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Friday, February 25, 2011

Long Live the Business Tablet – Bye Bye Laptop?

Long Live the Business Tablet – Bye Bye Laptop?

I have been waiting for the research firms to publish some numbers regarding the adaptation of Tablets in the business environment. After many firms using Netbooks which is no different than the laptop, (except those that chose to pilot Linux models and its OS variants) the Tablet is becoming a prominent business tool.

Naturally, the first to lead and fast followers have already started their tablet agendas last year with the Apple iPad. Now that everyone is announcing and releasing new tablets has the IT departments and CTO/CIOs started to develop roll out plans.

Robert Half Technology’s recent survey of over 270 Canadian CIOs indicates over 40% are planning some kind of roll out in the next two years.

Forrester surveyed over 3000 decision makers in the Fortune 500 arena and found the number to be 30% have already implemented Tablets for employees and 75% will be doing so within the next 12 months.

Business has become serious about Tablets with the primary benefit is to increase employee productivity and mobility and to lower costs. The Tablet may become the business tool with the fastest growth.

Many organizations already have Wi-Fi networks in their offices for employees and the smart ones have guest access for visitors. Many organizations have networks in place to connect all their offices and servers together. Many already have data center environments to keep the clouds together. Those that don’t can easily add all the network elements needed in a cost-effective manner. Naturally , Cisco, Avaya (Nortel) and HP have all made enhancements in their technology to support newer and faster 802.11 networks, improved access Wi-Fi security, and fit for purpose LAN wan infrastructure to support centralized cloud computing. As laptop technology refreshes occur, decisions will be made to determine where the employee fits in the user profile. The basics of hard wired desktop, laptop, desktop and laptop, tablet, all three, green screen terminal or none will continue.

The Tablet players right now included Apple iPad, Cisco Cius, Avaya Flare, Google Chrome, Google Android, Dell Streak, Samsun Galaxy Tab, RIM Playbook, and the Hewlett Packard PalmPad. The Asus, Lenovo and Asus laptoppers have already made announcements.

Immediate Business Benefits are as follows:

Mobility – The small and lightweight form factor allows the device to easily be taken on business trips and business meetings. 3G or Wi-Fi will allow access to the corporate cloud. Battery life exceeds the laptops 2 hours dramatically.

Lower TCO – The lower cost, lack of expensive OS and productivity suites, and automated updates make these devices cheaper than laptops. I am sure there will be savings in having less LAN switches to support the tablets as they are wireless. The Kensington security cable can be reused.

Large Displays – The 10 inch display makes it possible to replace paper and the 7 inch screen is also workable. The tablet has the real estate advantage over the Smartphone. A Pharma sales person can slide a tablet across to a busy doctor and demonstrate the benefits of a new drug to a busy doctor very easily. A Sales Engineer can show a network diagram just as easily.

Security – Security is a chief concern with corporations and obviously RIM has an early advantage but the security companies will catch up very fast with apps for that. With syncing through the cloud, data storage is more centralized and not as pervasive on laptop hard rives.

New Applications – The tablet will drive innovation for new applications for how the device will be used. The tablet has replaced the menu at forward thinking restaurants. The tablet will change the way data is collected by field agents for the insurance companies, sales organizations and retailers. A huge area of improvement will be in medical applications with its forms, charts, and scan images and on going assessments. The drive for creating applications that will replace or improve current workflows will change dramatically. An investment advisor can visit you at your home, review your investment portfolio, make recommendations and changes and have you accept the changes. The changes or stock trades can take place first thing in the morning as the data is crunched overnight.

Simplicity – The new apps are simpler to use with less training. Letters can be prepared with light weight tools and do not need a 1000 feature document creator to use. LCD projectors can be used in a plug and play approach as opposed to the 20 minute key stroking the sales person goes though to connect his laptop to a projector. The workspace forces designers to work within the confines of the screen size in a more thoughtful approach. I have given up filling out surveys that take ten minutes and force you to go thorough 20 web screens. A tablet screen could force you to answer 5 questions on one screen and one swipe to send.

