119 posts categorized "Market Leaders"


Following Record Q2 Earnings, Apple Turns to Partnerships to Bolster Enterprise Ambitions

This week, Apple made headlines with record earnings in Q2, mostly on the back of iPhone 6 sales, while iPad sales continue to slip. In an effort to maintain the tablet’s relevance, Apple is redoubling its efforts in the enterprise, where the iPad has gained considerable traction. To that, CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple is working with an increased number of partners to expand its reach into the enterprise and change how people work. The partnership goes well beyond IBM to include app developers like Box, bigtincan, Docusign, ServiceMax, Revel, MicroStrategy and Workato to expand Apple’s reach well into the enterprise ecosystem. While OEMs partnering with ISVs is not new within the enterprise – we have only to look to both BlackBerry and Samsung’s teaming up with SAP as a counterexample – it nevertheless represents a continuation of Cook’s vision to firmly plant Apple in the enterprise. With Windows 10 looming on the horizon, growing Surface 3 and Surface 3 Pro sales and a stagnating market for consumer tablets, the pressure for Apple to establish itself as not only a viable competitor, but the competitor to beat in an increasingly competitive market.

Consumer devices still hold considerable influence

While iPad sales have stalled in the consumer market, their influence continues to grow within the enterprise, as a growing number of companies are looking to mobilize their workforce. SVP and CFO Luca Maestri cited a survey in Monday’s earning call in which 77% of corporate buyers looking to buy tablets within the next six months plan to purchase iPads. VDC estimates that in 2013, nearly 6 million devices were deployed into enterprise and government applications, accounting for nearly half the market of consumer grade tablets in the enterprise – a number that is sure to grow. The power of the brand and the familiarity of the user interface have made the tablet nearly the de facto choice for non-rugged deployments in the enterprise. In a world in which “tablet” and “iPad” are synonymous for many, particularly in an enterprise purchasing position, Apple’s potential is enormous. The groundwork Cook laid in opening up Apple and iOS to outside partnerships in previous year, particularly in making a decisive break with the company’s Jobsian roots in partnering with IBM for enterprise solutions, is providing a strong foundation upon which Apple can build.

In the land of enterprise mobility, user experience is king

However, to be successful in the enterprise, Apple needs to ensure the strength of its partnerships and its app ecosystem. Tuesday’s headlines of dozens of American Airlines flights being grounded due to an enterprise iPad app glitch is a glaring reminder as to the vulnerabilities that abound in the push to mobilize. Even when the stakes are not quite as high, there need nevertheless remains to ensure an integrated experience that functions in conjunction with robust security. While Apple is partnering with major ISVs, many smaller, best of breed names on the list will have the opportunity to bring their capabilities to the forefront on a much larger stage. Companies like bigtincan are looking to bring seamless functionality to the forefront, particularly in working with Apple’s Handoff technology to enable users to work with content across all form factors, as well as using other iOS features like TouchID and the ability to add external content from iOS8 enabled apps. Meanwhile, ISV Workato is partnering with Apple to provide an even deeper level of app integration that enables end users to enable workflows across applications without the need to app-swap. By opening itself up to such a broad spectrum of partners, Apple could shore up its position even further in the enterprise space, especially if it can provide the user experience enterprise consumers have come to expect through their personal devices.

Partnerships are bringing enterprise to all platforms

While much of the enterprise attention is focused on the iPad, given its commercial potential despite the rapid maturation of the form factor, another enterprise foothold could be the newly launched Apple Watch. Although much of the media attention has been dedicated to consumer adoption rates and applications, VDC has already looked at the potential for the wearable to pave the way for smartwatches to become a more integral part of enterprise mobility. Regardless of form factor, though, Apple has nurtured a healthy ecosystem of third-party applications and peripheral devices that are empowering enterprise across industry verticals that solidify the company’s capabilities beyond personal consumption. Moving forward, however, one concern Apple will need to address is the breadth of its services beyond its partnership with IBM, particularly as companies like Samsung have moved to expand its enterprise presence through a comprehensive services solution. The challenge now that it has donned the mantle of enterprise competitor will be to ensure that Apple can bring these partnerships to fruition and gain the necessary traction to successfully compete against the likes of Microsoft and Samsung in a world where services, user experience, and seamless integration are paramount. 


