Is Windows Phone 7 Following in Palm's Footsteps?

While many loathe writing off Palm, the company responsible for creating the first generation of PDAs, the prognosis isn't looking too good. At the moment, those predicting Palm's demise seem to be heavily outweighing those who believe the company is going to regain its former glory.

Palm's sustainability came into deeper scrutiny late last week when the company said it shipped 960,000 units and only sold 408,000 of them. That suggests the company has stuffed its channel with a ton of unsold inventory. The news caused its shares to drop 30 percent Friday. Though the shares rallied early on the news that AT&T would start selling its devices, the company's shares closed down half a point.

Critics point to a number of missteps by Palm, from choosing Sprint as its exclusive launch partner (it added Verizon in January)  to releasing the new device last summer -- days before Apple started shipping its next generation iPhone. But the biggest mistake has been how the company treats its partners and developers.

Despite the promise of delivering a software development kit that would be friendly to any JavaScript or HTML developer, the tooling failed to arrive in advance of the device. This dampened the prospect of it building a rich partner ecosystem. And now there are only 2,000 apps that support Palm's WebOS, compared with 170,000 for the iPhone, 30,000 for Google's Android and 5,000 for Research in Motion's BackBerry, according to data compiled by Silicon Alley Insider.

The 1990s saw Palm building a vast developer ecosystem with its PalmOS. "Back in the early days, Palm could do no wrong and was an unstoppable force, it dominated the PDA space…" recalls longtime Palm devotee Mark Nielsen in a blog posting last month.

But a key problem this time around was that Palm lost the developer ecosystem long before WebOS, Nielsen continued. Under that backdrop, Nielsen begs the question: is Microsoft following in Palm's footsteps with its Windows Phone 7 Series strategy, which effectively scraps the old Windows Mobile 6.x code in favor of the Silverlight RIA-based architecture and Zune interface? In other words, just as PalmOS apps were useless to WebOS, will the same come true for .NET Windows Mobile developers?

"I have nothing against the Zune. I own one but it's not Windows Mobile and its navigation UI is not very flexible. On top of that, they choose to not support past apps, which once again I believe was a huge mistake for Palm," Nielsen notes.

"So like Palm, they have chosen to start over and play catch-up on third-party apps when they didn't really have to," said Nielsen. "You've alienated your past developers while hurting their customer-base which is your customer-base. In the meantime, you've positioned your new OS to 'wow' the home consumer and downplay your enterprise strengths. Microsoft, it's not too late to correct some of your decisions. Just look at Palm and see how it has worked for them."

Giovanni Gallucci, organizer of last year's Windows Mobile Developer, says that's not a fair comparison. "The PalmOS ecosystem was dying or dead," he said in an interview. "The Windows Mobile team learned by watching Palm and realized they have to get their code out there fast, early and into everybody's hands. Clearly Palm's approach that no one would get the SDK until after the device shipped was a strategy that failed."

Gallucci dug himself into a hole in early 2009 when he and others launched the Palm PreDevCamp effort. He shortly walked away from it last year after its apparent demise. It should also be noted that Apple wasn't quick to make its SDK available before the iPhone came out. However, this didn't hurt them as it did Palm.

"Microsoft is going to the opposite extreme saying 'we're going to give you the SDK well before we even call this an alpha,'" he said. "They are taking a risk, much more than any other company does in giving developers access to their code, long before it's fully baked. But it's a risk that's paid off for them in the last three decades."

What's your take? To learn more about Microsoft's new mobile strategy, see: Top 7 Windows Phone 7 Highlights from MIX10. Share your thoughts by droping me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/23/2010 at 10:52 AM4 comments


Are Microsoft Partners 'All-In' the Cloud?

A week after trying to sell customers on its "we're all in" campaign to the cloud, Microsoft is now trying to bring its vast network of partners onboard.

Allison Watson, the corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, made her pitch Wednesday in a prepared and edited video presented via a 10-minute webcast.

"The cloud is here, the cloud is now, and it is important that each of you embrace understanding what it is," Watson said, after reiterating CEO Steve Ballmer's five "dimensions" about how the cloud will embody all of Microsoft's computing efforts.

But if the number of views tallied on the video is any gauge (less than 100 nearly 24 hours after the webcast), it leads me to wonder whether partners are feeling the buzz about Microsoft's cloud campaign. As I was watching the video, available on-demand, I was wondering: where's the beef?

And without further adieu, Watson explained how 1.5 million McDonald's employees at 31,000 stores are using Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). "They needed a cloud e-mail solution and Microsoft online services became their choice." (Yes, I know that "where's the beef" was a campaign by McDonald's rival Wendy's, but you get my point).

Watson used the McDonald's example to explain how BPOS can be integrated with customers' internal systems and partners' own offerings. "I would highly encourage you to actively integrate these offerings within your own larger stack today so you don't miss out on this cloud opportunity now," Watson said.

Microsoft has 7,000 partners offering BPOS with 20,000 active trials under way, she said. And since its launch last month, 200 customers per day are signing on to use Windows Azure, she added. "In many ways, it's still a green field with an upside in trillions of dollars," she said.

Indeed, according to our own survey of 500 Microsoft partners, 18 percent believe cloud computing will have an impact on their business this year. Twenty-six percent believe the impact will come next year, and 16 percent say it will arrive in 2012. Another 10 percent predict it will come after 2013, while 8 percent say it has already arrived.

But in response to a blog post by Watson following the video that effectively reiterated Microsoft's five principals, one partner asked, "Where can I get information on partner opportunities now?" Watson replied that more information will come at the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in July.  

There are some actions partners can do in the meantime. She suggested working with the Bing APIs because search will embody the need for partners to help customers find and aggregate data in new ways moving forward. "We're developing search technologies that integrate information seamlessly from the cloud from users, from developers, and we are bringing all of those things together in an integrated way," she said.

