Succeed or Fail – Windows 8 will be a Game Changer

You may be thinking how a failure can be a game changer. Yes, it is easy to understand that if Windows 8 succeeds then the tablet and smart phone computing would be changed forever, but how can it change the game by failing?

Well – if Windows 8 fails then it would be an official endorsement of the end of an era – the era of the supremacy of the personal computer.

Some of you would argue that the era has already ended and the failure of Windows 8 is already a foregone conclusion. But, you will probably be in the minority.

Others may argue that every alternate version of Windows release has been a failure and even if Windows 8 fail (like Vista), we will still have Windows 9 which will be a success (like Windows 7). However, I think the situation is different now.

What is the main proposition of Windows 8?

Actually, there are two propositions.

  1. User will prefer to interact with all computing device irrespective of the screen size and method of interaction in a consistent manner
  2. Metro UI Tiles is a better way to interact than the traditional Icon based interface

Microsoft had tried using the PC interface on tablet and smartphone and it has consistently failed. Now Microsoft is attempting the reverse. It is obvious that Metro UI is primarily designed for touch screen and Microsoft is attempting to use it for traditional PC & Laptop.

I think the underlying assumption is that most screens of the future will be touch enabled. There is also an assumption that the gap between a Laptop and a tablet will narrow or even disappear.

For once Microsoft is not copying Apple

Yes, the Metro UI is innovative and the credit goes completely to Microsoft. It is distinctly different from what Apple has to offer.

Users may accept the Metro UI or users may reject it but the credit or the blame will rest solely on Microsoft’s shoulder.

What happens if Windows 8 succeeds?

Obviously, Microsoft would definitely have reestablished its supremacy on the OS market. Nokia, Dell, HP, Intel and many others will heave a sigh of relief.

Metro UI would have been accepted by users as a better way of interacting with touch screens. Apple and Google would need to come up with a response.

People who claim that the future belongs to Apple, Google and Amazon will need to revise their opinion – and yes, it would be game changer.

What happens if it succeeds only on Tablet and fails on PC?

It would be an official endorsement of the end that PC and Tablet are different. All those who depend on PC and Laptop sales will need to reinvent themselves or perish.

Metro UI would have established itself as an alternate way of interacting with touch screen. There will be serious competition to Apple and Google.

You will have a new kid in the block, the Metro UI, who will get all the attention of the developers and UI design would be altered forever – a game changer on its own right.

What happens if it fails?

Then it would definitely be the end of the PC era – and a game changer.

PC and Laptop will not die overnight but it would slowly loose its significance and along with it many big names of today will find themselves in a similar boat.

What is the time frame to judge the success or failure?

One year is too short a time and five years is too long. I think 3 years is the right timeframe to pass the judgment.

If by end of 2015, Windows 8 (or 9) has not become the de facto standard, or at least become a strong alternative we can consider the game to be over for Windows.

How Fast Does Technology Change?

How fast does technology change? What is its impact?

It is something like the hour hand of a clock. If you keep staring at it you would feel that it always remains stationary. If you go away and come back after sometime, you will see that it has moved a lot.

The same thing is true with technology.

Amara’s law

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”Roy Amara was a researcher, scientist and past president of the Institute for the Future.

[The photo of Roy Amara is taken from Pete Steege ‘s blog]

Many people including Bill Gates have repeated these words but my search result points to Roy Amara as the originator of this statement. [See Wikipedia]

Joseph Licklider, who is considered by many as the person who brought the idea of cloud computing to the forefront also said something similar – “…People tend to overestimate what can be done in one year and to underestimate what can be done in five or ten years…” [See Wikia].

Look at Gartner’s Priority Matrix

Along with the hype cycle of emerging technologies, Gartner also releases a priority matrix which ranks all the listed technology on 2 dimensions – “benefit” and “years to mainstream adoption”. The top left corner indicates transformational technologies which will go mainstream in next 2 years. Here is a snapshot of the priority matrix for 2009, 10 & 11.

Most curious thing about these priority matrixes is the empty square at the top left corner (2009 contains almost defunct term web 2.0).

