Apple Inc is embarking on its most aggressive push yet onto enterprise IT turf, hiring a dedicated sales force to talk with potential clients like Citigroup Inc and working in concert with a dozen or so developers, two sources familiar with its plans say.
Experts say the company hopes to offset a gradual deceleration in growth – highlighted by iPad sales that have declined three straight quarters – by expanding its footprint in the workplace.
Three months after unveiling a partnership with IBM to develop apps for corporate clients and sell them on devices, the iPhone maker’s plans to challenge sector leaders Hewlett-Packard, Dell Inc , Oracle and SAP are starting to take shape.
Details remain scant, but some industry experts say that the tie-up with Big Blue gives Apple an opportunity to begin to challenge Hewlett Packard’s and Dell’s dominance of office IT, and Oracle and SAP’s command of work applications. Depending on its progress, it may hamper Microsoft, Samsung’s or Google’s own efforts in the nascent market for mobile work applications.
Apps developers and other sources familiar with Apple’s plans who could not speak publicly provided additional details on how the iPhone maker is working behind the scenes.
The iPhone maker has worked closely with a group of startups, including ServiceMax and PlanGrid, that already specialize in selling apps to corporate America. The two people familiar with the plans, but who could not speak publicly about them, say Apple is already in talks with other mobile enterprise developers to bring them into a more formal partnership.
The iPhone maker may be trying to replicate the model that served the iPhone well: hook the client on the software and content, then keep them coming back for the hardware, which is what drives the lions’ share of Apple’s bottom line.
On Friday, Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for the iPad were ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, on the App Store free download list.
Two days earlier, those same apps were ranked Nos. 14, 39 and 44 in the U.S., according to AppAnnie, a company that tracks app store market data for developers. Distimo, which AppAnnie acquired in May but still maintains its own listings, pegged Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad at Nos. 12, 39 and 48 on the same day, Wednesday, Nov. 5.
The rankings surge was triggered by announcements by Microsoft that it was moving the boundary line between free and paid on the Office for iPad apps. Previously, consumers without an Office 365 subscription could use the Office for iPad apps only to view documents. Under the new rules, consumers may now also create and edit documents, although features Microsoft labeled “advanced editing,” as well as the unlimited OneDrive storage space, remained available only to Office 365 customers.
Businesses must still pay if their employees want to use Office for iPad, Office on iPhones and Android smartphones, and almost certainly Office on Android tablets when that ships early next year.
Office apps on the iPhone also pushed to near the top of the App Store chart on Friday: Word was No. 1, Excel No. 4 and PowerPoint No. 8. Those apps were new, so no direct comparisons were possible.
The iPhone trio had been spun off Microsoft’s earlier app, Office Mobile, which debuted in mid-2013. Initially tied to Office 365 — as was the iPad – the link was broken in March when Microsoft allowed consumers to download and use all Office Mobile features free of charge on their iPhones.
Dell customers who are exploring Windows 10 believe that the new OS takes care of some issues that Windows 8 failed to address, said Neil Hand, vice president of tablets at Dell.
The biggest advantage of Windows 10 is the ability to run programs across devices, be they mobile or desktop, Hand said.
“The ability to create applications that are super-scalable from phone to tablet to PC is the big step in a lot of ways,” Hand said.
Dell is in the early stages of testing Windows 10 with its customers and Hand said it’s premature to say whether the OS will succeed. Dell runs Windows on most of its PCs and will likely adopt Windows 10 for its tablets and PCs next year.
Microsoft previously offered different versions of the Windows OS for mobile phones, desktops and servers, but Windows 10 is designed to unite all those editions.
Microsoft also offers separate versions of Windows 8 for its Surface 2 and Surface Pro tablets, which run on different instruction sets. Programs written for Surface 2, which is based on ARM, won’t run on Surface Pro 3, which is based on an Intel chipset. Windows 10 will eliminate any such incompatibilities and also make it easier to write and export programs from one device to another.
“Windows 10 will run across an incredibly broad set of devices — from the Internet of Things, to servers in enterprise datacenters worldwide. Some of these devices have 4 inch screens — some have 80 inch screens — and some don’t have screens at all,” said Terry Myerson , executive vice president at Microsoft’s Operating Systems group, in a blog entry.
Windows 8, with its all-new tablet user interface, presented a radical transition at the time of its release two years ago and enterprise customers preferred to go with the older Windows 7. Business users, who are Dell’s target base, have mostly skipped Windows 8 and are still upgrading PCs to Windows 7.
