Is Salesforce.com Destined to Become a Cloud Version of BMC’s Remedy?

For all of the analysis and chatter coming out of Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce 2013 annual event, is it safe to say the bright hope on the horizon for Salesforce.com is to evolve into a cloud version of a help desk application like BMC’s Remedy?

After reading three articles on Marc Benioff’s Keynote address at the annual Dreamforce event held yesterday, Tuesday, November 19, 2013 in San Francisco, I’m left with no other conclusion. In an article titled Salesforce’s Marc Benioff Bets on Customer Service to Fuel Growth, Rachel King writes “Mr. Benioff used his keynote stage time to push the so-called Internet of Customers – what everyone else calls customer service.”

Ms. King, of course, is being kind to Mr. Benioff. “[W]hat everyone else calls customer service” is clearly understatement. Embedding customer service inside a mysterious concept called an “Internet of Customers” is nothing but pure hyperbole.

BMC’s Remedy Help Desk application is still one of the leading software solutions for customer service. As to why any business would opt to pay the much higher costs charged by Salesforce.com for, essentially, the same functionality as presently offered by Remedy, remains to be seen.

Clearly Mr. Benioff had Cisco’s notion of an “Internet of Things” in mind when he crafted his “Internet of Customers” concept. But I see no more rationale for any business to buy Salesforce.com’s “Salesforce 1” than I do for any business to buy into Cisco’s concept. Modern process control technology provides most businesses, today, with lots of methods of enabling devices, and even processes, with real time data communications capabilities over Ethernet. So there is no need to wait for some glorious “Internet of Things” to be built out.

I remember when machine information block (MIB) technology was first implemented with Hewlett Packard’s OpenView enterprise asset management and monitoring package. The Remedy Help Desk application was configurable for real time, seamless data communications with any business assets outfitted with a MIB. All of this happened back in 1992.

So what’s the big deal to hear all the capabilities regurgitated in 2013, merely an approximate 20 years later, by Mr. Benioff. “[EXPLETIVE] if I know.”

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


How Will Social Media Evolve Beyond Facebook?

In an article published on the New York Times website on Monday, November 18, 2013, titled “Facebook, Still Dominant, Strives to Keep Cachet”, Jenna Wortham, Vindu Goel and Nicole Perlroth report on some strategic cracks in this business’ barriers to entry from competitors. The most dangerous of these include:

  • a Facebook App developer community less inclined to build new Facebook analytics hooks into their systems
  • an apparent popular dedication, on the part of early stage businesses in the social media sector, to look “long and hard” at any acquisition offers from Facebook. The most recent example of this attitude is SnapChat’s decision not to accept an acquisition offer from Facebook
  • apparent waning interest in Facebook on the part of a very important segment of its consumers — young people of high school age

So is there room for social media to evolve beyond Facebook? If yes, then how?

Certainly Facebook, or a “next generation” Facebook-like service could do a better job of balancing the privacy benefit many of its core consumers value, with the inevitable access advertisers, and business consumers, will require to the larger Facebook “community” of consumers.

Facebook’s efforts to retain consumers, while providing advertisers with greater accessibility to the wider Facebook user community with, for example, its own version of Twitter’s hashtag, have been clumsy. I have a business page on Facebook. I’ve made consistent use of the hashtag feature since it was debuted, but I’m not seeing any positive results from it. But it would be hard for me to see these results, anyways, as Facebook doesn’t provide any analytic data, whatsoever, until a site can magnetize 30 “likes”.

A feature like Google’s Analytics product, which is free to anyone with a Google account and a website, would certainly be welcome, as it would be useful, to business consumers, as they try to improve their exposure to the universe of Facebook consumers in order to collect the required 30 “likes”.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


CloudShare May Offer A Better Environment for Data Security Threat Simulation

As data communications takes on an ever increasing set of mission critical roles for businesses of all types, and sizes, access to a method of simulating data communications problems, of all types (regardless of whether they arise from accidents, or from malicious activity) must be provided to any/all stakeholders within an organization as a cornerstone of operational risk management.

