April 12, 2012 12:27 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
It’s been said those who have not learned from history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps that explains why Google — which failed spectacularly at selling Google branded phones online — has now decided…wait for it…to sell Google branded tablets online. Clearly it worked so well for them the first time.
In spite of its failed attempt at online retail with the Nexus One in 2010, Google wants to try selling Android tablets.
Just so you don’t think that I’m looking at Google’s retail foray through the clear vision of the rear-view mirror, consider the blog post I wrote on Daniweb called Google Launches Boneheaded Retail Strategy at the time they announced the online store. And I didn’t stop with juicy adjectives like boneheaded, I called it misguided, a mistake and a bad idea. You get the idea.
That’s because Google is not a retailer, it’s a search engine. Surely it dabbles in other cloud services as well, but its core product is Google Search. It knows how to sell ads. When it comes to retail selling of consumer electronics? Not so much.
And it only took for 5 months before they shut it down. Computerworld attributed the closure to sagging sales and poor customer service. That happens when a company knows nothing about retail.
So let’s zoom ahead to 2012. Last month the WSJ reported Google was taking the plunge back into retail (which I would link to if WSJ didn’t insist on putting the news behind their paywall). Obviously, the abject failure of the first attempt at retail didn’t deter Google from trying again.
But Ryan Whitwam writing on ExtremeTech thinks it has a shot. He argues that while the Android phones were selling quite well when Google tried to get involved, the Android tablets have failed to gain any traction (Kindle Fire notwithstanding, I guess). What’s more, it doesn’t require a phone contract because most buyers are thinking WiFi. Fair enough, he’s with me so far.
Whitwam thinks Google Play fits into this strategy, and it could be that Google will try to go the Kindle Fire route — not making very much money on the device and selling content instead. Great strategy, except that Google hasn’t proven itself to be a content selling company to any extent — it’s certainly no Amazon in this regard, that’s for certain.
Frankly, I’m not feeling it because once again Google is treading into unfamiliar territory. Companies tend to fail when they go outside their comfort zone (Apple’s foray into retail stores being a notable exception). My feeling is Google doesn’t know much more than it did the first time about retail. It’s just a desperate attempt to jump-start the anemic Android tablet market.
Perhaps I’m wrong (it’s happened more than once), but if Google isn’t absolutely prepared this time, it should learn from its earlier retailing misadventure and stick to search and Android and software –stuff they understand, and for goodness sakes, stay away from trying to sell consumer electronics online.
Photo by Salim Virji on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike license.
April 11, 2012 10:49 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, cloud services
With an eye to the future, HP took a plunge into cloud services this week, while hoping to leave its CEO disarray in the past.
This week HP announced it was taking a plunge into cloud services with a selection of public and private offerings and a dab of consulting and training too.
This would on its face appear to be part of the new vision brought forth by the latest HP CEO, Meg Whitman, who was hired last September to replace failed CEO Leo Apotheker, who was brought on board a year earlier to clean up the mess left in the wake of the Mark Hurd sexual harassment scandal.
No, it’s not just you. There has been a revolving door in the CEO’s office for the last two years at HP and the once stable company has been left in disarray as a result.
Yet for all its machinations in the boardroom and the C-suite, HP appears to be doing what Apotheker, the man you may recall they fired, planned to do. In fact, according to a March 14, 2011 New York Times article, his plan would involve building out its software business and expanding into the cloud.
Sound familiar? It probably should because this package of services is pretty darn close to what Apotheker described just over a year ago.
The package unveiled this week includes a smorgasbord of cloud products and services for your enterprise viewing and consumption. It starts with a generous helping of Platform as a Service for those of you who want to leave the heavy lifting to HP. You want to build a private cloud with a menu of services for your users? No problem, HP is happy to oblige with a Cloud Map product to help assist with this type of deployment.
HP can also help with virtualization and training and work with your engineering team to help them understand the cloud better.
That the new CEO is trying to to fulfill the vision of the man the Board of Directors fired, seems strange to me. If Apotheker was heading in the right direction, what was the point in firing him, and if he wasn’t, why continue along the same path?
Unfortunately, HP under Whitman is no less confusing and bewildering than it was under Apotheker and even Hurd toward the end (who was undone less by his vision, then his affair).
But regardless of whose vision it represents, it is a step in the right direction. HP should absolutely be selling these types of services, but it needs to pick a plan and stick to it.
In fact, HP probably should have been in the cloud a lot sooner than this, but with all of the changes at the top, the vision thing got a bit muddled.
