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.]]>
I suppose it was just a matter of time before this happened, but just the other day I came across a concept I hadn’t seen before: cloud brokers. As the name implies these companies help facilitate the sale of cloud services.
The idea is that these brokers sell cloud services piecemeal. You can buy storage service, for example at one price from one vendor and buy server space on another, and here’s the good part:
According to an article on Government Computer News, you can change vendors on the fly as your circumstances or the prices change. This idea of no vendor lock-in has to appeal to Enterprise IT departments who are still suspicious of cloud services.
Great idea for a business, I guess, but isn’t the whole idea of the cloud to make these types of decisions easier and not require a third party to help?
In theory that’s true, but in actual practice having someone to help find the best deals or sift through the myriad of choices isn’t a bad approach on its face.
But the trouble is that choosing a broker could become as complicated as choosing a cloud vendor on your own. That’s because according to an article on CIO.com called The Role of the Cloud Broker; lots of companies *say* they’re cloud brokers, but they’re really just cloud vendors selling cloud products and services.
That means you have to sift through the broker choices to separate the real brokers from the cloud service sales people. Confused yet?
This is getting a bit silly because the cloud was supposed to simplify things for IT, making it easy for anyone to buy some services and pay for as much as you need. Unlike typical IT buys where you have to go through layers of sales process, cloud services are supposed to be much easier, but now it seems we’ve complicated it to the point that we need brokers to help us sort through it.
Then I guess we also need consultants to help us find the real brokers.
Does your head hurt?
My advice: Don’t over-think this
The Cloud isn’t supposed to be complicated. Find the vendors in the area you want, choose one and sign up. It’s that simple. Of course, you want to do your due diligence about things like up-time, security and the ability to get your data out, but don’t go crazy thinking you have to replicate the old way of doing business and hiring brokers and consultants to help you. Chances are if you have some common sense, you can do this on your own.
And that’s just for starters.
Let’s look at the mobile numbers in Apple’s own words:
And that’s just the mobile story. It’s inherently clear that Apple’s mobile strategy is working. Even with competition all around it from Android phones and the Kindle Fire tablet, nothing slowed down the Cupertino juggernaut. To call it extraordinary doesn’t begin to describe how well Apple did.
Oh and by the way the company is sitting on $90 billion in cash.
As we watch Apple rake in the cash, it’s probably worth noting a couple of negatives here. Apple appears to be making money on the backs of exploited Chinese workers. What’s more it tried to sue competitors out of the market, even though it’s clear that the market loves it and it can clearly compete on its own merit.
Heck, Chinese consumers were so hot for the iPhone, they rioted when it sold out, prompting Tim Cook to say (in perhaps the understatement of the year so far), that they didn’t bet high enough on the Chinese market.
As we covered recently, an IDG study found that the iPad was making big inroads inside the enterprise and a new Cisco study confirms this. As Apple makes the transition to the enterprise market and at the same time begins to grow an Asian market, it’s no wonder that Apple is a company that appears to have a license to print money.
The Cisco study found demand is growing in the enterprise (although it varies fairly dramatically by country). In the US for instance, which leads the way in this regard, the report stated that 38 percent of executives have been issued an iPad. That probably doesn’t tell the whole story though because there are very likely many who never asked IT, and just bought one without IT’s knowledge.
From a practical standpoint as you would expect, the Cisco study found that IT worries about security and they want to see more custom apps — no surprises there.
From an IT perspective in spite of these numbers, it would be unwise to think of mobile as a one-horse race. As remarkable as Apple’s quarter has proven to be, there are other mobile players out there and you have to keep your eye firmly on all of them — all superlatives aside.]]>
The survey write-up which was compiled from phone interviews and research from a variety of sources found that professionals from virtually ever region are using the iPad in larger numbers than anyone might have imagined if these conclusions are to be believed.
First of all, IT is using iPads in a big way with 51 percent reporting they “always” use it at work and another 41 percent saying they “sometimes” used it at work. That’s a significant number of IT users saying that the iPad is an important device to them.
Not surprising, whether business pros or from IT, users say they use the iPad mostly for content consumption with web browsing (79 percent), reading (76 percent) and news consumption (73 percent) representing the clear usage leaders. Work communication followed at 54 percent and somewhat suprisingly social media trailed at 44 percent.
I’m also seeing ipad usage in a business context in real-world observations. For instance, increasingly at conferences I see many iPads, even for note-taking at sessions. Personally, I still carry a light-weight PC (11 inch Mac Book Air) for the road because I find having a full physical keyboard is important to me, but for most users taking casual notes, the virtual keyboard is sufficient in this scenario.
I’m also seeing the iPad at work in other scenarios. Marketers and sales people love the iPad as a demonstration device. It provides a light-weight, attractive and engaging way to present content to people without the device getting in the way of the conversation as a laptop might.
