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.
March 8, 2012 5:34 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Kevin Turner
, Windows 8
As I watched Microsoft Chief Operating Office, Kevin Turner speak at CeBIT this year, I was struck by a key notion. In spite of his best efforts to sell Microsoft as the ultimate cloud and mobile company, his company clearly missed an excellent opportunity to close the cloud-mobile loop with its new Windows to Go concept in Windows 8.
When it comes to watching Microsoft sing and dance at events of this type, I’ve found it’s not so much what their representatives say that matters, as what they leave out, and Windows to Go, while an excellent idea, misses the chance to provide customers with an easier way to take their settings along wherever they go.
Windows to Go enables Windows 8 users to save an image of their desktop to a USB stick. It would be a great approach five years ago, but in 2012, why use a USB stick at all? As I listened to the presentation, I immediately though this is what the cloud is about. Why didn’t Microsoft have the same thought?
In fact Turner made it a point to brag about how Microsoft was providing a single operating system regardless of your device. You can run Windows on a phone, a tablet or a PC. Microsoft is increasingly providing cloud services like Office 365 and the Azure platform
That’s fantastic! Why then would you force users to download the settings to a piece of hardware and risk losing it? Why not automatically back up these settings to a storage locker in the cloud which you can sign into wherever you go, regardless of the device you’re on? Why not indeed.
Microsoft was careful to consider security with this approach using BitLocker to encrypt the USB drive. They even let you disconnect and reconnect within 60 seconds, which is nice if the drive pulls out inadvertently for some reason. When you do finally disconnect Microsoft pointed out that Windows to Go leaves zero foot print behind.
This is all great stuff, except for that pesky USB stick, that is. How about this instead: You back up your desktop settings to the cloud. You provide a way to log in from any Windows 8 interface, access your settings from any device anywhere, anytime. Use the same encryption and zero footprint and you are good to go.
It seems so logical, so simple. I’m wondering how Microsoft missed it.
But this is not atypical for Microsoft when it comes to the cloud. Last year at CeBIT, it introduced a cloud-based monitoring product for IT called Microsoft Intune. I asked Microsoft officials if IT pros could run the app from a Windows phone and (at least at the time) you couldn’t. The tool sent notifications via email and SMS when there was an issue that required IT’s attention, but you couldn’t access the application itself on the phone. That was a huge gap. It was a cloud-based app, but for some reason Microsoft didn’t consider the cloud-mobile connection.
While I was at CeBIT, my colleague Wayne Rash showed me the Nokia Lumia 710 phone. It was a nice little smart phone with a great display. It was extremely reactive and zippy and I was very impressed until Rash told me he had trouble getting his Outlook mail on there. “There’s no direct way to sync Outlook with the phone. You have to use a Hotmail conduit,” Rash explained.
How could Microsoft create an original approach to the OS, partner with Nokia to produce a nice handset, then fail to make it easy to get your Outlook mail? It’s just dumb to miss that easy connection.
Turner proudly stated at the CeBIT 2012 keynote presentation that Microsoft invests $9 billion a year in research and development. It’s a company with deep pockets, many smart people and lots of resources, which makes it even more mind-boggling that it could miss these seemingly simple ways to make the cloud-mobile connection — and make life much easier for its customers in the process.
One year later and Microsoft surprisingly still doesn’t quite get it.
Disclosure statement: CeBIT paid for my hotel to attend this event.
March 7, 2012 4:46 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Boot to Gecko
, Telefonica Digital
The Mozilla Boot to Gecko phone prototype.
When Mozilla announced the Boot-to-Gecko, all-HTML cell phone last week at Mobile World Congress — along with a plan to partner with Telefonica Digital to build really cheap smart phones running the Mozilla system — I wondered if it was really possible to bring such a cheap phone to market, regardless of the underlying system running the phone.
“We hope to achieve volume growth by converting feature phone users first, and mature upward, taking the time to get it right on high-end hardware,” Eich wrote.
What’s more, as Mozilla representatives pointed out at the CeBIT technology fair this week in Hanover, Germany, it enables developers to create one set of code across devices, and then build in tweaks for different screen sizes or phone features that might appear on one phone, but not another.
As for monetization, she said, it would work in a similar way to other app stores and it would be up to developers to decide how to price and monetize the apps, just as it is in other app stores.
She acknowledged, however, that HTML5 was was a moving target and and developers need to continue to track updates until it becomes a standard in 2014 — and that’s not a trivial matter. But there are certainly lots of companies on their way to using HTML5 to build web sites today.
In fact, Jeff Jaffe, CEO at the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) spoke this week at CeBIT and cited statistics that 34 percent of the top 100 web sites were already using HTML5 to build their web sites and 75 percent of all other web sites were using or planning to use it (for what that’s worth). What’s more, Facebook has started transforming its site into HTML5, partly because it provides a standard way for developers to build applications on top of the Facebook platform and that’s very valuable to them.
