The iPad Juggernaut …..

I guess it was bound to happen.  It is something I have seen many times before.  It is annoying, frustrating, and in some corners just plain pathetic.  Addressing the competitive threat by any means necessary.  even when it is obviously desperate.  It’s these type of corporate responses that drive me nuts. Recently Microsoft (my old company) has come under a lot of pressure to come up with a Tablet strategy.  I should add Microsoft has had for years a Tablet.  It was one of Bill Gates’ pet projects,  They just need a strategy that works.   The Microsoft response is a iPad battle card to help Microsoft partners and its field sales force sell Windows 7 slates in the enterprise, while combating the threat from the iPad.

Let me go back a bit in time and just say I have seen these battle cards before.  It was pretty standard practice at Microsoft across all battle lines and often they were very helpful.  However after the successful debut of the Apple iPhone I received in my mail box a little envelope that contained my Windows Phone 6 versus the Apple iPhone battle card (I am serious…I am not making this up).  What were some of the advantages of Windows Phone 6?  It had mobile Office, Sharepoint Support, better Exchange Synch etc..If you read the link earlier you will by now realize that whomever the marketing manager is who put the Apple iPad battle card together has mastered the art of copy and paste.

Do not get me wrong for a minute, I do not envy the marketing Manager who had the responsibility of taking this on.  It is one of those things that when nothing is happening on the product side you still have to generate some sort of response, the worst thing is to be quiet. And to their credit they created some really nice slide ware. I will be however surprised to see if any of my former mates in the Microsoft field sales force ever have the guts to present this to a customer or even regurgitate it over drinks or dinner with a client.

The slide, though intended for partners, demonstrates the focus on the enterprise and the disengagement in general from the consumer market place.  I should also add this did not come out of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division.  If it had it would have a far greater emphasis on the general market.  The Windows Division is outside all of that its own $20 billion juggernaut.  We call that power.    The slides do highlight the success the iPad is having in the enterprise space as more and more users want access to their corporate networks from their iPad.  It’s the reverse of what happened with Windows , which first took off in the business world before penetrating the home.  But times have changed and with new devices hitting the market at an ever-increasing pace and a much more affordable price big sea changes in the enterprise often come from the outside in versus the inside out.  People want to be cool even when they are in he office.  Even if they are an accountant.

Finally the biggest issue I hear these days is people at the Big M are tired of following and not leading (the exception being the xBox team with Kinect).  They want to be out in front of the industry.  But if you read my last blog on Facebook I highlighted how similar they were to Microsoft, when it was a younger company.  Now it’s not like people at Microsoft are really old, no far worse, they are middle-aged.  They have kids, they live through their kids, they have divorces, they are joining AA, they buy expensive sports cars, they try really hard physical activities that they used to be able to do, they buy iPads…I think you are getting the picture.

In the mean time the Tablet market keeps chugging along as highlighted in Apples recent earnings announcement.  There are other entrants that are also gaining momentum, like Android (we should seem new slide ware shortly).  I admit I was skeptical when the iPad came out.  I felt like it was just a giant OS, but there is a beauty in having the same core code between your phone and your tablet.  The applications are easy to write for both.  The iPad seems to be gaining momentum as it creates a scenario where a more powerful device can be useful and mobile.  There are a lot of scenario where having a monitor is useful and even desired, but with so much time spent on the web there are a lot of scenarios where it does not, just look at all the useful features of the latest Facebook mobile apps.  How many people out there are just checking into their favorite Starbuck’s? I need no mouse or keyboard for that I just need my finger.  The only way to compete with iPad is to get ahead of it, but once a boulder starts to slide down a mountain it i s hard to stop.

Good Night and Good Luck!

Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 25th, 2011

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Facebook

With the movie “The Social Network” winning big at the Golden Globe Award maybe it’s a good time to  look at the current landscape in the industry one of the glamor children is without question, Facebook. It’s easy to look at Facebook and see the appeal.  For starters they have 500 million users.   It allows you to connect with people from your past life and your present life. It has the ease of use thing down so any person logging on to the internet can quickly get on to start benefiting from the experience.  Finally it’s fun.  But as always in technology there are bigger things at stake.  Underneath it all is a booming business and an opportunity to define the future of technology.   It has, as I have called it, the velocity of business.  With each wave they come bigger and faster.  We started with Microsoft.  Then Google.  Now we enter the Facebook era.

