Apple Purchases PrimeSense, Opening Up New Computing Experiences – And Enterprise Solutions

Apple has completed an acquisition of the Israeli firm PrimeSense, a sensing company whose technology has powered Microsoft’s popular Xbox Kinect for Xbox 360. (Microsoft moved to an in-house technology for the Xbox Kinect for Xbox One).

For the consumer market, Apple’s purchase opens up a number of tantalizing product possibilities:

  • Apple TV. The long-rumored Apple television set – as well as the long-extant AppleTV set top device – could both benefit from motion-sensing and depth/color sensing, particularly for next-generation interactive television applications.
  • Mobile and wearable products. PrimeSense has made a strong effort to miniaturize its components, and the next logical step would be to embed its technologies into mobile or wearable computing products. While often seen as a motion-sensing technology, PrimeSense is at base a depth- and color- perception technology that could potentially someday be used to recognize people – or to help the blind navigate the streets.
  • Customized e-commerce. In 2011, I wrote a report suggesting that Kinect and other sensing technologies could be used by companies to offer mass customized clothing and furniture. Imagine scanning your house – or your body – to receive custom-build cabinets or bespoke clothing shipped to you in short order. PrimeSense technology can already empower these mass customized scenarios.
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Driving Technologies That Will Delight Customers

Businesses that thrive and grow in the age of the customer are obsessed with customer delight: the most successful companies are reinventing themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. This business reality creates new imperatives for everyone inside an organization, and infrastructure & operations (I&O) professionals are not immune. So the question becomes, how does I&O participate in the transformation of the enterprise toward customer obsession?

The answer to this question is important, because technology's role in business is rapidly changing -- from a world in which Information Technology (IT) enabled a company to function more efficiently, to a world of Business Technology (BT), which we define as technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers. Yet customer-facing technologies aren't always (or even often) the traditional role of I&O. So how can I&O participate?

How about starting with a simple dictum? Spend more time on technologies that will inspire and delight customers, either directly or indirectly. To start this journey, I'd like you to watch this short video of how a digital billboard has gone viral:

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How Tablets Can Revolutionize The Sales Process

Over the past few years, tablets have reshaped computing for many enterprise workforces. But tablets aren't general-issue devices for all employees; instead, companies equip specific groups of employees with tablets -- with particular business goals in mind. High on the list of tablet-equipped roles are salespeople: According to IT decision-makers, sales professionals are the second most likely group of employees to receive company-owned tablets as standard-issue devices.

In a new report, "Empower Salespeople With Tablets To Drive Value For Your Business," we offer infrastructure & operations professionals some guidelines about how to deploy tablets to the salesforce at their companies. It's a different exercise than with traditional PC deployments: I&O professionals must work with business leaders, sales management, sales enablement professionals, and with sales reps themselves throughout the process. To reap the full rewards of tablets, the sales process itself must be reengineered, sales reps must be trained, and customer-facing software and materials must be developed. I&O can't do all of this alone, and must instead build new, deeper relationships with business partners.

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Wearables Will Change The Way Enterprises Work

Infrastruture & operations professionals should start following trends in the wearable computing market in earnest. While it's easy to deride wearables as riding a wave of hype -- and most categories of wearables enjoy more publicity than sales at this point -- wearables aren't just a consumer or bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend. Numerous vendors have taken a serious approach to developing and launching products for the enterprise wearable market, and some of these devices offer comapanies a real opportunity to generate business value.

I've just posted my new ComputerWorld column with an analysis of these trends. Please read the entire article here.

J. P. Gownder is a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. Follow him on Twitter at @jgownder.

How Voice Controlled Intelligent Agents Can Reshape Computing

Apple's Siri for iPhone and iPad, Google Now for Android, Samsung S-Voice for its Android phones and tablets, and Microsoft's Xbox/Bing voice command have all played a role in popularizing the use of voice control. Forrester’s workforce survey reveals that 37% of information workers who have smartphones say they use voice command at least occasionally. So voice control is already a mass-market behavior.

But users haven’t truly embraced voice control just yet: Only 3% of information workers say they "use it all the time," while only 1% claim it's their "preferred way to use a phone." When they do use voice control, it’s for short-task computing activities like sending a text, conducting a quick search, or activating maps and navigation. As of today, voice control remains a nice-to-have, an adjunct to “real” computing interfaces.

