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Today, Microsoft begins life as a real competitor in the enterprise voice space. It has slain dragons (like enabling call access control and E911), faced mighty jousters (Miercom has called Lync a resilient, feature-rich, scalable UC system in their review), and emerged triumphant to compete for enterprise accounts looking for unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions. Microsoft has amassed an impressive list of early adaptors — of both Office Communications Service Release 2 (OCS R2) and Lync — that includes large and small deployments with varied features/capabilities enabled.
Lync required Lighthouse accounts to use a wide array of services at significant scale, so I expect to see big accounts like Marquette University and the Dominican Republic Ministry of Education join current OCS enterprise voice users like Shell, Intel, AT Kearney, and Sprint on Microsoft’s “Customer Success Stories” page. In talking to many early adopters, I heard very few complaints about voice quality or reliability of the solutions, and:
Almost every firm using Lync is connecting employees together using Lync AND other Microsoft products.
Improved voice quality and reliability drives customer satisfaction and makes Microsoft’s story more credible in delivering UC&C solutions.
Last week, Microsoft unveiled its Windows Phone 7 software, which is dramatically different from this company’s previous software for mobile devices. This new mobile operating system software provides an improved user interface, animated icons, a colorful touchscreen, and personalization features which enable users to customize aspects of the phone’s appearance and performance. In addition, these smartphones work with Sharepoint servers, which are being deployed by enterprises.
Sixty mobile operators, including América Móvil, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, O2, Orange, SFR, SingTel, Telstra, Telus, and Vodafone, will be supporting Windows Phone 7 in 30 countries. In the US, Windows phones will be available in November. AT&T will sell Windows phones from HTC, Samsung, and LG Electronics, and T-Mobile USA will offer phones from HTC and Dell Inc.
Even with these distribution channels, Microsoft faces tough competition in the smartphone arena. The US smartphone market is dominated by Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices, Apple iPhones, and devices that run on Google’s Android operating system. Given this intense competition, Microsoft is going to be fighting for fourth place in the US. Microsoft has a better chance to capture a significant share of the smartphone market in developing regions, including China and Latin America, where customers are not tied to Android or Apple smartphone devices.
What do Umi, FaceTime, Qik, and Skype have in common? No, they are not failed attempts to win at Scrabble; they all are solutions for delivering consumer videoconferencing/calling with significant announcements in 2010.
10/6/2010: (today) Cisco announced Umi, a home telepresence offering using HDTV and cameras, and go-to-market plans with Verizon.
6/11/2010: Apple launched iPhone 4, touting FaceTime via Wi-Fi as a mobile consumer video calling solution; it announced continued go-to-market activities with AT&T as an exclusive carrier.
6/04/2010: Sprint announced the first 4G phone in the US, the HTC EVO and demonstrated the use of the Qik application to enable real-time video calling.
5/18/2010: Having announced partnerships with LG, Panasonic, and Samsung, at CES 2010 to enable embedded Skype video calling capabilities on consumer TV, Skype delivered the HD video camera that completes the solution offer.
The mobility priorities of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) are increasingly similar to those of enterprise organizations. Results from Forrester’s survey of IT decision-makers in SMB organizations with between 20 and 999 employees in North America and Europe show that 3 of the top 10 telecom initiatives in SMBs this year are related to mobility. More specifically, 43% of SMBs identify supporting more mobile devices or smartphones as a key telecom initiative. Supporting more smartphone devices includes increasing the number of employees who use smartphones for work activities, as well as broadening the types of smartphone devices and operating systems supported by the organization.
When it comes to mobile application initiatives, 44% of SMB firms identify supporting more mobile applications for employees who work out of the office as a critical priority to help these workers remain more productive while they are on the road. It is more interesting that 33% of surveyed firms identify supporting more mobile applications for employees who work in the office as a key priority. These employees are not traditionally the focus of mobile application deployment because they spend a majority of time working at their desks. However, they could benefit from productivity enhancing mobile applications such as document viewing applications, business unit reports, or access to mobile time sheet or expense applications when they are away from their desks. Examples of workers in this category include customer service employees, administrative assistants, and marketing personnel.
Nokia recently announced that it will focus on expanding its US presence by strengthening relationships with communication service providers and developing smartphones to address US customer requirements. We have heard this US market focus refrain from Nokia multiple times during the past few years. Nokia is the leading handset manufacturer in many other regions of the world, but the company has not had the same success in the US. Can Nokia succeed with its US market efforts this time around? To succeed, Nokia must address three key issues:
Consumer smartphone usage is driving US market momentum. Nokia’s strength is in developing enterprise grade smartphones; however, the US smartphone market is increasingly driven by consumer purchases. Results from Forrester’s survey of IT decision-makers in North America reinforce this trend with approximately 60% of firms in North America providing some level of support to some types of personal mobile devices.
