16
Oct

Pluses and minuses of the app model on cloud, SaaS computing

Early versions of SaaS served from the Internet cloud looked a lot like time sharing applications. In other words, each and every web visitor looked like just another terminal on a remote server. The use of small form factor computing devices had not yet occurred, and the browser options for clients to consume services were all working in pretty much the same manner.

But with the advent of the app model, the client side of these solutions is a lot more complex, and, potentially, more difficult for organizations to manage. There are a few very important positives motivating cloud, SaaS ISVs to promote, and even require the use of apps:

  • Apps are a promising method of attracting the interest of developers. App stores exist for every prominent cloud SaaS offer. Developers sell their apps, and ISVs can charge a premium for clearing transactions through their app stores
  • As long as secure development procedures are followed, there is no limit on the range of new functionality developers can add to SaaS platforms. ISVs benefit from zero capital expense for the creation of new functionality. End customers benefit from a wider range of possible applications
  • By transitioning processes from the server to the community of clients consuming a SaaS solution, it can be argued processes are more secure. Server maintenance costs are also likely to be substantially reduced

But there are minuses anyone studying cloud, SaaS product marketing must, in this writer’s opinion, keep in mind. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how one looks at it) most of these minuses are specific to apps:

  • Transitioning potentially harmful processes off the server and over to client side apps shifts the security burden over to individual consumers, and groups of consumers. Since it is not likely to be possible to estimate just who will opt to consume SaaS and, therefore, purchase and implement apps, the task of ensuring a uniform quality of service (and basic data communications security) is very difficult to manage. Neither ISVs, nor enterprise organizations can claim complete responsibility for this job.
  • Opportunities for malicious activity geometrically increase as the number of SaaS consumers grows. There is no way ISVs can ensure the security of computing devices enabled with apps. So the potential for hacks should be assumed to be high. As of the time of the writing of this post, Dropbox, the latest SaaS to notify the public of a security breach, actually blamed app developers for the security hole used for the exploit
  • Enterprise businesses with a formal BYOD policies may see a dramatic increase in the need to support users. When apps are running on a set of dissimilar computing devices (Android, and/or Apple smart phones, tablets, etc) the need for expertise on multiple platforms arises. It can be costly for enterprise IT to provision the support required to ensure SaaS consumers can get the services they need

Given the factors just presented, we think it likely Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions like Windows Intune will become very popular across enterprise business customers.

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.

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

14
Aug

BlackBerry BES wins at U.S. Defense Information Services Agency

On August 6, 2014, Blackberry announced the U.S. Defense Information Services Agency (DISA) had approved its Secure Workspace for iOS(R) and Android(tm) solution at the level of DISA’s Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG).

In this writer’s opinion this win is notable for three reasons:

  1. The win demonstrates the strength of an entrenched device and its supporting platform for enterprise businesses and comparably sized organizations (such as DISA) in the public and not-for-profit sectors
  2. Despite BlackBerry’s position in the “Niche” quadrant of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management (MDM), DISA opted to approve this solution, apparently unconcerned about the position of this platform, relative to its competitors in the market place. DISA’s decision may include important clues about how U.S. Federal agencies may buy technology solutions in the future
  3. The win is, perhaps, a blow to Samsung’s Knox Enterprise Mobility Management. Given the role Google apparently intends Knox to play in its efforts to repackage Android for enterprise consumers, this win for BlackBerry may have implications across a wider range of enterprise opportunities

1) It is very difficult to unseat an entrenched incumbent

The BlackBerry press release about this win does not include specific detail about how DISA decided to approve BlackBerry’s solution, but it is likely safe to surmise the large installed base of BlackBerry 10 mobile phones played some kind of role. On the other hand, the press release does mention BlackBerry’s Global Enterprise Services group. So the win may be emblematic of the quality of customer account management this group has achieved as it has worked with DISA

2) The Magic Quadrant May Not Be What It Seems When It Comes Down to Costs

Enterprise computing is highly complex, with a rich set of influential factors. As mentioned above, without further detail, it is no more than pure conjecture to posit answers to questions as to how DISA went about making its decision to approve BlackBerry’s solution. But it is likely cost had something to do with it, as is often the case. Perhaps the cost of implementing a best-of-breed solution for Mobile Device Management (MDM) far exceeded the cost of consulting with BlackBerry to bring its solution up to compliance with STIG. Bottom line: this win demonstrates how vulnerable an argument built on no more than authority (meaning pointing to the position of a couple of products in a market study like Gartner’s Magic Quadrant) can be when long standing customers weigh the pros and cons of making a platform change and funds are tightly controlled.

