Transformation Should Focus On Improving Outcomes, Not Merely On Increasing Competition
I’ve spoken with many IT Procurement leaders in public sector organizations ranging from US county schools districts to national governments. Most are prevented from applying best practices such as Strategic Software Sourcing by their politicians’ ill-conceived edicts and directives, such as those included in this announcement by the UK’s Cabinet Office that optimistically claims “Government draws the line on bloated and wasteful IT contracts”. In related press interviews the relevant minister Francis Maude complained that “a tiny oligopoly dominates the marketplace” and talked about his intention to encourage use of open source alternatives to products such as Microsoft Office, to increase competition and to divert more spend to small and medium-sized IT companies. The new edicts include bans of contracts over £100 million or 2 years’ duration and of automatic renewals. Mr. Maude claims these rules “will ensure the government gets the best technology at the best price”.
Mr. Maude and his team have a laudable and important goal but their approach is misguided, in my opinion. Short term contracts, indiscriminate competition and avoiding sole source category strategies will deliver neither the best technology nor the best price, because:
Mobile device management remains the starting point for a true mobile workplace experience. VMware's recent acquisition of AirWatch isn't the first time that a leading provider of virtual desktop technology has bought mobile device management capabilities. But the road to creating a true mobile workplace experience is long. The task of meeting workforce requirements by consolidating device management, desktop management, virtualization, and the delivery of the right applications and content to mobile endpoints remains complex. A number of managed service providers are positioning themselves as strategic partners to support you in this transition. Are you ready for such an engagement? How do you select the right partner?
One obvious starting point is to check the capabilities of the provider you have already picked to manage your devices. But which of these providers are up to the challenge? Our research reveals that the European playing field is evenly shared between telecommunication providers and IT service providers.
IT Providers, Telcos, And Disruptors Are Fighting For Your Business
For our new report, Managed Mobile Workplace Services In Europe, we spoke with a number of leading telcos and IT providers that are expanding into comprehensive mobile services beyond device management. Here's our take on their plans to support your mobile workplace transformation strategy:
Lenovo’s made three strategic moves in just one month: 1) Buying IBM’s x86 server business, 2) Reorging into four business units – most importantly including one called “ecosystem and cloud group”, and 3) Buying Motorola Mobility. The later two are driven by the mobile mind shift – the increasing expectation of individuals that they can access information and service, in context, in their moment of need. Smartphones are central to that – as are the ecosystem and cloud services that deliver value through the smartphones.
Lenovo has stated intentions to become a leading smartphone maker globally, building on their leading position in the China market. Buying Motorola Mobility is a much quicker way for Lenovo to access the premium smartphone market with a leading Google Android (not forked Android) offering - than trying to do it with their existing design teams and brand reach. Using Motorola, just as Lenovo used the IBM ThinkPad brand, to gain quick credibility and access to desirable markets, and built critical mass makes a lot of sense.
But Motorola has not been shooting the lights out with designs or sales volumes in smartphones. So the value is simply in brand recognition to achieve market recognition faster - and to dramatically expand the design and marketing team with talent experienced at US and Western markets.
In the fast-moving markets of wearables and IoT, it's easy to be dazzled by new technologies. But what's more impressive to Forrester is a coherent, disruptive business model. I've written that 2014 will be the year of wearables 2.0, when select vendors develop real wearable business models. To help that journey along, I'd like to offer up a hypothesis for a new industry axiom:
In the era of wearables and the Internet of Things, tech companies must create a new kind of ecosystem – an ecosystem not of developers, hardware makers, or services companies, but of brands, healthcare providers, retailers, financial services companies, and governments.
I'm still testing this hypothesis out, and will write about it in future research. In the meantime, I'd like to hear your examples. To give you a sense of what I'm talking about, it's an ecosystem comprised of companies in:
Mobile device management is a fully commoditized market. In the strictest definition of MDM, the available functionality is limited to those application programmer interfaces that are made available by the operating system vendor (Google or Apple). There is very little that traditional MDM offerings can do to differentiate themselves from the other 100+ vendors in the market. This causes significant price pressure on the offerings. Value for MDM is rapidly approaching zero. As we have seen over the past year-and-a-half, core MDM component offerings have been continuously lowering their prices in an attempt to maintain market share. There is a transition by the major MDM players to expand well beyond the traditional "wipe," "lock," and "locate" concepts available to them into more advanced technologies such as content and collaboration systems, security components at the network and application layer, as well as partnerships and integrations with secondary market offerings. These features have value. MDM at its core does not.