Intense competition is coming from other mobile device manufacturers with a strong presence in North America. To succeed in the US market, Nokia will face stiff competition from RIM, Apple, and Android smartphones. RIM’s BlackBerry devices are the most commonly used operating system among North American enterprises, with 73% of firms officially supporting these devices. We are also seeing a rise in enterprise support of new types of mobile operating systems to support iPhone and Android smartphones. Currently 30% of North American enterprises support iPhone devices, and 16% support Android devices. In comparison, Symbian operating system devices, which Nokia develops, are currently only supported by 4% of US firms.
Oracle’s keynotes and salesforce.com’s presentation next door have never been more confusing and contradictory for large users than they were today. Larry Ellison gave the 41,000 attendants of this year’s OpenWorld a cloud computing 101 session prior to the launch of the new EXALOGIC appliance, a machine engineered to run the Oracle Fusion Middleware stack very efficiently. After he rejected talking about the cloud for years, he swung over to the opposite end of the spectrum. Even though EXALOGIC is mainly aimed, in its first version, at private data centers, Larry simply renamed the virtualized data centers as private clouds and promised customers that they will get an elastic cloud with the help of the EXALOGIC box.
On the other side, salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff called every server on premise the “false cloud,” basically implying that something like a private cloud is simply a stupidity in itself.
Who is right or wrong in this debate? Is Larry simply doing cloud-washing at its best, or is Marc running a “false marketing” campaign, calling everything except his own cloud the “false cloud”?
Let’s understand how Forrester believes a private cloud differentiates itself from a traditional but modern and virtualized data center:
Lots of sleek new touchscreen and tablet devices have launched this year. Where many information workers and consumers see nifty new devices with high-resolution screens and multiple wireless interfaces that enable Web surfing and greater ease of use, I see a new class of device. I call them collaboration devices because I believe that they are especially suited to collaboration tasks that today’s information worker must perform with increasing regularity while on the move. There is an open space in the market for these devices caused by the colliding market forces of an increasing need for employees within a company to quickly and efficiently communicate and the increasing likelihood that these employees will not be in the same location. Most companies today (approximately 60% according to Forrester’s Enterprise And SMB Software Survey, North America And Europe, Q4 2009) are adopting Web conferencing, and information workers are increasingly mobile and distributed — a device that can be on the go and connect to communications and collaboration tools easily will be highly valued. These devices feature slick, usable interfaces and unique connectivity capabilities. Many of these devices run on Android, creating an opportunity and a challenge for Android to enter the business applications market. Android-based devices will fall short of any collaboration aspiration until the marketplace offers standard enterprise Web conferencing tools — where are my Cisco WebEx, AT&T Connect, etc., clients for Android?
Informatica also added more enterprise-level connectivity and a 24x7 support to its cloud offering, thus making it more enterprise ready than ever.
Let’s have a look at these trust.platform.com sites for a minute and analyze the value of this new way of communicating availability:
It actually looks like the industry is moving away from the traditional service-level agreement (SLA) communication, with its well-defined statistical availability number of 99.9%, 99.995%, etc. I believe that this makes a lot of sense for most cloud computing platforms in the SaaS and PaaS category, as I noted in my recent blog on cloud computing taxonomy:
It was common knowledge that Microsoft was releasing a new version of its communications and collaboration suite this year, but behind the traditional development cycle, the Microsoft marketing machine was operating at full speed as well. The name “Communications” has been replaced by “Lync” broadly across the traditional OCS product line, reflecting in my opinion, the fact that enterprise communications and collaboration is all about linking the people, processes, and thoughts that drive creativity. I am fond of saying that there is the verb “to collaborate” (what humans do to create new and better ideas together) and the noun “collaboration” (what many tech vendors sell in the form of collaboration platform software). By adopting the name Lync, I believe that Microsoft is taking to heart the requirement for communications software to link people, processes, and ideas, while SharePoint remains the place where those ideas are stored and shared on enterprise networks for companies that have adopted Microsoft’s unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) products broadly.
Beyond the name, I believe that the most compelling news is that Microsoft is now getting serious about its Microsoft Lync Server being ready to replace the private branch exchange (PBX). Many Microsoft execs — from Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president for the Office Communications Group, through BJ Haberkorn, OCS senior product manager responsible for voice — have spent extensive time telling me about the reliability and scalability of Microsoft’s voice services within its UC&C solutions. Microsoft continues to expand its feature set to compete robustly with other communications vendors. New capabilities of the Microsoft Lync Server include:
Rich presence providing access to things like location or user skills.
During the past few months, telecom service providers including AT&T, Sprint and Verizon have highlighted their roadmaps and deployment plans for 4G network technologies. These 4G technologies include Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax networks. Enterprises in North America and Europe are in the early stages of 4G network adoption based on results from Forrester’s SMB and Enterprise Networks and Telecommunication survey. Approximately 4% of surveyed enterprises currently implement or are expanding their implementation of fixed or mobile WiMax networks, and 3% of firms are implementing or expanding their implementation of LTE networks. These implementation percentages are expected to increase as the service providers pursue their 4G deployment initiatives.