Green – Are tablets the new green? Lower power, less weight, less materials, faster to manufacture. I am sure there are green benefits but I can see a lot of PDF training information, brochures etc to be push from the cloud to the device. That saves paper.

Wireless is Mobility – These are wireless devices that can use the traditional Wi-Fi network or the cellular 3G networks. The data plans tend to be more forgiving without any data caps and roaming charges so they can access the cloud or intranet anywhere. The wi-fi networks are at many coffee shops, hotels, business environments and homes so those that don’t have cellular data plans need not worry.

Gaming – The business users will love the new gaming applications that will be created just for them. I know of two teenagers already creating the three hottest titles that will be a hug success. Angry Sales Birds : Sales reps throw flaming snowballs at customers that don’t buy from them after all their hard work. Angry Sales Mgrs: These characters hunt down sales reps in an enchanted forest environment and capture them and earn medals and points after torturing them with different administrative tasks. Angry Customers: This charmer features customers that retaliate by throwing flaming boulders at the incompetent salespeople that fall into the 4 universal classifications of incompetence. If they capture the brochure king, highest price of them all guy, Miss buy my software even if it’s not what you want, and the always golfing bobby you win a free tablet of your choice. At 99 cents an app fun, has finally arrived to corporate Global.

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communication Consultant


The writer may have owned an Apple Netwon or Palm Pilot at one time and may be biased.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Apple iPad, RIM Playbook, Samsung Androids, HP Tablet, Sales Tools, Productivity and the Cloud: 7 Super Tips

Apple iPad, RIM Playbook, Samsung Androids, HP Tablet, Sales Tools, Productivity and the Cloud: 7 Super Tips

Tablets are the hot item and it’s now become pervasive in the business environment. Progressive IT departments are now seriously looking at tablets in place on laptops due to a lower TCO and the perfect tool for Cloud Computing. Forward thinking sales departments are also embracing the tablet as the tool of choice to arm and differentiate their sales force from their competitors.

This means 2011 could be the tipping point for business use tablets but the market is in limbo right now. Apple has not released their new iPad although it’s rumored to feature a zippier CPU, more memory, a HD camera and possibly a SD card Slot. RIM is still not ready to ship but they featured a working model at CES last month and may be the only one with a real 4G radio inside. Samsung is making some headway with the Android powered Tab. HP is almost ready to go with their Palm OS version using WebOs. I am anxious to see what HP does come up with being a long standing Palm Pilot warrior ( I own the keyboard, Camera and modem and use the Palm III for a specialized application right now) but sure hope they don’t follow the disastrous Lifedrive product (As an early adopter I returned 2 weeks later sadly disappointed but it had the right idea. OK, enough about Palm so why would one consider a Tablet for business? The apps are here and the apps are cheap and cheerful to get things done quickly and efficiently.

Super Tablet App 1: Sales Brochure

You’re engaged in a discussion with a client and he is curious to see what the solution looks like and you slide the tablet across with a slide of an installation of a recent food processing assembly line for juice processing. Vibrant photos and instant ON allows things to be done quickly. Beats looking at a black and white slide deck.

Super Tablet App 2: Projected Sales Brochure

With the recent mini LCD projectors that fit in an overcoat pocket, this allows the sales executive to now project the slides onto the wall so a larger audience can benefit. Again, instant on with a simple connection. I once had to travel to Chicago to do a presentation and I had to carry my 10 lb laptop, power cords, mouse, Panasonic LCD projector 15lbs, printed slides etc. I was stalled at security as I had to demonstrate the projector to them by turning it on and almost missed my flight. Today I could do that with everything fitting neatly in my super useful Victorinox briefcase and demonstrating a professional image of selling in the NOW. I can also use the cloud to get access to other documents.

