28
Mar

What is prompting interest in Altera from Intel?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-width This last week the Wall Street Journal published an article written by Dana Mattioli, Dana Cimilluca, and Don Clark about Intel® and Altera® (http://www NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/intel-in-talks-to-buy-altera-1427485172).

The topic was Intel’s public expression of more than a passing interest in Altera from the perspective of an acquisition. Despite the fact no name could be publicly associated (the following claim is merely attributed to “people familiar with the matter” in the article) with the most important clause in the piece, “Intel Corp. is in advanced talks to buy chip partner Altera Corp”, a lot of editorial content appeared almost instantaneously after the publication of this article in the online WSJ, in what might easily be construed as merely a knee-jerk reaction as the 800 lb gorilla in the PC CPU business starts moving around and sniffing the air.

Is this interest the result of Intel’s obsession with opening other substantial revenue streams? Or is it being prompted by Intel’s inept handling of Altera as its biggest tenant for its foundry business? Or, finally, is it even being prompted by recent market acknowledgement of favorable features of Field Programmable Gateway Architecture (FPGA) semi-conductors (Altera’s main product line) for the development of what amounts to today’s hottest trend in computing — machine learning, algorithms and computer cognition systems. Incidentally, anyone skeptical on this last point should read this call for proposals from the ACM (http://www NULL.sigarch NULL.org/2015/01/17/call-for-proposals-intel-altera-heterogeneous-architecture-research-platform-program/).

I will not take the time here to provide more detail on each of the above points, namely, the need to augment the PC CPU business with something equally compelling for major markets, the foundry business model, or FPGAs as a superior platform for machine learning applications. If you would like further detail on any of these, or all, please contact me and we can talk about it.

If impatient readers with a keen interest in either player in this drama still think it is very important to put together a strategy now to plan for this acquisition taking place, it might save them a lot of effort to simply mention “this notion has come up before” as a quick look at Analyst: Intel may acquire FPGA vendor (http://www NULL.eetimes NULL.com/document NULL.asp?doc_id=1172756), which was published back in 2010 will corroborate.

Bottom line, we need further word from Intel and Altera before any one of us should write much more about this. The setting simply is not clear enough, now, to warrant all of this chatter.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

11
Mar

A consumerized enterprise IT realm is de rigueur in early 2015

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthFew consumer tech commentators, if any, would argue there is much of a market for laptop PCs within their target audience. If these devices are in demand anywhere, the likely market segment is enterprise computing.

So the new 12 inch Macbook with Retina display, which was presented to a global audience during Apple’s “Spring Forward”, March 9, 2015 event is targeted to the enterprise computing market, right? Perhaps. But where, then, is the usual CAT5 port for wired Ethernet data communications? The answer is it does not exist.

Almost every commentator writing about the debut of this device emphasized the strategic forward thinking of the design of this laptop based on a USB Type C port as its sole interface for networks, charging, etc. To simply quote from one of these reviews, readers might want to consider the following comment, which appears in a post to The Verge blog titled Hands-on with the new 12-inch MacBook with Retina Display (http://www NULL.theverge NULL.com/2015/3/9/8173685/macbook-retina-display-usb-type-c-hands-on-video). Dieter Bohn, who wrote the post, remarks “the screen actually isn’t the most important part of this new MacBook. No, instead it’s the small port on the side, a USB Type-C port that serves as the power jack, a do-anything USB port, a display port, and essentially anything else you could imagine using a cable for.”

The strategic impact of this decision to dispense with a hard wired Ethernet option for a device intended to compete with Windows PCs (or, is the target Microsoft’s Surface 3 two-in-ones?) within the enclaves of businesses, only makes sense in a brave new world of enterprise computing, one ruled over by an autocratic obsession with consumerized IT. It just is not safe to look to wireless data communications for everything.

Readers need not fear Microsoft has been left out of this criticism. The Surface Pro 3 two-in-one also lacks a native Ethernet interface. But there is a docking station option for the Microsoft entry in this category. Per the March 9, 2015 presentation, there does not appear to be one for the 12 inch Macbook.

No industry expert argues for entirely wireless data communications for mission-critical information. It is just too dangerous from a data security perspective. The 12 inch Macbook should have a docking station. One would hope Apple will announce one very soon.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

9
Mar

Android remains a difficult opportunity for Google to successfully manage

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthGoogle recently announced its intention to proceed with a wireless data service. The latest spin on this decision, exemplified by an article published on the Wall Street Journal web site on March 8, 2015, takes this step as an indicator of a new, more frugal Google. But seen from a different angle it looks like an aggressive shot at Google’s partners in the Android alliance.

The title of the Journal article is Google: The Value of Thrift. The piece was written by Dan Gallagher and points to some recent steps taken by Google, which Gallagher presents as evidence of real follow through on points made during their most recent Quarterly earning report. Gallagher writes about the report: “Google hinted that it might curb its spending after a year in which capital expenditure surged 49% to nearly $11 billion.”

Gallagher finds an important example of this new campaign, at work, in some public announcements from Google about their decision to go forward as a wireless data provider. Gallagher notes “The Wall Street Journal also reported that the [wireless service to be offered by Google] will be limited to customers using Google’s own Nexus phones, which make up only a small portion of the overall Android market.”

But if I were the President of Samsung, or LG, or any other of Google’s partners in the Android mobile O/S effort, I don’t think I would be too pleased to learn the team managing the overall Android stack has just now decided to debut a promising wireless data effort (to deliver high quality/very high speed wireless data services from pipes supplied by T-Mobile, Sprint and more) for only its own phones. Why not mine too? I venture this phrase bounced around a few conference rooms when the news of this plan broke during Mobile World Congress 2015.

In my opinion this move is simply the latest in a series of steps likely to cause more headache for Google than anything else. The real sore spot, of course, is the damage a self-serving deal like this one can wreak on a very important recent effort on Google’s part to improve its penetration of the enterprise computing market. Certainly Android partners like Samsung are critically important to the success of this effort. Research has demonstrated enterprise IT organizations look at the Samsung Android device platform as one of, if not the only, line of Android devices worth serious consideration for an enterprise rollout. So why leave them out in the cold on this one?

It’s hard for me to get behind Google’s “moon shots” when they stumble around as they appear to have done on this one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

5
Mar

Perhaps accurate metrics on the extent of cloud adoption are not important

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthA lot has been made over the last few weeks about a skew between Microsoft’s announcements about sales of cloud SaaS and PaaS subscriptions to enterprise business and the extent to which these subscriptions are actually used. For any readers unfamiliar with the current chatter about Microsoft on this topic, an article titled Microsoft’s Cloud Successes Based on Sales Not Usage? (http://windowsitpro NULL.com/azure/microsofts-cloud-successes-based-sales-not-usage) may provide a quick introduction to this tract of opinion.

But what if the question of adoption really does not matter? What if the more important metric, at least at present, meaning March 2015, are the actual statistics of big businesses signing onto Office 365 and/or Azure? After all, to what extent are businesses using all of the components in the Google Apps for Business set? I would argue not much.

In fact it may simply be too soon to expect high levels of enterprise business adoption of cloud computing services. If nothing else stands in the way, simply consider the current noise about the insecurity of data communications via public cloud options. Surely most readers will attest to a deafening volume, with some new, prominent business or US government agency pushed into the limelight almost on a daily basis. Why would 28K people at Merck (simply to name one very large organization) drop their other computing options to embrace Office in the cloud given the potential risks?

But according to what most readers will likely take to be a combination of a testimonial, and a customer success story, Merck has, nevertheless, purchased Office 365 and is using it. The Office blog on March 5, 2015 featured an article titled A new foundation for connected business processes at a German pharmaceutical and chemical company (http://blogs NULL.office NULL.com/2015/03/04/new-foundation-connected-business-processes-german-pharmaceutical-chemical-company-2/). This article is attributed to Dr. Matthias Geselle, who is introduced as “a Vice President, member of the IT leadership team at Merck.” The content describes a collaboration solution, named “Connect 15″, which is built on Microsoft components. “Connect 15″ replaced a combination of Lotus Notes, “IBM Sametime”, and WebEx.

The Office blog includes a number of these articles. Perhaps some of the more vocal naysayers in this public discussion would benefit from reading them. Every one of the articles is written by a representative of the customer, meaning the enterprise business opting to purchase Microsoft’s cloud services. It is hard to argue with this type of testimonial.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

3
Mar

Has the Harvard Business Review embraced the notion of controlled free market competition for the tech sphere?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-width On Monday, March 2, 2015, the online edition of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) published an article written by Kira Radinsky titled Data Monopolists Like Google Are Threatening the Economy (https://hbr NULL.org/2015/03/data-monopolists-like-google-are-threatening-the-economy).

Does it make sense for anyone reading this article to tightly associate (perhaps in a Pavlovian manner) the opinion expressed in it with the Harvard Business Review, itself? Did Radinsky intend to capitalize on the opportunity of publishing this article on as ostensibly a prestigious web site as HBR for some reason?

I hope readers will not find themselves somehow adrift as they ponder the above questions. The questions are not coming out of the void. Because the position Radinsky presents in this article is actually consistent, as I read it, with a Socialist view of how tech businesses should be regulated by the government to ensure “fair” competition.

In fact, a review of Radinsky’s public profile on LinkedIn reveals her management position in a company based in Israel. So why is the HBR publishing her article? Is it not fair to assume the average reader could misconstrue the article and its position on the HBR site as a tacit endorsement of some new test to genuine American free market capitalism (credit to Larry Kudlow for coining this phrase).

So with this preamble in place, let me now dive into what I think really matters. Radinsky presents the following “fact”: “Today, the most prominent factors are historical search query logs and their corresponding search result clicks. Studies show that the historical search improves search results up to 31%.” Sure, if the technology is predicated on personalization techniques and “cookies”, etc.

There is no reason why competitors to Google (for example) couldn’t approach the same objective from a completely different angle. In fact, given the growing public concern about personalization and its dependence on activities of the invasion of privacy kind, there is, perhaps, a palpable imperative to find just this kind of new way of approaching the task.

Free market capitalism always rewards the “better mousetrap”. So why argue for a controlled marketplace where stakeholders in one approach are penalized just because the “better mousetrap” has yet to be found?

Granted, we have yet to witness the introduction of this “better mousetrap”, but I would argue the recent successes Facebook has reported over the last several business quarters are indicative of a real shift away from the kind of traditional search engine marketing for which Google is renowned.

In my opinion the editors at HBR should have thought a bit more about Radinsky’s article before agreeing to publish it.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

28
Feb

Microsoft takes three steps worth some thought by anyone following this mature ISV

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIn late February, 2015, Microsoft announced 3 changes in components of its business worth some thought by anyone with an interest in this mature ISV.

On February 20, 2015 Dan Kedmey wrote about Microsoft’s acquision of Acompli for the Time online magazine. He noted “Acompli is the best example of Microsoft’s new playbook: In a matter of weeks, Microsoft took Acompli’s popular email app and rebranded it as Outlook for iOS and Android, to rave reviews from the tech press.” (readers can view Kedmey’s complete article, titled This Is Microsoft’s New Plan to Invade Your Smartphone (http://time NULL.com/3716303/microsoft-acquisitions/) on the Time magazine web site). But this method of consuming acquisitions and spitting them back out as simply new examples of Microsoft branded products, contrasts with another famous acquisition, namely the Skype purchase. The Skype service has retained its own independent brand despite being a wholly owned component of the Microsoft revenue model. So why the change with Acompli? Further, does it make sense to try (I would argue for yet another time in a long string of unsuccessful attempts) to extend a well known enterprise computing brand name — the Outlook email client — into solidly, at best, BYOD territory? Acompli had a great app following among mobile computing consumers, many of which could likely care less about the email client they use at work.

Then there is the question of the “about face” Microsoft recently took on what looked to be a welcome change of direction towards “the norm” (meaning Chrome and Firefox) in web browser world. As Nathan Ingraham wrote on little more than a month ago on the Verge web site, in an article titled Microsoft officially announces Project Spartan, its new web browser for Windows 10 (http://www NULL.theverge NULL.com/2015/1/21/7863331/microsoft-project-spartan-new-web-browser), Redmond looked like it was going to change the web browser of choice for Windows 10 from Internet Explorer (IE) to something new and promising — the Spartan Browser. As any die hard IE user knows, the quirks and, perhaps, nonsensical differentiations built into Microsoft’s flagship web page browser, make little sense anymore. Market share is eroding day by day. So a change in a popular direction seemed to make a lot of sense.

But then on February 26, 2015, Microsoft back tracked. As Kurt Mackie wrote for the RedmondMag blog in an article titled Microsoft Blinks on Using Open Source Engine for Spartan Browser (http://redmondmag NULL.com/articles/2015/02/26/open-source-and-spartan-browser NULL.aspx), one of the reasons given for the decision amounted to “‘we felt it was important to counter movement towards a monoculture on the Web.'” (please click the link just provided to read Mackie’s complete article). But could “monoculture” be a good think? Even for Microsoft?

Finally, there are a couple of realities about the present IE 11 browser on Windows 7 and the same browser on Windows 8.1 worth some consideration. In keeping with the point Microsoft just made about “monoculture”, and its determination to “counter” movement towards it, the feature sets of these two browsers are, in my opinion, radically dissimilar from Chrome and/or Firefox. These differences, once again in my opinion, are, perhaps, not for the best. Perhaps more worrisome is how my first thoughts about these features take me back to my original opinion about Windows 8 and touch computing on desktop machines in the first place — a big big stretch I did not care to make.

I kind of like the new Microsoft. The Microsoft looking to partner with everybody else. The one not trying so hard to stand out from the crowd. What about you?

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

26
Feb

Online businesses looks to be on course for a negative event of even greater magnitude — stay tuned

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIt is one thing to lose something of great value while covered by a comprehensive insurance policy, and quite another to be in the same position, albeit without the coverage.

So adding the insurance policy looks to be a no-brainer, right? Not so fast. According to an article titled Cyber attack risk requires $1bn of insurance cover, companies warned (http://www NULL.ft NULL.com/intl/cms/s/0/61880f7a-b3a7-11e4-a6c1-00144feab7de NULL.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3SrQZqbSm), written by Gina Chon and published on Thursday, January 26, 2015 by the Financial Times, businesses are not only finding a lot of obstacles on their way towards securing the extent of insurance coverage they need to cover online commerce, but (and this is even more worrisome) are also exhibiting a lot of reluctance to even make the effort. If we are looking at a wave of complacency, then perhaps we are looking at a major negative event with enormous financial impact all around in the making.

Back in October 13, 2013 we published a post to this blog titled Online Security Problems are too Pressing for the Public to Continue to Ignore. The position I have always taken on topics like the one Chon treats in her article for the FT is as follows:

  • the “mono protocol” data communications world we have, perhaps inadvertently, created by vigorously pushing further expansion of markup language code at the application layer with Ethernet over TCP/IP as the underlying pipe is very very dangerous. The old world of multiple data protocols running across wide area networks made a lot more sense and was, inherently, safer

But my position, at present, is “so be it”. The internet, for better or worse, as it is presently technically constructed is here to stay. The question ought to be how do we get this “genie back in the bottle” and mitigate the risks associated with doing business online.

Apparently businesses are not willing to take the steps required to accomplish this critically important step. Underwriters seem not to want to handle the risk and the insured are not willing to pay the cost for coverage. This is a potentially dangerous condition. One would hope all of the parties involved will see their way through to a mutually satisfactory conclusion. The sooner the better.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

25
Feb

Proponents of artificial intelligence solutions need to come forward with a serious public relations effort

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthMachine learning solutions, and those of the “deep learning” variety are playing an ever increasing role in daily computing activities for most people. This condition does not look to change anytime soon.

But regardless, ISVs with products targeted to the predictive analytics market, or the robotics market, or any one of many emerging new market segments, need to tune in on public perception about these technologies in the mature global markets (US, Western Europe, Japan). Public perception has the potential to prod government regulators towards counter-productive pronouncements. Therefore, it makes sense for ISVs to mount a public relations effort to ensure public perception about these technologies stays “on track”.

On Tuesday, February 24, 2015 the Wall Street Journal published an article germaine to this topic. The piece was written by Timothy Aeppel and is titled What Clever Robots Mean for Jobs (http://www NULL.wsj NULL.com/articles/what-clever-robots-mean-for-jobs-1424835002?mod=WSJ_hpp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsThird). The employment theme is a very familiar one for anyone involved with efforts to use computer processes to automate repetitive tasks. So Aeppel’s skepticism about just whether or not an exploding market of robotics solutions will lead to more jobs, or not (which appears to be his position) is really nothing new.

But the timing of the article, in close proximity to several other articles from “prominent” individuals (Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and more) about the dangers presented by algorithms should they be applied to computing lends power to Aeppel’s thoughts. Readers should also not lose sight of the 2016 Presidential election here in the States, where ostensible candidates like Hillary Clinton are starting to stake out turf about “hi tech” and its performance as a job creator.

I encourage readers to go back to my first points in this post. Methods of automating processes, including requirements for prediction, are increasing and becoming more accessible to “average” consumers of computing services. This is not a bad thing. On the contrary, in my opinion the accessibility of comparatively powerful methods of enhancing the accuracy of prediction is a net positive contribution to overall business and certainly a likely simulant for new business activity.

Do new businesses create jobs? I am not sure as to the answer to this question, but I can posit they certainly empower more entrepreneurs. Machine learning ISVs and their deep learning siblings need to step forward and do a better job of educating the public about the real benefit of these technologies.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

24
Feb

Lenovo, Public Relations and Superfish

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIt has been a mere 5 – 6 weeks since public announcements appeared about the security threat represented by preloaded adware from Superfish on Lenovo personal computers first magnetized public attention. But in this short interval the Lenovo brand has taken a big hit, especially around the question of whether or not public announcements from them can be be trusted — not the kind of stuff a public relations team will likely want to handle. CMSWire, for example, published an article on this topic, which is titled Can Lenovo Regain Consumer Trust After Secretly Installing Adware? (http://www NULL.cmswire NULL.com/cms/information-management/can-lenovo-regain-consumer-trust-after-secretly-installing-adware-028177 NULL.php).

