Banking On The iPad

Barclays Bank has ordered 8,500 iPads in what is believed to be one of the largest corporate deployments of the device in the UK. ~ via TUAW

This kind of thing has got to be terrifying to Microsoft. Microsoft is losing the battle for tablet’s in the Enterprise and they know it.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the following has to make their blood run cold:

Barclays told The Channel that they went with the iPad because of staff demand.

However, Microsoft is in it for the long run and Windows 8 tablets have barely even come to bat yet. But if this was a baseball game, It would be like Microsoft coming to bat for the very first time in the bottom of the eighth inning already down 8-0.

Confirmed: The iPad Isn’t Good At What It Isn’t Good At

What is it about the iPad that moves seemingly rational people to say perfectly ridiculous things?

The latest example of this foolishness is Matt Asay, writing in The Register, who argues that because there are some enterprise chores that the iPad does not do well or at all, “iPad is RUBBISH for enterprise.” The gist of Asay’s argument goes something like this:

  • Enterprise users depend on heavy-duty apps, especially Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
  • These apps are not available on the iPad.
  • The Apple alternatives, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are less capable.
  • Therefore, the iPad is unsuited to enterprise use.

Each of these statements except the last is indisputably true. And that conclusion is completely wrong.

The problem is the implicit assumption that unless a computing device is well-suited to everything we might ask of any computer, it isn’t suited for anything. This is the sort of thinking–Microsoft is particularly prone to it–that has given us bloated all-purpose devices that can do anything, though often not very well.

To support his case, Asay quotes a Macworld article (unfortunately, no link was provided): “For the most part, I love writing on my iPad. But I still do so only when my MacBook isn’t around…”

I would say the same thing, and I would add that I don’t use my MacBook Air when my 27″ iMac or desktop Windows PC is around. The critical thing is that the iPad is always around when I want it; it has the right mix of capability of mobility for a vast variety of jobs, many of them as great utility to the enterprise.

It is true that putting capable Office programs on tablets gives Windows  slates a potential advantage in the enterprise markets. But, as I have written, the new versions of Office programs, while more touch-capable than their predecessors, still are not very well suited to touch use. It’s not at all clear at this point that a Windows tablet running Excel 2013 will really be very much better for enterprise spreadsheet use than an iMac with Numbers.

The big problem here, though, is the fallacy that lack of capability at any task the enterprise may demand renders a device useless. Let’s accept–and celebrate–the fact that we are living in a world where we have a choice of devices of varying capabilities and where

Microsoft Office: Way Too Early for Obituaries


Office logoIn recent days, it has become popular to herald the impending death of Microsoft Office and the doom of Microsoft itself as its cash cow heads for the slaughterhouse.

  • In a series of tweets, Duke business professor Vivek Wadhwa argued that Microsoft has become irrelevant, largely because tablets are the future and Office doesn’t run on them.
  • Minimalmac blogger Patrick Rhone argued that Microsoft’s failure to get Office on the iPad allowed people to realize they could get by very well with the Microsoft suite.
  • At TechCrunch, John Biggs maintains that a paradigm shift away from printing and paper is leading us into the “post-Office” generation.

Not so fast.

While these analyses are right about the long-term trends, I believe they drastically underestimate the importance of office in the daily life of business, government, and other large institutions. Consumers may be realizing that they no longer need Office–that, in fact, they never needed Office and would always have been better off with something lighter and simpler such as Apple’s iWork. This will hurt Microsoft some. But the company’s bread and butter is Office and its attendant backend services, such as Exchange and SharePoint, in the enterprise.

There are bad and good reasons for this. The really bad reason is the inertia and conservatism of large organizations. Government is the worst offender. It’s tough to see how agencies that still run mainframes that communicate with greenscreen 3270 terminals using Systems Network Architecture  and whose managers think they have mobilized their IT because they support BlackBerrys are going to dump Office anytime soon. It is very common, for example, for federal agencies to require that responses to requests for proposals be submitted as Word and Excel files.

