At The Wall Street Journal’s D8 conference in June, Apple CEO Steve Jobs compared the PC to a farm truck, saying that when America was an agrarian economy: “All cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farm. Now trucks are one in 25 to 30 vehicles sold.” Whether you think PCs will shrink or grow in importance seems to depend partly on semantics. During the same conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer countered: “I think people are going to be using PCs in greater and greater numbers for years to come. . . . The PC as we know it will continue to morph form factor. The real question is, what are you going to push.”
Our view is that the consumer PC market in the US is indeed getting bigger: Over the next five years, PC unit sales across all form factors will increase by 52%. In fact, desktops are the only type of PC whose numbers will be fewer in 2015 than they are today — and even desktops will benefit from innovation in gaming and 3D. We detail our findings in a new report, The US Consumer PC Market In 2015. Clients can read the full report on our Web site, but here are a few key takeaways:
Many product strategists are, like me, old enough to remember software stores like Egghead. Those days are gone. Today, consumer packaged software represents a very limited market – the software aisle has shrunk, like the half-empty one at the Best Buy in Cambridge, MA (pictured).
Only a few packaged software categories still exist: Games. Utilities and security software. And Microsoft Office – which constitutes a category unto itself. Some 67% of US online consumers regularly use Office at home, according to Forrester’s Consumer TechnographicsPC And Gaming Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US). Office is the most ubiquitous – and therefore successful – consumer client program aside from Windows OS.
Office 2010, Microsoft’s latest release, will continue to succeed with consumers. On the shoulders of Office 2010 rests nothing less than the defense of packaged software in general. It’s also the most tangible example of Microsoft’s Software Plus Services approach to the cloud – a term that Microsoft seems to be de-emphasizing lately, but which captures the essence of the Office 2010 business goal:
To sell packaged client software and offer Web-based services to augment the experience.
As Apple announces it has sold more than 2 million iPads (no indication of US/global split), would-be competitors are unveiling their tablets at Computex in Taiwan. With so many products in the mix (and so few on the market), it can be hard for a product strategist to keep up with it all. So here’s Forrester’s quick guide to the tablets that are taking on Apple in the near future (note: this list doesn’t include devices that may have a tablet form factor but are primarily eBook readers, such as Acer’s planned 7” Android tablet. It also excludes tablets that are more rumor than reality. And I know just by putting together this list I will leave some off, and if that’s the case leave a comment and tell me which ones you think I should add. Okay, enough caveats!):
“Curation is the positive flip side of Apple’s locked-down approach, decried as a major, negative development in computing by many observers, present company included. Who would have thought that in 2010, so many people would pay good money for a computer that only runs approved software?
It runs counter to the idea, prized by geeks, that computing equals freedom. If it were Microsoft doing this, we’d all be storming the Gates with torches and pitchforks.”
I don’t think that you have to exercise Apple’s level of control (e.g., not letting developers use third-party tools like Flash, not approving apps that threaten your business model, etc.) to create a compelling, curated experience — an experience in which content and functionality are deliberately restricted to serve a new form factor like a touchscreen tablet or a wearable device.
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
iPad mania has reached full tilt: Apple announced that it has sold more than 1 million units, and Apple’s competitors (like RIM and potentially Google) are rushing to get their own products out (or not, as the case may be for HP). But there’s something very significant about the device that has nothing to do with how many units it will sell. What’s revolutionary about the iPad is the experience that it delivers: The iPad is a new kind of PC that ushers in an era of Curated Computing.
Forrester defines “Curated Computing” as:
A mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences.
Okay, so I'm a sucker for nostalgia. But being on the same stage as Gilda Radner and John Belushi and John Candy and Tina Fey was a thrill. And being in the same studio where Elvis Costello and the Attractions stopped "Less Than Zero" after a few bars and jumped into "Radio Radio" in defiance of NBC's wishes brought a rebellious, empowered smile to my face.
