Friday, 21 October 2016

IBM Claims Macs Are Cheaper Than PCs Using Self Interest As A Metric

IBM may be one of the industries biggest names but it has been in a decades long slide as it tries to transform its business into something with a future. At Jamf's User Conference this week IBM reported that Mac enterprise support costs less than a third of that of a PC.

So, just to be clear, at a conference for a company that creates enterprise management software for Apple devices, a company that recently signed a major partnership with Apple to promote Apple devices in enterprise said that Apple was cheaper for enterprise customers. I never saw that one coming.

I'd like to see how IBM backs that claim up when challenged.

For example, IBM started placing Macs with user just over a year ago. Has it normalised its cost figures for the comparitive ages of the machines, given that around 40% of its fleet would be greater than three years old in the same time frame? Or perhaps it has reflected like for like usage patterns to demonstrate the comparitive costs for users undertaking the same work, in the same environment with the same tools on the two different machines.

What about the level of users being offered a Mac? 73% of IBM users offered a choice took a Mac. Which suggests that most users didn't get the choice. Do we think those users were management staff whose workload is very different to their junior staff? Did this account for the senior staff having more experience and better computer skills. We'll have to guess because IBM hasn't told us. Do they even know?

I suspect not. I also suspect that no other verification of its data has been made over and above finding the headline figure that projects IBM interests in the best light.

For anyone who has had the pleasure of managing large fleets of PCs, Windows or Mac; this brand of pseudo-statistics, amounting to little more than marketing wrapped up as research, can be very frustrating because it gets adopted as gospel by people who don't know any better.

Total cost of ownership of any PC fleet is a very coarse average and you should be careful about any claims by any vendor about what it can and can't save you. Especially when the claim is being made by those with a vested interest in what you perceive to be true.

Hey Microsoft, It's Time To Fork Google By Forking Android

The Google Pixel represents a golden opportunity... for Microsoft. By putting itself into direct competition with its own OEM partners and reducing the level of support it offers in stock Android, Google has created an Android phone with an experience that Samsung, LG, Sony and Huawei won't be able to replicate.

Microsoft has an extensive Android offering, in fact its Android software stack is at least as good as Google's. Meaning that a forked version of AOSP fully populated with Microsoft's applications and services would be a much more pallateable offering for those Android OEMs. Better than Google Play Services. Better than Windows 10 Mobile.

Perhaps the only sticking point might be the absence of the Google Play Store. To remedy that Microsoft could either approach publishers and sweet talk them into the Microsoft Android Store, or partner with Amazon, which has already done the spade work, and have a ready made solution.

For some of these OEMs Microsoft already has an agreement in place to pre-load Office Mobile and Microsoft's cloud services, so moving to a full Microsoft Android stack shouldn't be a shock to the system. Especially as all of these manufacturers are already Microsoft partners in other parts of the PC arena.

Microsoft may have failed with Windows 10 Mobile, but it isn't necessarily out of the mobile fight just yet.

Tesla's Ride-Sharing Restriction Brings Software Style Licensing To Cars

Thinking of buying a self-driving car sometime in the future? Excited about the prospect of improving you return on investment by getting it to work for a living as part of a ride hailing taxi service? Best scratch Tesla from your shortlist of candidates then.

As part of its delayed news event earlier, Elon Musk announced a new Level 5 (that is, truly autonomous) mode available across the Tesla range.

Aside from very serious questions about how Tesla is overstating the capabilities of its system (something Germany, at least, is taking very seriously) it sounds like the perfect tool. Personal use when you need it. Ride sharing when you don't. The car pays for itself.

Unless you choose to use the, as yet, non-existent but now confirmed Tesla ride sharing offering you will be prevented from doing this. Uber? Lyft? Don't bother applying. Tesla's EULA will forbid it. No doubt its software will prevent it too, just in case you get any funny ideas.

This is automotive engineering from computer companies. In the same way that Apple dictates what you do with your iPhone, Tesla is going to use software licenses to dictate how you use your car.

I suspect this will be the thin edge of the wedge. 

Nintendo Switch Is A Mutating Portable Home Console

Nintendo's NX has seen the light of day as the Switch and, conceptually at least, this looks like a winner of a console. Running as part of your normal family room setup it's a big screen console that does everything today's machines can do.

When it's time to give up that large screen TV for other uses you can pop the console out of its docking unit and attached the versatile controllers to create a handheld gaming machine, complete with its own screen.

Unlike the Xbox game streaming feature Microsoft has made so useful for Window 10 PC owners, the Switch is actually self contained, being a complete portable console when undocked with no requirement to connect back to its home base.

The controllers can be used attached or detached from the Switch and are flexible enough to allow two players to play at once, using one half of the controller pair each. Local multiplayer, multi-console games will also be possible through creation of ad-hoc networks on the fly.

Which makes for an impressively flexible piece of kit.

However the Switch will live and die by the quality and quantity of its games. This is a grown up gaming platform, not for the very junior audience that previous Nintendo systems attracted. 

If the games come to market (and Nintendo unveiled a comprehensive list of developers supporting the new console) then this could steal success from under the noses of Sony and Microsoft.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Microsoft Results: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Microsoft posted its results for the quarter ended September 30th, with both revenue and income up year on year. The company credited improved cloud services performance for the improvement, although there are some questions raised about that particular claim.

