July 30, 2012 11:32 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Microsoft could be making a huge strategic error by releasing the consumer version of the Surface tablet ahead of the enterprise one. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
CNet and others were reporting today that we finally have a release date for the first Microsoft Surface tablets. And out of the gate, Microsoft is releasing the consumer models first. According to reports, the higher end models aimed at business will be released 90 days later.
The magic date is apparently October 26th unless something comes up to change that, and this is Microsoft after all. Something could come up.
Regardless, Microsoft’s best bet here is not a big holiday splash with consumers. Many others have taken a stab at that consumer market and failed. That’s why it should take a different tack from previous competitors and go after the enterprise market full bore. If it has any hope at all (and I don’t hold out much for either one to be honest), the enterprise is going to be its best bet.
That’s because there’s at least a slight opening in that market. Even with Apple finding its way into the enterprise, there are still plenty of IT pros who would be much more comfortable with employees having a Windows machine. Of course, that would assume that IT even has a say in the matter and it’s not clear that’s the case as more and more companies encourage employees to bring their own devices (BYOD).
But perhaps, some employees who primarily use Microsoft Office and Outlook and perhaps even SharePoint will find a Microsoft-centric enterprise tablet attractive. Perhaps. How many? Enough maybe to create a small market. It’s hard to know how Microsoft will define success in this space.
To cover its bases though, Microsoft announced two distinctly different tablets in June. One was a consumer model, running the ARM processor and Windows RT. The other was aimed at the enterprise running an Intel processor and Windows 8 Pro.
Meanwhile, there has been rampant speculation on Surface pricing with about as much to go on as your typical Apple rumor — in other words, not much. Per usual it hasn’t stopped technology journalists and bloggers from hotly debating about it.
Unless, Microsoft plans on pricing these below cost though, chances are the consumer model has to be in the $500 range. This much we have learned from the likes of the RIM Playbook and the HP TouchPad. We’ve also learned that the best price was the $99 HP fire sale price, which briefly made it the number two tablet in the world, but there’s not much chance that Microsoft plans to lose money on these babies.
You may recall I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Microsoft getting into the tablet business. My first post on the matter, Microsoft’s Folly: Trying to Build a Combined PC and Post-PC Device, outlined my initial issues with the announced machines.
But even with my general skepticism about these devices, there appears to be a lot of anticipation about them. Of course, we’ve seen this pattern play out before, and we’ve watched as each new contender tried and failed miserably to dent iPads’ market dominance. I seriously doubt, Microsoft has the chops to do much damage, but in my view leading with the consumer product is not the way to maximize its market impact. Time will tell if I’m right.
July 26, 2012 9:25 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Apple continues to completely dominate the tablet market, but with new competition directly from Google, Amazon and Microsoft, can they keep it up?
While people were mulling over Apple’s earnings numbers on Tuesday, one number in particular stuck out for me. Apple sold 17 million iPads in the quarter, an 84 percent increase over last year, but what’s more, they actually increased their already impressive worldwide market share.
According to numbers released by Strategy Analytics, last year in the second quarter, there were 14.2 million tablets sold worldwide. This year it was up to 25 million, an increase of 67 percent (a number that’s bound to increase as Google and Microsoft both join the tablet game this year). Last year, Apple owned 62 percent of the overall market. This year, that number increased 6 points to 68 percent.
Apple’s overall numbers almost doubled from last year from 9.3 million to 17 million units. It’s worth noting that Strategy Analytics measures what they call “units shipped,” rather than units sold, but the 17 million number they cite matches the number Apple reported selling in its earnings call.
As a means of comparison, Android tablet shipments (across all manufacturers) remained static at 29 percent. Microsoft captured just 1 percent of the total market, down 3.5 percent over last year, but with Windows 8 coming later this year, that should move the needle at least a bit for them, at least it better.
Yet in spite of these numbers, the market appears to be very much wide open. Google reportedly sold out very quickly of the 16 GB Nexus 7 tablet. When I checked the web site this morning, there were still 8 GB units available. Of course, it could be that Google only shipped a small number so it wouldn’t face the same overproduction that crippled RIM and HP last year when they released their ill-fated tablets — and quickly forced HP into a fire sale, selling them off at a steep loss for $99.
