Successfully Promoting Apps to Enterprise Business Requires More Than An Appeal to Mobile Users

2 Color Design Hi-Res From the recent financial results of leading software vendors — Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and more — it should be apparent enterprise computing remains the most lucrative software market in mid 2015. So early stage tech businesses (ISVs) need to conceptualize, architect, and build solutions on a foundation including a clear understanding of what enterprise computing is all about if a revenue plan includes marketing to enterprise business.

Unfortunately, ISVs with CRM apps written for iOS who expect business consumers to buy simply because they use iPhones are not likely to succeed. Sure these apps will work fine — to an extent — for SMBs, but not for enterprise computing. A scalable architecture is absolutely required for this market segment. After all, enterprise computing includes PCs, Mainframes, and mobile devices (including tablets as well as smartphones). So it makes sense to either include a PC version of your solution, which will work seamlessly along side your client for the iPhone and iPad. If you do not have the PC solution, then you must have the hooks in place to allow users to plug your solution into one built on a scalable architecture addressing this market requirement.

All of the above may seem rudimentary to readers, but I was recently approached by an early stage business with a CRM built for iPhones, only. When I asked about clients for PCs, etc, my questions went into the void and my email exchange abruptly terminated. So early stage ISVs often combine a promising solution for a solution businesses may really need, with a very limited and inadequate understanding of just how users will actually consume the solution.

Of course, building your solution for an enterprise computing market doesn’t stop when you have successfully equipped your solution with a scalable architecture. You will have to also use a method of authenticating users. So here, too, you should choose the method most familiar to the market — in all likelihood something built to communicate with Microsoft’s Active Directory.

The list of critical architectural requirements does not stop with the above couple of examples. There are more, in fact too many to discuss, completely, in this post even in no more than broad terms.

If you have a solution you think is promising for enterprise computing, but are not familiar with the requirements posed by this market, you need to add someone to your management team who can fill this gap. Our temporary VP of marketing plan can execute on this role until you identify a right candidate for the spot. Please contact us to learn more.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Microsoft takes three steps worth some thought by anyone following this mature ISV

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthIn late February, 2015, Microsoft announced 3 changes in components of its business worth some thought by anyone with an interest in this mature ISV.

On February 20, 2015 Dan Kedmey wrote about Microsoft’s acquision of Acompli for the Time online magazine. He noted “Acompli is the best example of Microsoft’s new playbook: In a matter of weeks, Microsoft took Acompli’s popular email app and rebranded it as Outlook for iOS and Android, to rave reviews from the tech press.” (readers can view Kedmey’s complete article, titled This Is Microsoft’s New Plan to Invade Your Smartphone on the Time magazine web site). But this method of consuming acquisitions and spitting them back out as simply new examples of Microsoft branded products, contrasts with another famous acquisition, namely the Skype purchase. The Skype service has retained its own independent brand despite being a wholly owned component of the Microsoft revenue model. So why the change with Acompli? Further, does it make sense to try (I would argue for yet another time in a long string of unsuccessful attempts) to extend a well known enterprise computing brand name — the Outlook email client — into solidly, at best, BYOD territory? Acompli had a great app following among mobile computing consumers, many of which could likely care less about the email client they use at work.

Then there is the question of the “about face” Microsoft recently took on what looked to be a welcome change of direction towards “the norm” (meaning Chrome and Firefox) in web browser world. As Nathan Ingraham wrote on little more than a month ago on the Verge web site, in an article titled Microsoft officially announces Project Spartan, its new web browser for Windows 10, Redmond looked like it was going to change the web browser of choice for Windows 10 from Internet Explorer (IE) to something new and promising — the Spartan Browser. As any die hard IE user knows, the quirks and, perhaps, nonsensical differentiations built into Microsoft’s flagship web page browser, make little sense anymore. Market share is eroding day by day. So a change in a popular direction seemed to make a lot of sense.

But then on February 26, 2015, Microsoft back tracked. As Kurt Mackie wrote for the RedmondMag blog in an article titled Microsoft Blinks on Using Open Source Engine for Spartan Browser, one of the reasons given for the decision amounted to “‘we felt it was important to counter movement towards a monoculture on the Web.'” (please click the link just provided to read Mackie’s complete article). But could “monoculture” be a good think? Even for Microsoft?

