Image of Samsung Galaxy Note8 from Unpacked event on August 23, 2017 in New York City Source: Maribel Lopez, Lopez Research
After the tumultuous Galaxy Note7 recall, all eyes are on Samsung as it launches its new flagship device the In keeping with previous Note versions, Samsung aims to make a phone that productivity-driven consumers and IT leaders will love. Yet, one has to ask if there is anything left to excite us in the smartphone market after the rapid pace of mobile innovation.
A majority of the differentiation in mobility has moved into software, primarily led by the operating system vendors. However, Samsung’s Note8 announcement shows that it still has a few hardware (and software) tricks up its sleeve (see the full specifications list below). Here are five reasons why people looking for a consumer-friendly phone that’s also a work powerhouse should consider evaluating the Galaxy Note8.
Improved camera. The camera continues to be a key buying feature for any smartphone.Samsung’s Galaxy Note8 sports two 12MP rear cameras with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on both the wide-angle and
Image of Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera resolution versus Apple iPhone & taken during the Unpacked event in New York City on August 23, 2017
telephoto lenses. The Note8’s Live Focus feature lets you control the depth of field by allowing you to adjust the bokeh effect in preview mode and even after you take the photo. The Dual cameras and OIS features help the photographer create sharper images. The dual cameras also enable something that Samsung calls Dual Capture mode where both rear cameras take two pictures simultaneously. One of the photos is a close-up image shot from the telephoto lens and one is a wide-angle shot that shows the entire background. Leading smartphone vendors are working on solutions to improve image quality in low light environments. In the case of Samsung, the wide-angle lens has a Dual Pixel sensor with rapid auto-focus to capture sharp and clear shots, even in low-light environments. The Note8 is also equipped with an 8MP Smart AutoFocus front-facing camera. In the camera demonstration, I could see the importance of stabilization and appreciated the ability to have both a wide angle and telephoto shot captured simultaneously. The demonstration of controlling how much background blur you’d like in a photo was also impressive. The quality of the camera will also become increasingly important to business buyers as more companies add image capture and scanning into their business workflows. Personally, I feel the camera advances are one of the most exciting parts of the device.
Bigger screen and the App Pair Feature. The Note8 has a squarer edge than the S8 plus and offers the largest screen on a Note device, with a 6.3-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display. The design of the screen’s edge provides more room for apps that use the S Pen. The App Edge function on previous models was highly customizable, but Samsung has taken this software to the next level in Note8 with a new feature called App Pair. It allows you to create a custom pair of apps placed together in the Edge panel or the home screen. For example, a person could have their calendar and phone dialer paired so both apps could be opened together and placed side-by-side in a multitasking view. Another custom pair could have a YouTube paired with a messaging app. On the productivity front, this makes it easier for consumers to work or play without toggling through various apps. Obviously, a bigger screen and an easy way to have multiple windows open at once are important for making this a productive work device.
S Pen. Yes, I do believe the stylus makes a difference. At one point, the stylus seemed like a throwback to the
A Samsung S Pen image photograph from the Unpacked event in New York City on August 23, 2017
Palm Pilot days of old. Today we have a pen with Microsoft’s Surface, a pencil for Apple’s iPads and the S Pen for Samsung devices. In each iteration of stylus technology, we come one step closer to the feel and responsiveness of a pencil. Samsung’s latest S Pen implementation of a finer tip and improved pressure sensitivity is a major improvement over its previous generations. In a demonstration of the S Pen, Samsung illustrated how easy it is to sketch, use art apps, write down a grocery list and interact with the phone. At first glance, you wouldn’t think a stylus could change how you interact with a phone, but a stylus helps a large phone bridge that gap between a PC and a tablet by opening up different use cases. For example, the S Pen for Business allows a professional to discreetly take notes in Screen off or quickly annotate documents and photos. The screen off memo made a huge leap forward in replacing the notebook by expanding note taking to up to 100 screens of text by simply paging down as you write. The S Pen is a win for use cases such as clipboard replacement applications where employees need to take notes, fill out forms and capture signatures.
Built in security with biometrics, secure folder and Knox. Similar to its other devices, Samsung’s Note8 offers the choice of iris, face recognition and fingerprint scanning security in addition to a passcode. The company offers IT departments additional levels of security with Knox that can be used standalone or in conjunction with another Enterprise Mobile Management software partner. The secure folder, a feature that was on the Note7 and available as an app store download, has reappeared. The software provides a place to securely store and backup your personal data while separating it from your corporate information. Knox Workspace provides a container that allows IT to separate and manage work apps. With mobile security ranking a top IT concern with 75% of the companies Lopez Research surveyed, companies want a hardened version of Android, which is good for Samsung. In the “2017 Lopez Research Enterprise Mobility Benchmark”, over 72% of IT leaders interviewed said Samsung devices are on the short list for approved BYOD smartphones.