I think it's about time someone came out and said it. Just like Dobby from the Harry Potter books, MDM should be free. I've been telling all of the vendors that I work with that if they don't put out their MDM offering in a freemium model very shortly, the other vendors will beat them to the punch. Traditional MDM offerings are a land grab for enterprise market share and should be used as an upsell or wedge into more advanced and differentiable offerings. I predict that in the next 6 to 9 months we will see most, if not all, of the leading MDM vendors giving away their core functionality.
When I stumbled across Bitcoin (or Bit-O-Coin, as my wife likes to call it) a few years back, my spidey sense started tingling. Since that time, I’ve made a few off hand remarks about the future of crypto-currency and received the expected “it’s another Dutch Tulip thing”. While I’m not an expert on the financial markets, I do have an excellent track record for identifying disruptive technology changes and I’ve concluded that crypto-currency is here to stay.
It looks like the beginning of a new technology hype for artificial intelligence (AI). The media has started flooding the news with product announcements, acquisitions, and investments. The story is how AI is capturing the attention of tech firm and investor giants such as Google, Microsoft, IBM. Add to that the release of the movie ‘Her’, about a man falling for his virtual assistant modeled after Apple’s Siri (think they got the idea from Big Bang Theory when Raj falls in love with Siri), and you know we have begun the journey of geek-dom going mainstream and cool. The buzz words are great too: cognitive computing, deep learning, AI2.
For those who started their careers in AI and left in disillusionment (Andrew Ng confessed to this, yet jumped back in) or data scientists today, the consensus is often that artificial intelligence is just a new fancy marketing term for good old predictive analytics. They point to the reality of Apple’s Siri to listen and respond to requests as adequate but more often frustrating. Or, IBM Watson’s win on Jeopardy as data loading and brute force programming. Their perspective, real value is the pragmatic logic of the predictive analytics we have.
But, is this fair? No.
First, let’s set aside what you heard about financial puts and takes. Don’t try to decipher the geek speak of what new AI is compared to old AI. Let’s talk about what is on the horizon that will impact your business.
New AI breaks the current rule that machines must be better than humans: they must be smarter, faster analysts, or they manufacturing things better and cheaper.
It's hard to believe that a company could burn through $225 MILLION dollars in 11 months, but it looks like that may have been exactly what AirWatch did. According to data released by AirWatch and written by financial analysts (links to all data sources at bottom of post), AirWatch likely had burned through nearly all of its available cash in record time. Based on an assumption of $120K burn per employee (fully loaded) per year and an assumed removal of $50M in equity at the time of the venture round, AirWatch would have had somewhere between 5 and 6 months of runway left as of January 2014. These assumptions are corroborated by the fact that VMware has contractually extended AirWatch an offer to provide a bridge loan if the acquisition deal does not close in the next 6 months.
What did AirWatch do wrong? It sounds like they may have made some over-assumptions with regards to their growth rates for 2013. It could have possibly been the adoption rates in countries outside of North America. It may have just been bad luck. Or it could even be a cooling off of interest in mobile device management technologies based on containerization. We won't know exactly why they were getting near the end of the runway, but what we can say is that VMware may have overpaid in multiple. Based on the data provided by VMware of AirWatch bookings for 2013, VMware paid somewhere around 16x bookings for AirWatch. Man, that's a lot of bread!
Google, the online search superpower, has for years sought to maximize "eyeballs" -- in search marketing, a colloquial term for ad impressions viewed online.
Lately, though, Google's been going after a new kind of eyeballs. The literal kind.
Hot off of its announcement of a future product roadmap for smart contact lenses, Google today announced a partnership with VSP -- the largest optical health insurance provider in the United States -- for Google Glass. The New York Times quoted me saying, "the key business model of the year for wearables is becoming embedded into the health care system." By injecting wearables into health care:
The addressable market expands.VSP serves 59 million members with vision care insurance.
Costs go down. VSP will offer subsidized frames and prescription lenses tailored to Google Glass. Some VSP members save additional money on purchases with pre-tax payroll deductions for the money they spend on optical care.
Credibility goes up. By coordinating with opticians and opthamologists, Google Glass can be recognized as consistent with healthy optical practices.