BlackBerry Live/Jam 2013

I’m at the BlackBerry Live Americas conference in Orlando. Why? Well primarily because of two reasons: 1) the dean asked me if I wanted to attend and is supporting my travel and 2) because I want to see how the company was going to try to regain some of its former glory.

Some answers were provided in this morning’s general session. Blackberry CEO, Thorsten Heins, started his keynote by stating that the turnaround had begun. He noted the accomplishments of getting Blackberry OS 10, the increase of the number of apps on Blackberry World, and putting together a global executive management team. What he didn’t say were, well….numbers. What is the market share? How many of the apps of the 120k they are reporting are just straight ports from Android? Those types of things were missing….and noticeably so.

What was apparent is their view of mobility. It seems that they are viewing a “mobile device” as just about anything. This is evidenced by their integration into cars. They brought out a Bentley that was totally tricked out and built on BlackBerry 10.

Another thing that stood out to me was their view of the mobile experience. The CEO stated that the mobile experience should be different from the desktop experience. This seems to be a very different position than the ones taken by Microsoft and Apple. For example, there is little difference in the user experience between different Windows 8 devices. It will be interesting to see if users will prefer a totally different experience over a similar one.

They also announced that they were extending Blackberry server to support iOS and Android devices, and opening up BBM globally. Both of these are good moves in my opinion, especially in the case of the blackberry server product as organizations struggle to deal with BYOD environments.

I’m currently sitting in the Blackberry Jam session now and they are bringing in people from SAP and Moog to tout their big corporate developer partnerships. It’s interesting to see how they are attempting to engage the developer community.

They are talking now about how their Android runtime can be used to port apps to the BB 10 platform by bringing out an executive from Songza. They used the runtime to bring their app over to Blackberry and are now developing a native app. The question in my mind is this: given the scant market share that Blackberry has, how many companies will follow Songza’s example and continue to develop a native version of the app? To me, if the market share isn’t there to justify the development of a native app, then why do it? The end result of this is a Blackberry World full of substandard apps that will translate into even less market share.

I’ll try to write more as the week progresses.

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South Florida Tech Alliance

While I am blogging today, I thought that I would mention a great group that I have become a part of, the South Florida Technology Alliance.

The South Florida Technology Alliance (SFTA) promotes the growth, success and awareness of the regional technology community. Through events, networking, programs and education, we provide south Florida’s technology-related companies, academic institutions, entrepreneurs, governments and related organizations with an active forum to grow the business of technology in our region.

The SFTA is truly a great group of people that are dedicated to advancing the technology community in south Florida.  This year, I was selected to the Board of Directors and am honored to take the position of Secretary in 2013.

My involvement with this agency is a part of my bigger movement to build bridges between industry and academia.  Hopefully, in 2013 we can start some initiatives to get more student involvement with the SFTA and build a more symbiotic relationship between the local universities and the tech community. 

Also, if you are looking for a job, there is no better place than an SFTA event.  The networking opportunities there are incredible and we even have a spot on our website reserved just for job opportunities.

So, if you are in south Florida and in the tech industry, I would strongly suggest that you look at joining the SFTA!

BI, the Cloud, and Mobility in Academia

From time to time academic programs go through what is called a “program review.” If you were to put this in business terms, it is roughly equivalent to a business examining its strategy to ensure that it still relevant.  However, in the academic sense, it is much more about making sure that we are teaching our students skills that will make them valuable to businesses when they graduate.

A big part of this process is sitting down with our industry partners that make up our advisory board and having a discussion on that very subject.  During this discussion we don’t ask about
what skills they need now, but rather the skills that they will need 2-5 years from now.  Given the diversity of our advisory board, we expected to get a wide range of responses to that question.  However, when we asked them, we pretty much received a uniform response.  Our business advisors said that they wanted, “business intelligence , on the cloud, that was secure, and accessible from mobile devices.”

