29
Jan

Personal agents, and artificial intelligence may transform enormous amounts of information into manageable resources

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthPeter Holley of the Washington Post captured some thoughts Bill Gates articulated during a Reddit “Ask me Anything” session on the topic of a Microsoft project “called the Personal Agent”. Holley’s clips appear in an article titled Bill Gates on dangers of artificial intelligence: ‘I don’t understand why some people are not concerned’ (http://www NULL.washingtonpost NULL.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/01/28/bill-gates-on-dangers-of-artificial-intelligence-dont-understand-why-some-people-are-not-concerned/). Holley writes: “He went on to highlight a Microsoft project known as the “Personal Agent,” which is being designed to help people manage their memory, attention and focus.”

But Holley doesn’t note the project has been discussed before, this time by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Nadella touched on the very same theme on July 10, 2014, in his letter to Microsoft Employees, titled Bold Ambition & Our Core (http://news NULL.microsoft NULL.com/ceo/index NULL.html). Here is the quote from Nadella: “Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. Billions of sensors, screens and devices – in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs – are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives. This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines. We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.”.

I wrote earlier in this blog on these comments of Nadella’s. My formal education includes a Master’s degree in English Literature. I spent a lot of time working on the poems of Samuel Coleridge and couldn’t help noting Coleridge’s prescience when he wrote in the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner: “Water, water everywhere, but nary a drop to drink”.

I think, in 2015, a lot of us are parched mariners, dying of thirst in a world flooded with too much information to be manageable. So, where Holley reads Gates’ comments as a portrayal of some of the features of Microsoft’s personal agent as a kind of personal tune up, I read them as depicting a set of components of a solution packed with artificial intelligence. The solution will be designed to sort, and prioritize information into useful, digestible chunks, which can provide the user with a reliable basis of beneficial activity.

Cortana, Siri, and Google Now are three very early stage examples of this type of effort, with, respectively, very limited results. But perhaps these tools will become useful in time.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

26
Jan

Microsoft’s Q2 FY 15 webcast adds some form to the target market for Hololens and word of a formal end to the Windows XP refresh cycle

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthDuring Microsoft’s Q2 FY 15 webcast (http://www NULL.media-server NULL.com/m/p/kfhzc7oc), Satya Nadella alluded to Windows 10 Universal Apps, and their usefulness for average consumers of Microsoft’s recently debuted Hololens “alternative reality/AR” headset computer.

So Microsoft clearly intends to promote the Hololens to the consumer market. But as to whether or not the consumer market will jump at the opportunity, or not, is another question, which was not addressed during the webcast. It is more likely the early adopters for the device will be organization like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). JPL was mentioned during the January 20th event. As well, a post on the Hololens was published on the official JPL blog.

Another business with an entry in the headset computer business, Oculus also made news the same day Microsoft held its webcast. In an article titled Oculus CEO on its new VR filmmaking venture Story Studio and Microsoft’s HoloLens (http://blogs NULL.ft NULL.com/tech-blog/2015/01/oculus-ceo-on-its-new-vr-filmmaking-venture-story-studio-and-microsofts-hololens/), Tim Bradshaw summarizes a comment made by Brendan Iribe, the CEO of Oculus about Microsoft’s Hololens, likely target markets and the pace of introducing the technology: “AR [alternative reality] may be further away than Microsoft made it seem last week[. He] suggested the software giant should be “careful” about setting unrealistic expectations.” This opinion seems sensible to me, and, perhaps, one at least the Marketing Communications team at Microsoft might want to adopt.

The rationale behind my recommendation is an article by David Carr, of the New York Times, which appeared on the same day. Carr’s article brings up the whole personal information notion, complete with some thoughts on the level of behavioral re-engineering average consumers will have to go through to adjust to regular use of the Hololens. Of course this type of conjecture hovered around Google Glass for most of its product life. But, nevertheless, stimulating writers like David Carr to voice these opinions so early in the cycle of introducing a product like the Hololens may have been a mistake.

