It takes more than design components to produce online editorial content likely to attract habitual use from readers

Medium (http://www NULL.medium NULL.com) and Tumblr (http://www NULL.tumblr NULL.com) both offer visually strong statements to readers. The editorial content published on both sites, from a visual perspective, can be said to be a consistent combination of very prominent images and text laid out with special fonts and background color. Ostensibly the presentation should drive engagement. But readers are likely to experience difficulty getting to the content they want as the result of less than ideal curation efforts. In the case of Tumblr, less than ideal curation, in this writer’s opinion, will likely lead to lower revenue.

There is no search box on Medium. Perhaps this is intentional. Tumblr has a search box. Running a query for “tech” brought up an enormous page of en vogue “cards” (if readers aren’t acquainted with “cards” they are the now familiar graphical branding for information on most smart phone displays and tablets with browsers trapped in mobile view only). While the presentations may captivate attention, a running list of semantic abstractions — “futurescope”, “thetechgets”,”prostheticknowledge” — are completely opaque, leaving readers with a simple binary choice: either jump in and search around on a hit or miss, or just pass. This writer opted to simply pass. It’s likely a lot of other readers will take the same course of action, if their reason for landing on Tumblr is to find something specific, rather than just searching around.

Missing a likely subtle nuance about the differences in behavior exhibited between business users after some specific information, and folks wandering around a super store, passing down aisle after aisle simply checking things out, is a real reason why, in this writer’s opinion, online promotion opportunities are just not magnetizing interest from any manufacturers of products requiring a considered purchase decision from prospects. Everything is boiling down to an appeal to folks buying toothpaste (and similar absolutely tangible commodities). This is not good, long term, for the health of the online click ad business.

From the appearance of content as published on Medium, in this writer’s opinion, Evan Williams and Biz Stone (both played a part in the original Twitter effort) wanted to represent a clique on line. Information is certainly not easy to find on the site. This is a shame. There is a lot of very useful content on Medium. It’s just hard to get at it.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Once scoffed at as a shrinking and increasingly irrelevant market, enterprise business maybe a blue sky opportunity driving HP’s decision to split up

Have tech consumers located in enterprise businesses become the new, blue sky frontier for mature ISVs? If Professor Emilie R. Feldman is correct, then the answer is “yes”. She contends Meg Whitman’s decision to retain operational management control of Hewlett Packard, Enterprises is an example of just this strategy at work.

Readers can listen to a 20 minute discussion with Professor Feldman on this topic by downloading a podcast from the Knowledge@Wharton website. The podcast is titled HP and the Case for Corporate Spinoffs (http://knowledge NULL.wharton NULL.upenn NULL.edu/article/hp-and-the-case-for-corporate-spinoffs/). Bottom line: just 3 years ago, lots of cloud computing champions (and even, as we wrote back on December 11, 2011 in a post to this blog titled VCs that Know Nothing, the VCs financing their early stage cloud efforts) scoffed at enterprise markets as dinosaurs galloping towards extension. But Professor Feldman’s conjecture, if correct, about just why Meg Whitman decided to hold onto the throttle for the enterprise half of the business split, illustrates just how rich a pot of business enterprise markets actually represent to mature ISVs.

In late 2014 a lot of business discussion, and just how to value mature ISVs, amounts to close scrutiny of margins. As Professor Feldman notes, the margins enterprise business consumers are willing to support when they purchase products and services are just much higher than the margins the other side of HP’s business split, meaning the PCs and Printers business, is likely to produce. What’s driving this stampede to higher margin business is, of course, investor demands for not only healthy sales growth, but, even more, sales growth based on profits.

Prominent cloud ISVs, including Google and Salesforce.com (though Amazon.com hasn’t got a seat at this table), have either released recent products clearly designed to deliver revenue at better margins, or transitioned business management to people with deep experience successfully selling to enterprise business consumers. This is a healthy turn of events. There is never anything wrong with making money, and changing direction to pursue buyers with deeper products certainly amounts to a smart move. This writer suspects even Amazon.com will have to join this stampede sometime soon.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

SaaS offers running in the cloud, with full featured client side apps, hit some marketing head winds

As of mid October, 2014, two recent well publicized online security events — one related to Dropbox, the other to SnapChat and an app named SnapSaved — illustrate cloud hosts attempting to distance themselves from app developers providing the SaaS offer in the wake of a public online security event. If they succeed, app developers look likely to hit some marketing head winds.