Like any great business in the technology sector it starts young.  Usually around the college age.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sounds like a Bill Gates clone.  Teenage computer wiz, goes to Harvard, drops out, makes his first billion.  It’s a pretty simple formula.  The thing that Facebook has so in common with Microsoft and Google is that in its early years, and Facebook is still there, the employees of Facebook are young.  If I joined Facebook (I am 44) I would probably double the average age of the company.  All great technology companies in the early days have that singular focus, from top to bottom.  They come in late and stay late.  They eat like crap.  They have no sense of fashion.  They do not have families to go home to,  They have but one mission, create the future of tomorrow.  Watch ant CNBC special, read any Facebook blog, you name it and you will see Facebook’s culture is exactly that.  Do not worry that these young kids will dominate the world for the next  twenty years, because in twenty years they will be middle-aged.

The great things about youth is it envisions a greater and brighter future for the world.That is part of being young, that desire and hunger to make a difference.  Facebook started simply as a way for Harvard Students to connect with one another and then it spread to other Universities.  As is so often said, big things start small.  Then the young guns started to think big.  We can bring people’s past to the present.  Beyond friends we can link companies, provide news, drive political discourse etc..Was there a successful campaign run in 2008 that did not leverage Facebook to some degree?  the fact that Barack Obama had this huge grass-roots movement started by the youth of America was instrumental in getting him elected and Facebook was a big part of that .  These things don’t happen by accident like people would like to think.  In the background is a small office in the Silicon Valley, that is young and thinking big and driving these changes in how society functions.

So why the fear by so many companies of Facebook?  Microsoft may be an investor in Facebook, but they worry. Google is terrified of Facebook.  One thing is mass.  Today depending in who and what day you listen to Facebook has between 500 million and 600 million subscribers.  A great many are active.  they spend time on Facebook and not just a few seconds to type in a search criteria but to share comments, to upload pictures, view others comments, to say the “like” a particular post, play games, etc..When people spend a lot of time at a particular location on the internet than the obvious question becomes “how do we monetize it?”  With Facebook it now has developers writing games for Facebook.  Facebook has its own instant message client.  Looking forward you can see search being a larger component of the user experience, I think this alone would keep Google executives awake at night.  the more developers writing applications for Facebook, the less time for Windows.  I would assume a lot of applications for Facebook would not reside on your desktop, but would sit out on the internet thus making Facebook a really great cloud computing platform and putting it in the early lead of consumer facing cloud based applications (as it currently stands today Facebook is a cloud based application).

Finally Facebook has taken advantage of current technology trends to extend its reach, specifically I am referring to mobility.  If you look at your Facebook posts today how many posts are coming from a mobile device?  As Apple launched a new era of mobile apps (yes there were application for mobile devices before but to find them and load them was painful and that is being kind), Facebook took full advantage.  Now you see posts coming from iPhones, Android Devices and Blackberry’s.  The beauty of mobility is freedom and Facebook seems to add nicely to that user experience.  Because in the end we want our lives, in particular our social lives to be care free.

Looking forward it is easy to project now that Facebook will be a major force, but as is so evident in technology things continue to change and things our changing faster than ever.  It took Microsoft twenty years to get to Windows 95.  It was a singular focus that drove that vision.  That kind of commitment, that type of time line is a thing of the past.  As  is evident with Google then with Facebook the internet gives rise to new power players in less than a decade.  It’s important to have a long-term  outlook in business but the question these days is how long do you look forward?  If you look too far out some company may pass you by before you get there.  For now the ball is in Facebook’s court, is there a young kid with an idea with a vision that will pass Facebook?  In all likelihood, based on what we know, the answer is yes.   With that enjoy I hope you enjoyed this post which many of you will access from…Facebook.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann,  January 17, 2011

Generating “Buzz”

With the Consumer Electronic Show just having been completed I think it is a good time to talk about one of those things that every technology provider strives for which is to generate a certain amount of “buzz” around a future product.  It is so very important to the success of any new product that people begin  to talk about it before the product is released.  Certainly out of this years show there was a lot of noise generated around Google’s Android platform, with companies making a big push to showcase upcoming releases of both phones and tablets.  Companies like Verizon, Samsung and Motorola did a lot to push the new releases of Android based tablets, pinning future success on the release of the product.