On the question of why the quarter failed to hit all of the analyst estimate targets, it may help readers to note the emphasis Amy Hood, CFO placed on the end of the Windows XP refresh cycle as a reason for these misses. A lot of the commentary already published on the quarterly results have posited notions of serious declines in sales of Windows, Microsoft’s enterprise products, etc. But little mention has been made of the end of the refresh cycle, which may actually make more sense.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

4
Nov

Microsoft looks at the inevitability of big data

Jason Zander, a Corporate Vice President at Microsoft opened his segment of the Keynote presentation for Microsoft’s Tech Ed Europe 2014 (http://channel9 NULL.msdn NULL.com/Events/TechEd/Europe/2014/KEY01) with a compelling argument for the inevitability of big data. Zander presented some numbers indicating the global population of smart devices has now surpassed the entire human global population. The number of apps supporting these devices, and their users has also grown in geometric proportion. The result is truly big data — an enormous amount of information about each/every touchpoint for devices, users, and even data itself as they interact.

Zander’s rhetorical argument is yet one more articulation of one of the core planks of Microsoft’s 2014 communications brand — productivity. To sum up this theme, readers are asked to simply consider the impact of the “hundreds and hundreds of petabytes of data we already have” on the notion of what this writer refers to as the “dawn” of “information opacity” aka the Samuel Coleridge phenomenon (“Water, water everywhere, but nary a drop to drink”).

Zander points to cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure as a leading example of it, as the only method of powering all of the data produced by the global interaction of users and smart devices. It’s worth noting his mention of telemetry. There will be more to be said about this category of data, and its relation to the concept of an Internet of Things (IoT) throughout the remainder of the conference.

The presentation then shifts to another core plank of Microsoft’s 2014 communications brand — the slogan, first articulated by its CEO, Satya Nadella, and now re-articulated by each and every other spokesperson (including Zander) “Mobile First, Cloud First”. Zander echoes Nadella’s recent comments on the slogan, and pulls in the scalability plank of the market message. Mobile First, he stresses for his audience, requires ISVs like Microsoft to envision consumers in motion, implementing different devices, at different times, with the objective of accomplishing the same tasks or activities. The only way to satisfy this need for a uniform computing experience is to deliver the same quality across any/all device form factors. Nothing less will do.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

30
Oct

Mature ISVs converge and compete on the “productivity” theme

Microsoft, Google, and the recently announced joint marketing effort by Apple and IBM, are all presenting solutions to the consumer market for computing solutions around the theme of “productivity”. But, in stark contrast to how this type of competition plays out around commodity hardware (smart phones, tables, PCs, laptops), each of these ISVs is working hard to articulate a niche, highly differentiated message.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft mentions “productivity” as early as two and a half minutes into the forty nine minutes of the Microsoft Cloud Briefing (http://news NULL.microsoft NULL.com/2014/10/20/cloud-event-webcast/) event, which was held on October 20, 2014 in San Francisco. The core, mission-critical foundation stone of this brand message is, as follows: in 2014 there is simply too much information. Too much information results in no information (kind of like Samuel Coleridge’s line from his Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, “water, water everywhere, but n’ary a drop to drink”). So the real imperative driving (and you can substitute your favorite mature ISV on this one) product marketing for computing is acquiring, understanding, categorizing, and prioritizing all of this information, behind the scenes (via machine learning) so an individual can do something with it.

Whether the solution is Delve, or Google Now, or Watson really doesn’t matter. Each of these intelligence platforms is out there to service individual needs to better manage information in a world where, literally, one thousand times the amount of information is available, at comparatively little or even no cost. Each of the competitors in this market is betting on the enormous value of this low cost pool of information, once it is packaged effectively, for consumers.

It’s refreshing to see how none of these competitors has reverted to a “competition to be the best” strategy. The market for the type of computing capability behind the notion of “productivity” as each industry spokesperson articulates it, promises substantial revenue. Treating it as a commodity would be real fool’s play.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

29
Oct

Microsoft’s October 20, 2014 Cloud Briefing includes some fine tuning for its “Mobile First, Cloud First” message

In the first few moments of Satya Nadella’s opening remarks at Microsoft’s Cloud Briefing, October 20, 2014 attendees were treated to a finely tuned presentation of the now familiar “Mobile First, Cloud First” market message. Nadella prefaced his remarks by referring to this brand message as “our world view”. He then defined “mobile first” as “the mobility of the individual experience”. Anyone familiar with Microsoft’s products, and how they have presented their offerings to consumers since they launched as a business in the late 1970s will note how this terse and absolutely to-the-point phrase binds 2014’s market message to the unique themes this mature ISV has articulated throughout its tenure as a business in the public eye.

