Feeling the Google Buzz?

Google's latest stab at social networking is creating a lot of "buzz," but it remains to be seen whether it will become as dominant as Facebook or Twitter. Based on initial reactions, it doesn't appear to be a threat. The real question, though, is whether it will make Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) a stronger contender in the enterprise.

Make no mistake: That's one of the company's goals with Google Buzz, which uses the inbox as a way of bringing together all of one's social networking activities.

"The inbox is the center of attention for many people's online communication, but the way today's social tools interact with e-mail is pretty limited," said Todd Jackson, the product manager for Buzz, speaking at Google's headquarters at an event that was webcast. "With Buzz, we wanted to change that and bring social updates to your inbox in a way that goes beyond normal e-mail."

Buzz got off to a curious start, rattling some of its Gmail users. "OK, Google Buzz, you've made your point. Now how do I shut [you] off?" tweeted Jeffrey McManus, CEO of Platform associates, the developer of Aprover.com and a Gmail user.

I asked McManus, a longtime user of social networks and well-known in the .NET development community, for his thoughts on Google's long-term prospects in the enterprise.

"Buzz brings very little that's new to the table," he responded.

Burton Group analyst Guy Creese agreed in a blog post this morning. Creese and others believe that Microsoft already has a superior answer to Buzz in its Outlook Social Connector, which will appear in Office 2010, due for release this spring. While it remains to be seen how well Outlook Social Connector will be received, Creese believes it's a good start and will appeal to those comfortable with Outlook.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft seems to feel the same way. ZDnet blogger and Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley said in a blog post yesterday that Microsoft doesn't appear to be concerned. "Are the Softies quaking in their boots? Not exactly," she wrote.

However, some analysts suggest that while Buzz may not displace Facebook and Twitter, it could gain traction. "Despite mediocre past attempts at social networking products such as Orkut or Dodgeball," wrote Interpret analyst Michael Gartenberg in a blog post, "Buzz is likely to attract a strong following by virtue of its tight integration into Gmail and the ability for Google to expose the service to advanced as well as novice users immediately."

I'd like to hear from those who've used Outlook Social Connector and Google Buzz and get your thoughts. And for those in the channel selling Office and SharePoint, what's your take? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 10, 2010 at 11:59 AM0 comments

Microsoft Clams Up on BPOS-Lite Rumor

Microsoft has removed a job posting seeking a manager for a new hosted offering intended to bring e-mail and collaboration services to SMBs.

The service is code-named "BPOS-Lite," according to text of the posting, which was revealed Monday by ZDNet.com and Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley. "BPOS 'Lite'...is part of the 'next wave' of services targeting professional individuals and smaller organizations, offering Microsoft's best collaboration, communications and productivity services," the now-removed posting said.

The manager hired for the position will be charged with developing business strategy, including creating a go-to-market model, launching services and developing service enhancements, according to the posting. The manager will "act as strong advocate for BPOS-Lite with corporate, field and partner teams; with analysts; and at industry and customer events," according to the post.

Microsoft isn't commenting, though its partner group has tweeted Foley's post. "We are always working on the next wave of Microsoft Online Services, offering Microsoft's best collaboration, communications and productivity services to businesses of all sizes," said a prepared statement e-mailed by a company spokesperson. "Although we do not have details available to share today, we look forward to sharing more at a later date."

Perhaps that later date will land during Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. that's slated for July, speculated The VAR Guy.

One person who's heard rumblings about BPOS-Lite is Bob Leibholz, vice president of business development at New York-based Intermedia, a Microsoft Gold Certified partner and one of the largest BPOS hosting providers with over 250,000 Microsoft Exchange seats. Leibholz said Microsoft hasn't given him any information about the service and he's wondering if it may put a tighter squeeze on him and his partners.

Leibholz made his displeasure known last fall when Microsoft cut the pricing of BPOS from $15 a month per subscriber to $10.

