View From Above


November 17, 2011  12:49 PM

Trying to Measure Cloud Adoption is Tricky Business

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
Each time I hear someone cite research about cloud adoption in the enterprise, I’m always suspicious. That’s because these surveys tend to ask the wrong questions to the wrong people.

Typically they look at enterprise-wide initiatives and ask an IT executive where the company is in the cloud adoption process. Usually when you ask the person at the top, he or she is only aware of the enterprise-wide projects, and these may not be very ambitious or very far along, so the numbers look low and the perception is that enterprise cloud computing adoption is low.

Yet cloud infrastructure service provides such as Amazon, Verizon and Rackspace seem to be doing very well, as do cloud software and platform providers such as Salesforce.com.

So customers are clearly buying these services, but they might not be going through IT to do it — and that’s why the surveys aren’t really getting at the true level of adoption.

It’s harder to measure when it comes from the bottom up, then when it comes from the top down. I watched a presentation by Box.net CEO Aaron Levie last year at the Web 2.0 Expo where he explained that by offering a product for free using the freemium model, it allowed his company to get inside organizations it would have been otherwise more difficult to penetrate.

This trojan horse model isn’t unusual in cloud computing. When users find a compelling product, they are going to use it and then go to IT later when it’s time to buy the premium version. It’s a strategy that worked for Box.net, Yammer and many other cloud vendors.

As I wrote in this space in the post, IT-Cloud Disconnect Remains, this is really not unusual and one blogger found that when asking about cloud spending in a company, the answer he got depended greatly on whom he asked.

And let’s face it, if you were to ask the average person if they use cloud services, assuming they understood the concept, I’m guessing most people with an Internet connection would have to answer an emphatic yes. Most people at a minimum get email through a web service like Gmail, use a file or photo sharing service like Dropbox or Flickr or a music service like Pandora or Spotify.

The cloud for personal use has become a given, and people who use these services at home are coming into work and using them too because they are easy to use and there is a low barrier to entry. If you don’t have your company locked down — which in my view is completely counter-productive — then chances are these same folks are accessing the services they like to use at home while at work.

So what we end up with is a shadow IT, where users take advantage of ease of use outside of IT oversight. If IT doesn’t know who’s using cloud services, asking IT management about cloud adoption is not going to yield an accurate measure of cloud usage. And that’s the issue I have with most cloud surveys.

November 14, 2011  1:23 PM

I’ve Had it Up to Here with Meaningless Upgrade Names.

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
It used to be back in the day, you had version 1.0, 1.5 for an interim release and 2.0 for the second full release and so forth. And it was good. That’s because you knew exactly where you were in the upgrade cycle. Today’s upgrades have names produced by the same folks who name paint colors.

Instead of 1.0 and 2.0 or even 95 or 98, we have Mango and Ice Cream Sandwich. Notice that Mango’s real name is 7.5, which at least makes sense. But for some reason, these companies have chosen to use a torturous secret naming system instead of a meaningful system that gives you some clue to as, you know, which is the latest upgrade and how it relates to other versions that came before it.

Everyone does it. At least Microsoft went back to the numbering system with Windows 7, but if you’re not a geek like me would you know where Windows 7 sits in relation to say Windows Me or Windows Vista?

And Apple’s certainly guilty of it too. How about Lion or Leopard and Snow Leopard — two kinds of leopards?Really, Apple?!

I honestly have to look up which is the latest version and how it relates to the other wild cats that came before it. This makes absolutely no sense to me and I’m sure it doesn’t to the public either.

When I encounter these names in the title of a press report about an upcoming release, I’m left wondering why I care about a product with an OS named Ice Cream Sandwich — if I even realized it was an OS to begin with.

I’m sure it’s useful and wonderful upgrade. I’m not suggesting that it’s not. I’m just saying that the name is stupid because it is. When I think of Ice Cream Sandwich, Google, I don’t think of your next Android operating system, sorry. And if I do, I just get a big question mark in my brain thinking WTF? Why are they calling it that?

I know Mango was the latest upgrade to Win Phone 7, but I have no idea why they called it that. If you want to know the players, you literally have to go to a web page to get the program. Did you know, for instance, that Microsoft had a previous upgrade called NoDo? Really, that’s what they called it.

