by David M. Smith | June 27, 2014 | 1 Comment
The headlines from Google I/O were mostly about Android everywhere and wearables (sorry just can’t get excited about watches unless they can replace my phone) but to me the real story is the resurrection of the mobile web. In case you hadn’t noticed, many have declared it dead and frankly even diehards like myself have been growing impatient waiting for our predictions to come true.
Finally Google is beginning to show real signs of returning to its roots (the web).
In fact, one of the sessions at I/O was subtitled “Reintroducing the mobile web”.
There are three main reasons for why Google is poised to resurrect the mobile web. It is described by three Is: Influence, Innovation, and Indistinguishability
Google is really the only vendor or force that could do this. No other vendor has as much interest in and influence over the web. I wrote about this in Gartner Predicts in 2013. The success of Google’s primary business (search and advertising) correlates with the success of the web. The company has even stated that it does things ‘to make the web a better place’, which cynics like myself might scoff at initially, but after thinking it through, realize how true it really is.
After much thought over the past few years about why the mobile web wasn’t following the patterns of the desktop, where the web won a long time ago, I came to the conclusion that innovation was a big part of it. During the Web 2.0 era (circa 2000-2007), this coincided with a period of intense stagnation on the desktop. The Windows monopoly was preoccupied with fixing Vista and security while the browser wars were long over. The innovation was happening on the web and the Ajax types of interaction were bringing the web closer and closer to the capabilities that could be provided in the native world where Windows was really the only game in time.
Now we are seeing innovation return to the web, with HTML5, Responsive Design, and Google continuing to push the envelope with what can be accomplished in a browser. And it is taking it to the next level by introducing its Material Design (think flat, responsive design with depth through shading and animations) concept in a way that brings it to both Android and the web (including the mobile web). It is delivered through the development models for the new Android L as well as for the web with Polymer. Polymer is built on web components and HTML5, is not tied to Chrome.
The third I is the most important. Indistinguishibility. Google is attempting to make the mobile web indistinguishable from the world of apps. This is not for the developer viewpoint but for the user/consumer view.
This is key, as mobile users today don’t like the mobile web. They have been conditioned by the rise of mobile to only want apps. There are many reasons for this – some of which are rooted in myths – but many are based on good reasons. Nonetheless it is a reality today. But users don’t know or care what tech is used. They think app is good, web is not.
The huge news regarding Material design is that apps and web will look the same. Increasingly, it will become more difficult to tell which is which. And Google is doing a lot more to blur that line. It is facilitating seamless moving from the web to apps by allowing apps to populate the browser’s recents. It is also indexing apps in Google search, facilitating access to apps from the web. All this is in addition to deep linking and other efforts already underway.
This could well be the beginning of an overall movement to use Google search for apps, which would be a big improvement over using app store searches.
We are also seeing the beginning of merger of Android and ChromeOS. This is being done through the Chrome browser and by bringing Android apps to ChromeOS (demoed and intent announced). So the future of ChromeOS will be running Android apps as well as web apps. More indisdinguishability.
Hold on though, there could be another I – Incompleteness
There is still much to come and to prove. First and foremost this needs to be shown to work across browsers – especially Safari on iOS. Also a key piece will be how they incorporate appstores into the mobile web. They could use the Google Chrome Web store, the Google Play store, or no store (relying instead on Google search). Indistinguishability would lead to leaning towards the no store model, but there are still needs for monetization. The so-called ‘discovery’ benefit of being in appstores is way overestimated IMHO.
Speaking of the Google Play store, its role is changing as well. It’s certainly not going away any time soon as the primary place to obtain Android apps. But it is gradually taking on a much bigger role.
It’s no secret that Android remains fragmented. Google didn’t talk about it except in an obscure reference to where it isn’t fragmented – The Google Play store.
According to Google, the Google Play services ships every 6 weeks and 93% of Android users are on latest release. They are beginning to issue security updates through Google Play.
The future of the Google Play store is not just an app store but an mechanism, place to ship APIs, and its most effective way to deal with fragmentation
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by David M. Smith | October 4, 2013 | Comments Off
Ever wonder what could have led to this picture?
