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Another distinguishing factor between Secret.li and Snapchat is a self-destructing timer that starts as soon as the photo is posted rather than when the recipient opens it. Unlike Snapchat’s 1-10 second timer, photos can be set to last either one hour, one day, or one month. Secret.li will also allow users to select and post photos from their gallery, not just photos that are snapped through the app alone.

The founders of the new app believe that the service will appeal to a broader audience than most ephemeral messaging apps. They capitalize on Facebook’s privacy weaknesses, which concern users who post innocuous photos that may involve drinking or “mature” socializing. Teens and job-seekers are urged to think about the possible implications of posting risky Facebook photos and how it may hurt their chances of landing acceptance letters from colleges or job offers. Secret.li provides an alternative to perpetually keeping those shots on Facebook and prevents the possibility for them to come back and haunt users. Privacy can return to app users’ control, and the worries associated with sharing certain photos on Facebook can be erased.

Do you think Secret.li will replace Snapchat?

 

Around the Hub: Outside the Box Festival offers 9 days of free fun

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We’ve all heard the expression that the best things in life are free. Any Bostonians who have yet to experience the wonderful truth of that statement will have their chance beginning this weekend. The first annual Outside The Box festival commences this Saturday and runs until July 21. The best part? It’s free!

Outside The Box will transform public areas, such as the Boston Common and City Hall, into performance spaces. More than 200 arts, music, food, technology, children’s entertainment, dance, and innovation events will present the very best of Boston and Massachusetts. The goal of the festival is to help showcase Boston as a strong performing arts leader.

“The one thing that seems to get lost is Boston’s amazing arts and cultural efforts,” says Philanthropist and Founder Ted Cutler. “Boston should be thought of as a leader in the arts, because of the wonderful institutions here. We have the significant history of supporting artists and the arts and we need a way to showcase that part of our city. Outside The Box will be that forum.”

So what exactly can we expect at this nine-day-long arts extravaganza? Well, quite a lot! The festival will be a foodie’s paradise, a concert go-er’s dream, and a dancer’s sanctuary. Take a look below at our food, music, and dance picks to look out for.

 

Food

The Fork Lift Food Festival from July 18-21 at City Hall Plaza will make your mouth water and work up your appetite. Tasting samples, cooking demos, book signings, and other exciting tidbits from local restaurants, chefs, wineries, breweries, and food trucks will demonstrate the tasty delight of Boston’s food scene.

 

Music

Infectious music from local musicians such as Gentleman Hall and Adam Jensen will fill the air with catchy beats and tunes. Boston native band Gentleman Hall is set to perform July 18 at 8 p.m. The group was named MTV’s best breakout band in 2009, and their pop song “Sail into the Sun” has been featured in recent Samsung and Target commercials. Boston Singer Adam Jensen will rock the stage from 6:00-7:15 p.m. on July 19. Jensen has performed alongside Bon Jovi, Train, and Kid Rock and is nominated for “2013” Songwriter of the Year” by the New England Music Awards. His “Head on a String” EP reached #7 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter chart.

 

Dance

An eclectic mix of dance groups will plie, shimmy, and break it down with various performances. Don’t miss the diverse stunt of Floorlords Crew as they blend African, merengue, salsa, tap, and jazz or the classic routines filled with twirls, leaps, and pas-de-chats of Boston Ballet School.

 

The Outside the Box festival has vast mix of events that’s bound to have something for everyone. What events are you most looking forward to?