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Online gains increase pressure on Store Reinvention
Returning from the MICROS User Conference, after speaking on the imperative of the Cloud in Retail, I find myself hopeful - even enthusiastic - for the future of stores.

After the release of ComScore's ecommerce growth metrics last week, this may be a surprise. 17% growth in Q1 in the ecommerce channel is clear evidence that online channel growth is accelerating at the expense of bricks and mortar sales. Given retailers' hesitance to dramatically rethink their store systems architecture en masse, the bad news may come with the silver lining - dramatic change has to happen to survive.

YouCommerce versus Multi-Channel
We are no longer talking about multi-channel. In the era of YouCommerce shoppers are hyperconnected, moving fluidly across digital touchpoints, social networks, ecommerce storefronts, devices, and store locations, with many of these touchpoints overlapping.

Should it matter where a customer purchases as long as the touchpoints are integrated and consistent, and the collective cost of engagement through those touchpoints justifies the investment?

The 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival has arrived....and if you don't find yourself in the South of France, sipping champagne and rubbing elbows with the elite, there's still hope for you to enjoy this year's event.

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Daily on-demand video coverage and film trailers from this year's Cannes Film Festival to the Festival's global audience are available to the Festival's global audience at www.festival-cannes.com.

As Festival organizers embrace the digital age and all the opportunities it presents, fans and film enthusiasts can experience the atmosphere and excitement of the globally-recognized film festival alongside those actually attending the event. For the second year in the Festival's history, red carpet events, new films, movie trailers and related on-demand content will be offered via streaming to iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices across the Akamai Intelligent Platform's HD Network.  

Jennifer Donovan is Senior Manager of Public Relations at Akamai
It's no secret that the proliferation of new devices in the marketplace and the resulting platform fragmentation, has created numerous challenges for content providers who are trying to satisfy customer demand for anytime, anywhere access to content. In the last quarter alone Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones and 11.8 million iPads, while Samsung sold 46.9 million smartphones. Throw in Android tablets, RIM devices, desktop systems and laptops, gaming consoles and connected TVs; and it is easy to understand how providers are struggling to deal with the range of delivery formats. This problem is further compounded for those companies that need to distribute content securely. As it stands today there are also numerous DRM solutions on the marketing including Flash Access, PlayReady, Widevine, OMA and Marlin, adding cost and complexity for providers who are trying to figure the best way to address this challenge.

This sentiment was echoed at the recently held NAB conference, where providers indicated that one of the biggest growing concern for companies that need to securely distribute content to the widest number of consumers is indeed device fragmentation.

As the leading cloud platform for helping enterprises provide a secure user experience, Akamai has always been actively engaged in solving the most pressing challenges facing M&E companies. Our message to content providers has always been, "tell us your business model, the devices you're trying to reach, how you want to distribute your content, and we'll pick the best blend of technologies to help you achieve your goals and reach the widest number of devices possible."

Akamai has the same goal when it comes to content security. The reality is that the DRM market is going to remain fragmented for some time, which makes it important for companies to build a common layer for managing and deploying services across the various platforms. This ask is neither small nor cheap for providers, so we're working to create one standard product and interface using the Akamai Intelligent Platform that will interact with the DRM interface of our customers - helping them to distribute in any format they require.

At Akamai we're committed to reducing the complexities and cost for providers in an increasingly fragmented media universe, through the development of innovative technology and partnering with key players in the industry on the challenges that really matter for our customers. Akamai is a founding member of the DASH Promoter's Group, and we provide full support for UltraViolet and other emerging standards that require security for premium content combined with ease of use and a seamless consumer experience. This is an integral part of our efforts across the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) to continue the dialogue not just on security solutions, but standards, and together move the industry faster forward.

Shawn Michels is a Senior Product Manager at Akamai

Two things are pretty undeniable when it comes to mobile.

One is that "online" activity (which is a pretty archaic term - most of us don't "go online" anymore; we're already there nearly all the time, even before we get out of bed in the morning) is shifting toward mobile.  Whether you look at the Cisco Visual Networking Index, or the comprehensive, though now somewhat dated, Morgan Stanley Mobile Internet Report, or any of the hundreds of other indicators - mobile traffic is growing exponentially and shows no signs of leveling anytime soon.

The other is that available bandwidth (or, more properly, "spectrum") to deliver mobile experiences is at a premium.  Earlier this month, for instance, Verizon revealed in an FCC filing that without additional spectrum allocation, they will begin to run out of "4G" LTE spectrum by 2013.  Yes, that's right - 4G spectrum will begin to be a scarce resource starting next year.  4G, that new fancy high-speed spectrum that power users covet and that Apple just began to support with its new iPad.

We, as users of mobile devices of all shapes and sizes, are voracious.  We've collectively discovered the convenience and value of accessing web sites and using apps wherever we roam, our expectations are higher than they are for desktop sites, and we want more.  Much more.