The odds of this outcome went up when the ISV responsible for SnapSaved.com came forward and disclosed its intentional effort to compromise online security and privacy for consumers of its app. The details can be found in an article written by Mike Isaac, titled A Look Behind the SnapChat Photo Leak Claims (http://bits NULL.blogs NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2014/10/17/a-look-behind-the-snapchat-photo-leak-claims/?ref=technology), which was published on October 17, 2014. Consumers will not likely be reassured as the result of this admission of culpability.

Whether the intentions of the unnamed management team at SnapSaved.com were honorable, or not, has no material importance. But their admission to intentional malicious activity, together with their ability to execute on their objective with an app conforming to SnapChat’s specific requirements for interoperability is of critical importance. Leaving aside the question of how this admission will likely impact on individual consumers of the app, and of SnapChat, itself, let’s focus on likely reaction from larger organizations and the IT teams supporting them to this event. It’s likely larger organizations will take a harder look at their BYOD policies and procedures in the aftermath of these both of these events. Larger organizations do not want to work with lots of technology providers. So the tactics implemented by DropBox and SnapChat to distance themselves from culpability will not help either of these cloud offers to add further momentum to the pace at which consumers from enterprise business sign on and start using services. In fact the opposite is likely to be the case.

One glimmer of opportunity from these otherwise glum and business-depressing events amounts to whether or not EMM solutions like Microsoft InTune can be configured to manage just how consumers interact with an otherwise limitless list of apps, from an equally limitless list of ISVs, within the confines of specific corporate networks. If these EMM solutions can be set up to manage app consumption, independent of the cloud hosting the apps, themselves, perhaps enterprise IT organizations will have more of the stamina to brush off these events as anomalies likely to vanish in the future.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

When features reverberate from product to product, consumers are likely to become indifferent while markets take the on ramp to commodities

Over the last year, or more, the same computing hardware feature set — very thin portable computers with ultra sharp displays, light weight, and rapid boot times — has reverberated across devices from different manufacturers targeted to the same market. This type of condition is a harbinger of product marketing producing commodities, leaving little room for brand differentiation. It’s time product marketers did their homework. Consumers are not likely to be lulled into complacency and just continue buying new versions of devices they already own.

Apple’s recent debut of the “new” iPad Air 2 (http://www NULL.apple NULL.com/apple-events/2014-oct-event/) is a case in point. The web site promotion for this device emphasizes features already claimed by Apple competitors, principally Microsoft, for its Surface Pro 3 2-in-1 computing devices.

But if I’m someone who recently bought a Surface Pro 3, does Apple product marketing really believe I’m going to chuck my investment of somewhere between $1 and $2K, or more, to buy yet another product claiming to be the thinnest device ever? If they do, I’m afraid they’re not likely to successfully achieve their objective. As Dr. Michael Porter has illustrated, competition to be the best is a comparatively low profit, zero sum game.

What the Apple iPad Air 2, and Microsoft Surface Pro 3 MARCOM illustrates is a disconnect between personal computer product marketing and its targeted customer base. To be fair, the video included with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 debut did include several portraits of how customers are actually using the first and second generations of Microsoft’s Surface. Post Surface Pro 3 launch, Apple purchased a series of online ads, which were displayed on the New York Times web site, providing much of the same information about organizations using iPad tablets. But connecting with your customers and coming to market with inherently unique products, which, in turn, deserve a fitting MARCOM statement conveying what’s unique, and different about them, is something altogether separate from a set of portraits of how customers are using your light, very bright, and thin ultra portable personal computers.

Actually, connecting with customers, as a short video presentation titled Managing the Uncertainty of Innovation (http://t NULL.co/4UBy6ICae9) illustrates, is the kind of high-value activity early stage ISVs can and should use to mine for truly unique product notions.

No doubt the iPad Air 2 has some truly unique capabilities, which can be compelling for a specific audience/market, but the current promotion about the product isn’t getting this message across. The same opinion covers current promotional efforts for the Surface Pro 3, and even very high ticket software — Microsoft’s Delve, IBM’s Watson, and Salesforce.com’s entry into the same space.

Bottom line: “the same space” is a mirage. No two “spaces” are ever the same. Product marketers need to find out just what “space” they want to target and then go for it.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Intel announces the debut of Core M Processors

During Intel’s Q3, 2014 Earnings Conference Call (http://www NULL.intc NULL.com/eventdetail NULL.cfm?EventID=149397), CEO Brian Krzanich announced the debut of the Core M line of core CPUs. The first devices powered by this new processor platform, per Krzanich, will come to market before the end of October, 2014. Computing devices powered by these processors, Krzanich noted, will feature “full core performance”, and a “fanless design enabling breakthrough designs and form factors”.

