April 20, 2012 9:55 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Data Centers
, Green Computing
This week Greenpeace came out with a report highly critical of the energy requirements of Apple’s Maiden, North Carolina data center. The report claimed that Apple was generating most of its energy from a coal-generated plant run by near-by Duke Energy.
Greenpeace gave Apple poor grades in its report on the environmental impact of cloud computing, but it's not clear if it was being entirely fair.
You can view the report (pdf) yourself along with this video, but one thing is clear, Greenpeace paints an ugly picture of Apple’s energy choices claiming that by seating the North Carolina site in such close proximity to a coal burning plant, it was showing its lack of commitment to clean energy.
Apple’s response, according a story on Wired, was that Greenpeace got its facts wrong and that Apple will draw 60 percent of its power from renewable energy when the plant’s construction is complete.
Quoting the Wired article, “When the Maiden complex is completed, it will have biogas fuel-cell plant and a massive solar array that will collectively generate 12 megawatts of energy, or 60 percent of the data center’s requirements.”
It added that the new data center under construction in Prineville, Oregon will generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.
Greenpeace was also critical of Apple’s transparency on the matter giving it a letter grade of F on transparency, but when was the last time Apple was transparent about anything it does? And that could be part of the problem.
Since Apple is so closed about how it operates its business, it’s hard to separate truth from fiction in cases like this, but Data Center Knowledge did try to get to the bottom of the numbers, which seem wildly skewed based on Apple’s claims. It appears according to the Data Center Knowledge piece that Greenpeace might have made some incorrect assumptions (although again it’s hard to parse who’s right and wrong here) — but the article is highly critical of Greenpeace’s methodology saying:
“An obvious gap in that logic is that it doesn’t account for Apple’s investment in the solar array and fuel cell technology being built to support the iDataCenter – costs that are atypical for data center construction and not included in comparative metrics,” the article stated.
Greenpeace it turns out used the overall cost of the data center ($1 billion) in its formula to determine Apple’s energy requirements, but it doesn’t appear to have factored in the cost of building those renewable energy sources as part of its figures. If that is indeed the case, Greenpeace is penalizing Apple unfairly.
I will state that I’m definitely not a numbers guy, but as an Apple products user, and someone who has begun using iCloud, I am concerned about how Apple will generate energy at its various data centers — and the overall impact on the environment that is likely to have.
A few years ago I wrote an article for EContent about efforts by publishers to reduce their environmental impact. I went into the article with the assumption that by not printing, it was obviously going to be more environmentally friendly when you don’t have to cut trees, run printing presses, and distribute the print matter; but what I learned was it depended a great deal on the proximity of the data center to its primary energy source. If that data center was run primarily on coal (as Greenpeace claims Apple’s is), then it might not be greener after all.
That’s why it’s so important to get these numbers right. If Apple is burning coal, with its cash stash, it can clearly afford to be greener, but if Greenpeace has its numbers wrong, then it’s doing Apple a great disservice. The trouble is it’s hard to figure out what’s right here.
Photo by zoetnet on Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License.
April 18, 2012 4:01 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Lumia 900
, smart phones
, Windows Phone 7
As I wrote in a post last month, AT&T was purportedly going all out with the Nokia Lumia 900 phone, but when I went shopping for a cell phone last weekend, I didn’t see any evidence of it in my local AT&T Store.
On a recent trip to my local AT&T Store, I found no evidence that AT&T was giving the Nokia phone any special treatment.
According to reports ahead of the phone’s release earlier this month, AT&T was going to make the Lumia 900 its centerpiece phone. There were going to commercials galore (and I’ve seen a few). The stores would feature the phones. The sales people would trained to offer the Lumia 900 phone and there would be posters in the store featuring the phone.
Then, last week I read Roger Cheng’s and Marguerite Reardon’s article on CNET in which they walked into several AT&T stores in Manhattan posing as a first-time smart phone buyer, and were surprised to find that sales people weren’t pushing the Lumia 900 as they expected. Instead, they recommended the iPhone.
I thought that was a pretty interesting tale, so I decided to try it myself at my own local AT&T store. This wasn’t purely for research purposes though. My wife’s iPhone 3G was pretty much hosed and she needed a new phone. When we walked into the store, I noted a smallish poster at the back of the store featuring the Lumia 900, but nothing like the huge posters of the iPhone I recalled seeing in the center of the store in the past.
There was no special display either. Again, in past visits, the iPhone had its own display area where it sat royally in the center of the store. There was no such treatment of the Lumia 900. It was tucked in between the iPhones, Blackberries and the Android phones. No special handling.
Then the salesperson came over. He pulled out his phone, which was an Android, not a Lumia 900. When we expressed some interest in the Lumia 900, he didn’t say much. When I told him I thought it was nice, but lacked apps, he agreed with me. To be honest, he didn’t push any phone (which is to his credit I think), but if he was told push the Nokia offering, he didn’t do it.
Later that day, we dropped by Best Buy where I’ve found the mobile sales people are usually knowledgeable. So I chatted up the sales person on duty about the Lumia 900. He didn’t love it, but he was rooting for it because he didn’t like Android and he was sick of the iPhone. He wanted someone, anyone to come up with a reasonable alternative, but he wasn’t ready to commit to the Lumia 900.
I know this wasn’t exactly a scientific test, and I know the press is reporting that the Lumia 900 appears to be selling well and that it was even number one on Amazon for the first week it went on sale, but if AT&T was supposed to be pushing this phone, it doesn’t seem as though it was.
Whatever you think of the phone, however, it appears that at least in my local store (and the ones Cheng and Reardon visited in New York City), AT&T staff wasn’t pushing the phone at all. Now this could be an anomaly or it could be that AT&T doesn’t care quite as much about the success of the Lumia as pre-release hype might have suggested.
What’s your experience? Leave a comment and let me know.
Photo by IntelFreePress on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
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.