Microsoft Pokes Its Partners With A Stick Named Surface -- And That's A Good Thing

Ted Schadler

See these excellent analyses by colleagues Sarah Rotman Epps and Dave Johnson on the Surface.

I can totally understand why the Windows team wants its own tablet. After all, Apple has been running away with the most important device category since, well, the touchscreen smartphone, for years while Microsoft and its OEM partners have been watching glumly from the sidelines. Actually, Microsoft has been developing Windows 8 and Windows RT to compete, so not just watching glumly, building product, actually. But OEM partners like Samsung and ASUS have been developing tablets on Android, not Windows.

Along comes Microsoft Surface, a tablet aimed at "work and play." So why does Microsoft feel the need to compete with its most important partners? Three reasons that CIOs should tune into:

  1. Surface (presumably) sets the bar for other tablet OEMs. PC makers have been racing to the bottom to meet your stringent price requirements while still trying to compete. That of course created the market gap that Apple swooped into with the MacBook Air that your employees love. Microsoft can't let that happen with tablets. So job one for Surface -- and it better be frickin' great -- is to prod partners to make great tablets. So even if partners like Dell and HP are angry about the move, it could pay off in better Windows tablets. And that could pay off for CIOs as you look for a tablet you can manage and more importantly, run Office on.
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The Ultimate Question

Nigel Fenwick

As fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will recall, the answer to the ultimate question of life universe and everything is something a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn by building the ultimate computer — Deep Thought. It takes the computer 7.5 million years to compute and check the answer.

Of late I’ve been considering a more mundane version of the ultimate question — what is the ideal metric to use when evaluating business technology strategies? The challenge is that we already have a diverse set of investment metrics from which to choose. There’s Return On Investment (ROI), Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate Of return (IRR) and Payback period to name a few of the most common. Yet I can’t help feeling they all lack a little something — the ability to connect the project with the desired business outcome, which for a strategy is the attainment of the goal.

Recently I’ve been working with clients to apply a different measure — the T2BI ratio:

BI/T2BI*CRC

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Do Business Cases for "Must Do's"? Absolutely!

Chip Gliedman

I am periodically asked whether a business case should be required for those projects that fall into the "must do" category - projects such as those required to meet regulatory or auditing needs, bring a system up to security or other standards, or migrate off of end-of-life platforms. Why do a business case for these? you might ask.  We know we're going to do them, and since there's no incremental business benefit, an ROI calculation is not practically calculated.  So why go through the effort?

My view is simple - even without a quantifiable business benefit, the business case analysis helps in three ways:

  1. The business case clarifies the alternatives.  There are often multiple ways to accomplish the desired outcome. Evaluating each possible scenario using a standardized methodology clarifies the advantages and disadvantages, cost and time differences, and resource requirement differences in each choice. While a go/no go decision may be preordained, planners will be better prepared to pick the alternative that is least onerous to the organization.
  2. The business case exposes differences in risks.  Each alternative will likely have a different risk profile. A seemingly less expensive alternative requiring custom internal development may be more risky - both from cost and benefit perspectives - than a cloud-based COTS alternative with a higher list price.  Documenting the risks associated with each alternative, something we recommend in any business case analysis, will point to the optimum solution.
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Microsoft And Yammer Face A Sliding Doors Moment

Rob Koplowitz

In the wonderful movie Sliding Doors, Helen runs for a train and just makes it on as the doors are closing. Moments later we see her running again for the same train only to have the doors close a moment before she arrives, forcing her to wait several minutes for the next train to arrive. We then see two versions of Helen's life unfold, one where she had made the train and one where she did not. The seemingly trivial moment in her day proves to lead to two wildly different outcomes. 

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Apple's Developer Tour De Force And What It Means For CIOs

Ted Schadler

CEO Tim Cook opened Apple's worldwide developer conference 2012 this morning in San Francisco. The event sold out the Moscone West venue in 90 minutes, a clear indication that Apple's star is still rising rapidly. (Developers are the first to smell a slowdown in momentum and so are a good indicator of the future.)