But in a new Forrester report published today, we argue that voice control itself isn’t the main story. Rather, it’s about the new breed of data-rich intelligence – which we call intelligent agents – that will bring voice control to the masses.

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PC and Mobile: There Can Only Be One Industry, As Lenovo’s Rumored Purchase of HTC Reiterates

Rumors have been swirling for a couple of months that Beijing-based Lenovo might purchase New Tapei, Taiwan-based HTC Corporation. Following Google’s acquisition of Motorola and Microsoft’s purchase of (most of) Nokia, the move could make sense, given Lenovo’s stated strategy of becoming a “PC-Plus” company with a new focus on mobility.

As I predicted recently, there will be a forthcoming wave of industry consolidation. But what we mean by “the industry” is itself changing. My colleague Frank Gillett has been tracking this evolution for some time, having asserted in 2012 that the analytically sound way to look at operating systems combined mobile and PC OSes. There’s no separation, effectively, between PC and mobile hardware vendors. It’s one industry now.

Geeks Will Know: The Photo’s From Highlander

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Wearable Computing For Enterprises Could Be Bigger Than For Consumers

Wearable computing devices (like Google Glass, Jawbone Up, Nike+ FuelBand, iHealth, and Samsung Galaxy Gear, among others) have made a big splash in the consumer market. My colleague Sarah Rotman Epps’ analysis shows that Google Glass could be the next big App Platform. Fitness wearables might be a bit overhyped, but it’s nevertheless becoming common to see people sporting Nike+ FuelBand devices everywhere you go. No less a tech industry luminary than Mary Meeker recently declared wearables the next wave of computing (see slide 49).

Exciting as the consumer wearable space is becoming, I’d like you to turn your attention for a moment to an example from the enterprise space -- specifically, the Connected Law Enforcement Officer Of The Future, as posited by Motorola Solutions.

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Incremental Improvements Make Microsoft Surface Better, But Go-To-Market Strategy Will Determine Success

On September 23rd, Microsoft launched its next generation Surface and Surface Pro devices with a splashy media event in New York City. The improvements to the hardware and software of both models are largely incremental – though that doesn’t obviate the value of these releases, since gradual innovation has long been an industry hallmark, particularly for Microsoft.

WHAT DIDN'T HAPPEN:

Let's start by looking at what didn't happen: 

  • First, the struggling Surface (which runs Windows RT 8.1, though this fact is downplayed) hasn’t disappeared from the lineup, despite poor uptake and Microsoft’s $900 million financial write-down last quarter. It's been given a sucessor, the Surface 2.
  • Second, despite the hype around 7" and 8" Windows 8.1 devices (for example, from Acer today... and many other OEMs in coming months), Microsoft hasn't chosen to enter this market. Given the popularity of smaller tablets, this qualifies as a bit of a surprise.
  • Third, there was no radical rethinking. No crazy, innovative, out-of-the-box disruption. That's not necessarily bad, but it's noteworthy.
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Transform Tablets Into The Ultimate Sales Tool With Augmented Reality Apps

I recently spoke with metaio, an augmented reality solutions provider based in Munich, Germany. The company develops both enterprise- and consumer-oriented augmented reality solutions for smartphones, tablets, and -- increasingly -- for Google Glass.

Although metaio creates augmented reality applications for a wide variety of usage scenarios – enterprise tools to assist assembly lines, factory floors, design studios, and consumer shopping experiences for IKEA and Macy’s – I’m particularly struck by the potential of augmented reality for use by sales reps.

SCENARIO 1: AUGMENTED REALITY AS A SALES ENABLEMENT TOOL

At their best, augmented reality tablet applications can reshape the entire sales process. Metaio created an app for Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating to create a new interaction model between salesperson and homeowner. Prospective buyers considering Mitsubishi’s mini-split, ductless central air systems must install wall-mounted units in various rooms of their home. “The number one question prospective buyers ask is, ‘what is that unit going to look like on my wall’?” said Sudhanshu Kapoor, Business Development Manager at metaio.

Using the augmented reality app with an Apple iPad, homeowners receive a vivid representation of what the unit will look like, as this video demonstrates.

 

Results:  (1) A richer customer experience during the sales cycle. (2) Allayed fears among buyers who worry what the units will look like. (3) A faster sales cycle, performed on site. (4) Higher close rates and revenues. (5) Lower printing costs for sales collateral.

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Google Is Poised To Revolutionize Consumer Retail

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?

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