The Challenges Ahead at Microsoft

The strategy is devices and services. Here’s why the One Windows Mantra may [still] screw that up…

Satya Nadella may be the new CEO, and he may have 22 years at Microsoft already; but he’s got one hell of a job in front of him. Microsoft is a company VERY set in its ways. Hell froze over; and now Nadella has to figure out a way of getting Microsoft out of the rut they find themselves in. It isn’t going to be easy; and I do NOT envy the spot that he’s in. Everyone both inside and outside the company will likely expect it to get worse before it gets better. I would also expect to see a great deal more personnel churn before all is said and done.

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In the end, Microsoft needs to change. Devices and services are, I think, a direction nearly everyone can agree is the right way for the company to go. However, its execution is going to grate against the growth rings of yesterday. In other words, in order to make devices and services work for Microsoft, they’re going to have to become very good at both Android and iOS development. This means that they’re going to have to put development for ModernUI/MetroUI on the back burner. I mean, no one – in reality, very few shops – are even really doing Windows Phone or Windows Store development. The biggest reason why Microsoft won’t leave Metro development behind isn’t because it’s a bad business decision, but because in order for them to do so, they must embrace a non-Microsoft based product and technology; and Microsoft just doesn’t handle that well. Case in point – Microsoft Office for Mac. Where’s the next version that we’ve been promised? Based on previous releases, it’s over a year late…

The Nokia X is the Android phone that will “carry” a Microsoft brand if not in fact, at least in perception, as Microsoft is in the process of buying Nokia. Microsoft having an Android phone as part of a low-end offering makes a lot of sense. Low end Android devices sell very well, appealing to budget conscious Americans and to users in developing markets. Microsoft already makes approximately $3.4B annually from Android device sales thanks to patent agreements that it holds. With the coming Nokia acquisition, Microsoft could make a ton more from Android smartphones that it sells, if only because Microsoft won’t have to cover patent licensing fees and can undercut the market as a result. They may be able to successfully take on Android-powerhouse Samsung in this market, and win, as a result.

Even though Android currently commands more than 75% of the smartphone market worldwide, and Microsoft stands to make tens of billions of dollars in that market, it’s likely they will kill the Nokia X shortly after it launches and/or the Nokia deal closes. Microsoft did something similar to the Kin 1 and Kin 2 phones that it had spent so much time and money developing; and only after 1 month of sales. Microsoft would have no problem killing the Nokia X.

Why would they do that? It’s really simple – the One Windows philosophy still dominates their culture. In the heart and mind of every ‘Softie is the idea that Windows is good everywhere. It works and fits on every device. If that were true, then Windows RT and Surface RT/Pro devices (RT especially) would have been better received. If that were the case, Windows Phone devices would have a real piece of the smartphone market. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be discussing how Microsoft will likely kill the Nokia X Android smartphone because it simply wouldn’t need to exist in the first place.

Microsoft has to figure out a way of getting past the notion that Microsoft services can only run – and run well – on Microsoft platforms and devices. For example, Outlook.com should run well in any and EVERY browser. Currently, it’s optimized for Internet Explorer. Most other browsers can get to the site and can muddle through tasks, but they don’t work quite right.

I’ve said it before, Microsoft should skin the Android implementation on the Nokia X in such a way that it looks and functions like a Windows Phone. Microsoft Services like Outlook.com, Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft OneDrive should all run and run well, not only on Android, but on iOS; and they should run SO well that people will want and desire them over Google Drive, Google Docs, iCloud and iWork.

The latter is easy. iWork still isn’t as cross platform as it could be or should be, and integrating iCloud into iDevices is so difficult that developers shy away from it or use another cloud service like Dropbox instead. Microsoft has an opportunity to move ahead of Apple in this regard, but needs to really put its head down and work when it comes to Google Services integration on an Android device. While both are good (OK in the case of Apple and its Services) on each of their respective native platforms, if Microsoft could bridge the gap and be good EVERYWHERE, this would go a long way to building device agnosticism into Microsoft products and into their culture. Microsoft will need both if they are going to remain relevant and profitable in the next 10-20 years.

