Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where’s Microsoft going?

|create|it| has had a strong bet on Microsoft technologies since day one. We strongly believe it has the best overall platform, the one best suited to solve our customer’s needs, and this strategy has paid off in our 10 years of existence.

In recent times, however, the changes in the market in the last 2-3 years have shaken up things. Here are some simplistic ideas/rant.

Consumer market

Apple is the consumer king in the mobile world (it’s strange how a company so closed and monopolist can be such a widespread darling, but I won’t go into that), and the only really strong foothold Microsoft has in this segment that I can see is the Xbox360 in the household (in the US, note, as in Portugal we have no TV content at all).

Windows 7 is a great OS (I still feel Win8 as somewhat lacking in usability), but a lot of tablets will have to be sold to compete with the likes of the iPad, Kindle Fire and Galaxy devices.

Kinect is fun and innovative, but the device is still clearly unexplored, and the good ideas seem to be somewhat limited in scope. It’s one of those things that leaves the impression that works like magic, but when we look at possible applications, there aren’t that many uses (or maybe I’m not looking far ahead enough).

Windows Phone is a great OS, but there’s no penetration at the moment, and who knows if there ever will be one. Microsoft seems to be moving very slowly in adding new/missing features, which is something I wasn’t expecting.

Development

On the development front, I think Microsoft is the strongest player. Great development tools, innovation in languages, .Net is miles ahead of other platforms. And Microsoft is also becoming very good at incorporating ideas from other things out there, which is a very smart move.

Enterprise/Application platform space

The name here is Oracle. Oracle seems to be pursuing the strategy of buying more and more companies, integrating their offer, and they have a very strong application platform offer. I suspect that the sales pitch that it’s all a single “fusioned”/integrated solution is not quite true, but the fact is that it seems to be working in the market. I’ve seen more than one customer strategically decide to go for a Oracle-only approach. They may “crash and burn” if everything does end up in the cloud, but by then then can try to buy VMware and fix that IaaS problem.

As to Microsoft, is has a strong OS offer, a very strong SharePoint offer (but don’t forget Oracle has WebCenter), a very strong SQL Server (&BI) offer, but there seems to be some disinvestment in the application server space (both in Windows Server AppFabric and BizTalk), which is where Oracle is strong. Windows and Office still own the desktop and productivity space, but those top and mid-level managers more and more walk around with their proud iPads.

Cloud

There are a lot of players here, but the first I think is more relevant is Amazon. They are mostly IaaS but also have several interesting PaaS things available. VMware is also a relevant name here – if they can move a VM to the cloud with the flip of a checkbox, they are in the game.

As to Microsoft, even if I doubt it has the market share of Amazon, for me it has the best and most complete offering available, especially in the PaaS space. I expect it to grow and win more adoption in time, also supported by the SaaS things like Office 365, SharePoint and CRM online. The cloud seems to be one of the key bets for Microsoft at the moment, and I hope they succeed.

(side-note: Office WebApps work great, but getting there is somewhat hard, compared to Google Docs, and LiveId’s authentication should be a) much faster and b) simpler).

Google

Strangely, I don’t see Google as a big problem for Microsoft right now, even if they hold an envious space in advertising. From what I read, Bing is very strong and innovative in the search space in other countries, especially in terms of services offered, but in Portugal the textual search is atrocious, and BingMaps seems to be the only really very strong offering. Google seems to have lost its Mojo, anyway, with the privacy issues and Google+’s failure (is it official yet?).

Final notes

With all this said, these are complicated days for a Microsoft-only Systems Integrator like |create|it|. We have WP7 skills but the market doesn’t want them, only iOS and Android applications (MonoTouch/for Android may be the path here). The application platform space seems to be shrinking to Oracle, and SharePoint is no longer the same cash cow it was. As to Azure, it is steadily but slowly gaining adoption.

What to do? maybe shift strategy, turn to the consumer, either the one on the move in a mobile device, or the enterprise one in the SaaS space. Watch this space :).

 

ps- This is probably not a completely informed post, there are a lot of numbers and knowledge I don’t have and I am NOT an industry analyst, but look at it as a “vox populi” rant.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

«Dinâmica e Motivação de Equipas de Projecto» @ NetPonto Lisboa 21/04

Recently I’ve been doing a presentation with my colleague André Vala in academic events (namely IST’s SINFO XIX and FC-UL’s ENEI 2012), themed “Architecture of Complex Software Solutions @ Create It». My part of the session was originally meant to be about the the high-level architecture of a very large project we are working on at the moment.

While developing the contents for the presentation, however, I felt that architecture and technology were no longer on the top of the relevant issues list on the project - the main obstacles were solved in the first few sprints.

I once read this saying «When you solve your largest problem, your second largest problem becomes your largest problem», and this made me center the presentation about what I felt was the most relevant and important challenge for the success of the project – team dynamics.

I later decided to expand these contents to include other projects I was involved with in the past and which I feel made me learn valuable lessons in how to manage a team to achieve the highest motivation an productivity, and this resulted in the presentation I’m going to deliver at Netponto in Lisboa next Saturday.

I am nor an expert on team dynamics nor a psychologist, so this will be a very practical session where my goal is to share my experience and – to put it in technical terms – some [behavioral/organizational] patterns which might perhaps help you on your next projects.

Come and share your experience :).