What is being said loud and clear is that:

For last 3 years there has been no technology which is expected to have a transformational impact in next couple of years.

Looking 10 years back

However, if you step back 10 years and rewind to beginning of 2002, you will see a picture which was quiet different.

  • Wikipedia was still an experiment – for serious stuff you looked into Encyclopedia Britannica
  • The term Web 2.0 had not yet been coined
  • There was no Gmail
  • Social Media or Social Networking was not invented – so obviously no Facebook
  • The terms Cloud Computing, SaaS, IaaS, PaaS where still 5 years into the future
  • Google IPO was still 2 years away
  • Apple had just reported a loss of 25 million USD in 2001
  • iPod has just been launched – iPhone and iPad where nowhere in sight
  • The leader in mobile phone was Nokia, Motorola, Samsung & Siemens – no BlackBerry yet

Here is a collection of mobile handsets from that era – taken from In Pictures: A History of Cell Phones

Look at some of the technology related predictions made by Gartner for 2002 (full detail here):

“…across industries, geographies and businesses, the use of IT as an engine for efficiency, growth and opportunity will remain undiminished in 2002, although it will be accompanied by healthy skepticism and smarter planning…”

  • Consumers will go online, finally, with the number using online account management doubling by 2005
  • Through 2004, businesses will continue to view the discipline of CRM as a critical component of corporate strategy
  • More than 50 percent of mobile applications deployed at the start of 2002 will be obsolete by the end of 2002
  • By 2004, Web services will dominate deployment of new application solutions for Fortune 2000 companies
  • During 2002, leading-edge businesses will exploit application integration to generate business innovation

Compare it with the 2012 list:

“…Gartner defines a strategic technology as one with the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major dollar investment, or the risk of being late to adopt…”

  1. Media Tablets and Beyond
  2. Mobile-Centric Applications and Interfaces
  3. Contextual and Social User Experience
  4. Internet of Things
  5. App Stores and Marketplaces
  6. Next-Generation Analytics
  7. Big Data
  8. In-Memory Computing
  9. Extreme Low-Energy Servers
  10. Cloud Computing

Are we living in the same world?

Therefore…

If you are into predicting technology change, it is very safe to make a prediction for next one year. You can confidently say that thinks will remain the same … well more or less. Only exception is when a “Black Swan” event like iPhone launch happens. Anyway, Black Swan, by definition cannot be predicted.

But, if you want to make prediction for next 3 to 5 year, you will be in much more difficult wicket (for those of you who do not care about cricket, the game – it means it would be much more difficult to predict). Try predicting for next 10 years…

However, the moral of the story is to step back and put every change in proper context – and not to “Miss the wood for the trees”.

Do People Lie More on Email?

Yes, if you are to believe the study done by Mattitiyahu Zimbler and Robert S. Feldman of the University of Massachusetts. (See this)

“…some degree of deception present in all three forms (face-to-face, instant messenger, email) of communication, it was increased in both instant messaging and e-mail, with e-mail messages the most likely to contain lies…”

The author goes on to draw the conclusion that “deindividualization” effect leads to lying. When people grow psychologically and physically further from the person they are in communication with, there is a higher likelihood of lying.

No, if you go by what is written in the book “59 Seconds: Think a Little – Change a Lot” by Richard Wiseman. In this book he quotes a study by Jeff Hancock and his colleagues at Cornell University and goes on to say that:

“…people in lied 14% of emails, 21% of texts, 27% of face-to-face and 37% of telephone…”

In this case the author concludes that when somebody has to put things in writing the chances of lying comes down.

[I have not given the details of the study – you can look it up.]

Which is correct?

Both explanations look very logical.

So, what is the truth?

How two academic studies can have such diverse result?

Which one should you believe?

Fooled by Randomness

If you have not read this book “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in the Markets and in Life” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I suggest that you read it. However, let me warn you that you might be put off by the style of writing.

But for now, you can have a look at these articles which outlines the main thesis of the book.