Steve Ballmer will be our Symposium 2013 Mastermind Interview again this year, likely for the last time, at least as CEO of Microsoft. Having done a few of these over the years, its’ a good time to remember some of the highlights. There were so many like the time I found a toy called the Balmerang at Disney and gave it to him. And the endless back and forth between him and Scott McNealy of Sun (who was also a frequent Mastermind interview). But for me, one that sticks out was the one from the year 2000. Not so much for the moment but for the longevity of the moment which was captured in a photo (yes I’m pretty sure it was analog). I’m referring to the above – the famous and iconic picture of Steve with his tongue out. I have been promising people I would post the part of the video that led to that so I finally dug up the VHS cassette (wow the world has changed since then, Windows XP was still a year away and you could fly to Orlando and bring shampoo with you (and yes, I even needed it back then:-)). Tom Austin and I had the pleasure of doing this interview and we asked about a lot of topics, including what was the biggest issue at the time – the potential breakup of the company by the US DOJ. He answers one of those questions with that famous facial expression. We put it on the front page of the Symposium Times (at the time we distributed a dead tree edition all over symposium). It was picked up and used extensively and for years. Enjoy!
I have enjoyed these moments with Steve as has our audience. We wish Steve the best in the future. This year my colleagues David Cearley and Tiffani Bova will be grilling Steve. Here’s hoping for another great Kodak moment!
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by David M. Smith | September 4, 2013 | Comments Off
Getting to mobile today is an imperative for enterprises. But there are many obstacles to success. The range from development to deployment and span issues ranging from tools to management and security and increasingly take their cures from consumerization and BYOD. BYOD is an opportunity to ignite behaviors with your workforce, partners, and customers with direct touch that enterprises have not really had until now. When done correctly there are productivity and cost benefits. The very moving of the device expenses alone to employees is a key part. But without rethinking management and support issues, many are throwing those savings away and sometimes actually spending more.
BYOD, if the benefits are to be obtained, must allow for the employee choice which means the old days of issuing a company provided, specified, and managed device are over. And the potential complexities of allowing use of many types of devices can be overwhelming, especially if the same old tight management approaches continue.
Following a “less is more” approach can help. Manage and support less – use ‘best effort’, use ‘lightly managed’ approaches. Approaches such as Exchange ActiveSync with remote wipe may well be good enough.
But one of the real complexities is app development and deployment. Many who have been waiting for HTML5/web approaches to mature have instead embarked upon hybrid (or native) approaches often utilizing mostly web technologies to develop but then having to figure out how to get the resulting apps on the devices.
Hybrid allows for the best of both worlds (standard development and discoverability) but also causes reliance on the worst of both worlds (potential performance issues, and the requirement to install the apps). The result is a byzantine maze of offerings from a wide variety of MADP vendors solving the problems in unique, often proprietary ways. Or dependencies on public app stores and updates constrained by an external approval process. And/or requirement to work with existing or planned MDM/MAM approaches that come from management and security concerns.
This has left many enterprise developers frozen and not doing as much as they would like to be able to be doing. What is needed is a very lightweight, standard, open, method for bridging the development and deployment world. One that allows for anyone to be able to deploy anything, anywhere without concern for all these issues. It won’t happen overnight. It will require cooperation among competitors. It will require some patience. But we are seeing some signs. Apache Cordova, Webkit/Chromium rendering engines, standards efforts, and next gen app store initiatives will drive this. It will likely come from the consumer world and be good enough for most enterprises.
There will of course be some high security/compliance enterprise scenarios where this will be insufficient. But those will be the exception and not the rule.
At the same time in the consumer world Web app stores are evolving. Amazon Google and others are working towards strategies that help enable monetization of apps written in web technologies. Some of these efforts focus on browser deployment but increasingly they are making use of some kind of lightweight container technology. This will be a major contributor to the efforts.
