CA Blog: Mulling over enterprise mobility at Mobile World Congress

CA’s booth at the show even looked very cloud-like!


It is impossible to walk all of the floor across the eight different cavernous halls of the Mobile World Congress trade show. It struck me that my slow progress through the show floor is a good metaphor for what IT folks have to do to manage their mobile devices across their enterprises: Sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles, not lose sight of the overall objective and avoid getting caught down in the weeds.

You can read my post on CA’s blog here about what I learned from my trip to Barcelona.

The Most Socially Connected Restaurant Chains


Who runs the most social restaurant chain? As part of a report that Ira Brodsky and I are working on, we examined the social media accounts of the top 100 restaurant chains and scored them based on engagement and popularity. Not surprisingly, Starbucks and Subway are social media superstars with millions of their customers engaged. Both are big on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Starbucks is also big on channels that most competitors have barely touched: Instagram, Foursquare, Google+, and Pinterest. Honorable mention also goes to Jamba Juice and Hooters, who both have solid Tumbler, YouTube, Foursquare, and Twitter followings.


While the vast majority of the top 100 chains have corporate accounts with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, there is a big difference between how the top ten chains use social media and how those near the bottom of this list use these networks. The top ten chains allocate more resources to social media, publish more tweets and posts, and employ social media in a more strategic fashion.


While most restaurant chains are just getting started with Tumblr, California Pizza Kitchen is way ahead of the pack with several hundred posts. Considering that the biggest chains have millions of followers on Facebook, there is plenty of room for growth on these other social networks.  VARs looking to get business in this area should widen their expertise and cover all social media channels. VARs also have an opportunity to help expand a brand’s footprint beyond Facebook and Twitter into these other networks too.


Take a look at the difference between the Facebook page of Applebee’s and Cici’s Pizza to get an idea of the range of social media engagement with these two large restaurant chains. Applebee’s has more than 5 million “likes” to its page, but more than double that number of people have visited, which is impressive and shows a solid level of engagement. Cici’s has more than a million “likes” but only a very small percentage of this figure are “talking about” them or have visited the page, which is an example of very limited engagement. One of the reasons is that Applebee’s is frequently posting new ideas and promoting various new menu options on its page, reaching out to selected customer groups and in general keeping its page fresh and interesting, just like it is doing with its stores’ menus.


Still, many restaurants have gotten late starts on social media usage, but that’s okay: it is relatively easy to “catch up” in this market. VARs can help focus social media campaigns, select the right kinds of social media management tools, and train the restaurant back office staff to take on this responsibility.


Speaking of social media management tools, this area is ripe for VARs to evaluate and recommend the right ones. There are more than 100 different tools, and more are being created daily it seems. Start with a review of 8 of them that I wrote for Network World last year here. (Applebee’s uses Expion, one of the 8 reviewed, for its social media management.) These tools are essential: failing to properly handle a bad review on social media can cause a restaurant to lose thousands of dollars of business. Failing to build loyalty via social media can have similar effect on the bottom line. Social media tracking tools designed specifically for restaurants are also available from Sociallybuzz, Main Street Hub, and Fishbowl.


When it comes to using YouTube, videos posted by Taco Bell, Hooters, Del Taco, Panera, and Chipotle have gone viral.  Chipotle’s very creative original animated video, The Scarecrow, has been viewed more than 12 million times, and made YouTube’s 100 Most Viewed list for 2013. VARs can help develop original video content that isn’t an out-and-out commercial for this medium.


As you can see, there is a big opportunity and dare we say a hunger for social media strategy in the restaurant business.


Ricoh blog: What you need to know about creating your own apps

With more than a million different apps in both Google Play and Apple’s iTunes Stores, maybe it is time for you to create your own app to brand your business. It is amazing to realize that Apple opened up iTunes to support apps less than six years ago, and Google wasn’t far behind for its own Android ecosystem. Now there are billions of downloaded apps and while the most popular are games and less serious ones, there is always room for a few new business-oriented ideas.

Assuming you have compelling reasons for your own business-related app, such as doing something that is unique and not just producing eye candy or trying to make money fast, here is a brief primer on how to get started in the app world.

First, think about what your potential app is going to do. Look at your competitors and download and try out their apps too: it is easy to do the research and find all apps with specific brand names or keywords in both the Google and Apple app stores. Given the number of existing apps, it is getting harder to find an unmet or unfilled niche! And while there are other app stores and mobile phone platforms out there, you really want to stick with the top two contenders. You’ll have plenty of work to do anyway.

Second, you should take a look at these great suggestions on some basic decisions to make early on, along with some tips on general design principles, and other general guidelines for beginners. 