  1. Book Extract – The nature of probability is easily misunderstood, and misinterpretations of statistics abound.
  2. Review by Mark Wainwright – Try as we might, we continue to see patterns where none exist, misunderstand the role of randomness, seek explanations for chance phenomena, and believe that we know more about the future than we do. And that is the point of this book.

May be, here lies the explanation of how 2 studies can come to such diverse conclusion.

We live in a complex world

Our world is complex – especially when we deal with human being.

You have to accept the fact that the day of finding simple and elegant explanations for every trend that we observe are over. Any trend that we observe may be just a random event. The cause and effect correlation presented to us may look neat but is likely to be totally erroneous.

Be skeptical of all such studies.

Agile Practice and Work-Life Balance

Do you really believe that adopting agile practices will help you achieve work life balance?

One of the principles behind agile manifesto hints that it is possible:

“…Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely…”

However, the real world is different. We live in a world where we have an obsession with “Growth” … obsession with “Achieving more with less” … obsession with “Goal orientation” … obsession with “Stretch target”. To this you add the fast pace of change in everything around us – you will find that status quo is something which is very difficult to maintain.

Couple of days back I received a mail from Hema and here is an extract from that mail:

“…. I am a big believer in Agile and have been looking for companies that do real agile and have good work life balance. Do they exist or should women just move out of IT industry if they want work life balance if they care a lot about their kids? Are some roles better suited than others?…”

Many of you may echo this same sentiment … may ask the same questions. So, where do we look for an answer?

Assumptions contained in this statement

There are several assumptions inherent in that statement.

  • Adoption of true agile will lead to work-life balance
  • IT industry suffers more from work life imbalance than many other sectors
  • For a specific organization, work-life balance or imbalance will be uniform across
  • Work-life imbalance is role specific
  • This problem is specific for women

Are all these assumptions true?

Main reasons of work-life imbalance

In my opinion, the single reason which leads to work-life imbalance is when somebody (it may even be you) makes a commitment which cannot be fulfilled without putting in extra effort from your side – and you are not ready to face the consequence of not meeting the commitment.

The reason of why you cannot meet the commitment can be several. The commitment was made…

  1. …without an understanding of the complexity involved
  2. …in a competitive situation where the options was to either accept the deal with the given conditions or walk out of it
  3. …without considering the impact on other commitments already made
  4. …assuming a team composition, which for some reason cannot be realized – either people have left or you cannot find suitable people
  5. …from the top with the assumption that certain percentage improvement to status quo needs to be done
  6. … was derived from some higher level goal and handed down as given

Will adopting agile solve this problem? I really doubt it.

What can you do to avoid such situation?

The problem is not restricted to IT alone – neither is it limited to certain roles. Even if you are a school teacher you might find that you have been handed out with responsibilities which go much beyond teaching.

Agile practice, by itself, is unlikely to help you achieve work-life balance. Given today’s business environment it may even make it worse.

Here are few suggestions which may work. Though, I should warn you that our world has become complex enough and competitive enough to ensure that you need to run fast to stay at the same place.

  1. Learn to say “NO”. There is lot of stuff written on how to say no – just do Google it. Many people believe that Steve Jobs succeeded because he could say no – Steve Jobs: Get Rid of the Crappy Stuff.
  2. Learn to “Slow Down”. Did you know there is something called “Slow Movement”? There is even a Wikipedia page on slow movement.
  3. If you are still confused about what you want to do read this book – What Should I Do With My Life? Remember one gentleman called William Henry “Bill” Gates – he just walked out from the most successful company at that time which he had built from scratch.

Finally…

Here is an interesting report from McKinsey titled Changing companies’ minds about women or see this link. So, there is some hope for women. However, things are not changing very fast, so …

There are consequence to “saying no”, “slowing down” and “changing your career”.

Be clear that you understand those.

[Update (January 2012): Here are two interesting HBR articles]

Apple, Google, Amazon – Three tech horsemen – who is the Fourth?

If you consider CNN Money survey it is IBM which has beaten Microsoft by a whisker. They did not consider Facebook as it is not publically traded.

If you listen to Eric Schmidt, it is off course Facebook. Off course anybody from Google will consider Facebook in the list because Larry Page is turning Google upside down to compete with Facebook.