Windows was first presented to consumers as a uniquely promising method for people to deliver a highly personalized experienced from small computing devices (which, themselves, were called personal computers, (PCs)). Different versions of this same opportunity could be distributed across organizations via the purchase of numbers of PCs. In fact, this purchase cycle occurred, and, now, PCs are ubiquitous.

Now the personal computing experience has evolved into the “individual experience” of Nadella’s opening remarks. His definition of the “mobile” venue for this individual experience provides him an opportunity to demonstrate why Microsoft’s commitment to delivering as consistent a computing experience, as possible, across the set of computing hardware an individual may implement during a typical day of activity, is so important. In turn, the effort to deliver this consistent computing experience from smart phone, to tablet, to desktop computer, to lap top, leverages scale.

By the time the audience digests all of this information, which Nadella communicates in less than 2 minutes of his opening remarks, it is likely clear why the Windows 10 Operating System (which was introduced only a month prior to this event) must be the same OS for each of the form factors we just mentioned.

By the time he mentions “cloud”, the importance of SaaS, and the power it contributes to this effort to deliver a uniform computing experience across the entire range of computing form factors should be clear.

In this writer’s opinion, Nadella’s ease in articulating this message, with authority, will contribute, positively, to enterprise business computing consumers. This is the correct market for Microsoft to pursue. Therefore, it makes sense to monitor, over time, how thoroughly this market assimilates the themes Nadella is presenting.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

2
Sep

MobileIron Promotional Content Depicts a Mobile First World

Perhaps Microsoft’s CEO was not far off when he articulated a new vision of a Mobile First Cloud First world back on March 27, 2014. This writer paid a visit to MobileIron’s website and found very similar themes running through a short promotional video exposed on the site, which provides an overview of the imperatives driving MobileIron solutions (http://www NULL.mobileiron NULL.com/en/why-us/introduction).

MobileIron offers a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution. This MDM solution has been included in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for MDM. Most recently, Tiernan Ray of Barrons reported on analyst comments about MobileIron, which were attributed to Karl Kierstead of Deutsche Bank. According to Ray’s report, the availability of MobileIron, together with Apple’s next release of iOS (iOS 8, rumored to make its debut in September of this year), spells trouble for BlackBerry, and may hasten the pace at which large organizations migrate out of Blackberry’s BES.

A number of posts to this blog have been concerned with BlackBerry’s BES and the enterprise market for MDM solutions.

Readers interested in important technology themes running through the marketing communications efforts of ISVs should make special note of how Nadella first articulated a number of themes now carried forward by Microsoft competitors. Microsoft is a recent entry to the MDM market place via its Enterprise Mobility Suite. Perhaps it makes sense for MobileIron to address the same themes in its video. If nothing else, the reverberations point to the credibility of the points Nadella made back in March of this year.

During its recent IO event for 2014, Google added further credibility to Nadella’s presentation during a segment speaking to productivity. The same claims Nadella made for Microsoft software, and its objective to empower its customers with the most efficient methods of attaining optimum productivity, were made for the Android platform.

The reverberations are not, in and of themselves, particularly important. What is important is how they affirm the relevance of these themes for consumer and business computing in 2014. “Mobile First, Cloud First World” is not only a sophisticated juxtaposition, in rhetoric, of images and the “world”. It should now be considered an accurate portrayal of how consumers and business users accomplish their computing tasks.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

4
Aug

Microsoft Differentiates Its Azure Offers via Acquisitions

In the aftermath of the public release of Amazon’s most recent quarterly earnings report, analysts have focused on price and margin reductions for its Amazon Web Services (AWS) product line. Microsoft’s Azure is a competitor of Amazon AWS, but, per Microsoft’s most recent quarterly earnings report, Microsoft is adding services to its Azure offers via acquisitions, presumably to better differentiate its cloud, IaaS offers for consumers.

