Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Put mobile tools in employees' hands

Diane Jermyn

Individual productivity is the next frontier of growth for business,” says Antoine Leblond, senior vice-president of the Office Productivity Applications Group at Microsoft. “Software has a huge role to play in that. It’s really magical when people have these tools in their hands and get to make what they want.”

In the past 10 to 20 years, business has looked to technology to increase their business and hike productivity, explains the Montreal-born Mr. Leblond. But typically, it’s been focused on business processes – the way an enterprise functions – so it tends to be infrastructure focused. Now, however, he sees that businesses are starting to focus on the productivity of individuals within a corporation.

“It’s hard to measure that,” he says. “You can look at business processes and measure them effectively, but not individuals. At the same time, seeing how you can make the people in your organization more effective makes a whole lot of sense. The value of companies tend to be based on the ideas people have and what they are able to do.”

One issue is that companies are sometimes a little bit nervous about giving employees access to their technology.

“Giving people access to technology within the context of what they do is the key to all of this,” Mr. Leblond says. “You have to put these tools in people’s hands and let them figure out how to use them best.”

The millennial generation [born between 1980 and 2000] entering the work force has created another transformation about how people think about and use technology, Mr. Leblond says, because they have different expectations of technology. Because they use all sorts of social networking tools such as Facebook, Mr. Leblond believes this connection to people is a pivot point for finding information and communicating in different ways.

“They’re bringing social networking into the workplace and showing how that can actually meet the needs of business,” Mr. Leblond says. “Trends like that are really what’s behind the technical shifts that are going on right now.”

Millennials are very mobile, so they expect to be able to do things on their mobile phone browsers when they’re on the run and don’t have access to their home or office computer, Mr. Leblond says. It’s key to be responsive to the expectations and needs that the millennials have, so that a business has applications that run on a desktop or a laptop, but also ones that work on the phone.

Social computing is another hot trend that’s changing the way people work, according to Mr. Leblond. Social networking is a part of that, and so are collaboration and co-authoring – working on documents together and being able to share information effectively. Tools such as SharePoint, a social computing platform, gives users the places where they can actually work collaboratively in an efficient way, Mr. Leblond says.

The mobile work force is made up of the people who are not at their office, Mr. Leblond says. “There’s this huge dispersal geographically now of the work force. If you look at organizations in general, over 80 per cent now have remote workers, whether these are people who work in other locations or who telecommute from home. It’s not just figuring out how to let people connect, but how to let them connect together?”

One concern companies have is security. They want to have some level of control over the information they share outside of their organizations.

“Organizations are really eager to embrace a lot of these social networking things, but they’re also nervous about making sure they don’t lose control,” Mr. Leblond says. “The downside of most existing social networks is that they’re all very public. When we build social collaboration, a lot of the functionality is about how you manage that information, who has access to what and what kind of information is being exposed, because all that really matters to a business.”

The Canadian Oilers hockey team is a great example of collaboration and technology at work, Mr. Leblond says.

“The Oilers are really looking forward to the draft next season, but the draft is a challenging thing to manage,” he says.

“With scouts out looking at hundreds of players all over the country in Canada and the U.S., they needed to be able to assemble all that information and compare different players. So they had a tough information management problem. To solve it, they built this incredibly cool tool [on SharePoint] that’s become their draft and scouting tool. It’s a place for them to store and compare all the information about these players that they’re out scouting. It’s made a huge difference to them to be able to go through this process efficiently, yet in a very distributed and mobile way.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

The History of the Tablet

As Tablets have gained popularity in our work and home environments in the past few years, the first concept of a tablet goes back to 1886. Take a stroll with us down memory lane...

The Telautograph, invented by Elisha Gray in 1886, allowed an operator to duplicate a handwritten message over wire.

In 1961, researchers create the RAND Tablet, the first two-dimensional writing surface that allows humans to communicate instantly with computer through characters printed on a tablet.

Alan Kay envisioned the DynaBook tablet computer at Xerox PARC in 1968.

A futuristic vision of the tablet computer, courtesy of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick in the seminal 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The Atlas DEC PDP 15 digital input tablet designed for tech labs and schools. Obsolete by 1973

The Apple Graphics Tablet for the Apple II, introduced in 1979

The GRiDPad was a touchscreen computer manufactured by GRiD Systems Corporation in 1989. It was the first of its kind, and served as the inspiration for the Palm Pilot

The Apple Newton was an early PDA and the first commercial foray into tablet computing from Apple.

In 1991 the Poqet Computer Corporation, in partnership with Fujitsu, introduced the PoqetPad: a handheld, touch-screen computer with an NEC V20 CPU chip running at 7 MHz

The US Robotics Palm Pilot, introduced in 1996, paved the way for affordable, easy to use handheld computers

The Everex Freestyle PDA, running WindowsCE from Microsoft. The WindowsCE PDA devices were never as successful as those from Palm, garnering only a small market share.

In 2001, Microsoft attempted to once again move into the personal computing device market with devices like the Compaq Tablet PC; packing the full Windows XP operating system into a handheld unit. It never took off.

The Microsoft Origami project was meant to redefine mobile computing by creating ultra-mobile PC devices with a full operating system installed. They were underpowered and had poor battery life, and inevitably unsuccessful. Consumers felt that the small size made a full desktop OS difficult to use.

In April of 2010, Apple introduced the iPad, a tablet-sized variation of the iPhone. Apple had been originally developing the iPad, but decided to bring the phone to market first instead. It has set the standard for modern day tablet computing.

HP's foray into the tablet market, backed by Microsoft. After over a year of delays and supply difficulties, the HP Slate 500 was introduced to positive reviews and yawns from the consumers. The existing iPads and Android tablets had already eaten what little market share they could have gleaned. Users still feel the full desktop OS is not appropriate on a tablet.

The first Android tablet from a major technology manufacturer, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has sold very well. Only time will tell if Google and Android have the capability to grab the top spot in tablet computing the way they have with smartphones.

Over the past year we have been watching the adoption of Tablets as a way of increasing productivity in a mobile work environment. Mobile Apps, such as the Front Row CRM app, allow field reps to document the sales cycle while establishing next steps which increases the likelihood of success.

