August 23, 2012 11:02 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Well it’s easy to dismiss the hype when it comes to private cloud computing, it really can transform the enterprise.
I first learned about the idea of a private cloud several years ago while watching an executive from VMWare give a lunchtime presentation at the MIT CIO Conference. The idea of turning IT from command central to a service portal was a compelling one.
Up to that point, while I had heard the term private cloud bandied about, I didn’t understand the true nature of it, but the concept that you could create a set of generic services and operate like a public cloud vendor in-house had the power to transform IT and its relationship with organization — at least in theory.
It’s one thing to look at something like the private cloud conceptually and see it could solve a lot of problems. Instead of running to IT to set up a SharePoint site or a LAMP stack — and waiting days or weeks for it to happen — users could go to the online service center, choose from a set of services, and be off and running immediately without any IT intervention. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Maybe too good.
The key of course is to keep it simple and let users take off. When you combine self-service with enterprise social software, you could have users solving a lot of problems among themselves and avoiding lots of calls they used to make to the Help Desk to resolve often simple matters.
What would IT’s role be in all this? IT could be left to look at bigger picture system-level issues and higher level customizations that fell outside the norms of the service portal. It sounds like a great idea, but where’s the proof? Tech Journalist, David Strom wrote about a real-world implementation and it worked just like the VMWare executive drew it up. Marketing meets reality. Who would have have believed it?
The story, which was told by Derald Sue, the CIO at InsideTrack.com at the Gartner Catalyst conference was one excellent example of an IT department transforming from what Sue called “order takers” who didn’t empower the business units to one where they provided real service.
You can click through to read the entire story, but the point is that real change can happen when you implement a private cloud and bring in the right people to make that happen. The end result didn’t happen overnight, but over time, Sue reported his department changed. It was no longer perceived as obstructionist. Instead it was a real service center for the organization.
If you’re reluctant to change because you don’t want to buy into the latest cloud marketing hype that says it’s supposed to change you and your organization in ways you can’t imagine, it’s hard to blame you. You’ve probably been dealing with technology industry hype for a long time, but once in awhile, there is a hint of truth behind that hype, and in one case it least, it worked according to plan.
Photo by elizaIO on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.
August 20, 2012 11:40 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, HP TouchPad
, Leo Apotheker
After HP’s epic TouchPad failure, it is going to need more than mysterious feature pronouncements to garner interest about its future tablet offerings.
In an interview last week with CRN, an HP official was happy, serene and confident. When it came to the tablet market, he wasn’t threatened by Microsoft’s Surface tablets. Nope, in fact, he was fine with it, and he believes that HP can compete even with the mighty Apple when its tablet hits the market later this year. Dream on.
Delusion is great especially from a company that tried to enter the tablet market once before with the HP TouchPad and failed so spectacularly that it was on the market for a whole 45 days before the company pulled the plug and held a $99, Get-’Em-While-They-Last, fire sale. I think based on this, we’ve earned the right to be a tad skeptical about such pronouncements.
This is HP after all, the same company that’s gone through 3 CEOs in the last four years, the same company that has so many SKUs for each product type, even their own engineers can’t keep track, and yes, the same company that is in the process of laying off 27,000 of its employees.
In other words, this is a company in free fall that seems out of touch with the current market.
Now HP expects us to believe, it has some super-duper, ultra-cool, top-secret features that are going to somehow give it the traction in the tablet market where so many others including HP itself have failed. If HP were smart it would have carried through with Leo Apotheker’s plan to spin off the PC division altogether. Just a year ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that HP was planning to do just that, but when Apotheker was fired 6 weeks later, those plans went out the window.
Apotheker might not be a high-tech visionary, but he recognized that it was tough to make money in the PC business because the margins were so tight. It’s especially tough when you create hundreds of different products and people can’t figure out what you sell. Look at the simplicity of Apple’s MacBook Pro laptop line. There are six basic models. That’s it. You can customize each one, of course, but you don’t have to deal with dozens of different models of basically the same laptop.
Now we have false bravado from HP’s senior vice president of Americas sales for HP’s printing and personal systems division, who would have us believe that something really special is coming, but he’s not saying what. You know, what? I’m not even remotely curious because chances are whatever HP produces will barely make a ripple in the tablet market when it’s released.
