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


Microsoft Publishes a Memo from Satya Nadella for Public Review

Satya Nadella sent a lengthy, detailed memo to all Microsoft employees on July 10, 2014 at 6 am PT. This memo has been published on Microsoft’s public web site. Anyone with an interest in Microsoft should take the time to read the memo, in its entirety.

The timing of the publication of this memo, 12 days prior to Microsoft’s scheduled date to report its earnings for the latest fiscal quarter, and approximately 2 weeks post Google’s Developer I/O 2014 Conference, appears to have some purpose to it. This writer listened to the entire web cast of the Google event and wrote several posts to this blog on related topics. In the last of these, we noted how Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President, attempted to directly address a core theme of Satya Nadella’s own articulated vision — productivity.

So the importance of “productivity” to the memo under discussion in this post appears to be more than coincidental. In fact, “productivity”, along with the detail included about the sheer volume of computing resources available to anyone in what Nadella refers to as our “cloud first, mobile first” world, are cast in a very different light in this memo, at least as we have read it. Perhaps everything does come down to a critical balance, as Nadella seems to state: “We will build the solutions that address the productivity needs of groups and entire organizations as well as individuals by putting them at the center of their computing experiences.” (quoted from a memo from Satya Nadella to the staff at Microsoft, which was published on July 10, 2014. We have provided a link to the entire memo at the top of this post). On one side are the “computing experiences”, and on the other are “individuals”.

Perhaps Nadella is providing his audience with a glimpse of Microsoft’s unique niche in this new market where it competes directly, principally with Google and Apple. The bet seems to be on the importance of what we refer to as the “personalization” factor. In other words, tons of data are really great, but if the data isn’t tailored for my unique requirements as a consumer, it might just be too much for me to handle, and, therefore, not worth much at all.

Anyone using either Windows Phone, or the Surface tablet (and perhaps XBOX as well) is experiencing a different approach to computing, one which appears to be imbued with this “personalization” factor. It will certainly be interesting to see if our reading is accurate.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Is Apple Poised to Fare Best on the Smart Phone Plateau?

Samsung’s earnings guidance for the second quarter, 2014 generally disappointed analysts and stimulated some broad downward revisions in likely global market consumption of high end smart phones and tablets. Some of the downward direction indicated by Samsung’s guidance was also attributed to stiffer competition for the low end of these markets from Chinese manufacturers.

Regardless of how one reacts to this guidance announcement, it should be clear global market appetite for smart phones, and, perhaps, tablets, has been generally satisfied. In the opinion of this writer, the slowdown can be attributed to feature exhaustion for the current form factor and chip sets. Consumers have bought up what they need. When hardware OEMs and their ISV partners finally come to market with solutions for the remaining areas of burning need — richer voice feature sets enabling more utility for mobile consumers, and true integration within mobile transportation beyond a peripheral to be plugged in, to name but two of these — then high velocity sales can be assumed to occur.

But for now these features are not available. Apple looks poised to perform the best in these kind of conditions. iOS devices sit at the very top of the smart phone heap. As many analysts have written, despite a much smaller market share than the combined reach of Google’s Android partners, including Samsung, Apple just makes much more money in the market and enjoys much higher margins than its competitors.

Two recent hires: Angela Ahrendts (late of Burberrys) to head the Apple Store operation, and Patrick Pruniaux (formerly the Vice President of sales at Tag Heuer) provide solid support for the notion Cupertino plans on protecting its position as the name brand at the very top of the smart phone market.

Once a commodity technology market plateaus, in this writer’s opinion, brand recognition, price, and reputation all trump technical features for the top cut of consumers. Apple does not look to be giving back any territory in this arena anytime soon.

On the other hand, Microsoft has demonstrated some of the voice features likely to stir up consumer demand (“Cortana”). But the expected release of Windows Phone 8.1 has gotten off track, so consumers have yet to experience, first hand, the improvements Cortana appears capable of delivering. In the meantime, other analysts claim Windows Phone is losing market share globally. As to the Surface Pro 3, this device is positioned as a better solution for the laptop market, rather than a tablet killer.

