iPad Pro as Post-PC Game Changer

Can the iPad Pro be the Post-PC era game changer?

The latest incarnation of the iPad is certainly big, certainly powerful and certainly capable of being many things to many people, but will it act as the device which defines the “Post PC era”? I think it has a chance, for several reasons.

The PC-era, of which we are still living for the most part, is still defined by several key concepts. The first of these is a filing system where we manage our files. A system of filing was originally created for managing paper which could not be automatically indexed and sorted at will. Thus we had to come up with systems which let us find the paper easily. A library with its Dewey Decimal index is another example of a filing system which arose out of necessity. For many of us we still rely on files living in folders in our Documents folder as our key way of managing of information.

The second key concept is one of documents. Those files that we are struggling to file are electronic versions of paper. Some are spreadsheets, wordprocessing documents and presentations, but fundamentally they are a piece of discrete electronic information which is directly equivalent to the paper report or set of transparencies which would have made up the staple document types of thirty years ago.

The third of these is the idea that we have a general purpose operating system which needs to be told about the hardware it is running on. It needs to be configured to support different devices that you plug in, and inevtiably there are then problems with compatibility, drivers, and so on. Apple has gone some long way down the road of removing this by locking down its own hardware to the extent that no reasonable person can really do much to their MacBookPro to alter its hardware characteristics. Microsoft remains open to a large extent, as does Google with Android of course. In my opinion Apple’s approach is more “normal” from the point of view of a device which we now treat as no longer a novelty but a part of the fabric of life. We don’t buy a TV and then have to consider upgrading the operating system, or being given choices about which remote control we will use. Our cars don’t have the option to change the number or configuration of the seats, and you can’t turn a mini into a people carrier through some manufacturer inspired upgrade path.

Realistically then computing has become like most other things we interact with. We buy a device, like a kettle, a TV, a car, or a computer based on its basic properties, its features, functions and appearance. And that’s where the iPad Pro comes into the equation.

  I was one of those poor souls who stood outside the Apple store on the day the first iPad was launched. I was there, in the cold, queuing at 5am to be one of the first to experience what turned out initially to be a device which we recognise now as being very good for consumption of information, but less so for creation. If we want to write that document, or go back to a spreadsheet we find it is still more convenient to do so in our filing-system based, document-focused PCs which have bee doing that kind of thing for the last thirty years.

That was certainly the case with the earlier iPads and was certainly the case with Microsoft’s first attempt at tablet computing, but for different reasons. The early iPads were, and I would argue still are to some extent, restricted by the capabilities of its operating system. iOS is getting much better at muti-tasking, split screen, inter-app data exchange and so on, but it still has a way to go. On the other hand Microsoft’s attempt was restricted by the hardware. Early (Windows XP and Windows 7) tablets were big, noisy, had very limited batteries and were just full of compromises. The promise of being able to run the same versions of the desktop applications you had at your desk when you were mobile was very alluring, but the reality of it was not good.

Fast forward to today when we have the Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro. Both come from companies who have had a long time to get the tablet business right. Microsoft is learning that it needs to take control of its supply chain and be in the device business. Apple is learning that it needs to go towards use cases which promote the creation of content on the iPad in order to stem the drop in sales. Google seems to be still in the process of learning both lessons.

So if both of the big players in this business are getting their stuff together, who will win? Ultimately neither will win, it is increasingly a matter of taste – in the same way as choosing a Mercedes or a BMW is a matter of taste – both are excellent cars with their different strengths, but they perform the same basic functions.

As a brief aside, let me describe to you the way I wrote this document as an example of how documents have increasingly little part to play in business life. I am using an application called ByWord on the iPad. It is a simple text-based editor. When I switch between apps on the iPad ByWord and my document are saved and kept in the background. If I quit the app and the come back (even after powering down the iPad) my document is still there. In the background the app is saving my document to my iCloud drive so even if I completely wiped the iPad my information would be safe. I don’t know or care where ByWord has put the document, I happy though that it will be there when I come back looking for it. When I am finished with the document I will press the Publish button and post this directly to my WordPress blog. There will be no files saved or copying and pasting by me. One press and its done.