Here are my quick impressions of what Apple's announcements mean for developers, hence for CIOs and the IT organization.

  • New versions of its operating systems, OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6, just one year after the last upgrade. That pace of innovation coupled with the rapid adoption Apple has created with free or low-cost upgrades and App Store distribution means that most iPhones and iPads will be running the new software a few months after it ships in the fall and many existing Macs will also get it. Developers get a single market to code to (unlike the intense fragmentation and dusty versions of Android). CIOs get confidence that the latest security and features will be present.
  • A significantly upgraded notebook line with faster MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros and a new Flash-based MacBook Pro with a Retina, very high definition screen. (This announcement caused the first unprompted "oooooo" from the enthusiastic developer audience.) Developers will love the powerful machine. BYO computer aficionados will be happy to have even better ultrabooks and notebooks. CIOs will wonder even louder about where HP and Dell and Microsoft are with comparable computers.
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Google Buys QuickOffice And Embraces The App Internet

Ted Schadler

Google just bought QuickOffice. I think that means they now get the App Internet and are moving beyond pure Web.

The App Internet is the future of software architecture and the foundation of how people get stuff on their mobile devices (we call that mobile engagement). The App Internet means native (or hybrid HTML5) apps on mobile and desktop devices that use the Internet to get services. It's the native app that makes the user experience good. It's the Internet that makes the user experience relevant to life.

Google has been "pure Web," meaning that they don't want native apps on any device. Of course, they've been moving slowly away from that pure architecture for years now even as its marketing rhetoric has denied it. Remember that when iPhone shipped in 2007 it had a native Google app called Maps on it. And they have readers on their Android devices.

In the meantime, QuickOffice has been growing handily because it gets the App Internet -- any device, anywhere, anytime using a native app. If you want to read or edit Microsoft Office formats on your iPad or Android phone or whatever, you can do it with QuickOffice. That has led consumers and information workers and sometimes entire enterprises (in the case of one life sciences company with 15,000 iPads deployed, for example) to use QuickOffice to access and edit the critical documents they need on their tablets.

What does this mean?

  • For Google, it means they've woken up to embrace the App Internet as the way to deliver great user experiences on mobile devices.
  • For Microsoft, it means Google has done another "embrace and extend" play to take keystrokes away from Microsoft Office. And that ahead of Microsoft's purported but unannounced plans to port Office to iPad.
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Dark Clouds On The Tech Horizon Redux: Europe Drops, China And India Slow, US And Canada Limp Along

Andrew Bartels

Haven't we seen this show before?  Like last year?  Once again, Europe wrestles with and is again losing against its debt crisis.  Once again, after some promising growth in late 2011, the US economy is showing signs of losing steam.  Once again, China and India are flashing distress signals.  And once again, John Boehner and the Congressional Republicans are threatening to refuse to raise the US debt ceiling unless US Federal spending is cut sharply. 

Last year, the mid-year economic troubles did take their toll on tech purchases in the third and four quarters of 2011, but a last-minute resolution to the US debt ceiling issue, the European Central Bank's aggressive lending to banks so they could buy Italian and Spanish government debt, and some strength in US consumer spending, Germany's surprisingly strong growth, and continued growth in China revived global economic growth in Q4 2011 and into Q1 2012.  Much depends on whether this pattern of slump and revival will recur again in 2012.   My bet  is that we will in fact see the same pattern. 

So, let's look at the economic evidence, and then the tech market evidence. 

  • US economy slows but continues to grow.  In the US, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis on May 31 revised down Q1 2o12 real GDP growth to 1.9% from 2.1% in the preliminary report, and on June 1 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a disappointing 69,000 increase in payroll employment in May, the second month of sub-100,000 job growth.  On a more positive note, US retailers and auto makers reported good sales growth in May, while gas prices at the pump continued to fall from peaks earlier.   My take is that we will see real GDP growth in the 1.5% to 2% range in the remainder of 2012, down from my earlier assumption of 2% to 2.5% growth. 
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Redefining Your Greenfield: Existing Cities Find Greenfield Opportunities

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Unfortunately, I will not able to deliver the keynote presentation at Forrester’s upcoming Infrastructure and Operations Forum in Paris as planned.  The theme of the conference is “Redefining your greenfield,” and I was looking forward to sharing my observations of “greenfield” in the context of smart cities.  So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here.