Finally, there are a couple of realities about the present IE 11 browser on Windows 7 and the same browser on Windows 8.1 worth some consideration. In keeping with the point Microsoft just made about “monoculture”, and its determination to “counter” movement towards it, the feature sets of these two browsers are, in my opinion, radically dissimilar from Chrome and/or Firefox. These differences, once again in my opinion, are, perhaps, not for the best. Perhaps more worrisome is how my first thoughts about these features take me back to my original opinion about Windows 8 and touch computing on desktop machines in the first place — a big big stretch I did not care to make.

I kind of like the new Microsoft. The Microsoft looking to partner with everybody else. The one not trying so hard to stand out from the crowd. What about you?

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Has node.js and similar web server platforms led consumers to think apps aren’t connected to the Internet?

2-Color-Design-Hi-Res-100px-widthThe New York Times recently published a couple of articles written by Conor Dougherty. These articles point to what Dougherty described as diminished mobile app consumer access to the Internet. This shrinking online accessibility, Dougherty argues, can be attributed to mobile apps, themselves, which run fine without web browsing.

But the performance of every one of the apps mentioned in these articles, as I am completely sure Dougherty would agree, is entirely dependent on the Internet. The real issue for Dougherty, I would surmise, is the transparent nature of this performance, which, somehow “happens” without any requirement for user intervention. Therefore, Dougherty argues, the quality of the personal computing experience for app consumers, has been degraded.

Of course none of this performance would be possible without “web server platforms” like node.js. These app components add web server functionality. So the apps can perform, online, without a web browser. There is not much new about this beyond the fact node.js is an example of how to achieve this performance with JavaScript, which is a very popular scripting language at present.

The point I am trying to make is developers and the ISVs supporting their efforts need to be sensitive to public perception. Dougherty is not writing in a vacuum. His articles are read because consumers are interested in the topics covered. So it is likely safe to say some segment of the consuming public feels the same way, regardless of whether or not the public perception is actually correct.

Maintaining sensitivity to this type of public notion (perhaps “perception” is not the right word) should, in my opinion, translate into some type of communications effort (PR or MARCOM) to better inform consumers how apps actually work. At the same time, perhaps developers and ISVs have an opportunity to bake in some of the “choice” Dougherty finds missing from the app computing experience. Dougherty longs for a “unifying link”. Would it make sense for someone to build in a method of bolting otherwise unconnected apps together? Perhaps with some type of search feature? I am not saying yes, or no, but, perhaps someone would like to check it out.

If you find a market for these feature, do let me know.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


SaaS offers running in the cloud, with full featured client side apps, hit some marketing head winds

As of mid October, 2014, two recent well publicized online security events — one related to Dropbox, the other to SnapChat and an app named SnapSaved — illustrate cloud hosts attempting to distance themselves from app developers providing the SaaS offer in the wake of a public online security event. If they succeed, app developers look likely to hit some marketing head winds.

The odds of this outcome went up when the ISV responsible for SnapSaved.com came forward and disclosed its intentional effort to compromise online security and privacy for consumers of its app. The details can be found in an article written by Mike Isaac, titled A Look Behind the SnapChat Photo Leak Claims, which was published on October 17, 2014. Consumers will not likely be reassured as the result of this admission of culpability.

Whether the intentions of the unnamed management team at SnapSaved.com were honorable, or not, has no material importance. But their admission to intentional malicious activity, together with their ability to execute on their objective with an app conforming to SnapChat’s specific requirements for interoperability is of critical importance. Leaving aside the question of how this admission will likely impact on individual consumers of the app, and of SnapChat, itself, let’s focus on likely reaction from larger organizations and the IT teams supporting them to this event. It’s likely larger organizations will take a harder look at their BYOD policies and procedures in the aftermath of these both of these events. Larger organizations do not want to work with lots of technology providers. So the tactics implemented by DropBox and SnapChat to distance themselves from culpability will not help either of these cloud offers to add further momentum to the pace at which consumers from enterprise business sign on and start using services. In fact the opposite is likely to be the case.

One glimmer of opportunity from these otherwise glum and business-depressing events amounts to whether or not EMM solutions like Microsoft InTune can be configured to manage just how consumers interact with an otherwise limitless list of apps, from an equally limitless list of ISVs, within the confines of specific corporate networks. If these EMM solutions can be set up to manage app consumption, independent of the cloud hosting the apps, themselves, perhaps enterprise IT organizations will have more of the stamina to brush off these events as anomalies likely to vanish in the future.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Microsoft Revamps Its App Promotion to Stimulate More Interest from the Developer Community

A renovated MSDN site on Microsoft dot com has become the repository of a lot of promotional content targeted to the developer community. The old MSDN was packed with technical information, a lot of knowledge base information, and even training. But few would label its content promotional.