Why does it need to be any other way? Many of you would have started Word, written the document, saved it, opened WordPress, created a new post and probably copied and pasted the text. Too many steps for my liking. Take this scenario and apply it to a work setting and you can see where you can make some efficiencies but I’ll save my discussion on that for another blog post.

I say neither Apple or Microsoft will win, but before declaring a draw between the two of them I think it is important to go back to the point about handling information. Microsoft’s approach – both on device and in software – is productivty. Microsoft Office is at the core of Microsoft’s software strategy and everything else it does in this area must center around it. That means that for Microsoft the document is king. Microsoft still want you to handle files and folders in a structure. Apple’s approach is to put the application first and then present to you the information you have which works with that application. The model is not to go to the equivalent of Windows Explorer and double-click on a PowerPoint presentation to launch PowerPoint. Instead Apple wants you to go to Keynote and then it will show you all your compatible documents whereever they reside.

For me the latter approach is the one which will ultimately win. There is too much information out there nowadays to be managed in the same way as we handled paper. The iOS model represents the Post PC era in its infancy by breaking away from that mould.

The iPad Pro, with its 12 inch screen, long battery life and the infamous pencil, therefore, in my opinion, represents the first device of the Post PC era where I can truly work with information and not with files. It’s the first where I realistically can have a screen and battery which I can use all day. Its the combination of the operating system and hardware which makes the device unique. I am not sitting in front of a PC which has been crammed into a tablet-sized footprint, I am using a mobile device which as been designed from the outset to behave as a mobile device.

Yes, I have a bit of retraining to do to move away from my old PC habits of files and folders, but as I discuss with many of my customers, the need for having a document-centric culture these days is diminishing. Working with wikis, blogs and other content stores which are easily stored is much more efficient (on many levels) than working with a Word document. That’s why I think Apple’s approach of putting the storage and management of files makes sense.

Am I leaving my MacBook Pro at home from now on? Yes


IBM Connections a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant….again

Gartner Magic Quadrant

Gartner’s report, available here, highlights that IBM, Microsoft and Jive are the clear leaders in the enterprise social software market.

While I work for IBM, the following is my opinion on what that means to you as an organisation who might be looking to implement such a system.

On the surface the three systems appear to present broadly the same features, but in fact each have their strengths and weaknesses within their product set.  Gartner highlights Connections’ strengths as:

  • Viability: IBM has a long history as a dominant provider for collaboration, messaging and communications solutions, and remains one of the better-established company’s in the ESN space. It has extensive research and development capabilities and also cultivates strategic relationships at very senior levels, both in user organizations and with partners.
  • Strategy: IBM’s strategy spans beyond typical ESN positioning to broadly catalyze the value of Connections within its Social Business and Smarter Workforce initiatives. It also emphasizes the role of other assets it brings to its solutions, such as IBM Design Thinking, IBM Bluemix, IBM Watson, IBM Kenexa and its large partner ecosystem.
  • Functionality: IBM Connections includes a variety of capabilities such as content management and enterprise file synchronization and sharing (EFSS) that make it a comprehensive solution for organizations looking to deliver an all-in-one destination for employees to share information and collaborate around work activities. Its ability to integrate with WebSphere Portal Server enables organizations to extend their enterprise portal (if that is the preferred employee destination site) with social experiences.

But amongst the weaknesses, it states:

  • Complexity: IBM’s breadth of capabilities, number of products, and deployment options can introduce complexity in terms of decision criteria, costs, configuration and support needs for on-premises deployments (versus cloud-based).