Finally, Microsoft needs to change the way it does business. While Microsoft can still make, literally, billions on licensing Windows in the enterprise and getting OEM’s to pay for Windows when they build and sell PC’s, that business model is dying. If Microsoft is smart, it will abandon it sooner rather than later. There may be money left to be made in enterprise licensing, but if Microsoft is smart, it will begin shifting the focus of monetizing the software license to one that monetizes the service driven by the software.

This means that Microsoft will have to develop software for all platforms and give equal prioritization to releases on all those platforms. If it does turn sideways, this is where Microsoft will screw things up. Entrenched management will have a hard time shifting out of this gear. The whole “Windows first” philosophy that has dominated everything that Microsoft has done as a company over the past 20+ years will have to change. I think their current management team – maybe at all levels – will have trouble making the turn. Successful implementation of “devices and services” may require a huge, HUGE management shake-up at Microsoft. I just have my doubts about how well the company will be able to make the transition with current, entrenched management still walking the One Windows Way. Nadella is going to have be beat the devices and services drum very loudly in order to get everyone’s attention.

In the end, it IS all on Satya Nadella. As the new CEO, he has to set the tone for the new strategy at the company; and he needs to get that moving quickly. The longer it takes, the harder it will be for Microsoft to make the turn and rebrand itself as a company that provides computing services rather than one that provides computer software.

What do you think? Is Microsoft going to be able to recreate itself or will additional management and SLT (senior leadership team) changes be necessary? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Why not join me in the discussion area below and tell me what you think.

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Microsoft’s Goal for 2014 – Don’t Die

It’s a lofty goal. It’s one I hope they succeed at.

You know, I had a quick thought – Microsoft is this year’s RIM. What I mean is, everyone knows that Blackberry is on its way out. It might take them a few more years to die, but unless something really horrible and press-worthy happens, they’re pretty much done. The bulk of the IT press has moved on to other, more interesting targets subjects.

However that doesn’t mean that Microsoft isn’t doing its best to try to stay relevant. Whether or not they succeed still remains to be seen; but I hope they succeed. The company is too deep into enterprise. They’ve got their fingers too deeply into the way I work and into the tools I use on a daily basis to get things done. While there are a few decent Microsoft Office alternatives out there, I don’t know of any [real] Windows alternatives that are worth seriously exploring at this time.

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I love OS X. It’s my OS of choice; but I don’t know of many organizations that deploy it in the enterprise. At least I’ve never been part of one. The same can be said of Linux. Both of these are awesome consumer alternatives, but when it comes to getting things done at the office, it’s Windows or nothing for many companies.

This being the case, my good friend, Preston Gralla had an interesting column. He’s wondering if after Windows 8.1, which was a free update to all Windows 8 users, and Windows 8.1 Spring Update (or whatever they’re really going to call Windows 8.1 Update 1), if Windows will be free at each client endpoint or not. Many Linux distributions are free for home use, and OS X is also free. Preston asks a good question regarding Windows. Will all versions of Windows also be free?

According to Preston (and, honestly, I happen to agree with him) – probably not. Windows endpoint licensing is still a very big business for Microsoft – $4.1 and $4.3 billion in the quarter ending in March 2014. That’s a huge amount of revenue that Microsoft would be giving up if it made Windows free. An ad-based OS based on Bing and sales of Microsoft Services won’t make up for that in a year, let alone in a quarter. Don’t count on a free desktop version of Windows any time in the future.

Updates, Service Packs, yes…perhaps. But full desktop licenses..? Not likely gonna happen. Microsoft may pass on the licensing fees for Windows Phone and perhaps low end Windows tablets (those in the < $250 range). Microsoft doesn’t make a lot of money on Windows Phone and wants to jump start sales of Windows 8 (read Windows RT-based) tablets. They won’t be leaving a lot of money on the table related to those and could conceivably write off those licensing fees to cost of doing business. However, I don’t see Microsoft leaving their mac-daddy money for Desktop Windows licensing on the table. It’s too lucrative a business for Microsoft to abandon that level of revenue to the cost of doing business.

