January 2014

Friday mobile tech videos!

by Joey deVilla on January 31, 2014

tv heads dancing

TV Heads Dancing by Banksy.

It’s Friday! If things slow down where you work, you might enjoy these videos on the mobile industry and mobile tech; if things don’t slow down, you might enjoy these over the weekend. Enjoy!

How mobile technology could shape the consumer goods sector in the future

Video duration: 3 minutes, 1 second.

What’s the first thing you reach for when you wake up? For a lot of people, myself included, it’s my mobile device (sometimes it’s one of my phones, sometimes it’s my tablet). 77% of the world’s population have a mobile phone, and it’s changing everything, including consumer goods. This video is a narration-free “moving infographic” that presents some stats about the mobile industry, and how it’ll affect consumers and the consumer goods industry, all to a peppy dance beat.

Why mobile technology may well define the future of healthcare… for everyone.

Video duration: 2 minutes, 15 seconds.

A quick look at mHealth — that is, the delivery of healthcare services through mobile devices — and how quickly it’s moving from concept to reality.

Talking Tech with Consumer Reports at CES 2014: Smart phones, tablets & wearable tech

Video duration: 19 minutes, 17 seconds.

Here’s something a little longer: Consumer Reports talks about the mobile tech they saw at CES 2014 — the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

PocketNow Weekly #81: Lenovo eats Motorola, Galaxy S5 leaves fingerprints, Ryan Negri drops by

Video duration: 1 hour, 51 minutes, 35 seconds.

Love mobile tech? Got a couple of hours to kill? Maybe want some ear candy on in the background? Then you want to listen to The PocketNow Weekly podcast, episode 81, which covers:

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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“Shadow IT”: Not a threat, but an opportunity

by Joey deVilla on January 31, 2014

shadow-it

burning-chrome

“The street finds its own uses for things,” is a quote from William Gibson’s short story, Burning Chrome, which has become an often-quoted aphorism used to explain that people often find unintended uses for technology.

The term “Shadow IT” sounds like something that Gibson would’ve coined for one of his cyberpunk novels, but the term was most likely invented by IT pros. Shadow IT refers to systems or software used by people in an organization without the knowledge or approval of the IT department. A group of people opting to use a spreadsheet that they email back and forth instead of a company-approved means of storing and sharing crucial data (I know of at least one Fortune 50 company that does this), employees using Evernote and DropBox to share notes and files, an enterprising developer who builds an unsanctioned custom piece of software to simplify or automate an onerous task — all these are examples of shadow IT. When people started bringing their own desktop PCs to work in the ’80s, their own laptops in ’90s, and their own smartphones in the 2000s, and their own tablets in this decade, they were partaking in shadow  IT. As you’ve probably surmised from the term, IT departments take a dim view of these unsanctioned (and often unknown-to-them) tools and technologies.

You’ve probably already guessed some of the implications of shadow IT, some of which are:

  • Security risks
  • Inconsistencies and incompatibilities with company systems and methods
  • Wasted investment in company systems
  • Increased risk of data loss and leaks
  • Animosity between employees and IT

With all these downsides and articles warning of the dangers of shadow IT, many of which have been explained to employees time and time again in emailed memos, employee manuals, and training sessions, why do they insist on using shadow IT?

This Dilbert cartoon explains it quite nicely:

mordac (1)

In many companies, the IT department is seen as being like “Mordac, the Preventer of Information Services” from Dilbert. They’re the technology dictators, the people whose job seems to be to get in your way rather than help you get things done. That perception doesn’t just with employees, but with the people providing services that often make up shadow IT, such as 37signals, builders of web-based work tools. Here’s an excerpt from an article in their blog, titled The End of the IT Department, in which they talk about IT departments being replaced by tools like theirs and people’s increasing tech-savviness:

If businesses had as many gripes with an external vendor, that vendor would’ve been dropped long ago. But IT departments have endured as a necessary evil. I think those days are coming to an end.

The problem with IT departments seems to be that they’re set up as a forced internal vendor. From the start, they have a monopoly on the “computer problem” – such monopolies have a tendency to produce the customer service you’d expect from the US Postal Service. The IT department has all the power, they’re not going anywhere (at least not in the short term), and their customers are seen as mindless peons. There’s no feedback loop for improvement.

At the same time, IT job security is often dependent on making things hard, slow, and complex. If the Exchange Server didn’t require two people to babysit it at all times, that would mean two friends out of work. Of course using hosted Gmail is a bad idea! It’s the same forces and mechanics that slowly turned unions from a force of progress (proper working conditions for all!) to a force of stagnation (only Jack can move the conference chairs, Joe is the only guy who can fix the microphone).

