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

15
Jan

Just how accurate are advertising predictions produced by machine learning systems?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthThanks to Mikio Braun, who on Thursday, January 2015 published an article on the InfoQ website. Braun’s article includes mention of a Google acknowledgement about the role played by machine learning (also known, at least in part, as data processing by algorithms) as a predictive tool in its ad placement technology for its click ad business. Readers interested in this topic should read Braun’s article, which is titled Google on the Technical Debt of Machine Learning.

I have written about the inaccuracy of click advertising in earlier posts to this blog. To quickly summarize my opinion on this topic, I found the systemic tendency towards poor ad placement to be especially difficult to overcome when the items to be promoted provide subjective, intangible benefit. So gaining a perspective on just how much of the ad placement technology behind Google Adwords and, in all likelihood, its direct competitors (principally Microsoft’s Bing advertising system), as Braun points out in this short article is very helpful.

What is also very helpful in Braun’s article is the manner in which the Google researchers (Braun’s article is really a news report on a presentation at a recent conference event held in Montreal, the Software Engineering for Machine Learning workshop, part of the annual Neural Information Processing Systems, NIPS, conference held in Montreal) shed light on the precariousness of proper performance for machine learning systems, in this (online advertising) context, given the effect they have on other related computer processes. These researchers make clear how the basic assumptions powering Neural Networks can actually adversely affect these siblings, and, thereby, produce erroneous results along with very little value to people depending on them. Readers should note this conclusion is my own, and not a conclusion expressed anywhere in Braun’s article.

From Braun’s article, and the technical précis of a research paper on the algorithmic process behind machine learning, which was also published by Google researchers, online advertisers should be careful to set realistic expectations about paid placements. Perhaps it will make sense to horizontally structure these campaigns, with a panoramic reach wherever possible, if they are to produce any meaningful results.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

13
Jan

Rounding off some of Google’s edges makes a pretty picture, but little more

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthKatie Benner, a writer published on the Bloomberg View web site, presented a hypothesis about Google on January 13, 2015. She questions whether some of Google’s recent features, what I would call its edges, are familiar because they are characteristic of another very large tech company – Microsoft. But has she actually rounded these edges to render an otherwise sloppy picture into something somewhat more appealing?

The title of Benner’s article is Google is the New Microsoft. Uh-Oh.

The sticking points, for me, in her characterization of Google as a maturing tech business “print[ing] money” are some otherwise simple mistakes Google has made, which are NOT the kind of mistakes worth anyone’s sympathy. Unfortunately Benner doesn’t talk to these points.

What she does opine about is her portrait of “innovation” (an otherwise meaningless abstraction if there ever was one) as an elusive quality of product development existing somewhere beyond the grasp of “hugely profitable compan[ies]”, like Microsoft.

What is missing from the piece is Benner’s definition of “innovation”. Is it safe to say she does not consider Google Glass to be “innovation?” What about the driverless car? Or, finally, what about inexpensive DNA profiling? As anyone following Google is aware, each of the above products have emerged from the “Googleplex” (the last is offered by a company headed up by Sergey Brin’s wife, 23andme).

So, to follow the point further, if the above products are not examples of innovation, would it be safe to assume Benner is talking to a definition of the term perhaps closer to what Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, presented last year, when he positioned his business as an enterprise focused on delivering solutions to enhance personal productivity? In an earlier post to this blog I wrote on this point, with reference to an article Irving Wladawsky-Berger wrote last year for the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Blog on the concept (readers need only review The Science of Innovation to get a glimpse of how Wladawsky-Berger understands “innovation”).

To wrap up this exposition, then why doesn’t Benner include Microsoft along with Apple in her ranks of large businesses capable of “innovating core products”. Unfortunately I can not answer these points as, in my opinion, Benner’s article rounds off these hard edges. I would have preferred to see them nailed together into a tight frame for Google’s mistakes, which I regret, are perhaps a lot more pedestrian and far removed from any notion of “innovation”.

The biggest of these, and the most recent as far as my gaining cognizance of its existence, is Google’s architecture for its Android IP business. Deciding not to update some comparatively recent versions of this O/S is a wrong decision not likely to win Google many friends from the OEM community, nor from end consumers. Certainly the decision to abandon these versions was correctable, and a rather simple thing to fix without a lot of buzz about “innovation”.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

12
Jan

Another reason why the Android segment of BYOD is problematic for enterprise IT organizations

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthThe Wall Street Journal published an article on what appears to be a decision made by Google not to support so-called older browsers (Jelly Bean 4.3 and earlier) for Android smartphones. But Android Jelly Bean 4.3 appeared as recently as June, 2013 (less than 2 years ago). So it may be safe to assume enterprise IT organizations are about to experience another big headache as they struggle to support BYOD policies permitting personnel to bring Android smartphones (and I would add tablets) into the enterprise. Some of these devices will certainly appear current (merely half way through a typical 3 year use cycle). But permitting them for use inside corporate firewalls might be a big problem.