If you walked up to an average person and told them they could have a million dollars if they could name the OSX upgrade names in order, I’m guessing most couldn’t do it (unless you’re the biggest Apple fanboi on the planet, that is). I use Apple products and I couldn’t begin to tell you.

I’m asking to return to a simpler time when upgrade names had some meaning and gave you some context as to where they fit in the scheme of the upgrade path. Let’s take the naming out of the marketing department and put it back in the hands of people with common sense.

As it stands, this modern naming system is completely chaotic and frankly makes no sense.


November 9, 2011  6:50 AM

Me thinks Eric Schmidt doth protest too much

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
This week Google CEO Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt went to a lot of trouble to assure Android partners, particularly Samsung, that its recent purchase of Motorola Mobility does not threaten the openness of Android, but it’s hard to imagine how it can’t.

It’s a case, I believe, of Mr. Schmidt protesting too much.

If he didn’t believe that was going to happen, why would he say it at all. In fact, it was the first thing I thought of when I heard about the sale back in August. I’m sure that Samsung, LG and HTC, and the other successful Android handset manufacturers had the same thought.

The latest numbers from comScore showed Motorola with 13.8 percent of marketshare in terms of mobile subscribers. Well ahead of them is Samsung with 25.3 percent and LG with 20.6 percent. The two latter companies sell a lot of Android phones.

Reuters reports that he’s in Asia this week on an Android good-will tour. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that he started his trip in South Korea where two of the most successful Android handset manufacturers, Samsung and LG, are based. Schmidt tried to distance himself from the idea of competing, however by insisting that Motorola Mobility would run as a completely separate operation, ensuring that the openness of Android would continue along as though Google didn’t own Motorola.

If you believe that one, I have some swamp land in Florida and bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in. The fact is as I’ve written in this space before, Google is trying to play both ends against the middle with this deal. It can’t be both a handset manufacturer and develop an open source operating system that competes with other handset manufacturers. It’s not a tenable situation.

So he can make all the nice friendly statements he wants and even make promises to use the power of Google to promote South Korean culture, which he actually did. According to an article in PCMag Online, he actually promised the president of South Korea a YouTube channel to promote Korean pop music.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees this as being remarkably similar to a politician trying to assure the allies that everything is OK when it’s clear something is very wrong. Schmidt is the equivalent of the American president touring Asia to reassure them and even bringing (meaningless) goodies as a peace offering.

That’s probably because it really is hard for Schmidt and the companies he’s visiting to imagine that Google can really build a firewall between the Android development team and Motorola. After all, why would it want to?

But if you’re developing a so-called open operating system, you can’t lead the way by trying to sell your own phones. That’s why if you want a truly open source mobile operating system, the mobile version of Ubuntu Linux sounds so interesting.

The openness would be undeniable and it might give handset makers looking for alternative to Android an open source choice from a company that Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out on ZDNet has the chops to develop a mobile OS that could reach a wide market.

Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt can go on all the good will trips he wants, and make all the promises about his company’s continued neutrality around Android, but the fact is Google is in the handset business now and nothing is going to change that or the perception that it will always have the upper hand in Android development moving forward.


November 7, 2011  1:47 PM

Microsoft Continues to Struggle for Smart Phone Market Share

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
In spite of marketing blitzes and many available phones, the latest numbers from comScore show that Microsoft continues to struggle to gain market share, actually losing .2 in percentage of subscribers running a Microsoft mobile OS in the latest figures.

The numbers dropped from 5.8 to 5.6, leaving me to wonder whether Microsoft is ever going to catch on with consumers in a big way. Only RIM had a worse quarter and it had further to go.

RIM lost another 4.6 percent of marketshare in the quarter as their overall share dropped from 23.5 percent all the way down to 18.9 percent, a downward trend that continues for RIM quarter after quarter.

It’s worth noting that these numbers are for the period ending September, 2011, so it’s possible that in the next set of numbers we will start to see some greater penetration from Microsoft, but it’s more likely going to be second quarter numbers next year, after we’ve had some time to judge the impact of the Nokia deal that we can truly measure Microsoft’s success.

For whatever reason, without any push from Nokia, Microsoft’s number have remained soft. CNet reports that Microsoft is holding an event in New York this week to try to generate some attention for the phones ahead of the holiday rush. In addition, prices on Win 7 phones have dropped pretty significantly with some free after rebate.

