Subterranean Home PC Blues

"Or you could just install Linux. ;-)"

Believe it or not, that was a piece of "advice" that I discovered while trying to fix a problem with Google Chrome. The question was about a browser, but the answer was about an operating system. It was clearly not helpful, at least in dealing with my immediate problem.

On the other hand, pseudo-advice like that is very useful if you want to understand the state of the technology industry in 2010. It's the subject of this autobiographical psychodrama that I might entitle, Personal Computers Are Not Appliances. If you decide to read on, let me warn you: it's a terrifying tale of reasonable people at the mercy of unreasonable levels of complexity and unreliability. During this exposition, you'll encounter interesting characters like the Apple iPad, Google's business plan (of sorts), Marc Benioff, and our evil cat Kelly.

When Chrome Lost Its Shine
Yesterday morning was crunch time at stately Grant Manor. The quarter was coming to a swift end, which meant all kinds of deadlines for research documents, expense reports, client projects, and a variety of other tasks. Regular activities, such as phone calls with technology companies about their latest product and service offerings, still happen during these hyper-busy periods, when time becomes so compressed that it fails to serve its basic purpose of, in the words of Richard Feynman, preventing everything from happening all at once.  

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Thought Leadership: Measuring Our Success

Now that we've posted the outline for our study of thought leadership in the technology industry, it's a good time to take stock of our success so far. It's important to start the retrospection process, even if we're not completely done with the project yet, because we're using this study to pilot a different way of doing research. As we said in the document explaining this approach, Agile Research Development, we set the following goals (shown in order of priority):

  1. Ask the right questions.
  2. Enhance the quality of the answers.
  3. Maximize the voice of the customer.
  4. Make adjustments quickly.
  5. Be even more relevant to our clients.
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Mobility Momentum Intensifies Among Small And Medium-Size Businesses

The mobility priorities of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) are increasingly similar to those of enterprise organizations. Results from Forrester’s survey of IT decision-makers in SMB organizations with between 20 and 999 employees in North America and Europe show that 3 of the top 10 telecom initiatives in SMBs this year are related to mobility. More specifically, 43% of SMBs identify supporting more mobile devices or smartphones as a key telecom initiative. Supporting more smartphone devices includes increasing the number of employees who use smartphones for work activities, as well as broadening the types of smartphone devices and operating systems supported by the organization.

When it comes to mobile application initiatives, 44% of SMB firms identify supporting more mobile applications for employees who work out of the office as a critical priority to help these workers remain more productive while they are on the road. It is more interesting that 33% of surveyed firms identify supporting more mobile applications for employees who work in the office as a key priority. These employees are not traditionally the focus of mobile application deployment because they spend a majority of time working at their desks. However, they could benefit from productivity enhancing mobile applications such as document viewing applications, business unit reports, or access to mobile time sheet or expense applications when they are away from their desks. Examples of workers in this category include customer service employees, administrative assistants, and marketing personnel.

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Nokia Is Focused On The US Market – Will It Work This Time?

Nokia recently announced that it will focus on expanding its US presence by strengthening relationships with communication service providers and developing smartphones to address US customer requirements. We have heard this US market focus refrain from Nokia multiple times during the past few years. Nokia is the leading handset manufacturer in many other regions of the world, but the company has not had the same success in the US. Can Nokia succeed with its US market efforts this time around? To succeed, Nokia must address three key issues:

  1. Consumer smartphone usage is driving US market momentum. Nokia’s strength is in developing enterprise grade smartphones; however, the US smartphone market is increasingly driven by consumer purchases. Results from Forrester’s survey of IT decision-makers in North America reinforce this trend with approximately 60% of firms in North America providing some level of support to some types of personal mobile devices.
  2. Intense competition is coming from other mobile device manufacturers with a strong presence in North America. To succeed in the US market, Nokia will face stiff competition from RIM, Apple, and Android smartphones. RIM’s BlackBerry devices are the most commonly used operating system among North American enterprises, with 73% of firms officially supporting these devices. We are also seeing a rise in enterprise support of new types of mobile operating systems to support iPhone and Android smartphones. Currently 30% of North American enterprises support iPhone devices, and 16% support Android devices. In comparison, Symbian operating system devices, which Nokia develops, are currently only supported by 4% of US firms.
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Larry’s Elastic Cloud And Marc’s False Cloud

Oracle’s keynotes and salesforce.com’s presentation next door have never been more confusing and contradictory for large users than they were today. Larry Ellison gave the 41,000 attendants of this year’s OpenWorld a cloud computing 101 session prior to the launch of the new EXALOGIC appliance, a machine engineered to run the Oracle Fusion Middleware stack very efficiently. After he rejected talking about the cloud for years, he swung over to the opposite end of the spectrum. Even though EXALOGIC is mainly aimed, in its first version, at private data centers, Larry simply renamed the virtualized data centers as private clouds and promised customers that they will get an elastic cloud with the help of the EXALOGIC box.