This can be done now, but not as openly as most want. The openness will happen in the next 2-3 years. Enterprises should welcome these lightweight approaches as it will enable them to stop snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
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by David M. Smith | May 7, 2013 | Comments Off
The Windows 8 saga continues. Nary a day passes when there isn’t some new rumor or opinion, Microsoft is giving hints as to what its near term successor, code named Blue, will be, but has not provided any concrete details. I offer an artist’s rendition of the new desktop screen:
Of course, this is not real. It’s a crude attempt at my first thought of what Blue will be. I will also offer an artist’s rendition (e.g., opinion) on what it will actually be as well. I actually made this doctored screen shot a few months ago when first whispers of blue surfaced. Of course, the keen eye will notice the blue dot where the start button used to be. That was my somewhat tongue in cheek thought at the time. The start button issue has been discussed ad nauseum, but it is a symptom of the problem, not the entire problem.
When I first started hearing about Windows 8 way before details were made available, I thought it sounded like a good idea: An excellent Windows 7 made even better, with an add-on touch interface based on the Windows Phone tile interface (still known by most as Metro, despite it not having an official replacement name). I envisioned a coexistence and transition similar to how Microsoft moved from DOS to Windows in the Windows 3.1/Windows 95 timeframe. You will recall that transition took many years, and for much of it, Windows was a separate product – licensed and installed separately on top of DOS. Hardly a forced, quick push. And it took off as a platform when Microsoft itself demonstrated value by having its own excellent GUI applications (e.g., Office) available.
With Windows 8, Microsoft correctly assessed the impact of tablets and the trajectory of the PC market and absolutely had to do something huge. And they are going to stick with it. Metro is the strategy – as my colleague writes here. When Steve Ballmer a few years ago at Gartner Symposium said that his biggest bet was the next version of Windows, few grasped at the time the truth of that statement. Its so important and the apps for it are so needed that Microsoft decided to force users to the new interface fearing that inertia would keep them tied to the past and that Windows would be relegated to be legacy. However, removing of the start button is part of the issue. It has removed choice and empowerment of its users. This is the issue. They may have been ok had it been impeccably done (as Apple often does when it is pushing people certain ways). But the jarring (that’s the word many use to describe it) experience of going between desktop and Metro modes has hardly been described as positive.
The sense of urgency is admirable, but misplaced. Rather than push users to the new interface, Microsoft would be better served pushing themselves internally to deliver Metro versions of Office and other applications that showcase the new capabilities. Not only would users potentially use them, but they would be the proof point for WinRT and Metro that the company needs. Nothing demonstrates the value of a platform more than apps from the company providing it. It demonstrates commitment, possibilities, and is one of the most important things in success of a platform. Thus far the Microsoft supplied Metro apps have been less than stellar, and the new version of Office, while good, does not leverage Metro and has led to the company keeping the desktop around for its dedicated tablet (e.g., ARM based Windows RT systems) when it might be better off without it.
Today the media is full of stories about how Microsoft is about to do a U-turn on Windows 8. I don’t expect that. What has been actually posted by Microsoft looks like nebulous statements about ‘listening to customers’. A good start, but light on details.
I expect an option to allow booting to the desktop. And some kind of ‘start’ button returning to the desktop. What it will do is not clear. Rumors are that it will be yet another method to invoke the start screen. And 7-8” form factor support. If the new desktop start button is just yet another way to get to the Metro start screen, then this will be so far from a U-turn as to be a No turn. What is needed is not yet another way to do that – the old start menu and boot to desktop would go a long way towards putting Windows on the right path. But the real positive would be Office on Metro.
Windows 8 has been described as Microsoft’s New Coke moment. Some may think it is not appropriate (and I do not advocate the U-turn that some have suggested), but I do think course correction is warranted. And Microsoft should want the analogy to be a good one eventually. After all, Coca Cola is in a better place now that it was right after the introduction of New Coke.
A reminder that this blog is my personal opinion – not a formal Gartner position.
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by David M. Smith | May 17, 2012 | Comments Off
I’ve long thought of the effects of SaaS adoption as consumerization on steroids. It is an en masse instance of consumerization as business users increasingly go to the cloud to get what they need bypassing IT. And what about SaaS vendors? Are they starting to exhibit similar behavior as their customers? Many started as traditional enterprise software companies.