MobileIron's Miss

"Standing Alone" increasingly challenging for mobile-first EMM ISVs

Larry Dignan's article over at ZDNet this past week was a shot across the bow for the EMM market. In case you missed it, MobileIron announced that their CFO was departing, and issued a profit warning in their pre-announcement of their Q1 earnings (the company's Q1 earning call is scheduled for this Thursday). In their pre-announcement, MobileIron said that its Q1 non-GAAP revenue will be between $32M-$33M (down from its previous outlook of $34M-$37M). Gross billings (between $35.5M-$37M) were also lower than the $40M-$42M that they had expected. MobileIron's CEO Bob Tinker attributed the miss to several large deals not closing in Q1. Tinker also argued that the company's customers were moving toward monthly subscriptions and that the trend was cutting into revenue (reasonable).

What MOBL's Miss Means for the Broader Market

The EMM space is the most visible of the "segments" of the enterprise mobility ecosystem: not only have there been notable acquisitions (AirWatch, BoxTone, Fiberlink, and Zenprise), but participating vendors have demonstrated that they can win large deals, and attract key partners in the channel. However, being one of the two (Tangoe is the other) public "pure-play" mobile-first EMM ISVs is a challenge, as every move is "under the microscope". While EMM vendors are enjoying success in the market, the market is shifting beneath their feet. "Standing alone" as several prominent vendors currently are (e.g., Globo, Good Technology, MobileIron and SOTI) will be increasingly challenging moving forward as global channel expansion and substantial R&D investments that ensure continual product enhancements will be required not to mention the growing footprint of large and established vendors who have recently entered / plan to enter this market (e.g., Accelerite, CA, Dell, Microsoft, and Oracle).


I wrote about the "EMM Pivot" I was expecting this past March  and recent discussions I’ve had with several prominent EMM vendors has revealed an interesting approach on how they intend to evolve and differentiate their platforms moving forward. Key initiatives that are in development and on most road maps include:

  • Split billing
  • Unified Endpoint Management
  • Enhanced email clients
  • Secure Messaging
  • IoT and Wearable Strategies      
  • Architecture enhancements (moving away from "rack and stack")
  • UX / Console optimization

If you participate in this market, I'm still taking briefings to discuss the evolution of EMM and the pivot that I anticipate.


Mobility is Driving Enterprise Collaboration Innovation

Long a bandied-about buzzword, collaboration has gotten an enterprise makeover in recent years in integrating chat and content sharing. The market has emerged from its roots in consumer-grade social networks like Facebook and Twitter to incorporate established enterprise players like IBM, Oracle and SAP, especially after Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer in 2012. Since then, enterprise-specific social networking products have transformed from more consumer styled chat tools to fully fledged business collaboration platforms that have the potential to replace not only intranets, but knowledge management systems and corporate portals as their features and functionalities continue to expand. The main driving force behind this explosion in innovation has been mobility, both on the consumer and the enterprise front, as the impact of mobile-native millennials entering the workforce grows.

Differentiation in a crowded market

Companies are increasingly coming to understand the value of employee collaboration and of enterprise social networks (ESN), particularly as social media becomes a more integrated part of professional and personal daily life. However, the low barrier to entry has meant that there is an abundance of options available, ranging from consumer-grade chat options to Tier-1 solutions and everything in between. The result is a crowded market with considerable overlap, making it difficult for vendors to differentiate themselves. Although many companies faced with a plethora of options turn to existing solutions providers like IBM, Oracle and Salesforce, there has been room for innovators to disrupt the marketplace. These include companies like Atlassian, Slack and Zimbra, who offer a streamlined, mobile-first approach to collaboration. The sheer number of market players and the stratospheric levels of funding mean that the playing field is wide open with no apparent winners, which in turn is putting pressure on big name vendors to bring powerful collaboration tools to the table.

Appealing to a workforce that spans multiple generations

While the millennial generation has proved to be a significant driving force behind the adoption of more consumer-like collaboration tools in the enterprise, there is a challenge in getting older employees to adapt their work habits to embrace a more fluid approach to work and collaboration. For companies like Tangoe, considering the requirements of an inter-generational workforce has been central to the design and development of their product. In order to overcome resistance to new work processes and collaboration tools, vendors have the ability to introduce adaptive elements that can learn from end-users’ habits, although this presents privacy and security issues that would need to be addressed by the vendor.