Thanks to Tech Republic for the information.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tablets & Mobile Apps: Amazon the only company that can beat the iPad

By: Matt Rosoff
None of the current tablet contenders has a chance against the iPad 2 this year, but there's one company that could make a serious run: Amazon.

That's the conclusion from a new Forrester Research report.

Forrester thinks ablets like the Motorola Xoom (which runs Android), BlackBerry Playbook, and HP TouchPad are all too expensive for what they offer. Plus, none of these vendors can touch Apple's retail experience: customers really love walking into an Apple store, playing with an iPad, and getting personal service from a rep there.

As a result, Forrester predicts the iPad will end 2011 with at least 80% market share in the tablet space.

Unless Amazon decides to create an Android tablet. Then all bets are off. Here's why:Brand. 24% of consumers Forrester surveyed said they'd buy a tablet from Amazon, compared with 18% who would buy a Motorola tablet. Amazon is a strong consumer brand thanks to its decade-plus as the leading e-commerce retailer and more recent success with the Kindle. 
  • Channel. Consumers already buy consumer electronics goods -- including the Kindle -- through Amazon. Forrester found that customers are much more likely to buy a tablet from an online retailer like Amazon than from a wireless carrier, which is the main channel for most of these other tablets.
  • Content. Amazon already sells Kindle electronic books, music, and video content, and is building an Android app store that will launch later this month. And it's an obvious leader in e-commerce comparison shopping -- a top use of tablets.
  • Pricing flexibility. Most Apple competitors are relying on wireless carriers to market and sell their tablets. But the mass consumer market wants inexpensive tablets, and don't want to be locked into expensive wireless data contracts. Amazon has the leeway to sell a tablet below cost and then make up the difference selling goods and services online.
Forrester also concludes that Amazon has the motivation to launch its own tablet this year, thanks to Apple's increasingly tough rules for selling e-books and in-app subscriptions.
Forrester also concludes that Microsoft, Sony, or Vizio could disrupt the tablet market by launching their own tablets. In the case of Microsoft, at least, that seems very unlikely: the company is instead focusing development on Windows 8 and relying on its traditional OEM partners to package it on tablets.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mobilization's Next Frontier: CRM Applications

Mobilization's Next Frontier: CRM Applications

Extending applications such as e-mail to smartphones has become commonplace. Now, the next wave of enterprise applications, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and mobile workflow, is coming to the mobile enterprise. And the benefits of mobilizing CRM and workflow applications could be equal to or even greater than mobilizing enterprise e-mail.

Once mobile information workers have customer and critical inventory information at their fingertips at any time and from anywhere, companies quickly realize their return on investment. If mobile workers receive information from back-end systems in real time, they can make better informed decisions and take smart actions based on up-to-the-minute data. For example, they can book orders more quickly and shorten time to revenue, or even negotiate — and close — a sale in a more timely fashion.

The ROI on mobilized CRM is not just anecdotal. According to “Anywhere Enterprise-Large: U.S. Mobility and Business Applications Survey” from The Yankee Group, companies can reap substantial percentage improvements in their business metrics from mobilizing sales force automation technology and services. The research reveals that U.S. companies realized or expected the following benefits with mobile CRM solutions:

  • Increased field selling time 28 percent
  • Eliminated redundant activities 27 percent
  • Increased win rates 26 percent
  • Reduced sales call costs 25 percent
  • Increased forecast accuracy 25 percent
  • Decreased administrative time 24 percent
  • Decreased sales cycle 23 percent

Mobile Apps Yield Big Benefits

The ability to share customer information dynamically — in real time — can bring substantial competitive advantage to a company. The specific benefits of mobile CRM may differ depending on what department or business unit the mobile worker is in: management, sales, support or human resources.

For top managers, mobile devices and applications can increase the effectiveness of a CEO or corporate officer if they are able to tap into critical corporate data out of the office. Having a dashboard view of key customers, for example, will help them make on-the-spot decisions in a deal or negotiation. Additionally, they can provide better advice to sales teams if they can look up pertinent data, such as margins or order history, while on a customer sales call.

Mobile applications that give managers the ability to handle approvals such as time sheets and sales discounts on the fly can speed workflow, allowing the executives to make the best use of their time on other -- more high-level -- tasks.

As shown from the Yankee data, sales teams can reap significant benefits from mobile CRM. While on the road, a salesperson with access to the enterprise CRM system can be more productive and provide better customer service. They can push business forward more quickly by entering orders on the go. Sales executives get an accurate picture of sales activities and revenue streams when their salespeople enter customer data onsite rather than weekly or monthly input back in the office.

For support teams, automating trouble ticket and service order applications for delivery directly to a technician’s mobile phone streamlines support and eliminates wasteful printing costs and processing time. Customers benefit from shorter time to resolution, and technicians are able to serve more clients or customers per day with automated dispatches sent directly to their smartphones.

Human resources groups and administrators can benefit from mobile workflow tools that allow employees to submit time sheets, vacation forms and expense reimbursements from a mobile device. The HR team can use mobile apps to reduce approval time for these workflow tasks, which makes for happier, more satisfied employees. These internal processing efficiencies can, in turn, lower costs associated with these everyday workflow processes.

The Industrial (Mobile) Revolution

Just as the benefits of mobile CRM will vary by department, the efficiencies and gains will also be unique in each industry segment. Some industries, including health care and finance, are primed to adopt mobile applications. And manufacturing plants could also experience significant benefits from mobile access to corporate applications, including inventory and workforce automation.

Looking first at health care, at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) in March 2010, conference attendees received almost an overwhelming array of examples of how embracing mobility could improve patient care.

Nurses, for example, may soon enter patients’ blood pressure, temperature, weight and other vital statistics directly into a mobile device. Patients may receive wireless monitors when they check in for procedures that automatically record their blood pressure every 15 minutes. In these environments, the data on the mobile device is continually synced with the central database, ensuring health care personnel have an accurate — and current — picture of the patient’s health.

