While it’s frightening, it doesn’t really damn cloud computing any more than the private data center. When these hackers can go after companies, law enforcement even the CIA, for goodness sakes, if you’re sitting there thinking you’re somehow more secure because you control the data center, you are sadly mistaken.
The fact is it’s a systemic problem to which nobody is immune, regardless of where you store your data or who you are. It’s clear that the people charged with architecting the Internet have to take a long look at what they’ve been doing because it’s clearly no longer working, not when these hackers can take down sites or get inside systems with impunity virtually at will.
It’s easy to point to cloud computing in times like these and suggest that these companies are somehow more vulnerable than a private data center, but as these hackers have shown, they are equal opportunity disruptors and until we find a way to secure the internet, these guys are going to continue to attack simply because they can.
If the Internet establishment needed a bigger wake up call, I’m not sure what its. Companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and so forth should be working together to create a more secure environment. In the current atmosphere, everyone loses, and it gives more credence to the purveyors of good old-fashion cloud FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt).
Chances are, when you sit in a conference, you’ll hear the anti-cloud arguments and the anti-cloud crowd almost always plays the security card. They won’t come out and just say it of course, but they’ll hint at a lack of security and suggest that on-premises software might be (in hushed tone) “the safer choice.”
But the fact is that unless you want to shut down the Internet and have no contact whatsoever with the outside world–and even then I’m not sure you’re safe–you are going to have to live with the possibility of being hacked along with every other organization on the planet.
This is by no means an ideal situation, but it absolutely is a level playing field. If a hacker can penetrate the CIA with all of the security fail-safes I’m imagining it must have in place, it tells you that the system as currently constructed needs a complete overhaul.
So if we are going to have a conversation about the issues we are having these days, let’s agree that whether you’re a cloud vendor or the CIA doesn’t really matter. What we need to do is find a solution to the larger security problem affecting everyone instead of creating a false argument that one approach is safer. The fact is that your data is probably vulnerable no matter where it is, and until we address that issue, we are going to continue to have these problems.
Photo by gwire on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
The letter outlined a series of problems inside the company including management and organizational problems that in the writer’s opinion were holding the company back. In the company’s response, it complained about the difficulty in responding to anonymous attacks, but acknowledged there were problems and they were taking steps to address them.
The response also indicated that RIM has a road map for a way back and is simply in an awkward space between its old systems and its upcoming one. Sounds like the same position Nokia finds itself in.
Fair enough, they are working to resolve the problem, even while they continue to lose market share in bunches. But what’s most troubling is a story last week on IT World that RIM is starting to experience developer defections. That means that companies that develop phone apps are beginning to conclude that it’s not worth the development resources to continue to develop apps for RIM phones.
And one thing is crystal clear into today’s mobile marketplace, companies will live and die by the success of the apps that each phone supports.
But is the story as bleak as it appears? RIM will you tell you it’s not. They have $3 billion in cash after all, and even though the Blackberry sales continue to be in free fall in North America, the company claims that it is selling phones in overseas markets.
This seems to me puts it in a better short-term position than Nokia, which needs to wait for Windows Phone 7 phones later this year before it can go anywhere. RIM is also waiting for phones running its next generation OS, but it’s not living in limbo in the same way Nokia has been.
And in that same response post, RIM pointed out it made $695 million in net income last quarter. This is in stark contrast to Nokia, which recently reported, it went from a projected $6 billion quarter to what they called “breaking even.”
Even though RIM is probably in far better shape, what was once, *the* choice for corporate phones is being replaced by iOS and Android alternatives. Much like Nokia, it feels like a company that has at best one more chance to find its way back before it gets sold and folded into another manufacturer’s portfolio.
While the anonymous letter might have been a wake-up call, RIM had to know where it stood before that, and that the stakes are extremely high. Whether it succeeds or fails won’t hinge on one embarrassing open letter. It will come down to product and marketing execution. And it had better make this one count.
It started with the purchase of Zimbra in January 2010. At the time, as with many purchases when the overall strategy is not clear, Zimbra might have seemed an odd fit. After all, what did VMware need with an email/collaboration vendor?
Then last April, the next target was SlideRocket, a cloud-based slide creation vendor. You could sort of see how buying a cloud vendor might fit in with VMware, but up to now they’ve had a distinct focus on the back end, so on its own, SlideRocket didn’t necessarily seem like a VMware kind of target.