Super Tablet App 3: Increase Productivity

Do more in less time and do faster and easier is the mantra of the past 5 years. The cheap and simple 99 cent apps that do note taking (and can sync with your Windows desktop), margin calculator, idea charts and other business tools make things easier. A bunch of these applications due to the inherent memory restrictions of the tablets can now sync into the cloud and across corporate network laptops to access the information you require. Of course wifi and 3G/4G is needed at times to avoid syncing through iTunes. Everyone will have different needs but the tools are definitely there. Companies are taking notice and I give special recognition to Avaya and Benjamin Moore for specific tools for their extended sales force. I have noticed that some people have created specific documents in PDF format as reference material and this helps their personal workflow. Apples 10 hour battery life is a big game changer as many laptops and Netbooks usually get 2 hours of life.

Super Tablet App 4: File Sharing

The biggest problem I have had with the iPad is its closed ecosystem and inability to have an SD card slot for file sharing. Everything has to be done in iTunes and it’s a hassle. However, some bypass that by using a VPN proxy using wifi to allow file transfer and more recent cloud computing access methods. It seems everyone else is talking about the ability to use SD Cards so Apple needs to listen to their consumers. Apps like Dropbox, Mover, PDF Viewer allow an easier cloud based method to share files from the laptop to the tablet device. This is a huge need as one can prepare a PowerPoint presentation in the office, slide it to their tablet, review and practice it while on the couch at home, and take it out to the customer presentation the next day.

Super Tablet App 5: Your Book and Magazine Reader

Although I am a big Kindle fan for reading books, it’s challenged for reading PDF magazine formats as I prefer a 10 inch screen. The Kindle is my preferred book reading device because they have nailed the reader ecosystem in a excellent way with cloud based whispernet ,but many may not wish to have multiple devices. Use it to catch up on reading on the train, bus, cab, airplane or while sitting on the beach. There are some new apps allowing one to also take web pages and format them into readable pages which could be useful in reading customer web sites for meeting preparation or just to see what your industry blogs are saying. There are also many RSS apps to keep you abreast of managing all the news feeds you follow. Read more in less time at a lower cost.

Super Tablet App 6: Office in a Large Manila Envelope

The box is so much thinner and smaller now that the envelope is appropriate. We have some excellent apps available now to edit and review all your Microsoft documents. The email tools are in-skin allowing easy access to emails, but it’s still going to be an issue for larger corporations to allow access to corporate exchange severs, but the SMB companies will embrace this very easily. Calendaring with Google calendar in the cloud is a great tool across multiple devices. So if you are away for a few days at your cousins wedding the tablet would allow one to be connected and still get some work done while away from the corporate grid.

Super Tablet App 7: Social Media Integrator

With Social Media maybe being the biggest Cloud app of them all and all avialable on tablets. I find it very easy to quickly update and see what others are doing as the Tablet allows a quick finger swipe to access the info and its in a easy to digest mobile format. I don’t have to tell you that Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and others are all app available on every device including your IP enabled refrigerator. Business is really seeing the mobile device becoming the new method to reach out to its audience and consumers and is formatting connect to be mobile friendly.

So its all starting to come to a convergence point for the business user that can harness immense benefits from light, travel friendly, instant ON, long battery life appliances to assist in getting things done faster, easier, better but not cheaper. I am seeing areas where organizations are taking the leap to buy these devices for their employees to drive revenue and increase productivity. Last year, the kindle was the reader of choice where companies stuffed them full of technical documentation and sales and marketing training bibles for its sales people to use to increase their knowledge and effectiveness and the shift is going to move to the tablet.

The biggest dilemma for 2011 will be which device and when is it going to be available???? Tough decision for sure but the results will be very impressive as the mobile workforce scurries about getting things done quickly and easily.

John Leonardelli
Senior UC Consultant

The Need for Innovation is NOW!

The Need for Innovation is NOW!

There has been a lot of talk about innovation and Canada is lagging far behind its peers. Over time this will continue to erode our place in the economic G20 and ability to be competitive. Economic theory will indicate that as a result this will impact us greatly in the future.

