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Archive for January 2010

“It” is finally here. Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad tablet device at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco to a packed house amidst thunderous applause.
After months of speculation, which reached a fevered pitch over the last two weeks, it was absolutely imperative that Apple‘s iPad live up to the hype. And it does. Jobs characterized the iPad as a third device category between a notebook and a smart phone; and given the features and the form factor that is a credible claim.
The biggest and most pleasant surprise was the very affordable price tag: iPad list pricing begins at $499 for the basic 16GB model and goes up to $829 for the most expensive 64GB model which includes Wi-Fi and 3G. While many industry watchers expected the iPad to sell for less than $1,000 (US), it’s safe to say that no one expected it to break the $500 barrier. This aggressive tag should enable the iPad to effectively compete and competitively priced compared to the smaller and wildly popular Netbooks, which is no doubt exactly what Steve Jobs intended.
The iPad incorporates all of the rumored features and elements that consumers have come to expect and demand from Apple and then some. It incorporates superior graphics, an elegant case, a slick user interface and a multi-touch virtual keyboard. In another nod to usability, the iPad can be angled or tilted in any direction while still allowing the user to view the screen. And at just half an inch thick and weighing only 1 ½ lbs. the iPad sports a sylph-like silhouette that would be the envy of every supermodel, not to mention potentially millions of consumers who will love the portability of the slim, lightweight form factor.
The iPad, which comes equipped with a 1GHz Apple A4 chip, is also available in a variety of configurations to fit various budgets. Customers can purchase the iPad with 16-, 32-, or 64 GB solid state hard drives. And in what will surely be a boon to consumer and corporate road warriors, the iPad has a battery life of 10 hours for mainstream applications. And the iPad can sit on Standby for a month without requiring a charge, according to Jobs. All models come equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
The iPad is also fully interoperable with Apple’s other top selling products the iPhone, iPod and iTunes. Interoperability is a necessary and crucial component to the iPad’s future success. It also has the speed and power to run the latest games, TV and movies; an E-book reader and content from multiple external sources.
Broad Appeal
The iPad seemingly has something for everyone: enough speed and power to attract the gaming crowd; E-book reader capabilities; Google Maps; the ability to watch TV, movies and video – YouTube can be viewed in high definition (HD). It also features broad application support which is the life blood and a necessary element for the success of any hardware device. It already supports popular applications such as Calendaring, Google Maps, Facebook and even Major League Baseball. The iPad will also appeal to scrapbooking and photography buffs. It has a photo scrubber bar on the bottom of the screen that has multiple settings, that lets the user flip through photo albums, run slideshows and listen to music. And while it may not be the [Amazon] Kindle Killer as some have dubbed it, at the very least the iPad will give the Kindle some tough competition. Apple has already lined up five publishing powerhouses including: Harper Collins, Macmillan, Simon and Shuster, Hatchett House and Penguin Books. More such partnerships will likely be announced in the coming months.
Analysis
The iPad has two missions to fulfill. The first is that it must equal or exceed the very high bar that Apple has set for itself. This is no mean feat. Apple aficionados and critics alike have been spoiled by the dizzying array of devices Apple has released over the past several years. These range from new innovative Mac Books like the MacBook Air to the market changing iPhone and iPod and the ubiquitous iTunes for music downloads.
Apple now finds itself in the enviable or unenviable position of having to top itself in the quest to deliver “the next big thing” and secure its spot on the top of the hardware mountain.
Secondarily, the iPad is Apple’s attempt to fell multiple competitors — from Amazon to Google to the Net book vendors — with a single arrow.
So how does the iPad stack up? From a feature/function standpoint it lives up to the hype and it exceeds expectations from a pricing standpoint. Steve Jobs may very well have introduced a third device category. The iPad appeals to a broad user constituency that includes gamers, E-book readers, music and photography lovers, Web surfers and mobile and remote users (and probably some corporate knowledge workers as well) as well as casual consumers who just want to get the latest and greatest consumer offering that won’t break their budgets.
Undoubtedly, there will be some users who will simply shrug their shoulders and say, “I already have a notebook or Net book, why do I need the iPad?” And that’s fine.
And while it may not kill Amazon’s Kindle or the rival Net books it will force those competitors to respond with more advanced features and aggressive price points in the near and intermediate term. There is no doubt that other vendors fear Apple as witnessed by the many new tablet devices that were introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. Everyone wanted to beat Apple’s iPad to market.