But given it’s been a year since the launch, Microsoft has to be disappointed with the results so far. Microsoft is literally trying a big promotion, by building a huge Windows 7 phone outside of Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square in New York city. The CNet article reports the phone is 150 times larger than a hand-held counterpart, but still features live tiles with weather updates and a mini concert from the band “Far East Movement.”

It’s quite a show, but it’s doubtful it will be enough to pull market share from Apple and Google. In fact, the two smart phone juggernauts just kept right on chugging along in comScore’s most recent market survey with Apple up to 27.4 percent, up 0.8 from June, and Google up to 44.8 percent, up 4.6 from June.

It’s interesting to note that RIM lost 4.6 percent and Google gained that exact same amount. What’s more, these numbers don’t reflect the release of the iPhone 4S, which happened on October 4th, after these numbers were released. This is bound to drive up Apple’s market share for the next round of numbers.

It’s also worth  pointing out that the smart phone pie is a growing one, not a fixed point in time. In the latest report, comScore reports that the number of people who owned smart phones in the United States alone was up 12 percent to 87.4 million.

So for RIM and Microsoft, the fact the US market is growing has to be at least encouraging, but that Apple and Google continue to grow with it, while RIM and Microsoft continue to fall off has to be awfully discouraging.

For Microsoft, it’s probably going to take more than a giant phone in Manhattan to change its fortunes, but what it’s going to take isn’t inherently clear just yet. For the executives in Redmond, I’m sure a quarterly report with some positive growth would at least be a start.

Photo courtesy of subcld on Neowin.net.


November 3, 2011  2:47 PM

They’re young, hip and completely connected

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
While many of us, regardless of our age, find the Internet to be an increasingly important part of our lives, a recent survey by Cisco of 1400 college students and 1400 young professionals found many young people believe they literally couldn’t live without an Internet connection.

Just how important do these young people think the Internet is in their lives? Would you believe that 4 out of 5 said the Internet is vitally important and part of their daily life’s sustenance. Two out of three said they would rather have an Internet connection than a car and 1 in 3 said it was a vital human resource up there with food, water, air and shelter.

These young people obviously didn’t live through the aftermath of this past weekend’s October snow storm in the US because they would have realized what I learned. While it’s a pain to not have an Internet connection (or electricity), it’s really not life threatening.

Regardless, these young people are mobile too and the survey found that 66 percent of students and 58 percent of young employees listed their mobile device as the most important device in their lives. This was defined as a laptop, mobile phone or tablet.

When you consider that a recent Nielsen study found that 62 percent of young people between the ages of 25 and 34 own smartphones, it further proves just how connected this generation really is.

And as these young people grow increasingly connected, consider that they don’t read newspapers–only 4 percent of those surveyed believed the newspaper was an important source of information. One surprising data point to me, especially since half the survey was college students was that only 1 in 5 had bought a physical book in the last 2 years.

As you would expect, young people are social with 91 percent of college students and 88 percent of working young people reporting having a Facebook account. I’m actually surprised there are 12 percent of the young employees who responded actually don’t have an account.

What these numbers prove is what we all would have suspected all along, that young people are connected and extremely mobile and social. The Internet is more than a tool for them, it is literally a part of their being, a part that many perceive they couldn’t even live without.

As the demographics of the work place begins to shift towards these young people and the generation coming of age behind them, the way these young people work is clearly going to have an impact on the way businesses operate in the future. And it clearly isn’t going to be your father’s work routine.

And smart companies will begin to recognize and accommodate that shift, rather than trying to shoe-horn a generation of completely connected young people into the previous generation’s way of working and doing business.


October 31, 2011  12:07 PM

HP Needs to Find a Plan and Stick to It

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller

Last week HP did an about face and announced that it was not only keeping its PC division, it was going to develop a new tablet running Windows 8.

By now, nearly everyone who follows technology news has to know that in August just several weeks after launching the webOS-based TouchPad, HP announced it was pulling the tablet from the market, selling them off at bargain basement rate of $99 and spinning off its PC division.

Further, it was buying Autonomy for $10 billion and changing its focus from a hardware company to one that sells much more lucrative software and services.

To say that people were shocked by this development was an understatement. The markets reacted particularly badly and it didn’t take long for the Board of Directors to fire CEO Leo Apotheker, the man who architected this vision.

A short time later, the company hired former eBay executive Meg Whitman to take over. At first, it looked like she would stay the course and continue Apotheker’s vision (which seemed odd given the Board fired him because of it), but then came the news last week that HP was keeping the PC division along with the new tablet strategy.