She acknowledges that cheaper phones running Boot to Gecko might not do everything that high-end Android phones such as the Samsung phone (shown in the picture above) she showed me as the demo device, but for people in places that can’t afford any phone right now, a cheap phone with basic functionality is better than no phone at all.
And Sandu argues that over time as the price drops on more powerful parts, these phones will gain more and more functionality.
It’s hard not to like or to root for a phone based on web standards especially one with the potential to deliver smart phones for a low price to markets that can least afford these phones now, but liking the idea and the seeing this vision become reality could be two different things. The proof will be in the tasting when these phones emerge later this year.
Photo by Ron Miller.
Disclosure Notice: CeBIT paid for my hotel room during the conference.
March 2, 2012 11:43 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
When the federal government demands stringent security requirements from cloud vendors, you get them too.
The US government is looking to go the Cloud in a big way as a way to save money and consolidate data centers, but as part of that initiative, FedRAMP is a way to streamline federal security approval. If the cloud vendor can pass the US government’s security muster, chances are it can pass yours too.
FedRAMP is a set of federal guidelines, which define the minimum level of security required for a cloud vendor to do business with the federal government. As Dave Perera writes on FierceGovernmentIT, FedRAMP outlines 116 total controls for low-impact systems and 297 controls for moderate-impact systems under FedRAMP.
And when the cloud vendors are done doing that, your business is going to benefit too.
And that’s a big advantage of cloud computing for any down-stream businesses. Years ago I interviewed somebody from Salesforce.com who pointed out to me that when the company’s largest customers ask for certain features, everyone benefits, even a small business with just a few people.
That’s because there is usually only one system, not a tiered one, so when the biggest enterprise or government customers make feature requests you can get that same level of service no matter how big you are. This is a departure from the way traditional proprietary enterprise software usually works. If a small business wants the same level of security as an enterprise, it’s probably going to have to pay through the nose for it. The cloud offers these services at a much more reasonable entry point and you typically only pay for what you use.
Just this week, in fact, FierceGovernmentIT reports that there was a major update to FedRAMP guidelines that takes the security controls even further, providing a soup-to-nuts approach for privacy and security, mobile-specific controls and inside threat mitigation.
That’s an important package of controls for any government agency, but even better, if the cloud vendor is building out this kind of control for the government, it’s building it for you too.
Security and privacy concerns aren’t just the domain of the federal government. These are primary concerns for enterprise customers too and these controls should go a long way toward addressing some of the primal fears of letting go of control of information in the cloud.
As stringent as your security may be, I’m guessing in many cases, it probably hasn’t met the criteria outlined in these guidelines. In a post on dZone’s CloudZone, consultant JP Morgenthal called the cloud the great equalizer, giving big businesses a way to be more agile and flexible while giving small businesses the access to the same services as their larger counterparts.
As the cloud grows in popularity and moves from small to big business and into all aspects of the federal government, these advantages will only grow more apparent, as even the smallest business gets the same service as the federal government.
February 29, 2012 9:26 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Mobile Marketshare
, Windows Phone 7
Microsoft and Nokia hope to succeed with lower end phones like the Lumia 610.
Nokia and Microsoft have made a deal to succeed or fail together, and perhaps recognizing, they couldn’t compete with iOS and Android at the top of the market, they have decided to aim lower toward the bottom — and it might be a move that saves them both if Windows Phone 7 can truly run on lowered powered and therefore cheaper phones.
The strategy itself could be a sound one. Nokia has controlled the low end of the market for years — that is before it started being pushed aside by lower end Android phones. Android has the advantage over Apple of playing at both ends of the market with higher end phones to compete with the iPhone, and much cheaper phones to sell in places like India and China where many people can’t afford the high cost of the elite smart phones.
In fact, Reuters ran a report last month suggesting that Apple might have trouble making headway in Asia, precisely because of its higher price. Android phones have filled the gap at the low end of the market, a gap left by Nokia’s failure to evolve. Now Nokia and Microsoft are hoping to find salvation at the low end of the market.
One of those new phones announced this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the Nokia Lumia 610, a phone Nokia hopes to market to young people, but its low price could also appeal to parts of the world such as Asia and Africa where the cost of the phone is important.
To that end, Nokia reports that Microsoft has modified Windows Phone 7 to run on the lower powered phones, but it’s unclear at this point how well this will work or what impact it might have on the ability to run third-party apps (or even Microsoft native apps for that matter). And apps are a key part of the mobile success equation.
Nokia is clearly taking aim at the Chinese market by including Chinese language and network support for the Lumia 610.
