Microsoft Pokes Its Partners With A Stick Named Surface -- And That's A Good Thing

See these excellent analyses by colleagues Sarah Rotman Epps and Dave Johnson on the Surface.

I can totally understand why the Windows team wants its own tablet. After all, Apple has been running away with the most important device category since, well, the touchscreen smartphone, for years while Microsoft and its OEM partners have been watching glumly from the sidelines. Actually, Microsoft has been developing Windows 8 and Windows RT to compete, so not just watching glumly, building product, actually. But OEM partners like Samsung and ASUS have been developing tablets on Android, not Windows.

Along comes Microsoft Surface, a tablet aimed at "work and play." So why does Microsoft feel the need to compete with its most important partners? Three reasons that CIOs should tune into:

  1. Surface (presumably) sets the bar for other tablet OEMs. PC makers have been racing to the bottom to meet your stringent price requirements while still trying to compete. That of course created the market gap that Apple swooped into with the MacBook Air that your employees love. Microsoft can't let that happen with tablets. So job one for Surface -- and it better be frickin' great -- is to prod partners to make great tablets. So even if partners like Dell and HP are angry about the move, it could pay off in better Windows tablets. And that could pay off for CIOs as you look for a tablet you can manage and more importantly, run Office on.
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Apple's Developer Tour De Force And What It Means For CIOs

CEO Tim Cook opened Apple's worldwide developer conference 2012 this morning in San Francisco. The event sold out the Moscone West venue in 90 minutes, a clear indication that Apple's star is still rising rapidly. (Developers are the first to smell a slowdown in momentum and so are a good indicator of the future.)

Here are my quick impressions of what Apple's announcements mean for developers, hence for CIOs and the IT organization.

  • New versions of its operating systems, OS X Mountain Lion and iOS 6, just one year after the last upgrade. That pace of innovation coupled with the rapid adoption Apple has created with free or low-cost upgrades and App Store distribution means that most iPhones and iPads will be running the new software a few months after it ships in the fall and many existing Macs will also get it. Developers get a single market to code to (unlike the intense fragmentation and dusty versions of Android). CIOs get confidence that the latest security and features will be present.
  • A significantly upgraded notebook line with faster MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros and a new Flash-based MacBook Pro with a Retina, very high definition screen. (This announcement caused the first unprompted "oooooo" from the enthusiastic developer audience.) Developers will love the powerful machine. BYO computer aficionados will be happy to have even better ultrabooks and notebooks. CIOs will wonder even louder about where HP and Dell and Microsoft are with comparable computers.
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Google Buys QuickOffice And Embraces The App Internet

Google just bought QuickOffice. I think that means they now get the App Internet and are moving beyond pure Web.

The App Internet is the future of software architecture and the foundation of how people get stuff on their mobile devices (we call that mobile engagement). The App Internet means native (or hybrid HTML5) apps on mobile and desktop devices that use the Internet to get services. It's the native app that makes the user experience good. It's the Internet that makes the user experience relevant to life.

Google has been "pure Web," meaning that they don't want native apps on any device. Of course, they've been moving slowly away from that pure architecture for years now even as its marketing rhetoric has denied it. Remember that when iPhone shipped in 2007 it had a native Google app called Maps on it. And they have readers on their Android devices.

In the meantime, QuickOffice has been growing handily because it gets the App Internet -- any device, anywhere, anytime using a native app. If you want to read or edit Microsoft Office formats on your iPad or Android phone or whatever, you can do it with QuickOffice. That has led consumers and information workers and sometimes entire enterprises (in the case of one life sciences company with 15,000 iPads deployed, for example) to use QuickOffice to access and edit the critical documents they need on their tablets.

What does this mean?

  • For Google, it means they've woken up to embrace the App Internet as the way to deliver great user experiences on mobile devices.
  • For Microsoft, it means Google has done another "embrace and extend" play to take keystrokes away from Microsoft Office. And that ahead of Microsoft's purported but unannounced plans to port Office to iPad.
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What "Design For Mobile First!" Really Means

It's been three months since we published "Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement," and we've learned a lot by listening to CIO customers and industry professionals talk about the stories and strategy of mobile engagement.

The thing that leaves people scratching their heads is the mantra, Design for mobile first! "What does that mean, exactly?," they ask. "Is it about user interface design?" The industry answer is that it's about user experience design, but that's not quite right. Design for mobile first! is really about business design. Let's start with a thought experiment to re-imagine what's possible on a touchscreen device:

Imagine that your service is in your customer's pocket at all times. Imagine what you could do with that honor.

You could serve your customers in their moments of need. You could use data from device sensors and your own data to understand their context, the time of day, where they are, what they did last time, what they prefer, even their blood pressure, weight, and anxiety level. You could design your mobile experience to be snappy, simple, and built around an "action button" to (you guessed it) help them take the next most likely action.

With the right data and predictive analytics, you could anticipate your customer's next move and light up the correct action button before they even know they need it. You could serve them anywhere at any time. Not just give them self-service mobile access to your shrunken Web site or forms-based transaction system, but truly serve them by placing information and action and control into their hands.

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How Many iPhones Does It Take To Circle The Earth?

So asked my 11-year-old daughter this morning. You may remember Sophie. She’s the one whose 3rd-grade teacher took her to the Apple store in Burlington, MA, for a field trip. They actually learned how to make movies and stuff, so I guess it wasn’t all for fun.

To answer the question in the title, iPhones are 4 1/2 inches long and the equator is 24,901.5 miles long. So that means it will take 350,613,120 iPhones laid end to end to circle the earth. Apple’s sold 183 million iPhones so far, so they have a ways to go. Can they get there? Read on.

