It's Time For Mass-Customized Clothing And Apparel Products

JP Gownder

Calling all product strategists at big name clothing and apparel companies: If you work at the likes of Gap, Macy's, Nordstrom, or American Eagle Outfitters, we at Forrester think you are currently missing out on an opportunity to delight customers, generate new revenue, and differentiate your offerings. We’ve been writing about why now is the time to experiment with mass-customized product offerings – customer-facing digital technologies have reached the point where customization is easy to deliver, and customers increasingly expect products and services will be tailored to their desires and needs.

Now it’s time for product strategists at big name clothing and retail companies to give mass customization another shot. Levi’s once offered customized jeans (from 1993-2003), but the offering was too far ahead of the curve – it didn’t have the opportunity to leverage the type of digital configuration experiences available today, and it didn’t offer buyers choice in features they wanted (like color).

We know that product strategists who want to offer mass-customized clothing and apparel products face customers who are stuck in an off-the-shelf comfort zone. We know that this customer resistance is holding back some product strategists at big brand-name clothing companies. Yet the return on investment could be significant. Incorporating customization into your product strategy will enhance current customer relationships and attract new customers that, up to now, have not been able to find what they want or need from your products.

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Microsoft's Office 365 Release Marks More Than Just The Delivery Of A New Platform

Christopher Voce

Microsoft is in a very critical period with their fiscal year ending this week, as my colleague Duncan Jones recently wrote. But today, Steve Ballmer is announcing one of Microsoft’s most important products in the company’s history – Office 365. Sound like an embellishment? It’s not – and it’s because Office 365’s release is not just the launch of a new technical solution for customers, but also a change in the relationship with their customers. Microsoft’s Office 365 is the single biggest change to the Microsoft customer relationship since the introduction of Software Assurance and the modern Enterprise Agreement in 2001.

For those that are blissfully unaware of Microsoft licensing, Software Assurance is Microsoft’s software maintenance relationship with customers and represents a large part of Microsoft’s predictable annual income. I wrote earlier about how cloud services like Windows Intune change the nature of this relationship – from one based on rights to upgrades and later releases of software, which for some customers had questionable predictable value – to one where a customer sees more predictable value by delivering benefits and services that truly offset internal costs. We know that we sink large sums of time and money into running email and collaboration services ourselves. Microsoft takes on far more responsibility and Office 365 exemplifies that motion. Cloud services solve Microsoft’s greatest challenge, building an annuity relationship with a customer that will be less risky to continue to deliver.

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Tablets And Mass Customization: A Match Made In Heaven

JP Gownder

With a hat tip to the mass-customization.info blog, a screen shot showing that the latest Blackberry Playbook commercial depicts a mass customization experience – the Converse Design Your Own collection. (See the entire video here).

Sarah Rotman Epps is the senior analyst on my team who leads our research on tablets (and consumer computing) for product strategy professionals. She’s written extensively about the future of tablets but also about the characteristics of software and media experiences that succeed on tablets. (Forrester clients can read “Best Practices for Media Apps,” for instance). At the same time, I have written about how mass customization is finally the future of products in an age when customer-centricity reigns.

Tablets and configurators – the typical tool that consumers use to co-design customized products – are a match made in heaven. They share a number of characteristics that product strategists should consider when developing mass-customized product interfaces. For example, they both:

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HP Versus Oracle -- From Ugly To Uglier As HP Takes To The Courts

Richard Fichera

On June 15, HP announced that it had filed suit against Oracle, saying in a statement:

“HP is seeking the court’s assistance to compel Oracle to:

  • Reverse its decision to discontinue all software development on the Itanium platform

  • Reaffirm its commitment to offer its product suite on HP platforms, including Itanium;

  • Immediately reset the Itanium core processor licensing factor consistent with the model prior to December 1, 2010 for RISC/EPIC systems

 HP also seeks:

  • Injunctive relief, including an order prohibiting Oracle from making false and misleading statements regarding the Itanium microprocessor or HP’s Itanium-based servers and remedying the harm caused by Oracle’s conduct.

  • Damages and fees and other standard remedies available in cases of this nature.”

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HP Stirs The Pot With New Converged Infrastructure Offerings

Richard Fichera

HP this week really stirred up the Converged Infrastructure world by introducing three new solution offerings, one an incremental evolution of an existing offering and the other two representing new options which will put increased pressure on competitors. The trio includes:

  • HP VirtualSystem - HP’s answer to vStart, Flex Pod and vBlocks, VirtualSystem is a pre-integrated stack of servers (blade and racked options), HP network switches and HP Converged Storage (3Par and Left Hand Networks iSCSI) along with software, including the relevant OS and virtualization software. Clients can choose from four scalable deployment options that support up to 750, 2500 or 6000 virtual servers or up to 3000 virtual clients. It supports Microsoft and Linux along with VMware and Citrix. Since this product is new, announced within weeks of the publication of this document, we have had limited exposure it, but HP claims that they have added significant value in terms of optimized infrastructure, automation of VM deployment, management and security. In addition, HP will be offering a variety of services and hosting options along with VirtualSystem. Forrester expects that VirtualSystem will change the existing competitive dynamics and will result in a general uptick of interest it similar solutions. HP is positioning VirtualSystem as a growth path to CloudSystem, with what they describe as a “streamlined” upgrade path to a hybrid cloud environment.
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SMARTnet Is Dead! Long Live The Lifetime Warranty!

Andre Kindness

Just kidding, Cisco’s SMARTnet isn’t dead, but I&O managers have a new warranty for networking hardware: free hardware replacement, bug fixes, and tech support. Basically, enterprises can expect to get a basic break-and-fix solution free from most vendors on edge and distribution switches or switch/routers. Hallelujah!