That’s not to say that Nokia is ceding the market for more sophisticated handsets to Apple and Android. As Wayne Rash reports on FierceMobileIT, the low-end strategy doesn’t mean that Nokia is giving up on the US market by any means, and in fact it also announced LTE phones for the US market for some time in the first half of this year.
Nokia and Microsoft are in a tough position. They are being squeezed by chief competitors iOS and Android at both ends of the market. In the US iOS and Android reportedly control close to 90 percent of the market. It’s going to be tough to break that control and these companies have to recognize that.
While they aren’t going to give up on the high end altogether — as they shouldn’t — it makes sense to play to Nokia’s strength, which has always been in the middle to lower ends of the markets where it dominated for years.
With their futures now linked, a strategy that tries to distinguish Nokia and Microsoft from its more dominant competitors is a smart approach, and by shooting for the lower end of the market in Asia, where there is a huge population hungry for an affordable smart phone, it just might pay off in a big way — so long as Windows Phone 7 and third-party apps don’t get sluggish on the lower powered phones.
February 28, 2012 11:15 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Motorola Mobility. Mobile
The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Awry
The Verge reports that Andy Rubin, Android’s head honcho at Google bent over backwards at Mobile World Congress this week to convince reporters that he will have nothing to do with Motorola Mobility, going as far as saying that Google has “literally built a firewall” between the two companies. Do you believe him?
I’m not sure I do or if it’s even in Google’s best interest to make absolute statements of this sort. Google has gotten itself in hot water in the past by making similar blanket statements. Consider Exhibit A, ‘Don’t Be Evil.’
As Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land points out in a post today, that whole ‘Don’t Be Evil’ declaration was a bad idea from Day One:
“The problem is, I think Google has failed to understand that along the way, it has become just another big company. It’s a big company that makes mistakes, like any big company will do. But unlike most big companies, the entire “Don’t Be Evil” mantra it created for itself years ago has given it farther to fall,” Sullivan wrote.
Yet here they go again making another one. And the fact is it doesn’t matter if there’s a firewall or not. Partners are always going to be concerned that Motorola phones have a leg up on theirs because it’s part of the Google corporate family. In fact, I wrote about these concerns in this space when the deal was announced last August.
Even if Rubin made the firewall statement with the best of intentions, it doesn’t mean that this statement won’t come back to haunt Google at some point. Sullivan called the ‘Don’t Be Evil” proclamation “incredibly dumb” in his piece. I think Rubin’s statement could eventually be seen in a similar light.
As a publicly traded company under intense scrutiny from governments and consumer groups, Google should be treading very carefully when it comes to making any statements that suggest a fixed position, yet it seems to throw out them out there periodically with little thought to the possible consequences.
Let’s fast-forward two years from now:
In this purely fantasy view of what could happen, Motorola is struggling. The phones aren’t selling and stock holders are complaining about the $12 billion investment. The patent cache not withstanding because it was probably a significant reason for the buy, there might be some grumbling about giving Motorola more careful attention. After all, these are Android phones and Android is a Google platform.
An order could come down from the executive committee (to paraphrase Ronald Reagan), “Mr. Rubin, tear down this wall.” But he made this very public statement two years before, and some jilted Android handset makers get miffed and go to court and they use Rubin’s very words as evidence.
I’m not saying that it will happen this way, but why take a chance by making statements you could come to regret, or worse that could be used against you in a court of law. You would think Google would have learned that by now, but apparently not.
Photo by t3rmin4t0r on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
February 22, 2012 11:03 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
You have to hand it to Microsoft. Their latest attacks on Google Apps are at least an attempt at comedy, but when you peel back the humor, what you have is just good old-fashioned Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD), YouTube style.
I won’t discuss the irony of Microsoft going off on Google services using Google’s own YouTube channel. That’s fairly rich in itself, but as we shall see, Google has opened itself up to these attacks with its own behavior.
Let’s start with the videos. One is a take-off on the 1980s TV series Moonlighting. This is the same company that tried to save flagging Vista sales in 2008 using 90s TV star Jerry Seinfeld. Now they are digging back a little deeper into TV history, so far back most people under 30 probably won’t get it, but they can’t help but get the message. Google is “experimenting” with its customers, while Microsoft is the “safe choice” for business. Blah blah.
In a second video, Microsoft goes after GMail trying to make the case that Google is reading your email and that you can’t conduct business on there because big, bad Google is invading your privacy by basing ads on keywords in the email. It’s worth noting that Google Apps for Business lets businesses hide ads.
It’s all very cute, but at its core, it’s still FUD of the worst kind and takes Microsoft back to the bad old days of trying to take down the opposition by scratching at the itch of doubt many companies still feel toward cloud computing.
Microsoft is just jumping in and kicking them while they are down and the doubt is simmering in the minds of many users. Just good business, right?
Microsoft even jumped into the fray directly by making the claim that Google was messing with Internet Explorer privacy settings, although Google responded with a firm denial. And the game continues.