These processors appear to share a lot of the features of i3/i5/i7 cores powering Microsoft’s Surface 3 Pro tablet. Chip architecture permits a “razor thin design” (~9mm) and extended battery life (up to 9 hours). The graphics performance of the chipset has also been enhanced and optimized for online content.

The promotional content on Intel’s web site on this Core M chipset (http://www NULL.intel NULL.com/content/www/us/en/benchmarks/two-in-one/core-m-two-in-one-performance-video NULL.html) continues themes Microsoft employed during its debut of the Surface Pro 3: 2-in-1 devices are portrayed as viable replacements for “laptops”, which are characterized as slow, heavy, and inefficient. With these devices consumers will no longer have to purchase tablets for entertainment, and PCs for work: both functionality will be available from these 2-in-1 devices, and, Intel contends, with superior performance.

There is little indication this writer could find on Intel’s web site, or elsewhere, about specific devices running on one of these CPUs. Price point will certainly be an important consideration for Intel OEMs, so the early examples of devices powered by Core M processors may tell us a lot about just where Intel has assumed devices powered by Core M processors will be positioned in the market.

Emulating last year’s hot features — ultra thin form factors, long battery life, lightweight devices with high definition displays and graphics — may not amount to much in 2015. If the ASPs consumers end up paying for these devices hover around the price points for Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 devices, we think market demand will be a lot less than hot, and restricted to the high end of the BYOD, consumerized IT segment.

It would be nice to see these processors powering devices in the $300 – $600 range. But, as of the date of this post, we have no examples to point to of what the street price will look like for them.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Pluses and minuses of the app model on cloud, SaaS computing

Early versions of SaaS served from the Internet cloud looked a lot like time sharing applications. In other words, each and every web visitor looked like just another terminal on a remote server. The use of small form factor computing devices had not yet occurred, and the browser options for clients to consume services were all working in pretty much the same manner.

But with the advent of the app model, the client side of these solutions is a lot more complex, and, potentially, more difficult for organizations to manage. There are a few very important positives motivating cloud, SaaS ISVs to promote, and even require the use of apps:

  • Apps are a promising method of attracting the interest of developers. App stores exist for every prominent cloud SaaS offer. Developers sell their apps, and ISVs can charge a premium for clearing transactions through their app stores
  • As long as secure development procedures are followed, there is no limit on the range of new functionality developers can add to SaaS platforms. ISVs benefit from zero capital expense for the creation of new functionality. End customers benefit from a wider range of possible applications
  • By transitioning processes from the server to the community of clients consuming a SaaS solution, it can be argued processes are more secure. Server maintenance costs are also likely to be substantially reduced

But there are minuses anyone studying cloud, SaaS product marketing must, in this writer’s opinion, keep in mind. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how one looks at it) most of these minuses are specific to apps:

  • Transitioning potentially harmful processes off the server and over to client side apps shifts the security burden over to individual consumers, and groups of consumers. Since it is not likely to be possible to estimate just who will opt to consume SaaS and, therefore, purchase and implement apps, the task of ensuring a uniform quality of service (and basic data communications security) is very difficult to manage. Neither ISVs, nor enterprise organizations can claim complete responsibility for this job.
  • Opportunities for malicious activity geometrically increase as the number of SaaS consumers grows. There is no way ISVs can ensure the security of computing devices enabled with apps. So the potential for hacks should be assumed to be high. As of the time of the writing of this post, Dropbox, the latest SaaS to notify the public of a security breach, actually blamed app developers for the security hole used for the exploit
  • Enterprise businesses with a formal BYOD policies may see a dramatic increase in the need to support users. When apps are running on a set of dissimilar computing devices (Android, and/or Apple smart phones, tablets, etc) the need for expertise on multiple platforms arises. It can be costly for enterprise IT to provision the support required to ensure SaaS consumers can get the services they need

Given the factors just presented, we think it likely Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions like Windows Intune will become very popular across enterprise business customers.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

ISVs debut cloud, SaaS solutions to satisfy consumer appetite for Analytics and Data

On Monday, October 13, 2014, Salesforce.com announced the debut of a new cloud, SaaS solution named “Wave” (https://www NULL.salesforce NULL.com/company/news-press/press-releases/2014/10/141013 NULL.jsp). Back on September 16, 2014, IBM announced “Watson Analytics”, once again, a cloud SaaS, but, this time, a freemium offer. So it’s safe to say Analytics for the masses has become a new competitive ground for big, mature ISVs to contend for more market share.

