111 posts categorized "Market Leaders"

01/14/2015

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

01/08/2015

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. 

12/08/2014

VC $'s Flowing into Mobile Development Startups

More than $200M has been invested in notable vendors that are participating in mobile development platform and tools market in just the past ~12 months.

Significant venture capital investments continue to pour into the mobile development platform and tools space. More than $200M has been invested in notable vendors that are participating in this market in just the past 12 months (see below). VC's who are banking on successful exits have reason to optimistic in our view.

Mdp_funding

On the M&A front, there have been two notable (and recent) acquisitions. mBaaS vendor FeedHenry was acquired by Red Hat in September 2014 for $82M, and testing and UI framework specialist Telerik was acquired by Progress Software in October 2014 for $262.5M. These are large transactions when compared to prior acquisitions in this space, which were on the smaller end of the spectrum (RhoMobile by Motorola, Nitobi by Adobe, and Worklight by IBM).

VDC believes that M&A in the space will be on the rise in terms of the size and number of acquisitions; this is natural in a rapidly evolving space. Core engineering will play a big part in vetting the valuation of future transactions with open technology, scalability, security, and resilience leading the charge. VDC sees valuations rising, based not only on revenue and progress with customer acquisition but on innovation and the ability to tie into broader ecosystems and emerging markets.

There are several logical buckets for potential consolidators in this space. Large enterprise software/middleware (such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP); Cloud vendors in the PaaS space who are looking to augment their mobile capabilities (e.g., Amazon, Citrix, Salesforce, VMware etc.); application lifecycle vendors (such as Adobe, Opentext, and Progress Software); mobile solutions providers (such as Intel and Synchronous); and potentially IT professional service providers looking to integrate and assemble their own solution to service their customers. We also believe there will be consolidation among the distribution, discovery, and analytics players. In summary, we believe the mobile applications space has reached an inflection point and thus will gain increased interest on both the funding and M&A front.

For more insights into our coverage of the mobile development platforms and tools market you can download the executive brief to the recent Report that we published on this topic.

10/02/2014

LANDESK consolidates mobile productivity position with Naurtech acquisition

Yesterday, Systems user-oriented IT solutions provider LANDESK announced its acquisition of Naurtech, a firm that develops connectivity solutions to provide mobile access to enterprise data and applications for devices running Windows CE. The move represents the firm’s third mobility acquisition in three years and consolidates LANDESK’s terminal emulation capabilities, which, while somewhat niche, remain central for industry segments like warehousing and manufacturing. Despite being a somewhat older technology when compared to other branches of enterprise mobility products and solutions, the ability to integrate from the backend is critical. While Naurtech has remained a relatively quiet brand to date, it nevertheless has a longstanding history that compliments the capabilities of Wavelink, an enterprise mobility firm that provides terminal emulation, voice-enabled productivity software and device management solutions acquired by LANDESK in 2012. As Vice President of mobile productivity business Steve Bemis notes, “Naurtech brings complementary expertise that will strengthen support for our mobile operating systems and provide support for additional ruggedized devices.”

In addition to providing access to certain segments of the market – like aviation and retail – to which LANDESK previously did not have, the acquisition of Naurtech fills an important gap by providing one of the only SAP-ready solutions to the market. The existing relationship gives the firm a distinct advantage for organizations looking to improve line-of-business worker productivity within a SAP framework. The acquisition also serves as an investment in engineering as Wavelink takes over to modernize and advance mobile platforms for LOB solutions moving forward.

Although not a market moving deal, the transaction does fortify Wavelink’s leadership position in TE for mobile line of business applications. In addition to plugging a key gap in its solution and partner portfolio, Wavelink has the opportunity to leverage Naurtech’s engineering and development resources to lead much needed mobile application modernization within its target markets.  

With David Krebs, Executive Vice President

09/10/2014

Apple advances but doesn't revolutionize mobile payments, wearables

Yesterday saw the announcement of both the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch in Cupertino with considerable fanfare (and technical streaming issues).  Moving further away from Jobs’ dictate of a smaller screen, Apple has taken its cue from Samsung and the general smartphone market by offering both a 4.7” and 5.5” – marking its first foray into the phablet range. A relative late entrant to the market, the iPhone 6 will likely nevertheless help to recapture some of the market share that it has previously lost to Android which now accounts for more than 80% of the total smartphone market worldwide versus Apple’s 12%. While Apple’s market share is considerably higher in the US, it has slipped considerably in recent years as previous iPhone iterations have become increasingly incremental.

