How to Evaluate the Impact of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant on the Fortunes of Early Stage ISVs

Early stage ISVs are not likely candidates for Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. So anyone interested in specific technology genres covered by Gartner with Magic Quadrants should plan on digging deeper if a list of all important players is to be compiled.

The CMS Wire blog recently provided a list of some of the most important criteria Gartner reviews before deciding to include an ISV in a Magic Quadrant ranking.

In a post titled Gartner Names Wise Choices for Workplace Social Software (http://www NULL.cmswire NULL.com/cms/social-business/gartner-names-wise-choices-for-workplace-social-software-026480 NULL.php). Here are some of the criteria:

  • An ISV must employee at least 80 people, worldwide
  • ISVs with gross product sales less than $12 million, in the specific technology genre covered by the Magic Quadrant, will not be considered
  • Neither will any ISV with a customer list of less than 20 paid organizations representing 5K paid users

In this writer’s opinion, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is more of a curation of ISVs worth consideration by larger businesses, than anything else. A listing in the “Leaders” quadrant by no means identifies an ISV as particularly “innovative”. It may be helpful to think of the ISVs in this top right sector of the famous Gartner Magic Quadrant graph as the most widely adopted of the ISVs included in the ranking, with, perhaps, an extensive set of features.

Early stage ISVs should neither expect to be included in a Magic Quadrant, nor, in this writer’s opinion, agree to be considered for inclusion in one of these rankings. Technology consumers are not often aware, neither as to the criteria Gartner applies as one of these Magic Quadrants is assembled, nor as to how Gartner applies one of these rankings. So early stage ISVs passed over, but mentioned, are oftened incorrectly considered “also ran” entries.

Maintaining an under the radar posture is preferred. It may even make more sense to continue to decline opportunities to participate in a Magic Quadrant ranking after achieving the critical mass required of each participant. Why risk inclusion in any quadrant other than Leaders, given consumer misunderstanding of what the rankings actually mean.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

When Enterprise Business Chooses Amazon AWS, or Google Compute, Microsoft Often Wins, as Well

Anyone following Microsoft should develop an understanding of how a decision by a prominent enterprise IT organization to purchase IaaS from Amazon, AWS, or Google Compute,, more often than not, is a win for Microsoft, as well.

Scott Guthrie, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft, and head of Cloud and Enterprise Business, made this point during the Citi Global Technology Conference, on September 3, 2014 (http://view NULL.officeapps NULL.live NULL.com/op/view NULL.aspx?src=http://www NULL.microsoft NULL.com/investor/downloads/events/Citi_Guthrie NULL.docx). Guthrie observed ” . . . in the Azure world, or even in the AWS world, we still will make money from that Windows Server license”.

One can argue most of the needs for desktop computing for enterprise businesses, and their peers in the public, and not for profit sectors, remains all about the Microsoft Office suite, so when a Microsoft competitor, either Amazon AWS, or Google Compute, lands a big deal (for example, the US CIA decision to award a contract for a private cloud to Amazon, rather than IBM), Microsoft wins, as well.

If one keeps this understanding in mind, then the question of who actually dominates the market for cloud IaaS becomes less pressing. Additional details provided by Guthrie in his presentation, and his answers to questions posed by Walter Pritchard of Citigroup portray a different picture of this market than, perhaps, would otherwise be the case based on media pronouncements about it.

The commingling of ISVs throughout the whole process is much more extensive than one would otherwise expect. Pritchard focuses on instances where Microsoft Azure provides the IaaS for enterprise customers running higher value services (like analytics, CRM, ERP, etc) from other ISVs, and asks Guthrie: “How do you ultimately think about monetizing that type of an offering, where it is a premium service, but it’s not your IP and it might be something that either others get paid on, like Oracle, or is an open source no IP technology running on top of that?” Guthrie’s answer speaks to, perhaps, a new willingness, on Microsoft’s part, to embrace an extensively different enterprise computing world, where services from many ISVs are consumed by the same organization: ” . . . [t]here’s an analogy I’ve used within the team, which is keep your old friends and make new friends.” In other words, Micorosoft has transformed itself into something of a “platform agnostic” business, with much more confidence in its ability to make money either way. This should be good news for anyone following Microsoft.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

When Different Words Mean Different Things to Different Writers, Readers Feel the Pain

On Friday, September 12, 2014, the Wall Street Journal featured an article by Peter Thiel on competition and monopolies (http://online NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/peter-thiel-competition-is-for-losers-1410535536?KEYWORDS=Peter+Thiel). The Journal supported the article with a video interview with Thiel about his notion.