This article is written by Danny Yadron. The article was published on Monday, January 12, 2015 and is titled Google Isn’t Fixing Some Old Android Bugs.

It is also likely consumers wouldn’t have a problem with Google’s decision, if the devices in question were truly older, meaning the first Android smartphone which appeared on the market in 2008, and its siblings. If the set of devices was merely limited to smartphones from 2008 to, say, 2010 (a full 5 years back), then Yadron’s reference to what he contends is the same posture Microsoft adopted with regards to its Windows XP Operating System, when it decided to stop supporting the product for production computing, would make sense.

But, in my opinion, Yadron’s statement is not tenable. “The security blind spot illustrates the challenges companies face as they try to move customers onto newer products and focus security resources on patching more-current software. Microsoft . . . applied the same reasoning when it stopped supporting Windows XP, first released in 2001, in April [2014].”

When we make reference to the Windows XP operating system, we are talking about software on the market for almost fourteen years. Sure the structure of the two announcements may be the same, but to equate a decision about products purchased as recently as 18 months ago to a decision about products purchased almost 156 months ago (nearly 10 times older) doesn’t make sense.

There is really very little similarity between the stances of these two big ISVs. Enterprise IT organizations are not likely to be fooled into thinking the two statements are the same. When they face an inevitable decision about whether to prohibit the use of mobile computing devices powered by Android Jelly Bean 4.3, on-premises, or not, they are not likely to enjoy their position as an unfortunate “bad guy”/spoiler for their community of computing users. Nevertheless, the best of them will likely have to prohibit these devices (which some personnel may still be paying off) if they are to preserve the comparative security of their internal corporate networks.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

30
Dec

Don’t put too much stock in Amazon’s list of top selling computers for the 2014 holidays

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthOn the day after Christmas, December 26, 2014, Amazon published a press release titled Amazon Prime Experiences Another Record-Breaking Holiday Season. This press release included a listing of the most popular purchases for the holiday gift-buying season. In the computer category the winner was the Acer C720 Chromebook.

Some writers made a point of this press release. Brooke Crothers wrote a piece for Forbes titled Chromebooks From Acer, Asus, HP Top Holiday Sellers On Amazon.

But a mere 4 days after the publication of this list, on December 30, 2014, the top selling laptop was an Asus running Microsoft Windows.

So what is the significance, if any, of the Amazon statistics? Readers approaching personal computers as pure commodities (I admit to membership in this camp) may want to note the decline in street price represented by these transactions and consider the impact, if any, on adjacent hardware computing form factors (namely tablets). But even by this measure the Amazon statistics can be misleading: the best selling computer device on the Amazon web site on December 30, as of 5:30pm, was the Kindle HD tablet, with a price of $99.00. So, is it, therefore, safe to say the street price for personal computing devices is now firmly established below the $100 mark? Further, does this mean we are looking at a substantially higher volume of devices sold?

I don’t think so. The dollar impact of all of these comparatively inexpensive computing devices is not, in my opinion, likely to mean much of anything good for the bottom line of manufacturers. Commodities are all about big volumes and very low margins. So all of these sales may amount to more of a headache for Asus and its competitors, than anything else.

But what about the impact of the volume of operating system (O/S) licenses associated with these sales? The Amazon press release identifies Google’s Chrome O/S as the winner. So is it safe to say Microsoft took a hit from the season? I don’t think so. Chrome is a cloud O/S. If, for argument’s sake, I buy into the notion Chromebooks were the real best seller for this holiday season, then the impact of choice associated with cloud (and the possibility some of these new Chromebook owners will opt for a personal subscription to Office 365) is a big factor rendering any call too early to tell.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

29
Dec

Does Google face a difficult internal challenge as it addresses the enterprise computing market with products?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPerhaps the biggest obstacle to Google for work improving its success in the enterprise computing market is Google’s approach to marketing communications. Where are the blogs? Is there an easy-to-find repository full of the kind of promotional information enterprise tech consumers have demonstrated an interest in digesting? How do Google’s communications efforts compare to its peers?

The answer to each of the three questions posed above is, unfortunately, not promising:

Where are the blogs?

Unless/until one lands on the Google for work “home page”, Google for Work, it is not likely readers will be able to locate the “for work” blog. The blog is mentioned in a vertical column located on the right of the very bottom of the home page under a curious title, “Keep in Touch”.

A search of blogger (which is now a component of Google, itself) did not produce any “Google” blogs with the content enterprise IT management traditionally has been shown to consume.

Is there a familiar spot on the web where business management can visit to read the latest news on Google’s products for enterprise computing?

If one assumes the Google Work (or is it “for work”?) page to be the online repository for any/all information about enterprise computing products offered by Google, disappointment will likely follow. “Google for Work” maintains a Twitter page, @googleforwork. A quick review of the tweets on the page revealed a lot of content located on Google + pages. All of these entries should be linked to the “Google for Work” home page. But, unfortunately, this is not the case. The Twitter page is a better bet. Though even a search of the Twitter page will not reveal all of the content published on topics related to the Google for work offers.