Samsung DeX and Note8 create a portal work environment. In March, Samsung announced a hockey puck sized device called the Samsung DeX that allows you to connect your phone to a monitor and use it as a laptop replacement with access to Android apps as well as business apps such as the Microsoft suite. The Note8, when combined with Samsung DEX, can create a work environment where certain apps such as video conferencing can move seamlessly from the phone to a monitor, and back to the phone with Samsung DeX-enabled versions of BlueJeans Network, Zoom, and GoToMeeting mobile apps. Of course, all of this is useless if the device lacks the proper computing power. To meet these performance requirements, the Note8 offers 6GB RAM and a 10-nm processor.
While not new, other features of note include:
Bixby. Initially launched with the S8, Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby will also be a part of the Note8 family. Voice interfaces with natural language processing have resurfaced to help consumers overcome the challenges of discovery and device usage. While Bixby is still in its infancy, it is another way for the consumer to discover and utilize Samsung specific features. I wouldn’t use it as a generic digital assistant, but it’s great for items such as changing settings, using camera features (e.g. take a selfie) and opening apps. In a world of increasing functionality, it makes sense for Samsung to provide a voice interface.
Water resistance. Several Samsung phones, including the Note8, are in up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
Expandable storage. The device comes with 64GB of storage, but consumers can purchase an additional MicroSD card to expand memory can reach up to 256GB.
While it may appear that everyone has a smartphone, the battle for upgrades is underway, which spells opportunity. Comscore estimates there will be 50 million U.S. consumers eligible for phone upgrades in the fall. Additionally, many companies are rolling out new BYOD stipends and more mobile application that will provide more reasons for people to purchase new smartphones.
The Samsung Galaxy Note8 is a worthy contender in the smartphone battle given the improvements in the camera, and S Pen. I still maintain it’s very challenging, but not impossible, to get consumers to switch operating systems. Hence, Apple probably isn’t quaking in its boots, but Samsung’s recent improvements do raise the stakes for Apple’s next smartphone release. With the Note8, Samsung could win significant Android market share, giving the Google Pixel and others, a run for the money.
Maribel is the founder of Lopez Research, a market and strategic advisory firm. She’s the author of the Wiley book “Right-time Experiences” and founder of the – profit organization Data For Betterment Twitter:@MaribelLopez
This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.
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IoT connects everything from power plants to toasters
The IoT market has matured over the past three years. Industry leaders are IoT-enabling the business using connected devices, cloud services and analytics to build faster, smarter business processes. These data-enriched processes will improve employee productivity, deliver operational efficiencies and provide new revenue opportunities. Over two-thirds of the IT leaders that Lopez Research surveyed listed understanding IoT’s impact on their business as one of their top strategic IT initiatives for 2017. However, less than half of the companies that Lopez Research surveyed have a documented IoT strategy with clear use cases.
Do you have an IoT strategy?
Every business must rethink its overall operational and information technology strategy to maximize business value from the IoT. Companies must optimize existing business processes with IoT data and create new workflows to drive the business forward. IoT strategy was the topic of a recent ebook from SAP titled Insights on the Future of IoT where TopRank Marketing asked 21 Digital Transformation influencers, to provide their thoughts on the future of IoT and its impact on various businesses.
The answer is tricky because the use cases and technologies vary dramatically across industries. The wonderful thing about IoT is that it isn’t limited to one type of business or vertical. Every company can benefit from IoT use cases such as improved asset utilization, predictive maintenance and security threat prevention.
I’m most excited about the potential for businesses to create new business workflows by using data from their own internal sources and data mashups with third parties for information such as weather, traffic, pricing and customer sentiment.
There are many excellent points in the ebook that you can read here. For example, Dion Hinchcliffe, the Chief Strategy Officer of 7Summits, discussed how IoT changes the customer experience. Meanwhile, Yves Mulkers, a Data Architect for 7wData, discussed how IoT could improve industries such as travel and agriculture. In my opinion, one of the greatest benefits of IoT is that machines can talk to people in a meaningful way, requiring product makers rethink how every aspect of engagement from sales through support.
Companies approach IoT in various ways
While there’s no single answer to the question, there are at least three ways that Lopez Research’s enterprise clients are approaching IoT strategies. These plans include using the IoT to:
- Deliver faster access to existing data. Before mobile and IoT, data was locked in systems that required a person to monitor and manage a device at the equipment’s location. Today, connected devices can talk to systems and individuals. For example, retailers can have up to the minute access to inventory availability and supply chain tracking. A plant manager can view alerts and decide on an action while walking the manufacturing floor. And a telecom provider can analyze network issues in real-time to respond to customer support call.
- Improve business with access to new data. In many cases, IoT provides the opportunity to create new business processes and workflows by providing a company with information it didn’t have in the past. For example, Coca-Cola connected its Freestyle machines allowing the company to reduce stock out, understand buying behavior and even provide a new service that allowed its customers to create customized beverages.