What’s more, I noted the last time I was in the Apple Store that Apple is using iPads as product brochures on the floor. You walk up to the latest iPod Touch or other device and you can read about the specs on the iPad adjacent to it. It’s a clever way to use its own products in a promotional fashion.
One thing that surprised me about the survey was how much the iPad had penetrated business nearly universally across the world. Perhaps the most astonishing data point to me was that Africa and South America reported the highest use of iPad in business with 70 percent, which was 3 points higher than the US and 10 points higher than Europe. The lowest reported usage was in Asia with 33 percent.
And in what has to be bad news for iPad competitors, users reported a high a sense of satisfaction with the device. In fact, only 17 percent reported they would consider a different device in the future. That shows that once Apple captures a user, it’s very difficult for the competition to get him or her away.
While I see the iPad as the ultimate media consumption device, the fact that so many are using it at work where other devices are available is a surprise to me, but if this survey is even close to accurate, not only your business users probably own one, quite a few folks in IT do too — and that’s probably the most impressive revelation of all in the report. And you absolutely need to be paying attention to this.]]>
That’s why the recent defense authorization bill included clear guidelines for cost cutting. As a post on Internet Evolution pointed out while most of the attention on the bill involved the indefinite detention provision, there was more to the bill than that controversial component.
In fact, it included provisions that requires plans for data center consolidation, cloud computing and desktop virutalization. Now as it turns out, Congress is just the tail wagging the dog, because the DoD has been way ahead of it in this type of planning.
FierceGovernmentIT reported last month that the DoD was well along to the planning path when it came to consolidation and that included plans for much of what this legislation dictated.
That’s great of course because if the DoD can save billions by moving to the cloud and consolidating data centers that’s going to save all of us, the tax payers, money. But there’s a bigger lesson here than for Enterprise IT.
Now I know the Congress is an easy target, but if even they can figure out that you can squeeze cost savings through consolidation, then maybe it’s something you should be looking at in the private enterprise.
The fact is though that if you are big organization with data centers spread out across the world, you too might be looking for ways to reduce the real estate, the maintenance costs, the cooling bills and so forth that go with running large data centers, and the US government could be a model for you in your approach.
When Vivek Kundra came on board as the US CIO in March 2009, he started the government on this path to consolidation, seeing the cloud and virtualization as a way to cut the cost of running IT in the government. One of those ways was to shut down some of the data centers.
You might want to be thinking about this too. At the very least look at the public plans that the DoD and the Office of Management and Budget has put together. Perhaps you can learn from them and put your tax dollars to work for your organization.
I won’t guarantee those cost savings of course, because how much or even whether you actually save money by going to the cloud is subject to debate, but you can use the Federal government as a lab of sorts. Watch what they do. The goals are ambitious and will be implemented in fairly short order (especially when considering this is the government we are talking about).
So take advantage of this and see where it takes them. You might find there’s something in these moves and your company can learn from that. You would be foolish to ignore it.]]>
My colleague, George V. Hulme does an excellent job of laying out the trends and what they mean, so I’m not going to retrace his steps. Instead I’m going to focus on one trend in particular around cloud security demands from enterprises:
By 2016, 40 percent of enterprises will make proof of independent security testing a precondition for using any type of cloud service.
I looked at that figure and was taken aback, not because it’s so bold, but because it seems a bit conservative to me. Any time I’ve attended conferences over the last several years, all I hear is that security is the chief concern about adopting cloud computing.
In fact, I wrote about this very subject in this space last spring after attending a session on the cloud at CeBIT. In my post, Why is The Cloud Still Getting Special Treatment, I expressed some annoyance at hearing about security concerns yet again, feeling perhaps we should be further along after so much time.
And after attending conferences like the ARMA International Conference and Expo in October, the conference for record keepers, I found there was very little taste for storing records in the cloud, at least not without some serious reservations and making very sure that security and governance were up to snuff.
One speaker I saw suggested such a thorough examination of your cloud vendor’s data center, that it seemed to me it would negate any cost advantages associated with the cloud. That’s why there would be such value in having third-party oversight of security testing.
It’s clear that this is a major concern in many organizations and with increasingly stringent data protection laws in the EU, Canada and elsewhere, especially as it relates to the USA Patriot Act, companies are going to be looking for guidance on every cloud vendor’s security features.
And chances are they aren’t going to want to pay to send a contingent of their IT Staff to conduct a security audit of every vendor. It would be much more cost-effective to have some businesses or an industry group devoted to cloud security auditing where they audit once and cloud customers can have access to the independent analysis.
That’s why from a cloud vendor perspective, it would pay to have this type of service in place much sooner than later. If the cloud vendors could provide an accepted certification that would satisfy the concerns of most enterprise IT shops, then the conversation could get past the security issues and start comparing vendors on their merits.
