While it wasn’t quite conventional wisdom to question Microsoft’s decision to acquire Nokia two years ago, there was certainly no shortage of skeptics. Those naysayers are now gleefully searching for the Finnish translation of “I told you so.”

But I wouldn’t count Microsoft out just yet. As a wise man once said: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The Nokia write-down — and the associated and heartbreaking layoffs — puts a huge exclamation point at the end of one era for Microsoft (heckofa job, Stevie). But a new era has clearly begun. Microsoft’s mobile strategy is dead: long live Microsoft’s mobile strategy.

Microsoft’s current share of the mobile OS market isn’t small, per se. More like it’s barely detectable by the most precise instruments known to science (2.7% at last count). But Redmond’s strategery seems to involve more subtlety than simply striving for OS dominance.

Picture this vision of the future for Microsoft:

– Microsoft maintains its strong position as the development ecosystem of choice for enterprise-class development

– Azure continues its technical evolution and market share growth. Azure is Microsoft’s not-so-secret weapon in the mobile war: while Amazon’s AWS is still the dominant player, when thinking of the mobile world, Microsoft isn’t fighting Amazon, it’s fighting Google and Apple — neither of which has as strong an offering as Azure. Microsoft’s ability to provide a robust cloud infrastructure to serve as back-end to mobile applications across all platforms is a differentiator Apple and Google can’t currently match.

– Cross-platform mobile development matures and becomes the norm via .NET and tools like Xamarin (or the next generation similar tool); enterprises leverage the same skill-sets and tools (TFS, Visual Studio) that they do for non-mobile development. Meanwhile, Microsoft continues steps to ‘open source’ .NET and the surrounding ecosystem, further broadening the platform’s appeal to developers.

– Much to everyone’s surprise, Microsoft has quietly become quite a competent app developer on the iOS and Android platforms independent of its traditional Windows applications. We can expect this trend to continue and expand as Microsoft continues its push to drive its existing core applications – and new ones – onto all platforms. With the recent Cyanogen agreement, we now have a world where top-tier Android handsets will ship with Microsoft Office and other Microsoft apps instead of Google’s; truly through-the-looking-glass stuff.

– Microsoft continues to push the Windows 10 / universal app vision; as the line between PC, “PC”, “laptop” and “tablet” blurs — a process Microsoft is consciously accelerating with Continuum — Surface and its future descendants are a strong player for enterprise mobility.

If Microsoft can achieve all of the above — all of which seem plausible and a few of which seem inevitable — does it actually really matter that much if Windows Phone still doesn’t achieve significant market share? And remember: the mobile market is fickle and turns on a dime. In Q1 2009 Android’s market share was basically zero: just two years later in Q1 2011 it was 35%. It is entirely imaginable that while Windows Phone has – thus far – lost the war for this generation of phones badly, the next generation, or the one after that, could easily flip in their favor.

So take a moment to mourn for the old Microsoft, where the CEO could blithely declare “there’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share” and dismiss Google as “not a real company.” Good times, Steve, good times. But the game has changed now, and with the Nokia write-down, Satya Nadella’s New Microsoft may finally be leaving the last vestiges of the old regime behind. Redmond’s future has never been more uncertain — but it’s certain to be interesting.

For this quarter’s innovation project, the Technossus team successfully combined two innovative technologies — Google Glass and IBM Watson — to create an intuitive healthcare diagnostics tool.

Using Xamarin tools, we developed a Google Glass app in .NET Framework over the course of one week. We utilized the best parts of Google Glass — hands-free services, the embedded microphone, and Internet connectivity — to transcribe spoken language into text, which was then connected to IBM Watson’s back-end expert healthcare data services. This allowed users wearing Google Glass to get answers to complex medical questions by using nothing more than natural voice queries.

The Inspiration Behind This Project

The idea for this app came from observing how physicians and first responders have used Google Glass and IBM Watson separately to advance the healthcare field. For example, Google Glass has been used for visually guided disaster and mass casualty training, lending support to physicians and first responders in situations in which hand-operated devices were unavailable. This approach is intended to improve users’ performance, decision-making, timing, and education in the field.