Meanwhile, to nobody’s surprise, I’m sure, webOS employees are fleeing HP as fast they can as it’s clear HP has completely abandoned this side of the business.

HP bought Palm in April 2010, precisely for webOS. Almost a year later, Apotheker announced his “webOS Everywhere” strategy. It was a bold vision and something that HP clearly needed, and it was a clear signal to Redmond that HP was no longer going to be beholden to Microsoft and the Windows OS.

HP had an OS of its very own and it was going to run with it — only problem was that it didn’t get very far.

Now we find HP running back into the arms of Steve Ballmer and company, apparently thinking that a tablet running Windows is better than the tablet it already had on the market for all of 6 weeks.

And don’t forget that prior to purchasing Palm, HP had a short-lived, high-priced tablet called the Slate that ran…wait for it…Windows.

If you’re completely confused at this point you should be because it’s a long, sordid and confusing tale that took a once mighty company on a full-on plunge.

I’m not sure what the latest tablet announcement means, or if the world is more likely to buy an HP tablet running Windows than one running webOS. It’s hard to say because HP never really gave the TouchPad a fighting chance to find out.

I believe HP looked more innovative and edgy when it went the all-webOS route, but perhaps going the safe route holding hands with Microsoft might be better in the long run and provide the company with some much-needed stability after this long, chaotic period.

Whatever the reasons, at this point, HP needs to find a plan and stick to it — once and for all.


October 27, 2011  4:28 AM

Nokia Windows Phones Focus on Consumers

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
Wednesday at Nokia World, we finally got a glimpse of the new Windows phones and some non-Windows phones as well, and one thing I noticed was that these devices were all firmly focused on the consumer market.

While Mary Jo Foley wrote on ZDNet that there has been a long-rumored Windows phone with a business focus, which she believes exists, it was a no-show at today’s events, and that might have been a disappointment to corporate types who were hoping for a little love from these Microsoft-based phones.

That’s not to say that companies couldn’t build business applications for use on these phones just as they have on iOS and Android, but Microsoft shops might have been hoping for something that was a bit more IT-friendly perhaps. For today, at least, they didn’t get it.

Nokia did announce some lower end phones, however based on the new S40 platform. I’m still left wondering why Nokia abandoned Symbian on the low end and came up with an entirely new platform, and further why it would abandon MeeGo as well, which has a pretty good open source development platform.

As for the phones, it did show off, there was nothing spectacular about them, but they look like perfectly attractive phones. There’s not much new under the sun that Nokia can put in a phone to make people look its way. It has to hope that people will be attracted to its sleek design and Windows Phone 7 operating system and that will be enough to move at least some people to choose Nokia over iPhone and Android phones.

As Preston Gralla reported in Computerworld, at least one analyst was less than impressed with new offerings predicting that the phones face what he called “an uphill struggle.” That much is clear.

As the analyst said, it’s not that the phones aren’t nice looking. They are very attractive in my view too, but it’s going to take more than a sleek design to attract users in large numbers. And that means Nokia is likely to continue to struggle to gain market share .

One way it could have differentiated itself from the consumer market would have been to come out with a line of IT-friendly phones that might take the place of the Blackberry for some organizations.

And it may be that such a phone is out there somewhere on the drawing board or in the development process, but it seems for Wednesday at least, Nokia was focused firmly on the consumer.

That may work for them, or not, but whatever they do at this point, they are probably fighting for a distant third in market share. That could add up to a lot of phones, but it probably won’t replace the market Nokia has lost in recent years, especially in developing markets, to the cheaper Android phones flooding the market.

It doesn’t matter how much dancing Nokia executives do on stage, they can’t dance fast enough to catch up with a market that could possibly have passed them by.

Photo courtesy of Nokia.


October 24, 2011  5:11 AM

Can the Cloud Ever Satisfy Compliance?

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
I spent part of last week at ARMA, the conference for records keepers and compliance pros. These folks are charged with maintaining company records and making sure it has rules in place to comply with any appropriate laws. The problem is finding a way to satisfy their requirements without losing the advantages and cost-savings of a cloud approach.