Perhaps this is the first step toward stability for HP and a new vision for the company. Its hard to know what will happen to the printer and PC divisions at this point, but heading to the cloud is at least a step in the right direction. And perhaps they’ll find the stability that has been eluding them in recent years.
Photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike License.
April 6, 2012 9:15 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud Brokers
, cloud services
, enterprise IT
Cloud Brokers are the latest thing in Cloud Services, but do you really need a third party service to help make this decision?
I suppose it was just a matter of time before this happened, but just the other day I came across a concept I hadn’t seen before: cloud brokers. As the name implies these companies help facilitate the sale of cloud services.
The idea is that these brokers sell cloud services piecemeal. You can buy storage service, for example at one price from one vendor and buy server space on another, and here’s the good part:
According to an article on Government Computer News, you can change vendors on the fly as your circumstances or the prices change. This idea of no vendor lock-in has to appeal to Enterprise IT departments who are still suspicious of cloud services.
Great idea for a business, I guess, but isn’t the whole idea of the cloud to make these types of decisions easier and not require a third party to help?
In theory that’s true, but in actual practice having someone to help find the best deals or sift through the myriad of choices isn’t a bad approach on its face.
But the trouble is that choosing a broker could become as complicated as choosing a cloud vendor on your own. That’s because according to an article on CIO.com called The Role of the Cloud Broker; lots of companies *say* they’re cloud brokers, but they’re really just cloud vendors selling cloud products and services.
That means you have to sift through the broker choices to separate the real brokers from the cloud service sales people. Confused yet?
This is getting a bit silly because the cloud was supposed to simplify things for IT, making it easy for anyone to buy some services and pay for as much as you need. Unlike typical IT buys where you have to go through layers of sales process, cloud services are supposed to be much easier, but now it seems we’ve complicated it to the point that we need brokers to help us sort through it.
Then I guess we also need consultants to help us find the real brokers.
Does your head hurt?
My advice: Don’t over-think this
The Cloud isn’t supposed to be complicated. Find the vendors in the area you want, choose one and sign up. It’s that simple. Of course, you want to do your due diligence about things like up-time, security and the ability to get your data out, but don’t go crazy thinking you have to replicate the old way of doing business and hiring brokers and consultants to help you. Chances are if you have some common sense, you can do this on your own.
April 3, 2012 11:06 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Windows Phone 7
Nokia is taking the wrong tack by attacking iPhone, whose users are among the most satisfied in the business.
When I read yesterday that Nokia had set up a site to attack the iPhone, my first thought was: Big mistake. When I read this morning that it had created a video making fun of Antenna – gate – a problem that came to light almost two years ago — I thought: Wrong direction and just another case of tone deaf marketing.
See, most iPhone users, and there are a lot them, don’t care about the antenna problem. In fact, most people never encountered it and surveys find people love their iPhones in spite of it — as a recent JD Powers survey showed.
When it came to overall satisfaction, Apple blew away the field with a rating of 839. HTC came in next at 798. Apple was the only smartphone manufacturer to get five circles.
If you doubt consumer surveys, then look at the actual sales numbers that Nokia must fight as it enters the US market in earnest this month. All Things Digital reported this week that according to analysts at Genuity, the iPhone is the best selling phone at AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile for the last 4 months running.
That means when given the choice of iPhone or any other smart phone, the vast majority of consumers are choosing the iPhone and that’s got to be discouraging to every other manufacturer, but especially to Nokia, which has staked the company on Windows Phone 7 smart phones.
But mobile loyalty tends to be weak right? People can be lured by the next big thing, can’t they? — or at least that’s the conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, for Nokia, that’s just not the case with iPhone.
Digital Trends reported last November on a customer loyalty survey conducted by GfK where 84 percent of respondents reported they would replace their current iPhone with another.
The numbers are remarkably redundant, aren’t they?
So when faced with a market where people are appear to be ecstatically happy with what they have, how are you supposed to compete? If you’re Nokia, apparently you create a video that makes your potential customer base look like they are stupid for the phone choice they made.
And I hate to break it Nokia, but it’s not just the iPhone. People love their iPads too. Fortune reported (via CNN Money) that a recent survey by ChangeWave found that a whopping 82 percent of iPad users reported being “Very Satisfied.’
That means making fun of Apple customers is probably not the best way to deal with the problem. There are lots of them and they are delighted with their products, and see no reason to switch.
My advice is stop trying to fight iPhone and go after Blackberry and individual pockets of the Android market. That same GfK survey found that just 48 percent of Blackberry owners reported they would buy another.
And while you’re at it, attack the soft parts of the Android market where quality and price vary dramatically.