Seamless integration is key

There is definite value in areas like user-defined contact preference, one-on-one and group chats, and content sharing, particularly when combined with a mobile-first, device-agnostic approach. This is increasingly becoming the norm across enterprise productivity applications and products. However, to be truly powerful, these solutions must be able to provide a user experience that meets the high expectations of a user base accustomed to consumer products and seamless integration. In an era where many longstanding productivity applications like email are undergoing significant revamps, a lack of integration could lead to a glut of programs and unnecessary app-switching, which is inefficient and cumbersome. Any shortcomings in either category can result in a lack of employee buy-in, or worse, employees resorting to workarounds using consumer-grade programs that lack the necessary security features and risk data leakage. Major players like Microsoft, Salesforce and SAP have done well in integrating their collaboration tools into their portfolio, but the bar has been set high to meet expectations. Given the growing market for enterprise collaboration, however, it is a challenge that a growing number of vendors are willing to accept.

with Kathryn Nassberg, Analyst


The EMM Pivot is Upon us #MWC15 EMM Recap

Mobile first EMM vendors know they must evolve — and they are ...

As one might expect, the high profile handset refreshes from Samsung (Galaxy S6), HTC (M9) and LG (G Flex 2) and the notable (and well timed) acquisition announcements (NXP acquiring Freescale, HP acquiring Aruba Networks, and Mitel's acquisition of Mavenir) garnered the lion share of the post MWC media coverage. However, there was something different at MWC this year. There was a "new partner" sitting in on several of the briefings we had at MWC.

Google sent several senior executives to Barcelona (Sundar Pichai, Rajen Sheth, and Andrew Toy were the most visible)  either Rajen or Andrew was present (and actively participating) at several of the meetings we attended at MWC the exception? Our meeting with Good Technology. Why? Read on.

Android for Work is Legit and KNOX is Not Dead (yet)

Every prominent enterprise mobility vendor has moved quickly to completely integrate with the Android for Work platform.


Good is negotiating with Google and is likely to join the other prominent vendors listed above who were quick to announce their integration with the Android for Work Platform however, it appears as though Good (and SOTI) have forged strong(er) partnerships with Samsung. Both seem to have gone further than their peers in integrating with the company's KNOX platform (which is not just a container). While all of the vendors listed above have been working with Samsung's KNOX platform; after speaking with several Samsung executives, the level of integration with KNOX is varied. Good and SOTI have seen traction from their partnership with Samsung and have figured out creative ways to go to market (one sure fire method is to give away the device  while not sustainable, it appears as though Samsung is willing to do so). Here's what my colleague David Krebs wrote in his MWC Event Recap post:

In summary, we see both Good and SOTI benefiting by working with both Google and Samsung. Both vendors have a sizable footprint in both government and financial service industries. We expect that Good will formalize its partnership with Google soon.

ACE to the Rescue

The launch of App Configuration for Enterprise (or ACE) was timed for MWC. Five prominent enterprise mobility vendors (AirWatch by VMware, Box, Cisco, Workday and Xamarin) have collaborated on the standard which aims to simplify and scale the deployment of apps in the enterprise. The benefits are clear and straightforward (see below).


There is no question that enterprises are challenged by app provisioning and distribution. Considering that multiple versions of the same app (built with different SDKs) is now normal, the standards-based platform agnostic approach (thanks to the ability to seamlessly invoke both the latest iOS and Android   APIs) will be welcome. However, the consortia needs to get other important vendors on board (Citrix, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP come to mind). 

EMM Evolution

My next report (scheduled for May) will focus on the evolution of EMM. I'm seeing some interesting (and consistent) thinking from prominent EMM vendors on how they intend to evolve and differentiate their platforms moving forward. Key initiatives that are in development and on most road maps include:

  • Split billing
  • Unified Endpoint Management
  • Enhanced email clients
  • Architecture enhancements
  • UX / Console optimization

I'm actively scheduling briefings to discuss the evolution of EMM and the pivot that I anticipate. If we didn't meet at MWC, I'd welcome to opportunity to discuss this topic with you in the next few weeks.