In the second paragraph of Thiel’s article he contrasts the financial performance of Google, in the year 2012, to the performance of the entire airline industry: “But in 2012, when the average airfare each way was $178, the airlines made only 37 cents per passenger trip. Compare them to Google, which creates less value but captures far more.” But what does “value” mean, and for whom? Unfortunately Thiel includes neither a definition of “value” nor much of any description, whatsoever, of just how Google “captures far more”.

One may argue Thiel’s failure to support his thesis with these points of detail is trivial. But, in this writer’s opinion, the lack of detail is, thematically, consistent with the rest of the “atmosphere” of this article, and, actually, a very important indicator of some “snake oil in the wine”. So neglecting to include any notion of what “value” means, Thiel proceeds further, and presents the core of his thesis: businesses should make best efforts to achieve monopolies in their industries, and avoid reacting to competitive pressure as much as possible.

Leaving aside, for a moment, the decidedly non free market capitalism at the core of an argument for monopolies, this writer would prefer to focus back on Thiel’s construct of Google vs the airlines as the preferred method of demonstrating, ultimately, a lack of connection between building a business plan to prosper by delivering value to a market, rather than building a business plan to prosper through some other means.

We are choosing to refer to the method Thiel evidently presumes Google implemented to make “100 times the airline industry profit margin that year [2012]” as simply “some other means” for a reason. In this writer’s opinion, there is no other way for a business to prosper than by delivering “value”. Google made a lot more profit than the entire airline industry because customers paid them, proportionately, more money for a product much less costly to develop than the cost of flying a jet plane, with hundreds of people on board, anywhere. They paid more money because they thought they received something more valuable from the product purchased from Google. They would not have paid this price had they thought otherwise.

Further, we would argue, airlines have failed to deliver any more value to customers other than a lowest possible price of a flight at a most convenient time because of market pressure, where consumers have come to expect essentially the same product to be delivered from any number of sources. Flights are, for better or worse, commodities. Back in 2012, click ads on Google were not.

We would recommend readers read Thiel’s article very closely and be wary of semantic stretches.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

New Product Introductions, Hosted by Big Tech Businesses, as a Genre of Marketing Communications Event, Need a Makeover

Mature ISVs, including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle, and Salesforce.com, to mention merely a few of the most prominent businesses in this industry segment, have made a habit of hosting new product exhibitions on a quarterly, or semi-annual basis. One of the usual objectives of this genre of corporate event is to magnetize someone prominent in the media to write about the new device before her, or him, as a great example of innovation. But, if some of the new products under scrutiny are representative of current trends in product marketing, perhaps the term innovation, itself, needs a makeover. Therefore, these events, in this writer’s opinion, may prove to be more of a waste of cash than anything much more.

Apple’s debut of the iPhone 6, and the iWatch on September 9, 2014 is a case in point. An enormous amount of editorial content has been created around the event, and, one can argue, Apple has benefited from a public relations success. A substantial segment of its target consumer market is sure to have more awareness about the products exhibited than would otherwise be the case.

But, we would argue, the public relations currency, upon which the presumption of benefit from the event is based, is grossly inflated. One buck in this new currency has the buying power, this writer would argue, of a penny of the older PR currency these events used to create.

The problem at the root of this spreading worthlessness, is a real disconnection between the items debuted and any semblance of a panacea for the burning needs of the targeted consumer market for the product category. In this writer’s opinion, the iPhone 6, the iWatch, and Apple’s announced tap and pay payment system are not what most consumers of smart phones, wrist gadgets and retail shoppers are after. It would not be a surprise if sales prove to be much lower than anticipated for these devices.

The difficulty of the notion of innovation is the abstraction inherent to the term. Innovation simply means different things to different people. But perhaps the common landscape beneath most credible notions of innovation includes the familiar accoutrements of either substantial lower acquisition and life cycle maintenance costs for consumers, or a substantially increased set of functionality. If either, or both of these types shrubbery are absent, there is little likelihood anything really innovative is at hand and we are all standing in a desert.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Microsoft Magnetizes a Large Turn Out for an Online Q&A About Delve, a New Feature of Office 365

On September 10, 2014, Microsoft’s Delve and Office 365 teams hosted an online question and answer session on Yammer. The session was very well attended by what appeared to be technical representatives from a cross section of corporate tenants of the Office 365 service. The question topics were all specific to Delve, a new feature of Office 365, which addresses data search from a new angle. Delve first serves results from the most frequently used content sources (prioritized in “trending” order). It can even push information out to Office 365 users from any content repository for which “signals” have been configured.