Another key area where partners will be able to add value is helping customers address security and privacy, she noted.

OK, so Watson has primed the pump. But many partners are still wondering how this will change their business. What's your take on Microsoft's "we're all in" cloud campaign? Are you "in" or are you still wondering, "Where's the beef?" Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/11/2010 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Will Novell Finally Be Acquired?

In more than two decades of following Novell, I've had many conversations with experts about who might someday acquire the company. In my mind, it was never a question of "if" but "when" Novell would be snapped up. But the company just chugged along.

Could that acquisition finally be arriving?

New York-based hedge fund Elliott Associates LP on Tuesday made a bid for Novell for $2 billion -- a 49 percent premium over Novell's share price Tuesday night before it catapulted yesterday by 28 percent. Elliott already holds an 8.5 percent stake in the common stock of Novell. The hedge fund was vague about its intentions with Novell but believes the company is underperforming.

Indeed, Novell has underperformed compared to key rivals Red Hat, Microsoft, Citrix Systems and IBM, wrote Anders Bylund, an analyst and contributor to The Motley Fool. But what will a hedge fund do to turn the company around? Potentially chop it up and sell off the pieces? Might another player -- such as one of its rivals -- be able to add value to its offerings?

"Over the past several years, Novell has attempted to diversify away from its legacy division with a series of acquisitions and changes in strategic focus that have largely been unsuccessful," wrote Elliott portfolio manager Jesse Cohn in a letter to Novell shareholders. "With over 33 years of experience in investing in public and private companies and an extensive track record of successfully structuring and executing acquisitions in the technology space, we believe that Elliott is uniquely situated to deliver maximum value to the company's stockholders on an expedited basis."

Elliott declined to elaborate further and it remains to be seen if a bidding war emerges.

Novell was once a kingpin in the software industry. Its founding CEO, the late Ray Noorda, was a legend in the 1980s and early 1990s, and was perhaps best known for coining the term "coopetition."

Once Microsoft's nemesis, Novell was the first major player to provide the technology for enterprises to interconnect their PCs. These days, though, you'd be hard pressed to find an enterprise of any size still relying on Novell's NetWare.

After a failed bid to acquire Lotus in 1990, Novell later acquired WordPerfect, ultimately selling most of those assets to Corel. The one vestige of WordPerfect still owned by Novell is the technology that is now the basis of GroupWise, also a minor player in messaging compared to Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes.

These days, of course, Novell is best known as the No. 2 Linux distributor. But it also has virtualization, systems management, identity management and services offerings.

And ironically, Novell today is a Microsoft partner as Noorda's philosophy of coopetition has come full circle -- much to the consternation of many in the open source community.

How important is Novell's fate to your business, and what are the implications of where the company ends up? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/04/2010 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Will XP Users Upgrade Existing PCs to Win 7?

With today's deadline to sign off of the Windows 7 RC, many users have to decide whether to go back to Windows XP or Vista, or whether to pony up and upgrade to Windows 7.

Providers of PC migration software like Laplink and Detto Technologies can capitalize on that decision either way. In my news story, I described how I used Laplink's PCmover to upgrade to Windows 7 from the release candidate, but the software is really intended for those with XP or even older versions of Windows looking to a) migrate those systems to brand-new ones, or b) do in-place upgrades of existing PCs from older versions of Windows to Windows 7.

Systems with Vista don't require a clean install when upgrading to Windows 7, though in many instances it might not be a bad idea. But those with XP have no choice other than to perform a clean install. And that's where Laplink has its sights. While PCmover is a retail product, Laplink is also is trying to extend its reach to the enterprise. Laplink has OEM arrangements with Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo, as well as 1,000 channel partners.

Why would a channel partner want to bother with a low-cost tool like PCmover? A $500 starter kit for 25 licenses is a good way to offer small businesses PC migration services, said Mark Chestnut, Laplink's senior VP of business development.

"For someone who is in the business of delivering PC migration as a service, we lower their cost of delivering that service and allow them to make better margins," Chestnut said.

Many small businesses may not have the patience or the resources to re-image their Windows 7 systems, Chestnut said. That offers a services revenue opportunity for solution providers, he added. Microsoft insiders tell him there are still 20 million machines running XP that are eligible to be upgraded to Windows 7.

"The current economic environment being what it is, companies are really obviously clamping down on IT spending, yet Windows 7 has some huge advantages," Chestnut said. "I think they will take a closer look at keeping as many of the old PCs and preserving their previous investments longer, than in the past."

Are you considering upgrading your older hardware to Windows 7? Or, if you're a solution provider, do you see an opportunity? Drop me a line at jschwartz@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/01/2010 at 10:52 AM1 comments


Look Who's Tweeting: Microsoft's Channel Chief

Microsoft channel chief Allison Watson last week joined the Twitterati and has launched a new blog called Redmond View.

Watson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Group, has invited partners to follow her on Twiiter @Allison_Watson or on Facebook "so I can get your feedback and chat with you about what's going on in the marketplace and in your business," she wrote in her inaugural blog post.

Getting right down to business, Watson focuses on a subject near and dear to partners and Microsoft: the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Pointing to over 1 million BPOS seats, Watson calls on partners to go deeper.

"It's important that you internalize our offerings in your unique business requirements, and then give us feedback about what you need to capture the opportunity," she said. "A lot of partners are asking me, 'How do I make money in this deal?' It depends on whether you're a reseller partner, an ISV partner, or an integrated partner. Based on all the deals we've done to date, we're hearing that the average partner opportunity is about $167 a seat. That includes partner referral fees, the initial setup and migration fees, as well as factoring in some of your managed service fees. That's a pretty big opportunity."

Watson points to four tools Microsoft is offering: the profitability modeling tool, a partner link tool that lets partners embed direct quoting, a tool that allows co-branded billing and a commerce dashboard to help understand the success of sales trials.