There are some good historical examples.  The “buzz” generated around Microsoft Windows 95 or the “buzz” created around the Apple iPhone.  In each case you had people lined up at midnight to get the product.  This is great stuff, but there is another type of “buzz” that gets created underneath all that and that is creating the excitement in the developer community.  The people who make the cool apps for the Apple app store or Google store.   Without developers extending and creating a market place an application can have a very short life span

My last role at Microsoft there was a commitment that everyone had to sign up about creating “buzz” in the development community for Microsoft Developer tools .  To clarify for those with no Microsoft background every employee signs up for a “commitment”, which is a goal that will be either fulfilled or not fulfilled come review time at the end of the Microsoft fiscal year.  This determines salary increase, bonus and promotion.  Anybody reading this probably has the same question is what the hell does “generating buzz”  mean?  Being developer land, my first thought was “good luck…with that”.  How are less than 100 people out in the field going to generate excitement around Microsoft Developer technologies, especially when there are so many dependencies? 

To be fair to create buzz goes beyond assigning a few people it really takes a commitment beyond a few individuals, to multiple organizations to external partners.  One of the keys to Apple’s iPhone success was not just the whisper campaign they were generating.  They also had a behemoth like AT&T behind them and they were fully bought in, up to their neck.  Not like the dipping their toes into the water effort they did with the Windows Phone 7 launch.

Another key success factor is just having a product, because it is the end game , it is where you are trying to take the consumer.  When the product launched there is a certain level of satisfaction in having got there.  Sometimes tech companies are guilty of trying to generate excitement without really telling the end customer what to be excited about.  Usually it is to try to get people excited about the company.  Coming from my background at Microsoft the last years seemed to be spent trying to recapture the glory of yester year.

Having a certain level of “buzz” is the difference between having momentum and not having momentum.  When you have the ear of the consumer and the press then a new phenomena sets in, which is “what is next?”  In todays world Apple certainly has tha momentum.  They have the iPod, iPhone, MacBooks,i Pad, Apple Store…they really are in the zone right now here they are setting the industry direction.  Google now is starting to get beyond just being a search company with first Android and next Chrome. Facebook maybe has more momentum than anybody as under their CEO Mark Zuckerburg, they have that “it’s a young mans game” syndrome going.  Similar to what Bill Gate’s had back in the 80’s and 90’s.  It’s the difference between rolling the boulder up the hill or down the hill.

Finally with regards to CES and why it has become what it has. A big reason is that technology is pervasive in everybody’s lives today.  It is not restricted to the “nerd” or “geek” or “hobbyist”.  We all have technology in some capacity of our lives.  It is our cell phones, flat screen TV’s, Tivo, game console’s, Roomba’s, etc.. The Consumer Electronics Show is about showing off how technology is going to further enhance our day-to-day lives in the near future.  Any company participating better not be showing off what is already available.  Attendees want to see the coming years Christmas purchase, not what they already have.  They want the participating companies to wow them.  In short they want some “buzz”.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 10th, 2011

Life of the Political Lobbyist – Part 2

One of the best parts of being politically active was not only the opportunity to meet and hear powerful people, but as the MSPAC matured it began to think about real lobbying, which meant only one thing: Washington DC.   Our MSPAC leaders, Mike Egan (D) and Kim Werdell (R) would organize a group trip to Washington DC to meet with Congressman and Senators on the hill.  Mike was the funny guy and Kim was the organized one.  Political affiliation had nothing to do with that…really.  We pulled people from different Microsoft offices, many came from Redmond but we also had Fargo, North Dakota, Silicon Valle, Irving, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina represented.  I experienced a lot of cool things the 4 times I went to the hill but here are some of my favorite highlights.

The first trip was a great adventure just because like anything fun in life, it was new!  We flew to Reagan International Airport in DC.    The five-hour flight was non descriptive which is always a good thing when you are flying.  We were than whisked away to the Capitol  Building where we were to meet in Congress Woman Jennifer Dunn of Washington State’s 8th congressional district.  As we boarded our bus I realized I was not dressed in the right attire as I thought we were going to our hotel first.  As we were traveling through DC, our leader Mike Egan was acting as tourist guide.  A highlight being, “..and there is Congressman Patrick Kennedy talking to an attractive young woman”.  He’s a Kennedy.  It’s the expectation not the norm.  We departed the bus and I was putting on my tie as we walked to the Capitol building and found our way over to Congresswoman Dunn’s office.  There was a lot of food and a lot of staffers in the room.  As I learned this is how staffers lived – literally.  This was dinner.  During that time we met Congressman Rick Larson of Washington State.  We went back to our hotel rooms, some went out others called it a night.

