Who Will Win The Retail Battle: Apple Or Microsoft?

Nigel Fenwick

Microsoft began opening its own retail stores in 2009 and recently began a push into more US cities. A recent post by George Anderson on Forbes.com about Microsoft's new store format prompted me into some late-night analysis. It appears Microsoft's store format strategy is to ride in the draft of Apple by building larger-format stores very near, if not adjacent to, Apple's own stores. As a retail analyst and both an Apple and Microsoft customer for over 25 years, I feel compelled to weigh Microsoft's retail strategy against Apple's (and since I cover retail strategy from a CIO perspective, it feels appropriate to publish here).

Comparing eight success factors

Location: I'll start here, as it was the subject of the original post. Across from Apple may be the only sensible choice for MS, but the challenge MS has is that Apple is a destination store, i.e. people plan to go there for the experience. This makes it less likely they will decide to browse the MS store because it is close. On the other hand, assuming MS does some promotions to attract traffic to its stores, they are likely to also drive additional traffic to Apple. Predicted winner = Apple.

Store architecture: Size isn't everything! Sure Microsoft can copy Apple and go for outstanding store designs and even build them bigger, but Apple architecture is designed to reinforce a consistent brand image: minimalist, clean lines, designer. Microsoft's designs can reinforce many things about its brand, but it's hard to see the consistency in a way that's possible with Apple. Predicted winner = Apple.

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Unlock The Value Of Your Data With Azure DataMarket

James Staten

If the next eBay blasts onto the scene but no one sees it happen, does it make a sound? Bob Muglia, in his keynote yesterday at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, announced a slew of enhancements for the Windows Azure cloud platform but glossed over a new feature that may turn out to be more valuable to your business than the entire platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market. That feature (so poorly positioned as an “aisle” in the Windows Azure Marketplace) is Azure DataMarket, the former Project Dallas. The basics of this offering are pretty underwhelming – it’s a place where data sets can be stored and accessed, much like Public Data Sets on Amazon Web Services and those hosted by Google labs. But what makes Microsoft’s offering different is the mechanisms around these data sets that make access and monetization far easier.

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Get Ready For Kinect To Completely Change Our Lives

James McQuivey

I'm in the business of identifying when there's a change in the wind coming that will push us in a new direction. On balance, I've been successful. So much so, that when something I staked my career on becomes commonplace, people are so used to it that they look back and think I was only pointing out the obvious. Like when the most senior faculty member in the advertising department at Syracuse University rejected the "Interactive Advertising" course I proposed to teach in 1996 because online advertising was "just a fad." I took a stand and got to teach the class, over his objections. Fast forward to today and online advertising is so obvious that predicting it is a thankless task.

I say this because I am about to take a stand I want you to remember. Ready? Starting November 4th, Kinect for Xbox 360 will usher us into a new era Forrester has entitled the Era of Experience. This is an era in which we will revolutionize the digital home and everything that goes along with it: TV, internet, interactivity, apps, communication. It will affect just about everything you do in your home. Yes, that, too.

I've just completed a very in-depth report for Forrester that explains in detail why Kinect represents the shape of things to come. I show that Kinect is to multitouch user interfaces what the mouse was to DOS. It is a transformative change in the user experience, the interposition of a new and dramatically natural way to interact -- not just with TV, not just with computers -- but with every machine that we will conceive of in the future. This permits us entry to the Era of Experience, the next phase of human economic development.

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Benchmarking Consolidation & Virtualization – Variables and Distractions

Richard Fichera

I’ve been getting a number of inquiries recently regarding benchmarking potential savings from consolidating multiple physical servers onto a smaller number of servers using VMs, usually VMware. The variations in the complexity of the existing versus new infrastructures, operating environments, and applications under consideration make it impossible to come up with consistent rules of thumb, and in most cases, also make it very difficult to predict with any accuracy what the final outcome will be absent a very tedious modeling exercise.

However, the major variables that influence the puzzle remain relatively constant, giving us the ability to at least set out a framework to help analyze potential consolidation projects. This list usually includes:

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A Tale Of Three Software Vendors: Microsoft Up, IBM Lagging, SAP In Between In Q2 2010

Andrew Bartels

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, Q2 2010 seemed like the best of times or the worst of times for the big software vendors.  For Microsoft, it was the best of times; for IBM, it was (comparatively) the worst of times; and for SAP it was in between.  IBM on June 19, 2010, reported total revenue growth of just 2% in the fiscal quarter ending June 30, 2010, with its software unit also reporting 2% growth (6%, excluding the revenues of its divested product lifecycle management group from Q2 2009).  Those growth rates were down from 5% growth for IBM overall in Q1 2010, and 11% for the software group.  In comparison, Microsoft on June 22, 2010, reported 22% growth in its revenues, with Windows revenues up 44%, Server and Tools revenues up 14%, and Microsoft Business Division (Office and Dynamics) up 15%.  And SAP on June 27, 2010, posted 12% growth in its revenues in euros, 5% growth on a constant currency basis, and 5% growth when its revenues were converted into dollars.