Satya Nadella, CEO, provided word of these acquisitions during the “Quarterly Highlights” section of the earnings report, and within the specific context of a mention of “high value services” for Azure, and an increasing consumer appetite for them: “To support these high value services in Azure I have prioritized acquisitions such as

  • Greenbutton for big compute
  • Capptain for mobile backend services
  • and, Just in the past few weeks, InMage for disaster recovery for hybrid clouds

Earlier this month we published our opinion on the InMage acquisition. We maintain an Office 365 E3 plan subscription and have experienced, first hand, the need for a robust backup system for our data stored in the cloud, one which can be managed by SMBs without recourse to potentially expensive third party service So we think InMage is a positive addition to Microsoft, and, to both of its cloud offers — Azure and Office 365. We do need to note Amazon AWS claims to be compatible with “many popular disaster recovery architectures” (quoted from AWS Disaster Recovery Cloud Services (http://aws NULL.amazon NULL.com/disaster-recovery/).

From the short message on the front page of its web site, Greenbutton (http://www NULL.greenbutton NULL.com/) appears to have been designed to work with Azure since the business commenced activities in 2006. So this acquisition is more about folding what was third party business back into Azure than it is about breaking new ground. From the promotional information still available on the Greenbutton web site, it would appear consumers with applications requiring a very rapid transformation into a cloud-ready condition would want their developers to implement the Greenbutton SDK to hasten the process. The promotional information speaks of flexible capacity planning for IaaS resources as another plus for the SDK.

Finally, Capptain (http://www NULL.capptain NULL.com/) looks like at least part of a solution Microsoft needs to offer to its App Developers as it grapples with how to magnetize more interest from them, and add to their ranks at the same time.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

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

31
Jul

Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite Quickly Magnetizes Interest from Enterprise IT

Microsoft® debuted its Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) (http://www NULL.microsoft NULL.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/enterprise-mobility-suite/default NULL.aspx?WT NULL.srch=1&WT NULL.mc_ID=SEM_BING_USEvergreenSearch_Intune&CR_CC=Unassigned) in May of this year. During the Microsoft Q4 2014 Earnings Conference Call, Satya Nadella, CEO, referred to this product as a “high value service [running] on top of our base cloud infrastructure”.

Readers may want to take some time to read the white paper offered on the EMS website. Given Microsoft’s longstanding position as the preferred desktop computing vendor for enterprise IT, it is likely EMS, which provides a combination of what Nadella summed up as “identity management, device management and data security into one IT controlled plane and architecture.” will magnetize some significant interest from its targeted market. EMS is a SaaS offering.

According to Nadella and Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, this is the case. Both referred to rapid adoption of EMS. Microsoft stands to benefit in several ways should EMS ascend to a leader position for the market: Certainly, businesses standardizing on EMS will constitute strong prospects for Microsoft’s own mobile devices — Windows Phone and Surface computers. But, further, since EMS is built on three other strategic products from Microsoft’s cloud SaaS portfolio — Azure Active Directory Premium, Windows Intune, and Microsoft Azure Rights Management — sales of EMS will, necessarily, also include sales of each of these components of the overall solution, which will horizontally distribute the importance of this solution, potentially opening consumption by SMBs.

The burning need driving market appetite for a solution like EMS is not new. BYOD and what is referred to as the “consumerization of IT”, as a technology trend, has been going on for sometime, perhaps dating back to the debut of the first Apple iPhones. But a solution like EMS has not been available. Perhaps, one can argue, Blackberry’s Device Management (BDM) solution can be looked at as a possible competitor, but BDM neither includes a native version of the Active Directory component, nor anything like Microsoft Azure Rights Management. No, EMS looks to be very well positioned to be a revenue driver for Microsoft, going forward.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

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

30
Jul

Office 365 Subscription Plans Evolve Into a Promising Revenue Opportunity for Microsoft

During Microsoft’s most recent quarterly earnings conference call numerous references were made by Amy Hood, CFO, and, I believe, Satya Nadella, CEO to Microsoft’s Cloud business proceeding at an annual run rate of $4.4 Billion USDs. This is a substantial number. Facebook’s annual run rate, per their latest 10Q as filed with the US SEC is approximately $12 Billion USDs. Google’s entire “Other” product revenue segment produced $1.6 Billion USDs for the latest quarter, only 9% more than the run rate Microsoft is claiming for its cloud offers (mostly Azure and Office 365).