Most iPhone users are not going to use their upgrade to move to Nokia phone running Windows Phone 7, not when they are so satisfied with what they have. Don’t go after the happy market. Try to exploit the one that’s miserable. You’re far more likely to succeed.
March 30, 2012 12:38 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, smart phones
In order for the enterprise to be a truly Post-PC world, we need better mobile software.
We hear the term Post-PC world a lot these days, but what does it mean exactly? One thing is certain, mobile devices are beginning to proliferate today at a faster rate than PCs — whatever you choose to call that trend.
In fact, I came across a post from my buddie Laurence Hart, who is CIO at AIIM in which he suggested that we weren’t yet in a post-PC world because PCs last longer and people still do real work on PCs. Fair enough as far as it goes, but it fails to recognize what I believe to be the true meaning of Post-PC world.
The idea of Post-PC in my view is not that we are throwing away our PCs. Heck, I’m writing this post on my Mac Book Pro, not on my iPhone or iPad (Yup, I use a lot of Apple products), but the trend is clearly moving that way (and Hart even acknowledges this in his post).
As Seth Weintraub wrote in Fortune a year ago last month, Smart Phones had already surpassed PC sales. It’s clear when you look at the world at large, some places will never have PCs, but they will have smart phones (as Eric Schmidt outlined in a recent CeBIT keynote address)
But back on the ground in the developed world, my wife is at a conference today and she noted that there were iPads everywhere, so many she couldn’t get onto the network to download materials she needed. When I was at the AIIM Conference last week, I noticed the same trend and I see this at every conference I attend. I’m always surprised by the number of iPads.
That means, people who used to carry Notebooks are carrying iPads for portability. Now as a writer, I’m not a big fan of using the iPad for this purpose. I carry an 11 inch MacBook Air (Told you I liked Apple products) when I go on the road because I prefer a keyboard for rapid note taking and writing, but for content consumption, I love the iPad.
As for Hart’s contention that we tend to get rid of mobile products faster, that’s probably true, partly because they are still evolving so quickly and for the most part PCs have matured (although there are still significant changes like the upcoming Intel Ivy Bridge processor).
What I’m surprised Hart didn’t seize on was his quote from Aaron Levie, which to me is the heart of the issue. Hart quoted Levie as saying, “Some simple math: Majority of new devices are ‘post-pc’. Vast majority of enterprise software isn’t. What do you think happens next?”
Levie is spot on here. What keeps most of those enterprise users tied to their old PCs is not lack of desire to dump them, but more likely a lack of supported software for what they do at work.
That’s where Levie’s company, Box, hopes to fill the void, but his is just one attempt of what is surely to be many choices in the enterprise mobile space.
For now, the choices are few and to its credit Box recognizes where the industry is trending. That said, until we have folding screens, I don’t see us in a no-PC world. Will mobile continue to make gains? It undoubtedly will especially as the cost of mobile phones goes down and mobile infrastructure continues to proliferate across the world.
But Post-PC is more about trends and over time, especially at home where we tend to consume content, rather than produce it, the likelihood is that we will see more and more tablet and mobile phone usage and fewer and fewer PCs.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s going to happen.
And at work, we will see more and more mobile devices along side the Notebook — and I believe to lesser extent the desktop PC.
There will still be jobs that require a desktop, but anyone who needs to be portable, is going to pick the tablet over the notebook if it’s at all possible — and that’s what post-PC means more anything. When given the choice, we’ll leave the PC behind.
March 29, 2012 12:51 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Windows Phone 7
Nokia is putting it all on the line with a splashy release planned for the Nokia Lumia 900 next month, but it may not matter.
Nokia’s launch of the Lumia 900 in the US next month is a big deal. How big? How about so big it warrants a string of cliches. So big, it’s do or die time. It’s time to put up or shut up. It’s time to walk the walk. It’s now or never.
It’s all those things and more, and then again it could be in the words of Suzanne Vega, “Nothing much, not much.” Let’s start with why it’s important.
For starters, word is that AT&T is going to push the Nokia Lumia 900 more than any phone it has ever pushed before — even the iPhone. We’re talking a big deal.
According to a post on CNET yesterday, AT&T is going to pull out all the stops for this launch. Nobody is saying just how much money is going to be spent, but given the level of the rhetoric, it’s going to be significant As CNET writer Roger Cheng indicated of the launch blitz, it’s really, really big including a massive ad campaign along with making the Lumia 900, the centerpiece of AT&T Stores.
There will be signs and posters and special training for employees — and there will be brass bands and parades. OK. I’m exaggerating a bit on the last two points, but you get the idea about the scope of this launch.
It’s big I tell you.