While the Nexus 7 appears to compete more with the Kindle Fire than the iPad, the market share numbers will probably never make that distinction. I doubt very much people will use the Fire or the Nexus 7 for work machines, whereas iPad has made good headway in the enterprise. It’s also worth noting that when the Kindle Fire first appeared on the market, it too benefited from an initial boost before sales fell quickly back to earth.
But Amazon isn’t giving up yet. There are reportedly new Kindles on the way including a 10 inch one, which could compete more directly with iPad (at least in theory). In fact, The Wall Street Journal has an article this morning about the growing Amazon-Apple “war” as they call it, as the two companies increasingly compete on common territory. So far at least, except for eBooks, which is of course Amazon’s sweet spot, it appears that Apple is winning most of the battles easily.
Which brings us to Windows 8, the great enterprise hope. Microsoft is banking on an enterprise hungry for a business-oriented device, but is there a waiting market? Some believe there is. Appcelerator, in conjunction with IDC, recently released a report on the state of the tablet market. According to the report, “Android’s inability to fully develop its enormous enterprise potential as late as mid-year 2012 underscores its potential vulnerabilities in the enterprise.” Appcelerator believes this could leave an opening for Microsoft, but it’s still unclear if Microsoft can take full advantage of this opportunity.
For now, in the tablet market, it’s all Apple, all the time. Up to this point, Apple has been able to maintain its market share each time the competition seems to heat up. This year will be even more challenging than ever as the opposition continues to push for its share of this growing and lucrative market. Should be interesting to check the numbers a year from now and see if Microsoft, Amazon and Google made any headway.
Photo by Yutaka Tsutano on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
July 23, 2012 10:00 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
When it comes to the battle of the phone operating systems, people like to look at market share and claim it’s the definitive measure of success, but simply getting phones into people’s hands is only part of the equation. The real measure of success in my view is how well you monetize that market share. And according to recent data from Opera, iOS is winning the monetization wars hands-down.
Let’s start by looking at those market share numbers. As you can see from the chart below from comScore for May 2012, Google Android had a substantial lead over its nearest competitor with 50.9 percent of US mobile market share versus 31.9 percent for Apple in second place. The closest competitor after that was RIM with 11.4 percent.
comScore US Mobile Market Share for May 2012. Courtesy of comScore.
But the Opera numbers looked at some different metrics over and above pure market share. It started by calculating eCPM, which measures the effective cost per 100 ad impressions. In spite of Android’s substantial market share lead, iOS lead the eCPM metric with an average eCPM of $2.85 verus $2.10 for Android. For the record, Windows phones were at the back of the pack at just .20 (ouch).
And when Opera measured the percentage of revenue, iOS really shined. It had more than 46 percent of traffic and 61 percent of revenue on the Opera platform. Compare that with Android, which had over 24 percent of traffic and 25 percent of revenue – and you are looking at a fairly substantial revenue and traffic gap (especially when you factor in that overall market share lead).
It’s important to look at the source material here, and Opera states that it’s compiled from second quarter data from what it calls in the report, “the world’s leading mobile ad platform.” It substantiates this by claiming: “9,000 global customers, with more than 35 billion ad impressions per month and driving over $240 million (US) of revenue to mobile publishers in 2011.”
Whatever you think of iPhones or Android phones, some recent numbers from Opera tell an interesting story about which platform can be considered more successful
It’s only one report of course and it’s only one source. Perhaps it says more about the people who use Opera’s ad platform, but it’s telling nonetheless because it provides at least a couple of monetization data points that we haven’t seen before.
I never liked market share as a measurement of success. For starters, there are many different Android phones of varying quality from excellent to crap from a variety of manufacturers. There are only a few iPhones and they are all from one manufacturer, Apple.
Simply comparing market share by operating system clearly doesn’t tell the whole story. What’s interesting here though is that Google created Android to provide additional eyeballs on the Google system. What Google does best is sell ads and monetize content, yet it’s Apple that’s winning the monetization battle, at least according to this data.