Now, about the RIM analogy… yeah, Microsoft has to do something to help stimulate business. PC Sales are really falling off; and they are desperately trying to find a way to bring people’s money out of mothballs and to a bank account near them.

PC usage is being abandoned for tablets and smartphones. Both Android and iOS are doing well in this new computing space because casual users can spend small amounts of money and still get the basic computing experience – mail, social networking, web browsing – in a small, light, very portable form factor that doesn’t cost as much as a PC.

Microsoft pretty much has the enterprise market fairly well in hand…at least for now. The consumer market where tablets and smartphones are really taking over the computing experience is where they are having the most trouble. They need to figure out how to capture a decent amount of market share here, or they’re going to face further revenue problems. BYOD and CoIT movements are very popular and businesses are making a serious dent into Microsoft’s enterprise market. With basically no presence in the mobile computing market (i.e. the market that many consumers are embracing for their computing experience) the amount of shrinking PC sales overall, and with CoIT/BYOD intruding on what has historically been a solid Microsoft market, Microsoft has to act and act quickly.

If they don’t, they could see themselves exiting the market entirely; and that would be very unfortunate.

No other desktop computing platform commands the level of support that Windows does. Most other mobile computing platforms – even though they can stand on their own – have a symbiotic relationship with what can be considered their desktop counterpart. I hate to beat a dead horse here – Ballmer’s already been replaced by Satya Nadella – but Microsoft’s failure to perform strongly in the mobile market is becoming a bigger and bigger mistake every day.

Nadella needs to get someone with a clear mobile computing vision in place over at Microsoft and he needs to get them in place and moving Microsoft’s mobile platform moving immediately. Without a solid mobile vision, Microsoft is going to face a really tough road in the future. They’re a LOT bigger than RIM/Blackberry, and having the same thing happen to them that happened to Blackberry is going to be, at least I think, nearly unrecoverable not only for Microsoft, but for the computing industry as a whole. Microsoft is too big to die. They have too big of a shareholder base…too big of a consumer and enterprise user base to be allowed to fail.

However, I don’t see anyone on Nadella’s SLT – Senior Leadership Team – with a clear and credible mobile computing vision right now. Windows Phone is and has been a marketing train wreck since 2006 (when it was still Windows Mobile). Microsoft Surface Pro tablets are ok, but the dual MetroUI/ ModernUI and Desktop interfaces need to be rethought and reworked. It might be VERY anti-Microsoft to totally admit defeat and separate the two, but it might be the only thing left to Microsoft at this point that will allow them to move forward.

Combine Windows Phone and Windows Tablet into a single OS (much like iOS is) and leave desktop Windows to its own devices. Market the hell out of mobile computing. Get units in the hands of end users. Make them affordable, high quality and easy to update. Hell, give them away with the subscription of Office 365 if you have to; but do something and do something serious and soon.

If you don’t, consumers may be happy to leave One Windows at the office and leave home computing to iOS and Android, where they’re much happier and the update, upgrade and hardware cycles are familiar, easy and well established.

What do you think? Am I totally off my nut? Is it premature to compare Microsoft to hot mess that Blackberry is, or are they kissing cousins? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and give me your thoughts on it all?

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Rule #1 – Thou Shalt not Throw a Tantrum at Work

It’s a moot point now, but I’m certain Ballmer is probably kicking himself…

SteveBallmer.jpgYa know… you have to ask yourself… What is it with guys named Steve that run world famous computer companies and their temper? Jobs was famous for it. If you disagreed with him, not only did you lose your job; but it was probably one of the most memorable firings of your career. Some of those are things of legend. I think the last guy that Jobs screamed at still has ringing in his ears.