The new MSDN still offers a voluminous set of technical training content, a lot of which is packaged in video format and colored with humor. But some of the content even takes on more of what one might refer to as a business look and feel. A good example of this effort can be found in a short, 5 minute video depicting one developer’s success building a computer game for PCs and windows phones. So anyone following Microsoft may want to take a look at this effort, which is titled One Dev Story: The developer behind Roman Empire. The reason for watching the video is to gain first hand information about just how Microsoft is going about the task of attracting more interest from the developer community to, ostensibly, fill the enormous gap between solutions available for Windows 8.1 and Android and iPhone (iOS) competitors.

The developer is Jacek Ciereszko, and the app is “Roman Empire”, which is a computer game. The video content is largely targeted to developers, but not excessively so. For example, Ciereszko mentions he wrote the game in C# with the Xamarin tool kit, but only after the first one and a half minutes of the entire five minute presentation.

What isn’t included in the video, and what would, perhaps, help Microsoft reach more of the developers it is seeking, is much of a business case for the app. Rather, the video content presents Ciereszko’s apparently delightful experience building the game (he jokes about how he had to gain his wife’s permission to allocate weekend time to build the game), in what this writer found to be an almost unbelievable manner.

Developers in 2014 are writing apps to make money. The video would have been more compelling had some content been included about the success of this game. True, Ciereszko does mention “over a million downloads”, but nothing is made about this point beyond noting his sense of satisfaction knowing so many people had tried his game. But, if Android and iOS developers are to be won over, it would certainly make sense to add some business beef to the developer motion.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


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


Google Sites Experience Double Digit Revenue Growth in Q2 2014, from Increasing Sales of Online Advertising

Prominent among the financial detail included in Google’s Q2 2014 Earnings Announcement is a 23% increase, year over year (y/y) in the revenue performance for Google sites (Google, Google +, Youtube, blogger, etc), to $10.94 Billion, from $8.87 Billion for the comparable period in 2013.

In a webcast of the quarter’s earning results, Patrick Pichette, CFO, noted the revenue increase was “driven by strength in our core search advertising business”.

It is worth noting, on the other hand, less impressive growth for Google’s “Other Business” segment (which include all of the “other” Google product segments: Apps, Drive, Compute Engine, etc). The final quarterly performance for this business segment remained below $2 Billion ($1.6 Billion, or 10% of total revenue is included in the GAAP financial summary to be found on the Google Investors site). Patrick Pichette points to the Google Play Store as the primary contributor for this segment.

The real story, then is an increased global appetite for paid click advertising. Pichette sums up the quarter’s performance for the global click ad revenue group as a 25% improvement, year over year. This increase is, perhaps, even more impressive as the average Cost per Click (CPC) for advertisers declined, y/y by 7%. The Google Sites segment performance for paid clicks were up 33% y/y.

While Pichette did not offer any metrics as to the level of customer satisfaction with Google’s paid click products, it is likely safe to assume customers are increasingly more satisfied with their return on investment in this type of online promotion. Further, if Google’s performance for the 2nd quarter, 2014, can be seen as consistent with long term trends, apparently click product consumers are deciding to place more ads on Google sites, perhaps at the expense of the Google Ad Network.

This writer has first hand experience with the substantial effort Google has made, over the last 3 years, building a support apparatus for these click products, having been a participant in the Google Agency program. So, from this perspective, the success of these products over the quarter covered by the report is credible. Given Google’s cash on hand, it is probably safe to assume these efforts will continue, and will be further refined to produce even better results, going forward.

But the question looms even larger, post these quarterly results, as to the justification of Google’s market capitalization (approaching $400 Billion, US). As published earlier in this blog, the entire estimated size of the global advertising market cannot support this valuation if the dominant revenue driver is click advertising sales. Neither does the argument “they’ve got the cash, they’ll eventually get it right” hold up, in this writer’s opinion.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Short Life for Asus Transformer Speaks to Product Marketing Mistakes

On February 25, 2014, AMD published some news about its APUs: AMD and BlueStacks to Bring New Dual-OS Android Solution to Retail. BlueStacks, the manufacturer of the BlueStacks App Player product, had developed hooks for PCs and tablets powered by AMD APUs. These hooks were designed to provide retail PC consumers with a seamless experience, side by side, of Microsoft® Windows and Android computing environments.

