Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Demise of Microsoft and RIM

To stay on top of the world of technology, a company needs to be bringing new ideas to the market and reinventing itself. For example, take the cases of Yahoo and MySpace - two ground breaking Internet technology companies in their heyday. Look where they are now. Yahoo, the once darling of the Internet, did not seem to know who they were and the direction they were going. Yahoo's home page is a mess of services that seems to be piped in from Internet sources.  All I wanted was a search without all the rest of the stuff Yahoo was trying to provide and was forcing me to consume. I was a Yahoo user but switched to Google just because of the simpler search home page. Google grabbed the search market by offering a simple yet powerful search engine and then providing additional services to their search clients, some fairly standard but useful – Gmail and Docs, others very innovative – Maps and Earth. When Goggle sees something that they think would enhance their users’ experience, they acquire - YouTube. Let's face it, not all innovations are going to work and as all Googlers know, we are all their beta testers. Some of their innovations have failed but at least they try. MySpace was another great idea that went nowhere. With respect to MySpace, whether it was poor marketing or lack of direction, Facebook came along with a similar idea and drowned it.
Image representing Bill Gates as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

It is this lack of renewal that will take down two technology giants - Microsoft and RIM. If you think about it, Microsoft has not created anything. In the early days, Microsoft made its claim to fame by striking a deal with IBM to have a copy of MS-DOS on every computer it sold. Microsoft did not create MS-DOS. IBM approached Gary Kildall to negotiate a deal with him to acquire his operating system known as CPM. Kildall had philosophical problems with IBM and refused to deal with them. Because Bill Gates was making a name for himself in the new computer industry by writing code for the first personal computer, the Altair 8000, IBM approached him. As timelines were short, Gates bought the rights to CPM and rebranded it as MS-DOS and licensed it to IBM under the name of PC-DOS. With his lawyer father's help, Gates got a sweetheart commission from every computer sold using "his" operating system. (By all rights, if he was still alive, it should have be Kildall who should be travelling the world with Melinda, giving away billions of dollars). With the boom of personal computers in the early 1980's, this commission made Microsoft very rich.

As there is little money to be made hardware, IBM is no longer selling personal computers and Microsoft is a multi-billion dollar organization. Microsoft’s other products are copies of technology on the market. Windows was fashioned after Apple's operating systems and the MS-Office products followed other productivity tools on the market like LOTUS 1-2-3, WordPerfect, and Paradox. It is simply the size of Microsoft that forces users to install its products which are designed to work best in its operating systems that are already installed on computers. Microsoft has been taken to court by smaller competitors to stop them from forcing personal computer users to use their browser.

Microsoft's answer to the booming MP3 player market, Zune, which was released 5 years after the iPod, was removed from the market in 2011. Their recent attempt to break into the cell market is not going as planned and now, with the release of Windows 8, they are trying to break into the tablet market, long established by Apple and Google. Being a follower and an imitator, Microsoft will not be the company that is was in the days of Bill Gates. The cell phone market has long been dominated by companies like Motorola Mobility (recently purchased by Google) and Nokia, who is losing market share to Apple and Google. Now comes Microsoft trying to get in long after the races have begun. They are repeating this error by just announcing that they are getting into the tablet market with their Surface tablet. Once again, the tablet race started with the iPad 2 years ago, which is equivalent to a prehistoric period in terms on technology innovation. With the sale of desktop and laptop computers declining, Microsoft is not going to be selling as many operating systems as they have sold in the past, and as they attempt into the cell phone and tablet market is so far behind, the future of Microsoft is not looking good.
Image representing Research In Motion as depic...
Image via CrunchBase

RIM came out with a very innovative product in 1999. Imagine a product that was so innovative, that you can get your email, answer your phone calls and have a host of productively tools in the palm of your hand. It was a wonderful tool and many people, still swear by it including President Obama, who refused to give it up in spite of it being a national security threat and Oprah who called it one of her favourite things. The problem is that RIM rested on its laurels and other manufacturers took the smart phone idea and ran with it giving us the iPhone and Android phones with hundreds of thousands of apps. They tried to produce other attention-getting products, like the Blackberry Bold and the PlayBook tablet but those products lacked the innovative nature of the original Blackberry. Even with a new CEO, RIM will have a very difficult time recovering from their lack of attention to the demands of the innovative-hungry technology market. They are hoping that their Blackberry 10 will be the saviour of RIM but it appears to be yet another device incompatible with the rest of the suite of productivity tools used by businesses.

The technology market is constantly searching for the next big thing. Microsoft and RIM are both trying to be players in this new technology marketplace using old technology operating strategies that got them to be big players in the market in the first place. Unfortunately, those strategies need to change if they planning to survive. RIM is supposedly trying something new with its new operating system but it may be too late as iPhone and Androids are well embedded in the market. Microsoft has released Windows 8, an operating systems design to be used on phones and tablets in a well-established market, as Google and Apple have a sizeable head. For both RIM and Microsoft - too little, too late.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tablet Wars

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase
Since Apple released its first iPad in April of 2010, there is not doubt that it has been a run away success. In the last quarter of 2011, Apple sold over 15 million units. It has change corporate society and the classroom with executives and students using it for a document retrieval and note-taking. It has also started other computer manufacturers marketing their own version of tablet technology. Some of these competitors have been successful like Samsung and ASUS while others like RIM and HP have failed to penetrate the market.