Finally, earlier this month, VMware completed the social purchase trifecta when they announced the purchase of Enterprise 2.0 software firm, Socialcast. And with that you could see that that all of these purchases were about building enterprise social networking into the VMware software stack.
Yet VMware did not have a presence last week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. It could be because, it purchased Socialcast so close to the conference, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they show up in the Fall at the west coast version of the show in Santa Clara.
VMware has some nice pieces here, but it’s unclear if it can take these parts and put them together into a coherent social software package and relate it back to its cloud-virtualization core mission.
And it’s not exactly alone in the social space.
In fact, there are several key players shooting for the same enterprise customers as VMware including Cisco, IBM, SAP and of course Microsoft. And that doesn’t include up and coming companies like Jive and Yammer, which are making a big impact in the enterprise social space.
But VMware is coming at this from a cloud-virtualization angle, which makes it a bit of a different animal from the other competitors in this space.
Perhaps, VMware is in a position to understand better how cloud-based services like these recent purchases can be folded into the enterprise than these other vendors, which tend to be focused on-premise. To be fair Microsoft does offer a cloud-based version of SharePoint, but Microsoft is still very much a traditional enterprise software vendor at heart. For the record, Yammer is a pure play cloud vendor and Jive offers cloud or on-premise options.
It will be interesting moving forward to see how VMware decides to use its social pieces and if it will continue to buy other companies.
For now, VMware is in a good position, leading the way for virtualization and cloud computing, while buying other pieces to fill in holes. And they are making money hand over fist along the way. It seems social is just a small piece in their ever-growing cloud-virtualization strategy and they want to be in it every which way they can.
Photo by FHKE on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
HP certainly thinks that mobile is still in play. In a Fast Company article earlier this week, Phil McKinney, president and CTO of HP’s personal systems group had this to say about the mobile competition. “Everyone’s trying to make it seem the conclusion has been decided. We’re still in the top of the first inning.”
What would you expect him to say — that he’s giving up? Not likely. Like any good baseball manager, HP is going to keep pulling strings until the last pitch and see what happens — as they should.
Licensing WebOS could be a double-edged sword for HP though. When you look at the tablet and phone market, as of this moment, Apple and Google are clearly dominating. When it comes to the tablet, the iPad continues to blow away the field. HP gets it turn at bat on Friday when the HP Touchpad hits stores.
If the other competitors from Samsung to Motorola to RIM are any indication, HP’s prospects are not terribly bright. So far, when people buy a tablet, in overwhelming numbers they are choosing the iPad. Back in March, admittedly a life-time ago in tablet time, Apple Insider reported that 82 percent of potential tablet buyers said they would choose iPad. Those kind of numbers don’t bode well for HP, no matter what inning it is.
Licensing could end up fragmenting the tablet market even further. HP is not the first company to face this conundrum, but I’m willing to bet they are thinking that it’s better to have a larger total WebOS user system in place than it is to worry about protecting the company’s own hardware sales because the more companies building hardware running WebOS, the more developers have to pay attention.
It’s not without merit, but HP isn’t Google. It’s a hardware company first and foremost and as such it needs to sell HP branded tablets and phones. Let’s say a company like Asus licenses the WebOS technology and releases a nifty little tablet that is nicer and cheaper than the one from HP. Would the licensing money (and the fact they were spreading the WebOS love) make up for the fact that they were also possibly undercutting their own market?
It’s not easy to say. Nor is it clear how many vendors would want to run WebOS, adding yet another OS to the already murky mix. Android has the advantage of being open source and therefore free. Companies licensing WebOS would have to figure in operating system costs as they do when running Windows Phone 7. The question is can they price it attractively enough to make it worthwhile for companies to choose WebOS without making it so cheap they don’t make any money.
This is not a market for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. HP is late to the game and as such is going to have to get creative to force its way in. I’m just not sure if licensing is going to help them or hurt them.
Photo by Tom Raftery on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
As I wrote here earlier this month, Nokia is stuck in limbo waiting for those Windows cell phones later this year, so it’s running just as fast as it can to try and stay in the media spotlight.
To that end, it has dispatched employees like Kwan to speak about the company’s vision. You have to give Kwan credit, she didn’t try to sugar coat the current situation admitting the company is facing challenging times and stating outright that Nokia hasn’t been competitive in the North American market for the last few years. Of course, she would have sounded silly if she suggested otherwise.
Kwan recognizes that there is lots of valuable data both in the internal and external social streams, and the challenge is to break down the social media silos, bring information together into one place and figure out how to take meaningful action.