However, Microsoft had the right idea in mind with Windows 8, which was to prepare customers for mobile, Hand said.
Dell has unveiled the DCS XA90, an “ultra-dense” storage server capable of holding 720TB of data in a single 4U chassis.
Described by CEO Michael Dell on stage at the Dell World conference as “the power of a diesel truck in a Mini Cooper”, the DCS XA90 storage server means that a single Dell modular data centre of these units would hold 220PB of data, nearly a quarter of an exabyte.
“In a world where we could download our memories into those servers, we could house the experiences of about 90 people, an entire neighbourhood of digital lives,” said Dell.
He explained that the development of the DCS XA90 was driven by the demand for data storage that is “speeding us towards an exascale future”.
“That is what drove Dell to develop the DCS XA90 for our customers seeking extreme storage density and flexibility as they build out the cloud infrastructure of the future,” Dell added.
The DCS XA90 also packs two independent server nodes featuring Intel Xeon E5-2600v3 processors into each chassis, which Dell said makes it better for data-intensive analytics as well as archival storage.
As part of the announcement, Dell also revealed its PowerEdge FX architecture, a 2U enclosure with six PowerEdge server, storage and network IOA sleds built specifically to fit into the FX2 chassis and support varying workloads.
Due to ship in December, the PowerEdge FX architecture is described as “next-generation convergence” and a game changer in the IT industry, offering the flexibility to build configurations to meet requirements while simplifying management.
“There are other vendors who talk about convergence purely by doing an architecture rack,” said Dell’s server marketing vice president Ravi Pendekanti .
For example, HP’s Moonshot platform “just puts a bunch of blades together”, while Oracle’s Exadata platform “does one thing, and one thing really well, which is run Oracle’s enterprise applications”, he said.
The PowerEdge FX, which stands for ‘flexible infrastructure’, comprises a specially designed 2U rack-mount FX2 enclosure that can be filled with a choice of sled modules offering differing capabilities, enabling customers to adopt a building block approach to their infrastructure.
At launch, the sleds comprise a handful of full-width, half-width and quarter-width compute modules that allow customers to pick the performance and density required for applications such as web hosting, virtualisation or running databases, plus a half-width storage sled that can provide direct attached storage for the compute nodes.
The two firms, which have been competing in the cloud storage and file sync market — Dropbox’s bread and butter, a feature rather than a business for Microsoft — will now team up, first on tablets and smartphones, then next year online.
Some analysts called it advantage Microsoft in the partnership, but still thought Dropbox got an important win. “What Dropbox gets out of this is survival,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analysts at Moor Insights & Strategy.
Microsoft will revamp its Office mobile apps — Excel, PowerPoint and Word on the iPad, iPhone and Android smartphones — in the coming weeks so that users can connect to their Dropbox accounts from within those apps. In 2015, Microsoft will add the same capability to the Office Online apps, the Web-based versions of its primary applications.
Meanwhile, Dropbox will modify its mobile app — available now for Android and iOS — so that Excel, PowerPoint and Word documents stored on its service can be opened using the Office apps. Dropbox also said it would create a native Windows Phone app, something it’s declined to do previously, that would offer the same connectivity to Office.
“That [commitment to a Windows Phone app] shouldn’t be undersold,” said Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft. “That’s a ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’”
In the first half of 2015, Dropbox’s Web-based interface will tie into the Office Online apps.
Both Microsoft and Dropbox touted the partnership, with the latter contending “an even more seamless experience on all platforms” would be the result.
Like those first fanless models, Intel’s new Core M processors are dual-core chips that support Hyperthreading in up to four threads and have thermal design power (TDP) ratings of 4.5W.
They’re faster than the initial Core M chips, with base clock speeds ranging from 800MHz to 1.2GHz and Turbo Boost speeds from 2GHz to 2.9GHz.
The firm’s initial Core M chips were also rated at 4.5W TDP but topped out at 1.1GHz and 2.6GHz under Turbo Boost.
These additional fanless mobile chips are configurable by system designers, in that OEMs can scale the chip speeds and power consumption up or down depending on the purpose and configuration of the device.
A compact tablet or notebook can conserve power by limiting processor speed, while a larger device can offer higher speed at the cost of higher power draw and heat.
Thus, these new Core M chips can be configured from 600MHz base clock speed and 3.5W TDP to 1.4GHz base clock speed and 6W TDP in the fastest model.