Financial services is another arena primed to adopt mobile tools and apps. Accessing CRM and other core business apps on portable devices will help traders react quickly to market changes. As price quotes and quantities fluctuate, having access to accurate, real-time data on mobile devices such as a smartphone is imperative to helping a trader or analyst make smart decisions quickly.

In manufacturing, plant managers with mobile access to a inventory database can determine — on the spot — whether that broken valve on the production line is in stock. Better yet, if a plant uses RFID tags on its spare parts, plant managers with a GPS-enabled smartphone can not only verify availability, but also determine exactly where (which closet, shelf and bin) they’ll find the part they need. The faster the production line is returned to service, the greater the daily output, and the better the revenue opportunity for the corporation.

Mobile Apps Boost the Bottom Line

Making CRM and mobile workflow applications available 24x7 for roving information workers will empower them with accurate, up-to-date data. Whether the mobile worker is in management, sales, or support or works in health care, finance or manufacturing, the results are the same: A corporation or organization can experience a significant ROI on mobilized enterprise apps. Companies that implement the new wave of mobilized CRM and workflow applications across a number of different devices will benefit from increased business intelligence, better customer service and improved productivity.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Process Intelligence and CRM

Process Intelligence is a great vehicle for linking strategy and execution.

Process Intelligence is an organizational capability that aims to ensure that companies consistently and quickly apply relevant knowledge, to and within business processes – in order to provide better visibility of performance, support strategy alignment, improve business agility, improve operational decision-making, and identify issues and their root causes. It has a great deal of power for organizations looking to improve their ability to link strategy and execution, and through this increase business agility and visibility.

The importance of linking strategy and execution
Does your organization effectively link strategy and execution?

Here is a quick quiz. Do you find any of the following scenarios apply within your organization?
-   Front-line workers dont have the right information, context and facts to make informed decisions for the business, or a customer or partner.
-  It is difficult to work out whether or not people are actually following the right procedures and
guidelines and equally whether or not those procedures are actually adding value.
-  A singular focus by one department or functional unit on its own targets and results has a
detrimental effect on other parts of the organization, especially where a business activity cuts
across departmental boundaries.
-  It is difficult to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to uncertainty and changes in the
- It is difficult to effectively and meaningfully measure the performance of the business.
- Too much emphasis on lagging indicators that provides a rear view mirror of performance without
balancing out this view with a more forward looking approach.
-  "Management by metric creates too many Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or the wrong set
or type of KPIs.
- It is difficult to assess whether a current set of procedures and projects in play is the “best” set
for the organization, given its goals, or whether there are other things that would be smarter to

If you experience a number of these symptoms on a regular basis, then its very likely that your
organization struggles to effectively link its strategy-setting work with the day-to-day execution of
business. The ability to effectively link strategy and execution is vitally important in business – for two reasons:

1.   The rapid rate of market change across industries and geographies, affecting
companies of all sizes. Globalization and the role of the Internet are driving the pace of
competitive change; in an environment where competitive and market conditions are changing
rapidly, anything that unnecessarily slows down the recognition of an important new market
factor, the analysis of that factors potential impact and the reaction to it is going to have
significant implications for your organization.

2.   The importance of “customer experience”. In an increasingly competitive environment,
competing on cost alone is going to be difficult for many organizations to pull off. More and more
organizations are realizing this, and combining a focus on cost with a focus on delivering great
customer experiences. Being able to deliver customer experience excellence is one way of
avoiding the commodity trap as a supplier of goods or services: but in todays business
environment, customers have very high expectations. Delivering a great experience means you
have to be able to be confident that you can deliver personalized service in a timely fashion, to a
high level of quality – and also that you can work flexibly to meet the needs and interests of the
customer rather than forcing customers to fit in with rigid and customer-unfriendly procedures.

CRM and the right CRM are an important part of process intelligence providing metrics, accountability and visibility into an organization.

Thanks to MWD Advisors for thier insight.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why Mobile CRM is important in Africa

We recently deployed Front Row CRM to a new client in Africa who has a mobile sales force and one notable difference in their requirements was for employee safety.

Though the desire to drive revenue, improve the end customer experience and build long term company success through CRM is similar to other countries we work with, here is how Front Row CRM really made a difference to this organization:
  • Ability to support limited mobile technology:   While we may see smart phones as common place, some countries like those in Africa, may only equip their staff with traditional mobile phones with no data integration. This was critical for our customer where 45% of work force needed to update CRM by texting only.
  • Promoted employee safety:  In Africa where poverty is rampant and with lack of basic living requirements for some goes a high crime rate. It is unsafe for employees to carry computers and tablets. Using texting, field reps can update CRM in real time without the fear of being robbed.
  • Protecting customer privacy:  When there is a risk of theft of a computer or tablet, customer data could be put at risk. By utilizing Front Row CRM to push data into the system via text, if theft occurs, no customer data is accessible
  • Scalable for all mobile and smart phone platforms:  As requirements and access to technology change, the CRM is able to run the delta between basic to sophisticated connectivity requirements
  • Competitive advantage:  For those companies in developing nations looking to compete locally and globally, mobile CRM gives them an advantage over other firms who are slow to adopt customer relationship software.

If you are interested in finding out more about how mobile CRM can benefit businesses in Africa and other developing nations, please contact the president of Front Row Solutions - Etien D'Hollander at

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mobile Apps for iPad

10 Apps That Make Magic on Your iPad
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad and referred to it as a magical device, lots of people snickered.

Check out Star Walk for the iPad will label constellations if a user holds the iPad toward the night sky.

Air Coaster XL allows users to design and ride roller coasters.
Most iPad owners will tell you that it can indeed inspire the kind of astonishment you might have felt while watching your first magic show — that is, if the device is properly loaded.

Here are my 10 favorite apps, plus a few extras to make the iPad magic happen:

IWORK ($30, or $10 each for Pages, Keynote or Numbers): Since you can’t type easily on an iPad, it may never replace your laptop. But with this software, which is made by Apple, you won’t need to rush to your other computers to edit Microsoft Office files. The Pages app is great for revising and exporting text files; the Numbers app is good (and getting better) with spreadsheets; and Keynote is a serviceable complement to PowerPoint.