Assuming the cloud industry could come up with a viable third-party certification system, I would be shocked, if by 2016, only 40 percent of enterprises would make independent security certification a precondition of buying a service. If such certification exists, it would likely be at the top of every requirements list in every IT shop in the world.
It seems that 40 percent is a low-ball figure for a requirement that we’ve seen is so important to so many inside large organizations. I would think the number would be closer to 90 percent (and then I would wonder what the other 10 percent were thinking). ]]>
The Cloudability blog looked at a recent study by 37 Signals, the Base Camp folks, which found they had pretty decent traction inside big Fortune-level enterprise organizations including 37 of the Fortune 50, 68 of the Fortune 100 and 321 of the Fortune 500 — decent traction by any measure.
But where it gets more interesting is when the post author met up with an IT executive at a party and asked him about his IT cloud spend, he was told almost nothing. Interestingly enough, he writes he met up with a developer at the same company and asked the same question. The developer said, $5000.
This is a telling tale for a number of reasons. First of all, it illustrates that business users are probably using cloud services with or without the knowledge of the IT department and why wouldn’t they. These services are inexpensive and easily accessible and they don’t require IT intervention and all the bureaucratic implications inherent in dealing with a defined department.
Now, I don’t want this post to become an anti-IT rant because that’s really not what this about. Instead, it’s understanding how cloud computing has changed the way business users in some organizations (and from the 37 Signals poll results; quite a few of the top ones) have taken control of applications and service purchases because the cloud just makes it so easy to do that.
This is not a new theme. In fact, I was hearing this two years ago at the MIT CIO Conference panels where some CIOs insisted that their users weren’t using cloud applications and the cloud company executives on the same panel were saying, “Yes they are; you just don’t know about it because it doesn’t flow through you.”
Some may see this democratization or consumerization of IT services as chaotic, but if you can offload some of the more mundane IT tasks in this fashion argues Forresters Matthew Brown in a recent blog post, it makes sense and lets IT concentrate on more important organizational tasks. Brown writes, “I for one would much prefer to see IT people working on stuff that adds net new value to the business.”
Hard to argue with that logic. For too long IT has had to worry about keeping the lights on instead of really taking a hard look at how technology can help the organization achieve its strategic business goals. If cloud computing in its various forms can free up IT to do more important work, that seems like a reasonable trade-off from a business perspective.
For now, it’s certainly telling that even now as we approach the end of 2011 and cloud computing begins to gain some maturity (or at least enters adolescence maybe?) that IT executives appear to be just as clueless about cloud usage in their organizations as they were two years ago when cloud computing was less well known in IT circles. ]]>
Lest we forget, earlier this year Nokia suddenly dropped Symbian and MeeGo and threw its weight behind Windows Phone 7.
Mobile development is a confusing landscape under the best of circumstances, but the last week in particular, just turned it on its head. I don’t want to be over dramatic about it because it’s not as though Apple abandoned iOS or Google abandoned Android, but it’s a pretty big deal that HP walked away from webOS.
It leaves me wondering how many business models were just throw into disarray by HP’s seemingly impetuous decision. While the HP TouchPad got mixed reviews, developers reportedly really liked webOS as a development platform, even if they were cautious — and it turned out with good reason — about throwing resources at it just yet.
Box. net, an online storage and collaboration company, recently announced support across all of the major platforms including HP TouchPad. They went so far as to run a promotion with HP offering a whopping 50 GB of free storage to TouchPad buyers, good for the life of the Box account (and don’t forget it’s good across many devices and platforms).
Box could not have been pleased when HP walked away from the tablets barely 7 weeks after the July 1st launch, but Box CEO Aaron Levie chose to see it in a positive light saying, “Ironically, the short-term impact has been positive: recent TouchPad sales have driven a major spike in Box signups – 30,000 Box for TouchPad app downloads to date…”
Some speculate that webOS will rise again, but it’s impossible to say what its future is right now, and I don’t see many developers supporting it at this point, even if somebody rescues it. But Box’s Levie says, he doesn’t see this having a huge impact on emerging platforms in general. Instead, he believes it may push the adoption of a more standardized approach like HTML5.
“I doubt HP’s decision will dissuade developers from building for emerging platforms in a major way. Rather, the focus will be on speeding up and standardizing cross-platform app development – for instance, leveraging HTML5 to more efficiently bring services to all devices, like we recently did with our HTML5 mobile web app,” Levie said.
Regardless, HP’s decision had to leave developers a bit shell shocked, wondering what would happen next. Maybe Levie’s right though and it will force the industry to look at a more standardized development approach where it doesn’t matter when vendors come and go like this.
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. ]]>
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. ]]>