Ballmer was apparently the same way. Interestingly enough, new information regarding his exit from Microsoft (I don’t like to say firing… it just gives me the willies…at least for Ballmer. I don’t know why.) is just now coming to light. Apparently during a June 2013 Board meeting where Ballmer outlined his acquisition plans for the Nokia buyout, the Board initially rejected the idea. They didn’t see what Ballmer saw when he proposed turning Microsoft into a hardware AND software company. When the Board initially said, “no,” Ballmer hit the ceiling. It was so bad and so loud that it carried out of (an apparently VERY well sound insulated) board room and could be heard down the halls. While the board eventually did back him, it’s obvious that they didn’t take well to Ballmer acting out.

There are other instances that my friend, Preston Gralla cites in an article regarding Ballmer’s temper (by the way, it’s VERY rarely acceptable to drop the “F-bomb” at work. I don’t care if you’re Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer…you just don’t do it).

Anyway, the current rumor has it that this particular rant is what ultimately lead the board to suggest that they and Ballmer part ways. It was the F-bomb that broke the camel’s back, and the last tantrum – among many over the years – that Ballmer (at least officially) threw at Microsoft.

If you look back at what happened to Jobs when he left Apple, it was largely because of his temper and mouth. As I said, I’m not sure what it is about computer companies with CEO’s named, “Steve;” but they sure do get angry a lot. Gralla sees this as poetic justice, saying that, “for once, the bully got bullied.” It may be bullying. I don’t know. I’ve never met either Jobs or Ballmer, so I really can’t say for certain. However, I would like to say that it wasn’t anger, or a bad temper, or anything else other than “passion.” Perhaps it was misplaced or mismanaged passion, but from what I’ve been able to see, I don’t think Ballmer MEANT to be a jerk. He may have thought YOU were one when you didn’t agree with him or couldn’t understand his message/point/vision, etc.; and that’s why he screamed at your, but I don’t think he meant to be a jerk. I think it may have been a bit different with Jobs. If you didn’t “get it,” I think he thought you were a moron and didn’t want you around.

But that’s (at least part of) the price of genius, isn’t it? Some of them are a bit “out there.”

I don’t know too much about Satya Nadella just yet, but it’s clear he’s making changes to how Microsoft works and functions. This isn’t going to be the same Microsoft that Gates gave to Ballmer. Nadella is definitely going to put his own mark on the company, which is good. He needs to if he’s going to be taken seriously and if the company is going to have any real chance at surviving.

We’ll have to wait and see how Nadella does. 2014 is going to be an interesting year for Microsoft. While it’s not necessarily going to be the making or breaking point, it’s going to set the stage for what is to come for the company, for certain.

What do you think? Are Nadella’s initial management changes good ones? Is his mobile strategy on target? Will he be a better CEO than either Gates or Ballmer? Why don’t you join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think

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It’s Official – Hell Froze Over

Or Microsoft really did get a new CEO with fresh ideas…

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Satya Nadella is starting to make his presence known at Microsoft. Not only did Tony Bates and Tami Reller leave the organization, with additional executive changes still likely to be made; but Microsoft recently announced that its going to make its Xbox Live gaming service available on iOS.

Yes. You read that right…

Microsoft is seriously looking to bring its Xbox Live gaming hub to not only iOS, but Android as well.  Now the platform will be available on every major mobile OS, according to The Verge. The news broke due to a job posting at Microsoft that indicated that, “[Microsoft wanted to] create a modern framework that is open-source, lightweight, extensible and scalable across various platforms including Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.”  Microsoft later confirmed the intent to revive social, mobile gaming. Currently, that effort is blocked by proprietary networks, like Apple’s Game Center.

There’s huge money to be made, here. Limiting mobile gaming to their own platform, Windows Phone and Windows Store, is hurting Microsoft right now.  There aren’t a lot of users on either mobile Microsoft platform, and there are literally millions on both iOS and Android that could provide a huge revenue stream for Microsoft. Xbox is an immensely popular console gaming platform, and not every Xbox user is a Windows Phone user. Being able to play Xbox games, with saved progress from your console and vice versa, will be a huge win on both the iOS and Android platforms.