AIR DISPLAY ($10): Turn your iPad screen into an extra PC monitor with Air Display, and never again miss a new Twitter post, Facebook post or stock market move.

FLIPBOARD (free): Twitter and Facebook rely on “new stuff on top” layouts, with links that send you elsewhere to see what people are fussing about. Flipboard rationalizes this editorial insanity. The app plops your Facebook feed into a magazine format, showing all the stories your friends recommended, with photos and updates. You can create other personalized magazines from Twitter feeds, on topics of your choice.

STAR WALK ($5): A jaw-dropping astronomy app. Hold the iPad toward the night sky and it labels everything. You can also preview the movement of tonight’s sky, or witness a particular night sky from centuries ago. Star Walk is billed as an educational app, but it’s as entertaining as anything on the market.

SKETCHBOOK PRO ($8): Experienced artists can create masterpieces with this program. Hobbyists and children can happily lose themselves for hours. The app is powerful, yet fairly intuitive.
NETFLIX (free, but requires a paid Netflix subscription): The iPad renders video beautifully, and Netflix streams a nearly limitless catalog of movies and TV shows to the device. Fast, easy, addicting.

FRUIT NINJA HD ($5): On the iPad’s big screen, this game will give you more of a jolt than Angry Birds. (But do yourself a favor and download that one too.) The task: swipe your finger to slice flying fruit. Hit a bomb and your ninja days are numbered. A recent update added online multi-player functionality.

INSTAPAPER ($5): Great articles typically appear when you have no time to read them. Instapaper quickly stores links, so you can read the full articles later, from within the app. Instapaper also remembers articles you’ve saved with the free online version. Some will find setting up the service on an iPad frustrating, but it is worth it.

PANDORA RADIO (free): Fans of the personalized radio service will appreciate the big-screen format, which is great for reading liner notes and browsing artists and songs. The music selections and ads (if you don’t pay for upgraded service) are the same as on the iPhone or online version.

EVERNOTE (free): Another bigger-is-better entry. Evernote stores notes, photos and voice memos, so you can retrieve them later on any Web-connected device. The service offers a fair amount of free storage, but you can skip the limit for $45 a year.

Honorable Mention
Reuters News Pro (free): Among the best news apps, it will cache articles for offline reading; Photoshop Express (free): Import your photos and crop, filter, rotate and change them to suit your tastes. Great for youngsters, too; Wikipanion (free): An iPad-centric approach to surfing Wikipedia pages; AirCoaster ($1): Design and ride 3-D roller coasters, with amazing graphics; Magic Piano ($2): Make music with whimsically elegant keyboards; Scrabble ($10): The wordsmith’s standby, nicely rendered for the iPad. (Use your iPhone or iPod Touch as tile racks).

Orbital HD ($3): A game that will engage your brain, test your reflexes and kill many hours of your time; Weather HD ($1): No matter the forecast, it’s a treat to read; Twitter for iPad (free): Twitter’s official app delivers an efficient, simple experience; Skype (free): Make free (or cheap) calls with your iPad; Epicurious (free): Professionally tested recipes, in big-screen glory; Real Racing HD ($10): Take the wheel and steer the iPad to victory; NPR (free): Catch up on the news and your favorite NPR programs, or read top articles; TextPlus (free): Free texting; The Elements ($14): Could make you want to take high school chemistry again; Dragon Dictation (free): Speak your mind, and the app delivers a text message or e-mail, ready for sending.

Don't forget the Front Row CRM has an app for ipad as well. Update, Locate and use the many tools that help you sell more from your iPad.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Technology giants: How the mighty have fallen

Digital Equipment Corporation

The recent death of Digital Equipment Corporation's founder Ken Olsen is a reminder that getting to the top of the tech world isn't easy but staying there is even harder. ZDNet UK's David Meyer takes a look back at 10 firms that were once leaders in the field but let technology pass them by.

DEC's PDP-8 may not look so small now, but its relatively compact size made it a bestseller in the mid-1960s — the company sold 50,000 of its 'minicomputer', which was a record-breaker at the time. DEC became the largest private employer in the state of Massachusetts.
In the late 1970s, the company's VAX-11 32-bit minicomputer served as a rival to IBM's mainframes. However, a decade later saw the rise of the 32-bit microcomputer, and Digital's products lost their cachet. Its 1998 merger with Compaq was the biggest in the history of the IT industry. Four years later, Compaq itself merged with HP, leaving the DEC/Digital brand as little more than a memory.


Sperry was founded in 1910 as a manufacturer of navigational equipment. It later diversified into military aircraft components, including the ball turret guns used on World War II bombers. After the war, it turned its attention to computers.
The company bought typewriter-maker Remington Rand, which had previously picked up the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (EMCC) — founded by the Eniac inventors — in 1955. What was by then known as Sperry Rand went on develop EMCC's successful Universal Automatic Computer (Univac) series of mainframes and peripherals — including the Sperry Univac 1100/80 Computer, pictured above — which remained an industry mainstay for decades.
In 1986, Sperry Corporation merged with its competitor Burroughs Corporation to become Unisys, which now provides services rather than making machines. Non-computing divisions of Sperry, which produced such diverse items as electric razors and manure spreaders, were sold off. The only former Sperry division to retain that name is Sperry Marine, which — in a neat piece of symmetry — makes navigation equipment.

Control Data Corporation (CDC)

CDC was formed in 1957 as a spin-off of Sperry. It started off by selling memory systems, but in 1958 the now-legendary Seymour Cray signed up. The company released what could be described as the first minicomputer — the 160A — in 1960, but its attention soon turned to producing the fastest computers available.

The CDC 6600 (pictured) came out in 1964, trouncing the competition. It was at least 10 times faster than any rival computer, with a standard mathematical operations rate of 500 kiloflops. The 6600 inspired a series of retaliatory tactics from IBM — the ACS-1, which never made it to production, and the non-existent Model 92 — that may have failed, but nonetheless hit sales of CDC's machine through an early campaign of 'fear, uncertainty and doubt' (FUD).

