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Microsoft Photosynth — Transparency Works

A year ago, I never would have imagined I'd be writing two posts back to back about the vision at Microsoft. But they're doing a great job on a number of fronts right now, the big one being that they're getting just the right messages to the media, timed expertly.

This time, it's about Photosynth. You can find the TED demo here. The gist is this: through a beautifully architected set of algorithms, they're discovering networks in visual imagery just as the web makes apparent networks of semantic data in text. In the demo, Microsoft Labs researcher Blaise Aquera y Arcas shows the technology off with all photos tagged "Notre Dame." The result is -- in a word -- stunning.

I updated a talk I give pretty regularly on the new nature of marketing relationships and delivered it again just last Friday. It's a fun presentation to give to small- to medium-sized organizations, those predominantly based on sales-not-marketing communication models, because it gives me the opportunity to teach a bit on the changing nature of the business. As I was updating the deck to prepare, inserting messages all aligned around the move from big-business brute force marketing through money to developing the relationships organizations have through more open communication, I realized suddenly that I was talking about Microsoft.

See, this notion of transparency is working for Microsoft. It started with Channel 9 some years back, and continues with Labs: the notion that this gigantic company is working on something more than just Windows, just Office, that there's something out there to look forward to -- this drives massive amounts of discussion. It's the new version of lock-in: I'm less likely to switch platforms when I see that this organization is driving amazing new technology that I'll get to play with someday.

Take a look at the results. Technorati alone is tracking nearly 3,000 blog posts this morning around Photosynth. Most of the descriptors end with something like "...simply amazing," with the exception of one including a "badass."

This demonstrates the power of creating your own discussion in spades. It doesn't have to be flashy. It doesn't have to be expensive. It simply has to be honest and accurate.