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Techaisle Blog

Insightful research, flexible data, and deep analysis by a global SMB IT Market Research and Industry Analyst organization dedicated to tracking the Future of SMBs and Channels.

A Neat Digital Filing System for Small Businesses

I used to watch with interest, the commercials of Neat, a scanning and digital filing solution. My interest turned to amazement when we actually installed one in our office. It is a perfect product for SMBs to transform expense receipts, business cards and all types of documents (legal, purchase orders, invoices, brochures and many other types) into an organized digital filing system.

For a small business, a paperless office is sometimes more a dream than a reality. Paper documents are being handled daily by these businesses, whether it is a healthcare provider, a CPA, a legal professional, a retailer or a manufacturing unit or another industry. These paper documents have a way of mysteriously vanishing when one requires them the most and that is because no matter how meticulously they are filed physically, paper documents are not searchable.

With the increase in mobility and work from anywhere, anytime culture, employees within SMBs have become more frequent travelers and telecommuters. Especially with traveling sales and customer support personnel there is a manifold increase in paper documents. Each traveling employee generates many different receipts which in most businesses have to be meticulously filed with accounting/finance departments.   Neat, with its two different products, NeatDesk and NeatReceipts, helps a small business organize its paper clutter efficiently, effectively and seamlessly.  Above all, there is no learning required.

Using Neat, small businesses can:

    • Scan expense receipts – Neat product automatically parses, identifies the information and populates the items and amounts in the right fields. The expense reports can be emailed or exported into a reporting system

 

    • Simplify tax preparation – scanned items and amounts from receipts can be assigned tax categories allowing for creation of pdf tax reports

 

    • Develop a contact database – scan business cards and export to outlook or other contact management solutions

 

    • Manage documents – invoices, purchase orders, legal signed paperwork and other documents can be easily scanned and filed into appropriate folders

 

    • Search across documents – and when the time comes to look for a paper, Neat makes it really simple to search across documents



Information, after all, is critical for making informed, timely, relevant and strategic business decisions to drive growth and achieve overall business success. And Neat aids in that objective by screening and digitizing information for the small business professional. Neat calls it “information activation”.

NeatDesk sits quietly in a corner of an office desk, elegantly, ready to perform its task with one touch operation – scan or scan to pdf. It has three different feed-trays with do not allow for any confusion or paper mess - one for receipts, second for business cards and third for all other documents. The intelligence of the solution lies in Neat’s software which has been built to recognize type of document and content on the document. A rare feat indeed.

However, if this is not exciting enough, Neat is busy rolling out its NeatCloud and NeatMobile offerings. When available in Spring, the two offerings will allow small businesses to:

    • Backup and sync their scanned documents securely to the cloud

 

    • Access their documents from anywhere using any device

 

    • Share files and folders with workgroups or departments



NeatDesk is priced at US$399.95 and NeatReceipts is priced at US$199.95 and believe me they are worth the money.

Neat is a neat product. Try it.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle

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Windows 8: Microsoft’s Bridge to the Mobile Market

On Feb 29th, 2012, Microsoft officially unveiled its new operating system, Windows 8 at the World Mobile Congress in Spain (the Beta version is now available for download by end users). We feel that Windows 8 will lay the foundation for not just Microsoft’s survival in the mobile devices space but also help it grow in the face of intensifying competition from other operating systems (e.g. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android).

The first thing to remember is that Windows 8 is not just a desktop or a notebook operating system and, given Microsoft’s dominance in the PC operating systems, the primary objective of Windows 8 would not be to defend its share on the PC market but rather to extend its reach to the ARM chips and various mobile devices.

The immediate demand for Windows 8 will come from the large proportion of Windows XP users who were so satisfied with that older OS that they never even bothered to upgrade their PCs to Windows 7, in spite of its substantial enhancements over Windows XP and Vista. Windows 8 further enhances the capabilities of previous versions of Windows, making it an attractive upgrade for PCs.

However, Microsoft is intensely focused on the mobile market and has designed Windows 8 to work with both x86 and ARM processors and has also designed it to work with a multitude of mobile devices, (e.g. notebooks, tablets, etc.), making it highly attractive to business users as well as consumers who want to access not just the Internet and various mobile apps available for Apple and Android but also their traditional PC-based apps
including, and especially productivity applications like Microsoft Office.

In the last few years, we have seen exponential growth in mobile devices (e.g. smartphones and tablets) based on Apple and Android.

    1. While iOS has primarily been seen as a premium brand targeted at early SMB adopters, it is now expanding its base to price-conscious SMB users by offering its older versions at lower prices.

 

    1. Android-based devices come at a multitude of price points from various vendors. This is especially important among SMBs in price-conscious emerging markets.

 

    1. Given the rapidly evolving market conditions, Windows 8 should ideally start at the low-to-medium end of the SMB price segment to prevent further expansion by Apple’s iOS and Android and then steadily move up the value chain by offering products with more features/ functionalities at comparatively higher price points to intensify competition against iOS and Android.