It’s clear to me that this is a result of Satya Nadella’s new influence. Prior to that, I don’t think either Ballmer or Gates would have sanctioned this kind of move. Julie Larson-Green’s “One Windows” mantra also wouldn’t have supported this effort. It deemphasizes Windows, or at least would have in the eyes of the older organization.

So is this a good idea?  Do you have an Xbox and carry either an iPhone or an Android smartphone? Do you want to see an Xbox Live gaming hub on iOS and Android devices? Is that a good idea, or is this just going to make things weird?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole matter. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below, and let me know what you think?

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What’s Wrong with this Picture?

There seems to be a huge discrepancy between what the law [seems to] say and what auto makers are introducing…

A short while ago, I wrote a huge article that outlined my vision for iOS in the Car. There had been much speculation that the effort had stalled or had died at Apple, as there had been no real news, development or even concept art that had been introduced or released since Apple originally announced the effort. So, I stepped up and offered up what I thought, at a bare minimum, should be covered in the technology.

I saw an article on Apple Insider early on Monday morning (2014-03-03) where Apple had not only announced what iOS in the Car – now called CarPlay – will do, but which manufacturing partners will introduce the first versions of it. There are even some photos. Whether they are concept or production photos remains to be seen. I just hope that Apple sells the infotainment system so that aftermarket installers can retrofit vehicles with it. It looks like a great setup.

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However, I have heard of some developments here in the States that gave me what I like to call a V-8 (smack myself in the forehead due to previously missing the point) moment. There seems to be a huge discrepancy between the law and what automakers and technology companies are providing. That’s something that needs to clear up ASAP.

You may be familiar with the Cecelia Abadie case in California involving Abadie’s use of Google Glass while driving. There’s a California law that states that drivers can’t have any kind of video screen playing in front of them while they drive. This is the law that the citing officer used when issuing the ticket Ms. Abadie received. Interestingly enough, another California court also indicated that using a navigation app on a smartphone or other device in a vehicle doesn’t violate that same law.

There’s a discrepancy here that needs to be resolved.

The problem is that distracted driving was already against the law well BEFORE smartphones were invented and became popular. So from a legal perspective, the EXTRA legislation is redundant, and somewhat contradictory. The other problems evolve around the mixed message from the legislature, and the car manufacturers.

Some pretty high end car manufacturers – Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo to start – will join Ford, GM, Honda, Jaguar, Kia, Nissan and Toyota, among others, and will provide CarPlay infotainment systems from Apple in coming model years. Formerly called iOS in the Car, the system sounds a little like what I speced. The system’s main interface is Siri and is accessed from a hardware button mounted on the steering wheel. Vehicles that come with a touch screen will also allow drivers to operate the system via touch. Manufacturers are left to their own devices for creating designs for consoles equipped with CarPlay systems.

The issues here are many :

→ Current legislation prevents users from using video screens in vehicles, yet many popular and high end models, Tesla’s Model S for example, which includes a portrait mounted 17″ screen mounted in the center console, as well as any CarPlay enabled vehicle, include video screens that the driver can not only see, but interact with.

→ Current legislation doesn’t seem to include navigation apps, contradicting laws currently on the books, or at the very least, making the application of those laws more confusing (at least in California, where the above ruling has jurisdiction).

→ According to the current press on CarPlay that I have seen, playing video while the vehicle is moving, on these screens is not prevented. At least, I couldn’t find any information indicating that it was…

→ The car manufacturers I’ve noted, as well as others interested in providing the systems, all do so, apparently inviting users to violate distracted driving laws.