Boosting mobile payments

While the iPhone 6 boasts a host of improvements in display, battery life and thinness, the biggest enterprise news is in the inclusion of NFC and the introduction of Apple Pay.  Although NFC is not new technology, it has yet to gain mainstream traction as a means of mobile payment. NFC penetration in smartphones has begun to reach critical mass within the last generation of smartphones, with Apple being one of the last major holdouts. With the capability gaining momentum, VDC anticipates that NFC-enabled smartphone shipments are likely to reach 400-500 million in 2014. However, to date, while the technology is there, mobile payments have not taken off to a large extent, as evidenced by the relatively low take-up from Isis Wallet (now SoftCard). This has been primarily a function the trifecta of the lack of NFC-enabled payment infrastructure at checkout stations, general customer disinterest and smartphone shares that are only just reaching critical mass now. However, the sheer force of Apple’s cachet and its ability to bring partners like Target, Starbucks, McDonalds, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s could help to update a payment system that CEO Tim Cook noted is 50 years old. But despite the fact that the one-touch payment system shares no credit card information with the merchant and numbers are not stored on the phone, there are nevertheless concerns about the security of Apple Pay, especially in light of the recent security questions surrounding Apple and iCloud last week, in which celebrities' photos were stolen en masse. Given the sheer volume of credit card information that Apple holds and the rise in security breaches within companies like Target and, more recently, Home Depot, these are not idle concerns. With these recent breaches, retailers are on high alert and at least appear to want to do something to secure payments and are finally committing to upgrading their solutions.

The Apple Pay factor

Despite the potential of an NFC-enabled iPhone and the introduction of Apple Pay, the latter is not quite the disruptive move that many had anticipated or hoped for. Instead, Apple is largely taking on the role of enabler/facilitator and working directly with major banks and credit card issuers. While the revenue play for Apple in this scenario is limited, the option provides the greatest near-term boost to mobile payments. One outstanding question that remains is whether Apple Pay will/can directly link checking accounts as a payment option, as PIN code entry becomes an issue.

The wearable people might actually want to wear

With a hint of Jobsian flair, Cook announced that Apple did in fact have one more thing – the announcement of the highly anticipated, much-discussed smartwatch, simply named the Apple Watch. Staying true to its roots in product design, the device seeks to avoid the current hurdle of smartwatches being viewed as miniaturized smartphones strapped to the wrist. Although Apple emphasized the Watch’s high degree of customization, the company remained quiet on the topics of display resolution and, more importantly, battery life. Despite the current lack of specifications, the Apple watch has integrated key features that VDC believes are central to the success of the form factor: namely, the designing of a product that has a markedly different interface and means of interaction than other mobile devices. By supplementing the capacitive touch screen with a navigation wheel/home button dubbed the “digital crown”, the Apple Watch provides a simple and elegant solution to navigation while keeping the display un-obscured. More importantly, though, Apple will be making the API available to developers to create a host of applications that are specific to the form factor. As VDC will be discussing in depth in its report on wearable devices later this month, it is the combination of a rich application development ecosystem and relaying of contextual information in a format optimized for mini-interactions that will be the key to success not just for the Apple Watch, but for wearables as a whole. What remains to be seen, though, is the extent the Apple Watch will succeed as a wearable, given that the device – like other smartwatches with the notable exception of the Samsung Gear S – remains tethered to the smartphone and does not function as a standalone product. Although Apple has engineered and designed a strong product, the market has yet to see a true killer app emerge to solidify the form factor.  Nevertheless, the integration of NFC also adds potential to the device that, along with the other aforementioned capabilities, could help make smartwatches finally gain the traction needed to transition to fad to mainstream form factor with far-reaching opportunities within an enterprise setting.  

(with David Krebs, Executive Vice President)

08/28/2014

Now VMWare is thinking with Portals

 ... the opportunities to provision applications securely and on the fly is truly revolutionary and a possibility if VMware can integrate and evolve the technologies it has acquired.

Today marks the last day of VMWorld, VMware’s annual conference located in San Francisco. One of the key announcements came on Wednesday with the unveiling of the VMware Workspace Suite, which includes desktop virtualization, identity management, and app, device and data management. The package features many elements from its AirWatch acquisition, including Secure Content Locker and mobile management software. A central element to the package is the Workspace Portal, which enables mobile users to access Windows applications, cloud services and web apps from a single, centralized location.