How does Google’s MARCOM for “Google for Work” compare?

I spend quite a bit of time working with marketing communications material published by Microsoft, arguably, Google’s most formidable challenger in the enterprise computing market. Blogs are a prominent feature of Microsoft’s core web sites:

“Blogs” are accessible via a click on a link prominently displayed on the Office home page. The link, admittedly, is located towards the bottom of the page as is the case with the blog link on the Google for work site.

On the MSDN web site, blogs are accessible via a click on the “Community” tab on the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page, and then a click on the “Blog” hot link exposed to the site visitor.

Oracle maintains an even more extensive set of blogs than Microsoft and, once again, collects the blog content within a “Community” link. IBM does, as well, though the IBM content is not centralized.

Google should re-architect its marketing communications effort for the “Google for work” product line if it is to succeed. Some thought should also go into choosing a better brand name for the product.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

17
Dec

Google Debuts Cloud Dataflow at Google I/O 2014

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthAt the end of a 2.5 hr plus webcast of the Keynote Presentation from Google I/O 2014 can be found the debut of Google Cloud Dataflow, the replacement for Google MapReduce. Readers unfamiliar with MapReduce, but avidly interested in the big data enterprise computing trend, need to understand MapReduce as the application at the foundation of today’s Apache Hadoop project. Without MapReduce, the Apache Hadoop project would not exist. So Google MapReduce is a software package worth some study, as is Cloud Dataflow.

But wait, there’s more. As Urs Hölze, Senior Vice President, Technical Infrastructure, introduces Google Cloud Dataflow, his audience is also informed about Google’s role in the creation of another of today’s biggest enterprise data analytics approaches — NoSQL (“Not only SQL”). He casually informs his audience (the segue is a simple “by the way”) Google invented NoSQL.

I hope readers will get a feel for where I’m headed with these comments about these revelations about Google’s historical role in the creation of two of the very big trends in enterprise computing in late 2014. I’m perplexed at why Google would, literally, bury this presentation at the very end of the Keynote. Why would Google prefer to cover its pioneering role in these very hot computing trends with a thick fog? Few business decision-makers, if any, will be likely to pierce this veil of obscurity as they search for best-in-class methods of incorporating clusters of servers in a parallel processing role (in other words “big data”) to better address the task of analyzing text data scraped from web pages for corporate sites (“NoSQL”).

On the other hand, I’m also impressed by the potential plus Google can realize by removing this fog. Are they likely to move in this direction? I think they are, based upon some of the information they reported to the U.S. SEC in their most recent 10Q filing for Q3 2014. Year-over-year, the “Other Revenues” segment of Google’s revenue stream grew by 50% from $1,230 (in 000s) in 2013, to $1,841 in 2014. Any/all revenue Google realizes from Google Cloud and its related components (which, by the way, include Cloud Dataflow) are included in this “Other Revenues” segment of the report. For the nine months ending September 30, 2014, the same revenue segment increased from $3,325 in 2013, to $4,991 in 2014. Pretty impressive stuff, and not likely to diminish with a revamped market message powering “Google at Work”, and Amit Singh (late of Oracle) at the head of the effort.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

10
Dec

Use Hadoop to collect and analyze data with clusters of computer servers

Customers with large amounts of data, who are capable of supporting a distributed server architecture, as clusters, can benefit from a decision to implement Apache Hadoop® as the solution. The key operant principle is the notion of clusters. Readers eager to learn more about this benefit may want to take a few moments to review a short animation, titled Hadoop* Server Clusters with 10 Gigabit Intel® Ethernet, which is available for public viewing on a web site published by Intel.

I’m not recommending the video for the presentation of Intel’s high speed gigabit networking hardware. This segment takes up approximately the last 1-2 mins of the animation. But the opening section does more to present viewers with information about how Apache Hadoop is uniquely capable of adding value to any effort to implement data management and analytics architectures over comparatively lower cost server hardware than most of the hype otherwise available online on the notion of “big data”.

For readers looking for even more help drilling down to just what the value-add may amount to should a decision be made to implement Hadoop, a quick visit to a page on the MapR© web site titled What is Apache™ Hadoop®? will likely be worth the effort. The short presentation on the page, in my opinion, provides useful information about why clusters of servers are uniquely capable of servicing as the repository for an enormous number of web pages filled with information.

Certainly market consumers have opted to implement Hadoop for a lot of other purposes than its original “reason to be” as an evolution of “a new style of data processing known as MapReduce” (which was developed by Google) as the MapR presentation points out. These implementations provide a lot of the support for arguments for the notion of “big data”, at least the ones short on hype and long on sensibility.

What’s missing from the MapR presentation are customer success stories/case studies. Fortunately anyone looking for this type of descriptive content on just how real life businesses can benefit from an implementation of Hadoop can simply visit a page of the Hortonworks web site titled They Do Hadoop and watch some of the videos.

Ira Michael Blonder

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