The system will allow drivers to place and receive phone calls, listen to voice mail messages, access contacts and have text messages read to them by Siri. Navigation is an inherent part of the system and includes turn-by-turn directions, likely provided by Apple Maps, and will display on the video screen that is part of the system (and not on your docked iPhone). Video is displayed on CarPlay systems via an adaptation of AirPlay technology. Drivers will also be able to access all iPod content as well as streaming services like Spotify, iTunes Radio and Beats Music, among others. The system will appear in 2014 model year vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo and will come to all current iOS iPhones running iOS 7. It will work with Lightning-enabled iPhones, including the iPhone 5s/5c/5.

The issue here is the contradiction between (most of) the distracted driving laws that specifically deal with smartphone use while users operate a motor vehicle and what will be provided by manufacturers supplying CarPlay compatible vehicles. The equipped car by its very nature, violates the law. Its enticing the driver to drive distracted because many smartphone-specific distracted driving laws prevent users from making calls without hands free equipment, but prevent them from using video screens in the car unless that video screen is displaying a navigation app. Unfortunately, the display changes when calls come in to display caller ID information. Notification bars appear on the top of the screen when email, text messages and other events occur. The very nature of the systems functionality seems to violate the law as it attempts to alert the driver to the incoming events, taking their attention away from the screen.

Again, the problem is the SPECIFIC legislation regarding smartphone use in the vehicle. Obviously the solution would be to let the PREVIOUS legislation that prohibited distracted driving take precedence and to remove the contradicting, smartphone specific legislation from the books. However, I don’t think this is going to happen. It’s too logical and straight forward for our legislators to adopt.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like what Apple is going to do with CarPlay. The next big vehicle I buy is going to have the system built in. If I can purchase CarPlay as an aftermarket add-in for my 2003 Toyota Camry, I will; but likely AFTER it won’t send me to traffic court…or jail.

What do you think? There are going to be a great many articles about what CarPlay is and what it can do in your vehicle. I’ll probably write a few more as additional details come out about the system in the coming days and weeks. However, I wanted to post this question to everyone first.

You can see a full demo of Volvo’s implementation below.

Is CarPlay a good idea? Will it cause a legal quandary? Will distracted driving laws get clarified or will they become a bigger mess due to the Abadie case and the ruling by a CA judge that navigation apps don’t violate the distracted driving laws? Can users of these systems successfully challenge smartphone-centric distracted driving laws and have them struck down? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Please join me in the discussion below and let me know what you think.

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Mt. Gox is Mt. Gone

The Bitcoin exchange has filed for bankruptcy protection.

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You can’t say no one didn’t see this coming. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan after losing what has been validated at 750K customer owned Bitcoins and 100K Bitcoins of its own. The losses represent approximately $474M based on a Bitcoin price of $558.

Mt. Gox has ¥6.5 billion in outstanding debt. Approximately ¥2.8 billion in cash cannot be accounted for.

“I am deeply sorry,” Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles told reporters in Japanese, offering a ritual bow of apology. “There were weaknesses in the system.” The website, mtgox.com remains off line.

While Gox is apologetic, other investors are seeking justice. One investor, declining to be recognized, said, “This is not just a civil matter. They knew they had lost these coins and continued to operate the exchange and accept deposits. You can’t sell something you don’t have and not be committing fraud.” Other investors are alleging that the bug that was exploited to misappropriate all the funds was something that had been well known in the Bitcoin community for years.

However, the issue appears more clouded and much more complicated than a mere hack. Kenji Saito, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Media and Governance at Japan’s Keio University indicated that, “the [bug] is too small [of an exploit] to shut down one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in the world. Rather, it must be that Mt. Gox has [been defrauding] its customers, [well in advance of the] February 2014 [announcement].”

Japanese authorities are conducting an investigation of Mt. Gox, following is closure.

In the US, Gox was subpoenaed by Federal prosecutors in New York. According to an unidentified source for the Wall Street Journal, Gox has been asked to preserve specific documentation. The US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York declined commenting, citing the ongoing investigation.