Vmware_blog_graphic

Imitation as a source of flattery…or confusion

Many people are noting the similarities between its new product suite and that of Citrix, which bears the exact same name. Citrix has taken note and took the opportunity to release a blog of its own – Imitation is never as good as the original – claiming that “It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And after reviewing VMware’s new announcement of Workspace Suite, all I can say is that all of us at Citrix are extremely flattered,”  before enumerating a point-by-point comparison of the two products.

However, despite creating a seeming workspace doppelganger, VMware is also likely to see increasing competition from Dell, which launched its own desktop virtualization solution, vWorkspace. Originally known as Quest Software, it was acquired by Dell in 2012 and offers additional features like support for Linux VMs and EOP protocol.

The Mobile Cloud Era: “Desktops Re-imagined and Inspired by Mobility”

VMware is weaving together technologies that have the potential to upend traditional end user computing deployment environments. The company’s recent acquisitions (AirWatch, Desktone, and CloudVolumes) are demonstrative of the mobile cloud era that VMware sees us entering. VDC agrees, and we believe that we are in the early days of a coming disruption in IT service delivery and the way organizations provision and manage devices for their workforce. While the adoption of virtualization technologies like those from VMware is limited, the opportunities to provision applications both securely and on the fly is truly revolutionary and a realistic possibility ifVMware can integrate and evolve the technologies it has acquired. We see the opportunity for cost savings and the flexibility that VMware has the potential to offer giving the firm a notable opportunity moving forward. VMware’s vision of delivery innovation as a service – from the data center to the desktop and mobile applications –are now a possibility; time will tell if end users are ready for it.

(With Kathryn Nassberg, Analyst)

08/20/2014

Apperian Goes Big on User Acceptance Testing

The rise of the custom B2C and B2E app

With an increasingly mobile workforce relying on a combination of enterprise-issued and BYOD devices, the need of custom-made applications to support line of business workflows has grown significantly in recent years.  Data from VDC shows that there is a clear trend towards custom applications that are internally developed, as the year-on-year change for internally developed apps was positive across all industry verticals surveyed. Field mobility in particular saw a marked increase from 30% to 45% of apps being custom developed in-house.  While an increasing portion of resources are being allocated to development, quality assurance (QA) and user acceptance testing (UAT) are often complex and long processes that require specific skills and can be difficult to scale. Frequently, the testing pool is limited, and often relegated to a small number of employees, or even the developers themselves, which can adversely affect the user experience of the app. Apperian, a mobile-first ISV, is looking to address this shortcoming with the industry’s first large-scale solution for user-acceptance testing for mobile applications.

Engaging the community

Looking to overcome the traditional constraints of app testing, Apperian seeks to cast a broader net to both improve the stability and quality of the app, and to significantly cut down on time-to-market. According to CTO Carlos Montero-Luque,  Apperian has “reimagined what mobile app testing should be by empowering hundreds and even thousands of employees and/or contractors to be part of a user acceptance test process,” which they cite has already had a significant impact for early customers. In addition to saving money and time, engaging employees and the broader community provides a platform in which stakeholders have an opportunity to voice their opinions and know that their needs and concerns are being heard.

Security remains an issue

With the number of apps being developed in-house on the rise, security still remains a critical issue. Recent data from a VDC survey on software development reveals that only 8% of respondents have an application security program in place that is specific to mobile applications. When looking at in-house development, that number drops even lower, with a scant 4% of respondents having the means to test applications in-house.  Although most protection revolves around secure coding techniques, other measures, including binary protection countermeasures, are necessary to prevent hackers from pirating or compromising the confidentiality and integrity of applications. Failure to do so can result in applications that are easily reverse-engineered and modified. 

Security Practices Implemented During Mobile Application Development

Apperian blog

VDC data shows that while basic security needs are being met, there are still considerable gaps that remain and need to be addressed, as we have highlighted in previous blogs. This is a pain point for many enterprises and an opportunity for companies like Apperian, especially as development costs continue to rise. Adopting and utilizing tools to help ensure that mobile Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) best practices are being used will be critical for organizations as they pursue broader mobile enablement initiatives. Moving forward, sophisticated QA techniques, along with strategic usage UAT processes can help to ensure that apps have been adequately protected from hackers will be required, as the cost of security breaches can be enormous, not only in dollars but also in lost time, productivity, and an overall feeling of organizational well-being.