Clearly, this unprecedented demand is forcing a radical response.  Mobile network companies are building out capacity as rapidly as they can.  Designers of mobile web sites and apps are doing what they can to "lighten" the amount of data required to deliver meaningful sites and apps that are still highly engaging for users.  But there's only so much that can be done to reduce data payloads before designers start to cut into the user experience.

Our belief is that the best approach to an improved mobile experience is a layered one.  Certainly, working diligently to reduce the data associated with a mobile web page or data payload for a native app is a critical step toward improving mobile performance.  But there's quite a bit more that can be done.

With today's launch of Aqua Mobile Accelerator, Akamai has improved how mobile data is accelerated for companies delivering content and applications, helping improve mobile experiences for consumers and business users of both cellular and Wi-Fi connections. Additionally, Akamai's recent acquisition of Blaze will introduce new front-end optimizations to further reduce data payloads and the number of requests necessary to deliver a mobile web page, resulting in even faster delivery time. And our partnership with Ericsson continues to develop an end-to-end solution that will benefit users where they need it the most - within mobile networks.

The promise of what mobile technology can deliver is still coming into focus.  It's extraordinary how much has come to fruition in such a short time.

And we're just getting started.

M.J. Johnson is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Akamai

Open-Sourcing Mobitest

I'm excited to announce that today we're open-sourcing Mobitest!

We always saw Mobitest as a community tool. Following the acquisition, we raised the idea of open-sourcing it to the relevant people in Akamai, and it was immediately accepted. And so, roughly a month after the acquisition, we're ready to share the code with the world!

Mobitest? Huh?
If you're not familiar with it, here's a short recap on Mobitest. Mobitest is a unique technology able to measure page load times on real mobile devices. It offers detailed performance information, ranging from total page load times to individual request headers and timings. It can also capture screenshots during page load, and show a video visualizing the page load as it happened.

Mobitest runs on iOS, Android and Blackberry, regardless of the hardware - smartphone, tablet or simulator. It uses the default (embedded) browsers the OS offers, and can measure over any network connection the device is connected to, for instance WiFi or a 3G connection.  The Mobitest agents are installed on the device itself. Once installed, they run in an infinite loop on the device, turning it into a (very) small server. The devices poll a webpagetest server, and you can submit test requests and view results through the webpagetest UI.

We also offer a hosted instance of Mobitest on http://blaze.io/mobile/. This hosted version is a free service that lets you use our own devices to measure, which is easier than setting up your own. What we're open-sourcing today is the mobile agent code (the real technology), but the hosted version is still up and running, and we encourage you to use it.  

Major sports brands have always led the way when it comes to leveraging technology to reach fans in more engaging and interactive ways. True fans never want to miss a moment of the action and as a direct result, the Super Bowl was streamed live for the first time last month and more than 2.1 million people watched, NBC said.
Next up is the big college basketball tournament happening throughout March! This year, fans can watch all of 67 games live on the Internet across more devices and platforms. Did you know there were 256 million Internet-connected devices in the market in 2011, according to InStat? During last year's tournament, 30% of streams were delivered to iPhone and iPad applications alone, and that doesn't even account for all the other mobile devices and tablets users can engage with.
So this begs the question, how will you as a fan engage with the games this year? How connected are you when it comes to watching your teams vie for the win? Tell us about your viewing habits with this quick survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XSFPVH8

Thanks for your time, and stay tuned to see the results!
I have been on my flight out to San Francisco to attend the Game Developers Conference as I write this, and have been thinking about how greatly our lives have been changed by hyperconnectivity. Do you feel like your lives have been impacted in this new era of devices? In which ways? Share your stories with us. I have been following Apple's product announcements today over my non-PC device via wifi on the airplane.  Apple kicked off mentioning that it sold 172M post PC devices last year, which now make up 76% of Apple's revenue. 

There is already chatter about the impact the next generation of connected devices will have.  Support for 4G/LTE promises to give users a better experience, enable new apps and experiences, and provide new revenue for the operators... However, it has also introduced the question of more congestion on already strained network resources.  More functionality and higher resolutions are also being supported on connected living devices ranging from the media boxes like the Apple TV to Smart TVs to game consoles, which introduces similar challenges in enabling experiences in the office, local metro, or home due to increased network contention. 

Every user who starts up an app or browser is fighting with every other user's demand, and most users are multi-tasking with multiple apps and browsers.  While we at Akamai have been working on technologies to address these and other challenges, the pace of innovation across industries and Eco systems is likely to continue to create a more rapid pace of challenges. How are you addressing these challenges where you work? Share your innovation stories.

Sent from my mobile device, on wifi, on an airplane... Please excuse typos

Kris Alexander is Akamai's Chief Strategist for Connected Devices and Gaming

At eTail last week, one dominant theme continued to challenge retailers and vendors alike: how to create rich, engaging and consistent experiences across all customer touchpoints.  And how to ensure those experiences flip the focus to the customer, versus products, brands or channels.

