October 12, 2011 11:23 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, smart phones
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear,
Well, it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year.
~Rembrandts, I’ll Be There For You (Friends theme song)
RIM has been having a no good, terrible, very bad week, but it’s just par for the course for the smart phone company that has been falling out favor with consumers for some time now. First customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa–the customers it’s worth pointing out that are part of RIM’s growth market–have been without service and this is going on Day 3 today.
As though that weren’t bad enough, ZDNet reports that the same problems affecting other regions had spread to the US and Canada.
These haven’t been really great times for RIM of late. What was once the worldwide leader in business smart phones has seen its market share slashed and burned by Apple and Android phones. Once the darling of IT, RIM is now a victim of the consumerization movement. People don’t want stodgy Blackberries when they can have sexier models from the competition.
As a result RIM has been bleeding marketshare in the US for years. It tried to get into the tablet market with the Playbook and botched the launch leaving it to play catch-up ever since in a market that demands perfection out of the gate. RIM had a chance to market itself as the enterprise-friendly tablet, but it failed to take advantage of the opportunity.
But RIM’s one saving grace was the fact it was still very popular in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and in spite of its tumbling market share in the US, whenever I travel on business, I still see plenty of Blackberries in the airport lounges.
Now they have damaged their last growth market with an outage for the ages. Writing on twitter, analyst Michael Gartenberg tweeted, “RIM outages tarnishing a company with ethos for reliability. 10 years of uptime reputation is damaged with three days of outages.”
Meanwhile, Guardian technology writer Charles Arthur wrote that RIM has lost 4.3 million users in the US last year. This is surely not going to help its reputation any. One of the things RIM has always had going for it was that it was the secure choice.
While it’s not a security breach per se, it is very much a reliability one and for RIM which faces a tremendous challenge moving forward, this has to hurt even more. It seems everywhere this company turns, it’s a bad move
Perhaps Market Watch summed it up best when it wrote that RIM Outage May Threaten Remaining Value. Gee, you think?! Maybe you could buy RIM for a bag of balls.
All kidding aside, in spite of this horrible stretch, there’s probably some life left in the company. It’s just a matter of getting out of its own way and showing the market why people turned to RIM in the first place. But this is no small matter, and it’s going to take some work to put this outage behind it, and return the company to anywhere close to its former status.
Photo by MattHurst on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
October 10, 2011 10:33 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Microsoft has to have a conflict regarding how to proceed with mobile. On one hand, it is first and foremost a software company. Job One is to sell software and its primary focus is supporting Windows–and probably even more so on Windows Phone 7 where Microsoft is competing fiercely with iOS and Android.
And as a company, Microsoft surely wants users to buy Windows phones, but it has to know that at present their market share is fairly minuscule. That’s why when it comes a popular enterprise software package like SharePoint, it has to be conflicted.
Should it support iOS and Android versions of its more popular titles, and admit people might not be using Windows phones, or should it ignore these important rivals in spite of their huge market shares.
It’s probably fair to say that Microsoft’s instinct is to keep customers inside an all Microsoft-stack all the time. Who can blame them, but as we move into a consumer-controlled enterprise world, chances are that many users are going to want to buy iOS and Android products, no matter what IT might think, and if Microsoft is smart, it’s going to give in and provide access to its popular products from these platforms (or one of their many partners certainly will).
As Lubor Ptacek, vice president of Strategic Marketing and general manager of the Microsoft Solutions Group at Open Text told me Microsoft is coming up against the consumerization revolution like everyone else. Unlike in the recent past where everyone used the same phone and notebook computer in the organization, that’s not happening anymore and companies like Microsoft need to adjust to this shifting strategy.
That said, Microsoft continues to work both sides, releasing an iOS version of One Note for example earlier this year. But Microsoft should be supporting a product like SharePoint, which it claims has 125 million users worldwide, on any device users want to access it, and that’s currently not the case with the core product.
Neudesic is one company that has already built a product to give users access to SharePoint on a variety of mobile platforms. And that’s what the partner network is for of course, but Microsoft needs to have this kind of support built into the platform, and this is especially the case as Microsoft begins to develop a cloud-based version of SharePoint and a general company-wide cloud vision.
What is the point of being in the cloud if you don’t provide a full mobile-cloud experience across all of the major platforms — even those that might be competing with you on some level.
And that’s the problem that Microsoft faces as it attempts to compete as a phone OS. Google is an all-cloud company, so it works on every platform by default inside the browser (and also via platform-specific apps) and for Apple, iOS supports the hardware it’s trying to sell, rather than Microsoft’s software focus.
