Microsoft Bets On Its Digital Platform And Sheds An Outdated Industry Focus On Operating Systems

Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella just finished his first event, announcing Office for iPad, the Enterprise Mobility Suite, and a renewed commitment to Windows. Finally Microsoft has realized two key things:

- Office should be on any device or web site that customers are using to get work done. See my colleague Phillip Karcher's take on Office for iPad.

- the cloud service platform (OneDrive, Office 365, and Azure), not the operating system (Windows), is now the focus of the platforms wars. 

I'd like to elaborate on the second point. The measure of a person's commitment to a particular platform or ecosystems should be the user accounts that they have, the content they store in those cloud service, and whom they trust with stored credit cards. So you can't tell if someone is an Apple customer just because they use an iPhone - you have to look inside the device to see who's apps they use most, and what cloud services they use. Many iOS customers are in fact more involved with the Google digital platform than they are with Apple's and many Android customers have little to no engagement with Google because they use the apps and services that the device maker or service provider put on their home screen. Microsoft's challenge is to get more customers engaged on their digital platform - using Outlook.com email, OneDrive for file storage, and Office 365 for productivity. So Microsoft can win in the digital platform, regardless of who's operating system is on the device. 

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Lenovo Bets On The Mobile Mind Shift And Aims To Be A Digital Platform

Lenovo’s made three strategic moves in just one month: 1) Buying IBM’s x86 server business, 2) Reorging into four business units – most importantly including one called “ecosystem and cloud group”, and 3) Buying Motorola Mobility. The later two are driven by the mobile mind shift – the increasing expectation of individuals that they can access information and service, in context, in their moment of need. Smartphones are central to that – as are the ecosystem and cloud services that deliver value through the smartphones.

Lenovo has stated intentions to become a leading smartphone maker globally, building on their leading position in the China market. Buying Motorola Mobility is a much quicker way for Lenovo to access the premium smartphone market with a leading Google Android (not forked Android) offering - than trying to do it with their existing design teams and brand reach. Using Motorola, just as Lenovo used the IBM ThinkPad brand, to gain quick credibility and access to desirable markets, and built critical mass makes a lot of sense. 

But Motorola has not been shooting the lights out with designs or sales volumes in smartphones. So the value is simply in brand recognition to achieve market recognition faster - and to dramatically expand the design and marketing team with talent experienced at US and Western markets. 

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Google Bets On Internet Of Things And Connected Home, Not Just Data From Our Nest

Google’s acquisition of Nest has stirred a lot of interest and reaction, some of it misguided. After talking to lots of reporters, here are ten quick thoughts on why Google bought Nest and what it means:

1.    Google bought Nest for talent and strategic perspective, not products or data. Nest is too small and not scaling fast enough to justify the acquisition. This is about getting a great team that can teach Google about a new market realm, how the Internet of Things comes into the Connected Home.

2.    The price is ridiculously high – unless Google gets a huge head start on Connected Home. Google’s acquisition of Waze for $1 billion and Nest for $3.2 billion look pricey – but they are strategic bets for the long run, and can’t easily be compared.

3.    Building the next generation of Google Now is the goal, not snooping on our temps, room locations and smoke alarms. The Nest Labs team will help fuel development of the next generation of Google Now as it shifts more toward proactive assistance and advice.

4.    Google’s aim is to get an early start on identifying and adding software interfaces (APIs) to Gmail/Google Drive that connect it to smart products. This is not about Android in the home or about a battle for the device OS – it’s a battle for whose cloud service platform will coordinate an individual’s smart products – and their digital self.

5.    Identity, privacy, and security will also crucial in building out the Connected Home. Blanket privacy policies won’t be enough. Fatemeh Khatibloo’s research on contextual privacy shows the new way that privacy and identity will have to be managed.

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With China Mobile, Apple Finally Cuts To The Core Of The World’s Biggest Phone Market

The deal between Apple and China Mobile has been a long time coming, with lots of folks disappointed it didn’t happen in September when the latest iPhones were announced. China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile phone operator, with 760 million subscribers. That’s more than 1 in 7 of all people alive, and, as my friend Charlie has reminded me, more than 6 times the number of the largest US carrier, Verizon Wireless, or 3 times the size of AT&T and Verizon combined. 

Though Bryan Wang in our Beijing office points out that Apple’s iPhone offerings are very expensive by China standards, starting at about $740 unsubsidized, he also reports that there is lots of interest among China Mobile subscribers. With this deal, we’ll finally find out how far Apple can get in China without offering products that match the prices of market leaders Samsung, Lenovo, and Huawei, or innovator Xiaomi. Based on Forrester survey data, we estimate that Apple sold over 16.8 million iPhones in mainland China in the four quarters ending September, 2013. We estimate that Apple will be able to sell 17 million new iPhones to China Mobile users in the first 12 months – that’s on the low side of public estimates we’ve seen ranging from 15 to 30 million. So Apple will boost global iPhone sales – and iPhone revenues – by over 10%.

After waiting so long, why is China Mobile interested in the iPhone? Because they’re concerned about losing their best customers, which are some of China's most valuable ones, to China Telecom and China Unicom. And China Mobile is just launching the first 4G network in China, and Forrester believes it will have at least a 6 month head start before other operators begin adding 4G. The iPhone 5s and 5c give China Mobile showcase products to show off the power of their 4G network.

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Emerging Services For The Digital Self Are A New Source Of Digital Disruption

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.

Now it turns out services for the digital self is one of the emerging battlegrounds of digital disruption.

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.