At a session at ARMA last week called Clouded Records, Storing Records in the Cloud, consultant Brent Gatewood spoke about the advantages of cloud computing, but he asked a lot of tough questions too. And he suggested that the records keepers, whose job is to set up retention policies and get rid of stuff when it’s no longer needed, ask these questions early on in the discussion, not years after you’ve already signed a contract.

For instance Gatewood suggested asking your cloud vendor if it deletes stuff when you ask it to. He said that people often see the cloud as a place to save everything forever, but that’s not necessarily something someone who is concerned with governance and record keeping sees as an advantage.

What about data center security? And by the way, in which countries is your data being stored and does your vendor do employee background checks? What about for sub-contractors? And have you visited the cloud vendor’s data centers to do an on-site check to see for yourself how well they are complying with your requests?

This just scratches the surface of some of the things that Gatewood said a thorough records manager might check to make sure the cloud vendor passed your company’s compliance muster.

There’s no doubt that these are tough questions and I suppose somebody has to ask them, but regardless of the answers, many of your employees are probably already using cloud services whether you know it or not.

I saw several figures throughout the conference that suggested the cloud wasn’t that far along, that managers see it as something they are exploring or looking at for the future, but what these kinds of surveys fail to take into account is that employees on the ground are using these services already outside of the purview of IT and those managers.

While the records managers are asking all of these questions, some which are legitimately worth understanding, your users have blown right by you because those cloud services are so easy to use they are using them at the individual or departmental level today.

That’s why I always look skeptically at survey data that suggests it’s otherwise. You have to ask the right people the question to get an accurate fix on cloud usage in any company.

And the fact is the advantages are far too great to ignore, and you don’t want to negate those advantages by burying your company under a mountain of compliance red tape.

That’s not to say, you shouldn’t have some rules and systems in place, you just have to give up the old notions of total control of data and try to get to the ones that truly matter to your organization.


October 14, 2011  1:39 PM

Survey Finds a Third of iPhone 4s Buyers are New to Apple

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
A Guardian article on Friday, citing a survey of 100 buyers in the crowd outside the London Regent Street Apple Store, found that one third of people getting an iPhone today were new iPhone buyers, while 44 percent were upgrading from the iPhone 4.

I find both of these numbers surprising for different reasons.

First all, some background on the survey: It was conducted by insurance company ProtectYourBubble.com, which according to the company web site will protect your iPhone 4s for 5.99 pounds per month (that’s $9.48 a month in US dollars).

The survey was a small sample for sure, so it’s hard to draw firm conclusions, but the fact that so many people were choosing this upgrade to be the one they jumped on board the Apple platform was somewhat surprising to me, but who knows, maybe that’s just how their upgrade cycles matched up. What was more interesting was that 44 people out of those hundred chose to upgrade from iPhone 4 in spite of the fact, this wasn’t considered a major upgrade by any means.

Still, what was even more unexpected was that Siri, the voice assistant, which I think is the biggest draw on this phone wasn’t the chief reason these 100 people were getting it. In fact, 37 people cited the 8 megapixel camera as their favorite new feature, compared with 34 who named Siri, a small but interesting difference.

One other data point found that more than a third of respondents believed Siri was just a gimmick, which seems odd to me because this feature is getting a lot attention from early adopters.

Finally, when asked what phone they would buy in a world where iPhone didn’t exist, the top answer was very surprising: 34 percent said they would buy a Blackberry. Microsoft might want to be worried that only 3 percent of those who responded would buy a Windows phone in a world without iPhone. It’s worth noting that 27 percent said they would get an HTC phone and 24 percent a Samsung phone–both of which run Android– in this hypothetical iPhone-less world.

Meanwhile, AT&T’s activation servers were overloaded again, as with the iPhone 4 launch. This is really inexcusable for a company with AT&T’s resources and one that supposedly is a networking company first and foremost. They should certainly be able to make sure they have enough server capacity to accommodate an anticipated rush like an iPhone launch. How they can let this happen repeatedly is really beyond belief.

100 people randomly picked from a crowd of people waiting to buy the phone probably isn’t scientific by any means, but there were certainly some interesting answers. I’m betting we’ll find that Siri does turn out to be the number one feature on this phone by far, no matter what this survery found. And further that it could change the way we interact with phones by using the far more natural voice and far less natural keyboard input.

Photo by 246-You on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.


October 12, 2011  11:23 AM

RIM’s Horrible Year Continues

Ron Miller Ron Miller Profile: Ron Miller
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.


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