Kudos to GSMA for hosting another top-notch event. See you at MWC 2016!



Mobile Payments Race Heats Up with Samsung’s LoopPay Acquisition

Samsung announced yesterday its acquisition of the Burlington, MA-based startup LoopPay Inc. for an undisclosed amount after reports of the two companies working together a mobile payments solution in late 2014 towards. The announcement heralds Samsung’s entry into the mobile payments fray, pitting it squarely against Apple and Google Wallet as the market for the digital wallet continues to evolve.

Making a digital wallet retailers will work with

The mobile payment market, particularly in the US, has undergone considerable change in recent years although much of the progress has been dependent upon both the cooperation from banking institutions and retailers’ willingness to adopt newer point-of-sales terminals. The latter in particular has been a key stumbling block for NFC-enabled solutions, like that of Google Wallet, which launched in 2011. Although the announcement of the iPhone 6 and Apple Pay did much to raise general awareness to the technology, its impact remains somewhat limited. Estimates from Apple from its Q1 earnings call show that less than a quarter of a million retail outlets out of a total numbering in the millions have the ability to accept Apple Pay. While this obstacle will eventually overcome as the migration continues from traditional the magnetic stripe to the EMV chip and PIN system, the tipping point for a major revamp to the greater retail market likely will not occur for at least another year, despite liability dangers looming on the horizon. Samsung’s acquisition of LoopPay helps to bridge the gap by offering a system that uses Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) technology that that functions with existing point-of-sale infrastructure, which means it can be used with some 90% of existing credit card terminals, although the system requires the purchase of either a card case or fob in addition to the download of the app – an approach similar to that of Square. As some note, while pertinent now, the migration towards EMV could mean that Samsung is providing a solution to a short-term problem with the acquisition in a market that is rapidly evolving.

No mobile payment solution to rule them all

In addition to facing off against Google Wallet and Apple Pay, Samsung will be pitted against other emerging services, like that of CurrentC. While many retailers have sought less cost-intensive mobile payment solutions through proprietary apps using QR codes, retail giants Wal-Mart, Target, CVS and others formed the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) in 2012 to create a merchant-owned mobile payment system. The system gained notoriety when participating companies sought to block the implementation of systems like Apple Pay and Softcard and fell victim shortly thereafter to a sizeable security breach in which the email addresses of participants of the pilot program where accessed. In addition to claims of collusion, CurrentC has been lukewarm given the multi-step payment process using QR codes versus NFC’s more streamlined contactless payment method. As a result, the mobile payment market is becoming increasingly fragmented as it has pitted consumers who are seeking convenience against retailers who want to maintain greater control over transactions without having to adopt costly point-of-sale technology.

Balancing convenience and security 

The recent and high profile security breaches that have occurred at some of America's largest brands (Anthem Healthcare, Target, and the Home Depot) demonstrated that breaches can not only be expensive (several retailers we're forced to pay some $200M each in damages in the past 12 months alone), but can harmful to brand loyalty. Consumers disclose a treasure trove of identity theft information with each transaction they consummate. This makes finding the right balance between security, privacy and convenience a key priority for mobile payment vendors. While security remains paramount, consumers won't adopt a payment solution that is cumbersome. While PCI-compliant (and sophisticated encryption) is embedded into every payment solution, moving forward, VDC sees a key challenge for vendors to work with experts (i.e., the credit card industry, as well as privacy advocates, cybersecurity experts, government agencies – following the more military-oriented path towards security forged by JP Morgan) to draft, implement and enforce rigid sets of cyber protections across a fragmented payment market with significant “co-opetition” and channel conflict. 

With Eric Klein, Senior Analyst 


Revamping the Enterprise Inbox

Email, which has long been an established piece of enterprise productivity and at the tail-end of innovation, has received a considerable makeover in recent months. An increasingly mobilized workforce in recent years has meant that the majority of emails are now read first on a mobile device. The result is a palpable trend in the market to revamp email where ease of use and productivity is maintained in a cross-platform and touch-centric format. Many of these innovations include more seamless calendar integration, improved triage, search, and archiving functions, as well as enhanced communication tools that integrate chat and voice that are particularly well-suited to mobile platforms like the smartphone.