"From my perspective, they devalued BPOS last year when they decreased the price, and a concept of BPOS-Lite, which is basically another price concession, fundamentally continues to miss the understanding of value and rather compete purely on price," Leibholz said in an interview today.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has experienced scattered outages with its BPOS service over the past week, most recently yesterday. According to a letter to customers last week from Microsoft's Online Services team, the root cause of the outages were issues with networking. "We hold ourselves to the very highest standard," the letter said. "And yesterday, we didn't meet it."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 02, 2010 at 11:59 AM0 comments

Will Apple's iPad Define Slate Computing?

While there's no shortage of opinions as to whether Apple will catch lightning in a bottle for a third time with its new iPad, there's a good case to be made that the initial entry could be a boon to those developing PC-based slates.

As media critic David Carr reports today in The New York Times, the iPad "is a device for consuming media, not creating it." That's not to suggest that future releases won't raise the bar, but as many observers suggest, Apple also has to make sure not to offer too much and risk cannibalizing its MacBook product line.

Ironically, this is the same issue Microsoft faced in its initial hesitation to embrace netbooks. But the real potential of the iPad and similar Windows 7-based devices, such as one anticipated from Hewlett-Packard, is for them to let individuals consume content as a companion to one's computing experience, not a replacement. That's where the concept of the iPad and Windows 7-based slates could shine.

Among the biggest criticisms of the iPad is that it can't multitask and won't support Adobe's Flash (nor are there known plans for it to support Microsoft's Silverlight). In a Wired magazine report, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was reported to have told employees in a profanity-laden rant that Flash is too buggy and that Adobe is lazy. "No one will be using Flash," Jobs reportedly said. "The world is moving to HTML 5."

Adrian Ludwig, general manager for Adobe's Flash platform product organization, suggests in a blog post that he believes Apple's real motive is control over content. "It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers," Ludwig wrote. "Without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of Web content, including over 70 percent of games and 75 percent of video on the Web."

Several content producers tell The Times that the stalemate could indeed hasten acceptance of HTML 5. John Gruber, author of the popular Mac blog Daring Fireball, wrote that it "used to be you could argue that Flash, whatever its merits, delivered content to the entire audience you cared about. That's no longer true, and Adobe's Flash penetration is shrinking with each iPhone OS device Apple sells."

Meanwhile, as Windows 7-based slates come out this year, it is possible that OEMs will play both sides of the coin. Those that support Windows 7 already effectively support Flash, Silverlight and other runtime environments, presuming they don't strip those capabilities out. Because of the broader ecosystem of devices, some will purely access content, while others will both create and view it.

But regardless of how you view the iPad or slate computing in general, Apple has put a stake in the ground for a class of devices that potentially can redefine how we consume content, advancing on what Amazon has done with the Kindle.

Let's see what HP and the rest of its Wintel brethren bring out.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on February 01, 2010 at 11:59 AM0 comments

With New CEO, Will CA Boost Channel Effort?

When John Swainson arrived at CA in 2004 after his predecessor went to jail for accounting fraud, he quickly shook up its channel program.

Swainson announced his retirement in September and yesterday CA announced his successor, Bill McCracken, who seemingly had been groomed for the slot in recent months. A Swainson protégé, both spent more than three decades, running key business units at IBM.

In fact, McCracken has a channel background on his resume. At IBM, he was general manager of marketing, sales and distribution for its PC group (that group was sold to Lenovo in 2005).  McCracken was also a director of IKON Office Solutions, which was acquired by Ricoh Co. in 2008.

Forrester Research analyst Glenn O'Donnell, recalls that Swainson disrupted CA's channel but it was something that in retrospect had to be done. "It looked like a foolish thing to do at the time but some of the go-to-market efforts that were out there were not sustainable for a company that wanted to survive," O'Donnell said.

CA still has much work to do to rebuild its channel, O'Donnell said. "It's improving but they need to continue rebuilding it," he said. "Now that they've stabilized the patient and the patient is actually coming back to health quite nicely, now it's time to go out and fortify some of those channels more."

