Apple


It’s only a matter of time until the consumerization of IT bleeds over from your non-IT employees into your IT department. While this may sound far fetched, iPad like systems, such as appliances or workload optimized systems, are already finding a foothold in your IT datacenter, and it’s not about to stop.

Consumerization of IT is here to stay
As InfoWorld’s Galen Gruman explains, the consumerization of IT is in full force with employees choosing hardware and software that best meets their needs without regard for corporate IT standards. The trend started well before Salesforce.com, iPhones and iPads made their way into the enterprise, but these three technologies are important because they highlight the choices being made by employees. These choices are often markedly different from the choices an IT professional would tend to agree with when making corporate purchase decisions.

All three technologies offered fewer choices and were less open than the alternatives already in use within a given IT department. Terms like walled-gardens or lock-in were often associated with Salesforce.com, the iPhone and iPad in their early days of enterprise usage. In many respects, these concerns still apply. And yet, all three technologies have somehow found their way onto the corporate standard list. This doesn’t mean that these are the preferred technologies in every case, but they have a role to play within today’s modern IT department.

The value versus control spectrum
Consumerization of IT hits close to home for me. I started to type this post on my iPad and then later on my Macbook Air. I use both for work purposes at varying times, and both are my personal devices.

It occurred to me that in choosing an iPad and a Macbook Air I made choices that I’d never have expected making even 2 years ago.

For the better part of 15 years I’d purchased hardware and software that I could tinker with and had broad control over. However, the “it just works” nature of the iPad and performance, portability and yes, the aesthetics, of the Macbook Air became important decision factors.

By going to a Mac after years on a PC, most of my applications, tools and custom scripts stopped being useful. I have fewer choices of applications and much lower configurability on my Macbook Air and iPad. It wasn’t a painless transition. I still need to keep a Windows 7 and VMware Fusion license around as my tax program of choice only supports Windows.

However, the value I perceived from a simpler to use and better integrated system helped me get over my historical approach to IT systems and software. I highly doubt that I’m alone in this progression on the spectrum of control and configurability versus integrated system ease of use and performance.

Growing use of appliances and workload optimized systems in datacenters
The very same concerns I had when considering an iPad or Macbook Air are relevant for IT professionals tasked with doing more with less. The notion of giving up control and choice is often viewed in a negative light by IT professionals. But, when the value of a workload optimized system is considered, especially if it’s based on open standards, the attractiveness of these systems begin to outweigh the reduced control and configurability.

The very same professionals reading this blog and running countless IT departments are happily toting iPhones, iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs or Macbook Airs. The ease of use and performance at certain tasks that these integrated systems provide is bound to affect standard decision making in their IT roles.

Think about all the time and effort spent on building systems from piece parts, applying fixes and upgrades to individual pieces of the system. How much more valuable work could you do for your company if you didn’t spend hours or months on these tasks? How much time do you spend keeping your iPad up to date? Virtually no time at all.

This idea clicked for me a few months ago, and it’ll take hold with more and more IT professionals. Some will ignore the logical conclusions, while others will question whether their current approach to building, maintaining and upgrading systems is optimal for every situation. Note however, here is no reason to think that the growing use of workload optimized systems means the end of the custom built systems market. Both types of systems have a role to play in a modern datacenter.

For instance, appliances are already a growing part of the IT landscape. IT has long been comfortable with appliances for important, but non-differentiating layers of the IT stack, such as firewalls.

Customers are increasingly looking at appliances for higher value IT capability like business analytics. Oracle’s Exadata and IBM’s Netezza Twinfin are two appliances that have been growing by narrowing choice and configurability while optimizing for a particular task. In fact, Oracle made a point of highlighting the growth of Exadata as a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing quarter.

