Forrester attended Microsoft’s second annual Asia Pacific Analyst Summit in Singapore last week for an update on the company’s progress in transforming into a devices and services company. The event highlighted Microsoft’s strengths and exposed some obvious challenges, which I’ve shared below. Forrester clients can access further event-related analysis and implications here.
Day One: Impressive Capabilities And A Strong Understanding Of Customer Needs
Day one was well designed and delivered, with a clear focus on customer and partner case studies and go-to-market strategies based on three core imperatives:
Transforming IT. Focusing primarily on Cloud OS, Windows Azure, and Office 365, this imperative highlights Microsoft-enabled capabilities and resources to help IT organizations transform both internal data centers and IT delivery.
Engaging customers and employees. This imperative essentially combines mobility and social to help organizations thrive in the age of the customer by delivering improved customer service and customer and user experiences.
Accelerating customer insight and business process improvement. This imperative targets the changing needs and expectations for data and information access and real-time decision making via a combination of traditional analytics and big data.
How much stuff do you own? The answer for most people ranges from a few changes of clothing to a large house full of possessions – your material self. It turns out that most of us also have a digital self – the information and items we create or that others collect about us. It is your footprint, your impact on the digital world. Without a digital self, you don’t exist in the world of computers and the Internet.
The era of Internet has spawned riotous new forms of business disruption as cheap tools and services combined with Internet reach and social media have empowered anyone on the planet to compete with the largest, most established businesses. James McQuivey’s reports and book on digital disruption highlight the fast rise of new hardware devices such as Microsoft’s Kinect and Apple’s iPad, and the fast mainstreaming of new Internet services such as Dropbox, Twitter, and Facebook. Companies in the business of retail, books, movies, and music have been toppled or transformed, with more to come.
As it did for the iPhone 5S and 5C, Apple has tweaked its product portfolio with two new products to maintain premium positioning in an increasingly competitive tablet market. Both the iPad mini 2 (starting at $399) with Retina display and the iPad Air (starting at $499), which is thinner (43% thinner than the iPad 4), lighter, and faster (with a super-fast A7 chip) are great additions to the iPad product portfolio and come with new colors and covers. As always with Apple, expectations on systematic breakthrough hardware innovations are irrational. Apple is good at inventing new products (e.g., iPod, iPhone, or iPad) and at maximizing profitability of its product range over time through software innovations and clever marketing. Yes, at some point, the company will need to disrupt a new market once again, but today’s announcement is really about making sure it maintains the premium brand experience for the holiday season when competition is heating up — not just for tablets but also for the amazing new line of Mac products.
Infrastructure professionals are now all too familiar with the dynamics of bring-your-own (BYO) technology and devices: Their workers walk into the office with consumer technology all the time. This post is one in a continuing series on how consumer retail stores act as de facto extensions of the IT department in today's BYO world.
The rumors have abounded for more than six months: unconfirmed whispers that Google will open up its own major chain of consumer retail stores. The company has dipped its toes into the retail waters with Chromebook-focused kiosks in the U.S. and the U.K. over the past few years, with installations inside larger retailers like Best Buy, Dixons, and Currys.
A Google Kiosk in the U.K.: Not Yet Reaching Revolutionary Heights
Yet while kiosks – particularly those staffed by Google employees – offer some value in promoting Google’s products and services, the company has a much greater opportunity for late 2013 into 2014. Kiosks aren't going to foment a retail revolution. To quote the popular Star Wars geek meme, "these aren't the droids you're looking for."
No, it's time for Google to think big – to go gangbusters. To do something nobody has done as well previously. Why is this imperative?
Many CIOs, technical architects as infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals in Chinese companies are struggling with the pressures of all kinds of business and IT initiatives as well as daily maintenance of system applications. At the same time they are trying to figure out what should be right approach for the company to adapt technology waves like cloud, enterprise mobility, etc., to survive in highly competitive market landscape. Among all the puzzles for the solution of strategic growth, Operating System (OS) migration might seem to have the lowest priority: business application enhancements deliver explicit business value, but it’s hard to justify changing operating systems when they work today. OS is the most fundamental infrastructure software that all other systems depend on, so the complexity and uncertainty of migrations is daunting. As a result, IT organizations in China usually tend to live with the existing OS as much as possible.
Take Microsoft Windows for example. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 have been widely used on client side and server side. Very few companies have put Windows migration on its IT evolution roadmap. However, I believe the time is now for IT professionals in Chinese companies to seriously consider putting Windows upgrade into IT road map for the next 6 months for a couple of key reasons.
Windows XP and pirated OS won’t be viable much longer to support your business.
Ending support. Extended support, which includes security patches, ends April 8, 2014. Beyond that point, we could expect that more malwares or security attacks toward Windows XP would occur.
Eventually, Microsoft announced its decision to acquire Nokia's devices and services unit for € 5,4 billion.