3) Samsung’s Knox is, perhaps, not as formidable as its namesake

As written in several older posts to this blog, Google’s I/O event for 2014 included the presentation of what this writer took to be a serious effort to repackage Android into a platform more worthy of serious consideration by enterprise IT organizations. A segment of the enterprise presentation at this event included an announcement of Samsung’s decision to make Knox available to the entire Android developer community. So this win by BlackBerry may put a damper on the enthusiasm driving this enterprise IT initiative for the Android developer community.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

26
Jun

Blackberry is Turning Around, But at a Slower Pace Than Previously Expected

Blackberry reported on earnings for the first quarter of fy 2015 on Thursday, June 19, 2014. As reported on the MobileWorldLive web site, John Chen, CEO, mentioned a likely return to profitability in fy 2016. But the pace of improvement is much slower than expected, based on management comments from earlier earnings reports.

Does the gap between the timeline Mr. Chen presented back in December, 2013, as part of his presentation to investors, and his latest pronouncements present a challenge for anyone following the performance of this business? Back then, many proponents of Mr. Chen’s ascendancy to the CEO position at Blackberry spoke positively of his past successful experience turning around Sybase, and seemed to look forward, eagerly to the second phase of his plan — marketing BlackBerry’s Messenger service to the market for enterprise mobile device management (MDM) software.

But, as I wrote earlier to this blog, Gartner has since released its Magic Quadrant for Enterprise MDM. Unfortunately, BlackBerry’s BBM is included, simply, as a “niche solution”, and certainly not one of the market leaders, at least according to Gartner.

So we can only conclude the first phase of Mr. Chen’s December, 2013 plan is still in process. Ken Willard, who wrote this article for MobileWorldLive notes “[t]he remainder of sales was made up by hardware (39 per cent) and software & other revenue (7 per cent).” On the other hand, the services business (not a focus of Mr. Chen’s December, 2013 plan) “represented more than half of Q1 turnover (54 per cent).”

In fact, it looks much more likely Mr. Chen will remain deeply engrossed with the challenge of squeezing profitability out of the hardware business at Blackberry for the next few quarters. Mr. Wieland quotes Mr Chen as using an abstraction to describe the pace of BlackBerry’s progress on this objective, “Chen admitted that BlackBerry had still to hit breakeven point on hardware, but added it was getting ‘very close’.” What may be very close for Mr. Chen maybe very far off for investors. Perhaps it is safe to say simply reporting the numbers, and leaving the task of “connecting the dots” to analysts would have been a better approach.

Disclaimer: I liquidated my entire investment in BBRY back in May, 2014

Ira Michael Blonder

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

27
May

BlackBerry Included as a Niche MDM Solution in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management Software

As I wrote earlier in this blog, Blackberry’s recent promotion of free Blackberry Enterprise Service 10 (BES10) to anyone willing to try the product, did not seem fitting for a leader in the enterprise Mobile Device Management (MDM) market. I based my point on some information shared, publicly, by Gartner, during a recent webinar on the enterprise Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. The information reported on a willingness on the part of a substantial majority of survey respondents from enterprise businesses to invest in an MDM solution.

My reasoning amounted to questioning why Blackberry would give BES10, which is an MDM solution, away for free if approximately 80% of the enterprise market plans on buying and implementing a solution. Based on this giveaway, I concluded Blackberry has faced some substantial obstacles in its effort to convince enterprise business to standardize on its MDM offer.

This apparent setback was confirmed, recently, when Gartner published its Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management Software. BlackBerry is included in the lower left square of the Magic Quadrant — as one of the “Niche Players” in the market.

This result is, in my opinion, an important signal of some problems in the strategy John C. Chen, BlackBerry’s CEO presented to the analyst community back in December, 2013. Mr. Chen notified the analyst community of his intention to transform BlackBerry into an enterprise software vendor, while, at the same time, lowering the company’s exposure to the mobile smart phone manufacturing business, which exhibits the characteristics of a pure commodity market.

If BES10 can do no better than achieve a slot as a “Niche Player” in the enterprise MDM market, then BlackBerry’s giveaway strategy makes sense. At least Mr. Chen should achieve wider awareness of what BlackBerry offers as a solution for this market as a direct result of this very aggressive tactic. But it will certainly be difficult to convert free users into paid customers at some later date.

It would be useful to learn more about how Gartner reached a decision to include BlackBerry in this lower left square of the Magic Quadrant, directly opposed to the “Leaders” square, at the top right.

Disclaimer: I recently closed a long position in BlackBerry. I am not affiliated with Gartner, Inc.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

1
Apr

Microsoft Presents InTune Mobile Device Management on an Android Device

On March 27, 2014, Microsoft® General Manager Julia White demonstrated Office applications running on her iPad, and InTune, Mobile Device Management running on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. A lot of market commentary was published in advance of this presentation. Much of it had to do with a “new direction”, or a “sober realization” on Microsoft’s part. Microsoft tablets, smart phones, and even XBOX consoles simply weren’t going to magnetize the critical mass of consumers required. The software ports included in the demonstration would represent its capitulation to the BYOD market dominance of iOS and Android competitive devices.