HP lacks even a modicum of tablet market leverage, and even though it might sound cruel, until HP actually produces a tablet that interests people, even a little, nobody cares at this point about whatever HP happens to have up its sleeve. The proof will be in the deliverable. Until then, excuse me while I yawn and snicker a little.
August 15, 2012 1:24 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Mobile Marketshare
It seems as though RIM is irreparably broken and there is little reason to believe that Blackberry 10 will change that.
As RIM continues to falter, it once again looks to the next generation of phones for deliverance, but it seems highly unlikely that the company can recover from more than two years of smartphone marketshare free-fall.
For some reason, rather than showing off this pivotal next-generation Blackberry phones to any journalist who wants to see them, RIM has chosen to be coy, an odd strategy given their dire straits. What does the company honestly have to lose at this point by sharing the phones? Whatever the reason, it’s just another strange decision from a company that can’t seem to reverse the horrible course they’ve been on since Google and Apple entered the smartphone market.
We all know the story by now. According to comScore U.S. market share numbers when 2010 began Blackberry was on top of the smartphone world, but very soon that was about to end. In February of that year, Blackberry controlled 42.1 percent of the market followed by Apple with 25.4 percent, Microsoft with 15 percent and Google was in fourth place with just 9 percent.
By May of this year RIM’s numbers had tanked to just 11.4 percent, while Google had rocketed to 50.9 percent with Apple sitting pretty at 31.9 percent. If you’re wondering, Microsoft was in fourth with just 4.0 percent. And with each passing quarter, it just gets worse.
Yet after all this time, RIM seems to think that Blackberry 10 phones can turn it around. The company has little choice at this point, but to be positive, but they seem to be foolishly optimistic about these phones’ chances. A recent New York Times article about changes at Motorola Mobility, put the challenge in perspective.
The article quoted Charlie Kindel, a mobile industry blogger as saying, “Ninety percent of the profits in the smartphone space are going to Apple and Samsung, and everyone else from Motorola to RIM to LG to Nokia are picking up the scraps of that 10 percent.” If he’s right, then not much is going to change that equation for RIM or Motorola at this point. RIM is especially vulnerable since most of those other smaller players are running Android and there doesn’t seem to be much demand for Blackberry anymore.
It doesn’t leave RIM with a heck of a lot of room to operate and the future is looking grim. That’s why it was hardly surprising when a rumor popped up last week in a Reuter’s report about a possible suitor for RIM’s secure server network. What was surprising was that supposed admirer was none other than IBM, according to Reuters.
Whether the rumor is true or not, the fact is that unless the Blackberry 10 series surprises everyone, and I doubt very much that it will, it’s not very likely anyone is going to want RIM’s phone division with its plunging market share (although it still has more than Microsoft to this point).
The only real value left in the company is that network. There is always going to be a market for a secure phone system, and somebody could take those assets and exploit them. The Reuters article pointed out that IBM wouldn’t comment on the rumor, but it would certainly make sense for them.
Let’s face it, there’s very little RIM can do to recover short of selling off any valuable patents it may have a la AOL and selling its most valuable asset, the server division. Beyond that, we can only watch, as a once great company fades away before our eyes.
Photo by miggslives on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
August 9, 2012 1:29 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
The fact is the type of hack that victimized Mat Honan last weekend could happen to anyone.
By now you’ve very likely heard of the horrible experience of Mat Honan, the reporter who had his entire digital life wiped out by hackers over the weekend. I’m sure it reinforced the worldview of every cloud naysayer on the planet, and they are gathering somewhere and having a grand “I-told-you-so” party — but even the most radical anti-cloud adherent would have to admit deep down that this was an extreme case.
I’m not here to defend Apple and Amazon and their monumental screw-ups that allowed this to happen, but neither am I about to write off cloud computing because of this incident. While an incident of this sort has to make any sane person pause, I think we have to be careful about suggesting it proves once and for all that cloud computing is inherently a bad idea.
In fact, it might not be a cloud security issue, per se, at all. Rodney Brown, writing on the Cloud Ecosystem blog nailed it when he wrote, “This isn’t a cloud security issue. It is an IT security issue — and one as old as hacking itself.” His point was this wasn’t a hack in the pure sense of the word where the hacker found some sort of back door into the cloud service and wreaked havoc.
On the contrary, the hacker found a way to waltz into Honan’s computing life through the front door by figuring out a way to get the information he needed to access the system. It’s a problem that IT faces every single day when a clever phishing email can give a hacker the keys to your network without having to do any heavy lifting.