- Transform the business with new workflows and business models. IoT offers the opportunity to disrupt industries with new services and business models. One example is how GE has moved from selling jet engines to selling uptime. Another is an extension of an existing model with a new twist, such as an elevator company using IoT to deliver remote monitoring and improved field service.
Fortunately, the industry hype has led to new IoT platform and point solutions from a wide range of established vendors and startups. While a company can’t become an IoT-enabled business overnight, it can build a foundation to support better workflows and fuel business growth with a phased IoT deployment. We’re at the beginning of an exciting journey.
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Maribel Lopez Keynoting The ET6 Enterprise Transformation Exchange Conference
At the ET6 Transformation Exchange conference, the program addressed how various companies had approached enterprise transformation. I kicked off the program with a keynote on building an intelligent enterprise. Instead of focusing on the technology maturity and adoption aspects of digital transformation, I shared how business leaders must develop multi-disciplinary technology skills similar to the Polymath Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo was a master at art, anatomy, mechanics and architecture. Leonardo also continued to collaborate with peers and mentors well after developing his craft. This allowed him to further his skill and influence. He started with art but adapted his skill set over time as he felt his client’s needs were changing. He also mastered using core skills that he learned in one field to support his advancement in other areas. Hence, mastery of art allowed him to illustrate new device concepts and architectural designs to his clients to secure new contracts.
As business leaders, we should embrace these core concepts as we approach enterprise transformation. I use the term enterprise transformation instead of digital transformation because it includes the organizational change policies that impact how people work. On the technology side, we must become more like Leonardo by learning about new technologies that are beyond the current purview of our jobs.
The best technology strategies will leverage a combination of mobile, cloud, big data and analytics to deliver new insight and new experiences. A company simply can’t run a competitive business if it doesn’t support mobile. It can’t scale and shift models easily without cloud computing. And a business can only be competitive if it embraces new ways of collecting and analyzing data to deliver new actionable insights. However, most of us are comfortable being specialists. To thrive in the new digital era, we’ll all need to push beyond our existing boundaries. We can start by learning more about complementary technologies and services. Effectively, we must emulate the practices of Leonardo da Vinci by excelling at one skill but also advance our knowledge of other areas through education and collaboration.
Additionally, digital transformation requires more than just replicating our existing processes. Successful digital transformation efforts deliver right-time experiences. Right-time Experiences provide your employees, customers and business partners with the right information, at the right time on the person’s device of choice.
Over the course of two days, representatives from both start-ups through companies that were more than 100 years old shared their insights on the challenges and opportunities with digital transformation. For example, Honeywell discussed how a 132-year-old company was using IoT and mobile to deliver new customer value while driving revenue growth. Built.io and Beyond Curious shared how their joint customer, the Miami Heat, was changing customer engagement. One lesson learned from The Heat’s transformation efforts is the need to coordinate a business and technology strategies. Security was a topic raised in almost every session. The industry has made significant progress in offerings to protect the enterprise. Meanwhile, Intel provided a glimpse into the future of IoT while Marketo described the new world of customer engagement. It was clear that opportunities abound. I look forward to keeping the dialogue alive at ET Summit in November.
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The Enterprise of Things (EOT) Spells Opportunity For BlackBerry
BlackBerry made several announcements in favor of its expanding security and services portfolio, in the quest to further shed its device legacy. Like other mobile management vendors, BlackBerry has expanded its services to offer unified endpoint management (UEM). BlackBerry’s UEM will allow companies to support corporate and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs for mobile devices as well as Windows 10 and MacOS computers. Part of the announcements also extended endpoint and software management for new workforce devices such as wearables. In its press conference, BlackBerry highlighted support for enterprise devices such as the Recon Jet Pro.
On the application front, a partnership with Microsoft will enable IT to manage and apply protection policies to Microsoft Office 365 mobile applications such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint from BlackBerry UEM. Mobile app support got a boost with new analytics capability will allow developers to track daily and monthly active users, daily minutes used, usage by OS type and version, as well as user engagement by feature. Additionally, the company updated its collaboration secure Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (EFSS) solution, called BlackBerry Workspaces, with in-line comments, @mentions and alerts. It also integrated DocuSign for signature capabilities.
Why EoT is important for Blackberry
As noted in the BlackBerry press release, the next wave of connectivity and change lies with the Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to a growing network of physical objects that have sensors and Internet connectivity. IoT efforts that focus solely on enterprise-related devices are called the EoT. With billions of connected devices coming online, BlackBerry’s real market opportunity lies in services to support connected things for the enterprise. Beyond the obvious reason that IoT/EoT is the future of computing, this market could help BlackBerry return to growth because:
- There’s no predetermined leading vendor in the EoT space. The EoT refers to numerous use cases, products and vendors that vary across different industries. Given the diversity of the market, BlackBerry could win business by partnering with established vendors in the industrial space such as Schneider and Rockwell.
- The buyers extend beyond IT for IoT/EoT use cases. Roles such as plant manager, facilities maintenance and logistics managers are new buyers for EoT services, providing an opportunity for BlackBerry to reach a new untapped audience.