 (With Eric Klein, Senior Analyst)

08/04/2014

Oracle augments its cloud services with TOA acquisition

Oracle announced its plans on Thursday to acquire TOA Technologies, a Cleveland-based firm that specializes in cloud-based field service solutions. These SaaS solutions seek to optimize what Oracle refers to as the “last mile of customer service for enterprises” by coordinating and managing dispatchers, mobile employees and customers to improve service, empower service agents and allow for a more in-depth and long-term customer development. Although the terms of the acquisition remain undisclosed, TOA is considered global leader, as it manages services for major brands like Home Depot, Virgin Media, and Vodafone across more than 20 countries. By fitting into Oracle’s cloud services segment, the deal provides considerable synergies, especially within the realm of field mobility with TOA’s ETAdirect field service management system. 

 

Looking for smarter, better engagements

Oracle’s acquisition reflects the greater trend within field mobility in looking increasingly beyond reducing operational costs to measure success and to gauge solutions. A recent VDC end user survey revealed that the top two metrics used to measure field mobility solutions were improved worker productivity (45%) and better field worker communication/collaboration (33%). 

Oracle exhibit

Here too, the importance of increased customer service and loyalty mesh with Oracle’s emphasis on a modern approach to field service operations that include long-term brand and customer development through better customer engagements.

Taking the cloud to the field

Since its acquisition of RightNow in 2011, Oracle has made other key strategic (and recent) acquisitions which include BigMachines (October ‘13), Responsys (December ‘13), and BlueKai (February ‘14) to enhance its Cloud Service Platform. The acquisition of TOA further complements Oracle’s cloud services value play with a proven solution that enhances predictive scheduling and brings the ability to streamline service workflows for its customers. Oracle currently possesses scheduling solutions that compete with TOA's ETAdirect platform; however, VDC expects that Oracle will make it easy and attractive for existing customers to migrate to TOA's solutions once they enter an upgrade cycle.

Oracle’s actions make it clear that the company sees smaller and more focused/specialized firms such as Astea International, ClickSoftware, and ServiceMax as becoming increasingly competitive. ClickSoftware continues to sharpen its workforce management solutions and recently (February ‘14) acquired mobile specialist Xora. VDC sees field service solutions are a critical area for enterprise software vendors such as Oracle, particularly when considering workforce mobilization trends. VDC data shows that companies anticipate increasing enterprise mobility budgets by an average of 10.6% for 2014 year-on-year, and for field mobility applications, that figure rises to 11.1%. With smaller firms being acquired, the field is becoming increasingly competitive for the larger players, and VDC anticipates fierce competition ahead to capitalize on rising mobility budgets. 

 

(with contributions from Eric Klein, Senior Analyst)

07/31/2014

BlackBerry Looks to Voice Encryption to Retain Customers

BlackBerry's acquisition of Secusmart, a secure communications specialist, gives BlackBerry a fighting chance to hold onto its government customers.

Earlier this week, BlackBerry announced that its acquisition of privately held German firm Secusmart as part of its drive to become the handset OEM of choice for security-conscious clients in federal markets and in enterprise. While Secusmart's technology has powered BlackBerry's encrypted emails and texts, secure browsing and encrypted file system since 2009, BlackBerry will now integrate going forward through this acquisition Secusmart's Security Card technology. The solution is dependent on the usage of a micro-SD card which features a crypto-controller with a PKI coprocessor for authentication. An additional high-speed coprocessor encrypts voice and data communication using 128 bit AES. Considering BlackBerry’s shrinking device sales, the company must continue to innovate specifically on its platforms embedded security in order to remain relevant as a handset OEM.

Although BlackBerry's footprint in federal markets and in regulated environments is significant, when compared to the overall enterprise market opportunity, they are a niche market. However, what works in BlackBerry’s favor is the fact that companies in these market segments are as reliable as a vendor can hope for in terms of repeat business and year-over-year growth potential due to their reliance on mobile technologies. Indeed, BlackBerry's CEO John Chen sees "these markets as equating to half of IT spending in mobile technologies"; while this is a bit of an overstatement in our view, the opportunity is significant. Under Chen, the company has been very clear in its aim to reinforce BlackBerry as the best platform for secure communications in enterprise settings, and particularly in regulated industries. However, as has been well documented, BlackBerry continues to lose customers to EMM vendors like AirWatch, Good and MobileIron, who have all initiated marketing campaigns focused on painless switching to their respective platforms. While these campaigns in aggregate have had varying success, there is no question that there has been attrition. Although BlackBerry has “opened up” its platform and now allows competing EMM vendor to manage its devices, VDC saw this move as signaling that the company recognizes its position as the incumbent has waned and needed to move with the mobile ecosystem.