Major players, including Google, IBM, and Microsoft have worked to further integrate email into their mobile offerings and acquiring firms to help bolster their position. Recent acquisitions by Microsoft and HP of Accompli and Voltage respectively, as well as the emergence of companies like Mailpile, ProtonMail and Nacho Cove lend credence to this trend towards a more mobile-first experience for enterprise email. Even companies that have traditionally focused on consumer markets are throwing their hat into the ring: last month, Amazon announced its own email service, WorkMail, to be powered by the increasingly popular Amazon Web Service. Thomas Döhler, General Manager of the WorkMail team, notes that enterprise is at the point where email is now part of the business process. Rather than a simple communication tool, it has become an integral part of general business processes and a receptacle where critical business information is stored and controlled. Email, without question, is the most ubiquitous means of enterprise communication, despite the recent rise in popularity of social collaboration and texting. While newer iterations will look to integrate these social features into the mix to enhance productivity, email will remain the primary means of enterprise communication for the foreseeable future.


It is worth noting, however, that this is not the first time that email has undergone a significant revamp. Over the years, numerous companies have tried to reinvigorate email, but failed to fundamentally alter the nature of the inbox. However, the growing importance of mobile platforms in business has meant that mobility has forced a willingness to change among companies in how they treat email. The result has been a rethinking in how email is accessed and integrated into a cross-application and cross-platform ecosystem. 2015 will mark a watershed year in which there is a growing willingness to change how companies treat email and could see a fundamental change to the nature of the inbox if the challenges surrounding privacy and security can be sufficiently addressed.

 VDC will be taking a closer look at the challenges faced in this month’s VDC View. Stay tuned for more information.


with Eric Klein, Senior Analyst


How Quickly Will DYI Mobile Initiatives Give way to Mobile Managed Services?

Mobile device proliferation has IT departments reconsidering how to best deliver increasingly business-critical mobile IT services.

While business analysts are now more experienced with identifying the right use cases and design requirements for mobile applications, designing, developing, integrating, managing, and maintaining these apps remains a significant task. Mobilizing and integrating manual business processes and workflows with modern mobile platforms is not only complex but costly, particularly when considering that many legacy applications and systems are not being abandoned. Creating new mobile applications to integrate with legacy systems requires both a high degree of specialized skills and additional software. As a result, enterprises are quickly discovering that mobile enablement is not only costly and time-consuming, but that managing and maintaining their deployment environments may be best handled by an external 3rd party.

VDC sees expanded usage of mobile devices to facilitate day-to-day business as an enabler for IT to reassert the importance of its role in digital transformation initiatives. However, considering that these initiatives are (likely) already underway, selecting the right partner(s) to deliver a suite of more reliable and robust mobile IT services will become increasingly important – particularly for organizations where mobile initiatives have become business-critical. VDC's research shows that even the largest enterprises are inadequately staffed with the mobile expertise required to properly manage and maintain a rapidly growing mobile deployment environment. Professional services vendors have proved their ability to deliver strategic business impact to their customers, not just operating cost reductions. Additionally, these vendors are increasingly well equipped to help their customer implement mobile innovations with more speed and less pain.  

That said, end-to-end “as a service” mobility solutions will ultimately be the de facto choice for many enterprises going forward. Considering the early stages of true mobile enablement in enterprise, managed mobility services from managed service providers (MSPs), communication service providers (CSPs), and systems integrators (SIs) are poised to benefit from the current mobile boom. Due to limited mobile IT support capabilities, VDC expects organizations to expand their relationships with third-party solution providers that specialize in mobile solution support and integration. The services opportunity will expand well beyond traditional mobile hardware support and break-fix services that are common today. Mobility-oriented services to support expanding deployment environments, application and database integration, as well as security, asset management and logistics services will be key areas of focus for professional services firms going forward.

VDC has just released a comprehensive Report on the market opportunity for Mobile Professional Services. Vendors were profiled in this Report include:

CSPs: AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Business, and Vodafone Global Enterprise
SIs: Atos, Cognizant, HCL, IBM Global Services, and Infosys
Mobile-First Solution Providers: DMI, Enterprise Mobile, Stratix, Vox Mobile and Zebra Technologies

Click here to download the Executive Brief, or email me for more information.