But when all is said and done, while Google is hardly an innocent victim in all of this, Microsoft is playing dangerous games by knocking a fellow cloud-computing vendor in this fashion.
That’s because it could be sending the message that the cloud isn’t safe (even if it’s not trying to make that claim), and could be even undermining its own cloud business in the process.
It’s always drag when your own FUD comes back to bite you in the behind, but that could be the case here when Microsoft tries to send a negative cloud message and plays into the fear of cloud doubters — the same people it wants for customers.
February 17, 2012 1:04 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
You’ve been dealing with a ton of mobile issues over the last several years. If it’s not Android, iOS, Windows Phone 7 or some other phone OS, it’s tablets. But all of the challenges you’ve faced over mobile could pale in comparison when you have to start supporting car computers.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a few executives haven’t asked you about this already.
And just this morning, Ford announced a new open source platform called OpenXC, an open platform designed to create apps in the car. Yes, that’s right in-car apps with a whole set of unique requirements you won’t find when developing for the phone or tablet.
According to OpenXC’s About statement, it’s a combination of hardware and software designed to open up the car computer system into a series of plug-in modules, which the end user can control. So as the information page indicates, if one user wanted Bluetooth and another want 3G connectivity, they could choose those and only those modules that they wanted.
In another words, it doesn’t assume one size fits all.
For now, Ford appears to be the only car maker involved in this project, but that could change if it catches on.
One thing is clear, if you’ve been shopping for a new car lately, the on-board computer is a big selling feature and Ford in particular has been positioning its Ford Focus as a very cool and hip car for young people–and the on-board computer is a big part of that.
But your executives, have probably been seeing this for some time in the Lexus, BMW, Audi and other high end luxury cars — and the car computers are growing increasingly sophisticated.
At some point, it’s natural to assume if users can get texts and emails, they will be able to read documents too (or have the car read for them while they drive), but this raises some interesting security issues.
Such as authenticating the person who is driving or making the request is actually the authorized individual because lots of people could have access to the vehicle. What’s more, you might have to warn the authorized person that if there are other people in the car who aren’t authorized to hear the document, he or she should wait until he is alone to listen to or read it.
There are lots of issues when it comes to providing information via a car computer including how secure it is and how vulnerable it could be to outside hacking.
And as much as many organizations are still in the early stages of learning about all mobile development, this just adds another level of complexity.
The fact is you might not have to develop for the car right away, but chances are at some point, and probably faster than you think, it’s going to happen. And you may want to least have it on your mobile development road map.
Photo of Ford Focus on-board computer by Robert Couse-Baker. Used under Creative Commons License.
February 16, 2012 10:23 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Computerworld reported that last week, the FBI has reaffirmed that cloud computing vendors must comply with its strict criminal database access and sharing rules to do business with them or any US law enforcement entity. These rules are known as Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS) security requirements.
When it comes to sharing data online, the FBI most definitely did not just fall off the turnup truck. In fact, according to its web site, The FBI established the CJIS division all the way back in 1992 and the security requirements are a precise set of rules developed over the years to help law enforcement agencies share criminal database information in a secure fashion.
The FBI is now insisting that any company that wants to sell the FBI (or any US law enforcement entity) cloud services has to comply with these regulations, which involves ensuring that *anyone* who has access to the criminal justice information has been fully vetted including a finger print background check.
The situation has become even more confusing because other federal agencies have been content to hold cloud vendors to the the FISMA Guidelines up to now. David Perera, who is editor at FierceGovernmentIT says trying to sort out the different Federal Government security guidelines can be confusing.
“FISMA requires that all IT systems undergo a security risk assessment, have adequate controls and be expressly authorized to operate on the network. The controls, correlated to risk (roughly, low- moderate- and high-), are kept in NIST Special Publication 800-53,” Perera explained.
He adds that the cloud only adds to this overall puzzle. “So cloud systems are just like any other system operating on a federal network, in that sense – except that the Obama administration wants individual agencies to start accepting cloud authorizations to operate on a government-wide basis, rather than having each agency go through the FISMA process each time a cloud provider sells them a service,” he said.
And of course, Perera added, if you’re involved in national security, that’s something entirely different and these departments can depart from FISMA guidelines to layer on their requirements, as the FBI has done in this case.
But is the FBI being completely fair here? While it’s clearly their right to protect the databases and the information in it, should these same strict guidelines apply to any cloud service the FBI uses?
The FBI and Justice Department may have very sound reasons for this because some of this data may end up in a Google Docs document, for example, and perhaps it’s too hard to have more than one set of rules for different situations. Instead, they decide to apply the most stringent policies to everyone to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
Regardless of why or whether it’s fair or not fair, the FBI has made it clear its cloud vendors need to comply, and if they can’t, they won’t be able to do business with US law enforcement.