Tuesday, 23 December 2014

There's market potential in packaging the internet of things

News that Fujitsu is offering a cloud platform for customers to exploit the internet of things (IoT) highlights the fact that it’s still a mind boggling concept for a lot of companies – and that savvy suppliers are going to have to help their clients wrap their heads around what they can do.

A key element of this is Fujitsu’s statement that it’s building a “global ecosystem” with business partners. It’s not just the cloud platform, but tying it in with sensors, devices, networks, middleware and applications as part of the deal. It makes sense to offer customers a package that saves them a lot of agonising over whether all the parts will work effectively together.

Throw in an analytics service for those small to midsized firms that don’t know how to exploit all the IoT data and there’s a solid business proposition, especially if the economies of scale make it more competitive. This has promise as an approach for major suppliers to carve out their shares in the market, so far largely untapped, that brings together big data and the IoT.

The main hurdle is likely to be in whether customers have their own ideas about which sensors, devices and other parts of the package they prefer to use. If they have suppliers who are already proving their worth they are going to think twice about dumping them, and making a new investment, to buy right into the big players’ ecosystems.

This could be an interesting feature of the IT business over the next few years: whether customers turn away from cloud platforms because they are incompatible with their choice of hardware and networks, and whether the major firms with the capacity to create packages can make them sufficiently flexible. 

But the fact that the IoT is virgin territory to a lot of companies places big suppliers, especially those with a record in systems integration, in a position where they can lead the way by making it easier for customers. It’s one case where the demand is likely to respond to the supply.

Mark Say is a UK based writer who covers the role of information management and technology in business. See www.marksay.co.uk

Friday, 12 December 2014

It’s premature to talk about Windows 10 in the workplace

It needs everyone, not just the enthusiasts, to be comfortable with an OS

People in the PC business are getting excited about next year’s full release Windows 10 – even though Microsoft is not yet being precise about the date – with hopes that it’s going to win back the good will of users who have scorned Windows 8.

I don’t doubt Microsoft’s ability to learn from its past mistakes, but think it’s premature to talk about Windows 10 making a big impact on the workplace. Any sensible business is going to be careful about becoming an early adopter of the new operating system.

The enthusiasm has been fuelled by reports that hardware manufacturer and developers are happy with what they have seen, but that doesn’t mean that regular users will share their enthusiasm. Windows 8 received plenty of positive reviews on its release, but now it’s generally acknowledged to have been a bad move.

The reason for this is the difference in outlooks between professional techies and the everyday user. The former group, whether they are manufacturers, developers or reviewers, spend their working lives wrapped up in IT and could appreciate what Microsoft was trying to do with Windows 8. They were better equipped to make the mental leap in dealing with the new interface and using the system.

But most people are not so well equipped. They regard a computer as a tool, not a little wonderbox to be explored, and like any tool they want it to be easy to use. Microsoft made too many changes in the leap from Windows 7 to 8, not just in the interfaces and detail, but how it asked its users to think. Most people found it a little scary and backed away, leading IT managers to decide that it would be more trouble than it was worth.

Which is why I can’t see a rush to migrate to Windows 10, however good the early reviews may be. Even if it does the job and tablets, organisations want an OS that employees are comfortable in using, and they’re going to wait for months or years to assess the level of comfort. Most probably won’t make a switch until a lot of their employees are using the new OS on their own computers.

This won’t dampen the excitement when Microsoft shows off the system in January, but don’t expect that excitement to turn into widespread use in the workplace for some time.

Mark Say is a UK based writer who covers the role of information management and technology in business. See www.marksay.co.uk