Archive | September 11, 2013

How Google Apps forced Microsoft to start cannibalizing its own Enterprise business.

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An important buzz word in enterprise IT these days is the Cloud. Cloud computing has been around for more than a decade most notably for services such as Hotmail, yahoo-mail, Amazon-cloud etcetera. Funny enough this was mostly preserved for private users such as you and I.

This changed back in 2007 when Google Apps for Business was founded, it gave corporations the chance to use Google products on their own domain. This was revolutionary as not many companies with some real chance of succeeding had tried combining the cloud with Productivity Software. Microsoft was clearly the King of Productivity Software on the business market and felt no need whatsoever to go into the cloud.

So as said Google gave the enterprise market a chance with Google Apps, which was a new adventure as the only experience they had with companies was from selling ads via Adwords. But they tried it with a basic productivity suite for all sorts of corporations at a fixed price per year of $50 (which was entirely different from Microsoft’s model which asked for a large implementation price) It offered the same products that Google users had used for years. Such as Gmail, Calendar and Google Drive(Google’s Office counterpart) which includes Google Docs, Sheets and Slides and some Gigabytes of space for backups and such.

Microsoft wasn’t impressed  by Google Apps, according to Microsoft it was far too basic to address the needs of the modern Enterprise and to be fair this was partly true, Gmail worked flawlessly but especially the Google Drive products such as Google Docs were very basic.

For smaller companies Google Apps quickly became interesting because of its simplicity in terms of use, installation and price plans. However it seemed hard to land larger orders/ multinationals, probably because of legacy systems in place. The first game changer became Jaguar/ Land Rover in 2009, which had been sold by Ford to Tata Motors. Jaguar had to be cut loose from Ford’s IT-infrastructure including it e-mail infrastructure. This gave headway for Jaguar to go for something new. Later many companies followed such as Ahold (55.000), Valeo (33.000), Randstad, Toyota and Casio. Today more than 5 Million Businesses use Google Apps.

In 2011 an American survey under 2000 (American) companies showed that 19,6% had deployed at least one product of Google Apps. Especially industries like Education and Healthcare were at the forefront of this (mostly because it is free for them) but also the financial industry, real estate etc. Also very notable was that large companies were more likely to go for Google Apps. (31,2% vs. 18,5%).

This started to pose a real threat to Microsoft, as Office had been the companies cash cow for decades. They had to change their demeanor and go for their cloud version of Office. This happened back in the middle of 2011 with Office 365 which offered online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Microsoft took at heart a phrase made by Apple many times. It is better to cannibalize yourself than that somebody else does it for you. That means that the game is changing, cloud computing is sold cheaper with smaller margins than before. It works on a subscription basis rather than a big price upfront. This hurts Microsoft’s Bottom-line.

Office 365 is a success right now, it unleashed a new tweaked version earlier this year which only took 100 days to reach 1 million users. This is great for Microsoft and helps them a lot in their battle against Google. However most users change from Office to Office 365 so in terms of money they will not get any richer. Microsoft is cannibalizing its own desktop suite and in maybe 10 years might vanish all together. A clear case of competition driving innovation.

I wrote this article with the knowledge I gained as an intern at g-company in 2011. They were among the first in the Netherlands to see the impact of Google Apps on Dutch corporations and actively implement it for organizations such as University Utrecht, Randstad and Vopak.

Why Jaguar Land Rover Chose Google Apps – Software – Web services –

A study shows that almost 20% of companies use Google Apps – TechRepublic

http://www.appsatori.eu/google-apps?language=us

http://investorplace.com/2011/06/microsofts-cloud-move-darkens-stocks-upside/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Apps

Don’t blindly trust Big Data

The word ‘prediction’ triggers an uncomfortable feeling inside of me, since I read Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book ‘The Black Swan – Impact of the Highly Improbable.’ The author demonstrates the astonishingly bad track record of human predictions and elaborates on philosophical, statistical and psychological issues that make it impossible for us to predict. McAffee and Brynjolfsson – [1], however, state in an article that was required for this course that ‘using big data leads to better predictions, and better predictions yield better decisions’. Now I would call this, two contradicting points of view.