Watson's call to action comes as some Microsoft partners are voicing frustration over its pricing moves, and as Google appears to be gaining momentum in the enterprise with its own Google Apps offering (Google this week said it has nearly 1,000 partners in its Google Apps Authorized Reseller program).

What's your take on Microsoft's tools and Google's momentum?. Are you looking at Google Apps as an alternative to BPOS, or perhaps an adjunct? Drop me a line at jschwartz@rcpmag.com. And you can follow me @JeffreySchwartz on Twitter, as well, for other short updates.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/24/2010 at 10:52 AM1 comments


Cisco Declares War on HP

Cisco's decision to pull the plug on its partnership with HP was a major salvo in tensions that have been brewing between the two companies over the past year. Cisco last week said that it's cutting HP off as a Certified Channel and Global Service Alliance partner, a move that could force the companies' respective partners to make some tough choices.

"There may be a push by one or both companies to push channel partners to an either/or situation," said Mark Amtower, a marketing consultant with expertise on selling IT to the federal government, in an e-mail. "Many companies carry both as partners right now -- I don't think that will continue. If you push HP, marketing support from Cisco will disappear and vice versa."

The two companies have been encroaching on each other's turf for some time, with Cisco last year saying it would offer its own blade servers and HP becoming more entrenched in networking by bolstering its ProCurve line and agreeing to acquire 3Com Corp.

With the partnership set to expire April 30, Cisco took the unusual move of publically announcing it was cutting HP off. HP quickly shot back, accusing Cisco of not working to "best serve clients' needs."

Does this move signal an end to co-opetition? It raises the question of whether we will we see more partnerships unravel or, at the very least, become more diminished as companies look to become single-source providers.

Or maybe, as Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot suggested, the current partnership has become "too all-or-nothing." Perhaps they needed "a more nuanced approach to ensure that joint customers get the support they require, while the other partner doesn't get privileges that it doesn't need for mere interoperability purposes," he said.

Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova agreed. "I wouldn't be surprised if a new arrangement doesn't follow closely behind where they meet each other half way in order to continue to service their joint customers and partners," Bova said.

Indeed, that may happen. On the other hand, what if Cisco means business and wants nothing to do with HP? If indeed these two companies go their own way, we could see Cisco getting closer with IBM and perhaps Oracle/Sun while HP could forge closer ties with the likes of Brocade and Juniper Networks.

Certainly, for Microsoft partners, this also raises some questions since most also carry gear from Cisco, HP or both. What's your take on the implications of Cisco and HP going separate ways? Will we indeed see others follow suit? Among other things, could this lead Microsoft to rethink its strategy of working closer with the likes of Novell, Red Hat and Zend? Could co-opetition as we know it be on the line here, or is this just a case of Cisco playing hardball?

Drop me a line at jschwartz@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/22/2010 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Seeking Funds for SMBs

Small and medium-size businesses have long been the salvation of IT recoveries, but this time that conventional wisdom may be falling flat.

The good news, as I reported earlier this month, is the economy surged last quarter by 5.7 percent, the largest such expansion in six years. Adding to that optimism, the Federal Reserve yesterday said business equipment output was up 0.9 percent in January, slightly higher that December's 0.7 percent.

IT output jumped 1.7 percent, marking the third consecutive monthly gain of more than 1 percent for IT gear. That has reflected in strong earnings reports from Cisco, Intel, Microsoft and, yesterday, HP, which posted an 8 percent increase in revenues and boosted its outlook for the year.

That should bode well for SMBs, which are typically the first to lead recoveries from recessions. But a troubling report in BusinessWeek underscores the fact that SMBs this time aren't leading that recovery. Instead, SMBs are continuing to let go of employees and reduce capital spending.

Only 20 percent of those surveyed by the Federation of Independent Business plan to make capital outlays. Even more concerning, 3 percent see sales increasing, -1 percent say they plan to hire more employees, 1 percent expect the economy to improve and 5 percent believe it's a good plan to expand, according to the FIB survey (PDF). And -13 percent expect credit lines to open up.

Small businesses continue to hurt, that same BusinessWeek piece said, noting a Feb. 1 report by the Federal Reserve saying that banks continue to hold back on offering credit to them.

Probably none of this is surprising, but it is rather sobering. How is this affecting your ability to sell solutions to prospects? Have you found avenues of financing for your own business or that of your clients? Perhaps you've turned to leasing, private equity or even the venture capital community? Please share them with us. Drop me a line at jschwartz@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/18/2010 at 10:52 AM5 comments


SAP Seeks Happiness

It's been a dramatic week for SAP, whose software runs the operational underpinnings of some of the largest enterprises. The company shook up its executive suite, replacing CEO Leo Apotheker with co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe. SAP today also disclosed the departure of former SAP CEO John Schwarz.

Listening to founder and chairman Hasso Plattner speak on Monday during a press conference that was webcast, it was a day of reckoning for the company to acknowledge its missteps and apologize to its customers for gouging them.

Those weren't his exact words but he tacitly acknowledged SAP has to find a new engine of growth besides imposing heavy maintenance and licensing fees. "We are a public company, and profit is everything," Plattner said. "But in order to be profitable, it needs to be a happy company. I will do everything possible to make SAP a happy company again. And in order to be profitable and please the shareholders, we have to focus on our customers, and we have to make the customers and their employees happy, as well."

During the Q&A portion of the call, a reporter asked if Plattner was acknowledging that SAP was an unhappy company. Clearly resenting the question, Plattner responded, "Please don't turn it around that we are unhappy. Take it that we have to be happier. Happy companies are companies who enjoy their success, their strategy, and are marching forward at the highest possible speed without complaining. SAP has the capacity, has the strategy, has the development on its way, and it takes unfortunately some time with our huge customer base."