There are essentially four key areas that will be critical for Microsoft’s success in mobile market: operating system, mobile devices, applications and service providers (carriers).

Mobile Operating System

After several years of lagging significantly behind other vendors, Microsoft’s Windows 8 is a significant improvement over its predecessor mobile operating systems. The current version will not give it the kind of dominance it has in the PC market. However, if it halts, or slows the rapid growth of Apple and Android devices, it would be a major success. Even as it releases the current version, we can be sure that the company is already planning new future versions with significant improvements that would help it grow its share vis-a-vis Apple and Android.

It is important to highlight a couple of differences between Microsoft Mobile and its key competitors. While Apple’s iOS is available only on Apple’s devices, Google goes to the opposite extreme and allows limited OS customization to device vendors to help them differentiate their products. While the device manufacturers may like this idea initially, this is likely to create tremendous variety in the market, causing much confusion for the app developers as well as customers. Microsoft, on the other hand, specifies the hardware requirements for its operating system and app developers and customers will know exactly what they get when they buy a Microsoft-based device.

Mobile Devices

One of the greatest requirements for success in the mobile space, and where Microsoft has an advantage is the ecosystem of OEMs, ISVs and other channel partners.

    1. Microsoft has the largest number of OEM partners for PCs (e.g. HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, LG, etc.), who will be very quick to offer mobile devices based on Microsoft’s new operating system. In addition, many of the OEMs who currently offer Android-based devices will hedge their bets by offering Microsoft-based mobile devices also (rather than focus on just one OS like Android).

 

    1. Nokia (Microsoft’s strategic partner) has the largest subscriber base of mobile phones, especially outside the US. In addition, other phone vendors like Samsung and LG also have significant subscriber bases and are well-regarded in  select markets. They will also be quick to offer Windows-based devices, enlarging the potential base of Windows Pone users.

 

    1. User-friendliness of hardware devices will also be critical to Microsoft’s success in the mobile space. OEMs like Nokia and Samsung have shown significant potential for innovation in design and incorporating user-friendliness in their     devices that we feel quite optimistic about their ability to accelerate acceptance of Microsoft as a mobile operating system. Collectively, these OEMs (in Microsoft’s ecosystem) account for bulk of the market and they will undoubtedly find it easier to sell Windows Phones to their existing customers instead of phones based on alternative operating systems.



Mobile applications

Apple and Android have had a head start in getting apps for their devices due to their early expansion. Their relative advantage in applications will diminish in the next 2-3 years very significantly.

    1. Most ISVs who currently develop Windows-based applications will be quick to port their apps to Windows–based mobile devices also.

 

    1. Similarly, developers who have already invested significant amounts in developing new apps for Apple and Android will be unable to resist the urge to supplement their revenues by adapting their apps for Windows Phones with minimal incremental investments and tapping into the expanding base of Windows users.

 

    1. Already, many applications are available for use on Windows phones from the Windows Phone applications store and the number of these applications will increase significantly in the future.

 

    1. These developments will be possible if and only if Microsoft encourages and provides incentives for its own ISVs as well as ISVs of Apple and Android-based apps to migrate to Windows 8. Given that this may be the last major window (pun unintended) of opportunity for Microsoft to gain market share in the mobile space, it is reasonable to assume that it will allocate adequate resources for this     (it has already made senior-level leadership changes in this regard.)

 

    1. All these developments, which might take a few years to implement, will result in a very large number of mobile apps for Window 8-based mobile devices, reducing the app gap with Apple and Android and vastly reducing the ISVs developing apps for WebOS and RIM’s Blackberry.



Service Providers

The final key element that will determine Microsoft’s success are the service providers (or the wireless carriers). Many of the OEM vendors like Samsung and LG, who are likely to develop Microsoft-based mobile devices already have long-established relationships with carriers in local markets, making it easier for them to sell Windows-based devices to or through them. In addition, if the carriers see significant adoption among the end customers, they may not need much convincing at all.

Other Considerations

    1. Considering that SMBs use different devices to access same apps and data, the display should adapt to the device being used automatically. VDI vendors are already offering such capabilities and Windows 8 should not be left behind in this race. Microsoft could even consider buying Citrix for this (and selling off its online division, with which Microsoft has significant overlaps).

 

    1. Automatic synching of apps and data on various data used on various devices. Microsoft already has the SkyDrive to help in synching up the data. VDI would help its users synch their apps also and reduce the maintenance and support costs for businesses and hosting companies

 

    1. Small Business users and consumers are somewhat similar in terms of their needs, motivations and budgets. Since Windows 8 is in the best position to bridge the gap between notebooks/ desktops and tablets by offering its range of business applications, it should go all the way and also offer consumer apps that Small Business users might want on their mobile devices, including integration with     social media.