The much better reason is that there is a world of of documents far more complex than web pages (or tablet apps.) And production of those documents requires the right tools. Word is used not out of inertia but because it includes a lot of features that cannot be found elsewhere. In an environment where documents pass through many hands on their way to complete, tracking changes (also called edit tracking or redlining) is essential if you ever need to know who made what edits. Complex documents need automatically generated tables of content, indexes, and, in the case of legal briefs, tables of authorities. Footnoting and bibliography flexibility is essential. Furthermore, many companies have a vast investment in custom Word stylesheets (Word calls them templates, but stylesheet is a more familiar term for HTML users.)

Alternatives like Google Docs don’t begin to cut it. Apple’s Pages comes closer, but even Apple doesn’t seem to regard iWork, which has not be updated in three years,  as a serious competitor to Office. OpenOffice, in its various incarnations, offers all the complexity of Microsoft Office in a much less user-friendly package.

For now, and for the foreseeable future, preparing documents for print is still tremendously important. Over time,  it will become less so, but endless scrolling web pages are not a viable alternative. We will be doing more and more of our reading on tablets. But tablets are going to need software that can create proper documents for them. Nothing does a very good job of this today, but it is hardly an insoluble problem and I expect Microsoft will address it in both the rumored Office for iPad and Windows 8 version of Office, expected late this year.

Word, of course, is only one component of Office. In environments where Microsoft Exchange is the back end for mails, contacts,  and calendaring and scheduling, Outlook remains the indispensable client. Yes, you can get Mac Mail to work with Exchange and Exchange is iCal-compatible, but accessing an Exchange Global Address List from Mac Address Book is somewhere between difficult and impossible, depending on the configuration of the Exchange server.

Excel lives in a league of its own. My guess is that the bulk of Office users don’t make much use of Excel and could undoubted get by with something much lighter, even the spreadsheet component of Google Docs. But for the legions of Excel power users, it is absolutely indispensable. and many companies have spent a lot of time and effort building Excel models that cannot be ported to anything else.

And what can I say about PowerPoint? I’ve always found it the weakest major component of Office, an adopted child who never quite got integrated into the family. Not to mention the agony of sitting through those presentations. For Mac users, Keynote is definitely a worthy competitor (how bad can a program designed by Steve Jobs keynotes be?). But huge numbers of enterprise workers will only give up PowerPoint when you wrest it away from them. For better or worse, mainly worse, it’s here to stay.

All of these are reasons why neither Office nor the computers needed to create documents of any complexity are going away. We may do our reading on tablets, but content creators will still be creating on Office. As long as that is the case, Microsoft will be a highly relevant, and almost certainly highly profitable, player.





















Apple’s Enterprise Invasion: Why Winning in Consumer Means Winning in Enterprise

There used to be a time when I would go to tech industry events, trade shows, internal company meetings, etc. and I was one of the few in the room with a Mac. I took great pride in that fact, but now the Mac is gaining everywhere. It’s in schools, hospitals, labs, construction sites, restaurants, consumers’ homes, coffee shops, and now increasingly in the enterprise.

With this observation in mind it should come as no shock that Apple blew the doors off their latest earnings and recorded all time sales of Macs. My analyst colleague, Frank Gillet at Forester, shared his research which showed that 1 in 5 Global workers now use an Apple product for work.

So what is fueling this trend?

Apple Products Cost Less to Support

When I worked at Cypress Semiconductor, I moon-lighted from time to time and helped our IT department by solving Windows problems. I prided myself on the fact that I could troubleshoot Windows with the best of them. I could navigate my way in and out of all of the different and common Windows conflicts. Then a funny thing happened. I switched to the Mac and all of a sudden troubleshooting became a thing of the past. That reality is now hitting the enterprise IT departments.

A recent survey by the Enterprise Device Alliance which surveyed IT professionals in large enterprise environments that have a mix of Macs and PCs overwhelmingly found agreement with IT managers that Macs cost less than PCs to support. IT managers noted that Macs presented higher up front acquisition costs, but also noted that the long-term benefits were worth the tradeoff.