The Delve question and answer session took the form of a Yammer “yamjam”, which is, presumably, Yammer’s version of Twitter’s “tweetjam”. This writer noted well in excess of 100 posted questions on a wide range of topics. Of particular interest were several on the question of the controls available for corporate tenants to selectively expose content for search use to this new feature. The answers posted from Microsoft personnel indicated a lot of forethought had been undertaken by the Delve and Office 365 teams on the question of information privacy in advance of this public forum. So it should be safe to assume a comparatively smooth rollout for the feature.

On the topic of just how quickly Office 365 tenants can add the feature to their subscriptions, it appears the right answer is “very quickly”, indeed. With merely one changed settings to our Office 365 Enterprise plan subscription, we were able to set up our tenant for Delve. We were happy to find a new tab in our Office 365 ribbon within less than 2 hours of changing the setting. The feature is not yet operational, but we expect it to “wake up” overnight, or very soon, thereafter.

What kind of impact can the availability of a feature like Delve create for Office 365 consumers? Given the importance of search, as a persistent, daily activity for most Internet consumers, and the unique requirement of corporate online consumers for a type of search capable of sifting through a very wide range of content repositories, the short answer is likely to be “big and positive”. This likely reaction should be even more likely for corporate Office 365 consumers in heavily regulated industries.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Is the Norm for Developing New Consumer Computing Hardware Veering Off Track?

Whether one considers Apple’s September 9, 2014 debut of its watch, and new iPhone models, or Brian Krzanich’s Keynote for Intel’s IDF14 event (http://intelstudios NULL.edgesuite NULL.net/idf/2014/sf/keynote/140909_bk/index NULL.html) on the day before, a common product marketing approach permeates both presentations: the audience is presented with a lot of features, but little, if any statement of benefits to consumers.

One can certainly argue Krzanich’s audience is made up of developers, and, given his audience, his presentation is appropriate. But, in this writer’s opinion, even developers need to spend some time collecting, and studying the needs of the people who should end up consuming their new tech hardware devices. Turbo charged development is great, but if products of little interest to a broad consumer market hit the market much faster, the end result will, nevertheless, be the same — poor sales.

Yet neither Krzanich, nor the speakers at Apple’s event spoke to any burning consumer market needs for anything they presented. This oversight is unfortunate and a possible harbinger of a near term future disconnect between tech hardware manufacturers and the consumers they desperately need to service if they are to survive.

The history of manufacturing is filled with similar examples. In the past, when production technology advances, but product innovation fails to keep pace, engineering methodology can be said to have plateaued. Vertical ascent only resumes when some event serves as a shock to breakdown the walls between manufacturers and consumers. But, absent such a shock, a state of mediocrity can persist for an extended period of time.

Readers will do well to take note of the use of the term “innovation” in the paragraph above. When product development ceases to address the burning needs, really the pain points, consumers present, then, one can argue, new designs lose innovation. Unfortunately, Intel and Apple debuted less than innovative solutions at their respective events. As much of the online social media chatter has already unearthed, the “new” features of the iPhone 6 are not really new, at all. Rather, they are features some Apple competitors (Samsung and Windows Phone) have offered for years. So, to what extent would one call these new smart phone models “innovative”?

Unfortunately, this writer holds the opinion the relentless appetite the investment community maintains for publicly traded companies like Apple and Intel to maintain double digit sales growth, year after year, provides much of the impetus of the kind of product development we saw debuted at both events.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Secure, Cloud SaaS Offers Require Closely Managed Two Step Verification Controls

As both the number and intensity of successful attempts to subvert popular cloud, SaaS offers increases, some prominent industry experts are calling for mandatory two-step verification procedures. But, if past history provides us with any reliable metrics on the usefulness of these added security controls, two-step verification methods need to be tightly managed if they are to provide a useful deterrent to subversive attempts.

Just two days ago a post was published to this blog on a related topic. This post addressed the recent, highly publicized successful effort of hackers to penetrate a celebrity’s account on Apple’ iCloud storage service. This post advocated a broader, perhaps mandatory, requirement of consumers of services like iCloud, OneDrive, Google’s Drive, etc. Any/all users of these services should be required to implement two-step identity verification methods.

It was, therefore, encouraging for us to review a short video interview with Tim Bucher, a respected authority on online security topics. This interview, titled Apple iCloud options buried: Expert (http://video NULL.cnbc NULL.com/gallery/?video=3000308065), records very similar opinions, expressed by Bucher, to those voiced in the post to this blog.

