Google's Achilles' heel

Sure, people trust Google to come out with cool technology. But do they trust Google with their data and their privacy? Many don’t. Worse, many fear what Google does or could do with the data it aggregates.

I’ll let Google itself tell the story. If you do a Google search on “Google” and “big brother” you’ll get a whopping 58.9 million hits. Doing the same for “Microsoft” and “big brother” yields only 7.1 million. Even more surprising, a search on “government” and “big brother” results in just 13.4 million hits. Using search results as a rough proxy: people are more than 4 times more concerned that Google, rather than the government, is amassing too much information about us.

I see a lot of parallels between Google today and Microsoft circa 1999. What security was to Microsoft (but to Microsoft’s credit, isn’t any longer), privacy is to Google: a looming threat of customer dissatisfaction that could result in a mass migration of users and their eyeballs away from Google’s applications and search engine. And the friction for such a diaspora from Google’s web-based services and add-on applications is far lower than from Microsoft’s Windows or Office.

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Telecoms, the recovery, and 2010 - think Volkswagen


The big story in 2008 was the near melt-down of the Financial sector, and the wider economic recession that followed has been the tale of 2009. As a company we have been tracking the impact of the recession on the ICT sector (Information and Communications Technology) through a series of articles over the past 15 months, but what about the recovery. Will the recovery be the story of 2010?

Before we can consider this question, it is important ensure there is no misunderstanding on the recession. The communications sector has undoubtedly been hit by the economic downturn, but this cannot be compared to the crash experienced by the auto manufacturing, airline, construction, and retailing sectors to name a few. For communications the recession has been relatively mild, as the figures posted by major telcos have showed.For example, in Q3 2009 (July to Sept) Telefonica posted revenues down 5.7% yoy (year on year), and AT&T income was down 1.6% yoy. So the bounce back for the sector is, relative to others, quite small.

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Next PM open house: Agile in tech companies

Since our first Forrester open house for product managers and product marketers was a success, we're going to start scheduling them regularly. Like, say, once a month.

The topic that has received the most votes in our topic survey is, How does Agile affect the company, outside the development team? Other leading topics include:

  • What's the state of the art in requirements?
  • How are other companies structuring their PM teams?
  • How do companies make a successful transition to a new business model?
  • How do other teams handle sales support?
  • What are some strategies for handling the product roadmap?

We're leaving the survey open, so please, vote for the topics that most interest you.

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The Heretech, episode 28: April Dunford on product marketing

April Dunford, who writes the blog Rocket Watcher, explains the product marketing challenges in the tech industry, and the special problems facing startups. We also talk about how PMs can embrace social media without a huge hit to their schedule. Plus, a juicy tidbit from the upcoming research document on requirements. (c) 2009 Tom Grant

Remember the KISS principle?

This morning, I had a briefing with McObject, a tech vendor that specializes in embeddable databases. From cars to set-top boxes to web sites, there's a near-universal need to put data somewhere, retrieve it, and manage it. In these use cases, the simplest database technology is the best.

Their product strategy is interesting to the readers of this blog for at least a couple of reasons. First, there's an unstated assumption in many technology companies that complexity is inescapable. If you want to keep pace with your competitors, you have to keep pace with their feature set.

Keeping the roadmap simple
Pshaw. If you look carefully at McObject's roadmap, you don't see crazy amounts of new features. Instead, their product strategy focuses on the essentials. Provide logical database devices as a layer of abstraction above the actual storage (on disk, in memory, etc.). Take advantage of the performance improvements in 64-bit architectures. Give the developer an optimistic concurrency option.

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The leading innovation management firms understand the need to generate business value

Everyone seems to understand that social computing is a hot technology these days, and at Forrester we get plenty of questions from companies trying to understand how they can access the power and benefits of social computing into their own companies.

But before companies consider which technology platforms they should use, they should be carefully considering for what business purpose they need social computing tools. In my view, technology is a powerful lever in solving business problems, but it is not a solution in itself. For example, I know a lot of people who spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I can’t see much business value in it (unless looking up former high school classmates counts as business development). The same is true for far too many (but not all) of the social technology tools hitting the market today. <

This is where innovation management tools come in. While many community platforms are great at providing technology for internal collaboration, the best innovation management companies are taking the power of technology one step further -   they are using social technologies, to help companies generate a response to specific business problems.

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Sometimes, you measure commitment by the hour

During a breakfast meeting this morning, someone asked a very sharp question: Are businesses really operating differently because of social media? I then jumped in the car, drove from San Francisco back to our Foster City office, and heard how Cisco has used social media to change product launches.

The obvious change, of course, is lowering the cost, if you're not renting out the Moscone Center for a big launch party. Slightly less obvious changes include the ability to reach more people in more countries. , the virtual launch also makes it possible to reach more people, in more countries, than Cisco could with traditional face-to-face events.

So far, we're just considering changes in capability. Doing product launches cheaper, faster, better is an important innovation, but it's not a sign that a company is operating or thinking in a significantly different way. You might buy a cheaper, better, and faster car, but you might not change your driving habits one bit, or take more care to follow the traffic laws.

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Cisco Proclaims Their Collaboration Intentions

At Cisco’s Collaboration Conference wrapping up in San Francisco today, Cisco doubled down on their bet on collaboration.  Since acquiring WebEX in 2007, Cisco has not been shy in acquiring companies to rapidly fill out their Unified Communications and Collaboration Portfolio – 3 of the 4 acquisitions announced in the last month are directly beneficial to their collaboration portfolio – Starent enhances mobility, ScanSafe enhances security, and Tandberg enhances open video capabilities. Cisco has also tasked their development teams with improving and delivering new products enabling them to deliver a dizzying 61 distinct new products and product upgrades.    A year after publicly proclaiming their intent to compete aggressively in the collaboration market, Cisco is leveraging their agility and speed to deliver a cacophony of capabilities to the market.

Cisco’s Collaboration Portfolio is keeping up with the Jones... and the Smiths and the Johnsons

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The Heretech, episode 27: Rob Koplowitz on SharePoint adoption

Forrester's Rob Koplowitz tells us how organizations adopt SharePoint, and the lessons learned for other technology vendors. But first, a recap of last week's open house on "social product management," and some musings on the product strategy for Google Wave. (c) 2009 Tom Grant.

And when Mr. Customer gets angry, PEOPLE DIE!

Not every unwelcome change is necessarily a fiasco. It's how you handle the transition that determines, to a large extent, whether people perceive it to be a fiasco.

Case in point: Oracle's transition from its creaky but familiar Metalink support site to the new support portal. I'm sure that anyone who has ever been involved in the transition from one web application to its replacement has learned just how many unexpected glitches can creep into the process. Certainly, Oracle has faced similar scenarios, such as when it switched the main corporate web site from a custom-built content management system to a new infrastructure based on Oracle Portal.

Unfortunately, the corporate web site, where people go to find high-level marketing information, is not the same as the support web site, where people go to get problems with mission-critical applications resolved.

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