10 Things You Need to Know About the HP-Palm Deal

2010/05/10

 

  1. You can now buy a Palm Pre without wondering whether you’re buying into a platform (WebOS) that will go the way of the Apple Newton (yes, Virginia, Apple did fail at its first attempt to enter the mobile space).
  2. There are now six (6) viable combatants in the mobile operating  system wars (in alphabetic order): Android (Google), Blackberry OS (Research in Motion or RIM), iPhone (Apple), Maemo (Nokia), WebOS (HP/Palm), and Windows Mobile (Microsoft).  Don’t be surprised to see another one enter the fray before we see consolidation.
  3. Five years from now the number of mobile operating systems will be cut in half.  Ready to make a bet on which ones survive?  After iPhone there are no obvious choices.
  4. The acquisition of Palm is a strategic move by HP and count on HP putting considerable effort and resources into building a comprehensive mobile strategy around WebOS.
  5. If HP creates and executes an effective mobile strategy based on WebOS it will challenge Apple.  The iPhone and iPad are clever implementations of technology but certainly capable of being imitated.  Don’t expect Apple to be too concerned…yet.
  6. HP will bring WebOS (or whatever they call its successor) into the enterprise space and put pressure on the main enterprise mobility players including RIM, Motorola, Honeywell, and, most significantly, Microsoft.  Expect plenty of movement in the enterprise mobility space over the next few years.
  7. HP’s acquisition will force Dell, Lenovo, SamsungSony, and other consumer electronic titans to re-visit and re-design their own mobile strategies.  Their future is dependent on having a successful mobile strategy and right now they look a bit flat-footed.
  8. HP’s acquisition of Palm further validates the need to build a mobile strategy from the bottom up.  Are you listening Microsoft?  For more on that subject see here.
  9. Consumers are the near term winners.  More choice.  More innovation.
  10. More big moves are coming in the mobile space.  RIM anyone?

And What About Nokia?

2010/03/10

My European friends accuse me of being Amero-centric by failing to mention Nokia alongside Apple, Google, and Microsoft in the mobile operating system (OS) sweepstakes.  After all, they say, Symbian was one of the original pioneers of the smartphone OS market.  And Nokia’s next generation mobile OS – Maemo –  has been given good marks by independent reviewers.  For instance here.

Nokia is in the same category as RIM.  They are a manufacturer of smartphones who, for historical reasons, developed/bought their own OS.  The primary difference?  RIM is built on a niche market – e-mail optimized smartphones – and has been able to sustain growth in that niche.  Nokia, on the other hand, is built around world domination of the mobile phone market in general and the emergence of the iPhone and Android have put it on its heels.  The question for Nokia – and RIM – is why continue to develop your own OS when everyone else is moving towards a hardware agnostic platform?  [Let me start a rumor here: RIM will announce a Blackberry that runs Android later this year.]

Nokia, as long as they rely on their own mobile OS(s), will continue to lose market share, particulary in the consumer smartphone market.  They will lose share to the iPhone in the high end consumer market, they will lose share to Android in the low to mid-end consumer market, and they will lose share to the Blackberry in the business market (although most likely maintaining share in their European stronghold).  Nokia will not be able to stay ahead of the innovation game against a battalion of multinational competitors who are able to leverage the software strengths of Google…and maybe even a resurgent Microsoft with Windows Mobile 7.

If you’ve standardized on Nokia within your organization you have nothing to fear.  Nokia is going to continue to be a force in the global smartphone market.  In fact, if you represent a large enterprise making a decision today, both Nokia and RIM should be on your short list of smartphone vendors.  Two reasons: (1) you know what you’re getting and (2) they represent cost effective, easy to manage options.

If you’re Nokia, on the other hand, you might want to rethink your strategy.  How about a partnership with Microsoft?  They need you.  And you may need them more than you think.  I know the two of you have talked but maybe it’s time to sit down again and get serious.  It’s not easy for two elephants to dance but maybe by keeping the steps simple you can create something worth watching.


Mobile UC: Where to Start?

2010/02/22

If you are responsible for your company’s unified communications (UC) strategy by now your focus should be mobile UC.  Why spend time and money on developing a fixed UC infrastructure when all you’re doing is locking in a competitive disadvantage?   Mobile UC is here today but, given all the false starts, it’s hard not to be a skeptic.