NBC's Studio 8H, home of Saturday Night Live, is where Microsoft launched SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 yesterday. It was a short, punchy, customer-filled event. These products are the latest in the "Wave 14" product set, a ginormous (as my 9-year old says) overhaul of the Office product line. And they're beauts. Here's my (admittedly enthusiastic) analysis of what Microsoft has accomplished with this product.
The lion awakens and roars.
Microsoft's Office business has taken a battering in the press as journalists chase stories about the important innovations from nimble startup competitors, open source alternatives, and Web-based productivity tools. But let's face it. Microsoft doesn't have 500,000,000 people using its tools for no reason. And while three years is a long time to wait for a product release (especially in this era of instant innovation via the Internet), Microsoft has re-confirmed its position as the most important driver of business productivity on the planet. This launch will crush the dreams of a 100 entrepreneurs and force another 1,000 to rethink their companies. That's okay. It's what happens when Microsoft turns a niche product for a geeky few into a global feature that anybody can use. As an economy, we need it.
I've just had the chance in the past few hours to really play with the device. I find myself smiling each time a new SMS bubble pops up. I love it. I also like seeing my friends' faces on my phone. I love being able to navigate my content and messages via my friends. Loved how easy it was to set up my email, Facebook, and Twitter. Packaging rocks ... and is recyclable. What is subtle in this device, in my opinion, is how intuitive the UI is. The UI looks and feels similar to others I have seen, but I was able to pick up this phone and use it without reading the instructions.
My colleague Charles Golvin will provide a more in-depth analysis of the device itself.
From a social networking/media perspective, the KIN is a good start, but I hope to see more with upcoming releases, especially around helping people build their social graph. I don't put this burden on Microsoft alone, but on the industry and all handset manufacturers. The content we create needs more meta data or labels. We need logic to mesh this content together and navigate through it. It's great that I can navigate to my friends' status and messages through my contacts (and KIN's UI is a lot of fun). I also want to navigate through my photos and location. Location should be table stakes for photo/status/review (restaurant/bar) content and the logic shouldn't flow in just one direction. Based on my location (simple location or map), I want to see who is nearby or what restaurants my friends liked. Navigating through my friends, I want to see what restaurants they liked. I want to group photos by location. I want to group photos by friends. These are just a few examples. With every product and service developed, one can't have everything. There are cost, time and design trade-offs. I completely understand that the KIN and DROID and others couldn't get everything done in v1.0. I look forward to the next version.
I had the opportunity to go to the KIN launch today. My colleague Charles Golvin has a full take here.
I loved the social networking features on the phone (and the graphical interface with the "spot" though I'd need a change-up on noises). This isn't the first phone we've seen where the experience is centered on my friends and my contacts, but they keep getting better. We argued (see report) long ago as many did that the cell phone should be the hub of one's social graph and not simply an application on the handset. The KIN comes close and does many things well including:
- Offers status updates inside of my contact profiles which are "live" on my homescreen
- Allows the user to post photos directly from the phone
- Tags photos with location
- Allows me to choose one of many communication channels within profile (many options, but not my full list)
- Builds an online journal of my photos, videos, messages and contacts (looks to me a lot like the concept Nokia tried with their life blog application a while back)
What it is missing, but I suspect is in development:
- Tags (meta data) that allow me to build a richer social graph by tagging my photos with contacts, groups, trips, etc.
- Ability to help me find my friends
- Location tags integrated into maps that connect me to my friends' favorite restaurants, bookstores, etc. - or more generally their content - could also be photos, videos and posts
I was lucky enough last week [22 March 2010] to moderate a panel at EclipseCon on the future of application servers. The panelists did a great job, but I thought were far too conservative in their views. I agree with them that many customers want evolutionary change from today to future app servers, but I see requirements driving app servers toward radical change. Inevitably.
The changes I see:
Get more value from servers, get responsive, get agile and flexible