Technologies that Matter in a Slow Economy

Bare-bones hardware and software, and all things virtual dictate the game of computing in a slow economy.

A recent advertisement by Microsoft caused a stir among the Mac-loving community of tech workers. The ad shows a flame-haired Lauren looking for a 17-inch laptop for under $1,000. The challenge is that if she finds one that meets her specifications, she gets to keep the laptop and the change from the $1,000. And so she first goes to a Mac store where the only thing that falls within her budget is a 13-inch Macbook. Slightly dejected, she drives off and along the way says the line that struck a raw nerve among Mac fans and probably Apple itself: “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person.”

She enters another computer store where she finds two laptops that meet her needs on top of her 17-inch monitor requirement for only $699. The ad ends with the line, “I’m a PC and I got just what I needed.”

Ever since the TV spot came out, the Mac community has been up in arms, dismissing all things PC and the operating system that most of the time goes with it. However, pundits believe that no matter how “cool” Mac may be, the deciding factor for buying PC is price point. When things are tough and everyone is worrying about their finances, notwithstanding the availability of disposable income for some, people are conscious about the amount of money they spend on technology.

The same is true whether one is buying technology services, software, or hardware. As the world gets on with the current crisis, technology is responding at rapid speed to manage the needs of individual and enterprise tech buyers everywhere.

So what are the technologies that actually matter in this climate? Here are a few:

Virtualization – Video conferences, virtual meetings, and screen sharing are just a few of the ways the tech world is replacing bricks-and-mortar or traditional modes of conducting daily business. Virtualization makes it possible for workers to overlap work schedules across different time zones and collaborate on projects that are stored in different parts of the globe. Moreover, telecommuting becomes a trend even–or especially–among large enterprises who benefit from lower overhead costs and thankful workers who are happy to skip daily commutes and save on gas. Who needs to be physically present at the office when you can access your virtual desktop hosted by an outsourced data center?

Cloud Computing – Technology suppliers, from Microsoft to Sun to Amazon to startups, have embraced cloud computing as the next wave of business technology service. Buyers need applications and services that can be deployed as soon as possible and with as little maintenance required. Cloud computing also eliminates the need to build armies of engineers to create applications that can be “rented” anyway.

Enterprise Telecommunications – Businesses are getting savvier when it comes to enterprise communication, that any meeting, conference, or messaging that can be done via BlackBerry, VoIP, or company-supported IMs is welcome. Those that can invest in infrastructure requirements to put these technologies in place for two reasons: (1) to minimize the cost of or need for business travel and (2) to facilitate seamless communication among workers from different locations.

Open-Source – In early February, the British government released a policy that emphasized preference for open-source over proprietary software in order to cut down cost on technology spending. With proper due diligence, the move is surely to be copied by various industries everywhere in the quest to manage operating costs while remaining productive and responsive to customer demands.

Bare-Bones Hardware – The popularity of netbooks can be attributed to its portability, and a more so to a much friendlier price point. As software and file management move to the clouds and storage becomes cheaper, tech buyers, such as Lauren in the Microsoft commercial, realize that they only have to spend on what they need. Who cares about the cool factor when they have to spend their money wisely? In early March, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the company’s plans to deliver the “netbooks” of servers that sport features that meet minimal storage and network management needs of businesses.

By ExecutiveBrief

The X, Y, and Z’s of Product Development

A certain thing happens in product development…  (It used to bug me to death, until I got used to it.)  Your product development team just finishes a great new feature.  Everybody rejoices.  Good feelings, pride, and celebrations.  All that…  The new release is posted on the web, and you start to get downloaders.  Potential customers are giving it a look.  And you know they are seeing the great new feature you just added.  It has “X” and “Y” new things.  Everyone will love it.  Everyone will buy.  You’re sure of that!  Finally… we’ve gotten a great product out there…

The next thing you know, you get an email from an evaluator.  He can’t believe how short-sighted your product is.  In fact, he’s practically indignant.  It’s missing a key feature he needs, and he can’t belive you’d ever consider shipping a product without it.

He asks, “Can you do it?  When will it be available?

“Maybe, next month.  Can you describe it more fully?”

“Oh, I can’t wait that long…  Forget it.”

The situation is that you’ve completed “X” and “Y” but haven’t gotten to “Z” yet.  And that’s what spoiler-boy wants.  Problem is, you never considered “Z” until you completed “X” and “Y.”  Or worse yet, didn’t consider it until he pointed it out.

This is so common.  People cannot see to very down the product road-map.  That’s human nature.  They can see “X” and “Y” but only have fuzzy glimpses of “Z.”  That is, until some grumpy customer complains that it’s not in the product.  He doesn’t see the hard work you put into getting the first releases out.  I.e. getting “X” and “Y” out.  He just sees that “Z” is missing, and feels pretty certain that he can’t do without it.  He’ll move on…  Somebody out there must have it.  “I’ll look around…” he says.

Better get cracking.  Again…