A couple of points are worth noting about the Salesforce.com press release:

  1. GE Capital is mentioned as already using Wave. Given GE’s own recent PR campaign around its own data and analytics effort, one must wonder why the business finance component of the company opted not to use the home grown solution ostensibly available to it
  2. Informatica is mentioned as an “ecosystem” partner for Wave and released its own press release, titled Informatica Cloud Powers Wave, the Salesforce Analytics Cloud, to Break Down Big Data Challenges and Deliver Insights (http://www NULL.marketwatch NULL.com/story/informatica-cloud-powers-wave-the-salesforce-analytics-cloud-to-break-down-big-data-challenges-and-deliver-insights-2014-10-13)

The Wave announcement follows, by less than a month, IBM’s announcement of a freemium offer for “Watson Analytics”, and Oracle’s “Analytics Cloud”. Both of these offers are delivered via a cloud, SaaS model. So it’s likely safe to say enterprise technology consumers have demonstrated a significant appetite for analytics. The decision by Salesforce.com, IBM, and Oracle to all deliver their solutions via a cloud, SaaS offer speaks to the new enterprise computing topology (a heterogeneous computing environment) and the need to look to browsers as the ideal thin clients for users to work with their data online.

An ample supply of structured and unstructured data is likely motivating these enterprise tech consumers to look for methods of producing the kind of dashboards and graphs each of these analytics offers is capable of producing. With data collection methods advancing, particularly for big data (unstructured data), this appetite doesn’t look to abate anytime soon.

ISVs with solutions already available, principally Microsoft with its suite of Power tools for Excel (PowerBI, PowerPivot, etc), may also be participating in this “feeding frenzy”. It will be interesting to see how each of the ISVs with offers for this market fare over the next few business quarters.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

General Electric Steps Into Big Data and Analytics

October 8, and 9, 2014 were a very busy two days for the Public Relations team at General Electric (http://www NULL.genewsroom NULL.com/). No less than 4 press releases were published about the first steps this very mature — not to mention very large — business has stepped into big data and analytics.

Consider, for example, how the big data and analytics business at General Electric ramped up to over $1Bil in sales: October 9, 2014, Bloomberg publishes an article written by Richard Clough, titled GE Sees Fourfold Rise in Sales From Industrial Internet (http://www NULL.bloomberg NULL.com/news/2014-10-09/ge-sees-1-billion-in-sales-from-industrial-internet NULL.html). Clough reports “[r]evenue [attributed to analytics and data collection] is headed to about $1.1 billion this year from the analytics operations as the backlog has swelled to $1.3 billion”.

Early stage ISVs looking with envy at this lightning-fast entry should consider how scale, along with a decision to acquire IP via partnerships and acquisitions (rather than opting to build it in-house), and picking the right market made this emerging success story a reality. Let’s start by considering these three points in reverse order:

  1. Picking the right market: GE opted to apply its new tech to a set of markets loosely collected into something they call the “Industrial Internet”. These markets include Energy (exploration, production, distribution), Transportation, Healthcare, Manufacturing and Machinery. Choosing these markets makes complete sense. GE is a leader in each of these already. Why not apply new tech to old familiar stomping grounds?
  2. Leverage partnerships and acquisitions to come to market in lieu of rolling your own: Leading players in each of the markets GE opted to enter expressed burning needs for better security and better insight. Other players in each of the markets (Cisco, Symantec, Stanford University and UC Berkeley) all stand to benefit from the core tech GE brings to the table, so persuading them to partner was likely to have been a comparatively easy task. The most prominent segment of the tech (very promising security tech for industrial, high speed data communications over TCP/IP, Ethernet networks) understandably, came into the package from wurldtech, a business GE opted to acquire
  3. Scale: With GE’s production run rate of turbines, locomotive engines, jet engines, and other complex, massive industrial machinery, the task of finding a home for the millions of industrial sensors required to feed the analytics piece of the tech with the big data it desperately needs, does not look to have been a difficult task. Product management, appropriately, looked into its own backyard to find the consumers required to ramp up to scale in very fast time.