However, if you go by what Jeff Bezos say then it has to be Microsoft. According to him “…they’ve done a lot of innovative things, some of which get overshadowed by their big existing businesses…”

So, who will it be – IBM, Facebook or Microsoft?

Consider the following facts and possibilities

  • Since 2009, IBM share has outperformed Microsoft (see this).
  • In the same period Google and Microsoft stocks have performed about the same (see this).
  • Facebook IPO, when it comes, is expected to round up anywhere between 50 billion to 100 billion US$ (see this).
  • Facebook’s IPO would be 6X bigger than Google’s (see this).
  • IBM has replaced expensive workers in North America with low-cost laborers abroad, which has helped keep margins and profits growing (see this).
  • By the end of 2012, Google+ may become the second most popular social media site (see this).
  • Google surpasses Facebook to become the most visited site of 2011 (see this).
  • Microsoft has a habit of coming from way behind and winning the war (see this).
  • IBM has bet big on analytics including cloud analytics & “Big Data”. The icing on the cake is when Watson won Jeopardy! (see this).
  • Microsoft has created the MetroUI for Windows 8, which has the potential of becoming a game changer like Kinect (see this). Or, will it be a flop like Vista.
  • The fate of Nokia and possibly Intel depends on the success of the next generation Windows OS (see this).
  • An x86 tablet with Windows 8 running all the legacy applications … anyone (see this)?

Ultimately it boils down to these 3 questions…

  1. How successful will Windows 8 be, especially for the Tablet?
  2. Will Facebook come up with an IPO and if it does how successful will it be?
  3. Is “Big Data” the next big thing in cloud or is it a solution in search of a problem?

If you have been following then you would probably have guessed that I feel that the first question is going to be a game changer.

If Windows 8 succeeds then it would be as disruptive as iPad or Android – it would have blurred the distinction between PC and Tablet.

On the other hand if it fails then posterity may consider this event as the starting point of the end of PC era.

How to Leverage Google’s “Search Plus Your World”?

Have you ever had the frustrating experience of trying to locate a post or a page in the web which you vaguely recollect having read sometimes in the past?

It happens to me quite frequently.

For example, recently, I read an article on “10 Ways to Sell an Idea” by Dennis McCafferty which I found to be quiet contrary to another article I had read few years back. I wanted to locate the article and it took me a long time to do it. In fact, it took me more time to locate the article than to write the post comparing the contrasting view – How to Pursue You Innovative Idea – 2 Contradictory Perspectives.

Now that Google has started leveraging your and your friend’s activities for searching – it may be an interesting idea leverage that to find stuff that you have liked in the past.

After I had added by blog to my Google+ profile, I have found it easier to search any of my past post by directly searching in Google rather than going to my blog and looking for it. Since the search result is personalized, the post that I am looking for invariably shows up in the search.

For example, to look for my post 6 Game Changing Technology Events Of 2011 – And 2 Non-Events I had to just type “6 events and 2” and bang the link shows up as the third item.

Obviously, when you do a similar search, you will not find the link.

Here is an interesting study from IBM – Tip for Getting More Organized: Don’t

So, that opens an interesting possibility.

Why not just keep liking and sharing all the post that you might find interesting? You may be able to find it easily in some distant future.

11 Reasons Why Windows Phone will Overtake Android in next 3 Years

Please hold your skepticism, keep an open mind, go through the following point and only then pass a judgment on my prediction that “3 years down Windows Phone would have overtaken Android”

(1) “Mango” has received very positive response

Just go through the following comments.

“… I say this with all seriousness and some incredulity: Apple, watch your back. Microsoft may have finally figured it out. The battle for the mobile market just got interesting again…” – Robert X. Cringely

“…With Mango, WP7 has caught up with Android and iOS in nearly every way, and in some areas it’s even surpassed the other two in functionality …” – Brad Molen

 “…Windows Phone 7.5 is supremely usable, surprisingly powerful and delivers the experience Microsoft has been promising, with only a few rough edges left…” – techradar.com

“…Windows Phone is, in my opinion, the second-best OS out there, after iOS. It’s more cohesive, reliable, pretty, and fast than Android…I have no hesitation in recommending it…” – Dan Nosowitz

“…Android doesn’t look as shiny and as for Apple, since our play, we certainly notice a lot more “Windows Phone 7 features” in the latest iOS 5 Beta builds…” – Stuart Miles

If you don’t believe me then just do your own searching – I am sure you will find comments very similar to these.