That means providing more channel partners and more tools so they can translate CA's message better to their customers, he said.

If you're a CA channel partner or are perhaps are considering becoming one, let us know how you think they are doing these days, and what changes you'd like to see them make. Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on January 29, 2010 at 11:59 AM0 comments

Ellison Talks Up Plan To Move to Direct Sales Model for Largest Sun Customers

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison today confirmed the company is going to sell and service the top 4,000 customers of Sun Microsystems directly but that the remaining 31,000 smaller customers will continue to be served by its channel partners.

Ellison spoke this afternoon at a briefing held at Oracle's Silicon Valley headquarters, capping a five-hour roadmap briefing by top executives. The briefing mapped out plans to integrate the two companies, which came one day following the closing of Oracle's $7.4 billion deal to acquire Sun.

As I reported earlier today, Ellison told The New York Times that Sun's partner model was "disastrous." Ellison re-iterated that he believes Oracle is better suited at selling and servicing the combined company's largest enterprise customers.

"Where Sun was sold primarily through partners and serviced their customers primarily through partners, we're going to take the top 4,000 Sun customers and go direct -- sell to them directly, service them directly, work with them directly and make sure those customers get a good return on that investment," Ellison said.

Oracle is still committed to Sun's channel partners that service its smaller customers, he said. "Sun has a number of channel partners, Oracle has a number of channel partners, they will do a great job of servicing the other 31,000 Sun customers," he said. "We are going to rely on those channel partners, we're going to work with those channel partners, we are going to do everything we can to make them successful. They will have the same broad range of products that they got from Sun and now Oracle combined."

Plans call for combining the two companies' channel programs. But Ellison acknowledged there are instances where some large enterprises will need to or insist upon being serviced by partners. But he warned he doesn't want traditional resellers in the mix.

"As long as you're a value-added partner to the large customers, you'll keep selling to those partners," Ellison said. "If you simply take the Sun box, do nothing to it, and just resell it, and that's all you're really doing, then at that point we think we are better off going direct to the customers."

Is Ellison sticking it to channel partners who were loyal to Sun for so many years? Will those displaced partners move toward pushing gear from Hewlett-Packard, which earlier this month inked a $250 million agreement with Microsoft to jointly develop their own next-generation datacenter technology? Or will you look elsewhere such as Dell? Or perhaps you see enough opportunity with the combined conglomerate to stay the course?

Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on January 28, 2010 at 11:59 AM0 comments

Undoing a 'Disaster,' Oracle Plans To Take Sun Sales Direct

Today could be a big day for those who implement data center technology, databases, applications and software based on Java.

As reported, Oracle today will outline its plans for integrating Sun Microsystems. Part of that plan includes hiring 2,000 engineers and sales people to sell integrated appliances that include provide integrated databases, app software, servers, storage and network gear, according to published reports. The integrated appliance model could be a multi-billion dollar business, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison tells The Wall Street Journal.

However Oracle will sell its products direct to Sun's top 4,000 customers, Ellison tells The New York Times. Those 4,000 customers account for 70 percent of Oracle's revenues. Ellison indicated Oracle will move away from relying on Sun's partners to serve those customers.

"The partner model was disastrous, and we are immediately changing that," Ellison tells the Times. Such a move could leave a lot of partners out in the cold. Will those displaced partners move to pushing gear from Hewlett Packard, which earlier this month inked a $250 million agreement with Microsoft to jointly develop their own next-generation data center technology?

Or will Dell, which is looking to build its own partner ecosystem, become an attractive haven? How will Oracle's move affect the way all those players treat partners in the future?

Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on January 27, 2010 at 11:59 AM0 comments

Will Microsoft-HP Pact Benefit Partners?

HP and Microsoft's $250 million deal extending their longstanding relationship is aimed at bringing turnkey applications and solutions based on both companies' systems management, virtualization and cloud technologies.

