‘Jurassic Park’ Proves That The PC Won’t Die

In the original Jurassic Park movie (which will be 20 years old this June), the young girl Lex Murphy (played by Ariana Richards) asks Dr. Alan Grant (played by Sam Neill) what happened to the dinosaurs. Dr. Grant replies with the thesis from his academic works (as quoted here):

Many scientists believe the dinosaurs never really died out 65 million years ago. These scientists believe dinosaurs live on today -- as birds. The dinosaurs were too large and their food supply is too small, so the dinosaurs became a likely example of natural selection -- in short, they were forced to adapt or perish.

The personal computer already experienced a large tectonic shift, evolving from velociraptor to sparrow in just a few years. Back in 2007, end user computing looked very different from today: It was a simpler world of form factors, operating systems, and ecosystems. Even so, in 2007 we predicted:

By 2012, the industry won't include just two form factors, laptops and desktops, but five or more form factors that are universally viewed as differentiated products.

We were correct, and computing “biodiversity” bloomed:  smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, eReaders, phablets, or adding in form factors that peaked and fell quickly (like netbooks). In fact, we are living in an era of unprecedented experimentation – a flowering of myriad computing form factors attempting to carve out their own evolutionary pathways. The descendants of the velociraptor include a wide array of connected devices, each blazing its own trail.

Read more

Apple’s Healthy iPad Business

Apple’s earnings call yesterday (for the quarter ending March 30, 2013) revealed that its tablet product category, comprised of iPad and iPad Mini, is extremely healthy:

  • iPad quarterly sales rose year-over-year to 19.5 million compared with 11.8 million in the same quarter last year. This represented an over 65% increase. Seasonality effects – like the holiday season in many countries in November and December – meant that sequential-quarter sales dipped (as would be expected). What It Means: The iPad was the fastest-growing product segment for Apple by far. The iPad Mini has generated a new pathway for market penetration, while the iPad continues to be the market leader in its size category.
  • International – particularly Asian – iPad sales grew quickly. CEO Tim Cook called out successes in China (where iPad sales increased by 138%) and Japan. Apple plans to double number of stores in China from 11 to 22 in the next 2 years. What It Means: Having a healthy Asian business will be increasingly important to the iOS ecosystem as it competes with Android. (In China, for example, Android tablets enjoy a strong market presence). Apple is making the right moves to bolster its sales and its ecosystem in Asia.
Read more

Bring Back The Start Button, Microsoft!

ZDNet’s legendary Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reported on an intriguing possibility for the rumored forthcoming Windows Blue update to Windows 8: That Microsoft could bring back the Start Button for desktop mode and/or allow users to boot directly to the desktop.

These are features that Microsoft should indeed provide to its customers in the next release.

Some analysts and designers might argue against these moves. To truly reimagine Windows, the argument might go, users must be taught a completely new way to navigate. Key to the Windows 8/RT user interface (UI) are charms, which take the place of the Start Button and which provide a simplified navigation system that’s particularly suited to touch screens. Users should segue to charms full time, even when they are in Desktop Mode, if they are to build a bridge to the modern UI.

Those claims might hold some truth. Yet Microsoft should reinstitute the Start Button anyway, because:

Read more

The Tablet Market Is Fragmenting Into Subcategories

In recent research, I have laid out some similarities and differences between tablets and laptops. But the tablet market is growing ever more fragmented, yielding subtleties that aren’t always captured with a simple “PC vs. tablet” dichotomy.  As Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals try to determine the composition of their hardware portfolios, the product offerings themselves are more protean. Just describing the “tablet” space is much harder than it used to be. Today, we’re looking at multiple OSes (iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry, forked Android), form factors (eReader, tablet, hybrid, convertible, touchscreen laptop), and screen sizes (from 5” phablets and to giant 27” furniture tablets) – not to mention a variety of brands, price points, and applications. If, as rumored, Microsoft were to enter the 7” to 8” space – competing with Google Nexus, Apple iPad Mini, and Kindle Fire HD – we would see even more permutations. Enterprise-specific – some vertically specific – devices are proliferating alongside increased BYO choices for workers.

Read more

Samsung Shakes Up North American Retail. Microsoft Should Take Note.

Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals, in the age of Bring-Your-Own (BYO) technology, are keeping closer tabs on the comings and goings of the consumer market. Most of the devices they find their companies’ employees using come from consumer retail, whether from physical retail locations like the Apple Store or Best Buy, or online venues like Amazon or Dell.com.

Samsung announced yesterday that it will be opening “Samsung Experience Shops -- based on a store-within-a-store concept -- in 1,400+ Best Buy locations in the US in coming weeks and months. By the second half of the year, Samsung will possess a significant retail presence tailored to its own devices and staffed with sales associates with greater knowledge of its products. CNET reports: “The shops in large-format Best Buy stores will include blue-shirted consultants who are employed and trained by Samsung, as well as Best Buy staffers who receive special instruction.”

