Facebook has signed up the biggest private company in the world – Walmart – as a customer for its Workplace enterprise product, something of a coup as it competes against other products which have been in the market for far longer. Of course, many of Walmart’s employees work in stores and not at desks and so likely will never need accounts on the corporate social network, so though its overall size is dazzling, the size of the deployment is likely to be rather smaller. But it appears that Facebook has been quietly making good progress signing up other businesses of different sizes including some big names like Telenor (Norway’s incumbent telecoms operator) and Starbucks. All of this is indicative of Facebook’s enormous power to leverage its dominance in consumer social networking into other fields, whether messaging, photo sharing, or even crossing over into the enterprise, based on its familiar brand, interfaces, and tools. That’s never been a guarantee of success in any market for Facebook, as its repeated failures to compete organically with Snapchat demonstrate, but it has given it a leg up in many areas over companies starting from scratch and continues to make it a formidable competitor for any company going up against it directly.
Microsoft Makes Set of Announcements at Ignite Partner Event (Sep 25, 2017)
Microsoft kicked off its Ignite partner event in Florida today, and made a set of announcements during the opening keynote. The Microsoft blog post linked below gives a quick run-down of the big ones, which included new versions of the Microsoft 365 as-a-service Windows-Office bundle for education and “first-line workers” (roughly, workers who don’t sit behind desks but still use computers), new Azure partnerships with hardware vendors to enable hybrid cloud deployments, enhancements to Azure’s machine learning capabilities, and a push around quantum computing. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also launched a new book about his turnaround of Microsoft, and this was a theme throughout the day’s presentations. Lastly, it appears Microsoft is killing off Skype for Business in favor of its new Slack-like Teams product, which represents yet another in a string of changes to Microsoft’s enterprise communication software over the last few years – I’m hoping this strategy finally sticks. There’s nothing that significant here for the consumer technology market I spend most of my time covering, but the announcements are indicative of the big focus areas Microsoft has at the moment: cloud, AI and machine learning (as much as enablers of third party developers as within Microsoft’s own products), and openness and partnering.
Apple Adds Accenture as Latest Enterprise Partner for iOS (Aug 29, 2017)
Google and Cisco Partner for Hybrid Cloud Environments (Aug 3, 2017)
Google Glass Relaunched as Enterprise and Industrial Product (Jul 18, 2017)
Microsoft Begins Bundling Windows and Office for Businesses (Jul 10, 2017)
Amazon Considered a Bid for Slack (Jun 15, 2017)
Apple has done a deal with HP to allow the latter to include its devices in its enterprise device-as-a-service offering for enterprises. This is the latest in a string of deals between Apple and various enterprise-centric partners over recent years – a sign that the enterprise is an increasingly important source of growth for Apple as the consumer market reaches saturation for smartphones and upgrade cycles lengthen. HP will be a channel for all Apple devices, but the two companies are also working together to create some guidelines for various industries in deploying those devices and making the most of them in various applications. Apple’s strategy for the enterprise continues to be mainly leveraging these various third party channels rather than growing its own substantial business sales force, which is smart given Apple’s expertise (and the gaps in it).
I actually excluded this DeX solution from my various comments on the Samsung announcements yesterday, not deliberately, but probably because it seemed like the least important thing Samsung announced and I simply forgot about it. These solutions have been around for years, and they’ve never done well, only in part because they’re clunky but mostly because the compelling use cases are pretty hard to find. Anyone who regularly travels almost certainly has a laptop they could plug into a similar setup (or use independently), while anyone who doesn’t would be unlikely to justify the investment in not just this $150 dock but also several hundred dollars’ worth of monitor, keyboard, and mouse too for occasional use. I did spend this morning with Samsung’s enterprise team and saw some impressive demos of virtual Windows desktops from Citrix and VMware running on this solution, and those are slightly more compelling than the Android hybrid this thing runs by default as a desktop experience, but the caveats all still apply. This still feels like a very niche solution which very few people are actually going to find useful.
via The Verge
Last week Google announced its Slack competitor, and this week Microsoft is announcing the availability of its previously announced entry in this space: Teams. One big difference versus Slack is that Teams will be baked into every Office 365 enterprise subscription rather than being a paid standalone product, which should almost immediately make it available to many more people than Slack. In addition, it will be integrated into other parts of Office more fully than Slack itself. The big question then becomes whose implementation of the concept is better, and also to some extent whether people keen to use something other than email to collaborate will look to a startup or the company that actually runs their email – Microsoft is making the argument that it isn’t actually trying to replace email but instead offer another way to collaborate when email doesn’t make sense. To some extent, that actually has more credibility to me than replacing email entirely, which has always seemed a slightly unrealistic goal for Slack.