And because of the scope of this launch, it tells you just how important Nokia sees this in its attempts to break back into the US market because it’s been a long time since Nokia has had any significant presence here at all.
But for all of this time and effort, I’m not sure it’s going to amount to much. As I wrote in Lumia 710 is Impressive, but Is That Enough?, I’m not sure it’s going to matter how cool this phone is or how fast or how impressive it is. When you are as far behind as Windows is in the US market, it might be a case of being too little, too late.
And it’s not because I’m rooting against Nokia and Microsoft on this one. In fact, I think with Blackberry fading badly in the US market, Apple and Google could use a kick in the butt that only some good, old-fashioned competition can provide. But I’m skeptical that with Google and Apple so entrenched that there’s much of anything that Nokia can do to even put a dent in that dominance.
But neither do I expect them to simply roll over and cede the US market to the competition. They have a nice phone. The Lumia 710 I tried out was snappy and even fun to use, and while the 900 is a bit bigger with a better camera and a nicer display, the guts of the phone are pretty similar.
In the end, I don’t expect much, the splashy launch notwithstanding. The high end of the US cell phone market is not really where Nokia will make its last stand. Instead, as my colleague FierceMobileIT Editor, Wayne Rash predicts, it’s far more likely to be lower-end smart phones in Europe and Asia, where Nokia once dominated (until it was displaced by Android) where it will stand or fall .
March 26, 2012 11:26 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Increasingly companies are considering a mobile first strategy.
For the longest time, when you thought about mobile it was probably an afterthought. The web site came first, then from that maybe you put some energy into mobile, but increasingly that’s changing and companies are starting to think about mobile first.
When I heard recently that ESPN, which has a massive presence across mobile and the Web had decided to put the small screen first, that caught my attention. ESPN is a huge site with multiple apps across all the major cell phone platforms, a well designed mobile web site, which links nicely from the apps — and of course a great web site with tons of free and premium content.
It also covers television, radio and print while it’s at it. ESPN is a great model for any aspiring content producer because it understands how to deliver content to multiple channels as well as anyone out there today. (If you can think of others, please leave a comment.)
As a point of reference, I have the Sports Center app on the first page of my iPhone because I access it so often. It’s one of my favorite apps and apparently I’m not alone.
That’s why when Michael Bayle, VP and general manager of ESPN Mobile says the sports media powerhouse is putting mobile first, I took notice. In fact, Online Media Daily’s Mark Walsh filed a report from MediaPost’s Mobile Insider Summit where Bayle was keynoting and Bayle made it clear mobile has become the priority at ESPN.
“What’s taking preference now is to try to get as ubiquitous as possible. Program and design from the mobile standpoint first, then extrapolate what could be applied for the PC, television and print experience,” Wood quoted Bayle in the Online Media Daily article.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this assertion because in thinking about it, it’s actually not the first time I’ve heard it. In fact, at the Gilbane Conference in December I watched a presentation by Ektron‘s Chief Marketing Officer Tom Wentworth in which he contended that mobile should drive the overall content strategy.
As I wrote about the presentation on FierceContentManagement, “All of this means that as publishers who have traditionally produced print products or even had a web presence, you have to be thinking about how mobile affects your publishing model, and you need to be looking at solutions that help you create content once and use it across print, web, tablets and smartphones.”
The fact is that according to figures from R Ray Wang, CEO and analyst at Constellation Research, speaking last week at the AIIM Conference last week, by 2013 half of all phones will be smart phones. Yet even for ESPN with a mobile audience of over 20 million users, it’s still a brave move to make mobile the center of its content distribution strategy, especially for a company where television has been so central to its success.
But it shows how content producers are recognizing the increasing importance of the mobile channel. It’s clear that people are accessing more of their content on mobile devices. The question is are you ready and is your organization ready to shift to a mobile-first strategy? It looks like it might be time.
Photo by Ron Miller. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution license.
March 19, 2012 6:21 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, cell phones
Secursmart lets you encrypt cell phone calls and hide the contents from prying ears.
Last month the FBI and their UK counterparts at the Metropolitan Police had a phone conference to discuss strategies for dealing with the hacker group Anonymous. Trouble was Anonymous tapped into the conversation, recorded it and published it on the Internet. Talk about embarrassing.
Talk about preventable.
How could they have prevented this situation, you might be asking? By encrypting their communication to prevent this kind of eavesdropping, that’s how.
While I was visiting CeBIT recently, the enormous technology trade fair that takes place each March in Hanover, Germany, I learned about a company that encrypts cell phones and other types of phone communication.