One of the reasons many enterprises sit where they do today – frustrated and no further ahead – is that traditional enterprise communication vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent, AvayaCisco, and Nortel  and the major carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Vodafone have muddied the waters.  They are more interested in maintaining, and building on, the status quo than changing the game.  And most enterprise buyers are susceptible to that message because it gets delivered to them regularly by a dedicated account manager and because the alternatives come with greater perceived risks.

But the game has shifted and it makes sense to look outside the box.  Start by looking at enterprise messaging and mobile platform vendors such as Microsoft and, yes, even Google.  After all, mobile UC can be boiled down to enterprise-wide (and even inter-enterprise) collaboration in real-time.  You should look at Microsoft because, in all likelihood, Outlook is your primary collaboration tool today and SharePoint is on your radar.  Look at Google if you’re in the SMB camp.

In my previous post I noted that Windows Mobile 7 represents the last of Microsoft’s lives in the mobile world.  One way for them to make it count is to create an enterprise class mobile UC environment tightly integrated with Windows Mobile 7.

There can be no discussion of mobile UC without an embedded discussion of fixed mobile convergence (FMC).  In a nutshell, FMC is the ability to roam seamlessly between public and private networks.  FMC requires the installation of an appliance connected to your PBX from one of the large communications gear vendors or a dedicated mobile UC vendor such as Divitas Networks or Agito Networks.  FMC is not mobile UC but, assuming a philosophy of using private networks for mobile communications, there can be no mobile UC without FMC.  (An interesting argument can be made  for a completely public network approach to mobile UC but that’s the subject of a future post.)

To summarize, a mobile UC architecture requires two components: a unified messaging platform and FMC infrastructure.  The particular components chosen should reflect the size of your organization, the need for scalability, and your overall communication strategy.  Start by creating your messaging strategy and then focus on the pieces you need to build out mobile UC.  It’s all there today but making the wrong decisions will only lead to more frustration and competitive disadvantage.


Meet the New Windows Mobile, Same as the Old Windows Mobile?

2010/02/14

On Monday Microsoft is expected to announce the availability of Windows Mobile 7.  The debate among the pundits is whether it will be too little, too late or, alternatively, represent the re-emergence of Microsoft as a significant player in the mobile arena.  And, in its war with Google, the success of Windows Mobile 7 takes on added significance for Microsoft.  But let’s take a step back to better understand why Monday is significant in the world of mobile technology.

Let’s start with the premise that the goal of mobile technology is to deliver connectivity and access to information anywhere, anytime.  And let’s layer on top of this the need to make it as convenient, seamless, and user-friendly as possible.  For instance, most of us are not interested in carrying around multiple devices – especially a bulky laptop – to realize this goal.  Yet today most of us still do.

Now let’s look at it from the vendor perspective.  Microsoft still wants (needs?) everyone to buy laptops as well as smart phones.  Google is pushing handhelds because it started with Android.  And  Apple is agnostic.  (I’m not sure how the margins compare between an iPhone and a MacBook but, for the most part, the former isn’t cannibalizing the latter.)  And everyone else – most notably RIM, Palm, and Nokia – are really niche players in the looming mobile operating systems war.

So is it any surprise that Microsoft puts more emphasis on laptops and netbooks (really just a scaled down laptop)?  And it logically follows that Microsoft has – to date – looked at the mobile world from the top down.  Looking at the mobile world from the top down suffers from a number of shortcomings including an inability to step out of the (Windows) box and a predispostion to reuse instead of create from scratch.  Google didn’t start with these handicaps and Apple was smart and disciplined enough to build from the bottom up (iPod to iPhone to iPad).

I suspect Microsoft finally gets it.  But there’s a difference between understanding its shortcomings and executing a strategy to address them.  Microsoft is running out of time.  If Windows Mobile 7 fails to represent a change in how Microsoft approaches mobile technology – bottom up vs. top down – then those in the too little, too late camp will be right.  To paraphrase a refrain from The Who song Won’t Get Fooled Again: Meet the new Windows Mobile, same as the old Windows Mobile.


Apple iPad for the Enterprise?

2010/01/29

Apple iPad for the enterprise?  For the most part – no.  But dismissing it as simply a consumer device misses the point.  Apple is paving the way for what we can expect to see in enterprise class mobile devices some time down the road.  Let’s discuss why.