Forrester Research analyst Paul Hamerman said in a blog post that Plattner said the right things. "He's got this right: taking care of your customers makes your company successful. Forcing profitability via price increases and sales tactics is not a sustainable recipe for success," he wrote.

True happiness for SAP, of course, will come when it can -- among other things -- address its stalled cloud strategy. The company launched its Business ByDesign, a SaaS-based application suite, in 2008 but angered larger enterprise customers by saying it was targeted at organizations with 100 to 500 employees, according to a research alert released by Saugatuck Technology today.

"SAP's strong prevailing culture and its need to protect its R/3 cash flows fundamentally forbade the company from pursuing offerings that could replace it," the report said.

I spoke with one of the report's authors, Saugatuck founder and CEO Bill McNee, who described four challenges facing SAP.

The biggest changes SAP must face are cultural. "They have a very significant cultural transition where they have focused historically on the large enterprise customer almost to a fault and a legacy around the big deal, to a technology-not-invented-here syndrome," McNee said.

Second, the company needs to accelerate cloud strategy. "They need to better articulate their cloud vision," he said.

Third, the company needs to figure out how to bring forth the right technology and monetize it.

And finally, if SAP really wants to succeed in targeting the small and medium business market, it needs to come up with an accelerated go-to-market strategy. That also means shedding its legacy of primarily selling direct to customers. "SAP has less experience building partner networks that will enable them to succeed in the small to medium market," McNee said.

If SAP is successful with its Business ByDesign offering and building up a partner eco system, it is likely to butt heads with Microsoft's Dynamics business, McNee said. "Microsoft's channel should stay alert to changing customer requirements, and evolving offerings from Microsoft, going forward."

What will it take to bring happiness to those buying and selling ERP, CRM and other business solutions? Share your thoughts by droping me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/11/2010 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Feeling the Google Buzz?

Google's latest stab at social networking is creating a lot of "buzz," but it remains to be seen whether it will become as dominant as Facebook or Twitter. Based on initial reactions, it doesn't appear to be a threat. The real question, though, is whether it will make Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) a stronger contender in the enterprise.

Make no mistake: That's one of the company's goals with Google Buzz, which uses the inbox as a way of bringing together all of one's social networking activities.

"The inbox is the center of attention for many people's online communication, but the way today's social tools interact with e-mail is pretty limited," said Todd Jackson, the product manager for Buzz, speaking at Google's headquarters at an event that was webcast. "With Buzz, we wanted to change that and bring social updates to your inbox in a way that goes beyond normal e-mail."

Buzz got off to a curious start, rattling some of its Gmail users. "OK, Google Buzz, you've made your point. Now how do I shut [you] off?" tweeted Jeffrey McManus, CEO of Platform associates, the developer of Aprover.com and a Gmail user.

I asked McManus, a longtime user of social networks and well-known in the .NET development community, for his thoughts on Google's long-term prospects in the enterprise.

"Buzz brings very little that's new to the table," he responded.

Burton Group analyst Guy Creese agreed in a blog post this morning. Creese and others believe that Microsoft already has a superior answer to Buzz in its Outlook Social Connector, which will appear in Office 2010, due for release this spring. While it remains to be seen how well Outlook Social Connector will be received, Creese believes it's a good start and will appeal to those comfortable with Outlook.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft seems to feel the same way. ZDnet blogger and Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley said in a blog post yesterday that Microsoft doesn't appear to be concerned. "Are the Softies quaking in their boots? Not exactly," she wrote.

However, some analysts suggest that while Buzz may not displace Facebook and Twitter, it could gain traction. "Despite mediocre past attempts at social networking products such as Orkut or Dodgeball," wrote Interpret analyst Michael Gartenberg in a blog post, "Buzz is likely to attract a strong following by virtue of its tight integration into Gmail and the ability for Google to expose the service to advanced as well as novice users immediately."

I'd like to hear from those who've used Outlook Social Connector and Google Buzz and get your thoughts. And for those in the channel selling Office and SharePoint, what's your take? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/10/2010 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Microsoft Clams Up on BPOS-Lite Rumor

Microsoft has removed a job posting seeking a manager for a new hosted offering intended to bring e-mail and collaboration services to SMBs.

The service is code-named "BPOS-Lite," according to text of the posting, which was revealed Monday by ZDNet.com and Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley. "BPOS 'Lite'...is part of the 'next wave' of services targeting professional individuals and smaller organizations, offering Microsoft's best collaboration, communications and productivity services," the now-removed posting said.

The manager hired for the position will be charged with developing business strategy, including creating a go-to-market model, launching services and developing service enhancements, according to the posting. The manager will "act as strong advocate for BPOS-Lite with corporate, field and partner teams; with analysts; and at industry and customer events," according to the post.

Microsoft isn't commenting, though its partner group has tweeted Foley's post. "We are always working on the next wave of Microsoft Online Services, offering Microsoft's best collaboration, communications and productivity services to businesses of all sizes," said a prepared statement e-mailed by a company spokesperson. "Although we do not have details available to share today, we look forward to sharing more at a later date."

Perhaps that later date will land during Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. that's slated for July, speculated The VAR Guy.

One person who's heard rumblings about BPOS-Lite is Bob Leibholz, vice president of business development at New York-based Intermedia, a Microsoft Gold Certified partner and one of the largest BPOS hosting providers with over 250,000 Microsoft Exchange seats. Leibholz said Microsoft hasn't given him any information about the service and he's wondering if it may put a tighter squeeze on him and his partners.

Leibholz made his displeasure known last fall when Microsoft cut the pricing of BPOS from $15 a month per subscriber to $10.

"From my perspective, they devalued BPOS last year when they decreased the price, and a concept of BPOS-Lite, which is basically another price concession, fundamentally continues to miss the understanding of value and rather compete purely on price," Leibholz said in an interview today.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has experienced scattered outages with its BPOS service over the past week, most recently yesterday. According to a letter to customers last week from Microsoft's Online Services team, the root cause of the outages were issues with networking. "We hold ourselves to the very highest standard," the letter said. "And yesterday, we didn't meet it."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/02/2010 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Will Apple's iPad Define Slate Computing?