No, the iPad is not Moses coming down from the mountain with tablets containing The 10 Commandments, but then again Moses didn’t have such a large audience, the benefit of sending his message out via the Web or the advantage of Apple’s marketing machine.
When all is said and done, the sales to end users – consumer and corporate alike – will be the final arbiters of the iPad’s success. The first sales figures, including pre-orders should be available within the next few months. Meanwhile, Apple has done its part by imbuing the iPad with the features, functions and broad application and industry support that are necessary to make it a success. Barring any unforeseen or show stopping bugs, the iPad looks like a winner.

If your business is strapped for cash and wondering how it’s going to find the money to pay for much needed hardware, software and network upgrades in 2010, it’s time to revisit your existing licensing contracts.
The specific terms and conditions of your licensing contracts could literally translate into money in the company’s coffers. C-level executives and IT departments may be pleasantly surprised to find that there’s gold in those contracts that may potentially net your organization much needed licenses and other already negotiated extras. While there are no guarantees, the chances are good that the organization’s existing licensing contracts could net you a windfall similar to unclaimed funds or finding treasure in Grandma’s attic. These overlooked items which may include things like unused and available desktop, server and software application licenses; discounted and free training and technical service and support could be worth thousands or even millions depending on the size and scope of the company are licensing agreements. ITIC primary research indicates that eight out of 10 businesses will undertake a major product or application upgrade during 2010. Eight out of 10 businesses will perform a major network migration in the next 12 to 15 months, and with budgets still tight, upper management is demanding tangible TCO and ROI.
Natural skepticism many prompt many of you reading this to question how organizations could fail to notice licenses and tools that they’ve already paid for, which are so crucial to the bottom line.
Very easily and it happens all the time. As an analyst at Giga Information Group, my colleague, Julie Giera and I put together a series of licensing boot camps or user seminars throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. We were stunned to realize that the majority of organizations don’t know what licenses they’ve bought, what they’re using or not using and they frequently don’t take advantage of extras and freebies that are written into their contracts.
I’m not accusing users of being ignorant or lazy. But the fact is, licensing agreements are most often negotiated by persons within the organization who are only tasked with getting the deal done. Once the contract is signed, the negotiator hands it off to the appropriate executive or accounting person, who promptly files the document and forgets about it. Lax communication amongst departments means that IT departments may not see the actual contracts. Thus, they may be unaware that they are entitled to myriad “extras” like expanded technical service and support; access to days or weeks of free training on specific products and access to free online inventory and asset management tools that can assist the organization in tracking license usage and remaining compliant.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the majority of licensing contracts are negotiated once every two, three or even four years. ITIC research indicates that 60% of the time a different person will negotiate the licensing contracts once it comes due for renewal. And since organizations, oftentimes don’t keep good records; the new contract negotiator may be unaware of specific terms and conditions and whether or not the organization or the vendor fulfilled their responsibilities.
The result: organizations – from academic institutions and non-profits to the largest commercial enterprises –can unwittingly cheat themselves out of licenses and benefits that are rightfully theirs, leaving tens of thousands or even million on the table. Not everyone does this of course. Approximately 10% of organizations aggressively negotiate their contracts and keep tabs on their T&Cs, with the passionate obsession of Les Miserables’ Inspector Javert pursuing Jean Valjean through Paris.
Here’s a scary statistic: recent ITIC survey data indicates only 7% of organizations polled said they had attempted to renegotiate their licensing contracts in the past 12 to 18 months!
In this instance, the ongoing economic downturn can work your organization’s favor. Vendors and resellers are aware that most businesses are either strapped for cash or that their IT budgets don’t allow for extras. Your vendors and resellers are all anxious to retain your business and get you to re-sign your contracts once the licenses expire. Even if you just signed a new contract six months or a year ago, you can still contact the vendor or reseller and initiate interim negotiations. But you won’t get anything if you don’t at least make the attempt to renegotiate.
Negotiating to Save
First things, first: assemble a team that includes the appropriate members of the organization such as the CIO, CTO, VP of IT and the appropriate network administrators (e.g. database, server, messaging, security, storage, etc.) to review the T&Cs of your various licensing contracts. It’s also a good idea to involve the corporate attorneys. If your firm doesn’t have in-house counsel, engage the services of an outside firm. Legal counsel will help unravel the confusing and nebulous terms.