But readers should be aware of a couple of instances, in the recent past, where two-step verification methods (including the RSA system Bucher describes in the interview) have been compromised.

Back in April, 2011, RSA’s SecurID system (http://bits NULL.blogs NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2011/04/02/the-rsa-hack-how-they-did-it/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0) was, unfortunately, successfully hacked. Of course RSA has long since cleaned up the errors, and, to their credit, the fact an expert of Bucher’s authority makes reference to the system as a reliable safeguard is good news.

Back in 2013, Duo Labs (https://www NULL.duosecurity NULL.com/blog/bypassing-googles-two-factor-authentication) identified, and subsequently publicized potentially dangerous problems with Google’s two-factor authentication system. Once again, these problems have been corrected.

The point of offering these examples is not to discourage readers from implementing similar trusted solutions, but, rather, to illustrate that any/all of these controls have vulnerabilities. When considered outside of the context of a sound attempt to implement an operational risk management policy truly capable of safeguarding online interaction with a cloud, SaaS offer, no control should ever be considered a completely infallible defense against hackers.

Readers may wonder just what constitutes “a sound attempt to implement an operational risk management policy”. Such an attempt is defined as an effort persistently enforced over any/all daily online computing instances. Any breakdown in the persistence of these procedures can, and, unfortunately, often does lead to successful subversive efforts.

Unfortunately, “dumbing down” doesn’t work when online computing is the activity at hand and the need is to safeguard confidential information.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Microsoft Provides Customers with Incentives to Hasten User Adoption of Office 365 Computing

On September 3, 2014, Microsoft published a press release [a]nnouncing Office 365 deployment benefits for new customers (http://blogs NULL.office NULL.com/2014/09/03/announcing-office-365-deployment-benefits-new-customers/). Now organizations can avail of a multi-featured program, offered directly through Microsoft, to increase the odds of success for larger organizations choosing Office 365 and SaaS for their office automation needs. The features of this program include direct management (at no additional charge for qualifying customers), by Microsoft, of the Office 365 onboarding process for any new customer purchasing 150 Office 365 seats, or more, for specific Office 365 subscription offers (which are listed in the press release).

The program also includes “the Office 365 adoption offer”. Under the terms of this offer, eligible organizations with 150-1000 seats on Office 365 can receive a cash payment from Microsoft of $15.00 per seat should they purchase consulting services from a “qualified partner of [their] choice” to “conduct adoption activities”. Similarly, eligible organizations with more than 1001 Office 365 seats will receive a cash payment from Microsoft of $5.00 per seat.

The notion of whether or not personnel within a larger organization require an adoption program, or not, has been, and remains a controversial issue for Microsoft’s customers for Office 365, and its predecessor, SharePoint. This writer is directly involved, currently, with a client marketing a set of solutions, which can be used to hasten user adoption of either Office 365, or SharePoint, so he can attest to the difficulties these organizations experience as they seek to define a real need for help in this area.

The September 3, 2014 press release from Microsoft should be of interest to anyone following this mature ISV’s business activities, as it includes direct mention of adoption as a step organizations ought to consider as they look into methods of rapidly transitioning from on premises office automation solutions, over to Office 365, cloud SaaS methods. Historically, some of Microsoft’s promotional information about SharePoint and, later, Office 365, attempted to emphasize the ease of use for average users, out-of-the-box. This announcement, in contrast, directly addresses the difficulties most organizations experience as they attempt to migrate over to Office 365, and, further, includes an offer for Microsoft to contribute to the funding of an effort (adoption) to ease the process.

In this writer’s opinion, the program Microsoft has announced should contribute, at a minimum, to more larger organizations seriously considering Office 365. The upside potential looks promising.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

Has Apple Mishandled the Question of the Security of Private Information Stored on iCloud?

Note: this post was written on September 3, 2014

In, perhaps, one of the strongest examples, in recent memory, of the wisdom of Murphy’s Law, Apple finds itself 6 calendar days away from a major announcement, but the promising opportunity it presents (for Apple to advance the positive features of its brand) is moving further away from its grasp, seemingly by the moment. In fact, the September 9, 2014 scheduled even may even be transformed into an unpleasant question and answer session on a difficult topic if public sentiment continues to trend further in its present direction.

Unfortunately for Apple, on Labor Day, September 1, 2014, a story broke detailing the theft of personal information — photographs — of at least one celebrity, Jennifer Lawrence. But the theft of Lawrence’s personal data, apparently a hack of her iCloud account, is not, in this writer’s opinion, the complete problem facing Apple just a few days from its otherwise promising fall public relations event.

