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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

Will Netbooks Get Squeezed Out?

Qualcomm and Freescale today amnounced plans to launch "Smartbooks" - a family of internet connected devices. The name is an obvious attempt to distance themselves from the Netbook category. So what are smartbooks? The primary function is to connect to the internet. The cost Qualcomm claims will be lower than Netbooks. The battery life will be longer. They will run a Linux based OS as opposed to Windows XP or Windows 7.

But is there really a market for all these devices? or are vendors segmenting the market so finely that each segment is a mere sliver? Let us consider the full spectrum of mobile devices today from smartphones to notebooks.

mobile computingAs shown in the chart, the space in the lower left quadrant copmprising of smartphones, smartbooks and netbooks is a key competitive battleground with potentially Netbooks getting squeezed. while both smartphones and netbooks exposed a latent need for lighweight mobile computing devices, how that space consolidates is too early to tell.

One things is clear though - the traditional business computing space is not likely to be cannibalized by these devices for two reasons

1. These devices will likely be used in addition to traditional notebooks. Further these devices (netbooks excepted) will not be running Windows which is a major problem for business adoption

2. The impending release of ULVs or ultra low voltage processors will lead to lighter business PCs running industry standard OSs (Windows)

Fighting for a slice or a sliver?

Whether or not these devices will succeed depends largely on the appetite for consumers and businesses to adopt multiple devices. Given the overlap in functionality buyers will be hard pressed to make choices about which device suits them the best. Currently smartphones and netbooks have the greatest momentum. At techaisle we believe that smartphones will win. The scenario where a smartphone such as an iPhone or an Android based phone get paired with a large screen and a keyboard is an intriguing one and could well destroy the opportunity for other types of devices. Even if that doesn't happen, the market appears poised to fragment as more devices appear. While that may increase the size of the pie, vendors could be left fighting for slivers rather than slices.

Abhijeet Rane

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Tracking the Value Shift in Computing

Value Shift – It’s a broad term describing a directional shift within an industry. Every industry goes through such shifts periodically. Most of the time such shifts create new challenges and new opportunities. The impact is almost always big – industries re-structure, leaders fall and new leaders are born. Value Shifts rarely occur as a result of a single phenomenon. They are more akin to little ripples that build to a tsunami.

The computing industry has seen its share of value shifts over the last 3 decades – perhaps more rapidly than any other industry. That’s what makes it so exciting! I believe that we are poised for another such shift. It’s not about the Internet, Web 2.0, SaaS or Cloud Computing – these are merely ripples at the end of the day. The emerging Value Shift is about Device Independence.

The computing industry to date has largely been dependent upon PCs. In other words, the industry’s fortunes were tied to the adoption of that one single class of device. Everything else flows from that. Microsoft made the most of it earning billions as did others – including Google. But that dependence appears to be breaking down. I am constantly intrigued by two things these days – the phenomenal success of the iPhone and the current rage in PCs – Netbooks. After all, having spent the last 20 years tracking an industry where speeds, feeds and computing power have ruled, how does one explain people (in droves) buying a lower power platform with shrunken keyboards and screens? iPhones let you view the same websites and web applications that you access from Netbooks, notebooks and desktops. The experience from a usability standpoint is different for any individual device, but you can access the same information. And it’s not limited to websites and web apps. You can use any number of free products to access your PC using an iphone (read about it here ). In other words device independence.

The “Information Fabric”

Padmasree Warrior, the CTO of Cisco puts forth a compelling prediction – the emergence of an “information fabric”. I believe it. The fabric can be defined in many ways and a many levels – from the lowest level network protocols to the highest level where information is consumed by individuals and corporations. Most importantly, the information fabric, I believe, will not limit itself to allow consumption and utilization of information by a single device or even a class of devices. Instead it will enable consumption by a whole range of devices leveraging the unique user experiences of each device.

The Ripples that Matter

It’s not difficult to see the key technologies that are driving this Shift. Of note are continued advances in virtualization and remoting where performance and user experience is improving rapidly. But also worth noting are storage technologies that are becoming common to different kinds of devices – specifically flash storage, whereas in the past application performance was somewhat dependent on type of storage used. The commonly understood technologies impacting bandwidth, throughput improvement, network capacity, data center optimization also continually push us towards device independence.

value-shift

It’s All About Productivity

Ultimately the move towards device independence is about productivity resulting from the freedom to use the device that best suits the work environment at any given point is time (a smartphone, a PC, a Netbook or even a Kindle). A lot of pieces need to fall into place and getting to true device independence will take a long time but there is no doubt that the ripples that started this value shift are transforming into a Tsunami.