Ira Michael Blonder

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


Will Cortana Provide Windows Phone 8.1 with the Momentum Required to Win a Bigger Share of the Smart Phone Market?

Worldwide markets for what I collectively call small, smart mobile devices appear to be reaching a plateau. The progression of the high end smart phone market has shown signs of taking this direction over the last year and a half. Most recently, IDC’s report on first calendar quarter 2014 worldwide sales of tablets showed the same trend.

In my opinion, the tactic likely to be the most popular for competitors in, at least, the smart phone market, will be to cannibalize each others customers in an effort to continue to increase share of the market.

Consumers will continue to play the dominant role in purchase decisions. Price discounting should become prevalent. Trade-in offers will play their role, which will contribute to higher costs for channel partners and manufacturers.

A light in all of this darkness will be any new technological feature, well received by the public, which a competitor will be able to leverage to at least maintain price, if not margin. Cortana, the new “personal assistant” Microsoft® has announced for Windows Phone 8.1, looks to be this type of factor.

As I wrote earlier in this blog, there are many reasons for further potential in current smart phone technology around the notion of speech-to-computing features. To quickly restate my position, by definition, smart phones are mobile devices. For one reason, or another, consumers on the go cannot, and should not, be using screen or keyboard input devices to perform computing procedures. Cortana has received across-the-board positive review from popular press. This product has all of the features required to provide consumers with a voice activated method of processing computing tasks.

When technology increases the usefulness of a device like a smart phone, then manufactures have the tool needed to either justify holding a market price, or even increasing it. It doesn’t make sense for Microsoft to expect a price increase for its own handsets built on the Windows Phone 8.1 O/S once Cortana is released. But it does make sense to expect Microsoft to gain market share from competitors at the high end of the market for this new feature.

Disclaimer: I’m long Microsoft

Ira Michael Blonder

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


With Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft Sees an Opportunity to Emphasize the Personal in the Consumer PC Experience

As Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President, Operating Systems Group (PC, Tablet and Phone) states at the start of his keynote presentation at Microsoft’s Build 2014 Conference, one of the drivers for the Windows Phone O/S was to produce an experience “a little bit less like technology, and a lot more about you”. Belfiore then claims “we think Windows Phone is the world’s most personal smart phone”.

This preamble leads up to the public debut of Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant feature, which will be a very prominent new feature of Windows Phone 8.1 when it is released to the user community this summer. As Belfiore demonstrated, Cortana represents a substantial enhancement to the voice-activated capabilities of Windows Phone. The added power of this personal assistant amounts to a combination of a presumably embedded Bing client, and a set of data collection and analytics features designed to quickly put together a richly featured profile of the owner of the Windows smart phone.

All of the above is very significant, but I want to use this post to illustrate an important component of the Microsoft® computing brand. As I wrote in 2012, in a post to this blog titled Microsoft Understands the Evolution of Personal Computing from Desktop Computers to Handheld Devices, consumers now refer to PCs, but rarely to “personal computers”.

This evolution of consumer awareness of the “personal computer” into simply the “PC” amounts to bad news for product marketers of PC products, applications, etc. In its ad for the SuperBowl, in 1984, Apple at once echoed a comparable emphasis on the personal, but combined it with a notion of the Macintosh as the computer of “the revolution”. The outcome of this marketing communication effort is history.

But Microsoft certainly has an opportunity to reclaim the personal. Belfiore’s presentation of Windows Phone 8.1 at Build 2014 continues the branding effort for Windows Phone as the Personal Smart Phone (synonymous, for me, with the notion of computer), which I picked up back in 2012. This is good news for the Windows Developer community. It would be helpful if the Marketing Communications team could come up with a better method of delivering the same message to consumers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 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


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