A “greenfield” presents the opportunity to do things differently, to innovate.  We often think of a greenfield as the clean slate, the ability to start from scratch, to create without the baggage of history, without existing infrastructure, without meddling stakeholders.  We often hear of greenfields these days in the context of new cities – the massive infrastructure projects cropping up in the deserts of the Gulf region, or in Asia.  In the IT world, we think of the entrepreneurial start up building out their infrastructure from ground up.  Or even an emerging market with no technology legacy.  But greenfield opportunities aren’t just for startups or emerging markets, and moreover, their grass isn’t always greener.

That’s not to say the promise isn’t appealing.  The new, technology-enabled greenfield cities provide a clean slate, and the ability to test new technologies and practices.  Think about:

  • Networking across the city to facilitate home entertainment, telecommuting, remote diagnostics, eLearning, and eGovernment.
  • Smart grids to respond more quickly to vagaries in electricity supply and demand, and to enable self-repairing networks.
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SAP Buys Ariba – Huh?

Andrew Bartels

The big news in the ePurchasing software market yesterday was SAP’s acquisition of Ariba. This blockbuster deal will extend SAP’s position as the largest software vendor in the ePurchasing market. It also brings into the SAP fold one of the most innovative companies in this market – a company that has a fair claim to having begun the whole market in the late 1990s.

Still, as my title suggests, I’m not convinced that this acquisition makes strategic sense. I think there’s a real risk that this turns out to be a deal where one plus one equals 1.75, not two, let alone a multiple of two. Reason one: the tremendous duplication of products between the two firms, and thus the problems of product rationalization and internal competition. Reason two: the Ariba Network, which is the main rationale for the acquisition, is based on an idiosyncratic pricing model that in my view is unsustainable at current rates and thus will not generate the kinds of revenues that SAP is expecting.

Let me first state the case for why this could be a good deal:

  • SAP has a goal of significantly increasing the portion of its revenues that come from SaaS subscriptions, so adding a projected $342 million in subscriptions revenues in 2012 (on an annual basis – SAP’s share for the year will be about half that) helps SAP reach its target of $2 billion in SaaS revenues.
  • Ariba has correctly recognized the economic value in operating a supplier network that stands between corporate buyers and suppliers and facilitates their transactions. SAP’s acquisition of Ariba now gives it control of and revenues from the largest of these supplier networks.
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SAP Gets Serious About The Large Enterprise Application Cloud

Stefan Ried

 

SAP Gets Serious About The Large Enterprise Application Cloud: 

Its Long-Term Strategy Should Involve A Triple Platform Play For The Cloud

Until now, it looked like SAP was still trying to balance its existing on-premises licensed business with the cloud alternative. But following its acquisition of Success Factors and the arrival of that company’s outstanding CEO, Lars Dalgaard, SAP has become really serious about applications in the cloud, placing Mr. Dalgaard at the head of a 5,000-person development team.

SAP’s new cloud strategy is all about business applications in large enterprises. SAP today announced its People, Money, Customers, Suppliers strategy — a significant move to offer business applications for large enterprises, rather than just SMBs and a few niche cases. It’s really targeting its core business users. Today’s announcements show SAP combining its core strength of large enterprise applications with a ready-to-use cloud strategy for the first time.

What is really mission-critical in this transformation of SAP and its global customer base?

1. Cloud-generation business applications.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications are not just rehosted traditional applications. SAP is still on a learning curve, and the infusion of Success Factors will definitely help. The upcoming generations of enterprise users expect their applications to be simple, collaborative, mobile, and very different from what they (and their moms and dads) have used in the past. SAP key’s challenge is to keep their existing, conservative customer base happy while meeting the requirements of (and signing deals with) this new generation.

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