The acquisition of Secusmart does bring new high profile reference customer for BlackBerry to tout (in addition to President Barack Obama) with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who found herself the victim of a major security breach (click here, and here) when her iPhone was hacked this past November.

Encrypted Voice is a Super Competitive Market

Moving forward, BlackBerry’s Security will remain as the company’s key differentiator, and is why the company’s best shot for a turnaround rests on its ability to retain and grow its market share in the enterprise.  However, the market that the Secusmart acquisition signals that the company plans to participate in is a crowded one. Organizations such as Motorola Solutions whose bread and butter is in government and regulated markets have had competing products on the market for some time. Motorola Solutions AME2000 product provides end-to-end encrypted voice and data communications on public and private data networks. The solution targets public safety and federal markets which are core target markets for the company. AME200 also features sophisticated hardware-based encryption and key management via a proprietary microSD component of the solution (called CRYPTR micro), to support Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 Level 3 and Full NSA Suite B Cipher Suites. Motorola isn’t the only vendor either: Silent Circle emerged earlier this year (whose “surveillance proof” Blackphone, started shipping just last month) which can encrypt voice calls, Boeing’s Black phone features an embedded “self destruct” security feature along with the ability to communicate via satellite transceivers for secure voice communications, and FreedomPop’s privacy phone (which runs on Samsung hardware) key feature is voice encryption, and it can even be purchased via Bitcoin for “anonymity”. Suffice it to say that the secure voice and messaging market has quickly become crowded. Not to mention that vendors such as Open Whisper Systems and Silent Circle offer apps (no hardware required) to bring encrypted voice capabilities to the Android and iOS platforms.

A Niche but Valuable Market

While the confidentiality of private telephone calls has come under attack, the need for voice encryption for enterprises and private individuals is not apparent. There is no question that our privacy is being threatened by increasingly sophisticated adversaries and that certain executives and government personnel that routinely engaging in the exchange of private information or who conduct sensitive business transactions from abroad may be targeted. Large global organization do face the challenge of securing a global network of branch offices, subsidiaries, partners and project teams around the world and having the confidence that sensitive information and trade secrets remain confidential is important but the overall market is limited in scope and remains firmly as a niche. Nevertheless, as BlackBerry’s enterprise presence is becoming increasingly relegated to federal and regulated environments, embracing its niche position is, in VDC’s view, the firm’s best option for long-term viability. Acquiring Secusmart could give BlackBerry the security boost it needs to retain its current customer base and provide meaningful differentiation.

06/27/2014

Google I/O kicks wearable device talk into high gear

June has been a big month for consumer wearable devices – it has seen the Salesforce announce the launch of Salesforce Wear to help build up a wearable-specific ecosystem geared primarily towards smartwatches and augmented vision devices. This month also saw Samsung’s announcement of the Samsung Z – the first smartphone to run on its proprietary Tizen OS, establishing a single platform for its growing family of Gear smartwatches, including the Gear 2, the Neo and the Gear Fit. However, the biggest buzz has come from this week’s announcements at Google’s I/O developer conference. Google had announced its wearable specific OS, Android Wear, in March, but gave more insight this week as to its capabilities and scope. 

Google sees the world moving from your fingertips to your wrist

Contextual data proved a central theme at the presentation for Android Wear. Sundar Pichai, SVP for Android, Chrome and Apps noted that “people check their phones more than 150 times a day,” noting that these interactions often centered on simple pieces of information that require numerous steps, such as unlocking and entering passwords, to access. Google’s answer is to provide this information “quickly, at a glance,” and to supplement the process with voice-activated queries and commands using the familiar, “OK, Google” prompt. Improvements in contextual voice-based software from Apple, Google, and Microsoft for smartphones will be a major component of the new generation of smartwatches on the horizon, given the limited display size and interaction options. The trick, however, will be in balancing voice-activated and touch-based interactions that function seamlessly together and quickly; most interactions for the form factor take place within a 15-20 second timeframe.

As with smartphones, applications are key

For smartwatches and other wearable form factors to move beyond fitness-based fads, OEMs will need to support application development by providing APIs releasing SDKs to developers to support tighter and deeper integration. In the same way that desktop applications could not simply be shrunk down to work on a smartphone, mobile applications will need to be tailored to work with specific wearable form factors in a way that pairs well with other devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Having a robust selection of apps will help wearables to enter a broader slice of daily life and work to overcome the current social discomfort surrounding the devices (cue the numerous references to Dick Tracy or the Borg with Google Glass, or other augmented reality heads up displays). VDC looks in depth at this trend and the implications for enterprise wearables in this month’s VDC View.