Whatever you think of these two phone operating systems, and I know there is a lot of passion behind each one, it’s an interesting twist on typical ways of measuring mobile phone operating system success.
Photo by zugaldia on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
June 28, 2012 10:24 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, market share
Well some like to frame the market in terms of your favorite brand versus theirs, when big companies like Apple and Google compete, every consumer wins. And that will be true in the tablet space as well.
I believe in the power of competition. It drives companies to develop and change and when companies compete in a level marketplace, then consumers win. That’s why I love the competition going on in the tablet space these days.
While I haven’t made it a secret that I think Microsoft and Google’s forays into the tablet market are misguided (to say the least), I still believe that their entry will have an impact on Apple and Amazon and Samsung and all of the other tablet manufacturers because they will try things to differentiate themselves from one another, and when they do that, they will force their competitors to pay attention and to rethink their approaches.
It’s good for the market and it’s great for consumers. I’ve been writing about technology for a number of years now and I’ve watched as Microsoft, Google and Apple fight the big fight, scratching and clawing at one another, constantly trying to get an advantage, to find the upper hand to force us all to use their products exclusively.
Consumers tend to fight that though. I had a conversation on Twitter the other day where one person was suggesting that SMBs would like a one-stop shop cloud vendor with software, platform and infrastructure services all from the same vendor. I argued that this was neither necessary or desirable for any business to tie itself to a single vendor.
I use a lot of Apple products, but I use products from Microsoft and Google. I use Facebook and I buy stuff on Amazon (a lot). No one vendor gives me everything I need, and though they may try to take shots at one another’s strengths, it usually doesn’t work. Think about the Zune or Ping if you doubt me.
But even these failures fuel the competitive fires across these different companies. Although Bing for example has failed to gain substantial market share from Google in search, it has driven Google to try new things. It’s all part of what happens when companies compete.
Microsoft tried very hard to get the world to use Windows and while they have some great marketshare, they don’t control the market. Apple is highly successful, but it can’t do what Google, Facebook or Amazon does (even though it has the iTunes store).
So let the tablet competition begn. Go at it, you big technology titans and drive one another to innovate and change and develop. I still don’t believe any of this will have a serious impact on Apple’s tablet marketshare, but I do believe it will force Apple to look at everything it does, just as competition in the search space forces Google to do the same.
Every time I write something comparing iOS and Android, it becomes this intense argument, but it doesn’t have to be that way if we look at this as healthy competition. Because both operating systems exist and compete against one another, we all win.
So let the clash continue. Bring on your tablets and let’s see what you’ve got and the impact of your moves on your competitors. I can’t wait.
Photo by incredibleguy on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.
June 27, 2012 12:47 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Google is the latest player to step and take a stab at building its own branded tablet. The question is should Google and Microsoft be selling branded hardware?
It’s time for the latest entry in the tablet sweepstakes. This week, Google announced the new Nexus 7 inch Google-branded tablet at its I/O conference this week. Why bother?
Much like Microsoft’s Surface, this will be tons of attention over the next week. Many of my tech-journalist colleagues will gush about how this is the device that’s going to put Apple in its place for sure this time.
We heard the same thing before HP and RIM came out with their failed tablets last year. Then we heard Amazon with its delivery channel, its very own app store (wisely stocked ahead of the device) and a cheap $199 tablet running Android was really, really going to take it to Apple — only it didn’t really make a dent in Apple’s dominance.
This one appears to be taking aim at Amazon. It’s the size of the Kindle Fire and it has a similar content delivery ability along with a cheap $199 price tag. Up to now, the Kindle Fire (even though it hasn’t been able to move Apple’s numbers), has been the most successful Android tablet produced. So why go after it?
Here, you have another software company trying to create hardware. Google might not have Apple envy as Microsoft clearly does, but apparently it doesn’t trust its OEMs to deliver a high-quality Android tablet experience, so gosh darn it, if you want something done right, you just better do it yourself.
