Matthew Sekol

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words."

Month: May 2015

Why Microsoft Should Really Buy Blackberry

In all honesty, this is a hard sell. I’ve been supporting Blackberry in various capacities since they were little pager devices (collective Aww…). I’ve reveled in their downfall though, ultimately believing that ActiveSync was a much better solution than the old BES servers. Regardless, Blackberry is in its final throes, right? Well, maybe. Rumors about Microsoft purchasing them abound. The Motley Fool wrote 3 Reasons Why Microsoft Should Buy Blackberry, but I think they are widely missing the mark. At least I hope so.

Why the Fool is Wrong
Reason 1: Keyboard phones targets business users
Had I been drinking when I read this, my monitor would’ve been splattered with water. iPhones, which are keyboardless, have a massive hold on the Enterprise. As Baby Boomers retire and Millenials come in, only Gen X-ers, like myself, might want keyboards on our phone. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who would. This argument seems counter-intuitive to Microsoft’s mobile first mantra and the capabilities you get with their Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) solution.

Microsoft believes the user is mobile. Long gone are the days of having 2 devices (work and personal) for the same person. Side note – if you have 2 devices, I’m sad for you, stop being paranoid already! What Microsoft is really driving is a consumer and business experience across one device with Enterprise level protection and segregation with EMS.

The last point here is around porting Blackberry’s key features and apps into Microsoft’s app store. Microsoft could do this, but why bother? Clearly, Android and Apple have the largest market share. Blackberry itself seems to have given up its own app store and can borrow from Android and Amazon.

Reason 2: Windows Phone Distribution Channels are In Place
Blackberry had a great distribution channel for years! They aren’t having a problem getting their phones out there, the issue is that no one wants them! Would Microsoft purchase Blackberry, convert their phones off Blackberry OS to Windows OS and then distribute, possibly. Seriously though, I’m sure Blackberry knows how to distribute phones, they just don’t seem to be able to sell any.

Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia was at a turning point for Nokia. They had dropped out of the world’s top 5 phone manufacturers, but had started turning things around with the Lumia line. With Nokia’s integration taking a long time, would Microsoft bother rescuing a failing Blackberry to do the same. Man, I hope not.

Reason 3: BlackBerry Messenger could be a signature app
With the leak of Microsoft Flow and the rebranding of Lync to Skype for Business, and the consumer Skype, Microsoft is already sporting 3 chat platforms (arguably 2, but I listed 3, so there you go). Skype does support chat still and, in the Enterprise, Skype for Business underpins all Office collaboration. Would Microsoft buy Blackberry just for Blackberry Messenger? No. Would Microsoft integrate Blackberry Messenger into Windows 10? No. Would Microsoft integrate the features from Blackberry Messenger into Skype, Skype for Business, and possibly Outlook? This one I could believe.

What’s Matt Take on This?
I’m glad you asked. Admittedly, there could be some hardware benefits in Reason 2, but there’s something else that caught my eye recently. Amid the layoffs, Blackberry is ensuring Blackberry Messenger and their Enterprise Security Solutions remain in tact. This protects Blackberry’s most valuable asset – their IP. Imagine if Microsoft integrated Blackberry’s IP into their existing EMS solution and Office 365. They could potentially shift the Enterprise market back to them.

I’ve long believed any player has an opportunity to recapture share in the mobile phone market because of the refresh cycle of the devices. I’m hopeful that Continuum, Windows 10, and their recently released application development toolsets will help them grow their app store and recapture market. Layering Blackberry’s security and encryption IP could make for a powerful play in the Enterprise.

Microsoft does have a problem though if this is their purchase strategy. Blackberry is larger than their IP at the moment and hard decisions will have to be made. The offer from Microsoft shouldn’t be large enough to cover everything Blackberry is doing currently, but where they are heading – to a niche mobile security player. If this happens, Microsoft will get the true value of Blackberry.

How Microsoft Flow Could Be The Future of Chat

It seems like every tech company is tackling the problem of email volume. I think Microsoft’s Office 365 handles appropriate content management in a way to truly reduce email volume. Instant Messaging with Skype for Business is a great way to help.