On the other side, salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff called every server on premise the “false cloud,” basically implying that something like a private cloud is simply a stupidity in itself.

Who is right or wrong in this debate? Is Larry simply doing cloud-washing at its best, or is Marc running a “false marketing” campaign, calling everything except his own cloud the “false cloud”?

Let’s understand how Forrester believes a private cloud differentiates itself from a traditional but modern and virtualized data center:

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Thought Leadership: Outline Ready For Comments

For those of you who have been following our thought leadership research project, we're now in the final stages of this project. I've posted the proposed outline here for your comments. If you're not familiar with this project, here's the development document that summarizes the topic, working hypothesis, and research method. Also worth reading is this blog post, which explains why we're using this piece of research to pilot an Agile, community-based approach.

Realistically, comments will have an impact on the final document if you post them by the end of the week. After that, I'll be writing the actual document.

Also worth mention: in drafting the outline, I realized that some of our earlier work on B2B evaluation, selection, and adoption is applicable here. Expect to see a cameo appearance from some of that interesting research in this document.

Portfolio With A Capital "P"

In the last couple of years, an increasing number of technology companies have discovered, or rediscovered, or redefined their own portfolio. Here are a few examples of where you can see this new appreciation of portfolios:

  • Using the portfolio to define alignment. Recently, I wrote a profile of Sterling Commerce's efforts to deal with the inevitable misalignments that occur in any company with lots of products, particularly after making acquisitions. Their decision to use the portfolio as the instrument of realignment is by no means unique, but it wasn't as common several years ago as it is now. (And it's still not as common as it should be.) Vendors like Sterling have to take two steps for realignment to succeed: (1) define the portfolio clearly, in a way that suggests measures of misalignment; (2) enforce this standard on people who would otherwise continue moving in the same direction unless acted upon by an outside force. Not everyone has succeeded at both, or even understood that both were necessary. 
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Avaya Launches Desktop Video Device, Enters The Collaboration Market

Lots of sleek new touchscreen and tablet devices have launched this year. Where many information workers and consumers see nifty new devices with high-resolution screens and multiple wireless interfaces that enable Web surfing and greater ease of use, I see a new class of device. I call them collaboration devices because I believe that they are especially suited to collaboration tasks that today’s information worker must perform with increasing regularity while on the move. There is an open space in the market for these devices caused by the colliding market forces of an increasing need for employees within a company to quickly and efficiently communicate and the increasing likelihood that these employees will not be in the same location. Most companies today (approximately 60% according to Forrester’s Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2009) are adopting Web conferencing, and information workers are increasingly mobile and distributed — a device that can be on the go and connect to communications and collaboration tools easily will be highly valued. These devices feature slick, usable interfaces and unique connectivity capabilities. Many of these devices run on Android, creating an opportunity and a challenge for Android to enter the business applications market. Android-based devices will fall short of any collaboration aspiration until the marketplace offers standard enterprise Web conferencing tools — where are my Cisco WebEx, AT&T Connect, etc., clients for Android?

 

I see three categories of these devices :

 

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Trust.platform.com — How To Communicate SLAs In The Cloud?

Today Informatica announced the availability of a trust site similar to what other major cloud platforms like salesforce.com (trust.salesforce.com) and NetSuite (with its availability status) have done before.

Informatica also added more enterprise-level connectivity and a 24x7 support to its cloud offering, thus making it more enterprise ready than ever.

Let’s have a look at these trust.platform.com sites for a minute and analyze the value of this new way of communicating availability:

Screenshots:

 Trust.InformaticaCloud

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Trust.salesforce.com

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NetSuite

It actually looks like the industry is moving away from the traditional service-level agreement (SLA) communication, with its well-defined statistical availability number of 99.9%, 99.995%, etc. I believe that this makes a lot of sense for most cloud computing platforms in the SaaS and PaaS category, as I noted in my recent blog on cloud computing taxonomy

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National Security Or Security Chauvinism?

My colleague Heidi Shey brought this article to my attention. It talks about how China mandates that government and core industry sectors (banks, transportation, etc. -- what we would refer to as "Critical Infrastructure" sectors) buy certain IT products only from Chinese companies. The attorney quoted in the article says that "Right now, it seems to only affect the companies that are in the information security sector," but the journalist wasn't able to substantiate or refute this. There could indeed be a national security rationale behind this -- however misguided. Of course, this isn't the first time we've seen interests of national security come into direct conflict with interests of corporate security: see RIM's troubles with the BlackBerry in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and India; or ask a US-based service provider selling to overseas companies about those customers' concerns about whether their data would be exposed to USA PATRIOT Act disclosure). Some vendors I've spoken to speculate (off the record) that this could all be designed to give the Chinese government access to these systems by having the Chinese vendors install back doors. Others think this is simply a matter of funneling business to Chinese companies.

Whatever the reason, I'd be interested to hear from you about whether this is really happening or not. Do you sell security, or other IT infrastructure, products in China? Are you seeing this come up as an issue with Chinese companies in certain industry sectors? Are you seeing anything similar in other countries?