Unfortunately, for Google they face a similar struggle to Microsoft. Much like Microsoft, even though they make some hardware devices, at their heart of hearts, they are a software and services company. And no I don’t need to be reminded that Google bought Motorola Mobility. I understand that, but I think it was a big and expensive mistake.
Let me explain.
As I’ve written before Microsoft and Google are software companies. They succeed when they spread their software around many devices. Apple succeeds by building devices and then building software that works on that device — and only that device.
By building its own tablet, Google is making the same mistake as Microsoft. They are undercutting the manufacturing channel they have worked for years to build. Why would you do that?
If I’m Amazon, I’m thinking that I put all this effort into developing tablets running Android, and now I’ve got to compete with the Google brand in the marketplace? I doubt they’re very happy about that and why would they be?
Microsoft, Google and Amazon all have brand power and that’s what they’re banking on here, but by building their own tablets, they are also putting their brands on the line here. If they fail, and so far, there have been lots of failed iPad challengers, they are risking that brand equity to some extent.
Amazon with its combination of cheap hardware, a ready app store and lots of content (books, videos, etc.) would seemed to be a worthy contender, but so far it hasn’t been much of a threat.
Can Microsoft or Google break through?I have serious doubts and until someone comes along and takes some serious market share, I remain skeptical. Somebody is going to have to prove they can contend and so far, nobody has been able to do that. I don’t think Google or Microsoft have the chops. Time will tell if I’m right.
Photo by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
June 26, 2012 6:42 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, mobile business
Just as in baseball when the hot rookie forces out the veteran, the same thing happens in technology when the newest devices force aside once great companies.
As we all know, technology continues to evolve and there’s just no stopping it. It moves relentlessly into the future and you know what? That’s OK, but it means we might be seeing the effective end of once mighty companies. And RIM is a good example of that.
It reminds me in a lot of ways of sports (which is a great metaphor for everything, isn’t it?). For the past month or so we have been watching drama play out in Boston as the old, steady third baseman, Kevin Youkilis, was being replaced by the new young gun, Will Middlebrooks.
Youklis was strong and reliable for a long time. He was a fan favorite, but his production has been dropping and it’s out with the old and in with the new. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox Sunday night, unceremoniously dumped, like yesterday’s Blackberry.
Much like Youkilis, the Blackberry was a good soldier for many years. It served the market well, but newer models came along and RIM simply couldn’t keep up. Now comes word from Uber Gizmo that RIM is considering breaking into two divisions, one that sells handsets and one that sells secure messaging services (because there are still plenty of places that need that kind of service). It’s clear as Uber Gizmo points out that the handset division is doomed to die a quick death, but it’s not clear if the messaging service can survive without a handset partner.
Yet just as injuries have cut into the effectiveness of Youkilis these past few seasons forcing the Red Sox to trade him for a couple low-rate players, an increasingly grim sales picture has driven down RIM’s value, making it a buyer’s market for the once popular service. InformationWeek reported that Morgan Stanley added insult to injury this past weekend when it sent out an investment memo stating that basically, RIM was irrevocably broken.
“We believe the only way RIM remains a viable entity is at a fraction of its current size, a transformation that erases much of its earnings power,” said Morgan Stanley. “The next nine months will likely see rapidly deteriorating fundamentals on the one hand offset by stories of potential strategic options on the other,” InformationWeek quoted the Morgan Stanley memo.
This is a company caught between a rock and hard place, feeling like a rider on a downbound train. They’re on a highway to hell. You get the idea.
But like Youk, that’s OK by me. Why? As much as I liked him as a player, there is a natural rhythm to baseball. The new guys come up and replaces the old ones, and while it’s never easy watching an aging player get forced out, it’s the natural order of things. And it’s the same in business. RIM’s time came and went. The mobile market passed it by and now it’s time to move on.
Kevin Youkilis learned that this week and it’s a harsh lesson that RIM is learning too.
Photo of Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks by Keith Allison. Used under Creative Commons License.
June 22, 2012 10:04 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Enteprise IT
A new cloud survey found attitudes are shifting and people are much more accepting of cloud solutions..