If you are an IT pro, and you’re sitting there smirking because the cloud just got its just desserts, I wouldn’t be so quick to gloat because as I’ve always maintained, the cloud operates in a data center just like yours, and in the end it’s no different than yours. In fact, it’s just as vulnerable as your system was to the type of social engineering scam the hacker pulled to get Honan’s data.
This incident was scary and horrible and it clearly illustrated just how easy it can be to get enough information to get inside somebody’s systems, and I’m not trying to minimize that. Last weekend it was Matt Honan who got unlucky, but just because you’re locked behind the safety of your firewall, don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re safe. The same kind of scam that worked for Honan’s hackers could work to get inside your systems too. And you’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it.
August 7, 2012 12:01 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Cloud computing
Several stories including personal experience came together this weekend to illustrate just how far iCloud has to go.
Several stories and personal experience came together this week to let me know in no uncertain terms that iCloud is a service that needs a lot of work.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the poor bloke who lost his entire digital life last weekend when hackers gained access to his iCloud account simply by asking Apple technical support for his password. OK, the tech support rep asked for some sort of identifying information first and the hacker supplied them with 4 digits from the guy’s credit card; the ones that Amazon showed openly on the web.
There is a ton of blame here for this guy’s predicament starting with his own lax personal security — but any of you with your security house in order, please feel free to cast the first stone. But Apple Tech Support, do you think you could maybe ask for a little bit more information before handing over the keys to this guy’s digital kingdom? Seriously. And Amazon, you’re not free and clear either, buddy. Why show any credit card information on the Web at all.
Why are we even asking these questions? Unfortunately, we learned the cloud is far from fool-proof this week (with the emphasis on fool).
Once the hackers gained access to his iCloud account, they were able to wreak havoc and wreak they did wiping out the contents of his ipad, iphone and Mac Book. And I mean, poof, all gone. No trace. And the poor sap hadn’t backed up his kid’s pictures. This guy is a case study in personal security laxness, but my issue here is not with him, it’s with iCloud and Apple tech support.
This story broke the same week that Apple Co-founder and general man about town, Steve Wozniak issued his own paranoid proclamation that the cloud was evil. Seems even before the other story broke Woz had some concerns about the cloud. His concerns weren’t about security so much though as content ownership, but the timing was interesting to say the least.
Then there was my own personal experience, which happened over the weekend. I got a little notice from Google Drive that I had filled my 5 GB quota, which must have happened backing up all my vacation pictures. Not to worry I thought, I have tons of space on iCloud and I can move some documents over there. Not so fast though because I soon realized iCloud isn’t a general backup service at all. It’s a very specific backup service, a fairly useless walled garden, designed to backup your Apple content and only your Apple content.
To be fair, Apple does allow you to back up Microsoft Office documents along with your iWorks documents, but really, I just wanted to choose a bunch of files which were neither iWorks nor Office documents and back them up. iCloud didn’t allow for this. My question is: Why ever not?
I don’t use the Mac calendaring system nor do I use the Mac mail system or contacts. So the service, other than Find My iPhone, is basically useless to me.
The photo stream backup from my iPhone is nice, except that it’s only good for the most recent 1000 pictures, which may seem like a lot, but I’ve got almost 3000 on my iPhone. I really wouldn’t want to lose 2000 of them because Apple has chosen to skimp on my allocated hard drive space and won’t let me expand that number, even by purchase.
Apple has tons of money, huge fancy data centers and really smart engineering talent. Why can’t they get this right? Why can’t I backup my hard drive to iCloud if that’s what I choose to do, especially after I purchased extra space.
As implemented this service is useless. Time for Apple to go back to the drawing board on this one, and this time, do right by your users.
August 1, 2012 1:24 PM
Posted by: Ron Miller
, Windows Phone 7
The latest comScore US mobile market share statistics had to jolt Microsoft a bit. That’s because in spite of the huge push to penetrate the US market this year, Microsoft still lost market share for the 3 month period ending June, 2012.
Granted it wasn’t a huge loss, just .1 percent, but nonetheless it was a loss, as you can see from the chart below. And while Microsoft was busy losing more market share, Apple was the big winner in spite of a recent quarterly report showing it sold fewer phones than last year. It goes to show Apple wins even when it loses.
As for Android, it made a modest .6 percentage point gain, but 1.1 percent behind Apple’s quarterly best of 1.7, but still remains firmly in control in terms of overall percentage.
