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Microsoft’’s Pulse Ushers In The Research Tech Integration Era

The pace of change is only increasing, and I think it will become readily apparent over the next 24 months just how fast that is. Get ready folks, and start experimenting with all these new capabilities today because your clients absolutely are.

Microsoft Pulse


Back in July Microsoft made big news with the introduction of Bing Pulse, their entry into the insights space. At the time, we said:

Considering Microsoft has 1.5 billion users, their decision to focus on “the platform” vs. a more traditional product-centric strategy makes good sense. As Google, Facebook and Apple have shown, keeping users expanding their footprint via platform usage extensions works. What is unique about Microsoft however is that the majority of their business is with corporations rather than consumers. Microsoft is the platform that the vast majority of businesses run on, so beginning to build in insights tools for those users is synergistic, to say the least.

Similar to my analysis when Google Consumer Surveys launched, my key takeaways on why this is big news for the market research industry are:

  • Further disruption from big, data-driven tech giants of the data collection piece of market research
  • The possibilities for platform extensions via Office, Cloud, XBox, Skype, Windows, and all of the other various offerings that Microsoft owns could drive fast adoption
  • Microsoft has been suspected as a possible suitor for SalesForce, Qualtrics and Survey Monkey so the potential integration of any of those three platforms could be monumentally disruptive
  • The further “democratization” of research via even more DIY solutions

All of that is conjecture and possible implications though, so what do we know about the product today?

Well, six months later it’s not conjecture any more, and we know a lot more about the product strategy, who is using it, and what are the most frequent use cases. And today they unveiled what the next phase of their strategy is. It’s exactly what we thought it would be.

We chatted with  Dritan Nesho, Director, Technology and Civic Engagement at Microsoft today about all of this, and here is what we learned.

Focused initially on broadcast TV and the events and conferences space, Pulse has been embraced by numerous media companies and event organizers as the platform of choice for gauging audience reactions and crowdsourcing insights, on TV and in forums large and small. Regular users of the service now include CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, SKY NEWS, the Aspen Institute and Clinton Global Initiative, among others.

Since its launch, the free self-service platform has diversified its offering by expanding into the market research and education industries, introducing a powerful array of new features to help support professionals in these fields.

Today, Bing Pulse is changing its product name and brand identity to Microsoft Pulse. Transitioning beyond instant voting and audience engagement, Microsoft Pulse now empowers users across diverse industries to engage with their customers, conduct research and analysis, and collect deeper insights in real-time.

So it’s official: Microsoft Pulse is a research play in every sense of the word. But’s also more than a a new product; it’s part of an increasingly fully integrated platform.

Microsoft Pulse has also become a multi-platform service, integrating with several products within the Microsoft family, including: Azure Media Services (video), Skype for Business (meetings), OneNote (sharing), Yammer (enterprise communications), and Power BI (analytics). The platform is also increasingly being integrated into many other 3rd party analytics systems, although there is no current plan to adopt an open API system or open to 3rd party developers. With a fully-loaded roster of free research features, users can now gain deeper insights in innovative and unique ways that go beyond engagement from anywhere in the world.

Oh, and did we mention it’s STILL FREE? 

When we asked Dritan what had driven them to this new stage, his response was enlightening to say the least:

Pulse has evolved into a powerful service with applications across classrooms, campaigns, commerce, and causes that empowers individuals and businesses to engage, activate, and learn from their audiences and customers in real-time. This important and evolving technology recognizes that, increasingly, we live in a real-time information landscape where immediate opinions, reactions, and input shape the dialogue and interaction between professionals and their audiences.

Today the platform is still focused on real-time use cases, but it is rapidly approaching a next phase version that will facilitate quant and qual research at any point.

To get a better view of the product, you can download a .pdf overview of their research presentation here, or check out the video below.

Microsoft Pulse for Market Research from Pulse on Vimeo.

Here are some more details from the press release:

With the real-time research and engagement space ever-evolving, Microsoft Pulse is constantly adding new features and making data and analytics even easier to harness in real-time.  In addition to a new and upgraded producer app that is faster and easier to use, the brand now offers new features to the current services lineup, including:

Pulse for Broadcast

  • Easier integration into broadcast graphics through Pulse’s data API
  • Push video content to all viewers’ second screens during a live program or commercial breaks, synchronized (or not) with TV advertising
  • Enhanced producer dashboard that gives producers ability to gain audience insights in real-time and push them out through a click-through annotations / shapshot API feature

Pulse for Events & Conferences

  • Flexible API and auto-generated iframes allow easy integration of Pulse into personal event website
  • Use Pulse with up to 10,000 users through Skype for Meeting Broadcast
  • Deeper insight analysis with 1-click data download into Microsoft’s business intelligence solutions, like Excel & PowerBI

Pulse for Market Research

  • Fully scalable for researchers to run focus groups of any size, from anywhere in the country
  • Video-push capability allows researchers to conduct remote audience studies and video content rating such as ad or message testing and track responses from various demographics
  • Lowers the cost of market research by eliminating conventional hardware costs and capital requirements

Pulse in the Classroom

  • Allows teachers to know whether students are comprehending lessons in real-time
  • Anonymous voting so students are more inclined to participate
  • Teachers and students copy a Pulse graph into a OneNote document with one click for sharing and notetaking
  • Video integration and distance learning is now interactive, so student comprehension is gauged, whether the student is in the classroom or learning from the other side of the globe

For regular updates from the Microsoft Pulse team, make sure to sign up for our newsletter here, follow us on Twitter (@microsoftpulse) and LinkedIn, and definitely sign up for a free account today.

Last week Adriana Rocha wrote a wonderful post exploring the growth of survey approaches being integrated into large technology platforms like Twitter, Google, Facebook and others. Microsofts’s continued efforts to take that even further by marrying quant and qual in one integrated system is the next step in this trend.

So what’s the implication for the research industry as a whole? As we said in July:

Any regular readers of this blog knows that for many years I have said that the days of the research industry owning quantitative data collection are over, and that tech platforms have irretrievably taken over that very sizable chunk of the research industry. Certainly there are still exceptions to that rule such as telephone or face-to-face, but those are increasingly niche methods. For the vast majority of commercial research the future belongs to technologists. Qualitative has been an exception to that truth as well despite many advances in online qual techniques, but now Microsoft is making a major effort to do to qual what DIY platforms did to quant years ago.

More than anything else, this move from Microsoft should reinforce the fact that it’s time for research suppliers to aggressively shift their business models to either add value with unique and differentiated technology (or data) offerings of their own, or make the shift to pure insights consultancies and partner with the Microsofts, Googles, Amazons, etc.. of the world to use their tools to deliver impactful insights to brands.  That is certainly something Microsoft hopes to see happen, and they will continue to devote the resources to help support that vision,  so we can either be partners with them, or make way for others to do so.

I stand by that, and in fact will double down: the pace of change is only increasing, and I think it will become readily apparent over the next 24 months just how fast that is. Get ready folks, and start experimenting with all these new capabilities today because your clients absolutely are.

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