A recent cloud computing survey on enterprise attitudes toward the cloud showed a rapid shift in attitude towards cloud services from last year to this, as many more respondents are seeing the cloud in a positive light.
For instance, when it came to mission critical applications in the cloud, only 3 percent responded that the cloud is too risky because of the Patriot Act or data sovereignty issues compared with 10 percent last year. That’s a huge shift in attitude from several years ago when that’s all you heard at conferences.
The survey was conducted by North Bridge Venture partners along with 38 business partners and involved 785 respondents, up from 417 last year. Respondents included CXOs, IT people and Line of Business personnel.
The biggies for companies are security and compliance with the a general belief that it’s difficult to secure content in the cloud or keep up with internal governance, but even this is shifting with just 12 percent responding that the cloud needs to mature in these key areas compared with 26 percent in 2011, a significant attitude shift.
The idea of a public-private hybrid model is also growing in popularity, an approach that should make a lot of sense for most companies. In fact, 37 percent reported using a hybrid model this year, but by 2017, 52 percent are expected to use such a model.
This in line with what Laurence Hart, CIO at AIIM had to say at a session at the info360 conference earlier this month. He said the hybrid cloud — some combination of public and private cloud services — is where most companies are likely going to be. He explained this will require your on-premises apps to interact with some public services — whether infrastructure, platform or software service.
And he stressed making sure that systems could talk to one another was a key issue in the cloud purchase process. He said you should never assume that communication between systems is a given. You should always make sure the vendor demonstrates the interoperability for you before you sign a cloud services contract.
And this is even more imperative when you consider that 67 percent of respondents reported using some kind of application in the cloud today with another 14 percent expecting to use one within the next year. Only 19 percent have no plans to use one at this time.
Fifty-three percent said using the cloud reduces the management complexity, up from 39 percent last year.
And that may be so, but Hart warns that you have to find ways to measure savings because simply moving to the cloud is not a guarantee that you’ll save money.
Yet in spite of these positive results, a healthy skepticism remains among those who are not moving to the cloud with 55 percent of those respondents citing worries about security, followed concerns about compliance, lock-in, interoperability and more — all issues Hart, who is a cloud advocate, by the way, said you need to be cognizant of when you purchase cloud services.
It doesn’t mean you have to avoid cloud services, but you do need to make sure you ask the hard questions before you sign on the dotted line. The important take-away here though is that attitudes toward the cloud have softened even in the last year and the cloud is going to be an inevitable part of just about everyone’s IT strategy moving forward.
June 19, 2012 3:24 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Microsoft Surface
With The Surface tablet/laptop hybrid, Microsof is trying to be both a PC and Post-PC Device in one, and it needs to give up the PC to succeed in the future.
The tech world was all abuzz last night with Microsoft’s big announcement, a tablet/laptop hybrid it’s calling The Surface. Picture an iPad running Windows with a built-in keyboard and a little stand and you’ve got the idea.
People were going ga-ga over this device on Twitter, but I’m here to be a contrarian and tell you that in my view, Microsoft clearly doesn’t get that a tablet is a touch device. There’s a reason Apple has an Air and iPad. They’re different.
Steve Jobs once famously said, that it would be a mistake for competitors to see “the tablet form factor as another kind of PC,” a point his replacement Tim Cook drove home recently when he said it would be a mistake “to encumber the tablet with the legacy of the PC.” You see where I’m going with this because that’s precisely what Microsoft has done.
It’s created a device that tries to be everything to everyone and run Windows and Office software. It wants to be an old-fashioned PC and a newly styled post-PC device, but I think Microsoft will find that it will have a hard time serving both those masters.
As for the device itself, you can read about the specs on The Next Web and you can watch a video of the device (such as it) on the Microsoft Surface dedicated web site. It’s thin. It’s stylish and it has a stand and a USB port, so there Apple. But sorry Microsoft it’s just not as stylish as Apple. It’s nice enough (just like the Lumia phones), but it needs to be so much more.