I see little point in raking through the stacks of opinions on this topic. But I would like to present three points I hope early stage ISVs will carefully consider should they find themselves in the kind of quagmire besetting Lenovo at the moment:

  1. Please do not choose the denial route
  2. As well, please take responsibility for any failures to carefully evaluate products before deciding to add them to a core offering
  3. Finally, please defend the important positions you have taken to make a best effort to establish a profitable manner of doing business

The public perception appears to be Lenovo failed to follow these three points, starting with a denial of responsibility. One may argue the denial statement was subtly presented to the public. After all, the earliest headlines were all about the security risk represented by the Superfish adware product. The public appeared to believe Lenovo’s hardware had been hacked. Perhaps this perception was nurtured by the surrounding publicity climate, which was rather full of news about reports from Kaspersky Lab about spyware baked into the hard disks and even CPUs powering desktop and laptop computers manufactured in the US.

In my opinion Lenovo’s PR team should not have allowed the public discussion about the presence of Superfish adware on Lenovo computers to take this “sidetrack”. The inclusion of Superfish was really not a surprise at all, but a method Lenovo chose to exploit in an attempt to squeeze more revenue from the sale of its computers. There is nothing wrong, on paper, about making this kind of effort. Most any business in the type of commodity market Lenovo finds itself as it competes as a PC manufacturer would look for some opportunity to lower its costs to produce product by selling marketing opportunities to third parties.

If readers are hard pressed to accept this point, I would point them to an example from another commodity market — airplane travel and one of the main contenders in the market — Delta Airlines. The Delta branded American Express card is out there for a big reason perhaps lost on the consumer, but certainly one rarely lost on product marketers — to lower production costs. Whenever a customer buys a ticket on a Delta flight with a Delta AMEX the cost of the sale has been lowered by upwards to 4% simply by removing a third party clearing fee.

In my opinion there was nothing, on paper, wrong with Lenovo stuffing its PCs with an adware product. They just did not do a successful job of selecting the right partner (because Superfish product comes with big security concerns), which may result in a very big problem for Lenovo, should someone experience a hack attributable to Superfish. They also appear not to have done a very good job of plainly educating the consumer about the presence of adware on their computers. Finally, they were unable to provide their customers with an easy to follow method of completely removing adware from their purchases, should they wish to go this route.

The whole method of handling this problem has been a failure of public relations, sorry to say.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved

23
Feb

Apps for SharePoint 2013 carry their own set of implementation risks

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthLarge organizations with an instance of Microsoft SharePoint running on premises may be thinking about migrating their customization process over from full trust solutions to a combination of HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Microsoft refers to this combination as the “SharePoint App Model”. A similar combination called the “Office App Model” is also being promoted for requirements to modify the components of Microsoft’s Office suite (“Office”) to meet the unique requirements of specific organizations.

Despite what I refer to as a near “binary” presentation, where the strengths of these app models (the “pluses”) are presented in direct comparison with the weaknesses of their full trust solution ancestors (the “zeroes”), readers with similar interests will benefit if they include a governance plan for customization along with the other migration components. Here is why:

jQuery is a popular function library for JavaScript. Since jQuery is actively supported in the user community, the library continues to evolve. Hence there are many different versions of the library. But not all features of all libraries are the same. So conflicts can arise from customizations built with earlier versions of the jQuery library. Especially when these customizations are actively used alongside other customizations built with other versions of the library.

The negative impact of these conflicts is greater when a central IT organization steps back and opts to empower line of business (LoB) units to build their own customizations for an on-premises complex computing platform like SharePoint 2013. On the surface this approach may look to be the correct one to take, especially if this stance has evolved after several years of an active BYOD policy.

Some proponents of Dev/Ops may recommend this kind of flexible posture on the part of enterprise IT. But if there is no central control over how jQuery libraries are to be implemented, then the risks of a breakdown in computer processing take on a more palpable shape. A far better policy calls for enterprise IT to directly arbitrate with LoBs on the question of how customizations are to be managed. In fact, enterprise IT ought to publish a set of standards for how customizations are to be built with SharePoint and/or Office apps. Finally, a set of tools should be implemented (and developed if they are not found to be available given the unique needs of a specific organization) capable of detecting processes running on internal on-premises computing systems to ensure any/all examples of app customizations are in conformance with this policy.

Without this kind of governance plan, larger organizations will face much the same odds of poor return on development investment from app model efforts, as would be the case if they simply proceeded with “legacy” customization techniques.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2015 All Rights Reserved