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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The Coming Wave of PC Industry Consolidation

Microsoft’s recent purchase of Nokia affirmed the company’s entry into the hardware business, which now forms a core component of its “devices and services” strategy. That journey began with entertainment devices (like the market-leading Xbox and the now-defunct Zune), continued with the Surface and Surface Pro Windows 8 devices, and reaches its logical conclusion with all of Nokia’s smartphones.

Microsoft’s move cements and validates a number of trends in the computing industry:

  • All the major platform players have gotten into hardware. Apple is of course the most vertically integrated platform player, creating hardware, operating systems, and software for its ecosystem. Google is in the hardware game too, having acquired Motorola in 2011, partnering to produce Nexus 4, 7, and 10 devices, and, most tantalizingly for the future, selling Google Glass. Amazon makes its Kindle and Kindle Fire HD devices, which are tightly coupled with its content and services. Even Facebook tentatively experimented with hardware in its collaboration with HTC on a Facebook Home phone.
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Microsoft’s Next CEO Will Contend With Mobility, Platforms, And Consumerization

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 the Fortune 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.

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Q&A with Stephen DeWitt, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Marketing at Hewlett-Packard

I recently spent an hour with Hewlett-Packard executive Stephen DeWitt, a longtime leader at the company who is currently leading up HP’s enterprise marketing efforts. I wanted to learn more about the value proposition of products and services HP is selling to infrastructure & operations professionals and to understand HP’s vision of the future for enterprise customers.

“It’s easy to think of HP as a ‘PC and printing’ company – and we’re obviously a huge player in those traditional product areas – but we have a broader vision for enterprises and for workers…all built around the new style of IT,” Stephen told me. “Our new enterprise campaign, for example, is going to introduce people to the degree of breakthrough innovation we are providing customers today, and how co-innovating with HP can empower your business in the dramatically changing world ahead.”

To give you a deeper sense of how HP serves its enterprise customers, here are some edited excerpts from our conversation:

Q: What’s HP’s overall vision for enterprise solutions? How do you make that vision tangible and concrete for your customers?

HP is a portfolio company, from core to periphery, from cloud to the device. We work very closely with our customers to provide end to end solutions rather than just ad hoc or best of breed products, and we focus on solving for business outcomes and co-innovating with our customers.

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