That’s why Microsoft faces this kind of predicament when it comes to mobile because while it wants people to use Microsoft products across a variety of platforms, it still wants to protect its own above all else, and that’s a tough way to do business if you want to build a complete cloud-mobile connection.
October 5, 2011 7:24 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.
~Don McLean, American Pie
By now, you probably know that Steve Jobs died tonight. I was going to write about something mundane like the differences in Microsoft and Adobe’s mobile-cloud strategies, but that can wait for another day. Tonight we come to celebrate Jobs’ undeniable influence on mobile computing.
If you think about it for a minute, he changed everything, first with the iPhone and later with the iPad. If you want to be technical about it, it all really started with iPod a decade ago, but the iPhone started a shift in the way we interact with one another and the Internet on cell phones.
It was the first touch screen mobile device with the perfectly wonderful awful idea of an App Store, a place where developers could sell small, distinct applications designed specifically to complete a simple task while taking advantage of the fact you were on a touch screen mobile device. It’s still a remarkable idea, and every phone that came after it that uses a touch screen including Android owes a deep debt of gratitude to the vision that Steve Jobs brought to the modern smart phone. And of course, the App Store phenomenon has spread rapidly and far.
Yet even surpassing the iPhone, was the iPad, which in many ways altered the entire computing landscape. To me, it’s still difficult to believe that this device which we take for granted now, was only released in April, 2010. Yet within months it started a trend called the consumerization of IT. People wanted their work applications to work as well and as smoothly as the iPad. You started to see devices like scanners with touch screens. It really did change everything.
And within months, you were starting to see its influence everywhere. Of course, there would be the parade of wannabes from Samsung, Motorola, Asus, Dell, RIM and HP (for about a month) and the Kindle Fire is on its way as well, but as with every touch screen that came after the iPhone, every tablet has to live up to the beauty and elegance of the iPad.
When I was at the SharePoint Conference this week, I saw a marketing rep trying to give away tickets for a raffle for an iPad 2 outside the convention center. A hard-core Microsoftee sneered at her with derision and spit out the words, “Why would I want that toy.”
As I walked toward the door I turned around and grinned at the guy and said, “Seriously?!” And he said, “Yes, it’s a toy. You ever try typing an email on there?” Well, it’s not really great for generating content because of the touch keyboard, but this man clearly missed the point of the iPad, and for that matter any tablet that comes down the Pike from here on out.
It is about media consumption, not media creation, and for that, there has never been a better device created in terms of size, weigh, screen quality, touch screen, applications and so forth that has come together as well as the iPad has up to this point.
We don’t really know what will happen to Apple in a post-Jobs world (or to any of us that cover and use mobile devices on a daily basis), but one thing is certain, he left a legacy that will never be matched.
And I don’t say that as post-death hyperbole. It is simply a fact. Jobs changed the world and not many of us can say that. Perhaps someone will come along some day with the intelligence, vision and spirit of Steve Jobs, but I fear when they made Mr. Jobs, they broke the mold and we won’t see the likes of him ever again.
It’s sad day for the world, but for those of us who cover mobile and cloud computing, it’s like the day the music died. And it really makes me wonder where we go from here.
Photo by Danny Novo on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
September 30, 2011 8:05 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud computing
, enterprise IT
I came across an interesting post on the Cloudability blog the other day, the gist of which was that IT might not have a clue that their business users are accessing cloud services without their knowledge.
The Cloudability blog looked at a recent study by 37 Signals, the Base Camp folks, which found they had pretty decent traction inside big Fortune-level enterprise organizations including 37 of the Fortune 50, 68 of the Fortune 100 and 321 of the Fortune 500 — decent traction by any measure.
But where it gets more interesting is when the post author met up with an IT executive at a party and asked him about his IT cloud spend, he was told almost nothing. Interestingly enough, he writes he met up with a developer at the same company and asked the same question. The developer said, $5000.
This is a telling tale for a number of reasons. First of all, it illustrates that business users are probably using cloud services with or without the knowledge of the IT department and why wouldn’t they. These services are inexpensive and easily accessible and they don’t require IT intervention and all the bureaucratic implications inherent in dealing with a defined department.
Now, I don’t want this post to become an anti-IT rant because that’s really not what this about. Instead, it’s understanding how cloud computing has changed the way business users in some organizations (and from the 37 Signals poll results; quite a few of the top ones) have taken control of applications and service purchases because the cloud just makes it so easy to do that.
This is not a new theme. In fact, I was hearing this two years ago at the MIT CIO Conference panels where some CIOs insisted that their users weren’t using cloud applications and the cloud company executives on the same panel were saying, “Yes they are; you just don’t know about it because it doesn’t flow through you.”