Now… I’ve heard a lot of speculation from a number of people here at the office saying that crypto-currencies are all going to die and this is the end of Bitcoin, Dogecoin, etc. While I’m certain that would make many international governments very happy (Bitcoin is a universal currency, and largely unregulated), I am not entirely certain that it’s going to kill the commodity. However, it certainly hasn’t done Bitcoin any favors; and its likely made its universal acceptance that much more difficult as well as pushed that possibility further out into the future.

What do you think? Did Mt. Gox defraud its investors and customers? Were they aware of the vulnerability in their systems and ignored it; or were they caught off guard? What about the ¥2.8 billion in missing cash? What’s going to happen to crypto and other digital currencies? Please tell me what you think in the discussion area, below. I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.

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BB10 Gives Enterprise Customers a Sour Taste in their Mouths

BB CEO, John Chen admits that BB10 and the Blackberry Z10 left enterprise customers feeling confused

Having a mobile OS that’s intuitive is key to keeping your users engaged. Its key to attracting more users. In short, its key to continued success, in what has become the hottest computing market this side of anywhere in the known universe. Mobile computing… it’s what buys dinner.

Unfortunately, for RIM/Blackberry, despite their best efforts over the past six years or so, their distraction with the consumer market, BYOD and CoIT has damaged them in the eyes of their enterprise customers. According to Chen, previous BB CEO Thorsten Heins’ focus on the consumer market damaged the organization’s reputation.

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“It is not about us leaving the enterprise customers before my time, but I think it is about us spreading ourselves a little too thin,” he said. “We spread ourselves too thin and we were so preoccupied with launching that phone [the Z10] in that market, that we have done some damage, in my mind, to our enterprise focus. That is not going to be any more. That has been done.”

Chen also called BB10, “very good, but too complex for the user.”

I’m not too certain how to take that. I mean, I agree; but how do you recover from that? What do you do? In Blackberry’s case, they are going to focus on their strengths – the enterprise. BES 12 was announced at Mobile World Congress this past week, and should be released before the end of calendar 2014. BES 12 will support all popular mobile OS – iOS, Android, and now, Windows Phone, besides its own OS. Users of rival mobile enterprise servers will be able to trade in their licenses and get the remaining time on that license on BES 12 for a free. Current users can upgrade to BES 12 for free, too. An enterprise version of BBM, Blackberry’s messaging platform, will also be available, “before the summer.”

From a device perspective, Blackberry is staying in the hardware business. Its latest handset, the QWERTY enabled Q20, is said to contain the best classic features most loved by its veteran users. It’s also due for release before the end of calendar 2014.

I’ve been a Blackberry watcher for quite some time, as RIM was THE name in mobile enterprise messaging for a long time before smartphones really became smartphones, leaving the PDA days behind them. They were rugged, high quality devices that allowed mobile employees and busy executives to stay in touch with the office and their teams while traveling or away from their desks. Their Push notification system became the defacto standard that everyone wanted and need to copy in order to be competitive not only in the enterprise space, but in the consumer space as well. The notifications you get on your smartphone of choice today can be traced in some way back to Blackberry’s push notification system.

For me, they are the company you love to hate. I never liked their devices. They were always a bit too rugged, clunky, and just plain ugly for me. Early versions of the device OS was too text-based for me when consumer-based devices like the Treo or any Windows Mobile device had a bright, colorful and inviting GUI. Described to me as an olive-drab army Jeep that just got the job done, Blackberries were the device that nearly every Exchange admin loved to work with; and I just couldn’t stand.

Looking at the information here, I can see a structured, concentrated effort to turn the company back down the road of core competency. This is an excellent strategy; but I’m a bit skeptical. I am wondering after so long, if Chen can turn Blackberry around and get it to be [somewhat] the enterprise darling it was back in the day.

The road back will be long and very tough, in my opinion. I do not see Blackberry making any money with native hardware. I think that ship has long sailed, and think that the Q20 and other devices will be nothing more than a money losing distraction. I think Blackberry would be much better off just concentrating on its enterprise software products. If it must be involved in the hardware business, it could partner with HTC or other hardware vendor and have them foot the bill for making and marketing the hardware. Blackberry has had such a hard time with the Storm, Storm 2, and its more recent Z10 and Q10 devices that it must just be a better idea to leave hardware to a trusted partner that has better experience with it.

