31
Mar

On the brighter prospects of a world with more tasks handled by machines

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthSince the advent of the world wide web in the early 1990s it has been possible to craft viable business models from highly specific — and limited — market niches. Now, in 2015, with the promise of an expansion in the capabilities of computing machines to handle more tasks of, perhaps, a mundane nature, this opportunity horizon has widened even further. (If you would like more information about why I have specifically connected the enormous popularity of web pages exposed over Ethernet networks for the general public as an important milestone leading to an enormous expansion in the range of viable tech business notions, please contact me as I offer consulting services in this area).

I think it makes sense for readers to keep this factor in mind as they witness public debate about the notion of just whether or not the proliferation of robots, hardware computing machines powered by algorithms, and even what are colloquially referred to as “smart” applications (and apps) will, in sum, result in a net positive, or negative, result for the sheer number of people employed.

An OPED piece published on the CNN web site on March 18, 2015 communicates the seriousness of this debate and adds a raw edge to it: Silicon Valley to millennials: Drop dead. The piece is written by David R. Wheeler. I could not find any information about him, beyond his picture on the CNN web site. So I can provide no background on why CNN decided to post his article.

The raw and right-to-the-point flavor of Wheeler’s chosen title for his piece certainly captures one’s attention. When this factor is combined with CNN’s decision to go to press, and prominently, with this piece, I would hope my readers will agree the topic has a lot of interest behind it, as it should given what I take to be Wheeler’s core point: “The commonly held belief is that with hard work and a good education, a young person in America can get a good job”.

Given the statistics Wheeler provides in his piece, he is probably correct in his conclusion the employment horizon has darkened. But if I replace “can get a good job” in the above quote with “can achieve financial security and even wealth”, then the horizon opens up for another phenomenon we are all witnessing today: an explosion in the number of small businesses and, particular, technology startups.

As recently as Sunday, March 29, 2015, an article appeared on the Financial Times web site about an entrepreneur by the name of Bart Van der Roost. Mr. Van der Roost has started a business by the name of neoScores. I hope readers can share my appreciation for Van der Roost to craft what may become a very promising business from an especially narrow niche market — musicians requiring scores on digital devices. Perhaps we can extrapolate from his notion an opportunity for literally millions of these niches just waiting for entrepreneurs to expose.

Sure code is required. But isn’t code one of the skills people can go to college to learn? I hope we can all take a more sunny view of a new world of computing with hardware devices (powered by algorithms) capable of executing a widened vista of tasks.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

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®.

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.

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, 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. 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? 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. 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.

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