It really comes down to the portable, high resolution display.  There is no shortage of mobile enterprise applications that would benefit from a larger display than currently found in today’s mobile devices.  How about healthcare (doctors, nurses)? Pharmaceutical sales?  Field service (across multiple industries)?  Inspections? Construction?  Real estate?  In no time there will be apps for these and much more.

Unfortunately for most of these industries the iPad is not durable enough and/or won’t meet regulatory requirements.  So two things will happen.  First, third parties will find ways to better seal and make the iPad more rugged.  Second, someone will create a similar device based on the Google or Microsoft platforms but designed for enterprise environments.

But is the iPad really a mobile device?  Are users going to ultimately balk at its bulk (relative to smart phones, that is)?  Time will tell but I think they may have just gotten it right for many applications.  And I have an answer to those ridiculous images floating around the Internet of people holding this large screen up to their ears to make a call.  It’s called a wireless headset.  Combined with increasingly powerful and effective voice recognition technology the possibilities are intriguing.  You can rest the iPad on the nearest hard surface and operate hands free.  At the same time you can be looking at what’s on the screen (which opens up some interesting opportunties for iPad mounting peripherals – think some sort of body harness).  If you don’t need to see the screen you can simply put it back in it’s case over your shoulder as you walk and talk.  It sure beats a netbook in terms of mobility.

And some will complain about its lack of physical keyboard.  My response: It’s time to move forward.  Physical keyboards aren’t going away but they will become less and less important as input devices.  And the fact that the iPad is free of one actually makes it easier to retrofit for enterprise environments that require sealing and a ruggedness.  Finally, if you need a physical keyboard you can simply buy the external keyboard pheripheral that Apple will offer.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  Corporate IT departments won’t be rushing out to buy iPads for their employees.  But you can be sure those employees will be thinking of ways the iPad can help them do their job better.  And some will get lucky and convince IT that they should be given the opportunity to prove its value.  And third parties will create apps for these opportunities.  And other third parties will find ways to retrofit it for different enterprise environments.  And, most significantly, it will become a prototype for the next generation, large screen mobile device that everyone will design towards.  You heard it here first.


The 2010 Anti-Forecast

2010/01/10

OK.  Everyone likes to make forecasts.  Me too.  So I could comfortably confirm what you’ve heard elsewhere.  For instance, what a good year 2010 will be for the technology business (I agree).  Or why wireless and mobile technology will be at the forefront (again, I agree).  But it occurred to me that it might be more fun – and useful – to tell you what I think won’t happen.

The world as we know it will not end.  Yes, I read – and enjoyed – Ken Auletta’s new book Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.  But people will still buy newspapers, watch TV, and go the mall.  People like tangible things and can’t live completely in the digital world (although some try).  So, go ahead and invest in some brick and mortar companies.  You might be even get a better return than investing in Google.  Speaking of which…

Google will not become the next great enterprise technology company.  They haven’t even figured out how to sell enterprise software.  Just because, as a cash strapped entrepreneur, I use Google Apps doesn’t make them a viable enterprise software option.  And just because Google is now in the mobile device business doesn’t mean they will displace the RIM Blackberry as the corporate mobile device of choice.  Speaking of RIM…

RIM will not fade away in 2010.  Every year for the last 5+ years someone important has predicted the imminent demise of RIM.  2010 will be a boom year for mobile technology so just about everyone will do well.  And in the enterprise space RIM is still the player to beat.  Apple will continue to dominant the consumer smart phone space but…

Apple will not make significant inroads into the enterprise world.  The enterprise space is cost conscious and Apple doesn’t care to compete on price.  Why would they?  They can continue to have robust growth in the high margin consumer space.  And not just from their devices.  The iTunes and iPhone stores are significant, but often overlooked, sources of revenue growth for Apple.  Which brings me to…

Information technology is not going to get commoditized.  Sure there are elements of IT that are already commoditized and more areas will become commoditized in 2010.  But there are still plenty of innovative products and services being introduced which will command premium prices.  New web-based services and new wireless services will be very profitable.  As will new technologies that enhance mobility and remote sensing.  Which is why…

Highly educated, creative societies – like the U.S. – will not be eclipsed by the developing world anytime soon.  Sure, low cost is important and we can’t ignore its significance.  But creativity and inventiveness will continue to be key elements of our economic success.  As long as the economic environment continues to reward these attributes we will do well.  Conversely,  we need to keep in mind that the same factors that help keep costs down and improve productivity – low taxes and limited regulations – are important to encouraging invention and the small businesses it creates.