There are other players emerging too, like Slack, which seem to be finding real ways to reduce email pains. Others, like Google, just throw more space at the problem and hope search will be your salvation.

This week though, tech blogs lit up with a leaked offering from Microsoft, courtesy of Twitter user h0x0d.

Neowin even has screenshots of the app, although they are highly blurred.

From the tweet, we learned 3 things:
1. Flow is email based, so you can chat with anyone if you know their email address.
2. While Flow is email based, it works more like chat because you can just start immediately with text and no subject.
3. Your chats stay within Flow, without the cumbersome view of your entire mailbox appearing in the app.

From these 3 things, we can speculate on quite a bit!

The Enterprise Play
Obviously, Skype for Business has been a great way to reduce email load through quick answers in chat, keeping short emails out of your Inbox.

Flow would seem to have the same play, but there is one more obvious overlap with Flow, at least from an Enterprise perspective. Since Flow and Skype for Business chats are both held in your Exchange mailbox, both are discoverable via eDiscovery tools.

From this perspective, compliance officers should love Flow. Imagine getting all your employees’ text messages under control again via something that works like a text message and is on the device where you already are texting from.

Text Messaging, You Say?
Yes, this is very much like text messaging. What makes me curious is the cut off screenshot from Neowin, that states:

Flow: Keep conversations alive and engaging
by know when others are typing in a conversation

The term when is key and shows how like text messaging this app is. If Microsoft has a way (assuming via the app) to track responses within the app back to the sender, Flow becomes exactly like text messaging.

I’d like to review a part of the recently released study of email – Evolution of Conversations in the Age of Email Overload. Particularly, I would like to call out 2 points:

..there is a considerable fraction of threads that last longer than a day (22%)

…Most of the replies are very fast: more than 90% happen within a day
of receiving the message, and the most likely reply time is just 2 minutes..

This also addresses the two points from the email report – communication is quick and transient.

Bypassing the Downside to Lync Online
Skype for Business Online has long had one glaring omission that its on-premise counterpart has had since it was Lync, which is cross-platform chat capability. A lot of chat clients have this problem.

Flow would seem to be a way to take the standards and ubiquity of email and turn it into an instant messaging platform. No more worrying if your external partners have Skype for Business, Jabber or Google Hangouts, just use Flow backed by whatever email you have.

My assumption here is that instead of adding complexity to Skype for Business for different chat services, customers can use Flow, backed by their email, to basically just chat with anyone!

Is This The One Chat to Rule Them All?
Way back in 2013, Michael Ingram wrote that we would never get to one chat client. From his perspective, all chat clients are in competition and proprietary. Of course, he is correct.

Microsoft’s move here could be brilliant. You take something everyone has, an email address, and turn it into something everyone needs –
true, cross platform instant messaging.

I’m assuming here that Flow will work with any email platform, and I think I’m right to do so. Google’s attempt at this was Hangouts, which hasn’t been successful because it is simply just another proprietary format. Microsoft would be remiss to have this work only with Exchange and I doubt that’s the case.

Flow also differs from texting because people aren’t as open with their phone numbers as they are with their email address. The reason, of course, is that email is something you deal with on your terms vs. a phone ringing, which is frankly, an instant and immediate assault.

So, where would this play ultimately with Skype for Business? Well, each will have their place likely, but there looks to be some overlap. Flow doesn’t seem to be making the exact same plays around collaboration that Skype for Business does (ie. video, audio, desktop sharing, etc.).

If my assumptions are right though, chat will likely be taking a new and interesting direction soon!

4 Things to Know at 22

In this series, professionals share what they’d do differently — and keep the same. Follow the stories here and write your own (please use #IfIWere22 in your post).

Back when I was 22, it was an interesting time for me and the internet. It was 1998 and I was just graduating from Penn State with an English degree and studying Microsoft’s Networking Essentials. The internet was still largely in its infancy but, like me, it had a lot of potential. I just wasn’t so sure how the two would work together. So, let’s jump right in there!