Although Cray left in 1972, CDC continued to dominate the world of supercomputing during the first half of that decade. After the first Cray-1 was installed in 1976, CDC's lead in the field slipped. The company tried to move into other markets, gaining considerable success from sales of high-performance hard drives. However, it pulled out of hard drives in 1988, and what was left of CDC ended up being merged into BT's Global Services unit soon after.

International Computers Limited (ICL)

ICL started off as an initiative of the Wilson government — specifically technology minister Tony Benn — to create a strong British rival to the likes of IBM. Formed from various smaller companies in 1968, it began life with two mainframe product lines: the IBM System/360-compatible System 4 and the ICT 1900 series, which was not compatible with any other company's products.

ICL launched a new line, the 2900 Series, in 1974. Running the Virtual Machine Environment (VME) operating system, these machines were able to emulate both of their predecessors. The ICL Series 39 range of mainframes and minicomputers, introduced in 1985, included major hardware advances such as the use of optical fibres for central interconnect.

In 1984, ICL was taken over by Standard Telephones and Cables (STC) in a move that foresaw the convergence of computers and telecoms. Subsequent acquisitions included that of Nokia Data in 1991, taking ICL into the PC and desktop software markets.

However, ICL's long-standing partnership with Fujitsu became more permanent around that time, with the Japanese company buying up 80 percent of ICL in 1990. When Fujitsu Siemens was formed in 1999, the ICL brand was finally dropped from its PC and server lines.

Wang Laboratories

Wang Laboratories always remained under the control of co-founder Dr An Wang and his family, from its inception in 1951 to the doctor's death in 1990.

The company moved from typesetting equipment to the desktop calculator business in 1965 with the LOC-2, arguably the first of such devices to handle computing logarithms, which it achieved without the use of an integrated circuit. At the start of the 1970s, though, calculators began to be commoditised, and Dr Wang moved on to what were, at the time, extremely innovative word processors. They allowed text to be edited without requiring the retyping of entire pages.

The word-processing business developed alongside minicomputers such as the Wang 2200 (pictured), which had the novel feature of a CRT monitor built into the same unit as the storage unit and keyboard. Released in 1973 and running Basic, it was in many ways an early example of the desktop computer.

Dr Wang believed his company would one day overtake his bĂȘte noire, IBM. His VS range of minicomputers went some way towards this goal in the 1980s, but, ironically, early Wang PCs suffered from their lack of compatibility with IBM's rival system. Later, IBM-compatible Wang PCs were more successful. Ultimately, though, Wang's increasingly outdated focus on word-processing and an embarrassing 'vapourware' announcement in 1983 — in which Wang promised products that had not been started or completed — led to escalating losses.

Dr Wang died in 1990, and the company turned towards industry-standard rather than proprietary software. In 1991 the company even began to resell IBM hardware. Wang Laboratories filed for bankruptcy protection the following year. It re-emerged in the mid-1990s as a network services firm rather than a computer company, and in 1999 it was bought by the Dutch firm Getronics.


Along with Microsoft and Lotus, Ashton-Tate was one of the big three software companies of the 1980s. It began life as a garage outfit called Software Plus, Inc (SPI) in 1980 and went on to create the first major database managements system for microcomputers, dBase.

An IBM-compatible version of dBase II came out in 1983 to great success, and in the same year the company became Ashton-Tate and went public. It released the C-written dBase III (opening screen for dBase III+ pictured above) in 1984, but later that year co-founder George Tate died of a heart attack. Company president David Cole briefly took over, but marketing man Ed Esber quickly succeeded him (Cole went to work for Ziff-Davis, which founded this publication).

Esber led the company very successfully for seven years, but he became known for being litigious, particularly when it came to companies that released dBase clones. Large corporations kept on using dBase, but smaller businesses deserted the platform. The 1988 version of dBase IV was slow and unstable, but rather than fix the bugs, the company concentrated instead on its next planned product line. The update for dBase IV only came out in 1990, by which time sales were down drastically.

Having turned down several merger opportunities — including with Microsoft and Symantec — Ashton-Tate finally merged with Borland in 1991. However, Microsoft introduced Access in 1992, trouncing dBase in the Windows marketplace.


The Commodore Portable Typewriter Company was founded in 1954. The company became Commodore Business Machines the following year, as Japanese typewriters had flooded the market, and moved into selling adding machines. Japanese adding machines flooded that particular market in the late 1960s, and then-named Commodore International moved into the electronic calculator business. The calculator market was, however, taken over by Texas Instruments in the mid-1970s, and Commodore went into PCs.

The Commodore Personal Electronic Transactor (PET) came out in 1977 to an enthusiastic reception in the education sector, but it was 1981's VIC-20 — as endorsed in TV ads featuring Wiliam Shatner — that made Commodore a familiar brand in the home.

It was that model's successor — 1982's Commodore 64 (pictured) — that remains the company's most enduring legacy. Already cheaper than rival 64K systems, the C64 enjoyed a price cut the following year, kicking off a pricing war in the home computer market. Commodore won: with 22 million sold, the C64 became the best-selling computer ever.

In 1984, Commodore bought Amiga Corporation. Around the same time Commodore founder Jack Tramiel, who had just quit to form his own company, bought Atari from Warner Brothers and released the Atari ST as a rival to Amiga. The rivalry between Commodore and Atari continued through most of the remaining decade, but in the end the PC market was won by the IBM PC and Apple Macintosh platforms.

Following several releases that failed to replicate the success of the C64, Commodore declared bankruptcy. The brand is now used by a completely different company, which sells an Atom-based netbook PC in a replica C64 shell.


Tandy began life in 1919, in the business of leather goods — making it something of a US analogy to Finland's Nokia, which started off making paper. Along with Commodore (another entry in this list), Tandy was at the forefront of the PC industry in its time.

The 1977 TRS-80, sold through Tandy's Radio Shack stores, was one of the first popular personal computers. The company later moved to IBM compatibility, and its PCs' video and sound capabilities led the market in the early 1980s. However, the introduction in the early 1990s of VGA graphics cards and Sound Blaster audio cards killed this competitive advantage. Tandy even moved into notebooks for a time from the end of the 1980s, with products including the 1400 (pictured).