CloudShare is an example of the type of highly flexible, off premises, cloud computing solution capable of providing businesses with a “sanitary” method of simulating data communications disruptions. Any suitable venue for this type of testing must offer users

  • a method of precisely simulating “real world” office computing environments, including hardware, operating systems, and applications
  • support for team collaboration on projects
  • and rapid set up and tear down for targeted environments

CloudShare’s TeamLabs subscription offer meets, or exceeds each of the above criteria.

Stakeholders in this effort must include not only IT staff, but also key personnel from Line of Business (LoB) units. Online commerce activities, social media efforts, mobile messaging, are usually owned and operated by LoBs (with the blessing and support of IT). Regardless of the look and feel of any of these electronic activities, at the network layer each of them relies on healthy data communications. So the effort to safeguard data communications is a critical management activity for everyone with an interest in the success of these features of the business.

In August of this year, Gunter Ollmann authored an article, “The Increasing Failure of Malware Sandboxing, which was published on the Dark Reading website. Mr. Ollmann points out some limitations in the usefulness of “dynamic sandboxing” techniques, which have grown in popularity as data communications has become monolithic with Ethernet at the network layer and Hypertext Markup Language (and its siblings) at the presentation layer.

From an operational risk management perspective, “dynamic sandboxing” amounts to scenario testing. The points Mr. Ollmann makes illustrate the limitations of the usefulness of the scenarios depicted via this method. The rapid expansion of the Internet, together with the dramatic expansion of online data communications to include what I refer to as small, smart, mobile devices, have both pushed “dynamic sandboxing” rather far along a path to obsolesence.

Mr. Aviv Raff, in an article published on November 4, 2013, titled Cloud-Based Sandboxing: An Elevated Approach to Network Security makes a case for cloud-based sandboxing as a superior method of building truly useful scenarios for risk management. I concur with Mr. Raff’s point. To reiterate, an enterprise account at CloudShare can certainly be configured to provide a business with an opportunity to test various data communications problem scenarios safely, off premises, where they ultimately belong.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Online Marketers Need to Look to Tools Like VisualVisitor to Fill the Gap Left by Changes to Google Analytics

Online marketers need to look to tools like VisualVisitor to fill the growing gap between their need to gather information from website visits and the information available to them from widely used tools like Google Analytics.

Analytics offers a tremendous amount of functionality, at absolutely no cost, to the majority of its users. But the features, increasingly, seem to be designed to support Google’s Adword product. In the summer, and early fall of 2013, there was a substantial amount of discussion, online, about whether or not the “keyword” feature of Analytics had been removed from the product. Adwords users could still access the keyword data they needed, but locating the same information in Analytics became a very difficult task. (as of November 21, 2013, “keyword” information is still available in Analytics. But the “keyword” feature is now nested within the “Acquisition” tab, and under “Advertising”)

For readers unfamiliar with Google Analytics, this “keyword” feature provides Analytics users with some highly useful information about website visitors. If a website visitor used a search engine to find the Analytics user’s website, then the search query string, meaning the actual keywords input to the search engine, were provided to the Analytics user. Armed with this keyword data, an Analytics user can accelerate the task of improving the online content of specific web pages within a website to better magnetize the right visitors.

The “keyword” feature is still included in the product. But website visitors arriving to a site as the result of “incognito browsing” (meaning browsing without cookies, history, or most other personalized indicators) no longer leave a trail of keywords. The keyword string is left encrypted, and is no longer available to the Analytics users.

But VisualVisitor, which provides users with identifying information about otherwise anonymous website visitors, can be used to fill in some of this gap. For example, by better understanding the sequence of pages visited, online marketers can determine whether content is leading visitors in the right direction, or not. VisualVisitor provides users with detailed information about specific pages visited by specific website visitors. Campaign specific tags can be implemented to provide even more information. These tags are useful to increase the value of email campaigns.

