It is classic Microsoft. Launch something before it is ready, then struggle to persuade the market to take a second look after it is fixed.
This may prove to be the Windows Mixed Reality story. At IFA in Berlin last year, all the major Windows PC vendors seemed to have headsets to show and talked it up in their press events. This year, Acer has a nice new generation headset, but Asus made no mention of upgrading its hardware. Dell is showing Oculus Rift on its stand, and apparently is having an internal debate about future Mixed Reality hardware.
I reviewed Acer’s first headset and the technology in general late last year. The main problem was lack of content. In particular, the Steam VR compatibility was in preview and not very good.
Today I tried the new headset briefly at the Acer booth.
The good news: it is a big improvement. It feels less bulky but well made, and has integrated headphones. It felt comfortable even over glasses.
On the software side, I played a short Halo demo. The demo begins with a promising encounter with visceral Halo aliens, but becomes a rather dull shooting game. Still, even the intro shows what is possible.
I was assured that Steam VR compatibility is now much improved, but would like to try for myself.
The big questions are twofold. Will VR really take off at all, and if it does, will anyone use Windows Mixed Reality?
Gartner reports that worldwide server shipments have declined by 4.2% in the first quarter of 2017.
Not a surprise considering the growth in cloud adoption but there are several points of interest.
One is that although Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is still ahead in revenue (over $3 billion revenue and 24% market share), Dell EMC is catching up, still number two with 19% share but posting growth of 4.5% versus 8.7% decline for HPE.
In unit shipments, Dell EMC is now fractionally ahead, with 17.9% market share and growth of 0.5% versus HPE at 16.8% and decline of 16.7%.
Clearly Dell is doing something right where HPE is not, possibly through synergy with its acquisition of storage vendor EMC (announced October 2015, completed September 2016).
The larger picture though is not great for server vendors. Businesses are buying fewer servers since cloud-hosted servers or services are a good alternative. For example, SMBs who in the past might run Exchange are tending to migrate to Office 365 or perhaps G Suite (Google apps). Maybe there is still a local server for Active Directory and file server duties, or maybe just a NAS (Networked Attached Storage).
It follows that the big cloud providers are buying more servers but such is their size that they do not need to buy from Dell or HPE, they can go directly to ODMs (Original Design Manufacturers) and tailor the hardware to their exact needs.
Does that mean you should think twice before buying new servers? Well, it is always a good idea to think twice, but it is worth noting that going cloud is not always the best option. Local servers can be much cheaper than cloud VMs as well as giving you complete control over your environment. Doing the sums is not easy and there are plenty of “it depends”, but it is wrong to assume that cloud is always the right answer.
A survey by IDG Connect, sponsored by Dell, asked European IT “decision makers” in organisations with 500 or more employees about their migration plans. The survey took place at the end of 2012 and in early 2013.
Here are the cloud migration plans for email:
- Migrate email to Office 365: 13%
- Migrate email to Google Apps: 8%
Unfortunately the survey does not cover other cloud providers for email.
What about usage of cloud servers?
- Plan to use Amazon virtual servers: 2%
- Plan to use Microsoft Azure virtual servers: 1%
- Plan to use other cloud providers for virtual servers: 9%
- No plans to use cloud servers: 88%
Surveys are (very) imperfect, and plans can change. Nevertheless, these figures suggest that migration to the cloud remains in an early phase.
A couple of further observations. One is that while the benefits of cloud computing are real – including multi-tenancy, scalability, lower maintenance cost, and arguably better security and resiliency – there are also downsides, in particular loss of control, and vulnerability to interference by outside agencies.
Costs might or might not be lower. There is sometimes an assumption that lower maintenance costs and greater elasticity must mean lower cost overall, but it does not always stack up that way.
On the other hand, I also wonder whether IT administrators protecting their internal organisations is a factor. If you ask an IT admin to assess the benefit of outsourcing a chunk of his work, will you get an objective result? Maybe not.
You can see the whole survey (which also has some eye-opening statistics about usage of Windows XP) here (registration required).