Before analysts following either AMD or BlueStacks starting applauding, perhaps it’s worth the time to consider a recent attempt by a PC hardware OEM — ASUS — to bring to the consumer IT market the Transformer All in One P1801 and P1802 products, which provide the same capabilities. Note: the ASUS device neither uses an AMD APU, nor does it use the BlueStack App Player. But the functionality is certainly achievable with a combination of the AMD APUs and the BlueStack App Player.

In an article titled Microsoft and Google aren’t happy with mutant Android-Windows Hybrids, which was released only 17 days after this announcement, Ian Paul wrote for the PC World website: “Microsoft may be comfortable with Windows Phone and Android splitting time on a single phone, but when it comes to PCs, fuhgeddaboutit.” (quoted from Ian Paul’s article. I’ve provided a link to his entire article earlier in this paragraph).

Why would Microsoft, or, as Paul recounts, Google, care about a PC device, like Asus’, running dual OSs? After all, PC power users often run Linux virtual machines on Windows PCs? Rarely, if ever, have there been any notable objections from Microsoft or any of the Linux distributions about users compromising functionality by opting for dual mode hardware operation.

The difference here is the how the firmware for the Transformer AIO P1801 and P1802 changes the consumer experience. There is no software to run to change OSs on the ASUS device. Paul explains: “These devices run Windows when they’re in PC mode. Slide out the AIO’s screen or flip the laptop into a tablet, however, and boom! You’ve got an Android slate. The concept is theoretically appealing to users since you get the best of both worlds in one device, but Microsoft and Google apparently weren’t pleased.” (ibid). The tablet included in the product is powered with an NVIDIA Tegra® 3 CPU, while the PC is powered with an Intel® i5 CPU.

What’s important here is what looks to be a big miss by product marketing. Clearly ASUS’s product marketing team didn’t consider all of the implications of the Transformer P1801 and P1802 devices. Product marketing should have anticipated the likely reaction of Microsoft or Google to the performance of the proposed product. It’s disappointing, to me, to see how a mature PC OEM like ASUS could miss this very important point.

The lesson for early stage ISVs is to make sure product development procedures include a summary of how a proposed product will impact other software products in use in a consumer’s likely computing environment. Part of the summary should be devoted to a presentation of the “burning needs” these other software products are designed to meet.

Using the above mentioned mistake, as an example, what I think was missing from the ASUS product marketing plan was any reasonable assumption of why Microsoft would certainly want Windows 8.1 to run on the tablet feature of the dual OS hybrid PC computing device, and not just on the PC.

It will be interesting to see how hardware OEMs respond to the availability of the BlueStacks App Player and AMD APUs combination.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Are App Stores a Looming Cash Machine?

Consumers opting to buy a Microsoft® Surface 2 will receive a $25.00 coupon in the box, along with some other promotional offers. This coupon can only be used to purchase an item offered in the “Store” feature of the Surface 2 Start Screen. But using this coupon can be a challenge. My review of the Apps offered didn’t produce much in the way of productivity. I noted lots of games, and lots of free Apps.

So why is Microsoft including the coupon in the retail customer product package? Anyone listening to Apple’s Q1 2014 webcast Earnings Call will hear Peter Oppenheimer sum up a very large business for Apple — it’s App Store. Oppenheimer estimates “[t]he App Store now offers 1,000,000 Apps in 24 different categories, and cumulative downloads have surpassed 65 Billion”. (quoted from the Apple webcast, a link to which has been provided in this post)

These numbers are not insignificant, especially for a company like Microsoft, which, historically, has always maintained a healthy developer ecosystem. Indeed, one can argue much of Microsoft’s success across the early days, following the launch of Windows, depended almost entirely on the third party developer community and the applications they brought to the public for the platform.

Oppenheimer goes on to present an even more important number: “Our App developers earned $2 Billion from sales of Apps for the quarter”. With an annual run rate of $8 Billion, any 3rd party business simply building Apps for Apple’s App Store might be looking forward to a very promising future.

Certainly Microsoft has not been slow to learn this lesson. The $25 box stuffer coupon makes sense as a means of driving customers to pump up the Store feature of the Surface, and the Windows Phone user experience. There are challenging impediments to Microsoft successfully kick starting this business, not the least of which being the small footprint of Microsoft’s mobile devices across the broad market when compared to Apple’s iOS. So a rapid, successful ramp up in phone and tablet units sold is a mandatory requirement of launching the Windows store App effort.

Ira Michael Blonder

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