 

    1. SMB Users carry their mobile devices wherever they go and, if the experience of cell phones is any guide, they will lose these mobile devices. Microsoft, along     with its service providers should provide remote locations/lockout/wipe-out capabilities as a standard feature. This will be especially important for security conscious users.

 

    1. Microsoft Office should be available on all versions including mobile devices.

 

    1. Battery life will be an important consideration for SMBs.



Many customers have been waiting eagerly for the launch of Windows 8. Techaisle’s latest Ultrabook study (completed in January 2012), SMBs cite the availability of Windows 8 as the 2nd most desired feature which will spur the demand for new client devices.

Microsoft and Nokia were among the first ones to identify the mobile device market and Microsoft launched its first tablets nearly a decade back while Nokia launched its Communicator even earlier than that. While their vision was ahead of the market practicalities, they lost their focus when the requisite technologies and customer work styles did ripen up, allowing first Apple and then Android devices to grow rapidly. But given Microsoft’s vast and resourceful ecosystem, a few years from now, all past rumors of its death in the mobile space might seem premature. With the launch of Microsoft 8 and its strategic partnership with Nokia, it has taken first concrete steps to gain its rightful place in the mobile market.

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Google Inc. to Acquire Motorola Mobility Inc.

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: MMI) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Google will acquire Motorola Mobility for $40.00 per share in cash, or a total of about $12.5 billion.

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.

Android’s demand

Techaisle’s research show that SMB future intentions to procure Android based smart devices is rapidly increasing across the board.  It is only savvy business practice for Google to vertically integrate and “supercharge” the OS with a premium platform brand under control – and reassurance that the presentation of Google services is “as intended.”

Notwithstanding such view, our research shows that OS type is a way less of a concern to SMBs than “overall cost” when seeking to deploy mobility oriented infrastructure. More importantly, a device to apps deployment integration [Apple iPhone App. style if you like] is only sought after by 31% of thr market – the vast majority preferring open browser access [like your sales rep traveling to a client and checking out her/his profile in your (salesforce.com) CRM through a smart phone loading a mobile browser].

The Battle for Patents

In the interest of protecting Android’s ecosystem, perhaps this acquisition makes sense. It has been a while since Android’s licensees have been sued by Apple on patent pending infringements [Samsung, HTC, etc.] and only a few days ago, a German court held a case in favor of Apple blocking sales of Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 10.1 on patent infringements across Europe.

Through the acquisition of Motorola Mobility Inc., Google will boost its patents portfolio by around 25,000 [filed and in progress] inclusive of some key patents relative to the current litigation on Android OS infringements. This new delivery of patents by MMI will surely help balance the argument with Apple, most probably leading to a settlement, and now that is some way of protecting the ecosystem.

 

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Rise of the “New SMB Worker”

Today the nature of work has evolved to an extent that we are seeing the rise of a “new worker”. This new worker has nothing to do with an oft quoted concept of millenials but more to do with the way they work. Let us take an example of two countries: US, a mature market and Brazil, an emerging market. The data below shows that the SMEs in each of these countries have workers that either work from home or travel for work.

And this level of working from home has more than doubled in the last 10 years. In
fact, it took 10 years for telecommuting to double but only half the time period to double again.

What is more important is the chart below showing different applications and
technologies that are being used by employees to collaborate amongst themselves while traveling or working from home.



The above data not only gives us a glimpse of the evolving nature of work but also
points to the rising persona of the “new worker”. This new worker is expected
to work irrespective of location and time, is also more adept at using
technologies such as video communication, smart phones and social networks to
his or her advantage in getting work done. However, business decision makes
should not expect any correlations between the use of such technologies and the
amount of time spent working remotely. This is to say that employees who work
remotely most of the time are necessarily not the heaviest users of these
technologies.  The amount of time spent working remotely actually varies by job role and business decision makers should pay special attention to recognize and enable these new workers.

As new workers slowly become accustomed to easy-to-use, consumer-oriented web
technologies it necessitates changes in the workplace. The IT department, more
than any other department has to increasingly adjust itself, moving from a
command-and-control environment to a more flexible and approachable process
that not only allows adoption and usage of new technologies but also manages
rogue implementations.

Technology will continue to impact the new workers and reduce their dependency on time and place of work. There will also be greater use of video communications, smart
phones and social networks.  However, there is still a long way to go for many of the new technologies to be integrated and provide better, more efficient and seamless collaboration within businesses. We also see many smaller companies starting up by entrepreneurs to develop solutions that provide such integrations and IT decision makers should not be
afraid to try them out.

With the rise of the new worker, businesses should no longer be seen as a
“collection of individuals” but increasingly as a “collections of geographically dispersed individuals”. Notice the plurality in the word collections. IT departments have to seriously alter their processes to account for new work styles, changing attitudes and behavior of these powerful and demanding new workers.

Anurag Agrawal
Techaisle

  0 Comments

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