Both the increase in revenue and profit seem to come entirely from an improvement in the deferred earnings from Windows 10. That $600m improvement in revenue and $540m improvement in income are reflected in the $674m revenue and $328m income (non-GAAP) figures.

So what has the rest of the business actually been doing? How do these numbers reflect the questions Steve Ballmer has raised about measuring the true impact of cloud services on the business?

Despite seeing falling revenue, the More Personal Computing still made up around 45% of all Microsoft's revenue. That division includes Xbox, Phone, Surface and Windows amongst others. 

Microsoft's move to the cloud seems to be progressing well, but as revenues fall from its traditional business lines it still remains to be seen whether it can maintain revenue and profitability through its transition.

Minecraft Story Mode Goes Free - Everywhere But Windows Mobile

Are you a fan of Minecraft's Story Mode? If you haven't tried it yet or are thinking of trying it on your mobile phone then good news: Episode One just became a freebie to tempt you in.

Desktop, console or mobile you can now try Story Mode at no cost.

Except of course if you have a Windows 10 Mobile. In that case you'll just have to look on in disappointment because, of course, there's no Minecraft Story Mode app for your phone.

Microsoft NFL Surface Defence Is A Losing Play

Microsoft responded to criticism of its Surface Pro 4 tablet and the technology that it provides to the NFL in general, in a statement responding to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's public damning of the solution.

The defence is of limited value though. Customers will view the NFL solution holistically, and as a result the performance of the whole solution reflects on Microsoft and Surface, whether that's valid or not.

In effect what the NFL debacle shows to prospective customers is that in a high profile, globally visible deployment, Microsoft isn't capable of using its technology to deliver what the customer needs reliably.

If you were planning a mission critical or high visibility solution in your organisation would that encourage you to pursue a Microsoft solution based on that evidence?

If The Pixel Is Nearly As Good As An iPhone, Why Not Just Get An iPhone?

The Google Pixel offers a very specific take on what Android should be, Google's take in fact. And it turns out that Google's take on an Android phone is an iPhone. Almost.

That seems like a problem to me. Why go for an imitation, albeit a very good one, when you can have the original?

The problem is that Google had taken all of the reasons why you might choose to pass on the iPhone and drop them into the Pixel.

So if you were hoping for display out through the Pixel's USB-C port you'll be disappointed. Support for wireless display standards like Miracast is missing too. No expansion and no replaceable battery, unsurprising given their absence on the Nexus line. Google has failed to deliver water ingress protection or Optical Image Stabilisation, two things even Apple added this year.

Google has also managed to rip off the iPhone 6 design without managing to make a more attractive device. And whilst the iPhone has a whole army of third party accessory developers and companies producing clever add-ons and software experiences, the Pixel is starting from scratch.

The Pixel's camera may be close to the performance of the iPhone 7, although without OIS it's been underperforming in low light tests, but it doesn't seem to be a better experience or produce significantly better photos. The XL misses out on the iPhone 7 Plus's dual camera setup too, an 'innovation' that shouldn't be underestimated in the consumer market.

Ironic, then, that it was HTC (OEM for the Pixel) who first experimented with dual camera arrays on smartphones..

To me the Pixel seems to serve the same market as the Nexus - an Android phone with good upgrades. For everybody else it takes all of the perceived failures of the iPhone, adds them to all the inherent weaknesses of Android and then wraps them up in an offering that takes Google deeper than ever before into your personal information.

Does that sound like a winning proposition to you?

Microsoft Offers Presage New Hardware

For all the limited expectations around Microsoft's hardware event next week, there are some clues that suggest Microsoft has some new hardware to show off.

For example the Surface Pro 4 has seen some hefty discounts in different regions over the last month and now the Surface Dock accessory is also available at a sale price.

Now this may just be Microsoft trying to put a better spin on inventory and sales numbers, but if so its either a little late for the Q3 reporting period or very early for the Q4 one.

The consensus seems to be a Surface Pro 5 isn't going to be ready until next year, but I guess that doesn't stop Microsoft from creating a Surface Pro 4S, with updated internals. Much as Apple does in every second year of the iPhone release cycle.

The dock discount is a bit of a strange on though. If the Surface Pro is a minor update you would expect it to retain the current Surface connector design. If there is also a new Surface Book in the offing that will leverage USB-C for its power and connectivity then this makes a bit more sense. I suppose its not entirely impossible that an upgrade Surface Pro 4 could switch to the new connector too.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

What Can Google Do About Its iMessage Problem?

According to early reviews, the Pixel is now the best Android phone you can buy. However, its reason for existing is not to win over the Android market, it's to compete with the iPhone.

To do that Google is going to have to persuade iPhone users to leave behind iMessage something it's currently not in a position to do, for two reasons.

Firstly, iMessage is a feature rich messaging platform which is inclusive whilst setting very clear boundaries between iPhone users and the great unwashed. Leaving the sanctity of the pure iMessage blue bubble to become a green SMS bubble on all of your friends iPhones? It's a big step and not one loyal iPhone users will take lightly.

Secondly, there's the problem of staying power. How many times has Google shuttered services after running them for a few years? That isn't the kind of behavior that fosters a long term relationship and honestly, who can say, hand on heart, they believe Allo isn't just the latest in a long line of Google messaging platform fails?

For all that Apple offers within its ecosystem, iMessage turns out to be the glue preventing users from leaving.

And right now, Pixel or no Pixel, Google doesn't have the pull to unstick them.