You no longer need a tech person at the office to man “the server room.” Responsibility for keeping the servers running has shifted away from the centralized IT department. Today you can get just about all the services that previously required local expertise from a web site somewhere.

It’s no wonder that according to a recent study by Stratecast and Frost & Sullivan [842KB PDF, 13 pages], 80% of knowledge workers use software or services in their work that have not been officially cleared for use by IT. It’s not that they’re setting out to disobey IT or expose the company to risk; it’s just that they find the sanctioned tools don’t cut it, and that the IT department seems to refuse to respond to their needs. So they went out and found better, more suitable tools on their own initiative.

stages-of-grief

It’s time for IT departments to move through those stages of shadow IT-caused grief as quickly as possible to “acceptance”. As Arthur Cole says in his IT Business Edge article, Shadow IT: A Problem of IT’s Own Making:

As the traditional gatekeeper to data infrastructure, IT has long been viewed as a barrier to progress rather than an ally, and clamping down on shadow IT would simply perpetuate that view and pit IT against business units in a never-ending turf war. Or, IT could adopt a new role in the enterprise that stresses management of both internal and external resources, as well as things like contract negotiations and billing, as a means of providing a value-added service for the new distributed, software-defined data ecosystem.

And already, management platforms are incorporating the tools to do just that. CA, for example, recently launched the new CA Service Management system designed to afford business users the flexibility to compile their own mobile and collaborative environments while preserving centralized control for IT. The system provides a unified approach to accessing services, support and related assets, plus customizable support for mobile platforms like iOS and Android. As well, it promotes automated self-service, collaboration and knowledge-sharing as a means to propel enterprise resource delivery to the level that users have come to expect through their experiences with Amazon, Dropbox and other providers.

It seems, then, that shadow IT is neither friend nor foe, but simply a fact of life in the new data paradigm. If you try to fight it, you’ll probably lose, so for the sake of IT, and the enterprise in general, the best approach is to learn how to leverage it.

andi-karaboutisAdriana “Andi” Karaboutis, Dell’s Global CIO, encourages her fellow CIOs to Stop Chasing Shadow IT, and Start Chasing Innovation:

When you work in a technology company and have 110,000 best friends that understand technology well and probably even better than you do, you have to be out there working, listening and determining how you can create even more value for the employees and customers that you serve as opposed to being defensive about owning IT … It’s no longer good enough to just be there enabling them; it’s working together side-by-side to co-create value and power and enable the company together.

And finally, this CIO slideshow, Shadow IT: Onetime Hidden, Often Hated, But Well Worth Embracing, puts forth these five cases for embracing shadow IT:

  1. Bandwidth: IT departments can only take on so much work, and third-party services can help lighten their load.
  2. Requirements: Shadow IT simplifies the requirements-gathering phase because the people making the tech happen are the people who have to use it, and know the problems, processes, and needs.
  3. Culture: Shadow IT provides a way for employees who have mastered the tools of the trade to gain some recognition for having done so.
  4. Lubrication: It cuts down on the friction that so many smaller, lower-priority but still necessary projects and bottlenecks face because the payoff isn’t as visible or as big a deal as big, attention-getting “IT projects”.
  5. Innovation: Shadow IT is sought out by people who believe that “good enough isn’t good enough”. You should be encouraging these mavericks, not stifling them!

The use of shadow IT at your company suggests that there are needs that aren’t being met, and that people are actively helping themselves and looking for solutions. You should view this as an opportunity to help them, and perhaps even to recast IT as an enabler rather than a barrier.

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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Smartphones, by the numbers

by Joey deVilla on January 30, 2014

According to IDC, 1.82 billion mobile phones were shipped last year. In order to help you wrap your mind around this figure, we present the graphic below:

1.82 billion

1.82 billion is a new record, and that’s not the only one that was set. It was also the first year there were more smartphones shipped than feature phones:

1.82 billion mobile breakdown

Strategy Analytics notes that the growth in the smartphone market is being spurred by the purchase of inexpensive low-end Android devices aimed at markets in China, MINT, and “Next Eleven” countries.

android windows phone

According to Canalys, of the one billion smartphones that shipped last year, Android made up for 79% (785 million), Apple made up for 15% (154 million), and the largest year-over-year growth was shown by Windows Phone, who grew their share 69% from Q4 2012 to Q4 2013, and accounted for 3% (32 million).

Here’s their chart showing smartphone units shipped by platform for 2012 and 2013:

canalys phone share chart

Click the graph to see it at full size.

zero point zero

The news release by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners’ (CIRP) on U.S. mobile phone activations doesn’t say so in the text, but it’s quite clear in the graph they included…

cirp graph

Click the graph to see the source.

…namely, that BlackBerry devices accounted for 0% of U.S. smartphone activations in 4Q 2013. It’s unlikely that there were absolutely no BlackBerry activations in the U.S. from October through December 2013, but the number was low enough to be, as Dean Wormer read John “Bluto” Blutarsky’s grade point average in Animal House, “zero…point…zero”.

It’s not the kind of news BlackBerry or its investors want to hear, especially before tomorrow, the first anniversary of the BlackBerry Z10 launch (it was launched on January 31, 2013 in the UK, followed by Canada, India, and UAE in February, and the U.S. in March).

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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Samsung’s software sea change

by Joey deVilla on January 30, 2014

Samsung’s New Year’s Resolution

lee kun-hee

It’s a tradition at chaebols — Korean conglomerates — to hold ceremonies at the start of the calendar New Year, complete with speeches by top executives. At Samsung, one of the speeches was given by company Chairman Lee Kun-hee (pictured on the right), a man who’s not afraid to break with “but that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking. A quote he made two decades ago still gets repeated in Korea: he once told Samsung employees and execs that they needed to “change everything except for your wife and children”.

In this year’s speech, Lee stressed the importance of R & D, saying that Samsung needs to “get rid of business models and strategies from five, ten years ago and hardware-focused ways.”

Samsung and Software

While Samsung have been quite good at making hardware — even Apple’s been buying from them — anyone who’s dealt with TouchWiz or any of the “S” apps (the “S” stands for Samsung, but some people have suggested a shorter “S” word is equally appropriate) knows that software isn’t their strong suit. They’ve been working at it, from the infamous “iPhone copycat doc”, featuring an internal review of user experience ideas they should borrow from the iPhone

…to “Magazine UX”, the new user interface they unveiled for upcoming tablets at CES:

magazine ux at ces

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Here’s a closer-up shot of Magazine UX:

magazine ux close up

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Here’s Rappler’s hands-on video with Magazine UX:

For those people who says that Samsung’s software is always derivative of others’, Magazine UX just provides more evidence. It looks like a hybrid of Flipboard and Microsoft’s “Modern UI”, the UI formerly known as Metro. Here’s Phonedog’s side-by-side comparison of Magazine UX and Modern UI, and the similarities are a bit too close for comfort:

magazine ux vs modern ui

Samsung’s Magazine UX (top) and Microsoft’s Modern UI (bottom).
Graphic by Phonedog. Click the photo to see the source.

Samsung didn’t seem all too bothered by the pundits’ remarks about the similarities. Shoneel Kolhatkar, Samsung’s Senior Director of Product Planning is quoted as saying “I don’t think it matters [that it looks like Windows]. As long as consumers like it, they can compare it to Windows or compare it to something else.”

A New Understanding with Google

nexus-style s4 at google io

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 with the standard “Nexus” user experience presented at Google’s I/O conference. The shape of Samsung smartphone user experiences to come?

Samsung went “all in” with Android as the operating system for its smartphones in 2009, and it’s paid off in spades. Of the billion smartphones that were shipped in 2013, 320 million — one in three — were Samsungs. Samsung’s mobile devices, most of which are Android-powered, made up for more than half of its 2013 revenue. This sort of dependence on an outside vendor’s software probably worries Samsung’s top brass, hence the call from their chairman to do more R & D and go beyond just hardware. Samsung even has a plan B in their own flavor of the open mobile OS, Tizen (which, like a lot of Samsung software, needs work).

There’s also some discomfort on Google’s side of the relationship, what with being so dependent on a single hardware manufacturer dominating the Android landscape and making their own tweaks to suit their own particular needs rather than those of the Android ecosystem in general. Part of Google’s acquisition of Motorola’s mobile group in 2012 was to create a reference platform for other Android phone vendors to follow, in the same spirit as Microsoft with Surface for tablets and Nokia for phones.

By selling Motorola to Lenovo, Google returns to the position of being a neutral software partner rather than a hardware competitor for Samsung. This overture is one olive branch in a bundle, which includes the sharing of patents between Google and Samsung, both past and future, and an agreement by Samsung to ease up on its own UI tweaks and “bloatware” additions to Android in favour of the better-designed, better-thought-out, better-integrated Android standards. Under this new understanding, Magazine UX will either be very short-lived or will never see the light of day.

It also means that Samsung may have to break their new year’s resolution. And it’s still January!

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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The Motorola Deal: What Lenovo Gets, and What Google Gets

by Joey deVilla on January 29, 2014

from google to lenovo

What Lenovo Gets

The rumors started earlier Wednesday afternoon, and they were confirmed in a Google press release a few hours later: Lenovo will acquire Motorola Mobility from Google for the sum of US$2.91 billion dollars.

thinkpad t430This is Lenovo’s second purchase of a major American brand, the first one being the 2005 acquisition of IBM’s ThinkPad, along with the rest of IBM’s PC business. Lenovo played it smart and didn’t fix what wasn’t broken, namely the ThinkPad name as well as its look, which is descended from the original ThinkPad “bento box” design created by Richard Sapper in 1990. Lenovo founder Liu Chanzhi says that the three things that Lenovo got from the IBM acquisition were:

  1. The Thinkpad brand
  2. More advanced PC manufacturing technology
  3. International resources, such as IBM’s global sales channels and operations teams

It seems to have worked; last year, Lenovo became the world’s biggest seller of PCs by unit sales, and it’s widening its lead over the nearest competitors, HP and Dell. That’s Lenovo’s blessing and curse: it’s now the leader in an industry that’s beginning to decline. You’ve probably seen all those charts that look something like this:

smarphone sales pc sales

Lenovo’s plan appears to be to repeat their success with ThinkPad, and eventually beat Samsung. This time, Lenovo has the advanced manufacturing facility. In fact, they’re the 4th largest smartphone manufacturer in the world — even bigger than LG or HTC. Thanks to their success in the PC marketplace, they also have global sales channels and operations teams. The one thing they’re missing, and the one thing they’re apparently buying, is a brand that’s recognized in North America and Latin America. That’s why they were looking at BlackBerry — another respected brand that had fallen on bad times — but the possibility of a sale was supposedly killed by the Canadian government.

Bloomberg Technology quotes the head of Lenovo’s new mobile business group Liu Jun, who said this at the recent CES:

“The U.S. is the most important market in the smartphone space. From day one, when we targeted the smartphone business, we thought that to be a global player, we must win in the U.S.”

Motorola may not be getting the sales like the top two players here — Apple and Samsung — but they are in third place, and the name still has some weight, and that’s what Lenovo needs to get in the game here.

What Google Gets

flushing money down the toiletGoogle’s taking a bit of a bath here. When they approached Motorola with an offer in 2011, they followed up by bumping it up by a third in a single day, even though Motorola wasn’t taking any competing bids. The agreed price was $12.5 billion.

“I bet it would take longer to literally flush $9.5 billion in cash down a toilet than it took for Google to do so figuratively on the Motorola acquisition,” wrote John Gruber in Daring Fireball. That flushing figure is probably closer to a mere $7.2 billion, as Ina Fried points out: Google made some money back by selling Motorola’s cable set-top box division in late 2012 for 2.35 billion.

Google gets to keep most of Motorola’s patent portfolio in the deal. The patents are a stick with which to beat money out of other companies without having to sell a single unit, but as Ina Fried observes:

Google has continued to assert Motorola’s substantial patent holdings in various cases, but courts and regulators have largely taken a dim view of issuing injunctions or large damage awards based on standards-essential patents — the patent variety that makes up a large part of Motorola’s holdings.

She also notes that by getting out of the mobile hardware business, Google is making nice with Android smartphone and tablet manufacturers, particularly Samsung. Google and the top Android smartphone vendor have come to a number of agreements, including a cross-licensing deal over past and future patents, and Samsung has promised to ease up on its own modifications to Android and stick to standard Google services and apps. It’s a signal to the mobile hardware folks that Google will stick to software and leave the hardware to its manufacturing partners, an arrangement similar to Microsoft and its hardware buddies — at least in the pre-Surface-the-tablet, pre-Nokia-purchase days.

Two notes:

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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google circa 1999

Photo courtesy of AcidCow. Click to see the source.

The text from this great random internet find reads:

Google (www.google.com) is a pure search engine — no weather, no news feed, no links to sponsors, no ads, no distractions, no portal litter. Nothing but a fast-loading search site. Reward them with a visit.

This was true of Google around 1999, when the textbook was printed, but a lot’s changed in the last 15 years. The “no portal litter” is a reference to Yahoo! of that era, when people still thought of it as a search site.

Still, given the choice between Google, the internet, and tech in general circa 1999 and Google, the internet, and tech in general today, I’ll pick the latter.

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“Star Trek” did it first!

by Joey deVilla on January 29, 2014

star trek did it first

“Dr. Sheldon Cooper” pointed us to the graphic; we just cleaned up the fonts and fixed a typo.
Click the graphic to see the source.

Actually, Star Trek did inspire Martin Cooper, inventor of the cellular phone, and without whom, we wouldn’t have much of a business:

The clip above is from the 2005 TV documentary How William Shatner Changed the World. If you’ve got an hour and twenty-five minutes to spare, it’s an entertaining and mildly educational watch:

this article also appears in the GSG blog

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