Over the past few years, IBM has certainly copped its fair share of criticism in the Asian media, particularly in Australia. Whether this criticism is deserved or not is beside the point. Perception is reality — and it’s led some companies and governments to exclude IBM from project bids and longer-term sourcing deals. On top of this, the firm’s recent earnings in Asia Pacific have disappointed.
But I’ve had the chance to spend some quality time with IBM at analyst events across Asia Pacific over the past 12 months, and it’s clear that the company does some things well — in fact, IBM is sometimes years ahead of the pack. For this reason, I advise clients that it would be detrimental to exclude IBM from a deal that may play to one of these strengths.
IBM’s value lies in the innovation and global best practices it can bring to deals; the capabilities coming out of IBM Labs and the resulting products, services, and capabilities continue to lead the industry. IBM is one of the few IT vendors whose R&D has struck the right balance between shorter-term business returns and longer-term big bets.
Telstra hosted its annual analyst event in Sydney on October 23 and 24. In his keynote address, CEO David Thodey compared Telstra’s customer advocacy journey to a triathlon that the firm has just begun, which we believe it a fitting analogy for Telstra’s progress on the path it has set for itself. The company is clearly in the race and making progress, but still has many miles to go.
While the company shared a broad spectrum of initiatives, our main observations are that Telstra:
Has made clear progress since our check-in last year, but its transformation remains a work in progress. Telstra is no different than other incumbent telcos working to transform beyond traditional — and declining — sources of revenue. Its dominant position in Australia is secure, but its prospects in new market categories inside and outside of Australia are less certain. We do not believe that Telstra is particularly innovative compared with service providers in the US or Europe, but we do believe that it has a viable transformation strategy and is making progress. Its progress in the Australian media and entertainment industry, including its Foxtel investments, is impressive — it has built a large IP-based digital media file exchange platform to serve global broadcasters and content providers.
Carrier Ethernet aims to provide users with a wide-area service to connect sites, in the same way that asynchronous transfer mode (ATM), Frame Relay, and X.25 services from carriers have done in the past. While end user demand for carrier Ethernet services in Asia is relatively small, it’s growing year over year and is having an impact on service providers’ bottom lines: Carrier Ethernet services currently account for 8% to 10% of service providers’ total connectivity revenues in the region.
Telstra’s recent FY13 earnings announcement recorded a strong showing of its Network Application and Services (NAS) division, which saw a 17.7 per cent increase in revenue to A$1.5 billion from the previous year. Its international business delivered a combined Global Connectivity and NAS revenue of A$566 million, or a growth of 11.4 per cent from the previous year. Telstra also plans to continue to build out its NAS division, particularly in Asia.
What It Means
A beneficiary of the NAS investment is Telstra Global, nestled under its International division, offering network connectivity and services to enterprises in Asia. In my recent report, I argued that Telstra Global is a well-placed partner for medium-size to large companies in sectors like transportation and logistics, shipping, manufacturing, and professional services looking to expand their operations out from Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore into Southeast Asia and China. While this looks rosy, there are areas that require closer attention:
Tata Communications has emerged from its role as an incumbent Indian service provider to become a globally recognized provider of network connectivity services such as MPLS, Ethernet and IP transit as well as managed hosting in data centers, voice, data, and video.
Tata Communications is starting to measure up to global carriers. I’ve received a number of inquiries on Tata Communications’ regional and global carrier wholesale strategy, as well as its market focus. This increased interest among Forrester clients is a sign that Tata Communications is getting some things right in its carrier business, as the aforementioned global MPLS report makes clear. Its continual network and cable investments are paying off for the service provider.
Google is officially serious about the enterprise space. I met with Google Enterprise execs hosting their very first analyst day in Singapore recently, and was introduced to their enterprise suite of services, which was, unsurprisingly, similar to their consumer suite of services.
However, while they took their starting point from the consumer end, providing enterprise-ready solutions requires a different level of product calibration. To that end, Google cites spending of approximately US$3 billion annually on building/improving its data center infrastructure, investing in undersea cable systems, and laying fiber networks in the US specifically. In Asia Pacific (AP) last year, they spent approximately US$700 million building three data centers in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
In addition to infrastructure investments, Google has also acquired companies like Quickoffice to enhance their appeal to enterprises weaned on Microsoft Office, while also expanding existing offerings in areas like communications and collaboration (Gmail, Google Plus), contextualized services (Maps, Compute Engine, Big Query), access devices (Nexus range, Chromebook), application development (App Engine) and discovery and archiving (Search, Vault).