Do a thorough cost/analysis of your current environment. Next, conduct a thorough assessment of your current environment, tally up your licenses: are you using everything you paid for and are you paying for all the seats you’re using? Compliance is crucial. You won’t be able to negotiate a better deal if your organization has not paid for all its licenses – even if it was an honest mistake. There are lots of free software inventory and asset management tools available to assist your organization in this task. You may discover that your current licensing agreement entitles your organization to an online asset management tool. This tool will act as a discovery mechanism to uncover unused or available licenses for key products and applications. This is “found money” because your business has already paid for these product licenses.
Organizations that have recently been involved in mergers, acquisitions or divestitures should pay especially close attention to the T&Cs of the licensing contracts for all of the acquired or discarded business units. Some licenses will carry over but some may not and M&A activity will affect planned purchasing decisions.
Next, the team should collaborate and define the business needs and goals. Set priorities. There are many ways to improve TCO and ROI.
Where the Money Is
The team also must determine whether or not the organization purchased a maintenance and upgrade plan. These plans can be a real treasure trove, including everything from free or discounted upgrades; access to online training, learning and assessment tools. Additionally, they may also entitle the organization to many free services such as 24×7 phone support; free training vouchers for specific products; access to onsite technical training and support. Customers who purchased Microsoft’s Software Assurance maintenance and upgrade plan, for example, have the ability to swap or convert their Software Assurance tech support incidents for Microsoft Premier Problem Resolution incidents. The latter provides a much more detailed and hands on level of support service. Microsoft’s SA agreements also allow customers to purchase extended Hot Fix support to resolve code issues on products that are no longer sold or supported and complimentary “cold backup” server licenses for the purpose of disaster recovery.
If you’re not in compliance, take steps to return to compliance in advance of any product negotiations. Next, do a cost/analysis of your projected environment for at least two years and preferably three years. This should include estimates on staff increases or decreases which will affect future the purchasing levels and licensing agreements. Don’t over-estimate. It’s better to buy at a lower level and upgrade than to commit to purchase a higher discount level and be forced to downgrade and give back a percentage discount to your vendor or reseller in the event your company’s fortunes wane.
Before approaching your vendor/reseller, investigate what types of deals your peers are getting on their licensing contracts. Compare notes to determine that the T&Cs of your contracts are competitively priced. User groups are a great source of information. When it comes to negotiating for better terms, knowledge really is power.
Approach your vendor or reseller with several “wish list” items. Be as specific as possible. “I’d like a 10% discount on 50 licenses for XYZ product,” will yield better results than an open-ended request like, “How much of a discount can you give me?” or “What can you do for us?”
And above all be reasonable. The economic recession has had an adverse impact on vendors as well as end users so don’t ask for the Sun, the Moon and the stars.
If you have a good relationship with your vendor or reseller sales representative, there’s a good chance they’ll be receptive to negotiating things like fixed annual payments or extended payment plans and even negotiating down the percentage of the True-Up payment if your organization has experienced a reversal of fortune over the past year or two. Here’s a list of things your organization may want to negotiate:
• Keep your unused licenses and have them carry over when you re-sign a new contract.
• Negotiate for price caps on product and licensing increases
• Price protection for the duration of your licensing contract
• Contract buy-outs
• Licensing transfer fees
• Penalty waivers if you’re non-compliant
• Flexibility in signing upgrade and maintenance agreements
• Discounted or free training
• Discounted or free technical service and support incidents
• Free training vouchers

Again, this is all saved money that will shave your organization’s capital expenditure and operational expenditure budget. Don’t get discouraged if your vendor or reseller initially balks. That’s all part of the negotiating process. Be persistent; remember your vendor wants to keep you as a customer. Be prepared with a counter-offer. Remember: you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The recently announced joint Hewlett-Packard/Microsoft Application-to-Infrastructure Model Partnership has intriguing possibilities for both companies and their respective and overlapping installed customer base. However, it remains to be seen how quickly and efficiently the two industry giants can deliver products and market the merits of the solution. Now $250 million is huge investment even for two high tech powerhouses like HP and Microsoft. So we know this is a serious committment.

To recap, HP and Microsoft said they will invest $250 million into their Frontline Partnership. The deal aims to deliver full, integrated stacks that support Microsoft’s Exchange Server and SQL Server, including management, virtualization and cloud implementations. The resulting product offerings will consist of pre-packaged application solution bundles that incorporate the aforementioned management and virtualization capabilities. The two companies said the pact calls for them to partner on engineering, R&D, marketing and channel sales.