She said Nokia has developed three tools to help employees do this: a visualization tool to help make sense of conversations on internal social networking tools, a social command center to build an understanding about what people are saying about Nokia on external social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and yes, blogs; and finally a crowd sourcing platform where customers and interested parties can contribute ideas to improve Nokia products.
All sounds great in theory, but tools are tools and it’s really going to come down to the phones themselves and if people want to buy them. I’m a fan of using social media in this fashion, but Nokia already knows people are down on their brand right now. They can try to deal with customer problems in real time, which is certainly a worthy goal, but they can’t do much to change phones in the short term based on marketplace perception if it turns out to be negative.
Meanwhile, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was trying a little social media magic of his own this week when he “leaked” a prototype of one the company’s early Windows Phone 7 entries. He even went so far as to suggest that people should shut off their cameras in a public forum. Of course, not everyone did and it “leaked.”
If you follow the link above, you can see a detailed demo of the phone, but beyond the design, what you’re seeing is pretty standard Window phone fare. Sure, they’ll add some Nokia-centric tools on there, but it’s hard to establish some serious differentiation in the market at this point, regardless of the OS your phone is running.
What’s clear, however, is that Nokia is doing everything it can to stay in the news and stay relevant. Elop is trying to build enthusiasm in the market and trying to use social media channels to drive that. The company is also hoping to manage customer experience with their social media tools and leverage internal knowledge hiding in internal social chatter.
Ultimately social media might not save Nokia, but it might keep the brand alive long enough for the new phones to emerge in the marketplace and let the chips fall where they may.
Photo by pro1pr on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
While this integration certainly benefits vendors like Box because it makes their products more attractive to the enterprise buyers they crave, more importantly it benefits IT because it provides easy integration across cloud products, saving you from building that integration yourself.
Levie believes that by providing cross-product pollination like the the deal with Google, it takes the pressure off of IT and could result in better products without relying on a single vendor. “By building seamless connections with other web services, rather than trying to be everything to everyone, we can avoid some of the historical pitfalls of legacy enterprise solutions, like feature-bloat and incoherent vision,” Levie wrote in an email.
In the case of the Google-Box deal, Box users can now create and edit documents directly in the Box interface. This is in stark contrast to conventional enterprise vendors who tend to shy away from this type of integration.
Sure, many build APIs and these provide a means to connect to other enterprise systems from different vendors, but the onus is often on customers to build those connection themselves.
Larger enterprise software vendors also want to be all things to all people, so they tend to try to build as much functionality into their products as possible with the end result being it’s not really in their best interest to undermine their own product strategy by partnering in the way cloud vendors have.
Even though it’s obviously self-serving for him to say it, Levie believes that these partnerships make more sense for customers and vendors alike. “The low barrier for businesses to adopt cloud solutions creates an opportunity for enterprises to mix and match solutions with greater ease than ever before. This is advantageous for customers because it means they can pick the best provider in each software category rather than being stuck with bundled services (where some products are clearly propping up others) — it’s also beneficial to cloud vendors, because it means we can be laser focused on solving a specific business problem…,” Levie wrote in an email interview.
This is in contrast with Microsoft, for example which has paid lip service to the cloud, but which up to this point has not provided third party developers with hooks into its cloud offering, Office 360 (due to come out of Beta next week) in the same fashion that Google has allowed Google Docs integration in Box. And as Levie wrote in a blog post announcing the Google Docs integration, he believes if history is any indication, Microsoft won’t be providing these hooks any time soon.
Time will tell if Levie’s prediction is true, but the fact that cloud vendors work together to promote cloud computing and to work across different products is a departure from the way enterprise software has been traditionally sold and packaged.
For IT pros who may be looking for reasons to buy cloud services, this kind of integration across products certainly provides an argument for going with the cloud, or at the very least pressuring traditional enterprise software vendors to do the same.
Photo by tallmariah on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
After Apple announced iCloud recently at WWDC, it appeared Apple was placing its bets firmly in the App camp.
Meanwhile, as Google got ready to release the first generation of Chromebooks, it’s also seemed clear where it was laying down its money and that’s all in on the browser. In fact, if you buy a Chromebook, your whole life will be inside that browser.
For the sake of argument, if these two behemoths truly decided to set these kinds of positions without compromise, it would certainly make for an interesting contrast and test-bed for the app versus browser battle.