This wasn’t necessarily a departure from what we had heard in the past, but more of an extension of it.  Our partners had always coveted those students that could develop web applications.  They also wanted graduates that had business intelligence (BI) expertise.  The addition of mobility was fairly new, but expected given that mobile business apps will be leading
type of software being developed by 2015
.

We have begun to act on this advice by including mobile development topics in our object oriented courses, examining business intelligence partnerships, and leading student projects in cloud computing using the Microsoft Azure platform.  However, I believe that our projections
for a 2-5 year window will be arriving sooner than we expected.  This was made even more  apparent when I read a recent blog post by David Linthicum on Infoworld.com.

In this post, Linthicum (whose blog was listed as one to watch in 2011 by Focus) discusses how cloud based BI is a game changer because it opens up BI to smaller businesses that would not normally be able to take advantage of it due to the high price tag.   While I might disagree a bit that the cloud won’t add any new capabilities (all that processing power has to open up the ability to process data in ways that was previously thought to be too processor intensive for traditional BI, right?), I was really delighted to see that he mentioned that the cloud will open up the accessibility to BI reports for mobile devices.

I think that it might even go farther than simply accessing reports from mobile devices.  In fact, I believe that mobile devices may even be used in place of a PC to create ad hoc reports and access other BI capabilities.  It actually even lends a little support to my post about mobile and Azure being the next client-server architecture.

If you are interested in examining these topics for your programs, please contact me and I will try to answer any questions that you may have.   I can tell you that we have relied heavily on technologies from Microsoft in order to integrate these topics into our curriculum.  I am not sure about the other providers, but I know that Microsoft is making all sorts of free resources available for business intelligence (MS Enterprise Consortium), mobile (MSDN Academic Alliance, Dreamspark), and cloud (free access to Azure).  We have found that these technologies are not a departure from what we are currently using and have made it easy to integrate these items into our curriculum.  Plus the students like the price tag!

The end of Innovation at Nokia…..really??

I have seen a number of posts on the blogosphere today stating that the newly announced Microsoft/Nokia partnership will stifle innovation at Nokia.  Some have cited the Yahoo!/Bing partnership as an example saying that Yahoo! just gave up the fight in the search engine wars.

Well, that is exactly what they did…and for good reason.  Yahoo! saw the writing on the wall and decided to focus on becoming a content provider rather than a search engine provider.  Partnering with Bing allowed them to offer a continuously evolving search engine product while focusing in on their new business strategy.

As far as Nokia is concerned.  They are a hardware company, not a software company.  They have tried to compete in the SmartPhone OS arena with Symbian, but it just wasn’t working out.  So why not partner with an established OS provider and focus in on what they do best…make phones.  The last time that I checked, there was still room for innovation when it comes to evolving the capabilities of mobile devices.  Without having to worry about making the hardware and the software, Nokia can now focus on just that.

So is today’s announcement the end of innovation at Nokia?  Probably not.  In fact, it might be its rebirth.

Another Way to Develop Academic-Industry Partnerships

I just posted today about how it was beneficial for IS programs to actively seek out and develop partnerships with industry.  I completely forgot about this effort that is also highly effective.  Offering free training is a way to show that you can provide value to industry while allowing people to get a taste of your program….and possibly lead them to come back to get a degree!!

FIRST IT SYMPOSIUM WITH MICROSOFT FEB. 4-5

The College of Business is partnering with Microsoft to host the first Arkansas Technical Education Symposium Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4 and 5, at UALR’s Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development.

Business and technology professionals and students and faculty from other universities are invited to join UALR participants at the symposium, where there will be hands-on workshops and informational sessions on topics such as Windows Phone 7, Microsoft Azure, data mining, search engine optimization, geographic information systems, and security. College of Business faculty and students, representatives from its Institute for Economic Advancement and the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, and Microsoft IT professionals will facilitate the sessions.

“It is truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity to increase your IT and IT management skills,” said Dr. James Parrish, assistant professor of management.