While there's no shortage of opinions as to whether Apple will catch lightning in a bottle for a third time with its new iPad, there's a good case to be made that the initial entry could be a boon to those developing PC-based slates.

As media critic David Carr reports today in The New York Times, the iPad "is a device for consuming media, not creating it." That's not to suggest that future releases won't raise the bar, but as many observers suggest, Apple also has to make sure not to offer too much and risk cannibalizing its MacBook product line.

Ironically, this is the same issue Microsoft faced in its initial hesitation to embrace netbooks. But the real potential of the iPad and similar Windows 7-based devices, such as one anticipated from Hewlett-Packard, is for them to let individuals consume content as a companion to one's computing experience, not a replacement. That's where the concept of the iPad and Windows 7-based slates could shine.

Among the biggest criticisms of the iPad is that it can't multitask and won't support Adobe's Flash (nor are there known plans for it to support Microsoft's Silverlight). In a Wired magazine report, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was reported to have told employees in a profanity-laden rant that Flash is too buggy and that Adobe is lazy. "No one will be using Flash," Jobs reportedly said. "The world is moving to HTML 5."

Adrian Ludwig, general manager for Adobe's Flash platform product organization, suggests in a blog post that he believes Apple's real motive is control over content. "It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers," Ludwig wrote. "Without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of Web content, including over 70 percent of games and 75 percent of video on the Web."

Several content producers tell The Times that the stalemate could indeed hasten acceptance of HTML 5. John Gruber, author of the popular Mac blog Daring Fireball, wrote that it "used to be you could argue that Flash, whatever its merits, delivered content to the entire audience you cared about. That's no longer true, and Adobe's Flash penetration is shrinking with each iPhone OS device Apple sells."

Meanwhile, as Windows 7-based slates come out this year, it is possible that OEMs will play both sides of the coin. Those that support Windows 7 already effectively support Flash, Silverlight and other runtime environments, presuming they don't strip those capabilities out. Because of the broader ecosystem of devices, some will purely access content, while others will both create and view it.

But regardless of how you view the iPad or slate computing in general, Apple has put a stake in the ground for a class of devices that potentially can redefine how we consume content, advancing on what Amazon has done with the Kindle.

Let's see what HP and the rest of its Wintel brethren bring out.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/01/2010 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Accenture's Mistake with Tiger Woods Transcends Fiasco

When Accenture last week ditched Tiger Woods as its sole pitchman, it served as a key reminder of what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket.

Accenture is one of the largest independent providers of IT consulting, integration and outsourcing services with annual revenues of $21.58 in fiscal year 2009. The company, which had blanketed Woods across all media in its "We Know What it Takes to be a Tiger" campaign last week scrubbed all vestiges of Woods from its Web site and removed all posters and other collateral from its offices, according to a front page story in The New York Times.

Until last month, the golf champion had an unblemished image. It all came apart with daily allegations of indiscretions and infidelities that have since dominated the news. Accenture last week issued a statement saying "the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative," and that it will roll out a new campaign in 2010.

The new campaign will continue to carry its High Performance Delivered” message, Accenture said. While Accenture and its ad agencies are undoubtedly scrambling to come up with a new strategy, it might be advisable not to have that message riding on one point of failure, especially considering the fact that enterprise customers expect their services providers to avoid that very thing from happening in their IT environments.

According to the Times report, Woods appeared in 83 percent of Accenture's ads. Besides having so much riding on Woods, columnist Frank Rich yesterday pointed to a conversation he had last week with New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica. "If Tiger Woods was so important to Accenture, how come I didn’t know what Accenture did when they fired him," Lupica asked Rich, in his weekly column.

Granted most buyers of IT consulting and integration services are familiar with Accenture, its revenues and profits have declined over the past year. So maybe it was time for the company to reshape how it delivered its value proposition. Even if Tiger Woods fiasco hadn't unfolded, perhaps he wasn't the best representative for a company providing IT services after all, notes Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot, during an e-mail exchange we had last week.

"If you want to come across as hip, fast, physically gifted, by all means hire Tiger Woods," DeGroot said. "The lesson is, align your [message] with your company image."

 

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 12/21/2009 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Will Oracle Be Good For Java?

Of course that's a question critics have been asking since Sun Microsystems agreed to be acquired by Oracle earlier this year for $7.4 billion. Sun founder and chairman Scott McNealy looked to reassure his faith that Oracle will be good for Java. Speaking in a keynote address at this week's Oracle OpenWorld 2009 conference in San Francisco, McNealy gave his blessing and then called on VP and Sun Fellow James Gosling, known as the "father of Java" to give his take.

"You look at Oracle's product mix, they're committed," Gosling told attendees. "Their fastest growing products are all big bags of Java code, and over the years Oracle has been great contributors to the whole process. Most people use Java each and every day, and behind a lot of these Java apps are big bags of Oracle code and it's been pretty wonderful."

As I wrote back in August, developers are still concerned about the fate of the Java Community Process. The European Commission's inquiry of the Oracle centers around what Oracle will do with MySQL, which the company said at Open World it intends to invest in, following remarks by CEO Larry Ellison to that effect last month.

As for Java, the McNeally-Gosling love fest aside at Open World, what's your take? Feel free to comment below or drop me a line at jschwartz@1105.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/13/2009 at 9:03 AM0 comments


Do IT Architects Need Better Certification?

The Industry Association of Software Architects conference is set to take place later this month in New York.

As I reported last month, this month's IASA IT Architect Regional Conference is being billed as the largest gathering of IT architects because such luminaries as Grady Booch, Len Bass, John Zachman, Eric Evans, Rob High and Angela Yochem are slated to speak.