In sum, GE’s entry into this market, if the “rubber hits the road” and metrics bear out claims, looks to be a case study early ISVs should memorize as they plan their tech marketing strategy.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

The Role of Enterprise IT is Changing in 2014

As we wrote recently in this blog, BYOD policies appear to be stimulating an evolution of the role of a central IT function within larger organizations from an effort to control the range of computing opportunities available to personnel, towards an effort to accomodate and support new types of computing (and methods) brought into the organization by users. We put together some of this view last week at a recent conference hosted by a mature ISV (Microsoft), for an audience which included representatives of several larger organizations.

This view is supported by a recently published short post to the CIO feature of the online Wall Street Journal. The post is titled CIOs will need a new mix of skills on their teams (http://blogs NULL.wsj NULL.com/cio/2014/10/09/cios-will-need-new-mix-of-skills-on-their-teams/?mod=wsj_ciohome_cioreport). The post reports on a presentation by Peter Sondergaard, “senior vice president and research chief” at Gartner, Inc., during “the company’s Symposium ITxpo 2014.”

The post claims the skills most needed, today, are mobile computing expertise and “user experience” and “data sciences”. So it’s probably safe to assume the Gartner Symposium provided a lot of support for the notion of how important a factor BYOD policies and procedures have become for larger organizations in 2014.

Going forward, the CIO blog report mentions “automated judgement and ethics” as two of the three skills most likely to be in demand. If we can cut through some of the opacity of these two skill descriptions, it looks to us to be safe to assume Gartner is pointing to the growing importance of IT governance as an operational method for larger organizations. But this IT governance will actually be built into computing procedures, themselves.

Surely the notion of “automated judgement and ethics” speaks to a future enterprise IT organization with, arguably, fewer head count. The question of how Line of Business (LoB) silos will obtain the computing resources they will require will be taken care of, if this feature actually materializes, with no debate, or even study, by computing solutions, themselves, which will have the features required to answer any/all questions on the topic. Neat stuff.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

In 2014, is “responsive and accomodating” the new recommended posture for Enterprise IT?

In the Keynote presentation for day one of Microsoft’s Office 365 Summit (http://summit NULL.office NULL.com) event in New York City, Michael Atalla, Microsoft’s “Office Guy”, described what he portrayed as a very new world of enterprise computing, where the pace at which innovation is introduced is managed by users, rather than the enterprise IT organizations tasked with supporting them. This relationship, and the posture it requires enterprise IT organizations to assume, contrasts, vividly, with how this relationship played out a mere 10 years ago, when, Atalla contends, all of the innovation emanated out from enterprise IT to users. The net effect on Enterprise IT organizations, Atalla contends, is to transform their activity into much more a process of accommodation as new devices appear on the consumer tech market, than has ever been the case in the past.

What enterprise IT is accommodating, Atalla explained, is innovation in the form of new devices and processes entering the enterprise as the result of formal BYOD policies, and personnel taking advantage of them. Boiled down to simple terms, this process amounts to the latest Smart Phone, tablet (or even PC) magnetizing interest from the community of computing users at the organization. People start to purchase these devices, which may result in unsupported processes showing up on enterprise IT’s radar. So it falls on enterprise IT to quickly regroup around this phenomenon to provide the support and structure required for personnel to safely consume the new processes across the internal network.

Atalla’s presentation took up at least a third of the Keynote for this event. Perhaps it would have been helpful for the audience attending this presentation to hear a bit about how a cloud SaaS like Office 365 can provide enterprise IT with a tool they can leverage to get ahead of users as this BYOD phenomenon continues to unfold.

With Office 365, or Google at Work, or any other similar competitive service, the actual processing of tasks, and “housing” the computing activity produced by them, takes place in, ostensibly, a much more “static” environment than one might otherwise expect to be the case. Regardless of the device, cloud SaaS solutions require a type of functionality referred to in the past as terminal processing. Or do they?

In 2014, there are important, and challenging, issues with client devices functioning as terminals talking to servers located in the public Internet, or cloud. The app model (which Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon have all embraced) requires a lot more intelligence on the consumer device end of the data conversation. Therefore, even Office 365 computing is not as simple as it may otherwise appear to be.

Regardless, Microsoft is subtly presenting a new message in its effort to hasten the pace at which larger organizations come to accept cloud, SaaS offers as legitimate opportunities to reduce costs and increase user benefits. Many of the attendees of this event likely came away from Atalla’s presentation with this notion about Office 365, as a method of smoothing out an otherwise uncomfortable relationship between IT and users at larger organizations.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Dansette