If your organization would like to implement a solution like VisualVisitor to fill in the information gap I’ve described, and would like some help, please let us know.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


On an Interview with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, from The Wall Street Journal

On Friday, November 15, the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft®. The article was written by Monica Langley. I hope anyone taking the time to read this article will note Mr. Ballmer’s great historical success. “Revenue tripled during his tenure to almost $78 billion in the year ended this June, and profit grew 132% to nearly $22 billion.” These numbers are nothing to scoff at. Only a handful of CEOs can claim the same level of success.

So why has Mr. Ballmer magnetized so much negative attention? I think it has something to do with the intensity with which he has approached his job and mission. Ms. Langley notes: “‘Charge! Charge! Charge!’ he bellows, jumping up from an interview and lunging forward while pumping his fist forward like a battering ram. ‘I’m not going to wimp away from anything!'”. Reading this in 2013, Mr. Ballmer’s tenacity takes on a positive, admirable (even heroic) tone and texture.

But back in 1999, the last year of the short life of NetScape, a company which left a permanent mark on all aspects of the information publishing business, Mr. Ballmer’s tenacity, as reflected in the strategies and tactics Microsoft personnel implemented to disrupt NetScape, were portrayed by the media as extreme cruelty — truly the kind of exploits typical of “the Empire” in George Lucas’ Star Wars fantasy.

When the tenacity and intensity of the CEO is considered, along with the enormous growth of Microsoft, as a business, during his tenure, its method of producing internal leaders, otherwise known as its “employee ranking system” makes more sense. As I’ve written earlier in this blog, businesses capable of sustaining and nurturing positive internal discord, meaning healthy contention between lines of business, will likely be more successful than their peers.

I wrote several posts on the topic of matrix sales organizations, where outside and inside sales personnel reported independently of one another, as an example of how to “turbo charge” sales productivity. The “employee ranking system” at Microsoft looks to me to be a very similar structure.

But for a mature tech business, all this discord can amount to a heavy burden. Successful public relations for an enormous business like Microsoft® depends on positive imagery — not snapshots of some savage barbarian horde. Perhaps John Thompson, who sits on Microsoft’s Board is right, it’s time for Mr. Ballmer to move on.

In my opinion, Mr. Ballmer’s decision to depart from the CEO position at Microsoft, together with the changes already begun in its internal organizational structure and its method of measuring, and rewarding, employee performance, all speak to a transition in its brand. The next few months should be very interesting for anyone following Microsoft.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Gartner and IDC Agree — Microsoft Windows Phone Did Very Well in Q3 2013

Two of the most influential research firms following consumer technology products, Gartner, Inc., and IDC, observed a sharp increase in market share for Microsoft’s Windows Phone O/S in Q3 2013. In a Press Release dated November 14, 2013, from Barcelona Spain, Gartner also noted Nokia’s move to the number 8 position worldwide, for mobile phone handset manufacturers over the same time period. Both of these observations are strong positives for Microsoft.

If Microsoft’s effort to enter the mobile handset business, in a big way. by acquiring Nokia’s mobile and smart phone manufacturing business proves to be successful, then the pain of diminishing returns from “legacy” on premises products (principally the Office suite of desktop automation tools), may be largely assuaged. Especially if, at the same time, the Windows Phone O/S continues to magnetize serious interest from the same high end consumer market propping up iPhone and comparable Android smart phones.

With a comparatively painless transition off of “shrink wrap” software sales, Microsoft® should be positioned to increase its market development efforts for its “Professional Cloud” products — Office 365 and Windows Azure. As I’ve written earlier in this blog, I think Amazon AWS is vulnerable to the kind of serious competition represented by Microsoft as a contender for leadership in the elastic Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market. This market promises to grow enormously over the next several years, especially if security concerns can be successfully mitigated.