Some may see this democratization or consumerization of IT services as chaotic, but if you can offload some of the more mundane IT tasks in this fashion argues Forresters Matthew Brown in a recent blog post, it makes sense and lets IT concentrate on more important organizational tasks. Brown writes, “I for one would much prefer to see IT people working on stuff that adds net new value to the business.”
Hard to argue with that logic. For too long IT has had to worry about keeping the lights on instead of really taking a hard look at how technology can help the organization achieve its strategic business goals. If cloud computing in its various forms can free up IT to do more important work, that seems like a reasonable trade-off from a business perspective.
For now, it’s certainly telling that even now as we approach the end of 2011 and cloud computing begins to gain some maturity (or at least enters adolescence maybe?) that IT executives appear to be just as clueless about cloud usage in their organizations as they were two years ago when cloud computing was less well known in IT circles.
September 27, 2011 6:46 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
I’ve watched the patent wars unfold with a mixture of amusement and disgust. Amusement that big companies have nothing better to do with their money than sue one another, and disgust because that money could be put to better use such as research and development where it could help fuel mobile innovation.
As this infographic shows, anybody who is anybody is suing or being sued for patent violations. The highest profile cases involve the biggest names like Oracle versus Google (which is in negotiations stage right now with the two CEOs supposedly hashing it out) and Apple versus Samsung (and vice versa).
The latter has reached absurd levels as the courts in Germany ruled earlier this month that Samsung Galaxy Tabs had to actually be removed from store shelves.
It’s completely out of hand and it’s stifling real, meaningful innovation. What’s more, this idea that you can simply remove the competitors from the store shelves is down-right anti-capitalist. Let them both sit on the shelves and see which one consumers want. So far, consumers have voted overwhelmingly for iPad. What exactly is Apple afraid of here and what point does it serve by paying all these lawyers to hash this out day after day for years? Not much that I can see.
And that’s just one case. Then you have companies spending billions of dollars, not because they are actually interested in what the company does, but the patents it holds. Google bought Motorola Mobility last month, probably for a lot of reasons, but clearly one of the big reasons was they got a boat load of patents in the deal.
Then they can take the new patents and sue somebody like Oracle for a patent violation, at which point we have an old-fashioned stalemate and maybe everybody backs down (until the next time).
It’s enough to make developers and IT pros tear their hair out because they don’t know where any of this going. Suppose Apple were to win similar injunctions against the Samsung tablet and other competitors (like the upcoming Amazon one for instance) in other markets. In this consumerized IT world where more often than not it seems, users are choosing their devices, you might find yourself wasting your company’s time and resources learning to support devices that are no longer available because of a court decision.
And this isn’t just phones, it’s whole platforms. Don’t forget that Oracle is suing Google over Java patent violations regarding its implementation of Android. While this will likely only result in billions changing hands, and probably won’t have a huge impact on the platform itself, it’s disconcerting nonetheless to see two giants fighting like this over a popular mobile OS.
Regardless of any direct impact these lawsuits might have on you and your organization, eventually they have to hurt the market as a whole as more dollars are directed to buying patents, suing others and defending suits. It’s completely out of control right now, and in spite of some noise from politicians to the contrary, it doesn’t look like the situation is going to improve any time soon.
Unfortunately, there’s not much any of us can do, but to watch this blood bath play out ad nauseum until somebody does something to stop it.
And with nobody likely to step up soon, all we can do is hold on and hope none of us ends up as collateral damage.
September 22, 2011 10:04 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Windows Phone 7
Microsoft announced this week on its Windows Phone Blog that the long-awaited Windows Phone 7 upgrade, code-named Mango, will be rolling out in the next week or two. You need the Windows Phone Mac Connector or Zune for PC to upgrade existing phones. But the big question is does it matter when it comes to prospective customers?
IDC is predicting that Windows Phone market share will remain low this year, and I’m beginning to wonder if it will ever gain any serious traction. Nonetheless IDC is saying that the Windows Phone OS could account for 20 percent of total worldwide marketshare by 2015, lead by the upcoming partnership with Nokia.
But Nokia is having problems of its own as it sits in limbo waiting to release those Windows Phone 7 phones some time in the fourth quarter. What’s more, it remains unclear if Nokia will have the market power necessary to drive Windows Phone 7 phone sales, especially after losing many customers in key markets including China, since announcing it was dropping support for Symbian earlier this year.
Still, PCworld reports that Mango is a significant upgrade with lots of enhancements including the ability to customize those trademark tiles you see on the front of Windows Phone 7 phones. What’s more, it firms up that crucial mobile-cloud link we like to talk about in this blog by reportedly having tighter integration with Microsoft’s cloud storage service, Skydrive.