Tandy sold its PC business to AST in 1993, and the new owners soon shut down their newly purchased manufacturing facilities. Radio Shack began to sell other brands of PC, and the Tandy brand disappeared for good in 2000.


Acorn was founded in 1978 by Clive Sinclair colleague Chris Curry and his friend Hermann Hauser. The company was actually called CPU Ltd, with Acorn Computer Ltd the trading name for its PC business — CPU also had a consultancy business.

The £80 Acorn Microcomputer was launched in early 1979 for engineering and laboratory use. Four more iterations followed, with the last Acorn rack-mounted product being 1983's System 5. Meanwhile, Sinclair had launched his ZX80 system, prompting Curry to target the home computing market with the Atom (which is unrelated to Intel's processor family of the same name). Acorn then wanted to provide a 16-bit successor to the Atom, and found a willing partner in the BBC.

The BBC was keen on launching a computer literacy drive, as were the Department of Industry and the Department of Education and Science. Throughout the 1980s, the Acorn-made BBC Micro series of microcomputers became a British staple, and Acorn became extremely profitable.

At the same time, Acorn decided to create a business computer using its existing technology. This became the Acorn RISC Machine (ARM) project, which now manifests itself in the architecture used in almost all mobile phone processors today. However, Acorn's Electron — a competitor to Sinclair's ZX Spectrum — suffered supply issues in the Christmas 1983 period, and the company was also spending much of its resources on development. Acorn's finances hit a rocky period and, in 1985, the Italian firm Olivetti took a controlling share.

Acorn went on to work alongside Apple on ARM, which was spun off in 1990. It also enjoyed some success in the set-top box market, and had an educational computer joint venture with Apple called Xemplar. However, ARM became much more successful. The Acorn brand disappeared in 1999, as the company became a silicon developer for digital TVs.


It's easy to forget how important GeoCities was, in the days before WordPress and social networks. Founded in 1994 as Beverley Hills Internet (BHI), the original version of the service was a web directory that let users place their own pages in virtual 'cities', corresponded to their subject matter.
Community elements such as chat were added, and at the end of 1995 the service became known as GeoCities — previously it was called GeoPages. Adverts were first placed on people's pages in 1997. Later that year, GeoCities got its millionth user. In 1998 the company went public, and the following year it was the third-most-visited site on the internet.

Not long before the dotcom bubble burst, GeoCities was taken over in 1999 by Yahoo for $3.57bn. The new owners instituted new terms of service, claiming ownership over all content put on GeoCities pages. Users left in droves, and Yahoo performed a dramatic U-turn. The service was unprofitable and stayed so, despite Yahoo's 2001 attempt at a launching a paid premium version of the service. Yahoo closed GeoCities down in 2009, and it remains one of the prime examples of a popular service failing due to its inability to make money.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mobile CRM: Enterprise Mobility Trends 2011

By Shane O'Neill of

Enterprise mobility is the biggest single trend across tech industry investment and innovation, even outpacing the cloud computing trend, states the Forrester report entitled, "Another Year of Outperformance for the Tech Industry -- Forrester's 2011 Tech Industry Predictions."
Enterprises and SMBs in 2011 will put mobile strategies at the top of the list by expanding the use of smartphones and investing in mobile applications that address the needs of all types of employees, from information and task workers to "mobile wannabes" who bring their personal smartphones to work.

Forrester analyst and report author Chris Mines cites "the breakneck pace of consumer adoption of smartphones, tablets and applications" as a driver for enterprise IT to mobilize their own core applications such as CRM, ERP, expense management, inventory management and time tracking.

The Benefits and the Complexities

Indeed, an effective mobile strategy is no longer just something "nice to have" but is becoming a necessity for business growth. In an article on about choosing the most secure mobile architecture, Sybase CTO Irfan Khan outlines the benefits of enterprise mobilizing.

In addition to helping workers get more done in less time, Khan writes that mobile devices and apps "can improve customer engagement, customer service, improve supply chain operations and partner/supplier collaboration as well as faster, more effective business decision making."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Five management tenets for every CIO

It’s far easier to keep the people you have than it is to hire new ones. Here are five management tenets that are critically important to staffing success.
Finding and retaining good staff is extremely difficult, but it’s even more difficult when employees are working under unfair conditions. In this blog, I’ll outline five management tenets that I believe are critically important to staffing success.

1. Recognize that people want to do well, so treat them well

In general, your IT staff doesn’t come to work every morning with high hopes for achieving mediocrity or failure. People want to do a good job, want to contribute, and want to know that their efforts mean something. Make that your guiding principle in all your dealings with your staff. Frankly, this can be really, really hard sometimes, particularly as you get stressed out and are dealing with something that might seem trivial. It’s more than likely that, at some point in your management career, you’ll look back and realize that you handled a particular employee action pretty poorly. When this happens, the affected person deserves an explanation and an apology.
This actually goes both ways, too. If you’ve treated your staff well, it’s more than likely that they’ll treat you well, and if they treat you unfairly at some point, they’ll realize it and make it right. I was in this exact situation a few weeks ago. One of my guys had a particularly bad day, and at the end of the day, a tense situation arose and he took it out on me. Now, the guy is awesome at his job and we generally have a great working relationship, but it obviously still bugged me. However, the next morning, he called me up, we had breakfast, and he apologized.
Of course, this just provides further proof that I have the best IT staff on the planet.