While we’re likely decades away from replacing your systems of choice with a big fat tablet device, the consumerization of IT will increase the willingness of IT professional to adopt appliance and appliance like systems in enterprise datacenters. Is your IT department ready for this shift?

should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

While a renewed search deal between Google and Mozilla is welcome news to millions of Firefox users, Mozilla has three big ideas for 2012 and beyond that will see it competing much more with Google, Facebook and Apple. Here’s why you should be cheering Mozilla on.

Biting the hand that feeds it?
As InfoWorld’s Woody Leonhard writes, it was in Google’s best interests to prevent Microsoft’s Bing from becoming the default search provider in Firefox. As much as Mozilla relies on Google for 80 percent plus of its revenue, so too does Google rely on the search traffic from millions of Firefox users. While Mozilla’s blog post about the recently signed deal espouses a mutually beneficial agreement, its difficult to believe that the relationship is anything but strained between Google and Mozilla.

However, that relationship is going to get a lot more tenuous if Mozilla is able to make progress on three key areas laid out by Mozilla’s David Aacher.

Mozilla and Firefox became household names through the browser wars, particularly against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but mainly as a proponent of open standards and user rights on the web. Ascher writes: “In the case of the browser wars, the outcome has been pretty good for society, if slower than we’d have liked: standards have evolved, browsers got better and faster, and websites got more interesting.”

But now, Mozilla feels it’s time to look beyond the browser as the main front in it’s mission to safeguard the future of web for the people. Mozilla is also investing in an open stack for hardware OEMs, user-centric identity on the web and tools for building and running apps. These initiatives add to the value of Firefox from a user standpoint, but are being developed in parallel. Additionally, the latter two initiatives are applicable to other browsers also.

A truly open alternative to Android
The first initiative, named Boot to Gecko aims use open web technologies to deliver a runtime and underlying operating system for desktop and mobile applications. If this sounds like Android or Chrome OS, it should. Boot to Gecko is using some of the same lower level building blocks that Android uses, such as the Linux kernel and libusb. The team explains this choice was made to reduce the burden on device makers and OEMs who will be faced with certifying Boot to Gecko on new hardware. While some building blocks are shared, Boot to Gecko is not based on Android and will not run Android applications.

If Mozilla can successfully execute on initiative number 3 below, Boot to Gecko will be difficult for OEMs to ignore. There is a lot more work for Mozilla to do before Boot to Gecko can attract the attention of Android device manufacturers. However, OEMs and users will benefit from serious open source competition to Android.

User controlled identity
The second initiative, currently named BrowserID, although Mozilla is looking for a different name, addresses the need for users to regain control over their identity and sharing of personal information on the web.

BrowserID aims to become the open alternative to Facebook Connect and Google username on Google’s far reaching web properties. With BrowserID, Mozilla has built a user centric identity system that works in all modern browsers and will make the protocol available for other browser vendors to use. Ascher explains:

“For Mozilla devs, this is a bit shocking, as we’re not starting by putting a feature in Firefox first (although we sure hope that Firefox will implement BrowserID before the others!). While I love Firefox, this makes me happy, because in my mind, Mozilla is about making the internet work better for everyone, not just Firefox users, and in this case being browser-neutral is the right strategic play.”

The notion of making the web better for everyone, not just Firefox users, is one I’ve not picked up on until now. But I completely agree with Ascher. Few can argue that even Internet Explorer users are benefiting from Firefox’s efforts and Microsoft’s response.

If Mozilla is successful with BroswerID, which is certainly possible as developers increasingly grow weary of their reliance on Facebook or Google, users will get back control over their identity and information without having to sacrifice a personalized web experience.

Apps, if you can’t beat them, join them
Finally, Mozilla is addressing the “app-ifcation” of the web, not by fighting the trend it as may seem reasonable for a browser vendor, but by guiding how these apps are built, found, paid for and installed.

Mozilla’s Apps initiative aims to make web technologies the basis of building applications that can run across devices. Mozilla also wants to introduce a standard for application purchasing and installation that would allow users to consume applications from multiple app stores without restrictions. This initiative undoubtedly goes after the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace.