Everyone owes a big thank-you to HP. Over the past 10 years, while holding less than 5% of the market, HP’s ProCurve line forced its competitors’ hands, reset the industry’s warranty choices, and revolutionized what customers should expect from their networking vendors. By leveraging the lifetime warranty to separate themselves from the other seven dwarfs and Gigantor while trying to offset “you get what you pay for,” HP went to market offering next business day replacement on the hardware, phone and email support, along with software bug fixes and updates. They wanted customers to understand that only companies that delivered quality products could sustain this type of service model. HP extended the warranty out to some of the 3Com/H3C products -- after the acquisition -- too.

Within the past two years, most vendors have followed suit and offered their version of a lifetime warranty:

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Cisco Makes The Charts – Now No. 3 In Blades

Richard Fichera

When Cisco began shipping UCS slightly over two years ago, competitor reaction ranged the gamut from concerned to gleefully dismissive of their chances at success in the server market. The reasons given for their guaranteed lack of success were a combination of technical (the product won’t really work), the economics (Cisco can’t live on server margins) to cultural (Cisco doesn’t know servers and can’t succeed in a market where they are not the quasi-monopolistic dominating player). Some ignored them, and some attempted to preemptively introduce products that delivered similar functionality, and in the two years following introduction, competitive reaction was very similar – yes they are selling, but we don’t think they are a significant threat.

Any lingering doubt about whether Cisco can become a credible supplier has been laid to rest with Cisco’s recent quarterly financial disclosures and IDC’s revelation that Cisco is now the No. 3 worldwide blade vendor, with slightly over 10% of worldwide (and close to 20% in North America) blade server shipments. In their quarterly call, Cisco revealed Q1 revenues of $171 million, for a $684 million revenue run rate, and claimed a booking run rate of $900 million annually. In addition, they placed their total customer count at 5,400. While actual customer count is hard to verify, Cisco has been reporting a steady and impressive growth in customers since initial shipment, and Forrester’s anecdotal data confirms both the significant interest and installed UCS systems among Forrester’s clients.

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Market Shares And Forecasts – Who Cares?

Richard Fichera

A recent RFP for consulting services regarding strategic platforms for SAP from a major European company which included, among other things, a request for historical and forecast data for all the relevant platforms broken down by region and a couple of other factors, got me thinking about the whole subject of the use and abuse of market share histories and forecasts.

The merry crew of I&O elves here at Forrester do a lot of consulting for companies all over the world on major strategic technology platform decisions – management software, DR and HA, server platforms for major applications, OS and data center migrations, etc. As you can imagine, these are serious decisions for the client companies, and we always approach these projects with an awareness of the fact that real people will make real decisions and spend real money based on our recommendations.

The client companies themselves usually approach these as serious diligences, and usually have very specific items they want us to consider, almost always very much centered on things that matter to them and are germane to their decision.

The one exception is market share history and forecasts for the relevant vendors under consideration. For some reason, some companies (my probably not statistically defensible impression is that it is primarily European and Japanese companies) think that there is some magic implied by these numbers. As you can probably guess from this elaborate lead-in, I have a very different take on their utility.

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The Mainstreaming of UCS - Cisco Announces Microsoft SQL Server Alliance

Richard Fichera

Entering into a new competitive segment, especially one dominated by major players with well-staked out turf, requires a level of hyperbole, dramatic positioning and a differentiable product. Cisco has certainly achieved all this and more in the first two years of shipment of its UCS product, and shows no signs of fatigue to date.

However, Cisco’s announcement this week that it is now part of Microsoft’s Fast Track Data Warehouse and Fast Track OLTP program is a sign that UCS is also entering the mainstream of enterprise technology. The Microsoft Fast Track program, offering a set of reference architectures, system specification and sizing guides for both common usage scenarios for Microsoft SQL Server, is not new, nor is it in any way unique to Cisco. Fast Track includes Dell, HP, IBM, and Bull. The fact that Cisco will now get equal billing from Microsoft in this program is significant – it is the beginning of the transition from emerging fringe to mainstream , and an endorsement to anyone in the infrastructure business that Cisco is now appearing on the same stage as the major incumbents.

Will this represent a breakthrough revenue opportunity for Cisco? Probably not, since Microsoft will be careful not to play favorites and will certainly not risk alienating its major systems partners, but Cisco’s inclusion on this list is another incremental step in becoming a mainstream server supplier. Like the chicken soup that my grandmother used to offer, it can’t hurt.

RIM Puts Mobile Device Management Vendors On Notice

Christian Kane

Supporting non-BlackBerry mobile devices is a priority for every company I speak with these days. Regardless of industry and size, firms are bringing in mobile device management (MDM) solutions alongside their BES to manage the increasing number of Android and iOS devices that are in their employees’ hands.

Now let’s be clear, even with these MDM solutions in place I&O professionals should not expect the same levels of security and management for Android and iOS that they’ve come to know on BlackBerry with a BES, yet. Ultimately these MDM solutions are limited by Apple and Google’s APIs, but eventually they will have all of the necessary components to challenge RIM’s position as the enterprise mobile device, especially as more companies allow personal devices inside their networks.

RIM is obviously putting a lot of work into combating the market share erosion it’s seeing in the hardware and platform space, but what about device management? With well over 25 vendors in the MDM space currently, the fight is on for who will manage mobile devices moving forward. Cue RIM’s announcement last week at BlackBerry World stating that it will expand BES and BES Express support to include both Android and iOS devices later this year, you can feel the other MDM vendors collectively shudder.

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