- BlackBerry already has IoT/EoT products and customers. The company has purchased several IoT companies. For example, BlackBerry’s QNX line delivers secure, mission-critical solutions for general embedded, automotive and connected transportation systems. The company’s software operates in areas as diverse as automobiles, surgical equipment and nuclear power plants. These markets have the high security and reliability. It also offers an asset tracking and health service called Radar.
Moving beyond UEM to real EoT
UEM is slowly gaining traction as organizations look to support Windows 10 environments. All of these features are necessary to compete in the UEM space but is that enough for BlackBerry to be successful in such a competitive market. My theory is that UEM is table stakes for anyone entering the EoT space, but it’s not the end game. Given the company’s early EoT success, Blackberry should spend more time marketing its EoT knowledge as a long-term differentiator, but it also must push the ball forward in EoT. VMware is already nipping at BlackBerry’s heels with its recent announcement of the EoT management service.
So, how can BlackBerry deliver more value to its customers? It must continue to ramp its solutions business. Today’s EoT environment is a complicated set of technologies that need to be deployed and integrated as a solution before EoT can deliver business value. For example, a typical EoT solution contains connected devices, analytics, and software that can consume the data before a customer can gain new insights into their operations.
With this in mind, it’s clear that managing and securing EoT devices is important, but not enough to be considered a strategic EoT play. Products that offer immediate insight, such as asset tracking, workforce optimization and logistics will provide the value to purchasers. Note, I didn’t say another “platform” for connecting devices. The market has plenty of platforms that connect data but stop short of delivering insights. BlackBerry already launched a solution called Radar for asset tracking, but it needs to add more services, faster. The company has also focused on delivering a broader security portfolio that complements its other EoT initiatives.
IoT/EoT is a difficult market for any vendor to crack. BlackBerry will need to acquire, partner and enhance existing market solutions to drive EoT efforts forward.While the EoT has reached the top of the hype cycle, actual deployments are nascent, suggesting a huge opportunity for any vendor that can come up with the right stuff. Keeping UEM current is essential for BlackBerry, but it needs to aggressively define a new EoT future for its clients that’s beyond what companies like Microsoft and VMware are discussing with UEM. It will be interesting to see how the next chapter unfolds.
This post originally appeared on Maribel’s column at Forbes.com. Sign up for my free newsletter here so you’ll never miss a blog, video recording or research note. Maribel is the founder of Lopez Research, a market research and strategic advisory firm. She’s the author of the Wiley book “Right-time Experiences” Twitter:@MaribelLopez
The platform includes modules such as IoT, analytics, machine learning and blockchain
The IoT market is an ill-defined, nebulous space. While the industry refers to it as the IoT, it isn’t a single product. In reality, the IoT refers to numerous use cases and products that vary across different industries. For example, a mining company and a hospital can both benefit from predictive maintenance, but the problems and implementations are completely different.
A successful IoT implementation requires a coordinated technology and business process transformation strategy. The business process improvement strategy is often overlooked as the technology teams jump into the nuts and bolts of deploying a set of IoT tools. Technology-first thinking is precisely what leads to failed implementations. Companies, fearing they’ll be left behind, have rushed to purchase various IoT components — such as sensors, hubs, and platforms–before the business has defined the problem it’s trying to solve. Leaders in the space have sought out use cases where IoT will improve employee productivity, deliver operational efficiencies and enable new revenue opportunities.
The IoT requires more than one technology change
Once a company defines a set of potential business outcomes, the real fun begins. IoT deployments are anything but simple. Information and operational technology leaders face a morass of vendors, products and integration issues. At a minimum, an IoT solution requires multiple layers that include:
- Connected devices and communications. The IoT vision requires connecting existing and new equipment with sensors. Additionally, there are many wireless connectivity options such as 3G, WiFI, BlueTooth and LPWAN. A complete list of IoT protocols can be found here. Most organizations get hung up on this first stage of defining the proper devices and connectivity options.
- A set of connection platform tools. The first iteration of IoT platform solutions was a hub that could connect to data from multiple devices that used different protocols to communicate. Today a broad set of IoT software platforms solutions exist that include items such as device management that focus on configuring, provisioning, troubleshooting and operating the endpoint devices. Like mobile device management, IoT device management supports monitoring, testing, updating software, and troubleshooting connected devices. Wired and wireless connection management must be part of this suite. API management is necessary for connecting to device data and linking this data to applications and system of record/engagement. This layer continues to evolve rapidly.
- Big data storage and analytics. IoT creates a multitude of new information that varies in volume type and frequency. Connecting and collecting sensor data is useless if you don’t have the right solutions to manage, analyze and create meaningful insights from all this data. Business must decide what data needs to be analyzed in near real-time versus batch processed. The tech team must also define what data will be analyzed centrally versus locally. In some cases, companies will need to balancing marketing’s desire for personalization with the need to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of a user’s data. Once you’ve corralled all of this data, a company also needs to design a long-term machine learning strategy to understand patterns.