At the half mark through 2013, both the global and the European tech markets have pockets of strength and other pockets of weakness, both by product and by geography. Forrester's mid-2013 global tech market update (July 12, 2013, “A Mixed Outlook For The Global Tech Market In 2013 And 2014 –The US Market And Software Buying Will Be The Drivers Of 2.3% Growth This Year And 5.4% Growth Next Year”) shows the US market for business and government purchases of information technology goods and services doing relatively well, along with tech markets in Latin America and Eastern Europe/Middle East/Africa and parts of Asia Pacific. However, the tech market in Western and Central Europe will post negative growth and those in Japan, Canada, Australia, and India will grow at a moderate pace. Measured in US dollars, growth will be subdued at 2.3% in 2013, thanks to the strong dollar, and revenues of US tech vendors will suffer as a result. However, in local currency terms, growth will more respectable, at 4.6%. Software -- especially for analytical and collaborative applications and for software-as-a-service products -- continue to be a bright spot, with 3.3% dollar growth and 5.7% in local currency-terms. Apart from enterprise purchases of tablets, hardware -- both computer equipment and communications equipment -- will be weak. IT services will be mixed, with slightly stronger demand for IT consulting and systems integration services than for IT outsourcing and hardware maintenance.
The Asia Pacific mobile payment landscape is currently in an exciting phase of development, but remains fragmented. Asian telcos will likely need to wait at least another two to three years to see traction with mobile payments. Here’s why:
User readiness. Let’s face it: Cash and credit/debit cards still dominate the payment landscape, and are a lot more convenient to use. While penetration of feature and smartphones has grown substantially in Asia, not many people actually use their phones for mobile payments. Even in markets like Australia and South Korea, cash and credit cards remain highly popular among consumers. And if demand remains low, merchants will not deign to accept mobile payments — creating a vicious cycle.
Infrastructure development. Telecom infrastructure in many Asian countries remains uneven with spotty coverage, (e.g. India and Indonesia). Without proper network access, mobile payments will not propagate outside of urban areas, if at all. While Globe’s Gcash has seen some level of success, the truth is that mobile payments remain nascent in the Philippines specifically and in Asia more broadly. In addition, there is still limited handset support for mobile payments (e.g. some Android models are not able to work with a service). Australia’s Commonwealth Bank went ahead with its m-payment launch after deciding not to wait for incompatible handsets to catch up.
At a recent Enterprise Mobility event, I spoke with a few Asia-based IT directors about their journey in the age of consumerization of IT, and how they were dealing with Bring-Your-Own Technology (BYOT) at work. Their responses ranged from ‘fear of the unknown’ – as in ‘how do we deal with this trend?’ to ‘paralysis by analysis’ – as in ‘let’s arm ourselves with as much information as possible, and analyze it to death.’
The issue is – their employees are already accessing corporate email on their own mobile devices – which means that these IT managers are scrambling to catch up to managing BYOT in their organizations. In fact, an IT head at a large FMCG organization admitted that he did not know where to start managing BYOT.
Security and compliance were key concerns for these IT folks, and their concerns are valid. Trend Micro predicts, for example, that 91% of targeted attacks begin with spear-phishing, a highly targeted type of phishing aimed at specific individuals or groups within an organization. This was heightened in a recent spear-phishing attack on a South Korea bank. The security provider also predicts that there will be 1 million malicious Android apps in the wild by the end of 2013 – another red flag for organizations coping with the rise of Android devices at their work place.
Historically, consumers in Asia Pacific have done far more activities on their mobile phones than in other regions. With the increasing availability of affordable smartphones in the region, mobile phones are now the No. 1 device for consuming media for many consumers in Asia Pacific. Similarly, activities like playing games (such as word games and puzzle games), listening to music (both streaming and non-streaming), and using social media are increasingly done via mobile phones, and activity levels are now approaching those of PCs.
In recent months, Forrester’s Data Insights team has been analyzing our Technographics® data for the Asia Pacific version of our annual global series, “Understanding The Changing Needs Of Online Consumers.” For the past seven years, Forrester has been tracking consumers’ online and offline behavior in Asia Pacific. In 2012, we surveyed 16,616 Asia Pacific consumers across two surveys to find out about their use of the Internet for media, entertainment, shopping, communication, and social computing.