2. Understand that people (usually) fire themselves… do it fast

For clarification, I’m not talking about layoffs here. This topic is focused solely on the act of firing someone.
Even if you’ve made the best possible effort to recognize that people want to do well and you’ve infused this idea into all the conversations you have with your people, not everyone will be able to stay on board with the organization. It’s up to you (and, of course, your team) to create an environment in which they want to operate. Unfortunately, when it comes to voting people off the island, that duty usually falls to you.
I’ve written before that it’s important that people not be surprised that they’re being erased from the org chart — at least when it’s for performance or attitude reasons. Obviously, no matter how egregious the performance or attitude problems and no matter how many warnings have been provided, at that moment when you break the news, there will be surprise. However, after the shock subsides and the person is able to look back through the lens of time, I believe that, in hindsight, that surprise factor will lessen.
On this point, too, always use the probationary period as it was intended. Most organizations have a probationary period during which either the employer or the employee can opt out of the arrangement with or without cause. In many cases, this is done for fit reasons (in either direction) or if the employer discovers that the person is missing a key skill, although this should be caught during the interview. It’s much easier to take this step during the probationary period than it is later on. I will admit that I have fired someone during the probationary period due to fit, and I will admit, it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made. Keeping someone around that can’t fit or can’t carry his or her weight is a drag on the whole group.

3. Give feedback, ask for feedback, and mean it

I’ll go on the record as saying that I truly despise the annual performance review process. I find it close to useless for everyone except HR. People should know where they stand throughout the year, not at just a single point in time. If something is going really well during the year, make sure the person knows it — better yet make sure the whole team knows it. When I get a note from someone on campus praising one of my staff, I usually forward it on to the whole IT staff. If something needs improvement, improve it. Don’t wait for performance review time. It’s not fair to the organization, and it’s not fair to the employee. The longer you let something go, the more opportunity there is for resentment to build among the staff about the situation, so address it sooner.
Also, make sure to be able to accept feedback from the staff from time to time, too. This is incredibly difficult sometimes, but it leads to a much better and much happier staff. If you tell your staff that you’re willing to listen to feedback, actually, you know, listen to it. Like I said, it’s tough, but I’m far from perfect and even make mistakes every now and then. I’m very fortunate that I have a staff that is more than willing to tell me when they think I’ve blown it, and, in most cases, they do so in a reasonable, respectful way.
Obviously, there are times that I disagree with their assessment, but we have a positive enough working relationship that, in most cases, they’re willing to accept it. Just as often, if not more often, they “win,” although that’s really too strong a word.

4. Say “please’ and “thank you”… the golden rule applies

My kids have gotten pretty good at the whole manners thing, but it astounds me at how often people forget to take these basic steps in the workplace. My staff works their butts off to do the work that has been assigned to them. As is the case with most IT staffs, we get more and more work to do and the staff count isn’t exactly skyrocketing. When I ask them to do something, it’s generally accompanied by a “please” and, upon completion, a “thank you.”

5. Don’t be a pushover… be fair, but firm

You might think that the advice in this article makes it look like I’m recommending that you be a pushover. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, when it comes to working with my staff, I simply believe that the people who work so hard to make me (seriously, I’d fail without the people I have working with me) and the organization successful deserve to be treated well, listened to, and respected. That said, I do expect results. After all, this is a job. On that front, over the past few months, my staff and I have overhauled our project prioritization mechanisms in order to ensure that we have sustainable workloads that still meet the needs of the organization. I work with each staff person to assess project plans and determine time frames, and then we commit to those time frames and I expect completion.
That said, life always throws curveballs, so we maintain open lines of communication and, when necessary, adjust project time lines. Recently, we had a project due at the end of the month, but due to “scope creep” that was outside our control on another initiative, the project had to be delayed. Due to the critical nature of the “creeping” initiative, it was an easy decision to postpone the deliverable on the original project, but that decision was made in concert with the staff people on the projects to make sure that everyone understood why we were where we were and what we were going to do to ensure success on both projects. In this way, we dealt fairly with the situation (i.e. didn’t punish my person because some other department had a problem) while instituting a new deadline, which, by the way, was met.


It’s far easier to keep people you have than it is to hire new ones. Although I do believe in making sure that new blood and new ideas come into the organization, that can happen through other natural attrition, so make sure that you treat your people with fairness and respect. They will be more successful because of it, and you will be more successful because of it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The 10 hottest tablets to watch in 2011

There are an obscene number of new tablets coming to market in 2011. Plenty of them are safe to ignore. Here are 10 that are worth anticipating.

I have an announcement to make. I will not be releasing a tablet in 2011. Feeble attempts at humor aside, nearly everyone has a tablet in the works.  It’s the technology’s industry’s latest gold rush. With Apple selling 15 million iPads in 2010 and projected to sell as many as 45 million in 2011, everyone wants a piece of the public’s sudden infatuation with multitouch slabs of silicon.  From the world’s biggest computer companies to obscure little parts makers, there will be an obscene number of companies releasing tablets this year.
So, which ones are safe to ignore and which ones are worth your attention? Here is my list of the 10 most significant tablets to watch for, at least until someone else announces another new one next week. The bottom line is that if you’re feeling the urge to buy a tablet right now (currently, the two main choices are the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab) then my recommendation would be: Don’t do it. Wait for one of these 10 instead.

10. Notion Ink Adam

The Adam tablet from Indian startup Notion Ink has been germinating for a long time — maybe too long. Notion Ink finally unveiled the product in December and started taking pre-orders. It’s an Android 2.3 tablet with a custom interface. It’s Eden UI offers a drastic re-think of the Android interface, based on vertical panels (here’s a demo from CES 2011). The other unique thing about the Adam is that it uses PixelQi technology, a low-power transflective display that is viewable in full sunlight.

9. HTC Flyer

Half of the tablets on this list are powered by Android and HTC is one of the powerhouses of the Android ecosystem. Unlike rivals Motorola, Samsung, and LG, who all unveiled high-end tablets at CES 2011, HTC was remarkably silent on the tablet question in Vegas. However, the company officially launched its first tablet a month later at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It is the HTC Flyer and it’s a 7-incher with 1.5 GHz CPU, 1.0 GB RAM, 32GB of Flash storage, an attractive unibody design, and a special version of the HTC Sense UI designed for tablets. Unlike most of the other Android tablets, the Flyer also includes digital ink technology and a stylus. However, the Flyer will not run Android 3.0. Instead, it will launch with Android 2.4. HTC is also reportedly working on a 10-inch tablet (the “Scribe”) running Honeycomb and connecting to Verizon LTE.