The German company is called Secusmart, and it has developed technology to add voice encryption to land lines and cell communications — and according to a spokesperson, it works with SMS messages too. So far, their customers include German government authorities, Nato and EU government entities.
The company says it can secure a phone system onsite or it can encrypt calls coming from a mobile phone using a MicroSD card, which works on all phones that have MicroSD card slots including Blackberry and Android phones (but not iPhones, which don’t have such a slot).
The solution offers end-to-end encryption, assuming both parties are using the solution. If they are not, they still get partial protection on the device where the card is installed. According to Secusmart, the encryption happens in real time and if your call is encrypted, there is a message on the phone indicating this, so there is no room for mistakes.
The company claims the encryption has no impact on call quality, but they admit that it’s not cheap (although they didn’t give a price during a meeting with the press). The spokesperson also said there is no backdoor into the system because as he said, “An insecure-secure product is worthless.” True enough.
When someone taps into the phone call, all they will hear is white noise. What’s more, Secusmart solutions also validate who you are talking to avoid “man in the middle” attacks where someone intercepts the call and claims to be the person you are calling.
It’s a technology that the US and British law enforcement officials might have thought to have in place to prevent the kind of embarrassment they faced when Anonymous was able to listen to their conference call.
If they had Secusmart technology (or something similar) in place, Anonymous would presumably have only heard white noise, not the text of the entire conversation.
But this technology is not just for law enforcement. Companies who have sensitive discussions about business matters over phone lines also should be worrying about this. With hacking and espionage seemingly everywhere, you have to at least consider equipping your high-level executives with this technology, and depending on your business, perhaps the entire company communications system.
It could protect your company from prying ears — and chances are they are out there listening, whether you know it or not.
March 14, 2012 9:20 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Windows Phone 7
While the Nokia Lumia 710 is an impressive phone, it might not be enough.
Last week while I was at CeBIT, the enormous European trade show in Hanover, Germany, I hung out with my colleague, veteran technology journalist Wayne Rash. He had a Nokia Lumia 710 he was testing and he let me play with it, and I walked away impressed.
Nokia deserves a lot of credit here. It created a nice phone, that feels good in your hand. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Windows Phone 7 OS. It was fast and even playful in its approach with fun animations and bright colors.
I found I liked the tiles and the original approach to the phone operating system that Microsoft has created, but when I went into the App store, I wasn’t so impressed. I know they say all of the popular apps are there, but the way it was laid out made it hard to find anything. Rash complained because there was no Pandora for the Windows phone.
And that could be a big problem because the edge isn’t going to go to the company with the most original operating system or the handset maker with the zippiest hardware, it’s going to go to the company with the most useful apps and that’s a big reason why Apple and Android are doing so well.
Both Nokia and Microsoft have the right idea, but Connor Livingston at TechHi wonders if it matters and I have to agree with him. He points out that Microsoft ran a contest at CES in January to prove its phones could do tasks like uploading images faster than the competition. But even if it won, nobody noticed or cared.
That’s the problem that Nokia and Windows face. They are starting from zero and they have to capture market share and it’s a huge challenge. They have conquered part of the problem by creating a nice phone with a unique OS that doesn’t just ‘me-too’ the competition, but when the competition is as far ahead as iOS and Android are, it’s a huge and daunting challenge to try and put a dent in that.
When I travel as I did to Germany to the conference, I always pay attention to the phones people are using in the airport, on the plane, at the conference and as I travel around. This year I saw far fewer Blackberries. In the US, there were iPhones everywhere. In Germany I noticed many more Samsung Android phones (including several Samsung Galaxy Notes with an enormous 5 inch screen) along with plenty of iPhones. What I didn’t see were many Windows phones.
When I did see Nokia, it was an older function phone, rather than the updated Windows Phone 7 models. In fact, I needed a phone for when I travel in Europe and I picked up a Nokia 7230 running Symbian instead of a Windows phone.
While my observations are hardly scientific, I think they are telling. A recent survey by Litera regarding mobile phone habits of 303 respondents, two-thirds of whom were in IT roles, found that Blackberry still has a strong role in the enterprise, but it’s fading quickly. In Litera’s survey 21 percent used iPhones, 19 percent used Blackberries and 17 percent used Android phones.
Litera did not break it down further than that, but we can presume that Windows Phone 7 is still barely registering.
That means Nokia and Microsoft are dealing with a certain level of inertia here that is going to be very difficult to overcome, no matter how nice the phones might be.
It just goes to show that once the market gets entrenched, it’s a huge task to move it to something different and that’s what Nokia faces this year as it tries to gain market share from iOS, Android, and yes, even Blackberry.
Photo courtesy of Nokia.