23
Sep

IBM Debuts BI Applications Powered by Watson Running on an iPad

On September 6, 2014, the New York Times published an article written by Steve Lohr on, arguably, a new look for IBM’s Watson machine learning solution, which is, apparently, an ambidextrous tool. This time Watson was said to be powering a rich set of BI dashboards displayed on an iPad. The article is titled IBM Offers a Data Tool for the Mainstream, With Watson’s Help.

The image displayed on the web page presenting this article says a lot. A woman holds an Apple iPad tablet computer, which is exposing a set of Business Intelligence (BI) charts, dials, and the rest of the usual accoutrements of what are commonly referred to as “dashboards”. Presumably the woman holding the tablet is an example of Gartner’s notion of a “citizen developer”, meaning the type of power user targeted by this marketing effort for Watson. For readers otherwise unfamiliar with the notion, a “citizen developer” is an enterprise business user, with some authority, who maintains a voracious appetite for technology, but can’t write software, and has little interest in learning how to code. These people devour so-called “no-code” applications built on workflows.

By “says a lot”, this writer means the notion of someone (like the woman depicted in the image, who is enthusiastic about technology) high on energy, but low on computer programming skills, successfully creating a full-featured dashboard of data, without recourse to developers, points to a direct, head-to-head competition between Apple/IBM and Microsoft for the same market, namely enterprise customers looking for “no-code” solutions and lots of BI.

The product on the table on the Microsoft side, in this presumed comparison, is Office 365 and the suite of BI solutions included in the Power BI Excel offer. IBM certainly has the position in the enterprise computing space to represent a serious, credible threat to Microsoft’s dominance. The fact the dashboard is depicted running on an Apple iPad, rather than a Microsoft Surface is, as well, something to think about.

This competition is nothing new. IBM and Microsoft have fiercely competed for BI business before. IBM’s Cognos has traditionally owned a large piece of the market, with Microsoft challenging via a combination of SQL Server, SharePoint, and efforts of some prominent partners — notably Neudesic. What is different about the potential challenge represented by the combination depicted in Lohr’s article, is the dramatically lower cost of acquisition likely for the kind of solution we see running on the lady’s iPad. Redmond will likely get the wake up call.

Ira Michael Blonder

© 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, 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

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