So, if you’re in the technology business, get ready for a banner year!  2010 will exceed your expectations.


Technologies to Be Thankful For…and a Few Turkeys

2009/11/25

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I’d like to take a few moments to recognize the technologies (information, that is) that we should be thankful for.  My criteria are simple.  To be considered, the technology must have had a meanful, positive impact on people’s lives and changed the world for the better.  And just so the turkeys don’t feel left out I’ll mention a couple of them.

Wireless communications.  No other technology has had as big an impact on individuals lives and changed the world as much as wireless technology.  In some ways wireless technology is the printing press of our era.  It has liberated individuals from their desks and given them the freedom to work where and when they want to.  But, more importantly, it has liberated people from tyranny by providing access to uncensored information.  Without radio broadcasts into closed societies and, more recently, mobile communication devices that allow people to communicate free of central control, much of the liberalization we’ve seen over the past 30+ years  would not have happened.  [My argument with those who would put the Internet first is that wireless technology was having an impact long before the Internet existed.  Exhibit #1: The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 the same year Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web and well before it was a factor in our lives.]  And wireless technology is still going strong with new advances in wireless communications promising better, more timely access to information as well as increased automation of manual tasks.

Personal computers and network technology.  Let me start by painting a portrait of a (frustrated) engineer as a young man.  I started my engineering studies wasting many hours keypunching cards to run programs on mini-computers and, even after we had ceremoniously destroyed the last of the keypunch machines, waiting in line to use one of the limited green screen terminals.  On starting my first job we had three PCs to share amongst  20 engineers…and they weren’t yet networked!  A couple of years later I was in information technology heaven with my own machine and a connection to the minicomputers (DEC PDP11s) where the data resided.  Around the same time I discovered Lotus 1-2-3.  I was off to the data crunching/data visualization races!  For those wondering, I lumped personal computers and network technology together because, by themselves, they are nothing compared to what they are together.

The Internet.  Ranking the Internet third will no doubt get me lots of flack, particularly from 20 and 30 somethings.  But hear me out.  The Internet is still young and its impact on our lives, while significant, is a ways from peaking.  And its impact would be negligible if personal computers were not as ubiquitous as they are.  It will no doubt move to the top of the list over time but in the meantime we’re dealing with its growing pains including search results that don’t return what we want, the rise of spammers and their ilk, and legitimate concerns about privacy.  Personally, though I’m grateful for the Internet, I sometimes see it as mixed blessing.

Flat Panel Displays.  There are two aspects of information technology that often get no respect – input and output technology.  And, rightly so, because there hasn’t been much change over the years.  But one breakthrough that deserves mention is the emergence of low cost, high resoution flat panel displays.  Without this breakthrough there would be no laptops, smartphones, and GPS systems, to name a few transformational products.  And there’s still plenty of innovation to be had in the world of flat panel displays including flexible displays, black on white displays, etc.  [Honorable mention in the input/output space goes to the mouse.] 

And now for a couple of turkeys:

Battery technology.  OK, I acknowledge it could be on the list above.  There would be no mobile devices without some advances in battery technology.  But progress has been so slow in coming that failure to advance battery technology fast enough has held back progress in other areas.  There are signs of breakthroughs (and certainly no shortage of investment in battery technology recently) but nothing to be truly thankful for yet.

Voice recognition technology.  Maybe this is simply the lament of a failed typist but it seems like we’ve been promised a breakthough in voice recognition technology for over 20 years!  Personally I gave up waiting five or so years ago.  I would have been better served by putting my energies into learning to type when I was younger.  In the meantime, I console myself with the knowledge that on a smart phone everyone has to use two thumbs to type.

So there you have it.  My short list of information technologies to be thankful for.  Regardless of which technologies are on your own list, be sure to put them away tomorrow.  After all, the best technologies are the ones that give you the time to do the things that you’ve always enjoyed such as eating, drinking, and being in the company of family and good friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!