A Return to Innovation as Microsoft Lifts the Veil at Windows 10 Event


Windows 10_image

Yesterday saw Microsoft reveal more details about the upcoming Windows 10 OS. After two years of limited success with Windows 8, Microsoft has sought to recapture its audience with a return to the familiar with the reintroduction of the Start button as an integral feature, as well as expanding the system to serve as a unified platform across all form factors. In addition to improving the functionality of the Action Center, Windows 10 will also incorporate Cortana across form factors, including the PC. With this suite of features and improvements, Microsoft hopes that it can leverage its position as market leader among PCs to increase its mobile market share, which has languished in the single digits since launching.

Shifting towards a unified experience

One of the more profound elements to Windows 10 is that, unlike Windows 8, the OS moves beyond a limited set of devices to encompass a much broader spectrum of options. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella emphasized this point, stating that the notion of mobility that the firm is pursuing is not so much about mobility of computing on a given device, but rather, “the mobility of experience across devices.” Taking cues from how Apple has moved to allow for seamless transitioning between devices with applications, Microsoft aims to increase the fluidity of the OS experience as it continues its shift towards its goal of “Windows-as-a-service.” This is a much-needed transition for Microsoft, which has struggled to overcome a reactionary approach to the market, especially as end-users are frequently looking to take their work from one form factor to the next. The reality is one where the device itself is becoming less central to the process, as the market for current enterprise form factors has matured considerably, becoming fairly homogenous in the process.

The return of the prodigal OS

There has been considerable buzz around Windows 10 among both consumer and enterprise end-users. For the latter, it has been a prolonged period of wait and see; there has been a reluctance to adopt Android due to concerns around security, the complexity of migrating legacy applications, and considerable OS fragmentation. Nevertheless, Tier-1 and Tier-2 companies in North America are following their European counterparts’ lead in overcoming their reluctance to adopt Android. Still – many express a desire for Windows. If Microsoft can provide the OS to enterprise in a timely manner, the move could sap much of Android’s enterprise momentum, especially in the rugged sphere, as 2015 increasingly looks to be a key turning point for the enterprise market. Microsoft’s announcement that the OS will be provided gratis to users of Windows 7 and 8 will likely help the OS gain traction quickly.

 Windows 10 beefs up its EMM capabilities

While Microsoft has struggled with its mobile initiatives in recent years, its long history serving the technology infrastructure needs of large organizations puts Microsoft in a strong position to deliver enterprise mobility solutions in the coming years. With its upcoming Windows 10 release, Microsoft plans key security enhancements and options that are requisite in heterogeneous mobile deployment environments. The Windows 10 release will feature sophisticated containerization capabilities that will give enterprises more control over their content, allowing for content to be marked as corporate, encrypted, and then be wiped if the relationship between the corporation and user has ended. Preventing data leakage has been a key area of focus in Windows 10; corporate data can be identified as corporate vs. user, encrypted, and wiped on command. The 10 release will further expand into biometric capabilities and enable authentication with your biometric identity anywhere in Windows (Windows sign-in, remote access, User Account Control, etc.). App management features also take advantage of 10's biometrics and can be incorporated for Windows Store apps, functions within them, and be used to control certificates.  VDC sees the aforementioned containerization features and a refresh of its System Center Configuration Manager software (along with ensuring the legacy SCCM 2007 release is compatible with Windows 10) as critical success factors; Microsoft’s Intune device management platform must also evolve and incorporate more cross platform capabilities. We expect tight integration of its prolific Microsoft products (Outlook, Office, and SharePoint) in the 10 release – if Microsoft can deliver the consistent and familiar experience across platforms that it promises, the vendor will almost be guaranteed to be a viable contender in the enterprise mobility market.

Bringing innovation back

Microsoft topped off its Windows 10 event with by revealing the HoloLens, an augmented reality HUD that incorporates holographs and floating video feed capabilities for enhanced two-way communication. Although still in its infancy, the technology presents enterprise potential, much in the way that mounted wearables are currently testing the waters. While the payoff for Microsoft will likely be far from immediate, it marks a profound shift for the firm and a decisive break from the Ballmer era and a transition back towards innovation. In a rapidly shifting market where older firms like HP and BlackBerry are struggling to remain relevant, Microsoft is keen to shed its image as a reactionary relic of a bygone era. Yesterday’s announcement is definitely a step in the right direction. 


