Yesterday Microsoft announced it would acquire Mojang along with its massive Minecraft gaming franchise for $2.5 billion. By now we've all seen the coverage, including the gratuitous interviews with middle-schoolers about whether Microsoft is "cool" enough to own Minecraft. By and large, we think this is a good acquisition for Microsoft, and we said as much in our Quick Take, just published this afternoon, summarizing the acquisition, its benefits, and its challenges for Forrester clients. Go to the report to read the client-only details of our analysis: "Quick Take: Microsoft Mines Minecraft for the Future of Interactive Entertainment." As we explain in the report, there are specific challenges Microsoft will face that will determine whether this ends up being a sensible acquisition or a sensational one.
Beyond the detailed analysis of the report, it's worth exploring the long-term question of what that sensational outcome would look like. The difference turns on the question of whether Microsoft is ready to invest in the future of digital interactive entertainment. This is a subtle point that has been missed in most analysis of the acquisition. Most people insist on covering the purchase as a gaming industry event. Microsoft, the owner of the Xbox, buys Minecraft, a huge gaming franchise. But that low-level analysis misses a bigger picture that I sincerely hope Microsoft is actively aware of.
The problems Rick identified in CX ecosystems seem to be the result of ossified organizations, cultures, and business relationships. This means CX leaders must drive new levels of responsiveness and creativity into their ecosystems. And the way you drive these attributes into your ecosystems is to seize on the concept of business agility. My colleague Craig Le Clair outlined 10 dimensions of business agility that provide the market, organizational, and process frameworks necessary to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine. This is merely setting the strategy, though; executing it requires a marriage between the business and technology strategies.
Bill Gates said "People everywhere love Windows.” Whether or not you agree, the fact that Microsoft Windows remains the de facto standard for business productivity after nearly 3 decades, suggests that many still do. But as the sales figures of Microsoft’s competitors suggest, people everywhere love lots of other things too. And one of the reasons they love them so much is that they like to get things done, and sometimes that means getting away from the office to a quiet place, or using a technology that isn’t constrained by corporate policies and controls, so they can be freer to experiment, grow their skills and develop their ideas uninhibited.
Technology managers I speak with are aware of this, but they’re justifiably paranoid about security, costs, and complexity. So the result of these conflicting forces coming together is inspiring rapid innovation in a mosaic of technologies that Forrester collectively calls digital workspace delivery systems. It involves many vendors, including Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Dell, nComputing, Amazon Web Services, Fujitsu, AppSense, Moka5, and more. The goal of our work is to help companies develop their capabilities for delivering satisfying Microsoft Windows desktop and application experiences to a wide range of users, devices, and locations.
You’ve probably already seen the announcement of the partnership between IBM and Apple; Forrester clients can read more about it here, along with our deeper analysis.
While I can’t comment on the trends in North America and Europe, I know that there are some interesting dynamics in the enterprise mobility space in Asia Pacific at the moment. The penetration of technologies like BYOD, customer mobility, and employee-facing mobile apps has been relatively low in many Asian countries, putting the region’s companies behind their North American peers for the most part. I still speak with CIOs and marketing leaders about why they should have a mobility strategy or how they can help their employees stay productive regardless of location.
Don’t get me wrong: There are a lot of smartphones and tablets — particularly iPads — in businesses across the region. But many of these devices, especially the tablets, were personally acquired by employees — so they’re an “accessory tool,” not a core productivity tool; often, corporate tech management doesn’t support them and app-dev teams don’t develop for them.
My colleague Ted Schadler explained here how Apple's iOS 8 focuses on developers building new mobile moments.
Once again, Apple increases the value of its ecosystem and will create more stickiness and loyalty by enabling developers and marketers to build new app experiences. The first building block to tap into the new opportunities that wearables and connected objects are opening up is to create a service ecosystem. That’s the reason we haven't heard any product announcements yesterday.
From a marketing standpoint, Apple introduced some new App Store features for developers, like app previews and app bundles. Marketers will be able to let users buy multiple games or apps at once and for a discounted price. App listings can now include feature video demonstrations to showcase the value of your app. The new “Explore” tab - including the trending topics and the vertical scrolling - will also facilitate app discovery.
However, in comparison with the great iOS differentiated innovations announced to create new app experiences (e.g., HealthKit, HomeKit, Swift, TouchID, and open APIs), Apple mostly implemented incremental changes to its App Store marketing. Most marketers sill complain about Apple’s black box and the lack of transparency about Apple App Store’s ranking algorithm and ratings and review systems.
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.