After all these years of speculation, now was the time to invest. Indeed, despite the collapse of the Nokia handset empire, Nokia still has numerous assets: a wide portfolio of patents, Nokia’s product engineering and global capabilities in manufacturing, marketing, and distributing mobile phones. Microsoft is thus not only acquiring the Lumia brand but also the Asha one – bearing in mind Nokia still sold close to 54 million devices in Q2 2013.
Nokia will now focus on its three core technologies: the network infrastructure with NSN, its maps and location-based service ecosystem with HERE, and Advanced Technologies. There were early signs of the new approach when, a year ago, Nokia started to build brand equity beyond mobile phones with HERE (see my take on this blog at that time) but also more recently when Nokia announced its decision to acquire Siemens’ take to fully own NSN. Microsoft will pay Nokia a four-year license of the HERE services, bringing some regular revenues to the now much smaller company.
To avoid parts of the company to be acquired by some Far East Asian manufacturers and due to the diminishing investments from other Windows Phone licensees, Microsoft had to adopt a vertically integrated strategy. They are indeed the best placed to generate synergies with Nokia following the more than two years agreement. And as All Things Digital puts it, Stephen Elop is now the Microsoft CEO candidate to beat.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced today that he will be retiring within 12 months. My Forrester colleague Ted Schadler laid out some of the strategic challenges his successor will face in coming years. Here, I add to Ted's analysis.
Microsoft remains one of the great global technology companies, a solid member of theFortune 50. Although it no longer enjoys the reputation for innovation it did in the 1990s, it’s a critical player in every aspect of end user computing (including devices, software, browsers, development platforms, and services) and of other technology product and service markets.
As CEO, Steve Ballmer solidified Microsoft’s stronghold in enterprise solutions. Microsoft built and maintained — or built and made itself into a key challenger — in several enterprise markets. Microsoft Office remains a titanic success, even as it faces lower-cost competition from Google and others. Windows Azure has been cultivated into a full-fledged contender in the cloud services market. Exchange remains entrenched in enterprises, as do many of Microsoft’s Server and Tools offerings. Microsoft remains the company to beat in some of these markets, and has become a formidable challenger (e.g. as Azure takes on Amazon Web Services) in others.
One noteworthy detail emerged from Microsoft’s quarterly earnings call yesterday: A $900 million write-down for “inventory adjustments” related to the underperformance of Windows RT. This result didn’t come as a surprise because:
Microsoft’s Windows RT strategy has long been puzzling. Launching the Surface RT device before the Windows 8-based Surface Pro offering never made sense – an insufficient number of Modern UI apps made the Surface RT hard to position and sell from the beginning. Samsung recognized the shortcomings of RT early on, exitingthe market a mere three months after RT’s release.
Microsoft still hasn’t convinced developers that Windows RT should be a top priority. Our survey of 2,038 global software developers revealed that developer support for Windows RT trails Windows 7, Windows 8, Apple iOS, Google Android, and even Apple OS X. For example, while 21% of global developers support or plan to support Windows RT, 64% say the same for “Windows 7 and earlier versions.”
Today's re-org at Microsoft comes amidst mixed success as they straddle the gap between capricious individual consumers and the cash-strapped, risk-averse needs of enterprise IT buyers who find themselves years behind the demands of their own capricious workers, who are also consumers when they go home. Windows 8 shows us that Microsoft has more learning to do about where to place those bets, but we also think their work on server, cloud and hybrid cloud is excellent, and that their longer-term strategy is viable. We see this organizational re-alignment as very positive.
The Server and Tools Business becomes Cloud and Enterprise Engineering Group
Satya Nadella and Scott Guthrie both have done a great job of driving Agile development and continuous delivery into every team in STB and that is resulting in faster moving and more compelling products and services. They deserve a lot of credit for this and so putting even more under them seems a good thing. The key is whether it is the right things.
For perspective: one of Microsoft's greatest strengths is that they give smart people development tools that are extremely easy to use and deceptively powerful. So much so that generations of developers will commit themselves and careers to mastery of Visual Studio, for example. Microsoft democratizes software development by lowering the barriers to entry like no other company. The shift to cloud gives them the chance to do it again, and the improvements in Visual Studio 2013 shown at BUILD in San Francisco are superb and stretch smoothly from the datacenter to the cloud.
Voice-controlled intelligent assistants offer a tantalizingly productive vision of end user computing. Using voice commands, users can extend the computing experience to not just mobile scenarios, but to hyper-mobile, on-the-go situations (such as while driving). With wearables like Google Glass, voice command promises even deeper integration into hyper-mobile experiences, as this video demonstrates. And voice controlled intelligent assistants can also enable next-generation collaboration tools like MindMeld.
In spite of this promise, there remains a lurking sense that voice control is more of a gimmick than a productivity enhancer. (As of the time I posted this blog, a Google search for Siri+gimmick yielded… “about 2,430,000 results”). To see where voice control really stands, we surveyed information workers in North American and Europe about their use of voice commands.
Information workers’ use of voice control today:
In reality, many information workers with smartphones are already using voice commands – at least occasionally. Our survey revealed that: