Don’t look to Facebook at Work to change much in the world of enterprise social, but enterprise recruiting could be a different story

Facebook At Work (http://www NULL.dailymail NULL.co NULL.uk/sciencetech/article-2847311/Facebook-Work-set-launch-January-Social-network-s-ad-free-LinkedIn-rival-roll-early-new-year NULL.html), should it be released in early 2015, isn’t likely to make a dramatic appearance on the market for enterprise social computing solutions. It’s not as if consumers of this kind of computing solution have few choices. But the market is constrained and, perhaps, for a set of good reasons:

  1. Hierarchical organizations have demonstrated substantial resistance to enterprise social computing solutions
  2. Facebook at work appears to be taking a path into the enterprise leading through BYOD and BYOA, and the consumerization of IT computing
  3. Organizations supporting lots of silos have not demonstrated much success implementing enterprise social computing solutions
  4. It’s unlikely Facebook at work will introduce any new features beyond those already offered by entrenched competitors
  5. Neither is it likely Facebook will offer anything like the analytics tools already available to enterprise social consumers using tools offered by Microsoft, IBM, or even Google

So if this rumored suite of tools isn’t likely to make much of an impression on the enterprise social market, then why all the publicity about it? One can argue Facebook is the leading solutions provider for social computing; therefore, any step they take in an enterprise computing direction is worth some commentary. But this argument doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. The history of the efforts of a number of other solutions designed for the enterprise social computing market is not filled with a lot of clearly successful efforts. Bottom line: enterprise social computing is a special kind of requirement, not necessarily a right step for the average organization and, potentially, a detriment to its healthy performance.

But perhaps Facebook, itself, is powering a lot of the “online chatter”. They certainly have a lot to gain should they establish a position as a serious option for this type of computing for enterprise-class organizations. Further, if they approach the market from the direction of LinkedIn, as the article from the UK Daily Mail contends, they will have more to gain. Popping up as a competitor to Yammer will require a lot more work on the backend then Facebook is likely to want to undertake. Even more, it will require Facebook sales and marketing personnel to win over prospects from enterprise IT organizations — not likely to happen anytime soon, in the opinion of this writer.

Taking a piece of LinkedIn’s business with corporate recruiters and the executive search firms supporting them is another matter, and one where Facebook looks like a real force, especially when their expertise in the mobile ad serving market is factored in to the equation.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Android’s penetration of enterprise computing markets is constrained by a combination of limited upgrade options and too many distributions

It’s very late in 2014, but a lot of enterprise computing consumers still depend on a central support function. An enormous volume of content has been written on the topic of the consumerization of business computing, and how the role of technology leader has changed hands from the typical enterprise IT organizations, to power users playing any kind of role within the organization.

But when something breaks, whether the wreckage occurs at the Line of Business (LoB) level, or within enterprise IT, itself, it still has to be fixed. Fixing broken iOS devices, or Windows devices remains a preferred route. There are simply too many distributions of the Android operating systems, and too much difficulty bringing the ones in use within an organization up to the same level of functionality to make sense for most of the enterprise computing world.

So, with this notion of how hardware device standards, to some extent, still operate in the world of business computing, Samsung’s recent decision to partner with BlackBerry “to Provide End-To-End Security for Android” (http://press NULL.blackberry NULL.com/press/2014/blackberry-and-samsung-partner-to-provide-end-to-end-security-fo NULL.html) makes sense.

The BlackBerry Samsung partnership, should appear curious to anyone who reviewed the webcasts recorded at Google I/O 2014. After all, Google announced its plan to “[integrate] part of Knox right into Android” (quoted from Samsung and Google team up to integrate KNOX into Android’s next major release (http://www NULL.sammobile NULL.com/2014/06/25/samsung-and-google-team-up-to-integrate-knox-into-androids-next-major-release/), which was written by Abhijeet M, and published in June, 2014 on the SAMMOBILE web site)at its Google I/O 2014 event. So why would Samsung partner with BlackBerry on no less a mission than to provide the above-stated “end-to-end security for Android”?

A simple answer, in this writer’s opinion, would be to surmise Samsung has come to the realization enterprise IT organizations in the private and public sectors are still, for some reason, shrugging off Knox and passing on Android altogether. Bringing in BlackBerry, therefore makes sense. BlackBerry’s successful effort to convince the U.S. Federal Government, and some of its international peers to continue to use BlackBerry mobile computing devices as the most secure of any of their options. Perhaps some of this win can be attributed to the fact BlackBerry is built on proprietary IP, which, for better or worse, can be easily upgraded and is completely uniform in its presentation.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Consumers should not be expected to deliver repeat buying opportunities for mobile operating systems in process

Android may be the leader in the mobile operating system popularity contest, but it shouldn’t take rooting a tablet or smart phone to migrate from JellyBean to KitKat or, most recently, Lollipop. Nevertheless, the only process this writer can find to upgrade a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2.1 from Android 4.1.2, JellyBean to KitKat is to root the device.

Perhaps it would help readers to better understand the point by mentioning why an upgrade makes sense for this Samsung device. The multi-tasking capabilities available with JellyBean pale in comparison with the advances Android has made and included with KitKat. Why should consumers have to pay for improvements to features already available in an older version of an operating system?

Apple, in contrast, consistently offers a free-of-charge upgrade to the latest version of their iOS operating system. Not all of these upgrades go smoothly, but, if nothing else, Apple iPhone and iPad customers are relieved of the necessity of simply “repeat buying” a tablet or a smart phone they already own, for what amounts to no more than an enhancement to features already offered to them.

If one follows the reasoning here it should be plausible to attribute some of the pace of deceleration in consumer appetite for smart phones and tablets to a pervasive dissatisfaction with “half baked” feature sets. Samsung, to cite merely one Android OEM, has recently reported on this deceleration, and received a lot of investor punishment as the result. But as long as consumers have no option but to engage in a complex procedure to decouple a piece of hardware from its original operating system, it’s very likely consumer dissatisfaction will continue to mount and sales will continue to plummet.

This is regrettable. In fact, the multi-tasking improvement in Android KitKat is substantial and likely to be well received by even average consumers of these devices. In turn, should these upgrades be made available without additional charge to existing customers, sales should pick up. Android OEMs will realize the financial benefit. Enterprise customers, with a clear need for multi-tasking will be more likely to purchase the hardware, rounding off the benefit for the whole Android ecosystem.

The message for early stage ISVs is to think long and hard about the upgrade path consumers will have to traverse as new features are rolled into existing, core, products. In this writer’s opinion, “Ready, Fire, Aim” cannot be used as an excuse to justify raising consumers costs when limitations with advertised features are merely corrected.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Working with Windows Preview, tile apps and desktop applications get along better than is the case with Windows 8.1

I’ve been working with Windows Preview for about a month. One of my computers, a laptop seeing otherwise low usage looked to be a perfect candidate for the preview, so I decided to use it to participate in the preview effort. The laptop is at build 9860. The pace of Windows Update is “slow”.

I like what I’ve seen so far, but, frankly, haven’t made much use of the computer, at least as of yet, to try out new functionality. I decided to move slowly on the preview opportunity as the result of several problems arising shortly after I loaded the preview:

  • The Security suite (McAfee LiveSave) on the laptop (originally running Windows 8.1 professional) proved to be incompatible, at least with build 9860 of the preview, so I decided to remove it and migrated down to Windows Defender
  • The fingerprint scanner feature, from HP (the laptop manufacturer), also failed, though I have gotten the scanner to work with the new login featured presented by Windows Preview, which gives me the option of using the fingerprint scanner in lieu of login name and password
  • The wireless adapter on the laptop, a Qualcomm Atheros AR9000, cannot be successfully updated with Windows Preview, build 9860 running

But I can say I find the new O/S to be much easier to use than Windows 8.1. My Windows 8.1 experience was colored by the hassle of switching between the tile interface and the computer desktop interface whenever I needed to use applications. As I just noted, this experience amounted much more to a hassle than anything else. Since I opted to use a Surface 2 RT tablet as my primary device in the category, the hassle presented by Windows 8.1 was probably more pronounced than would have been the case had I made more use of an Android tablet I also have available.

The good news with Windows Preview is most, if not all of the hassle has been removed. I rarely, if ever, experience the display driver crashes which are almost always “there” when I try to use the Surface 2 RT to post to Twitter, or some other app designed for small form mobile devices.

The laptop is equipped with a touch screen. I’m pleased to say I haven’t experienced any detraction from the touch functionality as the result of implementing Windows Preview. I happen to be keen on touch (in fact I’m keen on any input method other than keyboard and mouse) and would like to see this set of features kept as is as more builds are rolled out.

I haven’t any intention to quicken the pace at which I upgrade to later builds. So readers shouldn’t plan on much more content on this topic, at least for now.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Comments on Google’s new InBox email reader

For better or worse, email remains the primary method computer users exploit for asynchronous communication. So Google’s release of a new reader application, InBox, stimulated my interest. I received an invitation to add the application and thought it might be helpful for readers to provide some comments here in this blog. For readers unfamiliar with the notion of “asynchronous communication”, the easiest way to understand the concept is simply to consider messages largely disconnected from one another. In other words, getting the message from an email does not require a review of the reply that may (or may not) result from it. Popular messaging apps like Whats App, or Facebook Messenger, Google Chat, etc. are all examples of synchronous communication, in other words messages are interdependent and really meaningless without the replies associated with them, even if there is no reply whatsoever. In the latter case the initial message is collected by each of these applications into the folder directly associated with a targeted recipient. In the case of almost any email reader, and in contrast, any sent message can be found in the “sent” folder repository for all sent messages, regardless of the intended recipient.

When I consider an application like Google InBox the important points all have to do with productivity, and, further, the pace at which I can locate information of importance to me, as opposed to all of the other information really of low importance to me. So I admit to liking the way InBox collects my messages into broad groupings: “Social”, “Updates”, “Promos”, etc. I find it easier to get the information I’m after as the result of this rearrangement. Dealing with a reorganized repository of messages is something easy for me to do.

But learning a different way of working with messages, which in the case of InBox amounts to using the new “Sweep”, “Pin” “Bundled”, “Unbundled”, etc features is another matter. I have made little, if any use whatsoever of these new features. Why? There is nothing wrong with how I’m presently working with my email, so I have no motivation to changing it. Learning a different way to work with messages is actually a matter of adopting a new computing technique. Adoption is a big deal and not something I want to get into, right now, for my daily, persistent need to interact with email.

I need an application like InBox to work with all of my email — not just the email I receive via GMail. This capability is presently available with Microsoft Outlook 2013, on my desktop. So I still prefer Outlook 2013, even without the new order to messages I’ve received by using InBox for my Google email aka GMail. I understand this capability will be rolled into GMail, but I would rather see it added to InBox. Perhaps I will have more information to share on this in a later post.

A bigger plus, for me, would be to have Google’s search service retrieve and expose relevant email messages from my inboxes based on my queries. Unfortunately the feature is not presently available, neither with Google Search, nor with Bing and/or Cortana.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Seamless access to all other personally important apps should be a mandatory feature of any high value personal assistant app

The differences I’ve noted between Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s competitive Google Now and OK Google, which I cited in the prior two posts to this blog and are important for me, are emblematic of my need for a Personal Assistant (PA) application to seamlessly interact with like applications on any mobile computing device I own. I imagine I’m not alone in this. So how do Windows Phone 8.1 and Android 4.1 KitKat compare on this point?

When I ask Cortana directions, the PA passes the request over to Bing Here maps. Once the handoff is complete, any voice interaction appears to be with the Bing Here app, and not with Cortana. In contrast, when I set Google Now and “OK Google” on the same task, the voice interaction is strictly with “OK Google”, which appears to manage the Google Map application for me.

This distinction is potentially a big deal if either PA is limited as to just what can be indexed when it comes to compiling a set of content for search. Let’s include Microsoft’s Delve (http://products NULL.office NULL.com/en-us/business/explore-office-delve) Office 365 application into the discussion. I have added Delve to the Office 365 E3 plan I maintain for my business. But when I use Delve I don’t get much of anything at all. Why? I am a consultant and the only user on the Office 365 subscription I maintain for my business. As well, I am not making much use of One Drive for Business, but I am making a lot of use of the rest of SharePoint Online for an Enterprise Document Management (EDM) application.

Nevertheless, when I call up the Delve application, I am served with the following message: “Give Delve more to work with[:] Store and share your documents where Delve can get to them, such as in OneDrive for Business, and Delve will automatically bring you the most relevant content.” But why can’t Delve work with the content in the Document libraries I’ve set up in Office 365, or with the voluminous amount of email messaging I have available across my email accounts (I have more than 5 active email accounts)?

Unfortunately I haven’t an answer to share with readers on this question. But it may be helpful to consider why, and how product marketing at Microsoft opted to proceed careful with regards to just what information Delve would be permitted to parse, index, and then to serve up in response to queries. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side of the Privacy debate a reader happens to choose) I suspect privacy concerns have limited how this potentially very helpful application can do.

Bottom line: I find Google Now, “OK Google” approach to a PA to be more useful right now. I’m genuinely excited about what a “manager of managers” kind of PA can do to help my personal daily productivity. Perhaps readers will share this enthusiasm.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Continuing a Comparison of Cortana and OK Google for queries likely to be popular with mobile users

Getting driving directions is likely to be a very common need for mobile computing. I used Cortana and OK Google to put together driving directions with very different results. I picked a location forty miles from my home and simply asked each personal assistant to provide me with driving directions.

The response I received from Cortana was less than satisfactory for two reasons: 1) Cortana cut me off in mid query on two of my three attempts. Pauses appeared to be interpreted, incorrectly, as end-of-voice-query field delimiters. So the audible responses I received on both of these unsatisfactory results were wrong. The response to my third attempt to present the destination was even worse. Instead of receiving an audible reply, I was presented with a results page from Bing with a list of results, all of which were relevant to the location I was after, but, if I had been driving, would have been entirely useless. 2) When Cortana correctly understood my question, the app started the “Bing Here” mapping application, with its own voice response component. This is not necessarily a problem, but for the otherwise computer limited user (my wife is a good example of this type of person), the kind of seamlessly integrated response I received from “OK Google” to the same query would have been preferred.

It’s worth adding a bit to the above critique. There are likely to be a good set of voice commands sure to prompt Cortana to reply with an audible answer. I was not able to find them. When I attempted to start my direction query with “Navigate to” as per a command I found on the list at Cortana Commands List – Microsoft Voice Commands – Video (http://windowsuser NULL.org/cortana-commands-list-microsoft-voice-commands-video/), the reply I received was erroneous “navigate to 57th Street in Manhattan, between 6th and 7th Avenues” was intrepreted as “navigate 257th St. between sixth and 7th ave in Manhattan”. The results were served as a list of links, and, once again, Cortana wasn’t helping.

In contrast, “OK Google” correctly fielded a request phrased as “get directions to West 57th Street, Manhattan, NY” and replied, correctly, with an audible answer. What’s more, “OK Google” “spoke for” the Google Maps app in precisely the kind of seamless handshake needed for computer challenged users, as I mentioned above. As I will explore in the next post to this blog, the question of how best to serve up a seamless response to this type of query, and what a successful effort has to say about the usefulness of search across the set of apps someone happens be be using, is, in my opinion a big one.

Bottom line: I was better able to find a list of useful voice commands to produce the kind of audible reply I required for “OK Google” than was the case for Cortana. One would hope Microsoft will move to correct this issue and close the gap, at least as regards the list of commands one needs to use to elicit a desired audible response from Cortana.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Comments on Cortana and Google Now (OK Google)

After a wait of seven months (five beyond an original expectation), I finally received an update to Windows Phone 8.1 for my Lumia 925 (T-Mobile is the cellular carrier) during the first week of November, 2014. Cortana, Microsoft’s “personal assistant” was included, despite rumors I had heard to the contrary from some contacts located internationally.

Around the same time of this update to my primary smartphone, I received an invitation from Google to take a look at their “inbox” email product. In order to participate, I needed to first add the “inbox” app to a mobile phone. So I decided to add a smartphone running Android O/S to my set of computing devices. I found an offer from T-Mobile for LG’s D-415 “Optimus L90″, running Android 4.1 KitKat. I could buy the mobile phone, outright, for $79.99 (included a $20 trade-in for an Apple iPhone 4S). I purchased the phone and, therefore, will comment here on some impressions on Google Now aka “OK Google”, as well.

Before jumping into my initial thoughts on both of these personal assistant apps, I would like to point readers back to the last post to this blog, Any meaningful feature gap between high end and low end smartphones has been obliterated. I based my positions, expressed in the post, on my initial opinion about the LG D-415. Bottom line: I think this phone represents an enormous bargain compared to smartphones at the high end. I’ve been using it for about two weeks to track a daily walk (complete with mapping via GPS) and can’t complain at all about its performance. When the purchase price is considered, along with the 27 months of $22.00 per month I will, altogether, end up paying T-Mobile for my Lumia 925, I can’t overstate the value of the LG smartphone.

Cortana

I was disappointed by my first few days using Cortana. Our family includes a member with a pronounced European accent. When she attempted to use Cortana, the results were far off. Cortana did not understand the questions asked and, worse, never offered my family member an opportunity to train for voice recognition. In all fairness, I need to note “OK Google” shares this disinterest in training for better voice recognition. Is this oversight the result of no charge for either personal assistant? Perhaps, though readers should understand I have no substantive information to support the notion.

Another annoying feature amounted to an apparently arbitrary process whereby Cortana, the personal assistant, served up responses audibly, or with a page of text results. Perhaps I’m missing something. Microsoft does provide some guidelines about the questions Cortana can, and will answer. But I would recommend they make the limitations on audible response clearer. My attraction (which I can’t help but think most users will share) is for all responses to be made audibly to questions asked.

Finally, Cortana appeared to be stumped by some questions Google Now, aka “OK Google” could answer. I personally was very disappointed at this result. I am a big fan of Microsoft and had high expectations of the “power” of Cortana given all of the content published about how this personal assistant app leverages “Office Graph”, Bing, etc. But, bottom line, I stumped Cortana a few times where, in all fairness, the app should have served up a valid answer.

OK Google

As just mentioned, “OK Google” (is the name “OK Google” or is it “Google Now”? This ambiguous branding should be corrected) adroitly answered questions about an upcoming European election correctly, and, even better, with an audible response. But I do need to note the difficulty I experienced (and continue to experience) simply locating the right app for the “OK Google” feature. In contrast, it’s hard to miss the button for Cortana on Windows Phone 8.1.

In the next post to this blog I’ll make some comments about how each of these personal assistants handled a likely common requirement — getting driving directions.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Any meaningful feature gap between high end and low end smartphones has been obliterated

Consumer markets for smartphones no longer present any gap, whatsoever, between high end and low end entrants as regard high value features. With this gap obliterated, industry players will do well to implement product marketing strategies with a proven effectiveness in pure commodity markets or else risk extinction. This means product marketers should emphasize methods of lowering the cost of manufacture, and secondary markets to prop up revenue expectations while closely scrutinizing new model planning.

Here’s a case in point. We just purchased, outright, an LG Optimus L90 Smartphone (http://www NULL.lg NULL.com/us/cell-phones/lg-D415-optimus-l90) from our wireless data provider, T-Mobile. Our total cost to acquire this device amounted to a one-time charge of $99.99. We should also note we maintain 2 Nokia Lumia 925s, which we purchased from T-Mobile at a cost of approximately $600.00, each. We are still paying, monthly, for each of the Lumias and will likely continue to do so for at least another few months.

But with an Android KitKat O/S, and a very extensive set of app options, we can’t find anything we’ve given away by opting to purchase the LG-D415 instead of a new Lumia, or even an iPhone 6. Sure the Lumia and the iPhone 6 offer many more powerful features than our LG Optimus L90, but we have no need for them. In this writer’s opinion, when features reach a usefulness plateau as they have in the smartphone market, consumers have zero incentive to migrate up the ladder to more expensive versions of the same commodity.

Leading manufacturers of smartphones are already exhibiting a set of strategic moves befitting general agreement about the nature of the market as, in late 2014, entirely commodity driven. Accordingly, Apple is talking about producing a gold version of its iPhone 6, which is already available for custom monogramming. This move makes sense for a manufacturer with a leading product whose principal attractiveness is its position as a status symbol for a highly concentrated set of consumers habituated on only buying the leading product in the category.

At the low end manufacturers like Samsung are feeling the pain as competitors with a substantially lower cost of manufacturing, for example, Xiaomi, seize market share. For this segment of the market, app stores look to be an oasis in a profit desert. No wonder Microsoft is racing to win a place on the radar of app developers as its best hope to capitalize on the smartphone market.

Look for further consolidation in this market as manufacturers either drop out, or consumer rivals.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

Microsoft’s recent announcements of free Office apps for iOS and Android make sense as a driver for developers to use its Office 365 APIs and SDKs

Microsoft looks to benefit on multiple fronts from its recent announcements of free Office apps for iOS and Android mobile consumers. But one in particular looks especially promising. Developers will be much more likely to implement its Office 365 APIs and SDKs when consumers, recently hooked on free versions of Word, Excel, and more, with limited functionality, present a burning need for these tools.

In an earlier post to this blog, titled Don’t forget the cyclical nature of trends in Software development, this writer voiced his support for the notion of an “API Goldrush”, which Brian Proffitt articulated in an article published on the ReadWrite back on April 24, 2013. Proffitt’s points look to be highly accurate given Microsoft’s recent announcement, Developers now have new Office 365 APIs, iOS and Android SDKs, app launcher (http://blogs NULL.microsoft NULL.com/firehose/2014/10/28/developers-now-have-new-office-365-apis-ios-and-android-sdks-app-launcher/).

Flipping an old attempt to encourage developer interest into a winner by publishing a set of APIs and SDKs may look like a correct strategy for Microsoft to pursue, at least on paper, but if consumers haven’t articulated a significant need for the tools developers can bolt onto their mobile apps with these extensions, then the end result will, unfortunately, be a comparable low level of interest. In other words, developers will have little incentive to implement APIs and SDKs for Office 365 without consumer demand.

The announcements of free, albeit limited versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Office apps looks perfectly designed to prime the need pump. At the same time, Microsoft’s recent announcements of partnerships with DropBox, and a few months back, Salesforce.com, which provide these ISVs with a path into the Office 365 ecosystem, look just the same; in other words, a method of driving developers to build hooks to Office 365 into their mobile apps.

As C|Net published on November 7, Microsoft Word mobile app shoots to top of Apple’s charts (http://www NULL.cnet NULL.com/news/microsoft-word-mobile-version-shoots-to-top-of-itunes-charts/). So Microsoft seems to be on targed, at least for now. This is no small achievement, and precisely the type of interest Microsoft needs to push developers in its direction.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

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