With Eric Klein, Senior Analyst


VDC’s Mobile NRF Recap

With a show the scale of NRF there is no shortage of topics to address, so our focus will be on mobile solutions that struck us as particularly unique or crafty. The broad themes were largely an extension of topics introduced over the last couple of years: The "connected" and "in-control" customer; seamless "omni-channel" experiences; two-way "sharing" of information. While there clearly are retail visionaries who are daring and "get it" – like Cole Haan and the access they are providing their customers to in-store inventory or Outfittery, with its innovative focus on personalized curation - there seems to still be a lot of unsubstantiated noise. Among the IT meta-trends of big data, analytics and IoT, the retail sector is - surprisingly - behind when compared to other industries. While there is a lot of data being collected and analysis conducted, deriving meaningful value remains a challenge to most. From a purely mobile perspective, some of the dominant themes centered on mobile payments, the continued mobile platform wars and the shifting competitive landscape.

Mobile payments remain a central theme to NRF, especially as the push for EMV continues and OEMS are moving to adopt systems that integrate chip and pin readers. Verifone, the leading mobile payment and POS solutions provider in North America has taken a modular approach that is both device- and platform-agnostic, simplifying the certification process and enabling the company to partner with a wide array of mobile OEMs such as Samsung and Apple and leaving the mobile question in the hands of the retailer. Given the multitude of platforms that are increasingly becoming the norm in enterprise and in front-of-store retail and the shortening lifecycle for deployed devices, this provides Verifone much-needed flexibility to remain at the forefront of mobile payment solutions. From Verifone’s perspective what was also interesting and unique was its continued shift towards software and services with its Secure Commerce Architecture the most impactful for retailers. This solution provides a point to point encryption approach that directly transmits card data to the processor without touching the retailer’s POS system. At the other end of the mobile payments spectrum, Panasonic has introduced one of the first fully integrated mPOS devices in the Toughpad FZ-R1, which combines a 7” all-in-one tablet running full Windows 8.1 with a dedicated PCI compliant mobile payment element supporting chip and pin and with an encrypted mag stripe option in a semi-rugged casing. While the price point of the device will be a challenge for Panasonic, this does provide them with a clear differentiation and inroads into other segments beyond quick serve restaurants.

Another dominant theme that permeated the convention is the continuation of the mobile platform wars in retail at all levels. Mobile strategies by retailers over the past several years have favored Apple’s iOS powered devices and more recently Android-based smartphones and tablets supporting a variety of ‘customer facing’ applications. Rugged handheld devices, prominent for scan-intensive inventory management applications, suffered this shift in focus and were further marginalized by Microsoft’s inability to provide an adequate and timely transition strategy to next generation platforms for these devices. While the legacy Windows Mobile 6.x/Embedded CE platforms remain perfectly suitable for many of the applications they are supporting, especially for more keyboard-centric solutions such as those prevalent in the warehouse. However, when it comes to more touch-centric devices, these platforms really do not stack up with iOS and Android. A blurry OS strategy evolved with rugged OEMs shifting focus towards Android. While Android has faced an uphill battle in the enterprise and especially on rugged devices – issues relating to persistent wireless connectivity a frequent frustration among end users – 2014 represented somewhat of a breakthrough year for rugged Android handheld devices in the retail sector, especially in North America. ISV support of Android was reaching critical mass, enterprise support on a broad or horizontal level was improving and in Home Depot the first benchmark account emerged. We expect that momentum to continue into 2015. While Windows Embedded Handheld 8 was scrapped almost as quickly as it was introduced, 8.1 showed some promise. However with only Panasonic and Bluebird introducing devices, options remain limited. Honeywell appears to also be throwing its hat in the ring with a WEH8.1 device slotted for Q2 2015. However, the sense that we got was that there would be another round of “wait and see” on the Microsoft front with vendors and end users pointing to Windows 10. Make no mistake, there is a vested interest among several accounts – especially in North America – for a strong Microsoft option for rugged handheld devices. It is just taking a lot longer to materialize.