While the deal is primarily focused on bringing together engineering resources aimed at providing advanced solutions, part of the $250 million will be allocated to go-to-market efforts, as well. It's not clear how the funds are being divvied up.

David Donatelli, executive vice president of HP's enterprise servers, storage and networking business, said, "As part of this agreement, we are increasing our investment in our go-to-market by 10 times what we are already doing. That means, specifically, we will have new dedicated sales reps who are going to be helping customers take advantage of these technologies."

Did I hear 10 times more on dedicated sales reps? What about the channel?

In a letter today, Allison Watson, Microsoft's corporate vice president for the worldwide partner group, said the deal will benefit solution providers, as well.

"For the first time, you can tap the full potential of combined Microsoft and HP solutions to deliver unified management of servers, storage, networks, applications and datacenters," Watson wrote. "IDC estimates that 58 percent of Microsoft customers will deploy Microsoft virtualization technologies in the next two years, which can open more opportunities for your business. In addition, converged HP and Microsoft applications technology and solutions make it possible for you to offer high-volume, services-rich IT infrastructure upgrades for your installed base and new accounts."

For the first call to action, she suggested considering becoming a joint HP and Microsoft Frontline Partner. She also recommended the following:

  • Leverage HP Virtualization Smart Bundles with Hyper-V.

  • Discover HP SQL Server 2008 Fast Track data warehouse solutions.

  • Download the HP SQL Server 2008 sizers for online transaction processing (OLTP) and business intelligence (BI).

  • Leverage the combination of SQL Server 2008 with HP BladeSystem Matrix infrastructure orchestration template for OLTP Enterprise configuration and BI Enterprise configuration.

  • Learn how to successfully sell infrastructure solutions with Microsoft Sales University.

  • Become well-prepared to sell virtualization solutions with a Microsoft Sales Specialist accreditation.

  • Find out more about Microsoft Core Infrastructure solutions and competencies.

We at RCP want to get your take on this pact. Hyperbole? Opportunity? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on January 13, 2010 at 11:59 AM2 comments

Accenture's Mistake with Tiger Woods Transcends Fiasco

When Accenture last week ditched Tiger Woods as its sole pitchman, it served as a key reminder of what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket.

Accenture is one of the largest independent providers of IT consulting, integration and outsourcing services with annual revenues of $21.58 in fiscal year 2009. The company, which had blanketed Woods across all media in its "We Know What it Takes to be a Tiger" campaign last week scrubbed all vestiges of Woods from its Web site and removed all posters and other collateral from its offices, according to a front page story in The New York Times.

Until last month, the golf champion had an unblemished image. It all came apart with daily allegations of indiscretions and infidelities that have since dominated the news. Accenture last week issued a statement saying "the company has determined that he is no longer the right representative," and that it will roll out a new campaign in 2010.

The new campaign will continue to carry its High Performance Delivered” message, Accenture said. While Accenture and its ad agencies are undoubtedly scrambling to come up with a new strategy, it might be advisable not to have that message riding on one point of failure, especially considering the fact that enterprise customers expect their services providers to avoid that very thing from happening in their IT environments.

According to the Times report, Woods appeared in 83 percent of Accenture's ads. Besides having so much riding on Woods, columnist Frank Rich yesterday pointed to a conversation he had last week with New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica. "If Tiger Woods was so important to Accenture, how come I didn’t know what Accenture did when they fired him," Lupica asked Rich, in his weekly column.

Granted most buyers of IT consulting and integration services are familiar with Accenture, its revenues and profits have declined over the past year. So maybe it was time for the company to reshape how it delivered its value proposition. Even if Tiger Woods fiasco hadn't unfolded, perhaps he wasn't the best representative for a company providing IT services after all, notes Directions on Microsoft analyst Paul DeGroot, during an e-mail exchange we had last week.

"If you want to come across as hip, fast, physically gifted, by all means hire Tiger Woods," DeGroot said. "The lesson is, align your [message] with your company image."


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on December 21, 2009 at 11:59 AM2 comments