We are truly in the era of YouCommerce and the new shopping experience must be where the shopper is, and with the full context of what they've told us. The YouCommerce customer engagement model has four fundamental tenets: Personalized, Localized, Authentic and Holistic.

Personalization was the talk of the conference, with enthusiasm for Pinterest not only because of its incredible growth - hitting 10 million uniques faster than any site in history - but the introduction of a new interface for curated, personalized content.

The rise of Big Data is also driving personalization.  Panelist Gareth Gatson, SVP of Global eCommerce at Wyndham, noted that the Big Data challenge was not how to get data, but how to best use it.  And Ajay Agarwal from Bain Capital suggested that in five years, CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs as they look to capitalize on the data opportunities to personalize and advertise in new ways.

Smartphones. Tablets. Sofas and shopping aisles. Mobile devices offer the single greatest opportunity to capture shoppers at their moment of impulse. It's also the single biggest threat to bricks and mortar retailers since the online channel emerged. The irony is the threat is paralyzing some retailers from capturing the low hanging fruit offered by mobile. Dana Settle of Greycroft Partners remarked that less than one third of retailers offers a tablet-optimized websites. Tablet shoppers go online more often, convert at higher rates, and spend more than any other device segment.

And the experience on these mobile devices is still lackluster at best. Tom Leighton, Akamai's Co-founder and Chief Scientist, remarked in his keynote that we've gone backwards - with the top 30 mobile sites as slow as the top 30 desktop sites back in 2001, despite 71% of users expecting a site to perform as fast or faster than that desktop site today.

Awards season is upon us. The music industry is a buzz with announcements related to performances and presenters at this year's 54th GRAMMY Awards Telecast on Sunday Feb 12. The folks behind the Grammy's pride themselves on bringing music fans the most interactive and engaging online awards experience possible. With behind-the-scene cameras and exclusive online-only interviews, the Grammy.com site and associated GRAMMY Live initiative will bring a fantastic multi-screen experience to music fanatics throughout the weekend.

Akamai is fortunate to be involved with this, the 3rd installment of GRAMMY Live, and we sat down this week with GRAMMY Live Executive Producer Peter Anton, who's consulting for The Recording Academy, to talk about the event.Peter Anton, TRA.jpg

Akamai: Peter, last year you saw great viewership numbers for GRAMMY Live, but there might be a few people out there that have not had a chance to visit. Can you give us a quick tour of the second screen experience on GRAMMY Live this year?

Peter Anton: This year we are partnering with CBS on GRAMMY Live and associated mobile apps to bring fans three days of live coverage of VIP events leading up to Music's Biggest Night®. The live stream is accompanied by exclusive pre-taped and archived GRAMMY moments, as well as a variety of live backstage cameras. The GRAMMY Live real-time, online broadcast, includes live video, photos, blogging, tweets and retweets, official news reports and personalized updates from our GRAMMY Live hosts. Exclusive GRAMMY cams bring users beyond the red-velvet-rope to capture behind-the-scenes footage of all the action leading up to and through the 54th GRAMMY Awards, culminating at the official GRAMMY Celebration after party. To round out the experience, this year we've included a feature rich GRAMMY Live mobile app, enabling fans to watch the live stream on their favorite iOS device.

We are proud again to work with technology and production partners, Akamai and AEG Digital Media. Akamai's HD Network and Akamai Media Analytics allow us deliver the live streams in multiple bit rates to various connected devices, as well as measure the online experience from a variety of aspects. AEG Digital Media brings their production and technical expertise, including a feature-rich multi-camera angle Tremolo Player and The MC, a new interactive polling application to the online experience.

Blazing Akamai

As you may have heard, Akamai acquired Blaze today.

This is obviously big news for Blaze, and we're thoroughly excited about it. Beyond that, we see this as a big moment for the field of Front-End Optimization (FEO), and for the goal of making the web faster. Having Akamai provide an automated FEO solution will make this technology easily available to thousands of the top websites in the world, and make a real impact on the web.
We see Akamai as a great home for both the Blaze team and technology, here are some of the reasons why.

The Evolving CDN
CDNs have been around for a while, and have evolved as the web evolved.

At first, CDNs were focused on caching static content across the globe. Whether it's big software downloads or page resources like scripts and images, temporary copies were created all around the globe. Since most websites were static, serving a file from a nearby Edge made web pages much faster.

Over time, websites transformed into highly dynamic beasts, and couldn't simply be cached. CDNs like Akamai and others rose to the challenge, and provided Dynamic Site Acceleration (DSA). New algorithms leverage thousands of synchronized servers for transferring data more efficiently, avoiding redundant downloads and more, thus accelerating dynamic content.

As the web evolved, technology adapted.

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