Up until now, Apple has been conspicuously missing from the Cloud, and while Google has dabbled in the app mentality in the Android App store, to this point, it doesn’t hold a candle to the mighty Apple App store.
Google, on the other hand has lived happily in the browser, whether we are talking email, documents, calendar, blog, photos or RSS feeds. You can log onto a browser on any device any time and access your personal Google services.
Apple wants to bring that same sort of ubiquity to Apple devices, but absent of the browser. Instead of using the browser as the cloud driver, it is providing automatic updating via the cloud to all supported software and devices. That means if it works as planned (and it darn well better), you open an app like say, iTunes on your Mac Book Pro and buy the latest hot single (or update your best client’s contact information in iCal – ya that’s it), it should appear without intervention by you on your iPhone, your iPod Touch and your iPad (and even apparently iTunes on your PC in the case of the song).
Both companies want to lock you into their visions because that’s what big companies try to do to stay big. On one hand I like the idea of automatic syncing across devices. It’s completely mindless and if it just works, it’s going to be very convenient for Apple users, but I don’t like the idea of being tied exclusively to apps. And in some way, this strategy completely misses the point of cloud computing.
Sometimes (and perhaps it’s just because it’s how we’re used to working), it’s easier to open your browser and find your content, regardless of where you are or the device you are using. Google’s banking on that, but they are doing it to such an extent, that there is no life outside the browser.
With the Chromebook vision, you have a browser and a very small amount of local hard drive space and that’s really about it. Everything you do is in that browser. It might appeal to schools and very strict organizations, but most users are not going to like living in the browser 24/7 any more than they will like being tied to apps in the Apple vision.
So we appear to have these two competing cloud visions, but if either company wants to really take control, they need to develop strategies that encompass both apps and the browser because users very likely want the flexibility to do both, depending on the task at hand.
Photo by Tsahi Levent-Levi on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
BlackBerry Playbook ad on Friday night while watching Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals and I was a bit surprised by what I saw. Instead of a tablet aimed squarely at business, I saw one marketed to consumers. If BlackBerry and other iPad competitors want to take on Apple, they can’t compete on the consumer level. They have to make their stand as a business device.
And that seems to be the general problem for the growing list of iPad competitor devices. None of them seem to realize that they’ll never compete with iPad and its 25 million served. Instead, they have to carve a niche. To me that niche, should be a device that caters strictly to business.
These devices are competing on a number of levels including hardware quality, the operating system and how well it integrates into enterprise services. Then there is price and finally and most important, there are the supported apps in whatever app distribution system the device has.
The PlayBook by all accounts certainly has the great hardware. It’s a BlackBerry, so chances are, it will play nicely in the enterprise. Pricing is competitive with iPad, but it’s severely lacking in apps. Unless it can jump start its developer ecosystem quickly, it’s a nice piece of technology without a lot of practical application for business users.
Last week, HP announced the new TouchPad running WebOS will go on sale July 1st with a price for a 16GB model starting at $499.99, the exact same price as the 16GB iPad and the 16GB PlayBook. Given the sophistication of the hardware involved, and Apple’s supply chain acumen, it’s apparently hard for competitors to cut pricing much below that, although undercutting the iPad by $50 or even $100 would certainly make these devices (all things being equal of course) more attractive to organizations looking to introduce tablets, but shy about making a big investment.
It’s also unclear how well stocked the TouchPad application store will be. As John Paczkowski wrote on All Things Digital on Friday, “As I’ve said before, its application and content ecosystem might need growing, but the TouchPad looks like it’s got a decent shot at becoming the frontrunner in the massing horde of tablet hopefuls chasing Apple’s iPad.”
That’s a big if though because the success of any of these devices competing with the iPad is going to hinge on the number and quality of their apps. Nice hardware and a well-designed OS is not going to be enough to propel any of these tablets past Apple.
The only way to sell against Apple right now, as I see it, is to make your tablet the must-have *business* device. Forget about Angry Birds. The users may crave that, but the IT pros supporting them and the CIOs buying them want these devices to mean business first and foremost.
Photo by IntelFreePress on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
In fact, Elop reminds a lot of his former boss at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, full of foolish optimism against all odds, never willing to give an inch to the mess his company is in.
Instead, Elop, in a speech this week to the World Mobile Congress tried to paint his chief competitors as a Hobson’s choice for cell phone buyers, trapped on one side by the evil closed Apple, and on the other by Google, a pretender that says it’s open when it’s loaded with proprietary code.