Next, decide on how you are going to build your app, either by choosing an appropriate programming language (with these suggestions from PC World) or by picking one of the more than a dozen different tools that can create apps from scratch that anyone can use, such as YappBuildAnAppAppMachine or Conduit.

If you go the programming route, you’ll need to register as a developer and download the software development kits from Google and Apple and become familiar with their tools. And before you write any code, take a look at third-party app platform construction tools such as Mendix, OutSystems and Podio (there is a great comparison matrix here). Any of these can save you a lot of time and effort in building and deploying your app.

Finally, you need to get the word out on your app: post links on your blog, solicit written reviews from your customers to be posted on both Google and Apple’s app stores, and use social media to promote its wonderful ways and advantages. Good luck with your app!

Network World: Mobile Device Manager Review

airwatch 2Mobile Device Managers (MDMs) make a lot of sense when you are trying to control whom can access your enterprise network and applications from particular phones and tablets. But to effectively evaluate these products, you should first consider what exactly are you trying to control: the apps on particular devices, the pairing of a user with his or her device, the device itself, or the collection of files on each device. Each MDM has a somewhat different perspective, and has strengths and weaknesses in terms of what it can control best.

In my review today for Network World, I looked at six different products: AirWatch (pictured above), Apperian’s EASE, BlackBerry’s Enterprise Server 10 (BES10), Divide, Fixmo, and Good Technology’s Good for Enterprise. No single MDM product won this review; all had serious flaws that would prevent them from being successfully deployed, depending on your circumstances.

The need for better mobile security is obvious: witness this story from last year about a hospital volunteer taking pictures of patient records with his phone and them selling them. Sadly, most current MDMs still wouldn’t be able to prevent something this overt.

The MDM arena is still pretty immature, akin to where the anti-virus world was decades ago. Security profiles are somewhat clunky to install and administer and some vendors don’t support vintage versions of iOS or Android. Topping this off: once you find phones that have been compromised, there is no easy way to return them back to a pristine condition, largely through the fault of the mobile OS vendors.

Expect to pay between $20 to $75 per user or per device per year, which can add up if you have a lot of phones to protect. Few vendors are transparent about their pricing (Airwatch and Blackberry are notable exceptions).

Good and BlackBerry do the best jobs of protecting your messaging infrastructure, so if that is the primary reason for picking an MDM product you should start with these two. Divide had the most appealing management console and overall simplest setup routines, and also supports licensing unlimited devices per user. And Apperian is great for corporations that have developed a large collection of their own apps and want a consistent set of security policies when deploying them.

You can see the full range of screenshots for my review in this deck.

ITworld: Controlling BYOD Chaos

One key to a successful BYOD program is mobile device management (MDM), where carefully chosen tools and policies let companies maintain control. IDC predicts that MDM will be a billion-dollar business by 2015, and the larger the company, the more likely an MDM tool is being used (at least right now). However, there’s a lot of movement in the market and a number of MDM approaches to consider which makes your job more challenging. To get you started, I interviewed several IT leaders who have successfully deployed an MDM solution.

You can read the entire report that I wrote for ITworld here.

Light my bonfire

It is almost a cliche: put a bunch of 20-somethings together and the first business they want to start is building their own iPhone app. The second kind of business is something involving social media. And the third is something with sharing photos.

Yet if you look beyond these broad strokes there is something to be said with what a group of young entrepreneurs are doing in St. Louis with an app called It could be something that will change that social/mobile/photo space in spite of being part of that triple trendy collection of categories.

I have to say I was very unimpressed when I first heard about it, and was shown the app by one of its founders. Ho hum. Yet Another Social Mobile App. I showed it to my 20-something daughter, who also pointedly yawned. “Dad, I already spend enough time on Facebook and don’t need another network,” she told me.

But the audience for Bonfyre isn’t necessarily another medium for posting pix of people holding red cups filled with intoxicants. It is designed for brand owners to build engaging meetings and to tell their stories. When you pitch their idea that way, it begins to make sense.

When you go to a conference,assuming the conference is any good, you want to bottle some of that good feeling you get from the time spent and preserve those memories. Yeah, and you get the tote bag or backpack too. Maybe you want to capture a few scenes from the speaker’s presentations, or remember some of the folks that you met. Or whatever. So how do you do it now? Rather crudely, with a combination of Facebook photos, LinkedIn groups, email and texts. Links to Instagram or Pinterest photo collections. And a batch of business cards that if you were lucky you either scanned or annotated so you remember who that person was that you met.

The problem is that your stored common memory of the event is all over the place. None of the above mechanisms really work well. Facebook is too public, and navigating its sharing and privacy controls are like trying to set up the next NASA launch (or whomever is launching rockets these days). Texting is great if you want to share one or two photos with one or two people, but breaks down in the many-to-many context rather quickly. The LinkedIn group with its triple opt-in takes months to actually create and get going, by which time the group has moved on to other matters (and doesn’t really work anyway for sharing photos). And the stack of business cards gathers dust quickly as the memory of each individual fades.

That is the space where Bonfyre is trying to enter. The idea is that anyone can download the app to their phone and create these quick discussion groups and invite anyone else to them. There is a Web app for monitoring your discussions. You can be up and sharing content with specific people within minutes. No one else can view the content, unless they are invited in. Once the discussion is created, everyone in the group sees everything. It is mainly for sharing and commenting on photos, but you can also share messages too.Think of it as the virtual tote bag that can preserve your memories of the event.

I began to see the light when I was going to a party a few months ago, a party put on by the Bonfyre PR firm. That day I happened to be having lunch with one of Bonfyre’s founders. He showed me the discussion that was started by the PR firm’s owner, who was trying to figure out what shoes she should wear that night and had photographed several choices. Suddenly we were photographing our own sneakers and putting them online. Soon other attendee’s shoe pictures followed.

Now, granted this was our interpretation of the infamous red cup pix of so many 20-somethings’ nights out, but that is partly my point: no one else was going to see these pictures, unless you were going to the party. And we all had a good laugh when we finally got to the party and looked at each other’s feet.

But now let’s take this silly moment and move into what is actually happening with the Bonfyre app by meeting and event planners. At one conference of 500 people, 60% of the attendees were running the app, and 60% of them were sharing content with each other. At a Rams football game, they had 2000 people at the stadium using the app, and these people uploaded almost as many photos as the entire half million Facebook fans of the Rams. Think about that for a moment: you have all these folks in the stadium sharing their memories of the game with each other, interacting with each other and with folks watching the game around the world. If you were the marketing director of the Rams, wouldn’t you want to reach those folks and leverage this interest? If you were a Rams advertiser, wouldn’t you want to connect with these people, perhaps offer them something? Now you begin to see the power of what Bonfyre can do.

They haven’t gotten everything worked out yet: how they charge businesses, getting their analytics act together, and hiring a real sales team to promote their own brand still remain on the to do list. But this is one mobile, social, photo sharing app that you should take a closer look at. No matter how old you are. Try it at your next meeting or corporate event, and see if you can light your own bonfire.

What Apple can learn from the RIM Playbook

So maybe the iPad is the must-have cool portable device at the moment. But Apple still has a few things to learn about building the best tablet. And since trying out the Blackberry Playbook over the weekend, I have a few suggestions (not that Apple is going to listen to me):

First there is multitasking. The playbook can handle running –and more importantly, switching among apps — better, although still not as your easy as a desktop. There is an odd combination of finger swipes to switch apps, but it a lot easier than the cut-and-paste dance that the iPad has. Something as simple as browsing the Internet and copying the URL into a document is downright painful on the iPad. On the Playbook, it is just slightly annoying.

Second is a built in Samba file server, so that once you connect the Playbook to your Wifi network, you have an IP address on your network just like any other device. With Samba, you can share files and also copy them between the Playbook and your desktop with ease. The documentation could be better, though.

Speaking of copying files. Playbook suppots either Windows Media Player v.11 or iTunes to move music and videos back and forth. And you have access to your file system from the device so you can download files to the Playbook and access them from other applications. What a concept: something that we had since DOS. On the iPad, it is pretty much a closed system: you can’t browse around like you can in Windows Explorer or the Mac Finder.

The Playbook has better sound. Ironic, isn’t it? The Blackberry just sounds better with its built in speakers than the iPad in my unofficial tests.

The Playbook comes with built-in Office apps. I am typing this now on the built in word processor. I am not sure that I would want to compose a magnum opus on it, and using a Bluetooth keyboard makes the whole process much improved. Both Apple and RIM devices have a similar annoyance when you pair them to Bluetooth keyboards: you can’t bring up the on screen ones unless you specifically turn off the Bluetooth connectivity of the unit itself.

With the iPad, you have to pay extra and use either Apple’s own apps or Quickoffice. Quickoffice Presenter is not for me, I miss the speaker notes and slide ahead preview functionality that I have come to like with Powerpoint when I give one of my speeches. Still, I have used the iPad to drive a projector and for short presentations where I don’t need access to my notes it has a certain cachet.