Still, the announcement left many industry watchers with more questions than answers. As my colleagues Charles King and Merv Adrian noted in their Breaking News Review in the January 14 special edition of Charles King’s Pund-IT, HP and Microsoft “have worked closely for years, share tens of thousands of common customers and channel partners and have long supported each other’s interests.”
So what’s new about this announcement? That question should be answered during the coming months. A $250 million investment is considerable even for two high technology titans. It now remains for HP and Microsoft to execute on their promise to produce solutions that thoroughly integrate the two companies’ infrastructure and applications stacks to ship pre-configured and optimized solutions for Microsoft’s Exchange Server, and SQL Server, virtualization, cloud computing converged infrastructure and pre-packaged application tools.
But perhaps the most immediate and daunting challenge is for HP and Microsoft to deliver a product roadmap that also includes specific details about the pricing, training and services the two firms will commonly deliver. Above all, companies must market and sell this deal to the legions of skeptics. The high tech industry has witnessed numerous high profile partnership deals announced amidst much industry fanfare never to be heard from after the initial press releases.
Remember the Cisco Systems/Microsoft Directory Enabled Network (DEN) initiative of the late 1990s? No. Not many people do. Announced with great fanfare, this dream team was supposed to incorporate the functionality of Microsoft’s Active Directory into Cisco routers and provide network administrators with a more comprehensive means of managing various devices on their network. In reality, the Cisco/Microsoft DEN initiative was a partnership on paper only. There are dozens of similar examples. Hence, the skepticism that greets such announcements is understandable.
This is all the more reason for HP and Microsoft executives to follow up on last week’s announcement with quick, decisive action and not just more fodder for the PR Newswire. For example, when can we expect to see the first fruits of the so-called “deeply optimized machine environment” that will provide turn-key, pre-packaged and pre-integrated server, application, networking and storage solutions? Who are the specific target users and how will they benefit? How will Microsoft and HP license and service these products? Those are just a few of the questions that need to be answered.
Non-Exclusive Partnerships Sometimes Make Strange Bedfellows
The partnership also has especially intriguing implications for HP which now has pacts in place with all of the major virtualization providers, including Microsoft’s biggest rival, and VMware. The new HP/Microsoft Application-to-Infrastructure is a non-exclusive three year partnership. It’s worth noting that HP already has a deal in place with VMware, whose ESX Server is the market leader in server virtualization. Microsoft also gets a boost from this deal. Microsoft’s Hyper-V has been gaining ground, particularly among small and mid-sized corporations. However, it has a long way to go to catch up to ESX Server’s installed base, particularly among large enterprises, so this pact helps keep Microsoft competitive. Additionally, HP also delivers a full suite of management solutions that integrates VMware’s vCenter offering with HP’s Insight management product. HP and Microsoft intend to similarly integrate HP’s Insight and Microsoft’s Systems Center. So again, this helps Microsoft broaden the appeal of its virtualization appeal to its existing base and makes it a more attractive solution for prospective customers.
The partnership with Microsoft put’s HP in the proverbial cat-bird’s seat: it now has a full line of its own servers that runs all the VMware products and similar plans to support Microsoft’s SQL Server and Exchange Server. This gives HP the ability to offer a full line of integrated hardware and services customers their choice of virtualization vendors, while remaining agnostic.
From Microsoft’s perspective, the partnership with HP also has immediate value: it allows Microsoft – at least on paper – to keep pace with VMware, by working with HP, a top OEM hardware vendor and services provider, which is no mean feat. Former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz who now runs VMware is intent on rejuvenating that company and he knows that the way to solidify and expand VMware’s influence is to increase its stake in management and applications. Just last week, VMware purchased Zimbra, the open source Email and collaboration unit of Yahoo for a rumored $100 million. Not coincidentally, Zimbra describes its Collaboration suite as the “next generation” Microsoft Exchange server.
Microsoft clearly felt the need to respond in kind.
The plethora of technology and partnership deals such the HP/Microsoft Application-to-Infrastructure pact, serve as a reminder of the intensity of the IT industry’s competitive landscape – particularly in burgeoning markets like virtualization and by extension, nascent markets like cloud computing. No vendor can afford to rest on its laurels. They must continue to upgrade their product and services offerings to keep pace with the competition.
Microsoft and VMware will continue to try and top one another, and HP is the beneficiary of this ongoing rivalry. Let’s hope the end users are also winners, too.