Interestingly enough, Taleb recently wrote an article in Wired Magazin about the flaws of Big Data entitled ‘Beware the Big Errors of Big Data’ – [2]. His view is that Big Data gives us more information, but also more false information. Consequently, he argues, the sheer amount of data makes it easy to find statistically significant relationships between variables. We humans like the simplicity of thinking that a certain effect has one or at least a few understandable causes – a phenomenon Taleb calls Narrative Bias. To bring this blog back in line with our course, let’s consider the example of taking twitter activities as the bases for prediction of stock markets, as mentioned in Luo et al.’s article -[3]. The article states that twitter activities are ‘significant leading indicators of firm equity’. Just like the student 322165pk before me, I doubt this relationship. People are self-aggrandizing and therefore not honest on twitter. To base predictions on this sort of data seems careless. Nevertheless, my key concern is not the quality of the collected data but Big Data itself, which sources from twitter etc..  Big D. makes it virtually impossible not to find relationships like the ‘twitter predicts stock market’. The researcher can easily fall for a confirmation bias, so a quest to search for information to confirm their own point of view, whilst disregarding contrary or opposing data.

To visualize this point, please have look at the following: The graph shows that the more variables and information we have the more false correlation we will obtain.

bigdatabigerrors_taleb

Obviously, as a BIM student I would like to know why I should learn about Big Data, if I am that doubtful about its predictive abilities. Big Data can show how people use your products in ways that you have not expected, for example, services like tumblr started out with a focus on erotica and later the makers discovered that their site was mainly used for other, less wicked purposes. Generally speaking it can serve as a tool for self-measurement, as Mouton [4] puts it, and tell us the things we do not know instead of confirming the things that we would like to know.

I hope I could spark some interest about the author and his books ‘Black Swan’, ‘Fooled by Randomness’ and the freshly released ‘Antifragility’. If you are interested then you should join me to Amsterdam on the 4th of October, as Nassim Taleb is holding a lecture in the Pathé Tuschinkski. [https://www.nexus-instituut.nl/en/events/137-nassim-nicholas-taleb] Get your tickets!

Nils

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[1] McAfee, A., and Brynjolfsson, E. 2012. Big Data: The Management Revolution. Harvard Business Review 90(10) 60-68.

[2] http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/02/big-data-means-big-errors-people/

[3] Luo, X., Jie, Z., and Duan, W. 2013. Social Media and Firm Equity Value. Information Systems Research 24(1) 146-163.

[4] http://www.minyanville.com/sectors/technology/articles/Does-Big-Data-Have-Us-2527Fooled/8/19/2013/id/51346?refresh=1

http://www.fiercebigdata.com/story/big-data-predictions-fooled-randomness-and-subject-tmi/2013-08-21

Today Netflix launches in the Netherlands

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This morning Netflix opened their doors to the millions of Dutch households. For 8 euros a month Dutch users can watch an unlimited amount of movies and series. But why would we subscribe to yet another service, while downloading movies is still legal and never has been easier. Why would they select the Netherlands over other European countries and is this decision correct?

If you really think about it the Netherlands seems like a logical choice. There are roughly 7.5milion households and 90% have broadband.  The download speed is globally ranked as 7th and in Europe 2nd behind Luxembourg.  The population speaks and understands English very well and the movies aren’t dubbed as in Germany or  French.

But on the other hand, we are known as greedy and there is a lot of competition out there. Several services already offer movies at home, for example Pathé thuis (launched by the cinema Pathé) and Video on Demand by companies as Ziggo, UPC and KPN.
Are consumers willing to pay the price? Basic television subscriptions cost between 15 and 30 euros a month. Dutch TV shows as “Boer zoekt Vrouw” and “The voice of Holland” get ratings of 4,3 and 3,7 million viewers , which is 25% of the Dutch population. Do these viewers really want to pay an additional fee, for movies which can also be downloaded in the same quality? Netflix can’t yet show the newest movies and series which just came out of the cinema, so their content will be a bit outdated.

Spotify was able to enter a similar market, the music industry, and got over 1 million users in the Netherlands, and these users turn out to be the most active users within West-Europe. Will Netflix be able to create a similar buzz which will convince consumers to try it out? Netflix sure makes things easy, your account is up and running within a couple of minutes and you can watch content on your smart-tv, computer, laptop, gaming console and smartphones. But their competitive advantage isn’t only ease of use. After a couple of movies or series Netflix will suggest what else you should watch, based on their database and other peoples preferences.

Not only will it be interesting to watch Netflix’ launch in the Netherlands from a business perspective, but also from a cultural and IT perspective. Will they be able to change the competition or will they simply pass along, unnoticed.

[1] http://gigaom.com/2013/09/10/netflix-netherlands-launch/

[2] http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/31/4575506/spotify-doubled-revenue-in-2012-but-losses-grow

[3] http://www.netindex.com/download/allcountries/

[4] http://www.kijkonderzoek.nl/component/Itemid,45/option,com_kijkcijfers/file,n1-0-1-p

[5] http://www.onemorething.nl/2013/05/nederlanders-zijn-spotify-grootgebruikers/

[6] http://www.nu.nl/internet/3367011/spotify-werft-1-miljoen-nieuwe-betalende-abonnees-in-3-maanden.html

[7] http://tech.co/what-your-startup-can-learn-from-spotifys-success-2013-04

Project Loon

Project Loon

While we daily interact with Internet almost two-thirds of the world’s population does not have Internet access just yet. Project Loon is there to connect people in both rural and remote areas.

 

Interested check it out by clicking here

New computer program analyses Twitter to map public sentiment

New Computer Program analysis Twitter

Having a system that could be used on a mass scale to evaluate crowd emotions, alert police to potential criminals or public safety threats, and even guide national policy on dealing with major incidents. Could such a system exist? Yes it can, at this moment such a system is being used in the UK. The system called Emotive reads 2000 tweets a second to analyze the nation’s mood. Where it makes use of an ontology that takes eight different emotions listed below and gives them a rich linguistic context. This is done to create the possibility to translate both slang and ordinary language in the eight different emotions: anger, disgust, fear, happiness, surprise, sadness, shame, and “moods” of tweets into different geographical areas and than analyze how these “moods” evolve over time.

While only used in the UK the system could handle 10.000 tweets a second.  While trying to make use of this system in other countries, researchers are also thinking about expanding the system in ways that it can create personality profiles from the language individuals make us on Twitter but also other comparable social streams.

This computer program allows people to collect the expressions of feelings in real time, map them geographically, and see how they develop. Is this program a threat or is it a computer program that could help to calm civil unrest and identify early threat to public safety? At this moment  Emotive is seen as a program that could help to calm civil unrest and identify early threat to public safety, since it allows the police to track potential criminal behavior or threats to public safety and may be able to guide national policy on the best way to react to major incidents.

In the different articles discussing Emotive one example is constantly used, where the dead of soldier Lee Rigby caused tweets of sadness and disgust on Twitter. While some just tweeted about the sadness of the event others tweeted phrases that expressed racial hatred against Muslims. “Two days after his murder his family appealed for calm, stating that their son would not have wanted his name to be used as an excuse to carry out attacks against others. This appeal had an almost immediate effect, leading to an outpour of positive sentiment.” (Press Assocation, 2013. New computer program analyses Twitter to map public sentiment. Guardian, [online] September. Available at: <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/sep/06/computer-program-twitter-public-mood-emotive&gt; [Acccessed 6 September 20130]

However, now looking at this system from a business perspective could companies use this system to change their marketing strategy? In ways that if Emotive indicates that people are sad that grocery stores for example send out direct mailings in regards to ice creams or chocolate products to customers that they have in their CRM system that live in that area.

Go to article online

Social Commerce: Building the Next Generation Walmart

Two year ago I wrote a paper about social commerce and Walmart , it was a textbook example of a company who made use of this strategy. Now two years later they are the ones who are still making use of the enormous data, which is available throughout so many social media channels.

Before starting about Walmart I first want to explain a bit more about Social Commerce. As some of you might know Social Commerce is a type of e-commerce in which social media channels are actively used, whereby users are supported and their online purchase experiences improves. Advantages of social commerce are various, namely the online retailer can offer products on a more tailor made basis since you know everything about their profile and likes on Facebook for example and besides that it increases the possibility of a viral marketing effect since the costumers are just more happier.