But more than that, Microsoft clearly has Apple envy in the worst way, and as usual it tries so darn hard, but simply can’t achieve Apple’s design prowess. I’m sure they’re having a good laugh at those candy colors over at Apple right now. What’s more, there’s a big difference between Apple and Microsoft. Apple is a device company that makes some software to run on its devices (and nobody else’s). Microsoft is a software company that wants to charge companies to run its software on many devices.
While it makes some devices like the XBox and some peripherals, it’s clearly not a device company at its core because it would undercut its primary market if it were. There’s a reason there’s not a Microsoft-branded PC, for instance. Yet with this device, Microsoft could undercut its tablet OEM market if it were successful as it hopes. And if it’s not successful, it also works against tablets running Metro which would have to face anti-Microsoft-branded tablet backlash.
I suppose if you have a Windows phone, it might make sense to have this device to work with it, but I can’t help but feel that this is Zune II, an ill-conceived device, designed to answer a tremendously successful Apple product. Microsoft needs to understand its role as a software vendor, and that it can’t compete with Apple on a device for device level. It’s never going to be Apple no matter how hard it tries.
It also needs to learn that you can’t be a PC and post-PC device at the same time. That just doesn’t work. You have to have the guts to give up your legacy, no matter how much it hurts, and with this device, we see that Microsoft is unwilling or unable to do that.
Photo by Ant McNeil on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
June 11, 2012 7:16 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
When news broke last week that Oracle had decided to join the 21st century and launch a cloud product in order to take on the likes of the highly successful Salesforce.com, my first was reaction was that it was about 10 years too late the game.
Can a traditional enterprise software and hardware company suddenly compete in the cloud? I think not.
Don’t get me wrong I find the idea of the dinosaur software and hardware company taking on the preeminent cloud computing vendor (and one of the earliest examples) to be highly entertaining. Oracle is the poster child for traditional enterprise software implementations. It is the polar opposite of what you think of when you think about cloud services.
It’s complex instead of simple. It’s expensive instead of cheap. It’s hard to implement instead of easy. It requires significant resources to install, configure, maintain and manage. In short, it’s everything cloud is not — yet now Oracle wants to be your cloud vendor.
Does anyone else see a major disconnect here?
Let’s not forget, up until his company jumped into the fray, Ellison has gone out of his way to make fun of cloud computing. In 2008, he was quoted in a Guardian article as calling it complete gibberish in this delicious quote:
“Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? [The Cloud] is complete gibberish. It’s insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?”
Maybe he’s evolved in 4 years. Who knows? But it’s also impossible to ignore the recent Google/Oracle patent trial around Java appeared to be a full-scale attack on cloud computing.
So when that tack failed, Oracle did an about face and decided to embrace cloud computing instead (or perhaps it was just trying to clear away the competition ahead of its announcement).
But anytime a company the size of Oracle gets involved, it has to make the competition pause. Perhaps that’s why Salesforce made a big acquisition last week when it purchased Buddy Media just days before the Oracle announcement. (Coincidence? We think not.)
Brent Leary, who is co-founder and partner at CRM Essentials LLC, a CRM consulting/advisory firm focused on small and mid-size enterprises, says it’s never too late for a company the size of Oracle to take a shot.
“I think we’re too early in the game to say anything that happens now is too late. But that doesn’t mean companies can wait around to make moves,” he said.
He added, “Historically Oracle is an acquisition machine, but now with Salesforce joining the arms race the purchases seem to be accelerating. There’s a lot at stake here, and the companies who can quickly add and integrate missing pieces to their cloud puzzle stand to gain significant mindshare.”
True enough, but can a company built as a traditional hardware and software company really take on a vendor who has built its cloud business from the ground up? My feeling is that this is going to be a very difficult transition for Oracle, regardless of its market clout, precisely because it has built its business up to now as being the anti-cloud.
Time will tell if Oracle can compete, but my gut tells me this doomed to fail because Oracle while trying to move to the cloud still must protect its core software and hardware businesses — and it’s going to be tricky balancing those two competing requirements.
Photo courtesy of Oracle OpenWorld San Francisco 2009. Used under Creative Commons License.