Stitching screens augments experiences

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, televisions, even desktop computers – consumers have so many devices at their fingertips that it can be hard for brands to know where to start engaging. For brands looking to initiate conversations, how do they choose which platform to use, and what is the path to audience enchantment?

As we know, the reality is that consumers are increasingly using more than one device to explore content, digesting media across a number of different platforms. For a company like Microsoft, the challenge is not how we get consumers to pay attention to our screens and content, but how we stitch together content to create seamless experiences.

With Windows 8, we created a very simple, modern interface designed to transcend devices and create great experiences across multiple screens. But we also recognised that there are very different platforms, each with its own unique offering. The key to unlocking the power of multi-screen experiences is not about having several devices competing with each other for eyeballs, but augmenting experiences and ensuring that each platform complements the other. We want to build canvasses that enhance the utility and creative possibility of content, in a way that could simply not be done if consumers and brands were locked to a single device.

Windows 8 devices
Windows 8 devices

June 03, 2013
Windows 8 has a simple, modern intreface designed to transcend devices and create great experiencesacross multiple screens

A good example is when people are watching a big moment on TV – something like the final of The X Factor or an important football match. In years gone by you would be constrained to the sofa, with a single screen in front of you, but now consumers will pick up their smartphone or tablet and share their thoughts with friends on social networks. They might also vote online for the contest winner or check what’s going on in other matches, followed by one of those magic moments at work the next day where everyone shares their take on the good, bad and ugly of the previous night’s performance.

We spend a lot of time thinking about different platforms and experiences, and how they’re stitched together. Microsoft has been on a long journey with devices and, in particular, with TV. Years ago, we would’ve spoken about three screens – TV, PC and phone – and about how to replicate one experience on each device. We still talk about those three screens, but realise that consumers want a different experience true to the device they’re using, despite accessing the same content.

Microsoft recently conducted its Cross-screen Engagement Research, looking at how consumers indulge in their connected experience. We found several distinct multi-screening journeys consumers take, from sharing information with others on social networks to using a separate screen to delve deeper into content. According to our study, 70 per cent of UK consumers are ‘content grazers’, using more than one device at a time, so brands need to think about extending and augmenting experiences across platforms. A disjointed journey will leave consumers cold and switch off their attention.

The next step in multi-screen is to think about not just the device the consumer is using, but where they’re using it, on both a micro and macro level. On a macro level, where in the world are they? But on a micro-level, are they in the kitchen, the living room or the bedroom? This year, we’re going to stop talking about mobile as a combination of both tablet and phone, instead splitting the two platforms and acknowledging that they’re different things that get used in very different ways. The device will give you the key to how the content can be provided and how the experience can be integrated together.

We’ve had some fascinating conversations about technology like Zeebox, which listens to and learns from your behaviour, and how it could be used to build a really incredible digital experience. I was reading The Hobbit to my young son recently, and thought “wouldn’t it be great if I could use another device to bring this to life for him?” There’s no reason why I couldn’t be reading him a story at bedtime, with him holding a tablet. As I read, the tablet recognises what I’m reading and begins a digital experience around the paper book. As it figures out where I am in the story, it starts drawing out a map of Middle Earth or showing pictures.

Increasingly, when we talk about the digital experience, we talk about screens, but there’s no reason why books and other analogue parts of our lives couldn’t be brought to life by these kinds of technologies, too. For brands, the challenge will be ensuring that the consumer journey is stitched together in a relevant, contextual way.