The event, which runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, is free. Dr. Bradley K. Jensen, principal academic relationship manager at Microsoft Corp., is the keynote speaker at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Following the keynote presentation, a team of students working on an independent study for Walmart will demonstrate an application they created to run on Microsoft Azure (Microsoft’s cloud platform) and discuss the application’s business value and technical components at 10 a.m.

Jensen, Dean Anthony Chelte, and Steven Lamey, a Walmart executive, will recognize the students, advised by Dr. Janet Bailey, associate professor of management information systems, prior to their presentation for their efforts applying the Microsoft software to improve Walmart’s information technology practices.

Exciting News and Furthering the Case for Academic Partnerships with Industry

Well, you can add one point to the tally for those folks that say MIS needs to be relevant to industry.  It was announced today that UALR has received some substantial grants from Microsoft!  I had been holding off posting about this until the press release came out.

 

Microsoft Contributes $3.5 Million In-Kind to UALR College of Business

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Feb. 1, 2011) – UALR’s College of Business has received three significant in-kind software contributions from Microsoft Corp., including operating systems and the cutting edge Azure Cloud technology. The gifts are valued at $3.5 million.

“Microsoft recognizes the value of education in training the business leaders of tomorrow and is
proud to contribute its technology to your outstanding educational program,” Dr. Bradley K.
Jensen, principal academic relationship manager at Microsoft Corp., told Business
Dean Anthony F. Chelte.

Most of the $3.5 million is for students and faculty to use its enterprise software for a year. Also, the company offered Azure software access and storage for management information systems (MIS) curriculum and research over the next year, valued at $15,000 to include the access fee, data storage fees, and utilization fees.

Microsoft additionally donated Client Access Licenses for the MIS programs to use for a year.
This software donation is currently valued at $52,000.

Microsoft intends to renew these licenses for the College of Business annually for the
foreseeable future, Jensen said.

“The Microsoft partnership that our management information systems faculty has developed
significantly enhances our ability to offer our students a high quality, focused, and relevant
business education,” Chelte said. “Without this level of support, we would not be able to
provide this type of high-level technology exposure to our students, which certainly gives them
an advantage when applying for jobs.

“My faculty and I are grateful to Dr. Jensen and Microsoft for enabling our grads to have an even-more valued degree.”

 

I am really proud of this because it shows what can result from developing partnerships with industry.  How do you do this?  Well, in general, you have to show industry that you can provide something that benefits them first.  Once you do that, then it will be in their best interest to provide resources to continue the partnership.

Sounds simple, right?  The problem is that for industry to buy into a program, that program has to be selling something.  And this is where most IS programs fall woefully short in my opinion.  So that leads us to the next question.  How do I sell my program to industry partners so they buy in?  I will give you some suggestions that have worked for my colleague and I as we developed our industry partnerships.

  1. Participate in student competitions such as the Microsoft Imagine Cup or any other student competition.  Your students are the product of your program.  You need to find every way you can to showcase how good they are as that will reflect directly on your program.
  2. Engage industry to help provide student projects for your program.  Most organizations have more projects and problems than they can handle and they are generally very happy to get free labor.  Our MIS capstone course has accomplished this with great success.  It was difficult at first, but now we have people knocking down our door to work with our students.  This will further showcase the quality of student that you have, possibly result in higher placement rates that will strengthen your program, and also deepen the ties that you have with industry.
  3. Engage in research that is relevant to industry.  Now I am not saying that you shouldn’t wax theoretical from time to time, but if you get too many people with their heads in the clouds and out of touch with the problems of industry, they will stop paying attention to you.  Find out what problems that industry is having and work to solve them.  You might find that they will be willing participants in your research, which could result in you being much more productive from that prospective.

There are other ways as well, but these are the ones that we have found to be the most effective.  Now I will not lead you down a primrose path.  This takes a lot of work!  However, if you do the work to make your program visible to industry partners and do it right, the rewards are well worth it for both your program and your students.