According to IASA CEO Paul Preiss, many of these architects have never met each other. But also at the conference, IASA is kicking off a new certification program for IT and software architects.

The new professional CITA program involves intensive training, according to Preiss. "It is a full board examination by a set of peers that actually tests an architect on their ability to deliver against the IASA skills taxonomy," he said. "So it basically says that IASA claims that this person is not only an architect but a good architect."

The report begged the question by Peter Kent, a program manager at G&B Solutions in Reston, VA. "How will the IASA certification be different from FEAC enterprise architecture certification?" he asked.

I ran the question by Preiss, and here's his answer.

  • CITA is a multi-level, multi-specialization certification. We have entry level and full professional levels.
  • CITA is not related to a particular framework such as TOGAF, FEAF, or DODAF.
  • CITA is skill based and therefore focused on delivery underlying all frameworks and implementations.
  • CITA is run and delivered by the profession. For a distinction think about the difference (make believe) between the current board certifications for doctors and one run by Pfizer.
  • Last but not least, CITA is based on a common distinguishing value proposition for all architects. With both FEAC and ITAC it is difficult to determine what they suggest architecture is, much less why employers should hire them.

It will be interesting to see how many take advantage of  the newCITA program, especially in these tight economic times. Many who are either independent or work for organizations that have slashed their training budgets may have to flip the bill themselves, presuming they feel it will enhance their career prospects.

What's your take? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/01/2009 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Why Larry Ellison Doesn't Want To Spin Off MySQL

The fate of MySQL has been top of mind since Oracle agreed to acquire Sun Microsystems earlier this year for $7.4 billion. Will Oracle spin it off, treat it as a strategic asset or let it die a slow death?

Well, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison this week finally shed some light on that question during an interview by none other than Ed Zander, who was once president and COO of Sun. Ellison made his remarks during the interview, at The Churchill Club, a non-profit Silicon Valley forum.

"We're not going to spin it off," Ellison told Zander (video courtesy of TechPulse360).  "The U.S. government cleared this, we think the Europeans are aware we are not going to spin it off." As reported earlier this month, the European Commission said it is investigating the deal based on concerns about the impact it will have on MySQL. The move came just weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice approved the deal.

"MySQL and Oracle don't compete," Ellison said. Rather Oracle competes with IBM's DB2, Microsoft's SQL Server and databases from Sybase and Teradata, among others.

Forrester analyst Noel Yuhanna  believes MySQL could become a strategic asset to Oracle. "MySQL has become a major force and a threat to Oracle and Microsoft," Yuhanna said in an email. He points out that companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Skype, Safeway, Comcast, and others that are already a major users of MySQL.

"And many others are considering looking at making it part of their database strategy, including some large Fortune 100 companies," Yuhanna noted. That said, MySQL fills an important gap in Oracle’s market, which is in the small to medium sized applications, where Microsoft SQL Server has dominated for years, he added.

"We believe MySQL will be positioned against SQL Server and also offering a migration path to Oracle databases, so this acquisition, especially MySQL, is critical for Oracle and I am sure Microsoft is watching is very closely."

And perhaps in this case Microsoft is in the ironic position of routing for the European Commission?

What's your take? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com or post a comment below.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/25/2009 at 10:52 AM0 comments


What Are Microsoft's Intentions with CodePlex Foundation?

When Microsoft announced that it is seeding the new CodePlex Foundation, as reported last week, many critics began questioning the real intentions in Redmond.

Two key questions: why did Microsoft need to go out and establish yet another foundation in the open source world, when there are numerous ones such as Open Source Initiative, Free Software Foundation, SourceForge or even the Apache Foundation, among others?

"There are already existing entities, why does Microsoft have to create one of their own?" asked independent developer and Microsoft MVP Roy Osherove, chiming in on a podcast hosted by Microsoft principle program manager Scott Hanselman over the weekend (if you want to know more about Microsoft's point of view on the CodePlex Foundation, listen to the entire podcast here).

The other question focuses on the fact that Microsoft is losing Sam Ramji, its director of platform strategy who oversees the company’s open source and Linux initiatives. Will it find an open source champion who can fill his shoes and have clout with Ballmer and company?

"Behind the scenes he's always been fighting the good fight," said Miguel de Icaza, founder of the Mono Project and a Novell VP, in an interview. Ramjii, who is serving as interim president of the CodePlex Foundation, recruited de Icaza, among many others in the open source community, to be on the foundation's board of directors.

"He did a lot of back and forth for many years helping us navigate Microsoft and tried to understand what was going on and help us change Microsoft's position, and getting them to put things under the Community Promise."

Among others in the open source community who signed on are Monty Widenius, founder of MySQL. Widenius described the CodePlex Foundation as "an unusual opportunity," in a blog posting this week. Here's a synopsis of his reason for supporting the effort:

"CodePlex allows Microsoft developers to more easily participate in Open Source projects, without a lot of red tape. There are many developers at Microsoft that are very pro Open Source, and would like to participate more than they are able to at present. Note that since CodePlex supports all relevant Open Source licenses, there is nothing hindering contributions to CodePlex to find its way into projects elsewhere in the FOSS ecosystem from there.

Why should Microsoft be trusted to have good intentions with the CodePlex Foundation? Simply, I believe that it's in Microsoft's direct interest that the CodePlex Foundation [to] become a success. Of course, we all know that Microsoft will primarily ensure that the Open Source projects in which they participate will run better on Windows and with Microsoft products. But this doesn't change the fact that this is a still a great thing for Open Source software.

Of course, people will continue to worry about Microsoft's intents and maybe that is understandable. In my experience, Microsoft as a big company seems to be a "company divided," with some segments appearing to understand and embrace Open Source, and others acting against these understandings. (In fact, this is another thing I can relate to from my personal history.) But now we have an opportunity to see Microsoft at their best as regards Open Source and Free Software, and even help them out in the effort. This is, indeed, an unusual opportunity."