It looks like we are now starting to see enterprise software companies mimic behavior of the enterprises they sell to. Look at SAP’s acquisition of Success Factors and Oracle’s acquisitions of Taleo and RightNow. Both companies’ cloud strategies are incomprehensible. Who’s in charge? Are the “business units” or vertically focused groups (meaning the non-central engineering folks,) bypassing their central engineering organization because the latter aren’t responsive enough? Or because the central groups have too much baggage and aren’t leading a strategy that reflects market reality and is responsive to customers in the real world? (Sound like opinions of central IT in your shop?). Sounds a lot like how enterprise business units bypass IT for cloud/SaaS solutions.
So…. Who’s in charge in your organization? Who will be in charge of cloud strategies in enterprise software companies?
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by David M. Smith | May 4, 2012 | Comments Off
Everyone has heard of consumerization of IT. It’s all about how consumer focused technologies and approaches affect enterprises and IT. We’re now starting to see some of the opposite. Now we are starting to see the enterprization of the cloud. It results in lower expectations but higher prices. This is a corollary to my description of enterprise class offerings as "you can get better but you can’t pay more". What increasingly passes for "Cloud and IaaS" in the enterprise is basically hosting. And what passes for "PaaS" (sic) in the enterprise is increasingly IaaS or what I call "IaaS+" which is basically a managed stack (e.g., Amazon Beanstalk).
We’ve also heard and likely been subjected to cloudwashing. Cloudwashing is a well-known term describing how vendors (and IT) paint the cool cloud term on whatever they have, regardless of how little cloudiness their offerings exhibit. The enterprization of cloud is even causing a type of reverse cloudwashing. Now we are starting to see vendors who actually have perfectly good public cloud offerings with many of the attributes (mostly sharing) refer to their offerings as private cloud. This is due to expectations being changed certainly by some (who will go nameless – Google it) comparing public cloud to public transportation and public toilets. Another example of enterprization lowering cloud expectations (at least about the cloud capabilities.
So between cloud washing, reverse cloud washing and paas washing and the overall lowering of expectations, enterprises are getting some mighty clean clouds….which is apparently what they were expecting.
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by David M. Smith | January 19, 2012 | 3 Comments
Barely a day goes by without more news about Macs gaining in the enterpris and I still see the occasional rant about crapware (e.g., the loads of preinstalled software that comes loaded on consumer PCs by hardware manufacturers). On the surface, these seem unrelated concepts. But I think there is an interesting connection.
Crapware in the consumer PC space is a well known scourge that has been around for a while, and has become a bit less of a problem but has not gone completely away.
And of course there is indeed a large increase in uses of Macs in business and it is driven largely by individual use and demand and the increasingly popular BYOD movement (e.g., consumerization). It is not being driven by IT department, nor are huge volume corporate purchases driving it. While Macs are indeed excellent machines, they look even better than they are when compared to typical enterprise issued Windows machines rather than to a more state of the art consumer PC, (even with some crapware. Why? Several reasons. First, the typical enterprise machine is often not modern hardware, but even it is, it is often running a ‘corporate image’, somewhat locked down, and including all kinds of what I call ‘corporate crapware’. Much of this is software included for security purposes and software provisioning. Antivirus, software installation automation, end point protection. The list goes on and on. Often it is configured to run at inopportune times with no consideration of the user and it slows boot times to a crawl. It is not uncommon for corporate machines to take several minutes to boot, while a modern Windows machine without crapware can boot in as little as 30 seconds, quite comparable to a consumer Mac. No wonder people whose exposure to Windows is of corporate Windows are so sour on it. Which This makes Macs seem even better than they are. Macs are typically purchased as consumer machines with no crapware at all.
Careful what you wish for
One of the things that Mac users may look for as their constituency grows in enterprises is support. Here is where they need to be careful what they wish for. There are different levels of support. Typical “full support” by many in IT means corporate images and the path to crapware. Thus negating much of what people like about Macs. Yes, I have seen corporate images on Macs and they usually do much the same as they do to a PC – ruin the experience significantly.