But back on June 3, 2013, in a presentation titled “Enabling People-Centric IT”, Andrew Conway, Director of Product Marketing for Microsoft’s Window Server System Center referred to a 2012 presentation of Microsoft’s App Side Loading Service for iOS. Conway noted the broad surprise the audience expressed, back then, as they watched Microsoft software running on an iOS powered device.

Evidently, Microsoft recognized markets had forgotten these earlier presentations. So White’s demonstrations of Office running on the iPad and InTune Mobile Device Management running on an Android tablet were, in my opinion, added onto Satya Nadella’s presentation of “ubiquitous computing”, and “ambient intelligence” as a method of recapturing earlier surprise.

To further debunk the notion these positions are, in fact, anything really new for Microsoft, anyone reviewing the recording of Conway’s 2013 presentation will note the amount of time he spends on a screen titled “Waves of Innovation”. Apparently the need to direct markets to associate Microsoft with the notion of computing innovation was a prominent objective of marketing communications efforts more than 6 months prior to the public announcement of Satya Nadella as the new CEO for this mature ISV. Once again, anyone watching the personal cameo video introduction of Satya Nadella on the Investors web site will note the emphasis he places on innovation. But keep in mind the theme is not a new one for the company.

Finally, anyone following Microsoft should be familiar with their long standing objective to deliver one uniform computing experience across the complete range of devices and settings experienced by their consumers. This objective powers the Windows, and Windows Phone Operating Systems, and the Surface RT port of Windows 8.0 and, most recently, 8.1. This objective is by no means a new emphasis for the business.

What markets may miss by erroneously categorizing the March 27, 2014 presentations as evidence of a new direction for the business, is an important point of the Office port to iOS. This port is written for the iPad iOS device. The subscription to Office 365 is an optional method of obtaining Office for the iPad. By creating a version of Office compatible with the iPad, Microsoft opened an important opportunity to convert some portion of the enormous iOS app developer realm into customers for the Active Directory services included in this demonstration. In my opinion this latter opportunity is substantial. These developments should be very welcome news for enterprise IT organizations in need of AD support for their iOS devices. iOS App developers targeting an enterprise computing market will likely jump all over it.

Disclaimer: I’m long Microsoft.

Ira Michael Blonder

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

22
Jan

Is Blackberry Firing Up the Enterprise Software Market for Mobile Device Management?

Citron Research thinks Blackberry will capture the dominant position in the enterprise market for Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions. Enterprise business and comparably sized organizations in the public, and not-for-profit sectors need MDM solutions to successfully, manage secure remote data communications between smart phones and tablets and internal networks and data sources.

In a research report titled BlackBerry: Why the Shorts and Analysts Have it Wrong
Citron looks at a $15 Target – Minimum
Citron Research argues BlackBerry has been misunderstood by investment analysts and the financial news media. They also like the appointment of John Chen as the new CEO, and his stated intention to transform the company.

There can be little doubt of the depth of consumer interest in an effective MDM solution. Demand for tablet computers is strong. More low cost windows tablet computers are coming to market. At the same time, in April, 2014 Microsoft® will stop supporting the Windows XP® operating system. Some portion of today’s market for windows tablets can likely be attributed to enterprise customers replacing laptop Windows XP PCs. This portion looks to grow even further post April. So Enterprise IT organizations have a burning need for an effective MDM solution.

With regards to smartphones, the lower end of the market is broadening, while the capabilities of leading products in the category is increasing. Once again, Enterprise IT will look to leading MDM solutions to help them protect the internal users looking to communicate with internal networks with consumer grade android, windows, and iOS smart phones.

Citron’s presentation is certainly compelling, but conspicuously absent from the list of BlackBerry’s competitors for this business is IBM. One can convincingly argue IBM is more embedded into enterprise software markets than BlackBerry, and possesses the quality sales force required to service customers. On December 18, 2013, just 2 days prior to BlackBerry’s quarterly report, and Mr. Chen’s conference call, which Citron thinks “[a]ny serious investor in BlackBerry should read . . . ” (quoted from Citron Research’s report on BlackBerry. I’ve provided a link to the full report earlier in this blog post), IBM announced its acquisition of Fiberlink Communications and its MaaS360 MDM application.

A careful study of the landscape of the enterprise software market for MDM solutions should certainly include mention of offers from more appropriate competitors to BlackBerry under Mr. Chen — namely IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Verizon and AT&T. Each of these businesses possesses the enterprise software sales teams and experience to make Blackberry’s transformation a bit harder to accomplish.

Ira Michael Blonder

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