Abhijeet Rane
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The Power of Value Based Communities

There's been a lot of talk and blogging about communities being central to people on the web. The web, pundits say is changing from one of passive consumption to a participatory (I hate the word "interactive") experience. A lot of web x.0 sites such as Diggit, MySpace, facebook are exactly about that. Despite the talk and clear evidence marketing departments are mired in traditional approaches that do not directly address the power of Value Based Communities. Lets just call them VBCs for simplicity. I believe that these marketers ignore communities at their own risk. So what are VBCs and why are they important? Its easy to define a VBC - a community that comes together as a result of shared beliefs. Those beliefs could range from an interest in saving the environment, a love for dogs (or other animals), a passion for astronomy and so forth. Communities have existed throughout evolution. The first community was drawn together with a common belief in survival resulting in early instances of prehistoric man hunting in groups and forming families. Communities then are the basis of existence! indeed great changes have come about as a result of communities being created along shared values - The creation of America being a prime example. But enough about history. What about today? What role do communities play and why are they ever more relevant? One has only to witness the current election where Obama's message of "Change" is creating a voter community sharing a common belief and value that change is essential in government (Politicians in my view have been consummate marketers to creating and pandering to communities). It is amazing then that so few marketing efforts focus on understanding and mining the power of communities engaging instead in traditional marketing efforts. Market research in particular tends to fall short in this respect. Here are some reasons why marketers should actively focus on VBCs

1. Shared values = MOTIVATION: Every marketer seeks to understand what motivates a customer. Values are the strongest form of motivation that spurs action

2. Community = ACTION: A community comes together for the purpose of taking action, driven by a set of values. All communities without exception can clearly identify their purpose and values. Conversely, communities that cannot do so eventually fracture and fade away or give rise to new communities

3. Community = VALUED PEER INFLUENCES: A community's members are highly instrumental in impacting each others choices about a variety of things. The affinity brought about by shared values often leads to valuing a peer's recommendation and eventual purchase

As stated earlier, current marketing approaches often ignore these realities, in most cases either totally ignoring their existence or ignoring the values that created the community in the first place. Traditional marketing tactics place emphasis on a standard criteria such as customer's location, demographics, purchase preferences, race, age, education etc. - in other words, marketers understand the "what" and the "how" but rarely do they venture into understanding the "why" from a values perspective. And if at all they do, there is a broad generalization that hides critical differences among individuals. Among voters, for example, labels such as Republican or Democrat are supposed to indicate shared beliefs but the truth is that such generalizations mask shifts in values occurring within each party. Each party now has sub-groups such as Liberal Republicans and Conservative Democrats. Consumer group descriptions such as GenX, GenY also mask a multitude of values. I will stop here now and continue on this topic over the next few days. In the mean time, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and opinions in the coming days.....

Abhijeet Rane (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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The Long Tail of iPhone Apps

The folks over at gigaom have written a nice analysis of the iPhone market. you can read that here. It would appear that the success metric for any platform these days is the length of the "app tail" and Apple is growing its tale much like the mythical Hindu monkey god Hanuman. Legend has it that the evil king Ravana set his tail on fire. He exacted his revenge by growing his tail winding it through the city of Lanka and burning it to the ground. In a sense, that is exactly what Apple is doing (minus the revenge bit). Apple took an approach that worked for it in the music buisiness and replicated it for the iPone. Why have they succeeded when others have (in relative terms) failed?

Think Different!

That tag line from the late 80s early 90s is very much alive in Cupertino. That drove their willingness to break the stranglehold of phone companies who for years took the walled garden approach to mobile applications. That undeniably marxist approach ultimately limited the market. The rationale was - everyone's doing it. Thats the point. That strategy ignored what consumers wanted. No different from the music business

Wow Everybody!

The use of technologies such as multi-touch and accelerometers made it compelling enough for at least one phone company to take notice. To their credit, AT&T smartly tore down their own walled garden (in a sense) and made the deal with Apple, gaining exclusivity in return. They got a device no one had seen before. Consumers got excited by the new capabilities, developers found a new creative outlet. An eco-system was born.

Stabilize the Universe

The creation of the iPhone was akin to the big bang. From it spun out a billion planets (apps) but the real work begins now. For life to be sustained, the universe needs to be stabilized. Microsoft knows a lot about this incidentally having very ably stabilized the desktop and server app universe over the past 3 decades. The mobile world is not forgiving enough to give Apple that kind of time, but stabilize it they must for this is the most profitable period of market exapnsion for them. As long as they keep coming out with good devices they will remain the center of the mobile app world.

Repeat until failure

At some point Apple will falter on one of its strategies. Its going to happen. Until then they will keep repeating this formula making just enough changes to fit the opportunity at hand.
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