RIM? It continued to bleed market share dropping down to 10.7 percent of the market, a drop of another 1.6 percentage points.
In spite of a spirited effort to make gains in the US market, Microsoft’s phone OS still managed to lose ground.
That’s the break down, and for Microsoft it has to be a bitter pill to swallow. Stories like the one in Fortune called Five Reasons Why Windows Phone Will Make a Big Splash in the Smartphone Market or Wired’s story on Why Windows Phones Were the Most Exciting Handsets at CES look pretty silly in retrospect. As former NFL head coach Bill Parcells is fond of saying, “You are what your record says you are,” and for Microsoft it’s not a great record.
Let’s not forget, it wasn’t just overly exuberant tech journalists who were proclaiming the coming ascendancy of the Windows phones. The carriers wanted this to happen too. AT&T, Microsoft and Nokia all planned high profile promotions for the Nokia Windows phones. And you can’t say that the market hasn’t had a chance to ripen because it clearly has, but as hard as it’s pushed with ads, promotions and subsidies galore, Microsoft still hasn’t really been able to dent the smartphone market in the US.
It’s still even well behind the pathetic RIM, which continues its years long market share free fall. You have to wonder what it has to do. I’ve seen the Nokia phones and they’re very nice phones. I like the tile interface, the responsiveness of the Nokia touch screen. I thought Microsoft’s ads were surprisingly effective and tried to create this idea that if everyone had iPhone, how could you be unique? By getting a Lumia you could separate yourself from the masses. I noticed this approach caught my teenager’s attention, but he’s still not getting a Windows phone. He’s replacing his current Android phone with the next generation iPhone when it comes out in the Fall.
What exactly can Microsoft do to move the needle a bit, to capture some percentage of market share because it seems to have done everything right and has nothing to show for it. If you produce nice phones, offer them at a decent price and promote them in a clever way, you’re supposed to see some positive results, but for Microsoft it hasn’t happened yet. You have to wonder if it ever will.
July 31, 2012 9:56 AM
Posted by: Ron Miller
Trust is still a major issue for many IT pros when it comes to the cloud, but by holding back, you could be hurting your company in the name of protecting it.
I’ve been covering the cloud for years now and the old trust card gets played just about every time we bring it up. It’s been that way forever, but after all these years, it still comes down to who you really trust more, your data center or the vendor’s.
I got to thinking about this (again) when I read about Box’s $125 million venture cash infusion from VC General Atlantic (GA) this morning. That’s a lot of money for cloud company and it’s on top of a lot of money they got last year too.
All Things Digital reports that brings the total venture capital to an impressive $285 million. Somebody obviously thinks this company (and by extension, the cloud), is worth a substantial investment. Venture capitalists don’t usually throw this much money at a company they think is going to be a loser, let’s put it that way.
Box also announced today that it was bringing in GA partner and former GE CIO Gary Reiner on board as a member of the Board of Directors. In the All Things Digital post, Reiner acknowledged there sometimes a trust issue in the cloud, but for him it came down to this:
“Rather than fight the constant losing battle to keep the bad guys out, better to let someone whose reputation depends on security develop a service specifically for sharing files across a company or with partners,” Reiner said in the All Things Digital post.
So that’s it in a nutshell. Everyone is vulnerable these days. You can be as vigilant as you can and all it takes is a phishing email, someone gives up their password and boom; a hacker is inside your system through the front door, and there’s little you can do to prevent this scenario from playing out. No matter how much you try to educate your users, all it takes is one ignorant one (and the hackers are well aware of this).
No system is foolproof, that much is clear, but users need access to their content across a variety of platforms and devices. Box and similar services solve that problem for you. As Reiner pointed out, it really comes down to the survival of the business for cloud vendors to protect your data.
Box has made no secret of the fact that it wants to be the online file sharing and collaboration platform for the enterprise. As such, it needs to prove its security prowess on a daily basis. If something bad were to happen it would have negative impact across the entire business model.
In the end, as I’ve always said, a data center is a data center whether its on-premise or in the cloud and is subject to the same vulnerabilities regardless of its location, but as your employees become increasingly mobile being able to access content becomes all that much more crucial.
You should absolutely drill your vendor about potential issues and how they deal with it. You should go in with your eyes open, but don’t shut off the cloud because of the trust issue or you could be hurting your business in the name of protecting it.
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.