  • Integration: IBM positions Connections as a place where people get work done. For example, work activities from business systems (such as sales, marketing, customer service, and HR applications) can be brought into Connections via OpenSocial interfaces. However, integration to surface social elements from Connections into those business applications is not as strong “out of the box” as it needs to be. While developers can use the Connections’ APIs to deliver that type of user experience (or rely on third-party ISVs), IBM needs its own prebuilt integrations for users that prefer to have social interaction natively embedded in the applications they use during the flow of collaborative work rather than switch to a social platform.

  • Focus: IBM is heavily marketing Verse as its next-generation business email solution. While Verse has many synergies with Connections, there is also some risk that customers will view the marketing messages as a shift away from its ESN efforts.

On the point about complexity, I really don’t understand how they have arrived at this conclusion.  IBM offers two cloud offerings – S1 and S2 – which offer a full feature set, and a more restricted one for those who don’t need all the bells and whistles.  For the on-premises scenario, there is one offering – IBM Connections.  You can supplement this with your own existing other systems for instant messaging, document management, etc.  We don’t require you to rip out your entire IT infrastructure just because you chose IBM Connections.  I wish this was the case with the competitors.

Their conclusion about integration is primarily and opinion and not fact.  “Not as strong as it needs to be”, is very subjective and something I would encourage anyone basing their decision one way or the other to put to the test first.  In fact IBM Connections open structure and standards-based approach means that virtually anything can be integrated.  We don’t demand that you use particular frameworks, particular operating systems or approaches.

Lastly, focus.  It’s true that IBM has been very focused on building Verse to be a completely new experience for email.  What Gartner seems to have missed here, however, is that the build-out of Verse is very much to Connections’ advantage.  It’s easy to create blog posts, pick up files from Connections and off-load attachments you receive into your personal file store.  Taking Verse in isolation misses the whole IBM strategy around collaboration: email is one of the ways you get things done, but not the only one.  You should be able to reach over to wherever the information is and get at it so you can get on with your work more productively.  For Gartner to suggest that there is a risk that customers might view the marketing messages as a move away from Connections merely highlights, to me at least, that they do not understand IBM’s strategy.

As I said, these are my opinions for what they are worth.


Integrating LibreOffice with IBM Connections Cloud (Reboot)

OK this is a bit of a reboot of a blog post I published back in 2013 where I showed how to connect LibreOffice with IBM Connections and treat it as a CMIS repository.  My good friend and colleague Maurice Teeuwe fired me over an update to my blog post which highlights how to do it for LibreOffice 5.0.x.

For those using a Mac or Linux who don’t have a plugin as-such for IBM Connections in their word processor or spreadsheet then integrating LibreOffice this way gives you an easy way to open, edit, save and basically work with IBM Connections (and Cloud).  Here are Maurice’s instructions which show Windows screen shots, but the steps are the same on any platform:

Start by installing LibreOffice:


Step through the installer and then complete the installation.

Step 1: The first step in LibreOffice to getting this working is to switch on LibreOffice dialog boxes instead of using the operating system’s default dialogs. Go to Preferences, LibreOffice, Tools > Options > General and switch it on


Confirm with OK Step 2: Next, go to File, Open and when the dialog opens press the little selector button with Servers on it, shown in below:


This is where we’ll set up the CMIS location, in this example for IBM Connections Cloud:

Click the ‘Servers..’ button.  In the next dialog box specify the following: Give the destination a name, like IBM Connections Cloud.  Then choose CMIS as the Type.  In the Server Details section, under Server Type choose Lotus Live Files. EU Binding URL:

US Binding URL:

AP Binding URL:

Next, click on the refresh button:


Enter your Connections Cloud User Credentials and click OK. You may be asked to supply a master password to store your credentials.


Do that, and then the dialog box will show your new destination. (Confirm your master password (or think of a new one if you did not have any)):



Complete the authorization request with your credentials

And browse to the document you would like to open:


Et voila…your document opens!


To save a document (hit save):


Browse to the Connections Cloud data store (hit save):


Thanks Maurice


IBM Named the Worldwide Market Share Leader in Enterprise Social Networks for 6th Consecutive Year by IDC

Surely being voted SIX TIMES in a row as the worldwide market share leader is one of the best reasons why, if you are considering moving your business into the 21st century of communications and collaboration, you should be using IBM Connections and Connections Cloud?