Intel has also boosted the integrated graphics processors in these latest Core M chips, offering GPU base clock speeds ranging from 300MHz to 900MHz, whereas the initial models supported 100MHz to 850MHz.
The detailed specifications of all of Intel’s Core M mobile processors are available on the firm’s website.
Intel said that these new fanless Core M processors will start hitting the market early next year.
Red Hat has released an updated version of its Cloud Infrastructure suite that combines several products to deliver a comprehensive OpenStack-based cloud platform, adding its Satellite 6 lifecycle management tool to the mix.
Launched at the OpenStack Summit in Paris on Monday, Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure 5 brings together the firm’s Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) OpenStack Platform, CloudForms for managing hybrid cloud deployments, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisation, and now the Satellite 6 lifecycle management tool which was released in September.
The new release is a comprehensive solution available under a single subscription licence that provides organisations with the tools they need to transform their IT infrastructure from traditional data centre virtualisation to an OpenStack-powered cloud capable of linking with public cloud OpenStack resources, Red Hat said.
“Hybrid environments are simply the reality of today’s IT, and organisations want to get to the cloud on their own terms and timeline. Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure acknowledges that reality,” said Joe Fitzgerald, vice president and general manager for cloud management at Red Hat.
“By bringing software lifecycle and configuration management capabilities that span physical, virtual and cloud systems to users via the addition of Red Hat Satellite, we’re helping to establish Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure as one of the most comprehensive and premier cloud infrastructure solutions for enterprises.”
Satellite 6 enables provisioning and lifecycle management tasks for various Red Hat products, including RHEL, while CloudForms provides cloud management and orchestration capabilities such as self-service portals, chargeback and metering of services across private and public clouds.
Meanwhile, the RHEL OpenStack Platform 5 is itself based on the previous Icehouse release of OpenStack combined with the firm’s RHEL 7 operating system. Red Hat already offers a three-year software support product lifecycle for this platform.
According to Techeye, IDC said that the worldwide tablet market grew by 11.5 percent in the third quarter of 2014 and shipments totalled 53.8 million units.
Sales were boosted by the “back to school” season and the fact that Americans wanted to them.
It is not clear where this boost is happening. Apple is still the leader in tablets, but is continuing to see a decline in its sales. It shipped 12.3 million units in the third quarter, while Samsung shipped 9.9 million units and despite being second has an 18.3 percent market share. Asus displaced Lenovo from number three.
Asus, followed by Lenovo and in number five position is RCA, which got to its worldwide position by shipping 2.6 million tablets in the USA.
It would be a risky company which based its views entirely on what happens in the US. Everyone in Europe knows that if there is something crazy or strange happening in the world it will always be happening in the US. Our bet is that phones are getting bigger and are making tablets pretty useless.
Microsoft will rollout mobile device management (MDM) capabilities to Office 365 in 2015, making it easier for firms to manage corporate data across a range of mobile devices, including those running iOS and Android as well as Windows.
Microsoft unveiled the updates coming to its Office 365 cloud-delivered productivity suite in 2015 at its TechEd Europe conference.
These will enable customers to apply security policies against devices that connect to Office 365 to ensure that email and documents can be accessed only by approved devices, plus the ability to remotely wipe Office 365 data if necessary.
Julia White, Microsoft general manager for Office 365, said that the updates will enable customers to offer “conditional access” to Office documents and email, such as ensuring that any device used by employees has not been jailbroken or rooted, which could potentially pose a security risk.
Administrators will be able to set policies directly from the Office 365 administration portal, and enforce the use of a Pin to secure access to the device. Any wipe of Office 365 content will not affect the user’s personal data, White added.
These MDM features coming to Office 365 are actually powered by Microsoft’s Intune cloud-based management service and are a subset of Intune’s capabilities, the firm disclosed.
Intune itself is also getting some upgrades that will enable customers to benefit from additional security features if they also subscribe to Intune.
These will include data leak prevention measures that enable policies to be applied against managed applications, preventing users from copying and pasting data from an Office 365 app to another, for example, or copying files from Office 365 to elsewhere on the device.
While these capabilities are built in to Office 365, Microsoft will also enable this to be extended to other applications using Intune app wrapper functionality, White said.
White also confirmed that Microsoft is working on an Android version of the Office for iPad suite of mobile productivity tools that the firm announced for Apple’s tablet platform earlier this year.
Microsoft’s Office announcement comes amid speculation that the firm will release Office for Android next month.
Microsoft Corp introduced a device called “MicrosoftBand” that will allow users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime, marking the world’s largest software company’s foray into the wearable technology market.
The wrist-worn device has sensors that monitor pulse rate, measure calorie burn and track sleep quality, Microsoft said in a blog post. Microsoft said the device will be available in the United States in limited quantities from Thursday for $199.
Apple Inc unveiled a smart watch on Sept. 9 that will combine health and fitness tracking with communications and will go on sale in early 2015, while Samsung Electronics Co unveiled its Galaxy Gear smart watch in September 2013. The Apple Watch will be priced at $349.
Microsoft also launched a health app called “Microsoft Health” that includes a cloud service for users to store and combine health and fitness data.
The Microsoft Health app will collect data from the fitness band and will work on iPhones and Android smartphones, as well as its own Windows Phone.
ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley first reported on comments made by Julia White, general manager of marketing for Office and Office 365, at Microsoft’s Tech Ed Europe conference in Barcelona.
According to Foley, White said that the next version of Office on Windows would launch in the last half of next year, a broad timetable that was different from previous speculation, which had focused on the first half of 2015, perhaps as early as April.
During the end of a guest spot Tuesday on Channel 9, Microsoft’s online television channel, White did not specify the second half of the year, saying only “later in 2015.” But she did mention that the next version of Office would go through Microsoft’s typical testing process, including TAP (Technology Adoption Program) and a beta, with the latter presumably available to the general public.
TAP builds are pre-beta, and restricted to an invite-only group that’s usually composed of Microsoft’s larger corporate customers.
Microsoft confirmed that White’s comments were accurate as reported.
If Microsoft makes its target of the second half of next year, the upgrade would be on the same schedule as the last several editions, which have been released about two-and-a-half-years apart. Office 2013, for example, reached what Microsoft calls “general availability” in January 2013, while Office 2010 and Office 2007 made that milestone in June 2010 and January 2007, respectively.
The next office, code named Office 16, would carry the official label of Office 2016 if Microsoft follows convention.
For the three months ending Sept. 30, Microsoft recorded $908 million in revenue for the Surface tablet line, an increase of 127% over the same quarter in 2013. The nearly one billion in revenue was a one-quarter record for the Surface, and beat the combined revenue of the previous two quarters.
Using information in Microsoft’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as data from earlier quarters, Computerworld calculated the quarter’s cost of that revenue at $786 million, leaving a gross margin of $122 million. Cost of revenue is the cost to make and sell a product, but excludes expenses such as advertising and R&D.
Microsoft said that the Surface line posted a positive gross margin — implying that outside estimates of prior losses were correct — but did not disclose a dollar figure.
According to Computerworld‘s estimate, the margin was small, about 13.4%. That’s more than the average for a Windows personal computer, but less than half or a third of the margins on tablets like Apple’s iPad.
It was even smaller by the figuring of Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, who has also used Microsoft’s SEC filings to estimate the Surface’s cost of revenue. He pegged the September quarter’s cost of revenue at $825 million, the gross margin at $83 million, and the margin rate at just 9.1%.
“That’s a gross margin … which is not earth-shattering and in fact about half the gross margin of the phone business at Microsoft. But it’s progress,” Dawson wrote on his blog, where he published his analysis of Surface’s financial performance.
Since its October 2012 introduction, Surface has been a money pit for Microsoft, in the hole to the tune of $1.73 billion through its first seven quarters. With the September quarter in the black, those overall losses have been reduced to about $1.6 billion.
Over the last four quarters, Surface also remained in the red, with losses of $325 million on revenue of $2.7 billion. Put another way, for each dollar Microsoft earned on Surface sales, it lost about 12 cents.
The company released Rooms on Thursday, its answer to the craze around posting and sharing anonymously. People can use any name they want and don’t need a Facebook account. The app contains rooms geared around various topics, all of which require an invite link to enter. Providing an email address is optional, for the purposes of having accessed rooms restored if the user deletes the app.
The app is only available on iOS. Plans for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone were not disclosed.
The app is not just about anonymity. With it, Facebook hopes to provide a discussion board-type platform where users can chat about shared interests outside of their usual social circles. It’s a concept that has been super popular since, oh, the web’s been around.
“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.
“From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends,” the company said.
But the app’s ability to succeed likely depends on the number and diversity of rooms created by its users, and whether the app’s focus on visuals and photos appeals to them. There’s also no desktop version.
