Windows 9

Is it “Back to the Future”? No, I am just starting to think about ahead to the future of Windows. There is a little bit out there on the internet that we can point to regarding plans post Windows 8 which is set to ship god knows when.  But it makes for an interesting discussion.  One blog I found references a few things about the possible Windows 9 principles.    First it will be 64 bit only. 2:) There will be no legacy support.  3:) There will be only one OS 4:) There will be one user interface.  A lot of this was discussed at the Worldwide Partner Conference earlier this year so these are not shocking details but it does make for an interesting discussion and speculation.

Starting with 64 bit only I am not sure this is as big of deal, as for example when Windows 95 came out, which was 32 bit. When the industry moved from 16 bit to 32 bit the issue of compatibility wad important.  There were a lot of 16 bit Windows apps that would need to be supported.  Microsoft came up with Win32s (subsystem) in order to support those older applications.  In those days if you were a developer writing exciting applications you were writing to the Windows API’s.  This was before the web had taken off.  In order for an application to perform it needed Windows.  Moving forward to today’s developer environment, though still important, Windows is not the center of the development universe.  Developers are writing applications for the internet, meaning that consumption is through the browser (Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome, Firefox etc..).  Don’t get me wrong the decision (if true) to move to 64 but only will be a bit painful.  However there will not be as many applications that need to be moved to 64 bit in comparison to the jump from 16 bit to 32 bit.  There should be ample ramp up time.  We should see performance benefits from 64 bit, but in the end I believe due to the web this will be a non-event for both Microsoft and the industry.

The move to 64 bit makes the “no legacy” support a non-issue.  If you have an app that is dependent on Windows you are one of the few.  Over 70% of new development targets the web.  With more services being pushed to the cloud our PC’s are starting to resemble, dare I say, dumb terminals.  For device manufacturers this may be a bit more challenging as all device drivers will need to be updated.  So if you have a HP printer connected to Windows 7 or 8 and you buy a new PC but not a new printer, you will need a device driver written for 64 but.  Seems trivial to those who know what they are doing but most people don’t know where to find an update driver.    This will in the short run create support challenges for many and likely some PR disasters along the way, but we shall overcome.

One OS for all.  It seems like I have been here before back when Microsoft was shipping Windows and Windows NT.  There was a push to have a consolidated client operating system.  The world is a bit different now with the proliferation of different device form factors.  We now have Tablets, SmartPhones, Desktops, Laptops and new devices on the way.  So the question is how broad do you want to be when you say one OS for all?  Windows 8 already promises to be the desktop, laptop and tablet OS.  I guess that leaves the Windows Phone with is sitting over in a different organization at Microsoft, The Interactive Entertainment Business Group (IEB).  The group that owns the XBOX.  As I have said before this will not be a long discussion.  In the end Windows always wins.  Windows Phone will have a new home in the  next couple of years.  The key element in all this to me will be release cycles of the OS.  Phones and Tablets in the industry usually have new releases every year.  A desktop is every three years.  Ina  society where technology is consumer driven and these more aggressive life cycles are the norm, this will be the single biggest challenge of one OS.

Finally tagging on to that is the idea of one user interface.  My phone will look and feel like my laptop.  My tablet will feel like my phone.  Who knows what new devices and form factors lay on the horizon, but one thing is clear.  When we see Windows 9 the landscape will have changed yet again.  It is an interesting and predictable view from Microsoft.  But these ideas seem to much like an upgrade, a rather evil terms by today’s standards.  The idea of comfort.  It is something you are familiar with and feel at home with.  It is the Windows user interface. With Windows 8 the user interface is set to change with the introduction of the Metro interface.  A step in the right direction.  However Metro is taken from the Windows Phone experience, which is not built on the Windows code.  So the circle continues to morph into new and unexpected shapes.  When Windows 9 ships I do not expect Metro to be the user interface.  A bold prediction if I do dare say so myself.

In the end I do believe what we have “heard” so far is a good foundation for the future of Windows.  As I have stated it raises a number of questions.  Some internal to Microsoft and political.  Some are yet to be known as we do not know where the industry will be 3-5 years from now and what direction it has taken.  Others will be dependent on the success or failure of Windows 8, specifically in the tablet space.  If it succeeds expect the Windows division to consolidate and own all OS experiences within Microsoft.  If it fails and they continue to lose ground to Apple and Google, the wild west will be reopened at Microsoft.  I would hope that Windows will make some bets on the future that are yet to unfold.  It would be nice for a Windows OS to actually drive excitement in the industry again.  Not just OEM’s getting excited about selling more laptops, but actual enhancements that change how we work and interact with technology.  It would be nice to just have a vision for the future and not an upgrade.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann, December 19, 2011

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The Cloud called SalesForce.Com

One of the phenomena’s that came about during the DotCom era was Customer Relationship Management Software.  To be clear it did not start during this period but it seemed to generate a lot of press during this period.  It became significant as large enterprises needed to centralize how they managed their relationships with customers.  On paper or in PowerPoint it made a lot of sense.  Suddenly you had companies popping up providing customers with a solution.  On paper and in PowerPoint.  In reality it was actually not so bright and cheery.  However one company seems to have emerged from the rubble fairly unscathed and intact, Salesforce.Com.  It’s worth a look as beyond CRM I think we will increasingly see more of these Cloud players enter the market, in fact we already are.