Of course it’s not all likely to be rosy. There is, of course, the issue of who will take over as CEO of Microsoft. But if the company can manage to successfully evolve into a business with similar profitability, albeit from a new mix of hardware and software products, then the next few months should be packed with a lot of interesting developments for anyone following Microsoft. Certainly Apple, Google and the rest of the contenders in this market will be certain to add a lot of flavor, as well.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Channel Conflicts — Android Style: Why is the Moto G Hitting the Market, but not the Chinese Market?

On Wednesday, November 13, 2013, Google’s Motorola Mobility unit announced the “Moto G”, an ultra low cost smart phone. This device, which sports a high resolution screen and “the latest Android” O/S, is available at a very low retail price of $179.00. But there’s a couple of catches to this deal – you can’t buy the Moto G in China, and the Android O/S is NOT 4.4 KitKat, at least for now. Might there be a channel conflict bubbling below the surface (no pun intended) here?

The channel conflict, if there is one, likely originates with two other Android partners — LG and Samsung. The “Google Nexus 5” is manufactured by LG, and includes the Android 4.4 KitKat O/S. This smart phone also sports a very competitive retail price, below $400.00 USDs. Google sells this smart phone through the Play Store. My latest check on availability shows ship dates commencing on November 26, 2013.

Then there’s the Samsung side to this story. Samsung Makes Quiet Push for New Mobile OS. Of course, if TiZen takes off, then Samsung will have little need, going forward, for any Android O/S, including 4.4 KitKat and its descendants.

All of this complexity can lead to a headache. If Chinese consumers will not be able to acquire Moto G, and Indian consumers are unable to specify an availability date for the Google Nexus 5 smart phone, then who is managing all of this, and does this group or person have a plan in mind?

It looks to me like the folks at Microsoft/Nokia have a real incentive to release their own ultra low cost smart phone to EVERYBODY, RIGHT AWAY. Let’s cut through the complexity and get down to provisioning internet-ready mobile devices to emerging markets NOW.

But is Microsoft/Nokia interested in these markets? Do they have a low cost offer for these consumers? To date there’s been no word on the low cost accessibility topic from the folks in Redmond/Helsinki. I, for one, would be real keen to see them step forward with one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Windows Phone Picks Up Share In Latest IDC Smart Phone Market Report

Windows Phone scored a very impressive 156% “Leap . . . Year Over Year . . . ” in the third quarter 2013 new smart phone shipment report from IDC.

Windows Phone Naysayers are likely to wake up when they read this report. Ditto for market analysts who counted Microsoft out of the smart phone market a while ago. So the net result for Apple, when smart phones built on the Android O/S finally captured over 80% of the entire worldwide smart phone market, should be a somewhat significant deflation in its stock price. I’m cautious on this point as market analysts have stubbornly held onto “the forbidden fruit” quarter after quarter, turning a blind eye to the plans of Apple management to restrict their sales expansion efforts to the very high end of the market, only.

Ignoring the mass market will likely be increasingly difficult for Apple management as changes in the position of iPhone products, inevitably, have some impact on financial performance over coming quarters.

IDC estimates Windows Phone market share of new product shipments “is still less than 5%”. But the leap from no more than “. . . 3.7 million units a year ago . . . ” to somewhere south of 10 million units shipped, in the last quarter, is enormous. When one considers the contribution this business will make to Microsoft’s overall financial performance, once Nokia’s handset business is rolled into the company, congratulations should be in order for Messrs Balmer and crew.

I see few impediments to Microsoft continuing this pace of expansion over the next quarter, or two. I personally use a Nokia Lumia 925, as does my wife. I can attest, first hand to the friendliness of the user interface for this phone. Certainly the high end Lumia is not a solution for emerging markets, but it is certainly a device likely to take even more market share from Apple on the high end.