When it came to Mac adoption in the enterprise, ease of technical support and lower total cost of ownership were among the top reasons for the switch. Number one on their list–employee preference.

Bring Your Own Device To Work

If you follow this industry even a little bit you keep hearing about the “consumer-ization of IT” or the “Bring Your Own Device” trend. Yes, both trends are real and IT managers are diligently working to allow employees to use whatever devices they want at work.

We recently interviewed SAP’s CIO Oliver Bussman. He shared with us that inside SAP they have 14,000 iPads and 8,000 iPhones deployed. That is a total of 22,000 iOS devices compared to the 20,000 Blackberries deployed to his workers. SAP, like many other companies is working to cater to their employees’ device preference. And Mr Bussman shared an interesting perspective with us. He said that he now has to pay closer attention to what is going on in the consumer market because if he doesn’t, he would not be able to stay ahead of the game. His workers use and learn how to make things like the iPad work for them at home. Then they come to him and say they want to use it in the office as well. After his visit to CES, Mr. Bussman recorded a video of his thoughts on the consumer-ization of IT and it is worth watching as he has a very important perspective on the subject.

The Right Product for the Right Job

In the construction industry they say that “every job is easier with the right tools.” Perhaps for too long, due to the Windows monopoly on most businesses, IT managers have been forced to have workers use the same tool to get a multitude of jobs done. But now devices like the iPhone and iPad in particular are proving more effective in many situations like field force and sales force automation.

During our interview Oliver Bussman also shared with us that he was able to deploy 300 iPads to his global sales team in just 4 weeks. In many enterprise solutions, the iPad, and touch computing in general, is just a better tool for the job.

IT managers need to effectively empower their workforce to be productive and equipped with the tools they need to be successful. Apple products are now becoming a critical part of the enterprise tool set.

Apple’s focus has not been the corporate IT accounts. Apple has always been a consumer product company waiting for a pure consumer market to mature. Now that the consumer market for personal electronics has matured, it appears to also be an enterprise strategy. Demand for Apple products is at an all-time high with consumers and their latest earnings prove this. What no one really could have predicted was that to win in enterprise you had to also win in consumer. It seems logical, but hindsight is 20/20. That reality is now fueling growth in Apple’s favor from every corner of the technology sector. The scary thing for Apple competitors is that they are just getting started.

Why HP Has Chosen to Make A Windows 8 Tablet

When it comes to being a PC vendor these days, life is tough. For 30 years they have had a cozy business and only had to worry about designing two major form factors. Desktops and laptops were their bread and butter and they mainly needed to focus on enterprise, SMB and consumer markets.

But over the last two years, with the introduction of tablets and smartphones, their world has been turned upside down. Their enterprise customers are bringing iPhones and Android phones to their IT managers and asking them to support them. And now, iPads, and to some minor degree, Android tablets, are entering IT through the back door as well.

Now, these major PC players have to seriously consider significant plays in tablets and smartphones if they want to keep their IT customers happy. But, even their consumer users want tablets and smartphones from these vendors since they are well-known brands and in most cases, are known for their services and support.

But until recently, if the OEM’s wanted an OS for these products, they pretty much had only one option at their disposal. Android came along at a time when, for most PC vendors, it looked like it was a godsend. But after two years of trying to deal with Google and their scattered approach to designing and releasing so many versions of Android at irregular intervals and favoring marquis partners for major releases, some of the really big PC vendors are de-emphasizing or backing away from Android and are now seriously considering Windows 8 on tablets instead.

I was recently in a meeting with two PC vendors who were wrangling with the issue of backing Android or Windows 8 in tablets and while they still viewed Android as a viable product for potential consumer customers, they have pretty much concluded that if they want a tablet to be accepted by their business customers, they need to back Windows 8 on tablets and especially the ones supporting based on Intel silicon.

The key issue for business is backward compatibility. Although developers will have to adapt their apps to run the Metro UI for tablets, they won’t have to re-write much of the applications code as they would for use with ARM processors. And for users, they can be pretty much be assured that they can run Windows apps even without the Metro touch UI if needed by using the pen input as the mouse on most of these Win 8 tablets that will be out next year.

As for Android support in tablets for business, the interest from the big vendors is waning. There are a lot of reasons for this, but in the chart below, Michael DeGusta created this chart to show the Android and iPhone update history. As you can see, Android’s scattered releases alone have caused nightmares for tablet and smart phone vendors and this type of release schedule within enterprise is just not acceptable.

Of course, HP was the only company to buck the Android trend completely. They bought webOS and, to their credit, had hoped that they could build an ecosystem around webOS so that they had total control of this OS and their ecosystem themselves. Interestingly, they started out backing Android but wisely dropped it as they foresaw serious problems with this OS on many levels. The key one was that they were very concerned that Google did not have a good grasp on how to create a mobile OS that would meet the need of their core customers. So, they bought webOS with the thought that they could use this to create a more robust and secure OS for business and consumers.

Of course, as you know, things have not gone well with webOS and at the moment, it is not clear what HP will do with this great mobile OS. But it is pretty clear that they still do not see Android as an OS they wish to support.

HP actually has a long history of Windows tablet support and has sold it to many vertical market customers over the years. At CES 2009, HP publicly backed Microsoft’s Windows Tablets in Microsoft’s keynote. But with their turning their back on Android and webOS not living up to their own expectations, they pretty much were forced to turn back to Microsoft and will indeed, make Windows 8 on tablets their preferred tablet OS.

For enterprise, this is a no brainer. But they do have some latitude to back even ARM based tablets for consumers with Windows on ARM as well.

So, with HP keeping the PC division and tablets becoming a very important part of the business segment, HP, Dell and Lenovo along with the traditional PC vendors are all going to back Windows 8 on tablets in a big way. Unless Google changes their way of dealing with these vendors, I suspect that they will all eventually ratchet down support for Android tablets and instead put all of their weight behind Windows 8 on tablets, at least when it comes to tablets in the enterprise.


Three Numbers from Apple’s Earnings That Should Scare Competitors

By now you have probably heard that Apple had the best quarter of their existence in the previous earnings period. Ben has given the basic details in his post but I wanted to share with you three other numbers that came from the call with their COO, Tim Cook, after the earnings were released-numbers that should keep Apple’s competitors up at night.

The first is their cash horde. It now sits as $76.2 billion. In my PC Mag column this week I wrote in detail how Apple uses this cash to its advantage and I suggest you read it and see how Apple “invents” products of the future with this cash reserve, making it very hard for competitors to keep up with them. A reader pointed out that if you subtract current liabilities from this cash position, they actually have about $60 billion in free cash to work with. This is still a pretty big reserve to work with.

See: How Apple Uses its Cash Hoard to its Advantage

The second scary number is that Cook said that 86% of the Fortune 500 in the US are testing iPads and looking at deploying them within their enterprise solutions. We already know that has bought iPads for their entire work force and are seeing major benefits from its use. And Cook also said that it is being tested in many US government organizations as well. If Apple gains a lot of traction with major US enterprises it could make it hard for any other tablet makers to make any serious inroads given Apple’s huge head start with the iPad.

But the third number should really cause the major PC companies with WW reach to be concerned. Tim Cook said that 49% of the Global 500 are testing iPads for use in global enterprise solutions. I am aware of at least two Global 500 companies that are in the final stages of their tests and could buy thousands of iPads for WW deployment by early next year. This kind of interest from Global IT bodes well for Apple and means that their large head start over competitors could serve the very well in this WW market for enterprise-based tablets.

Although the main audience that is driving iPad sales is clearly coming from consumer’s, this interest in iPads within corporate America and WW IT could possibly increase demand more for iPads by a third of what it already is today from consumers. While the big tablet vendors are also eyeing IT markets for their tablets, they better get a serious offering into their IT customers hands soon or they risk the possibility that Apple could “iPod” them in this market the same way Apple innovated around the iPod and pretty much wiped out any competitive threats along the way.

If I was an Apple competitor, I would be amazed at the monster earning numbers. But the three numbers I listed above should have me shaking in my boots.