But the Playbook isn’t perfect. Its power button is way too small and you have to hit it a few times to bring up the unit. Browsing the Web is still pretty much hit or miss: yes, you do have Flash support unlike the iPad, but some sites (such as Hulu) don’t work at all. There isn’t a Netflix client, which is a shame because its screen is gorgeous. Another frustration is the navigation buttons on its Web browser sometimes work and sometimes don’t. I ended up having to close and restart the browser to move back a page, for example. Some sites recognize the special Playbook browser and present their mobile-friendly pages (such as Google), and some don’t.

Both units require special video dongles to connect them to external monitors, and the Playbook requires special USB and power ones too. That is just downright stupid.

RIM has taken the tactic to use the Playbook as a bigger screen for its traditional Blackberry smartphone line, which is both interesting and frustrating. You download the Blackberry Bridge app to your phone and link them together via Bluetooth. Once that is done, you have access to all of your phone’s content, including BBM, contacts, emails, and your calendar. And if you pair a Bluetooth keyboard to the Playbook, provided you have enough lap space to juggle everything, you can compose a document on your Playbook’s word processor and save it to your phone and send it out over the phone’s broadband Internet connection. Or conversely, you can bring up your stored documents from the phone on the Playbook’s larger screen and make edits. This pairing to a Blackberry phone is the only way you can use a native email client on the Playbook: otherwise, you have to bring up a Webmail client.

All in all, Playbook is an interesting device. Yes, Apple could learn from RIM, but I get the feeling that we are back in time to 1988, when IBM and Microsoft were working on OS/2 and graphical operating systems were first coming of age. Why we have devices like the iPad that we can’t browse their file systems or bring up as full network clients is frustrating. Blackberry phone users should consider the Playbook if they want to leave their laptops at home and can put up with the spotty Web site support when on the road. And RIM needs to energize developers and make it easier to create apps for the Playbook: right now the choices are abysmal.

Aluratek Bump: small speaker packs a punch

I have been using the same $10 speakers on my current computer that I purchased with a PC about a million users ago, so imagine my surprise when I tried out the Aluratek Bump. It is a small speaker about the size of half of a soda can, and the sound quality is fantastic. Paired with a subwoofer, you have really tremendous sound coming out of your computer. There are two ways to connect it: First, using the standard mini audio jack. This is fine for most of us.

But if you want some flexibility where you are going to place the speaker in your home or office, the second method is more appealing. You connect a USB dongle to your PC and you can play music wirelessly to the Bump. It worked fine on my Windows PC, but I had trouble with the wireless connection on my Mac. I could move the speaker about 30 feet away from the computer without any loss of sonic quality.

The speaker has a rechargeable battery that will last several hours, the charging cable is a standard mini-USB. And for $80, it is reasonably priced.

You can purchase the speaker here.

Things that weren’t sold this past holiday season

The announcement of a long-expected Verizon iPhone has highlighted my own frustration with handheld gadgets. And while it is too late (or way too early) to compile a holiday shopping list, it does seem as if the tech industry is MIA this past holiday season. To wit:

— I want a smartphone that I can use as a Wifi hot spot to easily tether (as the term is called) at least a couple of computers to use its broadband Internet connection. The word “easily” is the challenge. Yes, there are Android phones that can do this, but the process is fraught with bad software. Yes, there is the Sprint MyFi that is yet another separate device and data plan. And I don’t want to hire a lawyer and an accountant to figure out what the charges and which data plan I will need to do this, either.

— I want an eReader from someone other than Amazon that allows me to effortlessly add and share my eBooks with others. The Barnes and Noble Nook comes closest, but its sharing features also require the lawyer to read all the fine print, exceptions and limitations. Why not just buy the Kindle and wait until Amazon gets its sharing act together? I want to give someone else a chance and support my local bookstores at the same time. The Google eBooks uses Adobe rights management, which is also bad software. For some eBook downloads, I need three separate accounts to start reading my selection. This is a mess. None of these devices will keep Borders afloat.

— I want a 7-inch tablet from someone other than Apple (yes, I know the iPad has a bigger screen but it is only a matter of time before they have something smaller) that doesn’t require a data plan or a two-year subscription to reduce its $600 price tag. It defies all things reasonable that I can I buy two netbook computers with bigger screens for the same money, just because they are running the non-touch versions of XP or even Windows 7.

— I want Google to figure out which browser-based OS is going to win: Android or Chrome. They need to put all their might behind one of them if they are going to get anywhere with Microsoft. This perplexes me and I wonder why no one else has raised this issue.

Yes, I know I am being ornery and difficult. But it does seem that the tech industry really continues to miss the mark. I shouldn’t complain, because these misses just mean more work for me to explain why all this other stuff doesn’t work as intended.