Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Planning for changes in mobile technology

It's never talked about, but it is one of the most far-reaching consequences of the invention of the iPhone. Not too long ago -- maybe 3 years at most -- the "Smart Phone" was almost exclusively for corporate use. And they were almost exclusively Blackberries. In fact, people didn't even refer to them as phones anymore. They just called them a Blackbery.

Now, just a few years later, smart phones have become a consumer device, being purchased and paid for outside of corporate plans by everyone from front-line office staff to middle managers to field technicians.

According to ABI Research, smartphones made up 19% of all handsets shipped in the second quarter; that represents a 12% increase over the first quarter, and a 50% jump compared to the same quarter in 2009.

Put another way ...

Nearly one in five of the devices put into service between April and June were capable of sending and receiving email, browsing the internet, updating social media sites, and downloading huge amounts of data ... all with just a few minor movements of a finger or two.

It is an inconvenient fact that wireless bandwidth is finite. In the US, its usage is governed by the FCC, and therefore subject to political influence and the shortsightedness of all government officials. As such, this dramatic increase in usage will have a number of consequences. For instance, wireless carriers are already experimenting with tiered data plans, which will become a vehicle for price discrimination and increased costs. And we might also see performance degrade for streaming content like video and audio. Although this impact could be mitigated by a variety of technological advances.

In any case, technology leaders need to plan and budget accordingly. More and more users will require mobile solutions. This means a different kind of user support. This will have an impact on every aspect of connectivity. This will have an impact on reliability expectations. This will have an impact on security concerns and how ex-employees are treated. The time to start thinking about this is now!

Source: ABI Research - 19% of All Mobile Phones Shipped in 2Q Were Smartphones

Friday, October 22, 2010

More competition for the iPad

By now, you've probably heard about H-P's Slate 500 tablet, on sale at H-P for $799. It's a Windows 7 based machine, with a touchscreen and stylus. Will it pose a serious threat to the one that created the category? Or will it be a reprise of the old clunky Toshiba tablets from the early 2000's?

Well for one, H-P is marketing the Slate 500 as a Business tool, not a consumer tool. This is a key differentiator, since there is no Apps Store for Windows. But, with Windows 7 as the operating system, users will have the ability to utilize all sorts of already available programs on the device.

Furthermore, we all know that H-P is an innovator, not a price leader. Dell's flipper machine will be soon forgotten (hopefully) and I'm sure they are working hard to come up with a competitive tablet of their own.

Check out the HP Slate 500.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A record for Microsoft

Your PC will likely reboot on Tuesday night. October 12, 2010 is Patch Tuesday for Microsoft software, when the Redmond-based company releases security fixes and updates to address security vulnerabilities across its product line. This month, the update is addressing a record number of holes in all of its major PC applications. The old record of 34 vulnerabilities - which was only set last month - is shattered by a near 50% increase. Tomorrow's release addresses an astounding 49 vulnerabilities in Windows (just about every PC and server version still in use), Internet Explorer (v6, v7 & v8) and SharePoint.

None of the fixes specifically address the threat posed by Stuxnet, an insidious worm that every IT professional should be paying attention to. However, Microsoft does acknowledge that more holes need to plugged in order to effectively guard against that threat.

Read the Microsoft Security Bulletin for yourself:
Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification for October 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

BlackBerry is to DOS as Android is to Windows

Nielsen recently surveyed about 1,700 people who purchased smart phones in the past six months. They've been doing this survey monthly (see the graph below) and it reveals some interesting trends. First of all, notice the what happened to Apple just in the July and August ... their share of new phone buyers dropped by nearly a third: from the 35% range to the 25% range. Next, notice the steady trajectory of the Android OS.

Much has been made about the upcoming availability of the iPhone on Verizon Wireless, but I don't believe that will have a material impact on the overall trend. That's because the entry point price for an Android phone is far lower than the entry point price for an iPhone.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it is the same thing that happened in the 1990's. The Apple operating systems for PCs have always been regarded as superior to Windows. They still are. It is more reliable, more intuitive and more elegant than any of the comparable and contemporary versions of Windows. Yet, you're far more likely to encounter a Windows PC than an Apple. As a colleague of mine remarked, "Everyone wants a BMW, but ..."

Is the Apple mobile OS better than the Android OS? Probably. But in a price competitive market, price wins.

So what about the BlackBerry? I stand by my previous comments. DOS paved the way for personal computing. BlackBerry paved the way for smart phones. DOS served its purpose and is now part of history, making way for Windows (which drew its inspiration from the Mac). The BlackBerry will certainly fade from relevance ... slowly, but surely.

Credit where credit is due:
The Nielsen article