June is a such great month – the days are getting warmer, Wimbledon merges tennis with strawberries and cream, the kids are all pleasantly subdued while revising and sitting exams, the football World Cup is just around the corner, and (how could we possibly forget) it’s also Microsoft’s financial year end.
Many of you will already be in the throes of a negotiation with Microsoft for an Enterprise Agreement (EA) renewal. Or perhaps you are looking at the pros/cons of their Office 365 solution. If you’re planning to take the negotiation to the wire on June 30th in order to squeeze the very best deal at Microsoft’s year end, be aware that Microsoft would like you to dance to a different tune. They are pushing really hard to complete negotiations sooner rather than later. In fact, you might well have been told that Friday, June 20th is their deadline.
Microsoft will tell you that they need a few working days to get signed paperwork through their internal system in order to formally book the deal. While there is some truth in this, it’s also true that the Microsoft sales rep and their reseller doesn’t get commission until the deal has been booked and the revenue formally recognized – hence the pressure to get stuff signed by the 20th!
Whichever date you choose to conclude your negotiation, rest assured that the later it is in June then the more stressed your Microsoft rep will become.
Here are four tips to think about while you negotiate with Microsoft in June:
It’s been an interesting few weeks for Microsoft. XP has gone off Support and left many clients exposed to security risks. At the same time, the US Government has just warned all users to avoid using Internet Explorer (IE) versions 6 to 11 as they say that there is a serious flaw that hackers are already apparently exploiting.
Against this backdrop, Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s newly minted CEO, joined Microsoft’s recent earnings call to talk about the ‘courage’ they will exhibit as they move forward. Let’s hope that courage includes supporting clients who find themselves in difficulty from product flaws.
Microsoft reported earnings were $6.97 billion on revenue of $20.4 billion; this is roughly flat with a year ago. But this third quarter fiscal 2014 earnings call might be more memorable for the fact that the company's CEO was on the call than for anything about the earnings report itself. Nadella spent an hour on the analyst call on April 24 talking Microsoft strategy and answering Wall Street analyst questions. That's something former CEO Steve Ballmer rarely did.
While Nadella didn't make any major announcements, he did drop a few hints that might tell us more about his plans and where Microsoft may be going.
"What you can expect of Microsoft is courage in the face of reality, we will approach our future with a challenger mind set," Nadella told analysts. Here are a few challenges that spring to my mind; cumbersome and sometimes conflicting contractual paperwork, product divisions working in isolation from each other, Google and IBM competing hard in the email/collaboration/cloud space, having to cut Azure prices to more closely align to Apple and Amazon, and a frustratingly slow start in the tablet space.
Google acquired Nest for billions, and then Facebook spent several more billion on Oculus VR. We’re only a few months into 2014, and already billions have been spent by some of the world’s largest digital players, with each of these companies eager to own the next big thing. Mobile is right here, right now, but everyone knows that very soon, there will be something else. But what else?
In the battle to find and claim the next device that everyone will want, these companies will soon realize that next big thing is not a thing at all: It’s your voice.
Voice control suffers from the same things plaguing augmented reality or virtual reality: It has been around for so long that we think we know what it is. Any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation knows that voice control involves invoking an invisible computer with a command, “Computer,” followed by a query, “How many Klingons does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Maybe that’s a question you don’t want the answer to, but the computer — as voiced by Majel Barrett in the TV series — would know it.
It’s possibly a long history of popular depictions of voice control that made us collectively show so much enthusiasm for Siri when Apple first debuted it in 2011. It’s also partly to blame for why we quickly turned on Siri, declaring her soothing semi-robotic tones to be merely amusing at best or irrelevant at worst.
When Microsoft recently announced its long-rumored Cortana voice service for Windows Phone 8.1 as a catch-up to both Siri and Google Now’s own voice interface, the interest was modest, perhaps because if Siri hasn’t changed the way millions of Apple users use millions of Apple devices, how can Microsoft initiate a wave of behavior change when it has so few Windows Phone users?
When Clippy, Microsoft’s paper-clip assistant, disappeared in 1998, it was hardly missed; it was both annoying and offered little value to users. Zip forward 16 years: Microsoft has just introduced Cortana, a new personal digital assistant that the firm will launch on Windows Phone in the coming months. Powered by Bing, and about two years in the making, Cortana will be important if Microsoft gets it right. Here’s why it’s an exciting development:
Mobile-first is a growing enterprise strategy. The whole idea of creating a mobile-first enterprise strategy has taken root in many enterprises, as they recognize that users now expect any information or service they desire to be available to them, in context and at their moment of need. Users are cognitively and behaviorally ready to embrace wearable technology as an extension of mobility — and to weave it into their business processes. My colleague JP Gownder shares his views on wearables here.