The Battle for Mindshare

Microsoft surprised us earlier this week when a Windows 10 event geared toward the press turned into a full demonstration of the company's augmented reality computing platform. Judging by headlines, those in attendance were impressed. 

  • The Verge: "Up close with the HoloLens, Microsoft's most intriguing product in years"
  • The New Yorker: "HoloLens: Microsoft Finally Does Something Interesting"
  • Business Insider: "I Just Tried Microsoft's Remarkable Holographic Headset - Here's What It's Like"
  • Fast Company: "Hands on with Microsoft's HoloLens: Windows in its most daring and unexpected form"
  • The New York Times: "Microsoft HoloLens: A Sensational Vision of the PC's Future"

Microsoft was after one thing by revealing Windows Holographic and HoloLens: relevancy. In that regard, the event was a success. To be part of the conversation and debate over the future of computing was more valuable than anything else announced during the presentation. The Verge produced a good 4 minute video of the event, and it only took 25 seconds before the discussion turned towards HoloLens. The most popular video on Microsoft's YouTube channel was the HoloLens introduction with 7 million views, 100x more views than the Windows 10 highlight video. Not only has Microsoft been using this tactic for years (from the CES keynote playbook), but it is becoming a trend across the tech industry as there seems to be uneasiness over what will be the next big thing.  

Mindshare represents accomplishment in consumer technology. Google's success in search turned the company name into a verb describing the act of searching the web or simply looking for information. Instagram's name became synonymous with uploading and sharing photos. Amazon spent years buying competitors in an effort to stay financially on top of the growing e-commerce mindshare game. Apple's iPod, iPad, and to an extent, iPhone, became household names used interchangeably with competing products from the same gadget category. However, like most things, mindshare evolves over time. The ideas of search and e-commerce are changing in a mobile world. Digital music trends are shifting, as seen with Apple buying Beats. 

We are now at a point where the giants are looking to take the next big step, but instead of figuring it out when no one is looking, many of them have resorted to using a megaphone to announce their intention loudly and clearly regarding where they are stepping and why they are on the right path. Does the next "big thing" deal with virtual reality, augmented reality, Internet of Things, or all of them? The current debate doesn't even seem to be about the technology, but rather about the players and who will lead the way. Larger companies are battling to remain part of the conversation and to demonstrate that relevancy hasn't been stolen by smaller, more nimble companies. Does fighting for mindshare with early prototypes and ideas that aren't quite ready for prime time take the place of execution, intuition, and design when it comes to success? In the race for mindshare, many companies seem to be forgetting where the finish line is located.