There is no reason why PCs in use in corporate environments can’t provide a much better experience than they do today. Even with security programs and other additions, which are not by themselves always the problem, these can be set up to intrude less. And consumerization is demonstrating that sometimes “less is more” when it comes to managing systems.. With BYOD not limited to Macs, PC users can insist on crapware free machines – meaning free from consumer crapware and corporate crapware.
The Mac vs. PC debate is one of the oldest around. It should happen without the burden of crapware handicapping anybody.
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by David M. Smith | September 6, 2011 | 2 Comments
OK, Trick question. I know it’s kernel panic and by that reasoning, it should be the odd man out. But I will make a case for Private PaaS as the others are always used to mean something real. Private PaaS, not so much.
Yes, that sound you hear is my head exploding. Private PaaS. Take all the wonderful confusion and FUD around PaaS … and add to that the incredible clarity (not) of Private Cloud. So excuse this compound rant as I point to previous related rants. I ranted about PaaS in Is PaaS Passe yet (and in it I predicted the rise of Private PaaS), and I ranted about Private Cloud in Is Private Cloud the ‘Clean Coal’ of IT? and Cloud Computing, Politics and the Lunatic Fringe.
It’s not that these concepts are invalid. The idea of Private Cloud is sound – like intranets utilizing the benefits of the Internet and hopefully avoiding the pitfalls. However, it is ill-defined and abused with users and vendors alike taking liberties. PaaS is a valid concept but the terminology and absurdities arising from its use and misuse are painful enough.
The combination is really dangerous though. Most of the use of it sounds incredibly like return of SOA. And by SOA I mean the bad SOA, not the Good SOA, whatever that is. Seriously though, if you liked SOA you’ll love Private PaaS. Because it’s really the same thing…
These things cause me to rant because they provide a license to lie and confuse even more. That’s the last thing we need in the increasingly cloudy world.
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by David M. Smith | August 17, 2011 | Comments Off
The suspense around Microsoft’s future is building. Many of the answers will be forthcoming during the company’s upcoming Build conference. Nominally a renaming of its PDC and WinHEC developer conferences, this year’s event comes at a critical time for the company. It is facing unprecedented competition from Apple and Google – much of which threatens its core businesses (Windows and Office). Its longstanding strength in developer and ecosystems around its platforms is not what it used to be.
The company has become much more secretive in recent years. I guess it can be described as “Apple envy”… Anyway, its relative silence on its future developer directions has led to lots of misinformation, unlikely conclusions and confusion. And a genuine unease I have not seen entering a PDC for as long as I’ve been following (15+ years).
I am getting many questions about what to expect at Build. Here I plan to shed some thoughts and insights on what to expect.
Here are a few of the questions I’m getting and my best guess answers:
What do I expect to see as the main focus at Build?
Tablet/touch capabilities will likely be the design point and the focus of much of the conference. Bits for Win8/Jupiter development as well as developer machines capable of showcasing the tablet functionality are likely to be made available.
Is developing using .net safe?
What about Silverlight?
At last year’s PDC, former Microsoft exec Bob Muglia dropped a bomb re: Silverlight. Declaring that the strategy had changed, he described the future of Silverlight as a Windows runtime (including Windows Phone), not a cross platform offering. HTML5 would assume that role. Muglia’s announcement, which was done without any kind of market preparation, was received harshly, if not misunderstood. Many today still are confused about Silverlight. Also confusing people is that Silverlight is a subset of .net. It’s a very compact useful subset of WPF. This means that Silverlight and .net skills are very very transferable. And while strategies that focused on Silverlight as a competitor to Adobe Flash in the cross platform browser plug in space need to be revised, other uses of the technology on Microsoft platforms is very safe. I expect to see Silverlight and .net, from a programming language perspective, to be very well supported in Jupiter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some kind of native code mode, possibly in addition to the CLR mode that preserves the programming model and the XAML markup language.
What about IE? Another version? Won’t Mozilla be up to Firefox V27 by the time Win8 ships ?
With the competition turning out new releases of browsers at a truly absurd rate, there is some pressure on Microsoft to respond. I think they will release more often than before but not at anything like the Firefox 6 week cycle. IE10 bits and a first look at IE11 is a reasonable guess. I don’t expect them to get much more aggressive in delivering non-final HTML5 technologies, which could turn out to be a challenge to overcome.