So the big economic question becomes where can we find new sources of economic value?

Growth comes from the simple fact of selling existing goods, products and services to new markets. Growth can also come from selling the same goods with an innovative slant to the existing markets.

The Chindia manufacturers have to only export their products abroad to North America to gain new revenues and increase market share. They have a very good idea of what people are looking to buy and at what price points. The consumer now has new products at lower prices (sometimes at a lower quality level) to buy and will take that market share from the local manufacturer. Usually these clone products offer no innovation except for a cheap price with a cheaper quality product.

Take the clothing industry for example where Canada was a prime exporter. The overseas manufacturers have basically destroyed and shut down many of our factories. In the past, we had Warren K. Cook making suits using needles and thread with Italian fabrics assembly line style where now they come from Indonesia using glue and Chinese fabrics. The bottom of Spadina used to have a huge manufacturing base. Now its all condos. What’s left of the haberdasheries on Spadina have actually moved a bit west on Queen street. Many tailors used to buy their canvas and fabrics from Archie Fine & Sons (who are still in business). Today it’s a dying art and a dying business.

The surviving Canadian fashion brands have been thinking about design innovation the past 10 years in order to remain in business. They are being innovative in the way they make their products and trying to cut as much cost as possible. These companies are still family owned and as their parents started it up in the 50s the kids are now running the business since the 80s and 90s. They believe in quality products and using a local workforce and being a Canadian business first. We are lucky though because there has been a shift in style that is favoring the Heritage brands. Roots still makes their leather goods in Canada, Canada Goose still makes their down filled coats and Parkas in Canada, Sorel boots are back in style, and Hudson Bay is still iconic. Today fashion is looking backwards in order to create a forward demand for their product. Take what worked in the past and modify or enhance it and now you have a new product that will fuel your growth and increase sales to the existing market.

Canada Goose has been making warm outdoor wear for over 30 years but was well suited for the North Pole than wearing it at a trendy bar sipping martinis. When the change their jackets and started offering a bomber style jacket at a more affordable price point – sales took off. However, the Europeans have been snatching up the line 5 years ago as it was a trusted brand.

The biggest US retailer looking backwards is J.Crew who has resurrected older labels and added some innovation to their products. Cole-Hann has done the same with Nike and added certain athletic shoe features into their dress shoes making them more comfortable to wear. Columbia sportswear has always been innovative in their approach to clothing and foot wear. Innovation can be the key driver that will fuel the growth in new sales.

The innovation touch points are where a gel heel insert makes a dress shoe more comfortable, a Gore-Tex liner in a dress boot makes it more comfortable, a running shoe with Kevlar shoe laces makes them better lasting, a handbag with a micro fiber lined pocket to protect an iPhone screen, a Victorinox suitcase with a numbered luggage tag that can be tracked back to its owner if lost, a Wolverine Trench Coat that has a Gore-Tex liner making it more comfortable, a Zegna sport jacket taking cues from high performance fabrics, the list can go on and on. This innovation is what the consumer uses to make buying decisions when buying a quality product and it differentiates the manufacturer from all the others.

Being innovative in taking an existing product and adding enhancements to it will fuel growth in the existing market and in current export markets a lot faster than trying to gain market share in brand new markets. It is a heck of a lot easier to sell new products to those that recognize your brand than trying to create brand awareness. This economic growth will then fund more opportunities to create demand and increase brand awareness into the new markets. This keeps jobs in Canada, revenues for Canadian retailers and the taxes can be used for provincial and federal budgets.

Canadians love their down filled parks, snowmobile boots, and leather goods and buying “Canadian Made” makes perfect economic sense.

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communication Consultant


What? Can the PSTN be Shut Down?

What? Can the PSTN be Shut Down?