(2) Metro UI is innovative and usable

The UI is different but very well designed for mobile and tablet. The same view is expressed by most experts and most owners of “Mango” phone.

“…keep an open mind and you just might be pleasantly surprised by Microsoft’s elegant, daring, and simple take on smartphones…” – Jessica Dolcourt

 (3) Microsoft usability design is backed by strong research

I have discussed this elsewhere – Microsoft’s Second UI Innovation.

If you have doubt then just go through the presentation on How Ribbon Interface was created.

(4) Unlike Android UI, Metro UI has nothing in common with iOS

Google and Android handset manufacturers are fighting legal battles with Apple in so many different countries. These battles are prompted by similarity in the design and user interface.

“Mango” is different. If fact Microsoft has already secured a patent for the metro UI – Microsoft patents Metro UI. On the other hand Android is fighting so many patent and IP violation suits.

(5) It is a question of survival for Nokia

Even though Nokia has been steadily losing market share it still enjoys more than 20% market share of the number of mobile handsets shipped (see IDC report). RIM is also in a similar situation, but unlike RIM, Nokia has something decent to fight back with.

They have put all their eggs in the Windows Phone basket and they are not going to give in without a fight, especially in the non-US markets.

(6) Microsoft has patent agreement with handset manufacturer which lowers the barrier for switch

Microsoft has patent deals with HTC, Samsung and many other Android handset manufacturers and receives US$ 5 upwards for every handset sold. See this – Microsoft Getting Royalties From Over Half Of All US Android Phone Sales.

So, Android is not exactly free.

(7) Most users would have changed their handset in 3 years

One of the concerns expressed by many analysts is that Microsoft is late in the game and the mobile market is already crowded. However, history has taught us that the mobile landscape changes every 3 years. One of the top 3 players drop out to be replaced a newcomer. You also get a new leader.

Therefore, 3 years down the line the field is wide open.

(8) Windows 8, which has Metro UI, would have enough presence in desktop & laptop

In spite of all the prediction about the end of the PC era, you will almost surely be using a PC for many more years. You will also, periodically, continue to upgrade your PC and Laptop. Majority of those upgrades will result in your getting a Windows 8 machine.

As a result, 3 years down the line most of us would get reasonably familiar with Metro UI.

(9) Windows App store, by then, would have many more applications

By having the same programming model for desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile, Microsoft has ensured that app developers will always find a wider market for their applications. They are also offering developers a larger piece of the pie.

Microsoft fleshed out details for its Windows Store, announcing to developers that the Windows 8 app store will become available with the Windows 8 beta in late February 2012. (See this)

(10) Microsoft has an uncanny knack of persisting with, perfecting a product and become one of the market leaders

We have seen this happen time and again with so many different categories of products. The list is long – Word Processor (Word), Spreadsheet (Excel), Database (MS-SQL), Search Engine (Bing), O/S for handheld device (Windows CE), Enterprise web application platform (SharePoint), Enterprise mail server (Outlook), Development platform (.Net), Developer Studio (VSTS), Gaming Console (Kinect), Browser (IE), ERP (Dynamics) … (See this for more detail).

So, why can’t they pull it off again?

(11) Windows Phone is much more strategic to Microsoft than Android is to Google

Microsoft is primarily an O/S company and Google is a search company. If Google loses the mobile O/S war it is just another loss. It is not going to threaten the existence of the company. However, the same loss for Microsoft may threaten their very existence.

You don’t expect Microsoft to give in without a very very strong fight … especially when they have hit upon an innovative product with lots of promise.

Also, there is no Steve Jobs around who can completely change the game.