Do the goings-on in student dorms spell the end for Microsoft?

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This week Quocirca had a briefing with a security vendor which provided an insight into a fundamental change going on in the use of IT and one of the major drivers for that change. The vendor was Bradford Networks, (named not for the city in Yorkshire UK, but small town in New Hampshire USA).

Bradford provides products to carry out a range of network management and control capabilities; network discovery, end-point management, network access control and policy enforcement around network usage. None of that is unique to Bradford, which is perhaps why, when it started selling this product line back in 2005/6, it focused on a niche – higher education. Not any old aspect of network usage in the sector, but specifically student dorms, or halls of residence as they are called than in the UK.

The problem Bradford helps university IT administrators manage is the wide variety and ever-changing identities of devices students want to attach to the network services offered in such places. Even five years ago, this included Windows PCs, Macs, gaming devices and early smartphones (mainly BlackBerrys). Today of course you can add in Android devices, iPhones, iPads and others. The range of devices supported by Bradford, which extends to CCTV cameras, door entry systems and firewalls is impressive.
Bradford has been successful selling to this niche in the USA and also in the UK, where via a single reseller, Khipu Networks, it has signed up many UK universities, including Oxford, Nottingham and Durham. A case study for Durham University can be seen here.
What makes Bradford’s story interesting to Quocirca is the speed at which its business is changing. In the last couple of years Bradford says the profile of its business has switched from almost all higher education to 85% other sectors including healthcare, manufacturing and banking. Bradford says this change has been demand driven and is not the result of deliberate targeting (for example, it still has just the one reseller in the UK, but is planning to change that).
There are two reasons for this change in the business profile at Bradford. The first is the range of devices that organisations now have to support, as Bradford says; “now the rest of the world has started to look like [the higher] education [sector]”. But the second reason is perhaps more profound; the students of 5 or 6 years ago are the employees of today; the change at Bradford is surely a bellwether for the growing tide of consumerisation, a big driver for which is the entry to the work place of the IT savvy 'generation Y'.
Of course, Bradford is not alone in addressing this issue. It will have to make its own case against a range of larger vendors all targeting end-point management and security. This includes end-point management vendors such as Kaseya, LANDesk and IBM/BigFix, but also IT security vendors – for example McAfee, Symantec and Trend Micro are all now investing in managing end-points as well as securing them.
There is another vendor that could be added to both these last two lists; Microsoft. It too is in the end-point management business with it Systems Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM) and recently announced InTune on-demand service, which Quocirca wrote about in a previous blog post. Microsoft is also in the end security business with its Forefront End-point Protection (FEP) product which Quocirca wrote about here
However, as both posts point out, Microsoft is missing the point. As ever it lives in its own Microsoft bubble. Its end-point management and security products only address Windows PCs, not even its own struggling Windows Mobile operating system. Generation Y has certainly found there is more to life that Microsoft and Bradford Networks is benefiting from this. If Microsoft does not change its game its fortunes will surely head south like that of its new mobile devices partner Nokia.
For Microsoft, this tide of consumerisation impacts two of its biggest product lines that account for over half its business; Windows desktop and Office. Quocirca would not be the first to speculate about the long term future of Microsoft. In its June 9th leader celebrating the 100th birthday of IBM, The Economist speculated which of today’s IT vendors might reach a similar age. Microsoft was not one of them.
Two recent Quocirca reports sponsored, by Kaseya, cover end-point security are available for free download: The IT Profit Centre and The total MSP.

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