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What do Apple, Twitter and Facebook all have in common?


appletwitterfacebook                    linkedin

IBM is doing some interesting things to blur the line between consumer and business computing and the pace they are moving at has accelerated like a Mad Max roadster on nitro.  In the past year they have joined forces with Twitter, Facebook, and most notably, Apple.  The partnerships all bring together complimentary products and services. The venture with Apple, in particular, is worth paying attention to. Apple has virtually no formal enterprise solutions, yet they still dominate the business world with mobile devices. IBM on the other hand, has MobileFirst, their set of mobile solutions for business.  Meanwhile, IBM  has no mobile or desktop hardware and OS, so it must rely on other vendors to provide that foundation. Combining the solutions from Apple and IBM makes for a compelling case against against Microsoft and Google. The one partnership that seems to be missing is LinkedIn.

Add to these partnerships with consumer-focused companies, IBM is doing some consumer focus of its own. They have just released IBM Verse, a new online email application intended to compete with the likes of Hotmail and Gmail, at least to get consumer adoption, with the intentions that it will become the first choice for business too.  While Verse is in the early stages, a steady stream of features are being added on a weekly or monthly basis.
All of these signs lead me to believe that after all these years of analysts and business partners urging and pleading, IBM finally recognizes that it needs to win the consumer first in order to win the business.
They have stepped up their marketing efforts at the same time, which is a treat for business partners.  Who knew that for several years now IBM has posted the largest revenue of  cloud services? (even over Amazon Web Services)
Yes, they still have work to do in marketing their web services.  Often I give demonstrations of IBM Connections Cloud, an ecosystem of software services comparable to Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work, and I always get several people in the group asking “Why are they keeping this a secret?”

One final step IBM is taking is in making their solutions more attractive to small business, not just enterprise-scale organizations. Their solutions make a powerful case for businesses of all sizes now. I think the next year is going to be game-changing for IBM.  The surveys from 3 years ago are actually proving out.  IBM is proving why it was named one of the Four Horsemen of technology companies.

IBM partners with Twitter
IBM partners with Facebook
IBM expands partnership with Apple

IBM’s next generation cloud email solution is coming to CONSUMERS for FREE!


Last week IBM provided a glimpse into their next innovation in email.  Code-named MailNext, it is now formally named Verse.  This is the next evolution of Connections Cloud, their enterprise cloud suite of software.
Now, just a week later, IBM has announced plans to make Verse available to CONSUMERS for FREE!!!
This is unprecedented by IBM.  First, this is the first time IBM has targeted consumers rather than businesses.  Second, the price is right to attract users to experience the new concept in messaging.  Free.  A brilliant strategy to finally take an aggressive action toward marketing their product by first winning over their market as individuals and then as businesses.

Long ago Microsoft did this by including Outlook with every operating system. Consumers used that interface to use POP to access their personal email accounts.  Familiarity at the consumer level made it easy for businesses to be persuaded to use it along with Exchange server for an enterprise messaging system.  Then Google repeated this successful recipe to build a strong consumer base before diving into the enterprise messaging marketplace.

Now IBM is going to apply the same formula.  Unlike Google however, IBM is not going to turn consumers directly into profit like Google does with their advertising and scanning of email.  They will be targeting Businesses to provide the revenue.

The beauty of this formula is simple.  Email is the software equivalent of a Gateway drug into the collaboration software market. And IBM intends to get you addicted to theirs.  In this case, those hardcore drugs are IBM’s collaboration software suite:  Connections (team, B2B and B2C tools for file sharing, activities, wikis, blogs, forums, surveys, & more);  Sametime Instant Messaging, video, audio, web conferencing, and Notes & Domino.  And IBM is taking the same approach as the State of Washington, making their gateway drug very accessible and affordable to everyone.

I have to wonder if this isn’t at least partially driven by IBM’s new partnership with Apple who has proven how successful consumer loyalty can be.  Many of us who work with the IBM technology and understand how much more powerful it is than the competitive products have long blasted IBM for shunning the consumer market. I have often thought one of their biggest mistakes was separating the application designer tools from the Lotus Notes client which took away the power for end users to apply their own energy to create the custom applications they needed. At that point in time they disarmed their greatest allies and advocates of the software.  It looks like the giant has finally awoken and recognizes the power that the individual has on the choice of software in the workplace.  I am anxious to see what this new evolution will do for improving our productivity in the most widely used software category in the world. How do you think this will impact the landscape of the collaboration software market?  Want to see for yourself? Pre-register here.

Computer gaming companies are choosing IBM over Amazon


A few weeks ago I mentioned on the first day of IBM Connect conference that it is clear now beyond any doubt that computing power is becoming the next utility like electricity, phone, water, and cable TV.  I predict that there will come a day in the very near future when few companies will still have their own physical data center.

This article at thestreet.com is more proof of that as the gaming industry is the first to make this move.  But even more interesting is that IBM, not Amazon, Google or Microsoft, is leading this trend.  This adds even more credibility to IBM SmartCloud for Social Business and why I see it eclipsing Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps in the coming years as businesses of all sizes seek more business-directed solutions than what those consumer-focused, consumer-driven businesses (Amazon, Google, and Microsoft) can provide.

The tone is set for #IBMConnect 2014 and How Computing Power is the next Utility


If you arrive for IBM Connect on Sunday, you’re late. There has already been a flurry of activity from great 2-hour Jumpstart sessions that dive deeper into topics that other sessions during the week won’t have time to do; to the chance to visit the product showcase Sunday evening where it isn’t competing with your time networking and attending sessions. As a business partner, the Sunday BP-focused sessions have been a wealth of info on how to better inform customers.

The diversity of the conference is actually quite refreshing.  It’s not all just about Lotus Notes.  Sessions covering Connections, Sametime, SmartCloud, Mobile, Kenexa, real world examples of using it all, and even some amazing Smarter Planet stuff, like a display in the center of the product showcase demonstrating how it can gather and distribute traffic data between cars in an area.  With such a diversity in sessions, you can’t complain if you feel pigeon-holed with no opportunity to learn new things.

For all the talk about communicating and collaborating via computing (mobile, tablet, PC) in more natural ways, the underlying tone is cloud computing.  It permeates everything.  With so much focus on IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, at this point there is no longer any doubt in my mind that computing power has become the next utility.

What do I mean?  For comparison, go back in time to the end of the 1800’s and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  When a business built a factory, they also built a power plant to supply it with energy.  Then along came the notion of creating large power plants and a network of power lines that would supply electricity to every household.  Then, these businesses realized they could also tap into that grid for supplemental power and eventually get all of their power from it without ever building their own power source.  Electricity as a Utility was born.

Jump ahead 100 years.  Businesses are building large data centers to house and manage their computing power needs.  This is the beginning of the Information Revolution.  Then along comes this network called The Internet.  It connects households to computer resources and “information suppliers”.  Then businesses realized they could also tap into that grid and now there is a movement to get their computing power from Cloud Computing providers like IBM, Amazon, RackSpace, and Google.  If history repeats itself, as I fully predict, the day will come in the very near future when data centers at corporations will all but vanish.

The one small, but significant difference is that information, unlike electricity, is not just consumed.  It is also created and stored, almost like houses that have solar panels which are wired to “sell” their surplus back to the power company.  This distinction is the wild card that adds complexity to this otherwise close parallel.  What do you think?

BlackBerry Business Cloud Services: The truth behind the story from one who knows


There is a lot of talk going around about BlackBerry Business Cloud Services  on various blogs:  Paul Farris’ Blog   Volker Weber’s blog
First, let me say, unless you work(ed) for Microsoft or RIM, this is totally irrelevant and transparent.  BlackBerry support has been available with Office365 for years.  The big deal here is that RIM finally finished their cloud solution which was code-named “Contrail”.  This has been long in the making.  It’s not insider news, it’s just that few people noticed it when n4bb.com published it back in March 2011.

All it means is that instead of those BES servers sitting in Microsoft’s data centers, they will be sitting in RIM’s data centers.  So what’s the big deal?  It’s all in the cloud, so you don’t care where the servers sit.  What’s more, this doesn’t really apply to all of Office365, only the standard edition for smaller customers.  The bigger customers are hosted in dedicated environments and they won’t be moving their BES services for awhile.  But it doesn’t matter.  You won’t notice any difference and the transition is completely invisible to the customer, save that as it is RIM’s product, they will probably be more responsive to upgrades to the latest version and more savvy in troubleshooting issues.  This is really more a positive press opportunity than anything for a company overdue for some good news.

If there were anything even mildly interesting in this story it would be that Domino isn’t mentioned.  But I expect that’s just around the corner and they probably don’t want to confuse the message.  If your company uses Exchange, you don’t care about Domino. (By the way, LotusLive AKA Smart Cloud also supports BES deployments)  This will also give RIM a second press release of glory when they make a similar announcement for Domino.

My Project Working at Microsoft is Complete: An update to the Lotus community


In my May 30, 2011 post I explained that I had started a project at Microsoft where I would be working with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) team in Office365 to improve the process for building the BES servers, streamlining the process, reducing the bugs, and clarifying the instructions for the build team.  Well that project has come to completion and the results were fantastic.  We accomplished everything we set out to do and I made some great new friends in the process.

It is rewarding to know my skills can easily port to a different platform and that I could be so successful regardless of the brand of software.  (Let that be a lesson to all techies.)  Technical writing, process improvement, troubleshooting, teamwork were all more important than a detailed knowledge of the software.

I was looking forward to the opportunity to see Microsoft software deployed and used the way its developers intended, using all the best practices and perhaps have my opinion changed by the experience.  To that end, I was both impressed and disappointed.  The infrastructure is very sophisticated and well managed.  Everything you would expect.  Yet I was surprised at how some technology was used.     I often asked myself things like “Why are we having this big reply-to-all email conversation instead of just using a discussion forum or Teamroom?” or “Why are we creating online instructions in Word documents?”  Well at least now I understand the reasoning behind why certain Microsoft software features work the way they do.

I may find myself back there working on another project, perhaps on another team and get a totally different experience.  Actually, I hope so.  It’s a big, diverse company and I expect, like most large companies, different teams work in different ways.  Meanwhile, I am back in the world of IBM and social business and  I will continue to share the knowledge of collaboration and social business here in a region where it is needed most, only now with a deeper understanding of both brands.

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