8. Acer Iconia

Acer tried to beat the tablet deluge at CES by announcing its Iconia tablet at the end of 2010. Unforutnately, the Iconia is still getting lost in the shuffle, and that’s a shame. The Iconia is a power tablet. This thing features dual 14-inch touch screens, a Core i5 CPU, and a full range of computer ports to match the average laptop. It also runs the full version of Windows 7, which will make better for productivity tasks but harder on battery life. The most innovative thing about this one is that the bottom screen has multiple input options, including a full virtual keyboard, a multimedia controller, and customizable touch gestures. Lots of companies have envisioned making the dual touchscreen idea work, we’ll see if Acer can pull it off (and do it at a reasonable price).

7. T-Mobile G-Slate

Another promising tablet that’s flying under the radar is the T-Mobile G-Slate, built by LG. This Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet will run on T-Mobile’s new HSPA+ network. Also called the LG V-900, it features a 9-inch screen, a 1.0 GHz dual core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor, 32 GB of flash storage, HD video capture, and a front-facing camera for video chat. Outside of the US, the LG will be marketing the G-Slate under the product name Optimus Pad. One of the best things about the G-Slate is that it runs the stock Android Honeycomb OS, without a custom UI layered on top. The most gimmicky things about the G-Slate is that it can capture 3D video (which you’ll have to use 3D glasses to view during playback).

6. Samsung Sliding PC 7

Another Windows 7 tablet that is legitimately intriguing is Samsung’s Sliding PC 7. It looks like a normal 10-inch tablet, but includes a slide-out keyboard that turns it into a fully functional laptop. The hardware manages to deftly combine slimness with keyboard usability, based on the demo at CES. For those who don’t want to carry both a laptop and a tablet, hybrid devices like this could carve out a new niche. This one has a 1366×768 screen, up to a 64GB solid state drive, 2GB of RAM, and built-in 3G and WiMAX chips. Since it runs all of that hardware and the full version of Windows, battery life and cost could both be concerns.

5. BlackBerry PlayBook

I was at the event last fall where RIM announced the BlackBerry PlayBook and my first impressions were not very good — mostly because RIM kept it behind glass. However, the company had demo units available to caress at CES (see demo) and the PlayBook looks like it could become a factor in the tablet market, especially for businesses that are already invested and committed to the BES backend infrastructure. This is a 7-inch tablet, so that limits its appeal a bit — except for the vocal minority who claim to like the smaller form factor — and it faces the same concerns about battery life and price as Windows tablets. Still, the hardware feels great and the QNX operating system appears to have been successfully adapted for tablets. BlackBerry die-hards alone could turn this one into a winner.

4. ASUS Eee Pad Transformer

ASUS believes that the iPad has two weaknesses — lack of choice and limited productivity (content creation) — so that’s where the company is focusing its energy in tablets. At CES, ASUS unveiled its line of four tablets, and three of them were aimed at content creators. The most interesting was the Eee Pad Transformer, a 10-inch tablet with a dual core NVIDIA Tegra 2 CPU that will run Android 3.0. The most innovative thing about this one is that it has an optional keyboard dock that also functions as an extended battery, giving the device up to 16 hours of life. If Android and ASUS can pull off a tablet UI that also plays well as a laptop when the Transformer is in dock mode, then this one could be highly useful. It will also be interesting to see if people prefer this dockable keyboard on the Eee Pad Transformer versus the slide-out keyboard on the Samsung Sliding PC 7 or even ASUS Eee Pad Slider (a cousin of the Transformer).

3. HP TouchPad

I think we can safely call this one the “X factor.” Even after Hewlett-Packard officially unveiled its webOS tablet on February 9, there are still two big questions hanging out there - when exactly will it arrive (”summer” is all we know) and how much will it cost? This product has been in the works since HP bought Palm last summer. Putting the resources of HP behind the massive potential of webOS could be great combination. Also, don’t forget that HP has a decade of experience building tablet hardware (even thought it was as part of the long defeat for Microsoft’s Tablet PC). HP’s new TouchPad is 9.7-inch tablet with lots of high-end features, but it doesn’t have much to distinguish it from Apple or Android and that could hurt. The tablet will likely succeed or fail based on price. If it is comparable to the iPad ($500) while offering a stronger feature-set, it has a shot. If it’s more expensive than the iPad then it could struggle.

2. Motorola Xoom

When Google is ready to make a leap forward with Android, it anoints a hardware partner to work closely with the company on the new software and produce a device that will be initial concept vehicle of what Google envisions. For its Android 3.0 tablet OS, Motorola is the chosen one. And, interestingly enough, the Motorola Xoom will not only be the first Honeycomb tablet, but it will also be the first tablet to run on Verizon’s new 4G LTE network (a.k.a the new mobile superhighway). This 10-inch widescreen tablet has drool-inducing tech specs and is expected to launch by early March, although the 4G version won’t land until mid-year. The one big drawback is that the Xoom could be pricey. It will reportedly cost $700-$800. There might be a lower subsidized price, but that would include a two-year Verizon contract and a data fee of at least $20/month. Keep an eye out for the Wi-Fi only version of the Xoom, which is expected to launch later this spring. That one might be more competitive on price.

1. Apple iPad 2.0

The iPad remains the king of the category and, even with the invasion of an army of challengers, it’s difficult to see a scenario in which the iPad won’t retain a commanding market share lead when we get to the end of 2011. It still has too many factors in its favor: usability, battery life, a massive catalog of apps, and price. The last factor might be the most important. Price has been the iPad’s greatest marketing weapon, and rivals are having a very hard time meeting the iPad’s price tag while still offering a comparable experience. The iPad 2 probably won’t bring any revolutionary new changes — it will likely be a little thinner and lighter, have an upgraded processor, and feature front and rear cameras — but the most important thing about the iPad 2 is that it could give Apple a further advantage in price. After manufacturing over 15 million of the first-gen iPads, Apple will be able to squeeze out more efficiencies, and the component costs will have decreased over the past year. The result: Apple will be able to pack in more and better technology for the same price with the iPad 2. Meanwhile, the company could decide to drop the price on the first-gen iPad to further undercut its rivals.