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Microsoft’s Surface Hardware Additions Show Creativity And Perseverance In Cracking Mobile Innovation

Microsoft’s Surface generation 2 announcements today show that they are firmly committed to the hardware business for tablets and PCs, not just Nokia Windows Phones. See my colleague JP Gownder’s blog post for his take on how Microsoft will need to update branding and go-to-market to succeed.

As with the original Xbox bet more than a decade ago, Microsoft will persevere in creating premium, fully controlled hardware and service experiences. This will create more and more contrast with low-end Windows devices from many OEMs. I predict that Microsoft will eventually anoint a handful of OEMs, two to four, as premium providers — which means that Microsoft will have to create a premium Windows label or branding to distinguish these premium hardware offerings from the budget offerings that many buyers will still focus on.

The details of the new Surface devices — better performance, battery life, kickstand, displays, and more — and the range of new accessories — such as dock, battery and backlit keyboard covers, and more — are proof of an expanding hardware ecosystem. The Surface Remix, a musical controller that magnetically clicks in like the TouchCover, is a very creative and novel addition to the possibilities of mobile devices.

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The Battle To Serve Your Digital Self

Forrester’s surveys show that individuals all over the world are using personal cloud technologies to store their personal and work stuff — files, contacts, photos, music, and videos — in online services. In the US, 77% of online adults use one or more of these services, while in Europe 61% do so. As a result, there’s now a new Internet gold rush to help you build your “digital self” — to help you access, manage, and benefit from your digital information using any smartphone, tablet, PC, or web browser.

Once your digital self is stored in online services, it becomes possible for providers to serve you with not only automated storage but also advice. These providers do things like automatically uploading your digital photos, synchronizing your contacts everywhere, and automatically assembling your expense report from photos, scans, or emails of receipts. Or even advising you on the right financial strategy or workout times based on your spending logs and work calendar.

The companies offering these services are a mix of leading startups, big tech companies, and new players.

For example, Phil Libin created Evernote to help you remember everything easily after he grew frustrated at fiddling with files to organize information from work and home. Now Evernote has 45 million accounts and a new deal to serve Telefonica’s wireless customers worldwide. When you enter new notes, Evernote suggests related notes from your notebooks and those of coworkers you’re linked to.

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Windows 8.1 Puts Microsoft On Track For A Better Year In 2014

I’ve been taking reporter calls in the run up to today’s Microsoft Build announcements about Windows 8.1 Preview. They want to know: Will this be the turn around? What does Microsoft have to do to succeed? I’m pleased to say that last October Forrester predicted that Windows 8 would have a bumpy birth year, but would eventually mature and take hold in 2014 as Microsoft moved to update Windows on an annual cycle. Further, we were very clear that reports of Windows’ death were greatly exaggerated.

Today’s new details on Windows 8.1 show that Microsoft is on track for updating Windows annually, that they’re engaged in significant product improvements and they are listening to market feedback. There were a ton of improvements and new built-in apps. Among all the details, three were the most significant to advancing Windows:

·         Smart Search. By combining Bing’s web search with search across my devices and Skydrive, search becomes more relevant and personal. We’ll be watching to see how third-party developers can use this and where Microsoft goes with it. Very interesting.

·         Making Windows desktop modern and more synergistic. The tweaks to allow the desktop background underneath the Start Screen and the return of the Start button make it feel a little less like I’m running two PCs in one, but the difference is still jarring.

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Apple Furthered Its Position As The Industry Leading Innovator, But Doesn't Clarify Its Role At Work

Apple’s WWDC keynote was rich with details of new versions of the OS X and iOS operating systems. The lead off video was the best articulation yet of Apple’s design philosophy - in my words, Apple focuses on continuously improving usability while evoking great emotional experiences, while simplifying and avoiding excess features.
 
The new Mac Pro demonstrated that Apple is committed to continuing deep hardware innovation - the cylinder shaped system is the size of a large flower vase, but packs huge power for pro users. 
 
It’s difficult to immediately absorb all the rich, deep improvements in iOS 7 and OS X. For customers, it means a richer, more engaging, and helpful experience that is best appreciated with extensive hands on time. 
 
iWork for iCloud will bring office productivity to all the major web browsers, not just Safari. But the long term was unclear. Is Apple aiming to help people at work, or only for their personal stuff, forcing them to switch between Microsoft Office or Google Apps and iWork as they move through their day?
 
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Do info workers prefer iPads or Windows 8 tablets? Let's ask them! And other interesting questions...

For our Forrsights Workforce survey, Forrester annually surveys information workers.* I’m leading final preparation of our Forrsights Workforce survey focused on end user hardware and aimed at five major markets – the US, Canada, the UK, France, and Germany. By end user hardware, we primarily mean PC/Macs, tablets, and smartphones, but we may also focus a bit on peripherals. And we hope to mirror some of the questions from the Forrsights IT Hardware survey, which we develop after this one, so that we can compare results from this information worker survey to what IT buyers report in their survey. Analyst Heidi Shey is working on the other half of the survey, which will focus on security issues.

Below are the hypotheses and topics we plan to explore in the survey. Please give them a quick read, then post or email feedback by Friday, April 12 (Tuesday, April 16 at the very latest). If you are a Forrester client and would like to see a survey draft, please email your account rep and me.

These are statements of ideas we are planning to test in the survey questions, which are designed to confirm or disprove the idea. But we probably can’t fit all of these, so please help us prioritize – especially if you are a Forrsights Workforce client!

Info workers:

Multi-device use

  • Have multiple devices used for work, including many that are personally chosen and/or owned; they spend significant money on devices used regularly for work; and they expect to continue doing so.
  • Often blend work and personal tasks on the same device, despite employer policies to the contrary.
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