The app was developed as part of Facebook’s Creative Labs project, which has also released stand-alone apps like Slingshot and Paper.
Facebook stresses that Rooms will let users create a unique identity separate from their Facebook account. Your name can be “Wonder Woman” in the app, Facebook said.
I tried out the app, and was even able to use “Mark Zuckerberg” as my name. (A short “hello” post of mine then immediately generated several “high fives.”)
Facebook, however, may share information about Room users within the companies and services operated by Facebook, which would include Facebook itself and other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Rooms terms of service.
The update, designated as Build 9860, followed the Oct. 1 release of the preview, which Microsoft has offered businesses and technology enthusiasts to give potential customers a look at the work in progress and collect feedback during development.
The Oct. 1 version of Windows 10 was labeled Build 9841.
“Sometimes [updates] will be more frequent and sometimes there will be longer gaps, but they will always be chock full of changes and improvements, as well as some bugs and things that are not quite done,” wrote Gabe Aul, of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group on a company blog.
Aul said that Build 9860 had been handed to his group only a week ago, and repeated earlier warnings by other Microsoft managers that the preview remains incomplete and unpolished.
Although rapid iterations are nothing new to preview or beta software, Microsoft plans to accelerate the delivery of updates — ones that will include not only security patches and performance fixes, but also new features — once Windows 10 officially ships in mid-2015.
Updates will ship as often as monthly for consumers, while businesses will be able to choose between that and two additional tempos that Gartner has tagged as “near-consumer speed” and “long-term servicing.” The former will roll up the “consumer-speed” updates every four to six months to versions that fast-acting enterprises will test and deploy, while the latter will remain feature- and UI-static for as long as two to three years, receiving only security updates.
Other analysts have contended that Microsoft is pushing frequent updates to Windows 10 Technical Preview as much to test the process — both the back-end Windows Update service and the Windows 10 clients’ ability to absorb the changes and smoothly install the updates — as for the company’s stated reasons of gathering feedback and offering users an early look.
“Changes in Windows Update were put in place to make this possible,” Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said in an interview earlier this month. “The biggest question for Microsoft is how the updating process works with the Technical Preview.”
In the preview, customers have an update frequently choice of only “Fast” or “Slow.”
Build 9860 will be delivered automatically to most PCs running Windows 10 within days, but users can manually initiate the process by going to “PC Settings,” choosing “Update and recovery” and then “Preview builds,” and finally clicking the “Check Now” button.
Aul said that the download would weigh in at between 2GB and 2.7GB, and that the reboot, the reconstruction of the OS’s search index, and the syncing of OneDrive would take “longer than normal” and “some time.”
Microsoft will ship a second consumer-oriented preview in early 2015, but it’s virtually certain that the firm will provide more-or-less-monthly updates to the Technical Preview between now and then.
After several years of accelerated growth, the U.S. market is feeling the effects of market saturation and smartphone ownership that’s lasting longer than once expected, Ramon Llamas, an analyst IDC, said in an updated forecast.
IDC’s five-year forecast issued for October significantly undercuts its April forecast, dropping expectations for U.S. smartphone and feature phone shipments by manufacturers to retailers. IDC now expects 1.7 million fewer phones shipped in 2104 than it had expected in April; it predicts 174 million phones will ship this year, with that figure declining gradually to 169 million in 2018.
Smartphone shipments alone will grow just slightly through 2018 in the U.S., but about 5% less than earlier expected, rising from 150 million in 2014 to 160.5 million in 2018. Feature phones shipments have dropped off faster than earlier expected.
Llamas said the signs of decline started in late 2011, prompting carriers in the past year to try to get customers to replace phones more often with easy trade-in plans and relaxed contracts.
It’s too soon to say what effect the early trade-in plans will have on the market, Llamas said. The life of an average smartphone still lasts about two years, but that could be changing.
Paying on installment plans “could really change the market,” Llamas said in an interview. “But if people pay off their devices and then realize they don’t have to pay the carrier as much [at the end of the payoff period] and only pay for wireless service, they might just hold onto their phones. I think people will hold onto their phones as long as they can after they are paid off. If this plays out and they hold on and don’t update, we’ll see flattening of sales volumes year after year, or even declines, all in the name of saving money.”
Realizing what’s happening in the U.S. and among other major economies, both Apple and Samsung have concentrated heavily on selling their new smartphones in China and other areas where smartphone sales are still strong.