- Security. In a recent Lopez Research study, security topped the list of IoT technology concern for 2017. Companies need a security strategy that extends from the IoT devices through the application layer. This will require multiple software solutions. In some cases, the endpoint IoT devices can’t run security, such as embedded encryption, and companies will need an edge gateway to act as a security intermediary.
- Applications that use the data & analytics insight. Once companies have collected and analyzed IoT, this data needs to be integrated into a company’s existing systems of record and engagement to create need insights and opportunities for action. For example, a cold supply chain solution can be redesigned to use IoT data such as temperature and humidity to have fact-driven information on product health through its distribution. Many IoT deployments fail because application integration strategies were an afterthought.
SAP aims to help companies run IoT simply with Leonardo
As you can see, there is a mixture of business and technology decisions that need to be coordinated for an IoT solution to deliver value and market differentiation. On the technology front, vendors are racing to deliver more comprehensive IoT solutions to minimize customer’s implementation woes. Enter SAP’s Leonardo. At the company’s annual SAP SAPPHIRE and ASUG group meeting, a variety of executives took the stage to help SAP’s customers understand how AI, IoT and cloud computing were changing the company’s products and the future of computing.
The company’s CEO, Bill McDermott defined digital business as intelligently connecting people, things and businesses. The conference keynotes showcased how SAP was making efforts to live up to the corporate tagline “Run Simple”. While SAP made many announcements, the bell of the ball was the Leonardo system, which it defines as a digital innovation system. SAP’s Leonardo, not to be confused with the famous polymath Leonardo da Vinci, was clearly chosen as a name to invoke visions of a multi-disciplinary platform that can help its customers achieve IoT success. The sheer volume of products in SAP’s Leonardo highlights the growing complexity of designing an IoT solution.
A relentless drive for simplicity made Apple a powerhouse consumer electronics vendor. In a world of fully-featured yet complex products, simplicity is a differentiator and Apple can charge a premium for it. Over a decade ago, the iPhone changed the world by removing buttons for one home button and adding a touch screen. It brought a simple, human element to technology with software that responded to your touch. This new operating system, combined with the move to an app-centric mobile experience, revolutionized the smartphone and eventually the entire computing industry.
Fast forward and the world is different. The rise of Android proved that many people were willing to sacrifice usability for more features and greater customization capabilities. Intense competition in the smartphone market has driven companies to focus on delivering, even more, features at a faster pace. Today’s mobile market suffers from bloated, often buggy operating systems and mobile app software with so many features that customers don’t even know what’s available anymore.
Apple is working hard to make powerful equal simple
Image of iOS 11 features improvements from WWDC 2017 Source: Apple
In its desire to broaden the customer base, Apple’s iOS releases have become behemoths. Last year we saw ten major announcements in iOS 10, this year felt equally significant with features that focused on iPad, messages, files, photos, music and redesigned app store experience. The drive for simplicity was not lost in iOS. In fact, it even won several battles in this latest release. For example:
- iMessage gets easier. iOS10 saw the launch of a richer iMessage but many have found the new functions difficult to discover and access. Use of apps and stickers in iMessages apps became easier in iOS 11 with a redesigned app drawer for App Store for iMessage making it easier to decorate messages. A small win but the company still has a way to go if it wants to rival WeChat while remaining the simplicity of Apple. The messages app also syncs across devices.
- Device and app navigation gets a boost. Apple has worked on improvements in multi-tasking software for several releases now. This time, Apple delivers a more usable set of multitasking features such as a new customizable Dock that provides quick access to frequently used apps and documents from any screen, and a redesigned app switcher makes it easier to move between pairs of active apps in Split View and now Slide Over. The company also added a “drag and drop” function that makes it easier to move images and text across the apps you’re using. The redesigned Control Center quick access to frequently used controls all on one page.
- A workable file system emerged. Ok, it’s only been ten years since Box and Dropbox redefined easier cloud file storage and file management. In truth, Apple has had both of these for some time, but it finally has brought it up to the latest modern practices. The new Files app provides visibility into all of your apps everything in one place, whether files are stored locally, in iCloud Drive or across other providers like Box, Dropbox.
- Siri gets more personal. The company, like others, has an intense focus on machine learning to improve its ability to deal with accents, colloquial phrases and other natural language processing issues. In addition to Siri to voice, Siri will now use on-device learning to deliver more personal experiences. The keynote highlighted an example where a person searched for information on Iceland in Safari and Siri remembered the context of this search in order to suggest information in News and add the correct spelling of cities such as Reykjavik when typing in other apps such as mail, messages. This is just one simple, useful example of how our devices can become more personal.
- Maps go indoors. Wayfinding in malls, stores and airports is the next wave of location-based services, but it’s been difficult to deploy. Apple Maps is making it a little easier by adding indoor maps for certain airports and shopping centers. It’s not ubiquitous, but it’s a good start. The company also added lane guidance to avoid missing a turn or exit which is a much-needed feature in GPS systems.