But it remains to be seen if these enhancements will matter much to the market, or if it has moved on, content to buy Android- and iOS-powered phones, leaving Microsoft an also-ran that came late to the game.
Microsoft has to have a lot of things roll its way if it hopes to make that 20 percent marketshare by 2015 that IDC is predicting. First of all, it needs to roll out this update smoothly. The last thing it needs is reports of glitches as happened with an earlier update. Both consumers and IT pros need to believe that this is going to work well or they will choose an OS they can rely on.
Microsoft also needs its manufacturing partners to come up with some killer phones. Nokia has to design something really special right out of the gate. It can’t be simply a repeat of what we have seen before. It has to grab the attention of the market in a big way. Anything short of this, and the Windows Phone OS will remain in the back of the pack for some time to come.
To be honest, I’m a little surprised that IDC is making these predictions so far out into the future when so many factors can affect marketshare between today and 2015.
Whatever happens, Mango is probably not going to be the magic marketshare bullet that Microsoft is looking for. It’s going to take time and patience to build up a market for these phones, and there are no guarantees no matter how good they might be, that it will be enough.
As Android and iOS roll along, Microsoft will more than likely have to settle for third place well behind the market leaders, no matter what happens moving forward.
Image courtesy of Microsoft.
September 19, 2011 11:08 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Deutsche Telekom
, Patriot Act
We’ve all heard of the private cloud and the public cloud Well how about a country cloud?
Last week a story surfaced about Deutsche Telekom (DT), the German telecommunications giant, asking German regulators to provide a certificate for German and EU companies that proves the data is protected from US government prying.
DT intends to offer customers a more secure alternative and it wants some certification system in place to prove it. Let’s face it, the EU has much more stringent privacy laws in place to protect companies from government interference with their data.
Many companies live in fear of placing their data on US servers because of the USA Patriot Act. Earlier this month, I wrote a post, Patriot Act Casts Shadow on Cloud Computing, on the negative effects of the Patriot Act on cloud computing in the United States. As a result of the restrictiveness of the law, many countries and the companies that are based there will not do business with a cloud company if the data is going to be stored on US servers.
Bloomberg reported that Reinhard Clemens, DT’s division’s chief executive office sees this as a simple marketing advantage, one he intends to leverage with German companies. “Certain German companies don’t want others to access their systems. That’s why we’re well-positioned if we can say we’re a European provider in a European legal sphere and no American can get to them,” Clemens was quoted in Bloomberg.
Ben Kepes writing on Cloud Ave certainly seemed to be sympathetic when he wrote, “I’ve been saying it for years. US based cloud vendors, regardless of whether or not they have footprint outside of the US need to face up to the real concerns and risks that non US companies have when dealing with US located, or owned, infrastructure.”
It’s a point I made in my post on the Patriot Act when I wrote, “Regardless, companies and individuals outside the US remain distrustful of storing any data inside the US where it is subject to US laws.”
Kepes thinks a move such as the one DT wants to make could be seen as a trade barrier, but given the situation with the Patriot Act, it seems that it’s a reasonable one.
This gives rise to the notion of the “country cloud.” It’s like a private cloud for a country or region, though it’s counter to the idea of data moving freely across borders. Who can blame Deutche Telekom for taking this huge opening provided by growing concern of The Patriot Act outside of the US. I’m actually surprised somebody didn’t think of it sooner.
It highlights further my point in my earlier post, that one of the unintended consequences of this law was to hurt cloud computing business in the US and this new development proves that point far better than I could.
As more companies move to take advantage of this opening, large cloud infrastructure players in the US may start complaining to the government, and when that happens it will be interesting to see which political argument wins: business or security.
For now, we are left with an interesting starting point that could develop into a trend if the US doesn’t move to stop it.
September 15, 2011 10:14 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Windows 8
As I read the litany of news streaming in from Microsoft’s Build Conference this week, one thing is clear. Microsoft appears to have bought into a cloud strategy, while suddenly grasping the Cloud-Mobile connection, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re being dazzled by the Microsoft hype machine, or if this is really a case of the leopard changing its spots.
The problem I have is Microsoft’s hype machine is always oh so good at demos and hype and shadows and light. How many times over the years have we seen what looked like something so promising launched at a conference like Build, only to find the cold reality of the release was something quite different.
I’ve been burned enough times to look at any Microsoft announcement with healthy dose of skepticism, but on its face, it appears that Microsoft is building a new system that combines desktop, mobile and cloud into one convenient little package, and if that’s true, it’s an amazing transformation for a company whose bread and butter has always been firmly entrenched on the desktop.
