20
Jan

Positioning Windows 8 versus Windows 10

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthOn January 20, 2015, the GeekWire website published an article written by Todd Bishop and Blair Hanley Frank, which discusses Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system and a public event (the actual debut of the consumer version of this O/S), which is scheduled to be held on January 21, 2015. The title of the article is Does the world still need Windows? What’s at stake for Microsoft in the Windows 10 consumer preview. Bishop and Frank summarize in this article some statistics coming out of NetApplications, which depict an enterprise computing world largely dominated by Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system (56% market share vs 14% market share for a combination of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 desktops).

The statistics are included to buttress a portrayal of some of the challenges in front of this new operating system, as Microsoft prepares for its event. The article argues Microsoft faces an imperative, which it must successfully address, via the January 21st event, to ” . . . assure [the public] that Windows 10 won’t cause them to punch their PC. Windows 8’s dual interface, straddling the line between desktop and tablet features, has caused confusion and frustration for many longtime Windows users.” A similar call for urgency can be found in a number of other articles published on the same topic.

Is it possible Microsoft’s public relations team has encouraged the news community to adopt this approach to the event, which I would summarize as “Windows 10 is a radically different operating system from Windows 8.1”? I have no information to indicate whether this is the case, or not, but the similarity in tone between these articles is, perhaps, attributable to a set of “talking points” someone sent out. At least it is fair to say there has been no press from Redmond countering the tone or substance of these articles.

I have been running Windows 10 Preview on a laptop since the start of the preview program (I believe the program kicked off in October, 2014). The laptop, an HP Envy, shipped with Windows 8.0, which I upgraded to Windows 8.1. In my opinion the differences between Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, at least as of Build 9879, are not radical. The real takeaway, for me, from the Windows 10 Preview experience, is a refinement of Windows 8.1, where the user interface is now a consistent experience of apps and other desktop components. Is it necessary to combine both experiences in one operating system? I would answer it is, given the reality of an enterprise computing world where mobile hardware devices are the norm.

Microsoft is not the only vendor of these systems seeking to present consumers with a “unified” computing experience. Both Apple and Google (Android and Chrome) have come around to the same approach, which should be something of a vindication for the original notion powering Windows 8.1. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s event. It might even be fun.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

24
Nov

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

19
Aug

Microsoft Provides Incentives for iOS and Android App Developers to Implement Xamarin with Visual Studio as their Platform

iOS and Android App Developers comfortable building solutions with C# should consider adopting Xamarin with Visual Studio as their coding platform. Microsoft is offering some financial incentives for these early stage ISVs to adopt Xamarin. Additional information about these incentives can be found on a page of the Xamarin site, titled “MSDN”, which publicizes the Microsoft offers.

Xamarin is one of a number of cross platform development offers. The biggest difference between Xamarin and its competitors, in this writer’s opinion, is the role C# plays for the Xamarin solution. C# sits at the center of the Microsoft application development paradigm. But from the promotional content on Xamarin’s site, one would also think C# is the best method App Developers can implement to maximize the value of App architecture by reducing the time required to implement the same App functionality for iOS, Android, and Windows.

The Mono Open Source implementation of Microsoft’s .NET framework is also sponsored by Xamarain, so the role Xamarin can play for Microsoft, should they magnetize critical mass across the App developer community, should be very clear. Without developers it is not likely Microsoft will successfully capture more of the mobile App market than it currently has (generally acknowledged as somewhere under 5% of the global market).

Xamarin appears to be winning over some important adopters. A quick glance at the corporate icons on the bottom of the first page of the Xamarin site attests to adoption from some very large enterprises, including Dow Jones, Kimberly Clark, McKesson, Bosch Siemens, and NBC Universal. Quick adoption on the part of enterprise business and comparably sized organizations in the public sector would make sense given the dominance of the “Microsoft stack” across these organizations.

Of course, magnetizing significant numbers of App developers from IT, and their partners servicing Line of Business (LoB) units within the same enterprises with Xamarin may ultimately prove to be good news for Microsoft’s latest product with a claim to a fast launch — the Enterprise Mobility Suite.

At a minimum, anyone harboring deep skepticism about Microsoft’s chances of establishing a legitimate position in the mobile App market may want to re-think his/her position.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

13
Jun

Intel Raises Guidance, is it Safe to Say the PC Market is Revitalized?

On June 12, 2014, Intel® published a press release on its Investor Relations web site titled Intel Raises Second-Quarter and Full-Year Revenue and Gross Margin Expectations.

The first sentence of the release specifically noted “stronger than expected demand for business PCs”. The guidance towards an improved gross margin attributes the improvement to “mostly higher PC unit volume” as the principal driver. Confidence level seems high based on a tighter “plus or minus $300 million” than the $500 million range included in earlier guidance.

If PC sales are better than expected, is it also safe to assume tablet sales are taking the hit, and fickle tablet consumers are making their way back to PCs? This explanation doesn’t look reasonable. As Microsoft made clear in the Surface Pro 3 debut event, best of breed tablets have been consumed for different objectives than would be the case for PCs. Certainly there is a segment of the PC market consuming tablets, but the majority of these sales (and I should say I think Microsoft’s notion is accurate) have been to consumers looking for a great book reader, or a movie player, or, perhaps for other casual purposes.

Perhaps a more helpful reading of why PC sales are up has more to do with much better price/performance than was the case earlier this year, or even since the release of Windows 8.0. In June, 2014, it is quite possible for consumers to acquire quad core powered PCs and laptops at an under $500.00 price point. Market sentiment on the O/S running on most of these systems, Windows 8.1, is now more favorable, for example, a review of Windows 8.1 on the techradar.pro site carries the title “Major Update to Windows 8 goes a long way to solve some of its original shortcomings”.

While PCs running Windows 8.1 have become more appealing to consumers, resellers are also closely managing how consumers approach alternatives for serious business computing, meaning Google Chromebooks. A visit to BestBuy.com and a search for “Chromebook” landed the writer on a web page with a bold header at the top: “Is a Chromebook Right for You?”. The paragraph of information just below this heading emphasized how dependent this computing device is on the Cloud.

So is BestBuy on to something potentially even more important than Intel’s improved guidance? Is the consumer finally starting to feel anxious about cloud computing, in general? A change in consumer sentiment about cloud, and a new appreciation of the threat represented by online hacking, would certainly be a big deal.

Disclaimer: I’m long Intel and Microsoft, and neither have an investment in Google, nor in BestBuy

Ira Michael Blonder

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