I was recently asked “What’s the one hot technology to watch in 2011?” and my response was immediate: Mobile devices without a doubt.
The explosion of new form factors for mobile computing is staggering to behold. Smartphones and tablets are changing the face of information technology. New devices are released monthly and highly anticipated by users. Owners of mobile devices fanatically scour the app stores for good deals on the highest rated apps. Services ranging from Netflix access, to CRM software, to electronic medical records (EMR) are revolutionizing how and more importantly WHERE we access and interact with our digital lives. When combined with cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) the possibilities are staggering.
Smartphones have been a challenge for the enterprise for several years now. Starting with the Blackberry and then moving through Windows Mobile, Apple ios and now Google Android, end-users are demanding mobile access to corporate resources with their personal equipment and businesses are being forced to support them. It’s not just rank and file information workers either, executives have bought in to the productivity gains to be had by delivering high-quality mobile products on the smartphone platform. And most everyone agrees… mobile is just plain fun.
Regarding tablets, some consider them just a larger form factor smartphone, but they’re only partly right. Many consider them mainly entertainment devices, but that’s only the start. Tablet computers (iPad and now Android and maybe Microsoft Windows 8 and the Playbook) are a new type of device with many of the capabilities of a full desktop or notebook computer, but that run an embedded “system on a chip.” This category of device is changing how operating systems are developed and delivered. Trying to understand how having a single-chip appliance with all of the capabilities of a desktop computer will change information technology is going to be a full time occupation for R&D analysts for the next several years.
Mobile technologies are the place to watch this year. They’re rapidly maturing after being in the marketplace for several years now. Businesses are in the process of determining how they can harness their capabilities and as we see new products come to market that take full advantage of the mobility that we’ve been granted by them there’s going to be a massive change in how people interact with their information technology systems.
For a taste of how “hot” mobile is check out the articles linked here:
1. This cnet article mentions that almost 20 BILLION apps have been downloaded from the Apple and Google marketplaces. Apple developers alone have made over $4.5 billion since the release of the Apple App Store in 2008.
2. Susan Fogerty at TechTarget wrote a great article about the surging popularity of tablets today. According to their research, tablets lead even smartphones as the mobile technology of choice for 2011. Both technologies far outstrip traditional notebook computers in their survey.
3. Gartner analyzes tablet use in the enterprise in the final link. Gartner says that tablets are neither “better laptops” nor “better smartphones” but will compliment and enhance both.
Keep your eyes on mobile technologies in 2011 and 2012 and you won’t be disappointed.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype has a lot of people scratching their heads. It also has a lot of people thinking about Microsoft product integrations, feature enhancements, revenue opportunities for new advertising, and what to do with Skype‘s user base.
Well, *IF* I were Microsoft here are a few of the things I would do with Skype:
- Skype + InTune = A powerful driver to help InTune push in to small and medium sized businesses with multiple locations and centralized support teams or that work with an external partner for support. Imagine just clicking an icon next to the time in your system tray and clicking “chat with support” or “call support” and having an instant Skype conversation with the support team… regardless of whether you were in your main office, working from home, or in a hotel room half way across the world!
- Skype + Lync = Compete with Google Voice/Talk as a consumer voicemail solution and you could partner with Verizon, T-Mobile (anyone but Sprint) to provide their voicemail services. Offer plans and special deals for small businesses to allow their mobile devices to “upgrade” and fully integrate with a hosted Lync service. You’re pulling an Apple here… get the consumers and have them drive the technology in to the business.
- Skype + Lync = Run virtual “pbx” companies like Grasshopper, Ring Central, Voice Nation out of business by doing the same thing but offering integrated Skype. If you add on on-site VoIP phones you can then compete with 8×8, Vocalocity and a dozen other hosted VoIP providers. Skype provides the vital outside-line capability that Lync lacks to compete in these spaces now.
- Skype + Sharepoint the Microsoft Partner Network = virtual partner teams. Microsoft makes use of “virtual teams” right now… this is Microsoft employees scattered across multiple teams with different goals and concentrations to do a particular project together. Do the same thing with partners. Push Microsoft’s infrastructure out to Partners and engage them together with a combination of technologies to enable instant, powerful collaboration across a wide geography, across multiple partners and internal Microsoft teams.
- Skype + CRM + Lync + Outlook = a leg up over Salesforce.com. Imagine not only having all your CRM data but being able to click a contact in CRM, hit the Skype button to instantly connect to them and then have a note made in CRM for the date/time for that contact. All of this without an expensive onsite VoIP phone system.
- Skype + Outlook = more easy recurring revenue. Bundle Skype with every Outlook client sold and call it Outlook Everywhere (not to be confused with Outlook Anywhere!) and, wait for it… give it away for free (not Office though). Enable people to natively connect to others that have Outlook Everywhere. Here’s where the money comes in… if they want to dial out of Skype there’s a “Buy Points” button RIGHT IN OUTLOOK and instantly charges their card and shows their remaining personal (or corporate if they’re set up that way) Skype credits. You still get the revenue from selling Office licenses and you could make two versions… one supported by ads in Outlook Everywhere and a corporate one that comes with Office and no ads.
- Skype + Live Meeting = make them a single product with a “lite” version that lets you attend Live Meetings, use the base Skype features but not host meetings. Maybe you could use a reduced set of Live Meeting features with just one person at a time. Allow in-app purchases for single-session upgrades to host larger meetings. You just pay $3.99 (or whatever) and then your Live Meeting Lite becomes a full Live Meeting and you can host a full meeting for up to 10 users. Scale it up for larger numbers. They could still purchase subscriptions for unlimited use as well… perhaps also from within the application itself!
- Skype + Bing Videos = record Skype video calls straight to Bing Video and then share them either with a small group or with the world! Have a family reunion on Skype and save it for posterity. Have a business video conference and instantly archive it for reference later.
- Skype + Android/iPhone = a Microsoft foothold on competing devices through application software their owners already use. Do it slowly and unobtrusively and without splattering the Microsoft logo across everything. Start with “enhancing” Skype mobile with integration to a free mobile LiveMeeting/Lync/InTune client. Depending on the product synergies you can either target consumers or businesses. Consumers get a “free” video conferencing client that gives them a powerful voicemail system in Lync. Marry it with presence features and make it a “social” version of Skype that works well cross-platform with Windows Phone. For businesses, give them a way to manage those Android/iPhone devices with an InTune client and instant access to their support desk with full remote viewing of the mobile device for support.
- Skype + Microsoft = lots of product synergies. This marriage makes lots of sense… if the products are intelligently, no… cleverly integrated. If Microsoft does it right they can keep the recurring revenue that Skype generates now… everyone loves recurring revenue and subscriptions… they can add features to their enterprise and especially SMB products… and they can become a name to reckon with in the consumer space once again. No longer is Microsoft just for businesses.
What would you do with Skype, if you were Microsoft?