What do these divergent results for revenue growth say about the state of the enterprise software market? 

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Jive Looks To Play With The Big Fish

Nigel Fenwick

This week, Jive Software, a leading player in social technology, announced it has closed $30 million in Series C financing, with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) joining Sequoia Capital as the company’s venture investors.

So what does this mean for CIOs and IT, the custodians of enterprise technology architecture?

It is clear Jive wants to play with the big boys in the enterprise software space. To date, many Jive deployments have not involved IT. This ability to deploy its technology without IT’s involvement has no doubt helped Jive to this point. Of course, having market-leading functionality hasn't hurt. (Jive has featured highly in recent Forrester Wave reports).

At the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, I sat down with Jive’s new CEO, Tony Zingale, to explore the company strategy. From our discussion, it was apparent that Jive intends to compete for a big slice of the enterprise collaboration marketplace. Fundamentally, this is the right direction for Jive, but I foresee some big challenges for the company along the way.

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The partner opportunity in cloud computing - Microsoft WPC

James Staten

What is the opportunity for Microsoft partners (or other VARs, SIs, ISVs and technologists) in the emerging cloud computing space? Don't think of cloud as a threat but as an opportunity to ratchet up your value to the business my evangelizing and encouraging their transition to the cloud. How? At the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference I addressed this issue in an Expo Theater presentation. Missed it? Now you haven't:

Watch the video here.

Share your thoughts here by commenting below.

- James

As Cloud Platforms Battle For Credibility, OpenStack Is Pretty Solid

James Staten

It seems every few weeks yet another company announces a cloud computing infrastructure platform. I'm not talking about public clouds but the underlying software which can turn a virtualized infrastructure into an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) — whether public or private.

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Microsoft Truly Does Have Its Head In The Cloud – And Wants Its Partners To Join It!

Peter O'Neill

This week, I was at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., and it was all about THE CLOUD. Now, many colleagues argue that Microsoft will be the second-to-last major vendor to show a 100% cloud commitment, saying that “it’s too embedded in its traditional software business,” “it doesn’t understand the new world,” and “it’d be scared of cannibalizing existing and predictable maintenance revenues.” But I remember Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft Business Systems, tell me with a mischievous grin that he’ll probably earn more money from Exchange Online than the on-premise version — “firstly, it’s mainly new business from other platforms like Lotus Notes, and second, I even generate revenues by charging for things like the data center buildings, the infrastructure, even the electricity I use.” That was in Berlin last November. I suspected then that Microsoft did get it but was just getting its platform ready. This week, I am convinced — Microsoft is “all in,” as they say.

And at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, it was driving its partners to the cloud as aggressively as any vendor has ever talked to its partners at such an event. All of the Microsoft executives preached a consistent mantra: “MOVE to the cloud, or you may not be around in five years.”

Microsoft’s cloud-based Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) is already being promoted by 16,000 partners that either get referral incentives for Microsoft-billed BPOS fees or bundle it into their own offerings (mainly telcos). There are nearly 5,000 certified Azure-ready partners. This week, Microsoft turned up the heat with these announcements:

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Why Did Google Buy ITA And Its Flight Comparison Software?

Peter Burris

[Co-authored by Zachary Reiss-Davis]

Google announced yesterday that it is buying ITA Software for $700 million. ITA does two main things: airline eCommerce and reservations management solutions and a cross-airline flight comparison tool called QPX, used by most of the major travel comparison Web sites including Kayak, Orbitz, and Microsoft Bing. 

Google purchased it for the QPX product in a classic example of buying technology instead of either building it in-house or licensing it.

Today, Bing, Microsoft’s search offering, offers a solution that is based on QPX to help customers search for flight information on the Bing Web site. Google has nothing comparable; instead, they direct customers to other travel specific sites (see the screenshots below). 

Google is focused on the goal of staying at least half a step ahead of Microsoft in all aspects of search technology; in order to stay ahead of Microsoft in this area, Google had three major options: 1) License the technology; 2) Build it themselves; 3) Buy ITA. 

Licensing the technology would mean that Google would end up with a solution equivalent to Microsoft’s and not as robust as specialized Web sites like Kayak. Building the technology would take several years, allowing Microsoft and other competitors to continue to differentiate themselves and pull ahead. 

This left the acquisition as the only viable path to regaining leadership in this area, while at the same time placing Microsoft in the awkward position of relying on Google-owned technology as the backend for one of their major search features. 

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