- The keyboard gets a boost. There are many third-party keyboards on the market for mobile devices, highlighting the limitations of existing mobile keyboards. Apple took a stab at eliminating the need for those with the one-handed keyboard mode on iPhone makes typing on the go even easier. Meanwhile, a QuickType keyboard on iPad delivers quick access to numbers, symbols and punctuation.
Apple’s iOS 11: should you be disappointed? No
Of course, there are many additional innovative features that push the experience forward in areas such as photos, person to person Apple Pay etc. You can see a full round up of those features here. Yet, for many, iOS 11 didn’t deliver a big “Wow” in the mobile arena. Samsung received a similarly mixed reception with its S8 launch as did Google’s I/O conference. There appears to be a general trend towards bashing a product if it doesn’t achieve breakthrough innovation.
As I said in last year’s piece on “Incrementalism or Innovation? A Perspective on Google’s IO and Apple’s WWDC” Mobility is a maturing market and you can’t reinvent an industry every year. The pace of change remains rapid, but the type of change is very different. Software features that appear to be incremental innovations are positive upgrades for the industry. Companies are focused on the refinement of existing functionality.
Consumers and enterprises can only absorb a certain amount of change at any given time. Before we pan the latest releases from companies such as Apple Google and Samsung, we should ask ourselves if we will be happier with mobile products that are faster and more stable than the past.
There are definite opportunities for legitimate breakthrough innovations such as full wireless charging, a two-day battery life, and foldable materials. However, without significant materials innovation, these are just theories and wishes. In lieu of this, companies like Apple, Google and Samsung are focused on making our existing technology experience more frictionless. We have a long way to go in areas such as natural language processing and image recognition. The types of experiences we’re receiving in our mobile phone software weren’t even possible three years ago. The latest wave of big data technologies and machine learning algorithms are delivering amazing breakthroughs in recommendations, image recognition and accessing information with natural speech. We’re seeing the fruits of that labor in iOS11.
My guess is that most consumers aren’t ready or willing to have their world reinvented with another new product category. What customers want is technology that easy and that delivers on its promises. What’s needed is a period of incrementalism that makes today’s innovations rock solid while gently pushing us forward into new features and usage patterns. On that front, I see Apple making progress by balancing innovation and refinements.
This post originally appeared on Maribel’s column at Forbes.com. Sign up for my free newsletter here so you’ll never miss a blog, video recording or research note.
Dell Technologies Inc. faces high expectations and scrutiny after the epic $60 billion mega-merger of Dell and EMC in 2015. Thousands of people gathered in Las Vegas last week to hear the progress and vision of Dell Technologies at Dell EMC World. The conference theme, Realize, focused on IT strategies that enable companies to deliver digital transformation. The topic is top of mind for both business and IT leaders. While most business leaders have jumped on board with the concept of digital transformation, companies struggle to define what it means and how to enact change.
The formation of Dell Technologies is indicative of a major market transition. Instead of dealing with one major IT or business transition, companies face a multitude of simultaneous organizational and technology changes. At the same time, established companies face intense competition from new entrants that have cheap access to robust technologies such as cloud services. Organizations, regardless of size, must embrace mobility, cloud computing, IoT and new analytics solutions. Established companies must understand how, and where, these major technology trends will intersect. Successful IT efforts will focus on integrated strategies, not isolated technology islands. For example, cloud impacts your mobile strategy with access to scalable infrastructure and platform as a service (PaaS) solutions. Companies can also purchase SaaS apps or use cloud-based development tools to modernize existing applications.
Companies need strategic vendors that can aid navigating these tectonic shifts. Dell Technologies, a series of seven companies integrated under one umbrella, aims to provide a more integrated suite of services. Yet, it’s not alone. Oracle, Microsoft and others are expanding portfolio offerings to include everything from applications through cloud computing infrastructure. At the time, the merger that seemed crazy. Today the results of the merger seem on point because companies want to:
- Consolidate the vendor landscape. With a multitude of technology and business model changes underway, vendor proliferation and IT complexity have skyrocketed. Companies have been forced to become systems integrators that must integrate and coordinate development cycles from multiple technology providers. IT must find a simpler way to approach digital transformation. Business leaders are returning to the strategic partner model with the best of suite.
- Modernize applications. Digital transformation requires changes to applications, processes and employee behavioral changes. Companies are looking to the cloud, open source PaaS and SaaS to update apps and improve workflows. Dell noted how important assets such as Pivotal are for creating apps at companies that range from the size of start-ups to Google. But Dell also highlighted how companies are building hybrid infrastructures to support app modernization and how it’s well positioned to provide those solutions.