IBM’s recent upgrades to Watson created a personalized healthcare resource by adding cloud API and evidence-based learning. Now, Watson can respond to unique inquiries from healthcare professionals or patients and offer possible diagnoses, solutions, home cures, recommended actions, etc. And if integrated into healthcare settings, the system could save time, improve diagnosis accuracy, and provide more up-to-date healthcare information than any individual could retain.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and WellPoint, a private healthcare company, have already begun testing Watson’s diagnostic powers in matters related to lung, prostate, and breast cancers. After teaching Watson millions of pages worth of in-depth, complicated medical information, Watson’s success rate for diagnosing lung cancer was 90 percent — a vast improvement over the 50 percent success rate for human doctors.

The Combined Power of IBM Watson and Google Glass

Our team saw potential in combining these technologies in hopes of assisting medical professionals in a hospital or first responder setting — especially those who don’t always have the time or resources to research medical questions, injuries, or symptoms. Now, with the use of this application, users can ask questions in intense healthcare settings and get answers back from IBM Watson’s extensive internal knowledge base within seconds.

Our hope with this innovation project was to push the boundaries of these technologies and adapt them to be beneficial to healthcare professionals.

By combining the non-intrusive portability of Google Glass with the data-packed intuition of IBM Watson, we were able to create health information technology that can assist healthcare professionals in entirely new ways. And a system like this has the potential to improve patient outcomes, cut costs, reduce treatment times, close the healthcare personnel gap, and increase educational resources.

Technology is playing an exponentially larger role in healthcare and shaking up the major players in healthcare software solutions. That’s why, at Technossus, we’re constantly striving to be one step ahead of everyone else with our projects and products. We’re pushing the boundaries of mobile and cross-platform development in professional and enterprise settings, using both established and emerging technologies in ways that others might not think of.

“Acquiring preemptive knowledge about emerging technologies is the best way to ensure that we have a say in the making of our future.”
– Catarina Mota

As we begin a new year, business and technology leaders are reflecting on the year that has passed and what to expect in 2015. There are no shortage of predictions – from the conservative to the grandiose – making it challenging at times to filter out the fluff and find the solid, research-backed forecasts that guide our development decisions and enable us to provide real value to our clients.  That’s why we appreciated a recent Forbes article presenting a roundup of enterprise technology predictions from key analysts and industry thought leaders.  We present here some of the links and share our own perspectives on the trends they highlight.

 Top 10 Trends in Business Intelligence in 2015 (Tableau)

Over the past decade, we’ve seen business Intelligence (BI) evolve from a consulting buzzword to an essential tool for enabling enterprise decision-making and strategy.  Tableau’s list highlights the expansion of business intelligence across enterprises: Analytics are becoming more powerful (cloud analytics), being used for more purposes (i.e. social analytics), and appearing on more devices (mobile). Where once BI meant canned dashboards crafted exclusively for the C-suite, analytics are becoming part of the toolset of users across the entire enterprise, and up and down the corporate hierarchy.  For 2015, the expectation is analytics of everything, for everyone, running everywhere.

Enterprise Tech Predictions for 2015 (Business Insider)

Business Insider’s seven tech trends mirror the priorities and challenges we are already seeing with our clients:  Enterprise-class mobile applications are becoming an expectation rather than an exception, but with mobility comes an increasing need to focus on security and governance.  The old governance model of locking everything down is a non-starter (BYOD is here and isn’t going away) but at the same time enterprises must ensure that their data and assets are protected.  Whether it is HIPPA in healthcare or PCI in finance, adherence to industry standards is a start, but increasingly represents the beginning of a security journey, not the end.

In addition, big data and cloud computing’s expansion will only accelerate in 2015 and beyond, posing an additional question for security (but perhaps providing an answer for some IT departments as they conclude putting trust in Amazon/Google/Microsoft’s security is a lower risk than attempting to secure their own).  As Business Insider notes, competition is fierce:  Amazon Web Services (AWS) remains a dominant player, but we saw a noticeable shift in interest towards Microsoft’s Azure in 2014.  Amazon won’t be standing still in 2015, however, and Google’s offerings are also coming up fast.  This makes for an exciting time to be a cloud consumer, and we expect all players’ offerings to evolve rapidly both in feature set and capacity as competition drives the pace of innovation.

 2015 CRM Predictions to Fire up Customer Success and Growth (ComputerWorld – Eric Berridge)

Eric Berridge, CEO of Bluewolf, declares “You will win or lose customers based on your digital experience” and we have to agree. As the digital surface area on which organizations connect with their customers has expanded from simple websites to include mobile, social networking and rich online functionality, the bar is being raised on expectations for UI/UX and providing a unified, positive digital experience.  The latest generation of young consumers expects every digital interaction to be as easy to use as their smartphone and as friendly as their favorite social network.

And the same expectations are coming from employees as well.  Enterprise social networks (ESNs) have had many false starts, but have matured to the point that enterprises are no longer asking “if” but rather “when” and “which” to complement and ultimately replace LOB tools that have reached their maximum utility.  Within our own organization we’ve implemented Incentive, an ESN that has significantly improved employees’ knowledge sharing and “connectedness.”  We see great opportunity in this space going forward, as ESN’s mature further and offer even greater features such as messaging, audio/video conferencing and other collaboration tools.

2015 Technology Predictions for CIOs (The Enterprisers Project)

The Enterprisers Project highlights cross-platform development as a key trend, and our experience backs up their claim. Toolsets such as Xamarin/Angular /jQuery have evolved significantly and now present real options for build-once development that has few, if any, disadvantages versus native development.

2015 Predictions: Microsoft Believes in Clouds Everywhere (Virtualization Review)

Chris Van Wesep, director of Product Marketing for Microsoft, describes Microsoft’s vision of cloud computing for 2015 and makes a key point:  “The benefit of [connected cloud services] is that application development and deployment activities can happen regardless of the destination cloud (or clouds), enabling application mobility and customer flexibility of choice.”

As Van Wesep notes, enterprises and users care about services and functionality, not about whether they are being provided on-premise or via the cloud. Creating a seamless and consistent user experience will be a crucial component of enterprise technology development for 2015 and beyond.

2015 Predictions: EMC Spins Off VMware, Azure Catches Up to AWS (Virtualization Review) 

This Virtualization Review article has some bold predictions on EMC, VMWare and ServiceNow, to which we’ll simply say – we’ll see!  But the second point of Azure’s growth matches our experience as noted earlier:  interest is clearly growing and Microsoft is definitely betting their business on winning the cloud wars.

Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2015 and Beyond (Gartner)

Gartner isn’t satisfied with just assessing 2015 trends – their predictions extend to 2020 and beyond (spoiler:  sadly, no jetpacks or flying cars anticipated).  Their emphasis on a growing focus on customer experience innovations rings true, and the specific example of retail businesses utilizing technology such as messaging and internal positioning systems (IPS) is one we’re already seeing implemented with some of our own clients.

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015 (Gartner)

Gartner hits by now familiar themes with their Top 10 trends:  computing everywhere, advanced and pervasive analytics, and growth in cloud computing all resonate with other commentary and our own experience.  Gartner goes beyond the virtual, however, and highlights both the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) market and an assessment that shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow by 98% in 2015.

Microsoft Business Predictions for 2015:  IoT matures, Cybersecurity Bulks up, and Machine Learning Gives Businesses a Big Advantage (Microsoft)

Microsoft’s Susan Hauser, Corporate Vice President, Enterprise and Partner Group, also highlights IoT as a key trend to watch, noting that Microsoft has seen a 430% increase in Bing searches for “IoT” in the past 12 months.  In addition, she expresses Microsoft’s belief that machine learning is maturing and will see exponential growth. We’ve found the Azure Machine Learning platform to be a compelling offering and have identified a number of interesting use cases, so we look forward to seeing machine learning technology continue to evolve in 2015.

The Enterprise In 2015 (TechCrunch)

Alison Wagonfeld, partner at Emergence Capital, also sees many of the same trends growing and maturing:  IoT, enterprise mobile apps, and consumerization of IT feature prominently in her predictions.  She also predicts that 2015 will be the year Google Glass finds its killer use case in healthcare applications – a domain that we are actually working on with clients ourselves.

While new enterprise technology predictions and trends continue to flare-up and flame-out, the major themes that built momentum in 2014 – namely, mobility, cloud, big data and analytics, optimized user experience, and underlying it all, security – will be the areas we will continue to closely monitor in 2015 and beyond.

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