Sophie’s world view is surrounded by, informed by, inundated by Apple’s presence. So she thinks about crazy stuff like iPhones lined up around the world. It was a funny image – iPhones marching down Route 2 to Boston Harbor and out across the Atlantic. Funny, but poignant, too. Poignant because Sophie’s digital world is so dramatically different from my own. [Stay with me. This is going somewhere. I promise.]

I remember buying my first PC – an IBM PC XT with a 5 megabyte hard drive – to manage my band’s mailing list. It cost $4,800 -- more than my car. I wrote the contact management and label printer software myself. Bart the drummer called me geek. But he liked it well enough when we no longer had to use a typewriter and White-Out to manage thousands of mailing labels.

So I remember a world without computers. But Sophie doesn't. Her world began with a computer in her pocket that she can use for just about everything in her 11-year-old life. (Or will do when she finally gets one.) And her expectations are miles higher than mine. She expects an amazing experience. She expects to be served on a whim, wherever she is.

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Apple's New iPad In The Enterprise: Laptop Replacement Gets Closer

As my colleague Sarah Rotman Epps so aptly observes: the third generation of iPad is a gut renovation masquerading as incremental innovation. The new iPad looks basically the same but now carries a snappy 4G radio and a much more powerful graphics processor than its predecessor. The big hardware advance lies in the components, particularly in the graphics processor to handle the high-fidelity Retina display and rapid-response touchscreen control. How will an iPad with much better graphics and a faster network connection affect the enterprise?

Some Forrester data from our workforce surveys and forecasts to set the stage:

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YouSendIt Expands Its Cloud File Services For The Enterprise

In 1996, a would-be MIT entrepreneur pitched me on this idea: “What if we could package up huge files like engineering drawings and email them to people instead of FedExing them?” I listened politely, but it all seemed a little futuristic to me at a time when even email wasn’t ubiquitous. 

Of course, this is exactly the business YouSendIt launched in 2003. The nine-year-old company does this quite simply by using email to send the message and YouSendIt to carry the payload — the gigantic file that you can’t attach to the message directly. The company now has 23 million subscribers; according to Wikipedia, 500,000 of them pay for the privilege.

Today the company announced Workstream by YouSendIt, a set of business enhancements to its evolving set of file services. The goal, in the words of CMO Tony Nemelka, is to give enterprises “systems that extend their line of sight beyond central storage and beyond the firewall.” I found three notable things about this offering:

  1. Integration with Outlook and SharePoint with plugins to make it easy to send and retrieve files. While this may not be unique, the integration is quite intuitive. In the experience of David Michel, CIO for Atlanta-based law firm Burr & Forman, giving employees tools they recognize makes it easier for them to use them. Further, it’s integrated into their common workflows such as eDiscovery.
  2. Enterprise administration tools for user and group management. This is what IT needs in order to provide a business-ready alternative to consumer-focused Dropbox. It’s what drew Michel to the offering. Now, this is not lockbox-type security or administration that you could get from a virtual deal room product from IntraLinks, but it’s enough for email-level security and administration.
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Beware Of Mobile's Unintended Consequences (Part 1)

[This is the second in a series of posts on our report for Forrester clients, "Mobile Is The New Face Of Engagement."]

A successful smartphone app is great, right? Especially when it fronts a system of engagement that lets people click and serve themselves in their moment of need rather than waiting until they can fire up a computer and go online. Or (gasp), dial the phone and tie up some customer service rep's time in India or Africa or Fargo. The mobile engagement is 10 times more convenient than traditional Web and one tenth the cost of a call center contact. So what could possibly go wrong?

In short, just about everything that could go wrong does go wrong when consumer brands, retailers, and B2B companies open up their mobile engagement channel. In this first of several posts on mobile's unintended consequences, we'll describe the unbelievable success that mobile can bring. In future posts, we'll expose the sheer technological ugliness that lies behind those consequences and lay the groundwork for enterprise mobile engagement.

First, the unbelievable success that a mobile app can have (see the figure below):

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A Billion Smartphones Require New Systems Of Engagement

It's a technology big idea: that organizations can best serve their customers, partners, and employees with new "systems of engagement." (Thanks to Geoff Moore for permission to define and use his term.) Let us explain why.

First, the logistics. John McCarthy and I spent the last eight months sifting through the patterns that have emerged from firms that have harnessed mobile, social, big data, and cloud technology: 100 conversations; 61 interviews with experts; and Forrester surveys of 10,000 business and IT decision-makers, 10,000 global information workers, and 50,000 consumers. Out of that research we've just published a 28-page report for Forrester clients that we will deconstruct and re-assemble via blog posts over the next few months.

We began by looking for the unintended consequences of a successful mobile app, expecting to find some best practices in experience design, middleware APIs, server deployments, app development, and organizational alignment. We found those things and captured them in the report. But we also found something more important: a new  ability to empower customers, employees, and partners with context-rich apps and smart products to help them decide and act immediately in their moments of need.

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MacBook Air: The Ultra Ultrabook And Business Windows, Too

I've been testing the MacBook Air for five months now. I use it for work and for home. At work, I run our corporate image Windows XP with the attendant applications and security software in a Parallels virtual machine. At home, I run the Mac side. After a few hiccups with the security software going haywire in our corporate image (thanks to the Parallels support team and to our own IT client and network security team for help), it's been a great experience.

I don't need to wax poetic about just how good the MacBook Air itself is. Plenty of testers have already explained just what makes the MacBook Air the ultra ultabook. See Engadget, CNET, Fortune. (And of course ultrabooks were all the rage at CES this year, see HP's showcased by Serena in Gossip Girl and Dell's XPS 13.)

But I do need to describe my experience with this travel-friendly, totally modern, and practical combination of hardware and software. I'll then also point out some things that are still challenging in using the MacBook Air in a Windows-centric business world. First, the experience in four bullets:

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