- Secure the entire IT stack more effectively.Companies like Dell have numerous touchpoints where it assists companies in building security into the hardware and infrastructure stack. For example, many companies have purchased specialized solutions from over 45 security vendors. While no company can offer a single suite to address all security challenges, Dell can ease some of these woes by delivering security that ranges from the laptops through to the data center.
The Dell Technologies vision promises simplicity but is it a reality? I had the opportunity to speak with and listen to cases studies from numerous Dell-EMC customers at the event. Thus far, customers claim it’s working. For example, Molina Healthcare told me the sales process has been simplified, and that unlike other IT vendors it works with, Dell is easy to do business with. Citi spoke on how they are using Dell infrastructure and virtualization solutions to provide business agility while simplifying complexity. Jaguar and Nike discussed how Dell Technologies was providing new ways for companies to design better products and deliver improved workplace services.
Dell Technologies shared its plans for integration and innovation across all of its units. While there’s a great deal of integration work to be completed, Dell’s private company structure affords the luxury of a reasonable cadence of change. Still one of the greatest ongoing challenges that Dell will face is the ability balance innovation with integration. It’s a challenge all mega vendors and their customer’s face. It will be interesting to watch the progress of traditional IT vendors as these providers engage in their own digital transformation.
Maribel is the founder of Lopez Research, a market research and strategic advisory firm. She’s the author of the Wiley book “Right-time Experiences” Twitter:@MaribelLopez This article was originally posted on Maribel’s column for Forbes.com https://www.forbes.com/sites/maribellopez/2017/05/16/digital-transformation-dell-technologies-and-the-return-of-mega-it-vendors/#6d66820e46aa
To harness the power of mobile apps, organizations must get on board with the Internet of Things (IoT) and contextual computing.
Mobile-first apps drive employee engagement.
It’s been 10 years since Apple’s iPhone launched what would become the ubiquitous mobility era, but we’re still struggling to realize the vision of a mobile-first world.Newer consumer apps take advantage of mobile’s unique features, such as location awareness and voice control, but enterprise software still has a long way to go. Most companies work within the confines of applications and experiences that were designed in the 1980s.
The challenges of embracing mobile-first aren’t just about technology maturity. A mobile-first strategy requires companies to commit to overhauling business processes and workflows to take advantage of new data and device functionality. And it requires more than just focusing on mobile.
More than mobile
The term mobile-first seems out of place today. After all, would anyone today build a new app or service that only runs on a PC? I think not. A company may create a cloud-based service, but that runs on any device with a browser. What of the burgeoning internet of things (IoT) market? Should apps become IoT-first? No.
In several years, we won’t even talk about mobility. Everything that we build will be designed to work across mobile, PCs and a variety of connected devices. The new IT world assumes we’ll embrace and expand upon all of the mobile and cloud computing concepts developed over the past decade. In 2017, next-generation computing should deliver apps, services and business workflows that have four qualities:
- They’re built to operate and move seamlessly across devices. The best experiences allow a person to start a workflow or transaction on one device and seamlessly transfer it to another device. Apple and Microsoft both offer this type of portability through their Continuity and Windows Continuum features, respectively.
- They’re adaptable to the user and device context. Context, in this case ,could refer to device size or to the availability of input mechanisms such as keyboard, voice, stylus, touch and gesture. Apps also need to sense what functions are available — such as camera, GPS and biometric sensors — and provide different options for actions the user can take based on these capabilities. Context-aware apps can also show different information based on location, such as bringing up certain notes or launching Microsoft PowerPoint when the user enters a meeting room in a specific building.
- They’re designed to collect and act on new data sources. Smartphones ushered in a new wave of sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes. Wearables and IoT devices add opportunities for gleaning sensor data such as heart rate and humidity. Next-generation computing requires deep integration with a wide range of connected devices. Wearable apps can collect data from sensors, for example, to provide more context for what the user is doing or feeling at a given moment — and provide in-app options that react to that context.
- They can learn and make predictions. Mobile brought to IT the concept of personalized services based on an understanding of user behavior. End-user computing in 2017 will take advantage of big data storage, analytics and machine learning to deliver services that provide users with the right information at the right time.
We’re living in a mobile- and cloud-first world that relies on a diverse set of devices and ways to access business data. If you haven’t embraced this approach, you’re behind. The only question is, will you change your mobile-first strategy to take advantage of these tools? If not, you’ll be even further behind when the next wave of change — IoT, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.
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Digital transformation, while not new, has changed tremendously with the advent of new technologies for big data analytics and machine learning. The key to most company’s digital transformation efforts is to harness insights from various types of data at the right time. Fortunately, organizations now have access to a wide range of solutions to accomplish this goal.
How are leaders in the space approaching the problem today? I recently had a discussion with Seshu Adunuthula, Senior Director of Analytics Infrastructure at eBay, to discuss this matter. eBay was always a digital business, but even IT leaders of companies that were born as digital businesses are embracing the latest digital technologies to enhance their existing processes and build new experiences. According to Adunuthula, “Data is eBay’s most important asset.” eBay is managing approximately 1 billion live listings and 164 million active buyers daily. Of these, eBay receives 10 million new listings via mobile every week . Clearly, the company as large volumes of data, but the key to its future success will be how fast it can turn data into a personalized experience that drives sales.