Some say that there is really not a tablet market, instead, there is the iPad and then there is everyone else. Similar to the early days of the personal computer wars when there was Apples and the so-called, "PC-compatibles", the market found a place for both types of devices and the smaller manufacturers were weeded out like Radio Shack, Atari and Xerox. What is evident is that the tablet wars is based on the diversity of app available. Smaller manufacturers seem to be resting their laurels on the strength of their stand-alone product but what the consumers want is a devices that can be multi-purpose and can easily morph from a play thing and a work device. The power and the breadth of apps available on the iTunes and the Android Play stores are hard to beat.

The weakness of tablets is that they are not productivity tools. It is hard to type on them with the on-screen keyboard and the productivity software tools have not caught up to the richness of the tools available for personal computers. This is not a bad thing. It just means that buyers must understand what they are buying and salespeople must guide them to the appropriate tool. A colleague recently bought a tablet and quickly discovered that it was not appropriate for doing his doctoral paper-writing.

As I said in an earlier post, I had not intention of buying an iPad but the tablet technology is hard to resist. I found one that suits my personal and business productivity quite well and seem to bridge the gap between a table and a laptop. As I am not an Apple person, never having owned an Apple productivity product, and being a Google user, I decided to purchase an ASUS Transformer, The Android Play store, although not at extensive as iTunes, has more than certainly met my needs for apps. The attached keyboard is a great bonus, allowing me to use the full tablet screen for productivity and adding the power of an additional battery.

It will be very interesting to see where all this technology is headed. The desk-top computer is fast becoming old technology, laptops seemed to be divided into notebooks and larger screen models, and the tablet market is splitting into two definite directions and fast evolving to produce newer, faster and more full-featured models. Just as cell phones changed the way society works and plays, the introduction of tablets into the marketplace will be a milestone in the way we interact with technology.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Freak Shows via Technology

Before the current age of technology, the only way a person could gawk at the so-called "freaks" - the bearded lady, half-ape/half-man, world's shortest man - was when the travelling circus came to town. The interested person would pay their 25 cents, pass through a high-guarded turnstile and ooo and ahhh at the spectacular. The sad thing about this system is that most of these "freaks" were outcasts from society and the only way they could making a living is to degrade themselves by appearing in these types of shows. John Merrick, the Elephant Man, was probably the most famous of these types of people.

Modern morals and technology has changed the nature of these freak shows. On one hand, people is today's society who have such anomalies are treated with much more compassion and we would not think of putting them on public display. Yet, on the other hand - there is reality television. Reality television allows modern-day freaks to be put on public display and allow those interested to view them as they are, coping with every day life - and either, glad to be witness to a situation that is so much worse then more - or on the flip side, watching freaks living a envious lifestyle. And the titles of the show beckon those curiosity seeks to their TV's just as the barkers outside the tent urge the passer-by's to pay their quarter. For example:

Sister Wives
Little People, Big World
The Little Couple
Katie plus Eight
Keeping up with the Kardashians
The Real Housewives of OC (DC, NJ)
Jersey Shore
The Bachelor
The Bachelorette
Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List
Kirstie Alley's Big Life
Sarah Palin's Alaska

And the rumour was that Octo-Mom and the ex-JetBlue flight attendant was talking about a reality show.

These people are different from the average person and are capitalizing on it.  I'm sure they are getting more than a quarter per person. Jon and Katie, and others I'm sure, have become very wealthy because of their notoriety. The sad thing about it is because of technology, these people's 15 minutes of fame is hitting us from multiple media sources and lasting far too many seasons.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Battle of the Giants

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBaseThroughout the development of modern technology, there have been products and services that have come and gone. Some have transformed into other products and some companies have gone in a completely different direction. Companies like IBM, Borland, Lotus, WordPerfect, WordStar and Netscape are have played a part in software and hardware development over the course of the past few decades. There have also been some memorable battles, with companies vying for supremacy and copyright. Lotus sued Borland claiming that the Quartto Pro had the same "look and feel" of 1-2-3. And then there was the browser wars. Microsoft's dominance in PC operating system software settled many battles by introducing MS Office. I was a committed WordPerfect user but when over to the dark side by sheer force (I still look for the Reveal Code screen).

It look as if a modern battle is brewing. Facebook is set to release an email service. Some are saying that this would be the death of other Web-based email services like Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail. As Facebook has 500,000 users across the world, a Facebook email could take a bite out of the market. Not being a Facebook user, I hope that loyal Google followers support Gmail as Google is known to abandon under-utilized applications. I do not see this happening as many thousands, including myself, have chosen Gmail as my primary email provider. Google, on the other hand, has tried to get some social networking into their suite of products and has failed. They claim not to be completing to Facebook.
I think that the result of this battle would be that Facebook users will have access to an email program and that Google will lose some of this Gmail users, but provide other services to tempt users to stay. Gmail is one of Google's primary services and I don't see it going away or there will be some very angry people and lost credibility in Internet services.

No matter how it works out, I think that the clear winners will be the users of FaceBook and Gmail.
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