Thing to Know #1: Having a Career Unrelated to Your Degree Can be a Good Thing
In 1997, it became clear to me that technology would be more lucrative than most things my English degree could offer (Law School aside). I had a knack for building web sites and troubleshooting computers and could see what was coming down the road. This realization came too late for me to switch majors though, so I graduated with my English degree.

This worked out to be one of the best decisions of my life. As I progressed in my career, my English degree supplemented my technical skillset. It took me about 5 years to realize what was happening. Of all the skills I had in my arsenal, excellent communication and empathy proved to be the most important. I quickly moved up in IT in my first Enterprise role, moving from desktop support to lead architect in just 5 years.

Embrace all the passions in your life, there’s likely not only one! If you’re lucky, you can find a job that covers them all!

Thing to Know #2: Work is Not Life
Your career is not your life, no matter how much time you spend on it. I have made countless ridiculous decisions around thinking I was impressing someone when my life was sacrificed.

For example, when my wife and I had our first child, there was a lot going on at the office. The day after my daughter was born, there was an all hands with the new CIO just after our company was acquired. I thought it would be good for my career to make a showing. I left the hospital, went home, got cleaned up and went into work.

What a waste! While I made it through the acquisition and flourished at that company, it wasn’t due to my appearance at some meeting. It was due to my work ethic and the other skills I had gained over the years. My wife will always remember that I did that. Meanwhile, that company has been gobbled up and systematically taken apart.

Remember this, as you get older, your job may change, your peers come and go, but your family is forever. Spend time on finding the balance, it will be well worth it.

Thing to Know #3: Complacency is Bad
Look around at any Enterprise and you will find a small group of people working that have been doing the same thing for a long time with little career movement. Sometimes, these people just have found what they do and are really good at it. Other times though, they are just plain stuck.

Your career requires a balance in this area. You don’t need to job hop like crazy or even ever leave the company you work for to find new opportunities. Keep an eye out for market trends and make sure not to become complacent. Sometimes, this means changing jobs, other times it means changing companies or locations. What I’ve learned, especially in IT, is that today’s skills are tomorrow’s layoff fodder.

Life is change, but pace your career intelligently and look for opportunities to grow. They are out there!

Thing to Know #4: Be Confident and Have Fun
When I was in college, I used to be a chauffeur of a sort. I was a rare breed who owned a car at college. I had the privilege of driving some girls from my home town back home on the weekends. One of them gave me advice that was so simple, I couldn’t believe I had missed it.

One of the girls asked me why I always walked around campus with my head down. I wasn’t sure what she meant really, I just thought I was walking. Her perception though was that I lacked confidence. She also gave me some advice – walk with your head held up.

I tried this and noticed an immediate difference. People will engage you if you’re confident and conversations naturally just start.

I supplemented this new confidence with humor, which is something I’ve had for years and then grew again with my English degree. Once again, I found balance. Humor was more difficult to master than confidence though in a professional setting. It needs to be used lightly and cannot be overbearing or offensive.

Both humor and confidence can build trust and move you forward.

One Last Thing: Short Term Pain is Sometimes Worth It
These 4 things have served me well. Not ever career decision I made worked out though. I once worked for a company that was going bankrupt. The timing worked out in that my wife and I were looking to move closer to family to start our own. I made a huge mistake though. The company offered severance packages and I thought I would be hard pressed to find a job where near family, so I took the first well paying job I could find. I left the drowning company and lost the severance.

About a year later, a lot of my co-workers had made out quite well as the severance packages materialized. I learned this lesson, but didn’t think I would have time to reapply it.

Last year though, the company I was working for was purchased. Severance was offered once again. I bid my time until the my end date and got my severance. Rather than just wait in misery, I took the opportunity to learn as much as I could about how the new company operated. This led me to learning a lot about a competing technology, ultimately helping me in my current role.

Make the most out of a bad situation and ride out the storm. Sometimes that package is worth it!

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