Aaron Fulkerson, founder and CEO of Mindtouch, a provider of open source enterprise collaboration software also joined the board of advisors. In a blog posting, explained his reasons for joining:

"The motivation is simple. The more developers building on .NET and Microsoft technologies the better it is for Microsoft. .NET technologies are behind Java and PHP in adoption. The gap will continue to widen. Why? You need look no further than the wealth of open source Java and PHP libraries and components available to developers.

The cost of maintaining .NET as a viable development platform will only continue to increase for Microsoft as open source development platforms continue to attract the majority of college students and businesses due to the inherent lower costs of taking products to market. Moreover, for those of us who develop on .NET, e.g. - MindTouch, it will become increasingly challenging to be competitive should there not be an ecosystem of similar open source libraries and tools available."

However, just days before launching the CodePlex Foundation, the Open Invention Network said it had acquired 22 Linux-based patents from Allied Security Trust, which had acquired them from Microsoft. The goal was to ensure the patents did not fall into the hands of patent trolls.

In a blog posting last week, Red Hat Software questioned Microsoft's intentions. Rob Tiller, Red Hat's VP and general counsel, said in an interview that the move should be looked at with caution. "We're very concerned that Microsoft has adopted what seems to us a new strategy of seeking out, patent trolls and offering at auction its patents while pointing the way toward open source software and providers of open source software as targets for litigation," he said. The concern, he explained, is that Microsoft will use the patents to force parties into secretive negotiations under fear of litigation.

So is Red Hat not buying Microsoft's moves to embrace the open source community? Not exactly, Tiller said. "It's consistent with the zig zag pattern we've seen," he said. "On the one hand, they're speaking friendly words and taking seemingly accommodating actions towards open source and at the same time on another track behaving in an anything but a friendly manor."

Do you think is playing both sides of the fence or is it really trying to be a good open source citizen? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 09/15/2009 at 10:52 AM0 comments


DOJ Clears Oracle-Sun Deal but Questions Remain

The United States Department of Justice has given the green light for Oracle to proceed with its $7.4 billion deal to acquire Sun Microsystems, Oracle announced Thursday. The European Commission is expected to make its ruling by September 3.

Apparently DOJ brushed aside concerns over the fate of the Java Community Process (JCP), despite inquiring about it last month. That inquiry was not expected to be a deal breaker, noted Burton Group analyst Ann Thomas Mannes at the time.

Perhaps we will see more clarity on the fate of the JCP, JavaFX, MySQL and the company's plans to assimilate the rest of Sun during Oracle's Open World conference, which begins October 11?

Meanwhile, don't expect the open source world to sit still. Could VMWare's pending acquisition of SpringSource (which this week launched Cloud Foundry) become a haven for Java developers? Will the Open Database Alliance bring forth viable alternatives to MySQL? EnterpriseDB and Ingres are already taking advantage of the uncertainty. You can be sure that Adobe and Microsoft won't let JavaFX rain on their parades either. And expect to hear more from Red Hat about how it will look to advance JBoss as a middleware alternative at JBoss World in Chicago Sept. 1. To be sure, those are just a few examples. Drop me a line with your concerns and observations at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 08/21/2009 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Inside IBM's Push Into Real Time Predictive Analytics

I attended an event for analysts and media on Tuesday at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Hawthorne, N.Y., where the company launched its Smart Analytics System.

However the news of its new offering and future roadmap was drowned out when IBM announced that it has agreed to acquire SPSS, a leading provider of real time predictive analytics software, for $1.2 billion (see original story here). Pending shareholder and regulatory approval, the deal is slated to close by year's end.

Chicago based SPSS is regarded as the leading provider of real-time predictive analytics software. With 1,200 employees, its technology is widely used by enterprises worldwide. During the event, I sat down with Forrester analyst James Kobielus, who said this is a significant move by IBM. "The SPSS acquisition is strategic for IBM," Kobielus said.

While IBM last year gained a leading business intelligence and analytics portfolio via its $4.9 billion acquisition of Cognos, the key component IBM lacked in its Information on Demand (IOD) offering was a best of breed data minding offering. "This fills out the portfolio," Kobielus said. In a blog posting, he described the deal as a "bold move has already sent shockwaves throughout the analytics market." You can read his entire reaction to the SPSS deal here.

SPSS is the second largest provider of predictive analytics data mining statistical analytics tools, he noted. The largest is SAS Institute. He pointed to few overlaps with SPSS such as IBM's DB2 Intelligent Miner within the InfoSphere portfolio, though he predicts that will be phased out as IBM builds out the SPSS brand within its IOD portfolio.

"Fundamentally their technology is componentized so we can embed it anywhere," said Amuj Goyal, general manager of IBM Software’s information management software organization.

It remains to be seen whether IBM will continue SPSS integration with other data warehouse providers including Oracle, Microsoft, Sybase, and Teradata. "I doubt IBM will rock the boat," Kobielus told me, saying its in its interest to keep SPSS offerings heterogeneous.

Meanwhile, the news that got drowned out by the deal was the launch of the IBM Smart Analytics System (IAS).

The system consists of an IBM pSeries server based running AIX, that includes storage, networking, various other services and a suite of IBM’s data mining tools including its DB2 database, Cognos BI and InfoSphere Warehouse. It will be available in September with a starting configuration of 4 terabytes and up to 200 Tbytes. Pricing was not disclosed.

Kobielus said IAS extends IBM's existing portfolio of data warehousing appliances. "What it adds is pre-integrated business content geared to particular vertical and horizontal markets. So it includes DB2, the data warehouse appliance, IBM Information Server, data integration and design tools plus the application specific or vertical specific dashboards and workflows and meta data and cleansing tools."