I gotta admit CRM applications are painful. Does not matter who you are – the user, the administrators, the system integrators, etc…I have been around quite a few of them.  Early in my career at Microsoft, a corporate decision was made to go with Siebel Systems Software as Microsoft was growing and had customer information in spreadsheets, databases and 3 rd party software all over the company.  It was becoming increasingly difficult to manage and get good information out of those systems.   After the decision was made it would take over 2 years before it successfully launched Siebel internally.  The user experience was awful.  Later when I was part of the account team for Microsoft covering AT&T Wireless, AT&T was implementing Siebel for their call center.  Three system integrators later and millions of dollars spent it failed.  It was an industry joke.

Why do these systems even exist?  Well there is a huge demand for being able to manage customer relationships in a centralized way.  Both for small and large business it is important to project sales, pipelines etc..as  a measure of the overall health of an organization.  When we talk of Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP) we talk about the cost of running a business.  With CRM we are measuring to see if  our revenues will exceed our costs.  CRM is the window into the pulse of the customer, or so it was hoped.  Initially CRM was thought of within the confines of a companies IT infrastructure. In hindsight that may have been a limited outlook.  The internet was exploding and it seemed apparent that CRM should reach beyond the confines of the corporate network infrastructure.  CRM systems during this time period became synonymous with cost over runs.

This brings us to the promise of the cloud in helping us off load those costs.  In the dotcom era a lot of companies came that had the right idea, they were just ahead of their time and the technology was not quite ready.  A few, however, did survive.  One from the era was Salesforce.Com.  Unlike other companies I worked with in the Dot Com era SalesForce.Com has a better and more mature plan.  An example of a company not so good at CRM in the cloud was a company called Corio.   I met with their CTO, who was an entertaining ex-Oracle guy, who laid out the Corio plan.  He said they were going to take Siebel, make it cookie cutter and resell to companies with no customization.  Remember how I started this blog post?  My eyes were rolling as soon as he said “cookie cutter Siebel”.

Getting back to Salesforce, they were much more pragmatic.  First their application would live in the cloud.  So all up-time and management of systems was on Salesforce.  That already is saving an IT department money.  Second they would allow customization, through a partner channel.  This made a lot of sense, because every sales force is different and always has some unique requirement.  To try to create cookie cutter solution is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  They created a developer platform to support this customization.  These are all attractive solution offerings and reduce the burden to IT departments.  ATT Wireless was a good example of an IT department with extreme costs and therefore extreme burdens.  My last employer, Limelight Networks was an example of a company that was small and needed CRM, just not the headaches that went with it.  Salesforce made a lot of sense.

My impressions of Salesforce as a user were fairly favorable.  There were a lot of “how to” questions to the Salesforce guru at Limelight.  I am not sure any company can have a CRM app without having to hire a person or team of people to act as your go to people for general Q & A.  Even with a user interface as kind as Salesforce, there still is a lot happening and you could spend weeks trying to learn everything it does and how it interacts with other corporate information systems, or does not interact.  Because companies evolve there is a need for the CRM app to evolve with the growth of a company.

Salesforce right now is maturing. Like many fast growing companies it is in its  arrogant phase., This is based on feedback from people I know whom they have called upon.  It’s typical.  One because their CEO Marc Benioff is an ex-Oracle guy.  Oracle guys all seem to be aggressive type-A personalities.  Two during the early hip honeymoon phase all tech companies I have been around or worked at are cocky when things are going well,  The list is long, Microsoft, SUN, Google, Apple, Yahoo, and every dotcom start-up I was around (something to do with over inflated stock prices).  In hindsight,  it’s a good place to be. It is  a fun period professionally to know you are leading the pack. It will be interesting to see how SalesForce expands and goes to version 2 and 3 of the company.  Or it could end up like PeopleSoft and Siebel, two companies founded by ex-Oracle guys only to be acquired by Oracle.

The cloud is very real and is set to become a dominant part of the technology landscape.  Salesforce.com survived the dot bomb days and has emerged as a leader in the Cloud App delivery space.  They are still in the enviable space that many sales opportunities are greenfield opportunities (meaning net new revenue) which Wall Street loves.  Moving forward like any fast growing company  they will have to prove they are more than a one trick pony.  They will also need to be more humble.  Given their executive leadership that may be a bit of a sticking point.  The good news as I have said the cloud is here and Salesforce is well positioned to be a leader.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann December 9, 2011

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