In a commentary on ExtremeTech, writer Sebastian Anthony wondered if we were ready for an all-cloud Microsoft world.
Windows 8, Windows Server, Windows Phone 7, Xbox, Bing, and Office, and each of their corollary utilities and tools, will all become “continuous services” — services that fully leverage Windows Azure and Live to provide a new level of context- and position-aware computing.
It certainly *sounds* like a company that has bought into the cloud-mobile vision, but as recently as last Spring when I attended a couple of different Microsoft events at the CeBIT conference in Hannover, Germany, I was struck by how they didn’t seem to get that connection, even while talking a lot about it.
Could the company strategy have changed that much in the months that followed? Not being at the Build Conference myself to get a first-hand look, it’s hard to make a judgment, but I can’t help but feel I’m missing something here.
Microsoft must certainly understand on one level that the future of computing is in the cloud, but is it truly forward-thinking enough to begin to wean itself off of itself highly lucrative desktop business? If it is, CEO Steve Ballmer is a smarter guy than I thought, and so far, I’ve seen nothing that would suggest to me that he suddenly became this brilliant visionary leader in a few months.
So you’ll excuse me if I take all of this cloud-mobile talk from Microsoft with a serious grain of salt. It could be I’m completely off base here and Microsoft has really turned it around, that the future is really all about the cloud for them and that they completely understand how to integrate a desktop-cloud-mobile experience, but if history is right, there’s probably a lot more talk and less action. But in the event I’m wrong, I’ll happily admit it and tip my cap to them for understanding the future of the market in spite of the leap of faith that obviously takes.
But something tells me we should step back and wait and see because it’s one thing for Microsoft to say something at a conference, but it’s another thing altogether for them to deliver it in the finished product. And until I see proof of that integration in action, count me as an unconvinced observer.
September 14, 2011 9:34 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Marc Benioff
, Vivek Kundra
For as long as I’ve been hearing the term “Cloud Computing” the biggest concern has always been security, especially if you are handing the keys to the kingdom over to an external vendor, but I’m wondering if these concerns are overplayed to a large extent — and so is former US CIO Vivek Kundra.
The story goes if you want to secure your content, you need to keep it inside the confines of your firewall because anything less is exposing your precious data to outside forces. Now I don’t mean to minimize these concerns because certainly some companies, regulated industries in particular, have to keep these concerns top of mind, but are security concerns really valid?
It’s a question Kundra asked recently during an exchange with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff at Dreamforce 11, Salesforce.com’s huge user conference. According to a report on CIO.com, Kundra, who has been a big advocate for cloud solutions in the government, belittled the idea that security was a reason to stay away from the cloud.
In fact, he sees the security argument as a red herring:
In other areas, what you get is a false choice; people erect these barriers around security and privacy, which in some ways are very unfounded. And the reason I think they’re unfounded and ridiculous in a lot of ways is because the United States government already has outsourced over 4700 systems.
And it’s a valid point. He goes onto suggest that these systems are often built by highly paid systems integrators — some of whom might have a lot at stake to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about cloud computing.
Yet how many private companies outsource many of their own services? How many companies for instance do their own payroll anymore? Even very small companies tend to outsource this kind of activity because it’s easier to have someone else do it. Yet that means these payroll companies have access to your employee’s names, addresses, salaries, social security numbers and a lot of other highly confidential information outside your firewall.
And yet we rarely if ever hear anyone getting up and claiming its crazy to outsource your payroll data because you could be compromising your employee’s privacy and crucial company information.
Heck, what better example of cloud computing is there than Salesforce.com. When it launched in the late 90s, did you think it would be common place a decade later to store your most important customer information on another company’s servers? Now thousands of companies, big and small, do just that.
My favorite cloud security story comes from the MIT CIO Conference in 2009. As I explained in a post on DaniWeb at the time, Rear Admiral Elizabeth Hight, vice director of the Defense Information Systems Agency fully embraced the cloud, and in fact described the first private cloud I had ever of at the time, used by military personnel in the field to access services they needed quickly and relinquish them when no longer needed.
What was interesting though was not just that the military was on the cutting edge of cloud computing, but that a drug company executive on the same panel complained the cloud wasn’t secure enough for her. As I wrote:
Panel moderator, Erick Brynjolfsson of the MIT Center for Digital Business did not miss the irony that the military, which requires perhaps the most secure network in the world was not afraid to engage in cloud computing, but the private sector company CIO claimed she was handcuffed by regulations around security.
The point being that 2 years later, we’ve come a long way, and cloud computing has matured remarkably quickly. Yet we are still being subjected to what Kundra sees as misleading arguments about security, and he may be right that it’s time to move on.