Fine, who can blame the man for trying to take down the competition a peg or two. After all, when his company’s Windows phones finally do hit the market late this year (assuming they meet their targets, that is), he wants to soften the market and have a place for his company’s phone to land.
And IDC is actually predicting that once Nokia phones running Windows Phone 7 do hit the streets, Nokia could make the Microsoft OS Number 2 in the world by 2015. That’s a bold prediction, especially given the sorry state of the Windows phone OS market today, but it has to at least encourage Elop that his strategy could work.
If you want to see the reality that Elop and Nokia face, however, check out the latest comScore marketshare statistics released last week, which showed Microsoft actually losing market share between January and April this year — not exactly the trend you hope to see when you release a new OS as Microsoft did late last year.
I’m not sure what makes Elop or IDC believe that slapping a Nokia label on a phone running Windows Phone 7 will suddenly magically make the market want it. Even if Nokia makes phones that are much, much better than the current offerings from HTC and Samsung, I’m not convinced it’s going to make much difference. Elop admits that in order for Nokia to succeed it has to cover a number of price-points across a range of markets from the sophisticated smart phone markets in the U.S. and EU to more practical phones for the Asian market.
Even now, as he attempts to put down his formidable competitors at Apple and Google, he is probably 18 months away from covering all of those markets and no amount of rhetoric is going to change that.
Elop might even believe in his strategy — he has little choice but to plow ahead — but while he makes speeches, more people across his range of markets are making other phone choices, and it’s going to be a very hard sell for Nokia to get them back.
I’m not ready to write them off just yet, but I will say, even under the best of circumstances, it’s going to take a long time for them to right their ship and restore their stock prices — IDC’s optimism not withstanding — and I’m wondering how long it will take before investors run out of patience.
Photo by jjjj56cp–thanks for 66+K views in my 1st year! on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
Sounds pretty good from a consumer perspective, but what impact will it have on existing cloud storage vendors?
If you believe the New York Times Bits Blog, it spells the end for several small online storage vendors, as well as a slew of other small companies supplanted by the iOS 5 update.
While it’s true that in some respects, the 10,000 pound gorilla just got into the cloud, does it really mean Dropbox is doomed or Box.net just got measured for…well a pine box? Should these companies and countless others be cowering in a corner begging for a few more venture capital dollars and a prayer? I don’t think so.
When a company like Apple gets into free cloud storage, these companies should definitely take notice, but ultimately, I think Apple just did many of the established cloud storage and collaboration companies a big favor by putting the idea of cloud storage firmly in the mainstream. That could help at least some of these companies, although it probably depends on the model.
Aaron Levie, CEO at Box.net immediately upon the iCloud announcement, took to his company blog to assure everyone (including possibly himself) that what Apple was offering was all well and good, but it was different from what Box was offering.
Box has been selling itself as enterprise content storage and collaboration company for some time. Sure, some of its customers are consumers and small businesses, but it understands to be a highly successful company, it needs paying enterprise customers and the cash flow they bring.
As Levie wrote about iCloud, “iCloud may be incredibly powerful in a context where you are solely interacting with your own information, but does little for you when you want to easily extend content to others.” And he’s right, the difference between what Box offers and iCloud offers is that Box provides a way not only to store and access files, but share and collaborate on those files — and that’s a big difference.
In fact, if iCloud works as advertised and doesn’t head down the bumpy road of MobileMe, it should provide consumers with a terrific avenue to backup and access to their content anywhere, any time on any device. The applications Jobs described today at the WWDC finally closes that cloud-mobile loop I wrote about recently in this space, but that it will muscle out all existing vendors is not a given.
As Levie points out, iCloud is not really an enterprise class system (at least not yet) and it’s not really designed to be either, but Box.net works in a freemium model. It needs the free customers to act as seed users for the rest of the enterprise. If iCloud could hurt Box, it would be because individuals were opting for iCloud instead of Box.
But that should just push Box, Dropbox and others to try harder, to offer more than iCloud. If Apple offers 5 GB of free storage, maybe these companies should offer 10 GB, and they need to strive to make their services as business friendly as they possibly can.
Apple might have just elbowed its way onto the playing field, but it didn’t necessarily wipe out all of the players already there just yet. Only time will tell, however, if Apple just expanded the pie or inhaled it. The final answer probably depends on the player and how they react to the challenge and opportunity Apple brings to this space.
Photo by Marshall Astor – Food Pornographer on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.