The rate at which Office 365, specifically, is developing into a promising revenue opportunity for Microsoft should not be underestimated. We have first hand experience with the cost realities. We maintain an Office 365 E3 plan and a Dynamics CRM Professional plan. These combined plans are costing us $90 USDs per month. Assuming we are simply one of literally hundreds of thousands of SMB customers, one can quickly get a grasp as to how large the potential market is for Microsoft for this offering.

But it gets better. One of the most highly promoted features of Office 365, and the basis for a lot of the editorial content enfusing Satya Nadella’s recent presentations, has to do with Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics. We purchased an Office 365 E3 plan in order to leverage some of these features, for example, SQL Server Reporting Services for SharePoint, and Excel Services for SharePoint. But Power BI (http://www NULL.microsoft NULL.com/en-us/powerbi/default NULL.aspx?WT NULL.srch=1&WT NULL.mc_ID=Unsassigned_BING_USEvergreenSearch_Unassigned&CR_CC=Unassigned), which includes Power Map, Power Q&A, etc, is now an extra cost add on service, which we will need to pay for. At a listed cost of $40 per user per month, we are looking at an almost 50% increase in our monthly subscription cost to add the service.

Are the benefits worth the expense? The answer will, of course, vary from customer to customer. But, for any SMB in a regulated industry, or any SMB doing business with larger companies with an appetite for BI reports, the answer will likely be yes.

Microsoft’s principal competitor for this type of service is IBM. To the best of our knowledge, Google has nothing close.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

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

29
Jul

What’s the Significance of an Enterprise Search Feature Capable of ‘Standing’ the Whole Concept ‘On Its Head’?

Sprinkled within Satya Nadella’s remarks during Microsoft’s Q4 2014 Earnings Conference Call (http://www NULL.microsoft NULL.com/Investor/Events/Presentations/2014/ERFY14Q4 NULL.aspx?eventid=144704) were some words about “Delve”. For readers unfamiliar with “Delve”, this new feature, which is only available via an Office 365 subscription, is a further refinement of something called “Code Name: Oslo”. “Code Name: Oslo” was presented at Microsoft’s annual SharePoint Conference, 2014, as something called “Office Graph”. Nadella noted “Delve will turn enterprise search on its head as information that is relevant to you finds you. Think of this as the Facebook suite for productivity.” The remark is a concise summary of the features of the product, with the allusion to Facebook serving as a placeholder for the Enterprise Social features of the product.

How big a market is there for “enterprise search”, and how does this market differ from the public “search” market? In this writer’s opinion there is a promising market for the type of substantial improvement to enterprise search Nadella cites as likely once Delve hits the “virtual shelves”. Almost every highly regulated business will want to at least take a look at the feature, if not purchase an Office 365 subscription to obtain it. FINRA’s 10-06 regulation, which requires financial services firms to archive Social Media conversations, represents yet another burden on smaller banks, brokerage houses, etc. Given the low per user cost of public Office 365 subscriptions, it may be safe to assume lots of these firms will want to at least take a look at Delve, and, therefore, consume some Office 365 subscriptions. Similar requirements exists for heavily regulated businesses in the health care industry. We can wrap up merely a cursory look at likely markets by including law firms in this category.

Another very promising potential inherent to Delve is any possible hooks to Cortana. Once again, for readers otherwise unfamiliar with Cortana, this product, which was recently announced during a debut of the new features to be included in Windows Phone 8.1, is Microsoft’s entry into the market for voice assistants, and can be seen as a direct competitor to Apple’s Siri and “OK Google”. Cortana has been touted as a method of leveraging Microsoft’s Bing Search Service via voice commands. If Cortana can also connect to Delve, then the whole mobile market for the above mentioned heavily regulated businesses may want to consume this new “Enterprise Search” whiz, as well.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

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