My biggest concern with this particular tactic is obviously… partial failure. BES has always been a huge money maker for Blackberry and I think they should be fine there. The added support in their MDM for Windows Phone is going to make that offering much more attractive – BES will then support all the major mobile device operating systems and should offer support to everyone. That should bring a lot of comfort to current enterprise customers and may actually attract new ones.

However, I see Blackberry’s continued dalliance with handsets as a huge risk. Since 2007 – and the introduction of the iPhone – they have not been able to get it right. Their Storm and Storm 2 devices were abysmal, and BB10 was too confusing in an iPhone like body (with no physical keyboard) to attract and retain any customers. While they’re going to give it another go with the Q20, unless the world has some unforeseen epiphany when the device is released, BYOD and CoIT based enterprises aren’t going to bother much with it. I don’t see the Q20 making any kind of impact on the Blackberry world at all. I see it being yet ANOTHER money losing disappointment for an organization that is desperately trying to maintain its relevance in a world that left it behind long ago.

What do you think? Am I totally off my nut, or does this story have legs? Will BES 12 attract new customers? Will its free upgrade cost to existing enterprise users make them want to extend their service contracts? Will the Q20 be a money maker or a money loser? I’d love to have your thoughts in the discussion area below. Please give me your ideas and thoughts and lets hash it out a bit more…

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Someone Glammed my Bitcoin Wallet

Mt. Gox gets fleeced and closes its door due to a $350M 5-finger discount…

BitcoinVirtual currencies are very fragile.  Well, I shouldn’t say fragile. I should really say, volatile.  The currency fluctuates so violently its hard to determine what its value will be from one day to the next.  The one thing that’s brought the fledgling currency the most stability has been the largest bitcoin exchange in the world – Mt. Gox.  Unfortunately, Mt. Gox is no more.

Bitcoin’s run may be at an end.

Mt. Gox, apparently now insolvent, lost 744,408 bitcoins worth about $350M at the time of the initial report, which was Monday 2014-02-24.  Mt. Gox, like any other commodity exchange, can go belly-up at any moment. Its simply the nature of commodity trading. Markets can tip bearish or bullish on a whim, and its not easy to figure out which way the wind is blowing. However, this wasn’t the result of a glut in trading or from any other trading action. Mt. Gox was hacked, plain and simple.

Described as the worst run business in history, Gox initially got itself in trouble with US authorities I 2013. They seized $5M in US-based assets as a result of Gox’s failure to obtain the necessary money transferring permits. Since then, the news has been rife with reports of customers waiting months and months to withdrawal bitcoins as US dollars.  Early in February 2014. Mt. Gox suspended all withdrawals, indicating a bitcoin wallet bug as the culprit.

Instead, it appears that the exchange has been the victim of a two year long hack where both its hot (online) and cold (off line) wallets have been emptied.  How does an organization that deals in money transfers and in the trading of any kind of commodity NOT know if its having its coffers fleeced?!

What’s worse is that Charlie Shrem, the CEO of U.S. bitcoin exchange Bitinstant, was arrested on money laundering charges. Both Shrem and Gox CEO Mark Karpeles sat on the board of the Bitcoin Foundation, a lobbying agency and software development organization for bitcoin.  Both men have stepped down from their seats. Unfortunately, with Gox’s closure and the scandal at Bitinstant, its unclear if this digital commodity will be able to recover.

According to the Mt. Gox website, the organization states that Karpeles is still in Japan and is working hard to resolve the issue.  They ask that no one asks the Mt. Gox staff any questions, as they aren’t authorized to speak for the organization.  You can also read the original message which explains that the organization has shuttered its doors. The site instructs users and those interested to check back periodically to insure that they have the latest information, which will be posted on that page.

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