An interesting wrinkle in the OS/architecture debate for handheld devices was introduced by BSQUARE with its MobileV reference platform. MobileV is a complete hardware and software reference solution based on Intel architecture and Windows Embedded 8.1. The software enables screen resolutions compatible with displays ranging from 3.5” and up. In other words x86 and big Windows on a handheld device. Together with partner AAVA, a Finnish mobile device manufacturer, they presented a 5” handheld/tablet and 7” tablet based on MobileV. There has been growing discussion and interest in this option in the market. However, from a BOM and power performance perspective, it will be a challenge for solutions and applications traditionally supported by rugged handheld devices today and will likely take more time to be viable outside of select niche use cases.

The overall competitive landscape within retail is shifting, as merged companies seek to realign their brand and established firms look to take on a more direct relationship with end-users. For the former, Zebra is a prime example, following its headline-grabbing acquisition of Motorola Solutions’ enterprise business in 2014. Traditionally a back-of-store company, Zebra is putting in significant effort and funding to establish a more customer-facing retail presence, not only with the Motorola device portfolio, but in shop floor solutions that leverages its Zatar IoT platform. While futuristic and eye-catching, these technologies will require considerable consumer opt-in to really take off in a meaningful way. However, their offerings of in-store analytics to measure foot traffic and dwell time fit squarely into a growing market that is seeing competition from all sides, including Samsung and AT&T. Samsung could prove to be a serious contender as it has increasingly focused its attention to enterprise in wake of considerable contraction from its consumer devices. The firm’s brand recognition, strengthening Android security and broad retail partnership portfolio should expose Samsung to increased retail opportunity.

with David Krebs, EVP


Vuzix and XOEye Partner to offer end-to-end wearable enterprise solutions

Leading HUD manufacturer Vuzix continues its trend of strategic partnerships with the announcement earlier this week of its partnership with wearable tech firm XOEye to create an end-to-end solution for more rugged industry segments that include manufacturing, construction, and field services. Under the partnership, Vuzix will bundle its flagship M100 smart glasses with XOEye’s cloud-based software platform and applications developed to enhance communication and operation efficiencies, particularly in regards to remote diagnostics, managerial support, compliance and project documentation. As XOEye CEO Aaron Salow notes, “Demand for wearables in the workplace continues to increase as requirements for efficiency, workplace safety, and compliance across many sectors are becoming increasingly commonplace and, in some cases, mandated.” Data from VDC bears this out, as there is growing interest across industry verticals for wearable devices, as use cases for the form factor accumulate.

The partnership comes on the heels of the announcement of Intel’s purchase of a $25 million stake in Vuzix, as well as with collaborations with Lenovo to co-brand the M100 in China. This comes in conjunction with SAP’s partnership to provide enterprise applications to the device announced in MWC lat year, as well as support on the Salesforce Wear platform, which is intended to provide a platform for developers to provide enterprise-oriented apps geared designed specifically for wearable devices.  Although much of the initial buzz for smart glasses like Google Glass originated in the consumer market, its appeal has cooled considerably. As a result, Google has increasingly shifted its attention for the device towards the enterprise market, which does not have the same aversion to head-mounted displays – a considerable obstacle in the consumer market. As a result, Vuzix will not only face growing competition from companies like Epson, but increasingly from Google as well. Nevertheless, the recent combination of co-branding and funding has placed Vuzix on a very solid global footing.

While the demand for wearables in enterprise is growing, many of the applications remain relatively niche. Unlike other form factors deployed in an enterprise setting, wearables covers a very broad spectrum of devices that encompass a plurality of applications and capabilities, making it difficult to address the form factor as a whole. Additionally, many organizations are hesitant to deploy wearables in line of business applications, as research from VDC reveals that lack of a perceived ROI remains a significant barrier to adoption across industry verticals. Nevertheless, the benefits of hands-free mobility and direct two-way communication are strong value propositions that are gaining ground in areas like field services and manufacturing, where efficiency gains, as well as safety and compliance provide a strong impetus to look to wearables as a solution. Many of these opportunities and challenges are addressed in an upcoming report from VDC on wearables in line-of-business applications.