The real problem is how Apple’s own Public Relations team has responded to questions about the security of iCloud as a cloud SaaS offer for secure online storage of personal data.

Without thrashing over the details of the response, it should suffice to sum it up as an editorial denial of legitimacy. In other words, Apple’s public voice states, forcibly, the claims iCloud is insecure are all wrong.

The problem with this type of rhetorical convention is the way it moves the focus of debate away from the points likely to matter to an ISV (in this case Apple), and over to points of vulnerability for the general public, where the odds of Apple’s PR team successfully convincing an audience of the truth of this editorial position aren’t nearly as promising.

So, for the more technical segment of Apple’s public audience, the focus has now shifted to a document in Apple’s knowledge base, Apple ID: Security and Your Apple ID (http://support NULL.apple NULL.com/kb/ht4232). Sure, most of the text of the article spells out steps Apple has taken to seamlessly protect its users (these are summed up in the mandatory requirement of complex passwords). But, tellingly, the section on the optional step of enabling two step verification over one’s Apple ID doesn’t work to Apple’s favor. Given the gravity of delivering a secure cloud, SaaS computing experience for the general public, the technical segment appears to argue a safeguard like two-step authentication, ought not to have been presented as an option. Rather, it should have been plainly presented as a mandatory control each and every user must take.

After all, from a risk management perspective, a control like two step verification should be a mandatory feature of a truly secure repository located anywhere. But presenting this control as a mandatory step is, today, is a tacit assumption of a “best of all possible worlds” view with regard to how the general public goes about completing their computing activities. In contrast, the computing realities of 2014 have been designed more to “dumb down” potentially complex computing procedures like two step verification, than to foster them. So Apple lines up with its peers, and adopts a more lenient stance as regards the applications of these controls.

Unfortunately, the reason for scrutiny of Apple’s policy doesn’t work to this ISV’s favor. Once again, Apple is certainly not alone in this, but the choice of the public relations team to deny the obvious, in this writer’s opinion, should have been subjected to more scrutiny before it was publicized.

The lesson here for early stage ISVs is to plan on reacting to a problem like Apple’s by admitting culpability, rather than denying it. After all, the point of weakness, in this case, is precisely the same for any number of Apple’s peers. Apple could have chosen to stand up as a leader and notify the public of a decision to make two step verification a mandatory control over all Apple IDs. Let’s all hope they needn’t come to regret the position they took.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

It Pays to Spend Time in the North American Sales Team at Oracle

On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, Brian Womack, for Bloomberg, reported a Google announcement of a name change on one of its product lines. “Google Enterprise” became “Google for Work”. The executive quoted in Womack’s article, titled Google Renames Enterprise Unit to Target Growing Market (http://www NULL.bloomberg NULL.com/news/2014-09-02/google-renames-enterprise-unit-to-target-growing-market NULL.html), was Amit Singh, President of Google Enterprise. In this brief report, Singh is quoted as pointing to the market in front of the new product as “one of the big growth opportunities for Google”.

But, in this writer’s opinion, of even more importance than the announcement is the professional background of the announcer, himself, Amit Singh. Readers should note Singh joined Google back in 2010, when he left his position as a Vice President of Sales at Oracle, North America, to become the President of Google Enterprise. A quick review of his public profile on LinkedIn produces more detail about the roles Singh played for Oracle. He was part of the North American sales team, responsible for the Northeast.

So it is safe to assume Singh reported into Keith Block, President of Salesforce.com, when Block held the position of EVP North America for Oracle. Perhaps during his time at Oracle he had some opportunities to work with Judson Althoff, now President of Microsoft, North America, who, from 2002 to 2013 held the position of Senior Vice President at Oracle, Worldwide Alliances, Channels and Embedded sales.

What early stage ISVs should glean from all of this overlapping experience for individuals presently at the top of some prominent lines of business for 3 of the leading mature technology businesses in the United States, today, is the very narrow path, forward, of truly successful sales and marketing talent for the larger business market for software. It is no small fact each of these three executives spent a considerable amount of time in management positions at Oracle.

A successful experience set marketing and selling software solutions to these businesses is very distinct from a similarly successful experience set selling to SMBs, or to consumers. The present positions of each of these three individuals is a tribute to how well Oracle mastered the processes required to attain the position it has held as a premier supplier of software to these markets.

If a business model requires the type of sales and marketing expertise possessed by Messrs Singh, Block and Althoff, then limiting the scope of applicants to Oracle, SAP, EMC, and, perhaps, IBM may make the most sense. The best way of digging deeply into the backgrounds and personalities at hand, of course, would be retained search.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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