It would be interesting if Mozilla were to partner with Microsoft on this initiative as Microsoft builds out its app store.

Success isn’t guaranteed, but Mozilla knows about tough fights
Whether Mozilla can execute against all three of these initiatives while maintaining its efforts in the still important browser war is an open question. As a user, even if one of these three initiatives are successful, we’ll all be better off.

While Mozilla will face a lot of resistance on this front from the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple, fighting an uphill battle isn’t new territory for Mozilla.

should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

With the holiday season upon us, and tablets at the top of many gift lists, it’s all but certain that millions of new users will get exposed to an open source based Android Tablet. By all accounts, Amazon’s Kindle Fire is expected to leapfrog into, at least, number two position in the tablet market. While this would appear to be good news for Android tablets and the Android OS, it may actually be exactly what Apple and Microsoft had asked for Christmas (or any other holiday these companies choose to celebrate).

Great price and Amazon content versus clunky user experience
I’m not going to do a blow by blow review of the Kindle Fire. Glen has a good review of the Kindle Fire versus Apple iPad. I’d also recommend the Kindle Fire review from Instapaper developer Marco Arment from a user experience standpoint.

The first common thread across reviews is the price of a Kindle tablet, at $199, can’t be beat. Some have referred to the Kindle Fire as the people’s tablet.

Second, reviews are virtually unanimous that the Kindle Fire is great when restricted to Amazon’s content, even if some magazines aren’t optimal for a 7 inch screen. The Kindle Fire becomes less attractive as users venture outside of Amazon’s content garden. Even the new Silk browser, touted to speed on device browsing, appears to be a let down.

Finally, many reviews describe a less than delightful user experience while using the Kindle Fire operating system and user interface. The Kindle Fire OS responsiveness is said to lag user input, sometimes forcing users to redo an action only to find that the first input was in fact registered.

The 7 inch form factor, while easier to hold than a 10 inch tablet, presents the added complication of smaller targets for users to press in order to carry out their intended tasks. One of Arment’s issues with the Kindle Fire interface is that: “Many touch targets throughout the interface are too small, and I miss a lot. It’s often hard to distinguish a miss from interface lag.”

Like it or not, iPad is Kindle Fire’s comparison
There are many older users who don’t need a laptop and could benefit from a small and moderately priced tablet for email, browsing and reading. A Kindle Fire seems like a great solution. It’s likely that many of this cohort will receive a Kindle Fire from a well meaning family member or friend. In fact, my wife suggested getting a Kindle Fire for several retired members of our family.

However, the usability issues that Arment brings up, especially surrounding interface lag and smaller touch targets will undoubtedly have an impact on their desire to use the device, or store it away with that interesting looking tie received over the holidays.

It seems that a lack of comfort with new computing devices, fat thumbs and poor eyesight, something we all have to look forward to, aren’t great ingredients for being delighted with the Kindle Fire.

Even younger users, many who own or have used an iPod touch or iPhone are at risk of being annoyed with the lag and user interface roughness of the Kindle Fire.

Some have argued that you can’t compare a $499 iPad with a $199 Kindle Fire. That’s true, on paper. In practice, users are going to compare their Kindle Fire experience with an iPad. There isn’t a tablet market, there’s an iPad market. It’s the reason that most Kindle Fire reviews compare to the leading entry in the market, the iPad, and not other Android or 7 inch based tablet.

A poor Kindle Fire experience reflects on Android
When the Kindle Fire is perceived to deliver a less enjoyable experience than an iPad, the real risk is that the Android tablet market will be viewed in the same light as the Kindle Fire. That may not be fair considering Amazon has forked the Android OS, and Android continues to get better. However, since the Kindle Fire is expected to reach an order of vastly more users than other Android tablets, and considering Amazon’s technical reach, don’t be surprised if typical users generalize their Kindle Fire experience to Android tablets.