Designing and updating a technical strategy
The first challenge eBay wrestled with was finding a platform, aside from its traditional data warehouse, that was capable of storing an enormous amount of data that varied by type. Adunuthula stated that the type of data, the structure of the data and the required speed of analysis meant the company had to evolve from a traditional data warehouse structure to what it calls data lakes. For example, the company needs to keep roughly nine quarters of historical trends data to provide insights on items such as year over year growth. It also needs to analyze data in real-time to assist shoppers throughout the selling cycle.
The ability to support data at the scale of an internet company was a key consideration in the selection of technologies and partners. The company chose to work with Hortonwork’s Hadoop product because it offered an open source platform that was highly scalable and the vendor was willing to work with eBay to design product enhancements. With a foundation of Hadoop and Hortonworks, the other two components of eBay’s data platform strategy are what it calls streams and services.
A big technical challenge for eBay and every data-intensive business is to deploy a system that can rapidly analyze and act on data as it arrives into the organization’s systems (called streaming data). There are many rapidly evolving methods to support streaming data analysis. eBay is currently working with several tools including Apache Spark, Storm, Kafka, and Hortonworks HDF. The data services layer of its strategy provides functions that enable a company to access and query data. It allows the company’s data analysts to search information tags that have been associated with the data (called metadata) and makes it consumable to as many people as possible with the right level of security and permissions (called data governance). It’s also using an interactive query engine on Hadoop called Presto. The company has been at the forefront of using big data solutions and actively contributes its knowledge back to the open source community.
eBay’s current big data strategy represents a few of the potential combinations and options that are available to companies seeking to process a large volume of data that aren’t similar in format and combinations of data that may need to be analyzed in real-time or stored for analysis at a later date. Of course, the selection of big data solutions depends on what you are trying to accomplish as a business.
Using a big data and machine learning platform to deliver business value
In the case of eBay, the company is using big data and machine learning solutions to address use cases such as personalization, merchandising and A/B testing for new features to improve the user’s experience. For example, eBay models personalization on five quarters of structured (e.g. one billion listings, purchases, etc.) and unstructured (behavioral activity synopsis, word clouds, badges etc.) data. Merchandising improved by using analytics and machine learning to help recommend similar items on key placements on site and mobile. Items, such as deal discovery, uses machine learning to find patterns in structured data. eBay’s also creating predictive machine learning models for fraud detection, account take-over, and enabling buyer/seller risk prediction. Clearly, eBay has spent enormous time and resources attaining this level of expertise in data processing and business workflow enhancement. For eBay and many others, the journey is far from over. The company wants to continue to optimize streaming analytics and enhance data governance.
What should you do next?
For those companies that are getting started, Adunuthula offered a few words of sage advice. The biggest challenge is data governance and preventing it from becoming the wild west. A business can’t just dump everything into a system and worry about the governance later. If you’re building a data strategy today, start with the governance.
Examples of this could include defining the process for allowing access to different people and how to enable PCI compliance in the data sets for retailers. The strategy should outline how to make data discoverable and how to evolve the process. He noted that there are new solutions, such as Atlas and Navigator, emerging today. However, the landscape continually changes. If you are starting the journey today, a business can put data governance in place before building massive datasets, data warehouses, and data lakes. It’s easier to add data governance at the beginning of the process.
From discussions with my clients, I’ve learned there are several important steps in building a big data strategy that includes:
- Defining a quick win and a longer term use case. Building a tightly scoped use case is essential for acquiring funding and demonstrating immediate value from your data strategy efforts. For example, many companies define a use case that involves connecting and analyzing new data sources to understand buying behaviors. Selecting a narrow use case allows data analysts to test new technologies and deliver new insights to the business.
- Evaluating what you need in a data partner. eBay has a sophisticated engineering team and knows what it was trying to achieve. The company was looking for a partner to help deliver scale and assistance in improving open source solutions. A company might also need their partner to provide more training, consulting services and reference architectures based on industry.
- Building the right ecosystem. There isn’t one data storage and analytics solution that will solve all of a company’s use cases. In some areas, a company’s existing data warehouse solutions work perfectly. In other cases, you’ll need streaming analytics. Similarly, there isn’t a single tool or vendor that will provide everything you need. Today’s data analysis world requires an ecosystem of tools and partners. Look for partnerships between vendors that will ease integration challenges.
- Looking for new use cases. Instead of replicating what you have, a business should look for ways that new data can be acquired and analyzed to improve your business processes. Part of the benefit of these new data and analytics tools is discovering patterns, anomalies and new insights that didn’t exist in your legacy data analysis system. Business leaders should work with IT to look for ways that new data storage and analytics solutions can answer questions that weren’t easy to answer in the past.