Our competitors would have commercials running on TV, posters at every stadium, in every airport and basically in your face telling you that they were the best.  I think IBM prefers to let people come to their own conclusions, guided by independent experts.

Even if you exist in a Microsoft-only locked-in environment, IBM Connections will still give you lots more than you have today and will deliver on the promise of social collaboration where others simply can’t.

Check out Jeff Schick’s blog for more information.

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Strategy, not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a hot topic these days.  The world of e-commerce, e-business, whatever you want to call it, is maturing.  Organisations have file servers, intranets, mobile devices, security concerns, firewalls, on-line presences on Facebook, Twitter, and so on.  Yet with all this technology we still don’t see the kind of up tick in business performance we were promised.  Why?

There’s a really interesting read over at the MITSloan review which, in summary, says, that without a strategy, you will not get the kind of transformation your business needs.  While I have been rambling about this for several year, the people at MITSloan have put it in such a good way that I’d recommend you head over there and download a copy of their report, free of charge.

The strategy you follow comes from a vision of what your business will look like in the future.  Digital Transformation – where all that IT is put to work instead of merely being there in the hope that it will help – requires adoption.


Working in a Browser at Last!

It seems like the day has finally come.  I think it has taken about ten or more years, but it has now arrived, from what I can tell.  It’s the day, in fact the week so far, that I have worked exclusively in a web browser.  No client software, no productivity apps installed – all in Safari on my Mac.

For years the promise of working in a light application such as a browser was dangled in front of us as a solution to the bloated applications we laboriously install on our laptops.  Then it became clear that the kind of functionality we needed the browser could not produce so we had to have plugins.  Along came java and Flash and who knows what else to provide that functionality.  These were compromises at best and we went back to our applications and used our browsers for watching videos of cats on YouTube.

But things have changed.  Nowadays technology like HTML 5 and all those groovy javascript frameworks are making life in a browser much more liveable.

For example I am writing this blog post in IBM Docs, which comes as part the the IBM Connections Cloud product.  It’s a great word processor for the 99% of the time I need a word processor.  Sure it doesn’t do some of the really fancy things that Microsoft Word can do (like build indexes), but then Word can’t let me co-edit this document with my colleagues in real time regardless of operating system they’re working on.  I have more need to work with my colleagues than I have to create indexes, so I think Docs is just fine.


I also don’t need to worry about where to save my file, or have I uploaded it to my cloud storage as its already there.  I also don’t even need to remember to save the document as every few minutes it saves it for me.

OK, so other products out there do this kind of thing too, and I am not claiming a world exclusive on cooperative document editing in the cloud.  What I am saying though, is that as a complete suite of products that I need to do my work, I think I am pretty much sorted now, working in a browser, with IBM Connections Cloud and IBM Verse.

I get a great email experience with Sametime instant messaging embedded, the ability to detach and attach files directly into my IBM Connections files (the same place IBM Docs saves them) plus I get all the social networking and community capabilities you probably already know IBM Connections Cloud provides:


The really nice thing about this, however, is the fact that the walls to collaboration have been broken down between my IBM colleagues and my customers, Europe’s IBM Business Partners.  Both groups of users work in IBM Connections Cloud.  Both access communities I access, and so at last – and believe me when I say I have been waiting for this for a long time – I now have ONE PLACE to work.  I am beginning to make more and more use of the audio & video capabilities now included in the web meetings in Connections Cloud so I don’t need to make so many phone calls too.

I think if you realistically look at what you need and do to collaborate with your colleagues and with your customers and suppliers, you will be surprised about the basic needs you actually have.  You want somewhere to make information, somewhere to store them, a means of sharing them and communicating.

If you fancy trying these features out for yourself, go sign up for a free trial.  Or, go speak to one of my customers, an IBM Business Partner.