The next morning at breakfast was really the first chance I had to meet everyone who was with us on the trip.  Most distinct,a s we did our round of introductions was the boisterous and lovely Jerri Johnson, “from the great  state of Texas!!”,  She was a big Bush supporter and so politically we did not agree on much but she was very nice and fun to hang out with.  We also had a Jewish democrat Rob Dolan with us, passionate about politics and passionate about Microsoft. Tim the lawyer, Matt our Capitol Hill Lobbyist on the Democratic side, John Sampson, the Republican side of the House, Scott, Lobbyist for the Dems in the Senate,  John Newhart from the Microsoft Office Team,  a few guys from the MS mobility team who thought it was a sales call, Meghan our assistant from Redmond, and a bunch more – we were tech people in business attire.  A odd-looking crew.

In year two when we went we went as usual to the Capitol Building and this time to the office of Washington State House representative, Jay Inslee.  After a brief meeting with Jay in his office he took us out on a guided tour of the capitol building after hours.  It was very cool as we were the only ones in the building.  We went by all the statues, each state has two statues of key figures in that state’s history.

The highlight of the second trip would be what is called a departure.  I had no idea what it was, but we went to  the white house and got through security, which was very tight.  Once on the White House grounds we walked by the entry way into the White House.  A car had pulled up to the entrance and the door opened and out popped right in front of me Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.  He must have recently fallen as his arm was in a sling.   Getting out of the car next was General Pete Pace and has he got out of the car he saw me and said “Hi”.  A small moment in my life but it is cool to see the power players.

From there we were led around and saw a few things of interest.  Where the press corp resides on the White House Lawn and the Press room.  Apparently it was a swimming pool before it was converted to what we see on television today.  What you do not see is that it is very cramped, has no windows and would be a nightmare for the press corp without air conditioning.  We then went by the rose garden, which is right outside the oval office,  Again not very big but pretty.  We then were led to a roped off area outside the residence.  Though we could not see him the Presidents Scottish terrier was in full force barking up a storm inside the residence.  With the doors open he was not hard to hear,

Then all of a sudden out of the sky came a military helicopter landing onto the White House lawn.  We were all behind a roped area, Jerri Johnson was next to me waving the flag of Texas.  As the helicopter waited, we waited.  Then Laura Bush came out followed by twin daughters Jenna and Barbara.  Those two wanted nothing to do with anybody.  No waving or smiling just heads down and straight for the waiting helicopter.  Frankly they looked pissed.  Then we waited a few moments until all of a sudden popping out from the oval office was President Bush and his entourage.  he strode very confidently across the lawn.  Next to him was then National Security Adviser Condalisa Rice and Karl Rove.  They were all followed bu Chief of Staff Andrew Card.  The president waved and immediately picked out the Texas flag, smiled and pointed at Jerri.  It was a cool moment for Jerri and since she was a big Bush supporter I was happy for her.  As the President boarded he salute the Marine standing by the door went to the top of the stairs, turned and did the classic Presidential wave  and disappeared into the helicopter.

The final note on this for those who have not seen when the helicopter takes off from the White House lawn, out of no where come two identical helicopters as a diversion for any potential attack on the President.

In between all these cool moments the MSPAC team did spend time meeting in the halls of Congress visiting with both Senators and Congressman.   Listening to Congressman John Lewis of Georgia talk about Selma, Alabama and the Civil Rights movement will always be a highlight of my life.  Afterwords he and I talked about Seattle artist Jacob Lawrence, whom he had known.  Eating at the Capital Hill lunch room will be a memorable dining experience, the tour underneath the Capital building was also cool – there is a lot of space down there  that few people know about.  Seeing the tomb where George Washington has been invited to lay in rest (he is still in Mount Vernon), Ted Kennedy speaking on the Senate floor, Hilary Clinton on her Cell phone,…there is a lot more but for now I will just say we should all be thankful for the people who lead this country, I just hope those in power never forget why they are there and forget that it is a privilege to serve.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 6, 2011