Earlier this week Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Ashlee Vance wrote on his Twitter feed: “Just opened up the old Kindle Fire. Android sure has a Windows 3.0 feel, dunnit?”

That is exactly the type of comment that should make Apple happy and give Microsoft a faint hope in their tablet plans. If Amazon, with its great content and proven track record with Kindle devices, can’t pull off a device users prefer to an iPad, then what’s the likelihood that any Android vendor can?

I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Windows 8 demos at Microsoft’s BUILD developer and partner conference have been very compelling, inspiring even. But nothing about the UI will change the underlying challenges with Microsoft’s open ecosystem. Users will still have to deal with frustrating experiences, even if the blue screen of death is replaced with a blue frowny face.
Windows 8 looks promising
Our own Galen Gruman’s review of Windows 8 is quite glowing. Galen goes out on a limb and suggests that HP’s decision to jettison WebOS could have been due to Windows 8:

But if Windows 8 is nearly as good as the demos look, Microsoft could very well win the mobile wars, despite years of failures in Windows tablets and mediocre smartphone efforts. If Hewlett-Packard CEO Léo Apotheker had seen a preview of Windows 8 tablets, that would explain why he suddenly killed the WebOS-based TouchPad tablet last month.

Other reviews of Windows 8 have been cautiously optimistic that Microsoft may finally have an OS to combat Apple.

The only problem, software alone is not enough. The real test for Microsoft is how Windows 8 will demo on the hundreds or thousands of devices, PC and mobile, that will be “optimized” to run Windows 8. I stress optimized, because every hardware vendor will play that card, when in fact, no piece of software can be optimized for everything. That’s where marketing and reality depart.

Configurability versus design choices
John Gruber wrote a thought provoking post about Apple’s long term sustainable advantage residing not solely on their design, but their supply chain. The two points are related, and will impact Microsoft’s windows 8 strategy, especially as they grow beyond the desktop to tablets and mobile devices with a single operating system.

Gruber wrote:

Design is largely about making choices. The PC hardware market has historically focused on three factors: low prices, tech specs, and configurability. Configurability is another way of saying that you, the buyer, get a bigger say in the design of your computer. (Bright points out, for example, that Lenovo gives you the option of choosing which Wi-Fi adaptor goes into your laptop.) Apple offers far fewer configurations. Thus MacBooks are, to most minds, subjectively better-designed — but objectively, they’re more designed. Apple makes more of the choices than do PC makers.

I’ve been thinking of this more and more as part of my day job, and I can fully understand why making choices are hard for vendors. Clients tell us that they want to make choices, because a lack of choice can sometimes lead to vendor lock-in. But these same clients demonstrate higher satisfaction with products which have been, in Gruber’s words, more designed, and hence present fewer choices to buyers.

Microsoft’s issue with Windows is that their OEM partners offer a degree of configurability that, on the surface is helpful, but turns out to hurt user satisfaction with both Windows and the hardware OEM.

I hadn’t made this connection until I started to use Windows 7 in a VMware Fusion virtual machine on a new MacBook Air. Yes, I know, the horror. But I need to use Windows for work and will be travelling with the need for my work and personal machine. This was easier than lugging around two physical machines.

Even with the overhead of a hypervisor and the relatively mediocre Intel core i5 CPU, my work hypervisor, is a delight to use. I’ve had no issues with driver mismatches or blue screens of death. Windows startups, shutdowns and resume from sleep are speedy, thanks to the SSD drives. I actually like using Windows again. More importantly, my PC is no longer getting in the way of my productivity.

For once, a hardware provider that’s actually enhancing satisfaction with Windows. Unfortunately, Apple isn’t a Microsoft hardware partner.

What’s Microsoft to do?
It’s difficult to know how Microsoft will address this issue going forward.

Microsoft could get very, very, restrictive about configurations and testing before allowing hardware OEMs to use Windows 8. This would require the same level of testing for fixes and upgrades to drivers used by the hardware configuration. However, considering the billion odd users of Microsoft Windows, with vastly different amounts to spend on PCs, a very restrictive policy will be at odds with Microsoft’s business goals.