I will refer you to the excellent article put forth by Gary Audin, Delphi Inc. in July 2010 and his immense research so I will just provide the short form. (Go to for a PDF version of Gary’s full article)

As you know, the VOIP phone service business has been steadily increasing since the late 90s. We have the Telco providers, Cableco providers, Mobileco providers and even the disruptive free providers like Skype all providing VOIP lines.

However, the legacy copper based landline and PSTN switched architecture is still very much in place. The services are being disconnected on a daily basis as many subscribers are moving to the VOIP based services. So AT&T wants to retire the PSTN and POTS infrastructure and concentrate their network focus onto broadband based services. So in a document published on Dec 21, 2009 titled “Comments-NBP Public Notice #25, Comments of AT&T Inc. on the Transition from the Legacy Circuit-Switched Network to Broadband” submitted to the FCC, AT&T wants to shut down the PSTN with the FCC’s approval. They are also asking the FCC to remove them as the Carrier-Of-Last-Resort and thus any responsibilities within the current regulations

So AT&T really wants to eliminate the PSTN and its components and deliver all services over broadband. The PSTN network cannot be shut down overnight without advance planning but AT&T wants approval and then is able to determine timelines. The PSTN network will lose the Class 5 and 4 circuit switches, all the tie lines in between the Central Offices, all local loop coppers pairs (the last mile), the operations centers, the real estate and the legacy support staff. This would be a huge undertaking, without any doubt.

The areas of impact to this massive elimination (or maybe it’s a sell off of the PSTN assets) would fall into several sections of importance:

1) POTS Customers: What’s my mom going to do with her digipulse bedroom telephone, rotary telephone in the basement and her shiny new Panasonic DECT cordless in the kitchen? Does she really need to have a Cableco VOIP line?

2) Wireless Providers: Many use fiber links between towers and their co-lo into the network but in many areas copper based services are cheaper and easier to install, especially in rural areas. Handsets are wireless but the call carrying needs the PSTN network.

3) ILEC and CLEC: The smaller organizations rely heavily on the PSTN. Are they expected to purchase PSTN assets or are they going to be desperate in fast tracking in their VOIP investments?

4) Resellers: They will or could be out of business soon as they resell PSTN services that they don’t own and enjoy the luxury of wholesale rates. Sure, they resell VOIP as well depending on the geographic market but they will not have any money to buy PSTN networks in their serving area.

5) Military Security and Government Communications: These users will have to move towards IP services very quickly as they rely heavily on the PSTN. In fact, the PSTN can be more secure than IP based networks and the Darknet AUTOVON Dept of Defense PSTN network is considered very secure – all copper.

6) International Toll: Since, everyone else in the world will retain their PSTN; the US callers will need to go through gateways in order to make calls outside their borders. These gateways will push up the cost of long distance possibly making it unattractive so many users will just use Skype or Google Voice as they do today.

7) Regional Telco’s: In the USA there are a lot of small regional Telco’s in play and they may have difficulty to purchase their PSTN networks and would have to migrate to VOIP a lot faster than planned. Will their local rates rise too high in order to pay for the infrastructure change?

8) Emergency 911: The current 911 infrastructure today offers the best in class method of determining where you are calling from based on the physical wires. With a change to VOIP, a robust and reliable replacement service will be of highest priority and new technologies may be needed to offer this service.

So there will be many questions and many challenges as AT&T moves forward to shut down the PSTN over the next 5-10 years. Naturally, other countries will follow suit but then we have a 25 year window for all that to happen. I know I will be sitting in my rocking chair, telling my grandchildren stories of the good old days when your telephone connected to a jack in the wall and if there ever was a power outage the telephone still worked. They will marvel at the rotary dial telephone set, the Northern Telecom Contempra telephone set (beige with DTMF) and of course my Mitsubishi Analog Cellular CDMA Bag phone.

“Hey granddad what was it like when the dinosaurs roamed the earth? Were you ever scared of them” “No I was not because they were friendly in those days and they were always around to help me with the turning the TV antenna on the roof!”

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communication Consultant