Will Windows phone and apps play a role?
Clearly already demonstrated, Windows 8 resembles Windows Phone’s tiled look and feel. (I wonder why they don’t call them panes, as in Window Panes). It would be hard to imagine the company wanting to leave behind loyal Windows Phone developers. And there should be at least a high degree of compatibility as a result of Silverlight being the programming model for Windows Phone and if I am right about Jupiter supporting Silverlight programming, then there should be good compatibility. However, regarding full binary compatibility (ala Iphone and android apps running on corresponding tablets), I’m not sure what to expect. Apple and Google’s strategies are much more focused on leveraging phone successes into tablet markets, while Microsoft is more trying to leverage PC success into tablets. In fact Windows 8 is more a scaled down version of Windows than a scaled up version of Windows Phone. Complete compatibility for Win Phone apps in Jupiter may end up being a casualty. If that happens, Microsoft would squander loyalty and it could be a very costly decision.
As for web apps on Windows Phone, with the new release Mango due (probably also at Build), an HTML5 capable browser will be part of it. Theoretically this will help with running web apps, but the company’s IE HTML5 strategy is to be conservative, not implementing specs until they are more mature than the requirements of their competitors. Unless the IE browser on Win Phone supports plugins (I assume the Win 8 one will), getting the latest support for emerging HTML5 technologies could hobble Win Phone.
What about Azure and the cloud?
There will in all likelihood be some Azure and cloud announcements. At the very least, utilization of Azure back ends for Win8. I would not expect to see any earth shattering Azure announcements as the focus is likely to be on client/Windows areas.
Confusion around overall developer strategy has led to questions about the viability of Azure even. Not unlike the questions around .net (and my answer), I think current investments in azure (which is also a .net programming model) will be preserved.
Of course I don’t know if these answers are correct. But they are my best guess at this point in time. We’ll see in a few short weeks how well I did…
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by David M. Smith | February 10, 2011 | Comments Off
Everybody’s weighing in on the big Nokia news expected tomorrow. This isn’t about the actual choice widely expected to be be that Nokia and Microsoft reach a deal around Windows Phone 7. I actually predicted this when Stephen Elop joined Nokia. So that’s not surprising to me at least. Although the speed at which the change (less than 6 months after joining) is a bit of a surprise. But obviously time is of the essence here.
What has been fascinating is the divide between North American and European perspectives. The reactions to the leaked “Burning Platform” memo by Elop. Denial and claims that the memo isn’t real and must have been written by an American analyst. Well, it was written by a (North) American (Elop is actually Canadian). And it looks real to me.
The point is that geography and culture matter a lot. What I am writing is absolutely influenced by the fact that I am an American. But an American who has seen technology trends worldwide. As an American (hopefully not ugly), I survived years of phone envy. For the longest time, Europe with its GSM standard was years ahead of North America in usage and advanced usage. I’d go to Europe and want the phones – in fact I had a Bosch worldphone on Omnipoint (the precursor to Voicestream, the precursor to T-Mobile) so I saw what was happening. But I’m also a web guy. And despite the advances, the mobile web (e.g. WAP) was still awful even in Europe. Every year I would go over and expect to see something great because year after year, people were talking about the ‘year of the mobile web’. Every year I was disappointed. The latest and greatest barely worked. A shadow of the desktop web. Similar story in Japan.
Well, it finally happened. In 2007. With the iphone. The first real mobile web experience. And than apps happened. and then the tides turned and the most advanced use of mobile phones and the new developments were happening in North America, not Europe. The vendors gaining credibility, share, and power were North American vendors and the North American market (which Nokia had lost even before the iphone) became much more important. So for Nokia, getting a presence in North America (in addition to the technology and UI and other issues) became paramount. Enter Elop.
So geography matters. and attitude as a result of that geography matters. Being on top for years leads to complacency, denial and and myopia. There are obviously lessons to be learned here far beyond just Nokia, smartphones and even the tech industry.
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