Increased restrictions could encourage Windows OEMs to build with Linux OS, or more likely, Google’s Chrome OS. Microsoft is in a difficult spot of being the undisputed market share leader, but at risk of market share loss to Apple at the high end and Chrome and Linux at the low end. Until recently, the high end and low end competition was theoretical at best, but no longer.

It’ll be interesting to see what Microsoft and its partners will do if Apple uses its supply chain and lower configurability to offer a much lower price point entry to their desktops and laptops. In some respects, the iPad is doing just this as it eats into existing PC share.

Whether Windows 8 will be enough to stop the share loss is an open question. The real question however is how well Windows 8 will be configured and optimized for the hardware you’ll be asked to buy. Keep that in mind as you purchase new machines for your teams and employees.

I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

The recent news that the Google Voice iPhone application has been blocked from the iTunes App Store has created quite the stir.

Readers are somewhat correct to suggest that this move is more likely driven by AT&T than by Apple itself.  However, keep in mind that Google Voice aims to insulate the user experience from the underlying phone.  While the iPhone is much more than a phone, if Google is successful in owning the phone-related experience on the iPhone, Apple loses a core value proposition of the device.  This is why I don’t buy the fact that AT&T is wholly to blame for the Apple decision.  I can’t understand how Apple doesn’t have the bargaining position versus AT&T to act on behalf of Apple customers.  Apple does.  This decision helps protect AT&T’s and Apple’s value proposition to users.  Apple acted out of self interest.  I can’t blame them since Apple is not a charity.  But Apple users, and others, should take note and adjust their purchase behavior and legal oversight accordingly, if at all.

Apple pulled Google Voice-enabled applications from the App Store because they “duplicate features that come with the iPhone”.  The fact that Apple can limit the types of applications available to iPod/iPhone users on the basis of duplicate features that Apple provides or will provide in the future, GPS navigation an example of the latter, is mind boggling.  Can you imagine Microsoft not allowing Firefox, Opera or Safari on Windows computers citing the fact that these products duplicate features that come with Windows? Say what you will about Microsoft’s competitive practices, but excluding an application on the basis of providing a similar capability seems awkward in the software industry where there are 42 different ways of achieving anything.

The fact that Apple owns the platform gives it a leg up on any third party applications that may be available before or after Apple decides to add similar functionality.  If this isn’t enough to win versus the third party application, then the Apple product/feature deserves to lose out to the third party application.

To be fair, I find it equally surprising that the RIM BlackBerry App World doesn’t include applications such as Google Maps for Blackberry.  Google Maps is much easier to use than RIM’s BlackBerry Maps.  But since I can get the application directly from m.google.com and there are no limitations on what I can install on my BlackBerry, I don’t much care about the absence of Google Maps from BlackBerry App World.  Since there is only one legal way to install applications to the iPod/iPhone, it really does matter when Apple restricts the applications a user is able to download and use.

Where is the government oversight of Apple’s App Store and iPod/iPhone application development practices?  I care far less about IE integration with Windows than what applications I can run on my phone. My BlackBerry phone has quickly becoming the device I can’t live without; my laptop is well behind my Tivo/PVR.

PS: I don’t own an Apple product, but my wife loves her MBP and iPod Touch, both of which I play with from time to time.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PPS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Here’s a BusinessWeek article about how “Microsoft is Fighting Back (Finally)”.  The most interesting part is about Microsoft’s new “Windows Anytime Upgrade” strategy. Here are some details:

“Because of the smaller size of Windows 7, three versions of the program will come loaded even on lower-end machines. If a consumer on a cheaper PC running the “Standard” version tries to use a high-definition monitor or run more than three software programs at once, he’ll discover that neither is possible. Then he’ll be prompted to upgrade to the pricier “Home Premium” or “Ultimate” version.