More announcements today from Google’s big Cloud event, with today’s focus being more on the end user tools rather than the infrastructure ones covered yesterday. The big news is that Hangouts is getting a bit more sophisticated, with a more fleshed out version of the meetings app now called Hangouts Meet and becoming a bit more like WebEx, and a second feature set which basically mimics Slack under the Hangouts Chat banner. Google is definitely getting stronger in some of these areas on the enterprise, although it’s surprising to me that we haven’t seen some of this stuff much sooner – Google has been using a version of Hangouts internally for years for its meetings, and I would have thought we’d have seen these more optimized tools long before now. But it’s getting there, and it’s starting to feel like the enterprise side is a lot more logical in its structure and feature set than Google’s consumer messaging and communication apps.
Google is having its big enterprise cloud event, Next, this week, and making lots of announcements of both new features and new customers. I got a briefing on the new features on Monday ahead of the announcements, and it looks like a decent set of mostly incremental improvements, many of which are about closing the gap competitively with Amazon and Microsoft and a few of which are more unique. But all the new features and customer wins Google announces won’t change a basic fact outlined well in this WSJ report: Google is way behind the two big players in this space in terms of scale. Even with rapid growth, Google is unlikely to close the gap because both AWS and Azure are growing fast too. Google claims that it’s winning a good share of the engagements it competes for, which then implies that it’s still not being considered for many engagements where Amazon and Microsoft are competing, something that’s also reinforced by a (somewhat self-serving) comment from Microsoft in this article. Its job at this point is, then, to ensure higher consideration when companies are looking for a cloud provider.
The link here is to the PDF of a report from Jamf, which makes Mac management software for enterprises and educational organizations. It naturally has an incentive to push Mac adoption in the enterprise, so it’s worth noting that context, but the findings are broadly in line with what I’ve seen elsewhere. Some key figures: 91% of enterprises use at least some Macs, while 99% use iPhones or iPads; 74% of organizations have seen an increase in Mac adoption; 44% of companies offer employees a choice of Mac or PC, and at IBM for example 73% of employees want to use a Mac as their next computer. The survey of IT decision makers also has majorities saying Macs are easier to manage, configure, secure, and support than PCs. The enterprise is critical to Apple’s future growth given increasing saturation of global smartphone and PC markets, and already accounts for around 10% of revenue. Enterprises providing Macs, iPhones, and iPads as options for employees is therefore a key enabler of future growth here, and Apple’s recent deals with IBM, Cisco, SAP, and Deloitte are all part of its push to make Apple device adoption by companies easier and better.
via Jamf (PDF)
Apple and SAP today announced that the partnership they first unveiled last year is beginning to bear real fruit. Last year, they had announced plans for an SDK, a training academy, and some sample apps from SAP itself designed to show third party developers what could be done. All of those things have now made enough progress at this point to justify a second announcement about imminent launches and progress made since. Several of the elements of what the companies announced originally are going to be available in the next few weeks, and all that should help SAP’s enterprise customers and their partners develop better iOS apps that tap into the SAP back-end. This is part of Apple’s broader push into the enterprise over the last few years, something that’s critical for squeezing additional growth out of an increasingly saturated smartphone market in mature economies. But it’s also a good reminder that the announcements Apple makes in the enterprise space are very different from its usual product announcements – they’ll take at least months to come to fruition, and in many cases will take even longer after that to deliver really meaningful results – this is a long game.
via Mac Rumors
Amazon’s most high-profile enterprise offerings are back-end stuff – AWS, obviously, but also a range of other services mostly designed for IT departments rather than the broad base of employees within a business. But it has tinkered with employee-facing services in the past, and now it’s getting into one of those big categories almost every enterprise end user uses (and probably mostly dreads): conference calls. It looks like Amazon has thought this through pretty well – there are a handful of little features which could address specific pain points, and the pricing seems reasonable compared to some of what’s out there too. I’m definitely tempted to try this myself with a view to potentially ditching my expensive and frustrating WebEx subscription. This feels like it could be a gateway to more end user-focused enterprise stuff from Amazon too – much more promising than some of its earlier efforts in this space.
The article doesn’t mention Microsoft once, but talks about Google’s consumer products several times, which makes it feel like this is rather missing the point. This is an enterprise offering and therefore goes head on against various Microsoft products and services intended to achieve similar aims (as well as those from Box and other smaller, more specialized enterprise software and service providers). Both Google and Microsoft are focusing on their AI skills as a source of differentiation in enterprise file management, by promising to help employees find the files they need. Search is, of course, a core Google skill, but it operates very differently in an enterprise file system from on the open web, and Microsoft may actually be better placed here given its long history and the massive investment many companies have made in Microsoft tools in this setting.
Apple exec for business sales departs – Reuters (Feb 7, 2017)
John Solomon certainly isn’t a high profile figure outside of Apple, but he’s been managing an important aspect of Apple’s overall business: enterprise sales, which make up around 10% of total revenues. His appointment was met with some raised eyebrows among the Apple faithful – a printer salesman as Apple employee? – but the key here isn’t product expertise but knowing how to navigate the enterprise procurement world, which Solomon no doubt understood well. The point is, there are lots of people that understand that world, so he shouldn’t be too hard to replace, and Apple could probably use some fresh help here in supporting their recent partnerships with IBM, Cisco, Deloitte and others with a really solid sales approach.