Having said all this I would like to introduce you to the Walmart’s way of using social media to become more profitable in the e-commerce industry.

Walmart Labs
Since the Walmart’s market is changing as well, they decided to create a new platform within e-commerce which is mainly focusing on the fusion of retail, social and mobile, namely @Walmartlabs.
In February 2012 I wrote about the Social Genome, the heart of this platform, Walmart uses to intercept actions and behaviour on the social media channels. On its website, Walmart is using the following example:
“I love Salt!” a user enthusiastically tweeted. Within seconds, the tiny tweet had arrived at @WalmartLabs, where it was analyzed in lightning-fast fashion. A few minutes later, a message arrived in a close friend’s inbox: “Good morning, Juliana! You asked us to remind you that Hanna’s birthday is coming up. She’s just tweeted positively about “Salt,” a new Angelina Jolie movie. Would you like to buy something related for her? We have a few suggestions.”
Isn’t it amazing? Every second thousands of Tweets, Facebook Messages and blogs are being processed in this Social Genome, which is a real crown jewel.

Nowadays, besides their amazing Social Genome they also take advantage of this technology by all kinds of Social Apps they build on social networking sites such as facebook. For example ‘Shopycat’ uses data from Facebook to recommend best products for the user.

‘The social commerce strategy of Walmart is a incredible way of using the Big Data which is available nowadays, don’t you think?’

‘Do you think they have a competitive advantage or do you know other companies using this strategy also?’

Images:
1: Social Genome Walmart

Social Genome Walmart

2: Part of Social Genome Walmart

Part of Social Genome

Sources:
http://www.walmartlabs.com/
– Li, Ting (2012) Social Commerce and Business Models, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, 16 februari 2012 (lecture slides)
– Walmart Inc. (2011) ‘Building the Next Generation Walmart’, Annual Report 2012, pp. 1-57
– Richardson, J (2008) ‘The business model: an integrative framework for strategy execution’, Strategic Change’, 14 oktober 2008: p.133-144

Is your online data still safe?

A quick look inside the world of the National Security Agency

6 June 2013, the day the web stopped being a safe place, and became a repository of data for National Security Agencies. Of course we kid ourselves if we really think that the internet was ever a safe place. From its inception the web has been a safe haven for all kinds of data collection with an ill intend. Governments, corporations and criminal organizations have been gathering our personal information and behavior for years, and reports about this go back to the turn of the century and beyond.

It is of course true that since it was suspected that stuxnet [1] and flame[2] are creations of the U.S. government, heads all over the world were turned. However, it was not until 2013 that these suspicions were confirmed. The Washington Post [3] revealed, following documents of whistleblower Edward Snowden[4], that the NSA collected information with the secret program PRISM for years, through computer servers including Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

But this is not all, according to Snowden the United States is bugging EU diplomats, can store 1 billion cellphone calls daily, is targeting nearly 120,000 internet users actively and receives live notifications when surveillance targets use email and chat [5].

If one thing is clear from the current reports, it is this: nothing is safe. Vulnerabilities in VPNs, HTTPS, and smartphones[6] are known and are obviously exploited. Geolocation data of iPhones was regularly used until Apple put a stop to it in 2011[7]. Full hard drives can be decoded by super cooling the RAM of a machine. Also SSL / TLS is basically not safe, as the huge computing power available to the NSA is supposed to have, is released. And then there are the simpler methods: read along before encryption has occurred, backdoors in encryption software, ask or steal keys from providers and company computers. [8]

Can the NSA see it all?

Is there anything we can do to prevent this?

