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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by David M. Smith | November 11, 2010 | Comments Off
When Steve Ballmer was interviewed at Gartner Symposium in Orlando last month, he said that his riskiest product bet is the next version of Windows. I agree with him.
What’s not obvious is what is on the critical path to that product. I believe it is Windows Phone 7. Here’s why: It’s simple. it’s the Ipad and how Microsoft has to compete with it. Taken to extremes, without a competitive response, the Ipad and other tablets will have a huge negative effect on PCs as we know them today. Thus far Microsoft’s response has been very quiet, and with a little talk about some interim, enterprise focused Windows 7 tablets that derive from the company’s earlier tablet efforts which were of very limited success.
I believe they are quiet about the response for a number of reasons. First, they are focusing on consumer markets first, where Apple has set the bar for secrecy awfully high. They can’t get there but they are trying. someday I’ll write about that more… Also, they are simply waiting to see how Windows Phone 7 and the touch enabled apps for it fare in the market. Success with Windows Phone would mean that they can move forward with an offering that leverages those apps. This is the strategy employed by Apple and being employed by Google and HP/Palm.
So there is a lot at stake with Windows Phone 7. It’s not just another phone. Even though the early indications are that these things aren’t flying off the shelves, don’t expect Microsoft to give up. This is not “Kin 2.0”. They have bet and bet big and will invest in engineering, marketing and whatever they need to do to make it successful. They can afford to do it. More importantly, they can’t afford not to.
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by David M. Smith | October 29, 2010 | 1 Comment
As a platform company at its heart, PDC is a great way to understand what Microsoft’s real strategies are. In addition to its focus on three trends that are popular overall (HTML5, mobile, and cloud), the specifics show some significant changes and enhancements to the the company’s strategy.
First, HTML5. Microsoft led off with this as the lead message for developers. If there was ever a huge change, it is here. Only a year ago Microsoft was very tentative about HTML5. Now it leads off PDC with it. Perhaps a bit overstated or futuristic, it showed charts espousing HTML5 across multiple devices including mobile and Xbox. Interesting in that it has not yet formally announced intent to support HTML5 on these devices yet. We’d already seen that Windows and IE9 have moved towards HTML5 in a big way. However, messages here at PDC signal that the company’s cross platform strategy is now HTML5, not Silverlight. Microsoft appears to have read the handwriting on the wall and seen that HTML5 is the future and that fighting it with Silverlight on the web is a losing battle and has therefore cut its losses.
Silverlight may be downplayed as a brand, but it remains a very strategic technology, forming the basis of the Windows Phone 7 platform and I think will likely play a role in Microsoft’s future desktop and tablet offerings. As for tablet, I believe Microsoft is delaying talking about its tablet strategy until it is clear if Windows Phone 7 is successful or not. If successful, I expect to see its strategy look and feel a lot like that (as most tablet strategies are leveraging touch technologies and apps across both). If it doesn’t succeed, well, lets just say that it wouldn’t be very good news for Microsoft in much more than the mobile phone space….
Second, mobile. Not that much totally new here that hasn’t been shared in detail over the past few months. However, PDC provided a good showcase for the new Windows Phone 7 platform and its free and excellent tools as access to data sources through odata. They showed some of the over 1000 apps available and announced an exclusive feature (Amazon Kindle store). Giving away phones to the developers was very popular and will help drive more apps. There was still no formal announcement of HTML5 support for mobile, but given the messages on HTML5, it is just a matter of time. Microsoft appears to be holding off as it is encouraging the native Silverlight development for now as its app catalog is just starting out.
Third, cloud. In Microsoft’s case that is of course Windows Azure and related pieces. For the first time, Microsoft has aggressively positioned Azure as PaaS. It is a legitimate use of the term, and as is often the case with Microsoft offerings, it doesn’t fit neatly into categories. Azure has many IaaS features and is primarily an OS. But OSes usually have platform capabilities. And Microsoft as a platform company is not surprisingly positioning it this way. What’s surprising is that it has not done so as strongly until recently.
Azure has had some success thus far, primarily with ISVs and small business. Not so much with enterprises. This will change as a result of some of the announcements at PDC. What they have needed are ‘onramps’ to the Azure cloud. In Microsoft’s case, their private cloud offerings do not provide this very well. Its Windows Azure Platform Appliance is not yet available and it is not clear who will be able to use this as a private cloud. Its System Center driven Windows Server virtualization offerings, while useful, don’t really provide much of a path to public cloud.
Two major features announced at PDC change this and provide those onramps. First, the long rumored best-kept secret of the VM role. This will enable existing Windows apps to run on Azure without reworking, a welcome feature for enterprises not ready to rewrite apps for the cloud. Second, is a multitenant container to be launched by the end of the year. Called the Appfabric container and composition model, it is significant for two reasons. First, as an onramp. Appfabric is meant as a way to write programs that span Windows Server and WIndows Azure. This is an onramp to the cloud for new apps. The other significance is that Microsoft is jumping into what some might call ‘real’ PaaS – a multitenant shared everything model. This in many ways will legitimize this approach as a major enterprise credible company has endorsed this approach, in contrast to Oracle’s recent snubbing of the concept.
So, big changes in web and cross platform strategy towards HTML5. Showcase of Windows Phone and the future of Silverlight as a native technology beyond phones. And some very welcome enhancements to its Azure cloud that will begin to solidify the company’s position as an emerging leader in cloud and drive enterprise interest. All in all, a pretty significant PDC.
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by David M. Smith | September 24, 2010 | 1 Comment
I’m not saying that Twitter is a fad (as some said of the Internet way back when). Just trying to make some connections. Two recent events (OK, not so recent as they were a few months ago but hey, I’ve been busy and finally decided to do some more blogging…) made me think about twitter and CB radio. Those of you old enough to remember the CB radio craze of the 70s (if not, Google it…) will get it. The two things are:
1. an announcement of Twitter for cars, which is where CB radios were used (actually started in trucks, where they are still used)..
2. Tibco’s introduction of Tibbr, an enterprise focused twitter like offering (somewhat like yammer, but with a different usage model).
What’s the connection? Its about how these things are/were used. I’m pointing out some of the similarities regarding what they are/were actually USED for. Twitter is used for many things including to broadcast lots of information on a public media (the Internet) that can be "tuned into" various channels, kind of like CB. Certain channels were used for certain things, by convention, with little formal control. Similarly, Twitter has #hashtags which provide a type of convention as well. .
Tibbr is somewhat similar to twitter but is designed for internal enterprise use and as such is more focused on following subjects, not just people. This approach may indeed have more direct relevance in a business context (think Web 2.0 style tagging, next gen knowledge management, etc. ).
While many use Twitter to "follow" people, I find that I use it much more to tune in on topics. Like trending topics and using it to monitor what is being said during an event. This includes
Gartner events, announcements, trade shows, etc. Actually I find the most compelling use is to tune into what people are saying during sporting events – it seems to amplify addictive behavior (tweeting and watching sports). I enjoy watching the Red Sox (even this year) and tuning into the #redsox hashtag on Twitter. I can find out not only what the color commentators are saying, but what they’re not saying and what people are saying about the color commentators. and the commercials. It really enhances the experience. Now that we have the emergence of TVs with Internet connectivity and widgets I expect to see this type of activity increase.
What are you using Twitter for? Like CB?
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