Apple, of course, has enjoyed incredible success with its Apple Stores since they opened in North America in 2001. The Apple Store has been a powerful pillar of Apple’s overall consumer strategy because of:

  • The quality and effectiveness of its sales associates. Apple has been able to attract, train, and retain high quality staff for its stores. In an era when cost-cutting affects retail experiences across all categories, Apple’s associates create a high-quality customer experience for Apple's customers and prospects.
Read more

Tablets Hold Their Own – And Then Some – In Work-Related Application Usage

Tablets drive worker productivity in part due to their hyper-portability, as I argued in a recent blog post. Workers can (and, we showed with data, do) use tablets in more places, places where they wouldn’t (and don’t) take their PCs.

The top question I’ve received about tablet hyper-portability is this one: “Tablets are very portable, sure, but are people using them as creation devices or as (mere) consumption devices?” The general assumption behind this question tends to be that “creation” activities are equal to “productivity,” while “consumption” activities are not. I believe this is a false dichotomy, however. Consuming the right information at the right time can increase worker productivity in and of itself. Let me offer a few examples showing how that can work:

  • Retail sales associates using tablets with customers. Retailers are equipping sales associates with tablets to use on the retail floor, creating richer interactions with customers – and driving higher sales.
  • Physicians conducting patient rounds with tablets. Physicians can gain rich, immediate insight into their patients’ health records – saving time and driving more accurate diagnoses in less time. They also use the tablets to show patients results (like x-ray images), creating a better patient experience.
Read more

The Hyper-Portability Of Tablets Drives Worker Productivity

Technology’s value to a business derives at least in part from its ability to increase productivity. The 1987 Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Solow demonstrated that technology increases the productivity of both capital and labor to create economic growth.

Some technologies radically reshape productivity. Take, for example, the cotton gin (1792), which fundamentally transformed labor. A quote from Wikipedia claims: “With a cotton gin, in one day a man could remove seed from as much upland cotton as would have previously taken a woman working two months to process at one pound a day.” By profoundly increasing worker productivity, the cotton gin revolutionized both the textile and agricultural industries.

We’re living through several technological revolutions of our own right now – in, for example, cloud services, mobility, and big data. One technology that leverages all three to some extent is the tablet, a device I follow very closely.

Tablets drive worker productivity through a variety of vectors. One of those vectors is portability. In our Forrsights Hardware Survey, we asked IT decision-makers who either support tablets today or plan to support them soon why they would do so. IT decision-makers’ #1 answer, at 62%? Because tablets are a “more portable form factor than the traditional laptop.” This response eclipsed end user preferences, ease of use considerations, and other possible answers.

Read more

Microsoft’s European Fine Comes In An Era Of Browser Diversity

Today the European Commission fined Microsoft €561 million ($732 million) for failing to live up to a previous legal agreement. As the New York Times reported it, “the penalty Wednesday stemmed from an antitrust settlement in 2009 that called on Microsoft to give Windows users in Europe a choice of Web browsers, instead of pushing them to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.” The original agreement stipulated that Microsoft would provide PC users a Browser Choice Screen (BCS) that would easily allow them to choose from a multitude of browsers.

Without commenting on the legalities involved (I’m not a lawyer), I think there are at least two interesting dimensions to this case. First, the transgression itself could have been avoided. Microsoft admitted this itself in a statement issued on July 17, 2012: “Due to a technical error, we missed delivering the BCS software to PCs that came with the service pack 1 update to Windows 7.” The company’s statement went on to say that “while we believed when we filed our most recent compliance report in December 2011 that we were distributing the BCS software to all relevant PCs as required, we learned recently that we’ve missed serving the BCS software to the roughly 28 million PCs running Windows 7 SP1.” Subsequently, today Microsoft took responsibility for the error. Clearly some execution issues around SP1 created a needless violation.

Read more

Marissa Mayer’s Move To End Working From Home At Yahoo! Isn't Completely Unusual

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer made a splash in the news by changing the company’s policy on working from home. In a memo leaked to All Things D, Yahoo! told its employees:

“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. […] Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.”

Observers have pilloried the move. Forbes.com asked the question “Back To the Stone Age? New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Bans Working From Home.” TheAtlantic.com quickly chimed in with “Marissa Mayer Is Wrong: Working From Home Can Make You More Productive.”

I’m certainly sympathetic to the questions being raised by these observers: This is 2013, isn’t working from home critical to information workers in most industries? Certainly that’s my gut inclination.

Read more

I’m Back To End User Client Computing… With A New Role Focus!

 

 

“Hello, I’m J. P. Gownder, and I serve Infrastructure and Operations professionals!” That’s my new greeting to Forrester’s clients. (I borrowed – aka “stole” – this opening line from my excellent colleague, Laura Ramos, who recently rejoined the Forrester analyst ranks herself).

After eight years in a variety of roles at Forrester, I’ve joined the Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) team as a Vice President and Principal Analyst. I’ll be collaborating with analyst colleagues (please see below) on I&O’s forthcoming Workforce Enablement Playbook. I&O pros face the constant challenge of empowering their companies’ workers with devices and services to make them successful in their jobs… as well as navigating the growing challenge of employees who choose to bring their own technology to work instead.

More specifically, I’ll be researching at least five issues pertinent to I&O pros:

Read more