So, now we wonder if our files are still safe? Can the NSA see my private pictures and my love letters? The answer is probably:  Yes, they can!  But are we completely helpless? We certainly are not. As Snowden himself says: “Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on” Though he cautioned that the N.S.A. often bypasses the encryption altogether by targeting the computers at one end or the other and grabbing text before it is encrypted or after it is decrypted. [9]

One bright spot: 1024-bit RSA (Crackable) will by next year no longer be used by the U.S. government, and 2048 bit encryption (Apparently, not yet crackable) has been approved until 2030. A simple upgrade will make the likeliness of having co-readers again a lot smaller.[8]

But what to do when you really don’t want any snooping in your data? According to security expert Bruce Schneier, ” if she really wants, the espionage service can enter any computer”. Assuming that the NSA can get to your documents before they are encrypted, he formulates [10] amongst others the following recommendations for those who want to stay out of sight of the NSA:

  • Hide in the network, use Tor;
  • Whenever possible, use encryption software in the public domain;
  • Avoid commercial encryption software, especially those of major suppliers;

He reasons that using services such as TOR [11] does not guarantee that you stay out of sight of the NSA, but it takes more effort. The less you stand out, the safer you are.

Furthermore, it is quite possible that the NSA can crack the encryption. But again,  it takes more effort reading encrypted messages than reading unencrypted messages. Also, it is a good idea to choose symmetric cryptography solutions [12] – in which the transmitter and receiver agree on the key in advance. To top this off, using open source is more secure than proprietary software: the chance that a loophole stands out in open source software is many times greater than in closed source applications.[10]

As with all, it is also  true here: use your brain and immerse yourself in the subject before you blunder in and make a mistake. The best security to keep your secrets is not to entrust them to a visible medium, electronically or otherwise.

Undoubtedly, the revelations of Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers will continue to shake the world and bring other issues to light. But what I’m wondering is how you think about your online identity, the security of your data and the influence that the access of third parties to this information might have on your future?

Let me know in the comments below!

Sources

[1] http://antivirus.about.com/od/virusdescriptions/p/Stuxnet-Worm.htm

[2] http://watchguardsecuritycenter.com/2012/05/31/what-is-the-flame-worm-and-should-i-worry-about-it/

[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/12/heres-everything-we-know-about-prism-to-date/

[4] http://www.biography.com/people/edward-snowden-21262897

[5] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/06/5-new-revelations-nsa-spying-snowden

[6] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/privacy-scandal-nsa-can-spy-on-smart-phone-data-a-920971.html

[7] http://www.examiner.com/article/latest-snowden-leak-reveals-the-nsa-s-love-of-the-iphone

[8] http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/09/of-course-nsa-can-crack-crypto-anyone-can-the-question-is-how-much/

[9] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/us/nsa-foils-much-internet-encryption.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[10] http://www.automatiseringgids.nl/nieuws/2013/36/5-manieren-om-je-te-onttrekken-aan-afluisteren-door-de-nsa

[11] https://www.torproject.org/docs/faq.html.en#WhatIsTor

[12] http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/library/s-crypt02/index.html

The newest big thing: Smart Watch

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With Sony and Samsung already introducing their first smart watch, also car manufacturer Nissan is launching their first smart watch; the Nismo Watch.

Their goal is to connect car and driver and will provide drivers with real-time biometric data. The Nismo Watch will allow drivers to monitor their efficiency of their vehicle, with monitoring the average speed, fuel consumption and maintenance schedule. Next to this, it will also monitor some biometric information via a heart rate monitor, so they can give more information about the driver’s health. Gareth Dunsmore, Marketing Communications General Managers, Nissan in Europe, commented: On track, Nissan uses the latest biometric training technologies to improve the performance of our Nissan Nismo Athletes and it is this technology we want to bring to our fans to enhance their driving experience and Nismo ownership’. 

The Nismo Watch will be available in black, white and red and it is secured onto the wrist via a simple snap-fit mechanism. The Nismo Watch will use a lithium battery and has a battery life of over seven days.

Although I really like the design and the idea behind the Nismo Watch, at the moment I have the feeling that the applications on the watch are still a bit pointless unless you are a race driver. Perhaps some other applications, like keyless entry to the car, will make it more interesting for future users. And off course the watch is only valuable to you if you own a Nissan car. 

The technology however, seems very interesting to me, especially when some extra applications are available, and is stuff that can hopefully be implemented into all smart watches for cars in the future.

 What do you think, another useless gadget or a helpful gadget for car drivers?

sources:
http://www.multivu.com/mnr/62417-nissan-nismo-smartwatch-concept