Microsoft says the process will be simple. Customers enter their credit-card information, then a 25-character code, make a few keystrokes, then reboot. Brooks says pricing hasn’t been determined, but upgrading “will cost less than a night out for four at a pizza restaurant.””

After reading this, I instantly thought about Cote excellent post titled “The Return of Paying for Software” from last summer.  Cote wrote:

“When it comes to making money with software, the iPhone App Store is the glossiest example of trend I feel creeping up on us: people paying for software.

Yes, people have been paying for software forever, but the expectations for most consumer software of late has been that it’s free.

The change here is an environment where people will spend $0.99 to $20 for a piece of software. I often comment that this user-mentality – spending small amounts of cash on software – exists in the OS X world, but it’s been lacking from others.”

While I initially balked at the thought of a popup window with: “Hey, it looks like you can afford a high definition monitor, so why not get the most out of it with Windows 7 Home Premium, for an low price of $19.99?”, I’m willing to give this idea the benefit of the doubt.  This recent NYT article (via Cote – that man is Gold!) explains the success of an iPod/iPhone game called iShoot, and is a reason behind my openness to the Windows Anytime Upgrade strategy:

“In January, he released a free version of the game with fewer features, hoping to spark sales of the paid version. It worked: iShoot Lite has been downloaded more than 2 million times, and many people have upgraded to the paid version, which now costs $2.99. On its peak day — Jan. 11 — iShoot sold nearly 17,000 copies, which meant a $35,000 day’s take for Mr. Nicholas.”

Consumers are getting accustomed to acquiring software for instantaneous incremental gratification.  The consumer gets some value off the bat, but is faced with a purchase decision to get incremental value.  When the consumer decides to follow through with the transaction, the gratification is instantaneous, not tomorrow in the mail or through a 4hr download.  With the Windows Anytime Upgrade strategy, consumers would get some value off the bat.  Upon hitting a feature/function wall, a purchase decision would be presented.  And if the consumer chooses to transact with Microsoft, it seems that the incremental value would be provided on the spot, without having to download or acquire and install another DVD’s worth of an OS.

Seems like an interesting strategy that’s much closer aligned to how consumers pay for software today.  Maybe an unexpected outcome of Apple’s App Store strategy is to educate consumers ahead of Microsoft’s Anytime Upgrade strategy.

I thought I had a novel idea when I told a friend this weekend that Sun & Apple could make an interesting pair.  However, it seems that this isn’t a novel idea after all.  In 2006 it was reported that Sun had tried to acquire Apple once and considered a merger with Apple on two other occasions.

How the times have changed.  Apple, now with a 25x higher market capitalization than Sun, would be in a slightly different bargaining position.

Sun is trading at ~$3B, which is slightly above their cash and near cash balance of $2.6B. The likelihood of Sun making it through this global recession as a standalone company is, frankly, not a sure bet.  So who would make for a good suitor?  Apple, HP, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Red Hat (merger?) come to mind.

Of these, I think Apple is most interesting (maybe not the best fit, but most interesting).

Both vendors have deep experience in hardware at different ends of the product spectrum.  As such, there would be minimal real overlap across product families.  Sun’s Systems business (servers & storage) would be a great way for Apple to get deeper into the enterprise.

While both vendors offer premium priced products, it’s arguable how much longer Sun brand can uphold the premium.  However, take one of those Sun boxes, slap an Apple logo on it, along with Apple’s styling, and that premium looks to be in tact.

Sun has a strong developer following, while (the cool crowd of) developers love using Apple products during development.  To me, Sun’s developer following is Sun’s single most valuable asset.  Sun gets developer love like no other company I’ve seen (well, except Apple, but the love is more general than simply developers).  Any company considering acquiring Sun needs to have street credibility with these developers or risk losing the most valuable part of a Sun acquisition.

Oh and there may be the minor issue of Apple’s proprietary software strategy vs. Sun’s open source software strategy. ;-)

What do you think?

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