I would not be surprised, at all, to see some announcement from Redmond over then next few months of an intention to build a lower cost solution for emerging markets. Stay tuned to this one.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Google Understands the Importance of Emerging Markets to Continued Explosive Growth of Smart Phone Sales

The Android 4.4 KitKat O/S promises to provide smart phone users with a better method of delivering the kind of highly useful information Google’s search engine requires to successfully serve relevant results to queries. Google advertisers are also likely to benefit from this new O/S. Best of all, this O/S is highly efficient, and inexpensive — just what emerging markets are after.

Walt Mossberg has written up a review of the LG Nexus 5, which runs on the latest Android 4.4 KitKat O/S. A lot more technical information about this O/S is available in an article by Richard Goodwin, which was published on the “Know Your Mobile” website, titled “Android 4.4 KitKat:release date, features, tips & tricks and sweet updates”.

The news about this O/S adds more detail about the importance of high volume/low cost product sales for Google, as a follow up to Larry Page’s short preamble to Google’s Q3 2013 quarterly earnings report. I wrote about Mr. Page’s preamble to this latest quarter’s results earlier in this blog.

Most Google analysts should now clearly understand the importance of emerging markets to further growth for many Google products. Regardless of whether the product is a lightweight, compact Chromebook®, or this Nexus 5 LG smart phone, Google’s objective is to keep consumer retail cost as low as possible. Obviously, low costs make for high volume sales. So this method promises to support Google’s efforts to keep sales growing at a very fast pace, across its various product lines.

Mr. Mossberg argues some of the features in the LG Nexus 5 serve Google’s own interests, but I couldn’t find any specific detail in his review to support the claim. I did find some details in Goodwin’s article about much more efficient sensor functionality in this latest Android O/S. One example of the benefit of this new method of handling sensors is much more efficient GPS functionality, which, with the LG Nexus 5, only uses a fraction of the power formerly required for this feature.

Perhaps Mr. Mossberg’s comments were intended to point to these more efficient methods of handling sensors as examples of how Google has built some features into this O/S clearly designed to help its search engine, and, presumably, its click advertising business. It’s not clear from his article. But nevertheless, I’m impressed with what I’ve read about these new smart phones.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


On the Risks of Building Applications Entirely for Cloud Computing

As I write this post I’m traveliing to a client engagement via air, and have no access to the Internet. On a flight like this one (I’ll be aloft for 5+ hours), I can get a lot of the writing I need completed, so my attention can be fully focused on my client’s needs once I arrive at the engagement (a Developer conference). But Microsoft’s OneNote product is not helping me to get my work done.

While I’m very enthused about Microsoft’s newly reorganized business model, and the widespread use of its SharePoint collaboration/enterprise document management/Intranet computing solution, I’m not keen, at all, on OneNote. I need to mention the opinion of one of my clients, who is very enthused about the product. But my client used to be a software developer and, evidently, is more adept at making his way through the features of OneNote. On the other hand, I can’t find out how to use the product, despite watching the Office video tutorial. What’s even worse is what I take to be the contagion represented by the original Windows 8 operating system and its much publicized summary dismissal of the “Start Button”, which was no where to be found in the first version of this new O/S.

The OneNote 2013 version of this disease is a complete absence of a “Save” button. I couldn’t save my work. After all, I’m aloft with no access to the Internet. While I can be sympathetic with the Microsoft developers who, striving to build a “nothing but cloud” application, assumed users would be “always on” the Internet, or, perhaps, something else, I’ve got to say the lack of a “Save” button makes no sense at all and should be fixed right away.

When I tried to add a new notebook, the new notebook I added was somehow disconnected from my work space, so I couldn’t save my work to it. All of this is not good new. I’ll take my client’s word on the great value represented by OneNote, but I can’t personally attest to it. I simply can’t figure it out, at all.

I’m concerned with this kind of over zealous attention to a new direction, on the part of Microsoft. While the problems, with regard to OneNote may be laughable, the same approach with regards to bigger ticket products like SQL Server, SharePoint, or Lync can, inadvertently, produce a disaster. In fact, wasn’t this the problem with the original launch of Windows 8?

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved