But uptake has slowed.
Google, Apple, and Microsoft all report earnings next week -- here's what we hope to learn
Three giants of tech -- Google, Apple, and Microsoft -- will release earnings reports for the fourth quarter of 2012 next week. That's a particularly important quarter because it contains the holiday season, when the bulk of consumer sales happen.
As consumers buy products from these companies, they will begin to find their way into enterprises. So there's lots of interesting information that could come out of next week's calls.
Google goes first, on Tuesday, January 22. Here's what we're most curious about:
- Are Chromebooks selling? The newest Chromebooks were unveiled in October, following what's thought to be very slow sales of the previous versions. But there are some signs that Chromebooks may be picking up steam, especially when compared to higher-priced Windows 8 machines. Google isn't likely to reveal actual unit figures but it may shed some light on customer enthusiasm.
- How serious is Google about its enterprise business? In December, Google eliminated the free version of its Google Apps for business. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the vast majority of Apps for business users are on the free version. Those customers could start paying, leading to a revenue boost for Google, or drop off. Google's decision to get rid of the free version comes just as Microsoft is about to launch Office 2013, with its new subscription model, giving those free Google Apps users a new option. Google doesn't typically reveal Apps revenue details but if we're lucky it will offer some insight into how many of its customers are actually paying (businesses using the free version are grandfathered in). That could give a hint as to whether Google is getting more serious about its enterprise business, or whether it still ranks behind ad-supported businesses, Android, and other initiatives.
Apple comes next on Wednesday. Here's what we want to know:
- What were iPhone 5 sales like? There have been a flurry of reports that Apple dramatically cut orders for iPhone 5 screens, pointing to low demand. If sales were lower than the market expects or significantly lower than after previous launches, it may indicate that the shine is off the iPhone. If that's the case, enterprises might have to start planning for more Android adoption in 2013.
- Could we see a cheaper iPhone? If indeed sales of iPhone 5 weren't the best, Apple could hint at making a low-cost smartphone. That could pave the way for the iPhone to become the corporate standard smartphone at more companies who aren't yet embracing BYOD.
- Did the iPad mini extend the iPad's dominance? IPad mini sales were surely strong but it's uncertain if its success is at the expense of the larger iPad. Some analysts are expecting an expanding range of tablet sizes – merging into the phablet range – this year, primarily from the Android camp. But if the iPad and iPad mini both sold like gangbusters, enterprises won't have to worry about these tablets for a while yet -- the iPad will probably remain the tablet in the enterprise, as it is today.
Microsoft reports on Thursday. Here's what we'll be listening for:
Google's plan to bring Chrome packaged apps to Android and iOS is part of its strategy to make the web the primary platform for users. Converting Apple device owners will be a challenge.
Most companies understand that they need a social media presence, but many are flying by the seat of their pants instead of crafting a social media plan that aligns closely with business goals.