What does IAS mean if you're a developer? "IBM is very much turning its data warehouse portfolio into an application server in that they are pre bundling all of these solution components and providing application development interfaces to allow ISVs to build targeted applications on top of IAS," Kobielus said. "It's really a development platform, and ties into a services oriented architecture. IBM hasn't really called out that theme but it's undoubtedly part of their road map."

IBM said it will release by year's end technology it calls an Analytics Optimizer, which combines hardware and software to perform even faster analytic queries. "We are doing in-memory exploitation, we are exploiting vector processing inside this predictive optimizer, we are evaluating predicates in parallel using new scanning technologies," Goyal explained.

The goal, said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive for IBM Software Group, is much faster queries with the target of real time business automation "One hour queries for many people don’t cut it," Mills said. "Five second queries all of a sudden start to open up the aperture to more creative thinking."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/30/2009 at 10:52 AM0 comments


DOJ Probe Of Oracle-Sun Deal Gives OSS Proponents A Voice

When Oracle late last month said the Department of Justice wanted more information on how Java is licensed before signing off on its agreement to acquire Sun Microsystems, it mainly went under the radar.

Oracle indicated in its disclosure that it doesn't see the inquiry as a barrier to closing the deal later this summer. Burton Group analyst Ann Thomas Manes agrees. "It just means they are not on the fast path, it will just delay things -- that's all," she said.

But it also underscores discontent over how Sun currently oversees the Java Community Process (JCP), said Ovum analyst Tony Baer. "No one was overjoyed about Sun's leadership of the JCP and it's not like Oracle engenders a warm and fuzzy feeling either," Baer said.

In the latest twist, MySQL founder Monty Widenius has stepped into the picture. Widenius, who jumped ship from Sun Microsystems and recently formed the Open Database Alliance, is urging those that fear Oracle might abandon the open source framework of MySQL to weight in with the DOJ.

Widenius has some clout. DOJ officials interviewed him last week for the second time, in particular how the deal might impact open source software, notably MySQL and Java. In a blog posting last week, Widenius said he has been approached in recent months from MySQL customers concerned about its future.

"From this it's clear that most MySQL users are very interested to know what Oracle is up to, but those that have tried to inquire Oracle about this, myself included, have been met with complete silence," he wrote in the blog posting, where he gave the following advice:

"For those that are worried about the future of OSS software as part of the Oracle / Sun deal, and the affect (both good and bad) it may have on their business, the U.S..Department of Justice is encouraging companies that are dependent on MySQL / Java to contact them and tell them how the deal may affect their business," he noted. "The more information the department gets, the better equipped they will be in deciding what their recommendation for the deal will be."

Manes pointed out that if Oracle decides it is not going to give away the run time for free, or if it were to bring back the source code and no longer make it available, or in a worst-case scenario the company decided to dismantle the JCP, it has that right. "That's because Sun retains all governance rights to Java," she said. "Now I seriously doubt Oracle would do something quite so stupid, because it's certainly in their business interest to facilitate the Java market. When I talk to various government organizations regarding the acquisition, I have made that quite clear."

As a Java developer, what's your take on this? Do you think the DOJ should put restrictions on the deal? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/13/2009 at 10:52 AM0 comments


Can Google's Chrome OS Outshine Windows?

When a reporter accosted Bill Gates last week at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Idaho to solicit his reaction to the Google's announcement that it will launch an operating system targeted at netbooks, he said "no comment."

At that moment, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who was just a few feet away from Gates, said, "it would be better if you didn't make that comment."  While that widely reported sidebar described the two as laughing following the awkward encounter, the main story has generated some serious questions and debate.

Reaction is decidedly mixed. In its initial form though, it's hard to make direct comparisons between Chrome OS and Windows 7.  "I don't think that it's a direct frontal assault on Windows, it's more a flanking maneuver, in the sense that it's a use case of cloud computing from netbooks," said Gartner analyst Ray Valdes in an interview last week. "I think eventually it will have an impact on enterprises but not at least within the next three years."

The concept of a Web centric browser has not totally been lost on Microsoft either. Helen Wang, a senior researcher in Microsoft Research's Systems and Networking Group, will be presenting a paper next month on the Gazelle Web Browser, a project that seeks to evolve the browser into an operating system, according to a blog posting June 29.

Still Valdes warns not to read too much into Gazelle. "It's got minimal resources," he said. "I don't think Gazell itself will ever become a product but it's tough to believe that some of the concepts regarding it won't show up in Microsoft products."

As for Chrome OS, Valdes wrote in a blog posting "if Google delivers on its plan, it seems that Chrome OS will be the first cloud-oriented OS to ship."

Jay Lyman, an analyst at The 451 Group, agreed. "This is the most significant 'cloud' OS to date and it further demonstrates how in many ways and increasingly, the Internet is serving as the operating system for many devices and users," Lyman said in an e-mail.

While Lyman does see Google's move as an assault on Microsoft's Windows dominance, "the greater competitive threat may be to current Linux OS providers in the desktop and netbook space, such as Canonical and Xandros. Users who are already considering or using an alternative OS will likely be the biggest audience for Chrome OS."

Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady agrees. "The various Linux distributions are less highly differentiated from Chrome OS than is Windows," O'Grady wrote in a blog posting.  "Customers purchasing Windows are typically doing for specific reasons; they rely on Windows compatible applications, they're used to it, and so on. The competing Linux distributions enjoy no such visibility yet."

Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin sees it differently. In a blog posting last week, Zemlin declared Google's announcement as a victory for Linux. "The more companies and manufacturers base their products on Linux, the stronger Linux becomes," he wrote.

Because Chrome OS will be Linux based and open source, it could have implications for development, Lyman noted, given Google's size and influence. "It will be interesting to see what type of licensing and community path Google lays out for the new OS," Lyman noted.

Whether you are a developer or an architect, what's your take on how Chrome OS may some day impact the way you develop applications? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/12/2009 at 10:52 AM0 comments


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