Last month I attended Huawei’s annual Global Analyst Summit, for the requisite several days of mass presentations, executive meetings and tours that typically constitute such an event. Underneath my veneer of blasé cynicism, I was actually quite intrigued, since I really knew very little about Huawei. And what I did know was tainted by popular and persistent negatives – they were the ones who supposedly copied Cisco’s IP to get into the network business, and, until we got better acquainted with our own Federal Government’s little shenanigans, Huawei was the big bad boogie man who was going to spy on us with every piece of network equipment they installed.
Reality was quite a bit different. Ancient disputes about IP aside, I found a $40B technology powerhouse who is probably the least-known and understood company of its size in the world, and one which appears poised to pose major challenges to incumbents in several areas, including mainstream enterprise IT.
So you don’t know Huawei
First, some basics. Huawei’s 2013 revenue was $39.5 Billion, which puts it right up there with some much better-known names such as Lenovo, Oracle, Dell and Cisco.
Yesterday, Microsoft released the Surface Pro 3, a 12" touchscreen device billed as "the tablet that can replace your laptop." Sporting some hard-core computing bona fides (including Intel processors and Windows 8.1) and new innovations (like an active stylus that activates note-taking outside of the lock screen), the device in its third generation offers a new level of mobility despite having a larger screen than its predecessors in the Surface line. It's worth taking a look at:
Microsoft designed the Surface Pro 3 with a variety of seemingly incremental improvements that, once assembled in the same device, make it surprisingly innovative. In fact, you should think about it as quite a departure from the earlier Surface models. With this product, Microsoft makes its best yet argument for device consolidation for the workforce, potentially allowing some workers to stop carrying separate laptop and tablet devices in favor of Pro 3. For consumers, the Surface Pro 3 doesn't act as a substitute for popular 8" form factor tablets, but it might make for a good laptop replacement.
That's not to say it's (to quote the cliche) any sort of "iPad killer"; the starting price of a Surface Pro 3 is higher than the iPad's starting price. It's more like a successor to the laptop -- but one that takes mobility quite seriously. Altogether, it's likely to be popular among prosumers, BYOD consumers, and perhaps some other segments.
Google recently announced an expansion of its Explorer Edition program to anyone in the U.S. — still at $1,500. This doesn't constitute the mass market release of the product; it's an incremental move to extend its beta program. I believe the move mostly benefits enterprise customers of the device — continuing Forrester's research call that Glass will be more successful among enterprise customers than among consumers, at least in the short term.
Recently, I've received a number of questions about wearables as they pertain to field service work. In the age of the customer, field service work has a direct impact on customer service. Think of the cable repair person. The top reason cable repair people fail to fix a problem with your cable service on the first visit is that they have never seen the specific problem before; it's a long tail of possible problems. Traditionally, the cable person would need to go back to headquarters and log a return visit -- inconveniencing the customer, who might have stayed home from work to meet the repair person, and harming the workforce productivity of the cable company's agents. It's lose-lose.
With wearables, cable companies and other companies employing field workers can increase the percentage of first-time fixes. Recently, ClickSoftware and FieldBitposted a video demonstrating one such solution:
With last week's $175M acquisition of storage startup Inktank, the initial developer of the Open Source Ceph storage platform, Red Hat has added another piece to its growing storage portfolio. With large storage players fleshing out their software storage offerings including EMC (ScaleIO, Project Nile), NetApp, HP, and IBM, it's clear that the transition from hardware-centric storage appliances to software storage is underway — and it won't be long before we are at a point where your next array should be an app running on commodity hardware.
Though large storage players have successfully fended off software challengers such as Symantec before, it is telling that nearly all of the major players are developing and marketing their own software storage products, including EMC’s ScaleIO. The drive toward software storage is clearly gaining momentum, and this time around the storage leaders are active participants in addition to startups such as Nexenta Systems and the Open Source projects.
While Red Hat is not a major storage player today, there are a few reasons why this company could become disruptive as the market transitions to software storage:
No legacy business to lose. This is probably the most powerful attribute that makes Red Hat dangerous relative to existing storage players. While Red Hat’s market share (in terms of storage revenue and paying customers) is nowhere near the likes of leaders such as NetApp and EMC, its lack of legacy business will allow Red Hat to attack the NAS, object, and block storage market without the sacrifice of losing high-margin storage appliance sales.
Yesterday HP announced that it will be entering into a “non-equity joint venture” (think big strategic contract of some kind with a lot of details still in flight) to address the large-scale web services providers. Under the agreement, Foxcon will design and manufacture and HP will be the primary sales channel for new servers targeted at hyper scale web service providers. The new servers will be branded HP but will not be part of the current ProLiant line of enterprise servers, and HP will deliver additional services along with hardware sales.
The motivation is simple underneath all the rhetoric. HP has been hard-pressed to make decent margins selling high-volume low-cost and no-frills servers to web service providers, and has been increasingly pressured by low-cost providers. Add to that the issue of customization, which these high-volume customers can easily get from smaller and more agile Asian ODMs and you have a strategic problem. Having worked at HP for four years I can testify to the fact that HP, a company maniacal about quality but encumbered with an effective but rigid set of processes around bringing new products to market, has difficulty rapidly turning around a custom design, and has a cost structure that makes it difficult to profitably compete for deals with margins that are probably in the mid-teens.
Enter the Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, more commonly known as Foxcon. A longtime HP partner and widely acknowledged as one of the most efficient and agile manufacturing companies in the world, Foxcon brings to the table the complementary strengths to match HP – agile design, tightly integrated with its manufacturing capabilities.