Data Sheet—Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20, 2014, 11:59 AM UTC

By now, you’ve heard “bold, bombastic” ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is giving up his board position. Bill Gates is still around, but now the buck really stops with Satya Nadella. After 34 years (egads!) it’s time, but I’ll miss Steve. A favorite quote, from Microsoft’s 2012 partner conference: “The truth of the matter is it’s hard to invent anything. It’s hard to invent a new thing, and it’s just as hard to invent another new thing. I think we’ve been pretty successful, but it’s hard. It is hard. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it. We not only did Windows, we did Office.” Hope your average as a bold, bombastic basketball owner is just as good, Steve B. Have a great Wednesday, Data Sheet readers.


PC vendors have Chromebook envy. And now we know more specs of Hewlett-Packard's forthcoming Stream entry, sporting an AMD microprocessor. Plus, why Intel is so nervous about these lowly, cheap laptops running the Chrome OS.

My goodness, we may have been duped. Remember that shocking report about 1.2 billion Internet credentials stolen by Russian hackers? Several respected security experts expressed skepticism, and now the FBI is investigating the U.S. cybersecurity firm behind the revelation.

More layoffs for "patent troll" Intellectual Ventures. The oft-reviled brainchild of ex-Microsoftie Nathan Myhrvold is cutting 20% of its staff, prompting more questions about its controversial business model. Turns out some past champions—Google, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard—have resisted investing in new patent funds.


Shared storage for SharePoint. Microsoft's new usage model lets administrators reassign resources automatically, by calling on what's available across an entire Office 365 domain. Net effect: you won't bump up against quotas as often.

Attention, open source database developers. EnterpriseDB wants to speed PostgreSQL Web app development with new tools on the Amazon cloud. Did we mention they're free?

Everything but the kitchen sink. CommVault claims its new hybrid cloud management platform Simpana can handle more cloud services than any other. The support list is certainly impressive: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer, HDS and NetApp.


Good news for those who need to run Windows on a Mac. Parallels Desktop 10 promises performance boosts for Office users, while being easier on your notebook battery. Plus, it will take the cool Continuity feature in OS X Yosemite, which lets you place calls by clicking a Safari browser link (just like the iPhone).

HTC gets back to Windows Phone. Unique features of the new $99 HTC One M8 include an aluminum body, front-facing speakers and a depth-sensing dual camera.


Dropbox assuages security concerns. It's official. More than 80,000 Dropbox for Business customers can now set view-only permissions for certain folders or assign passwords to shared links that expire after a certain time. Plus, the cloud storage disruptor is testing a Mac version of Mailbox, an app it acquired in March 2013.

Because you asked, extra support for MongoDB. You don't have to buy the enterprise edition to get special attention, because a new plan extends expedited, 24x7 handholding to the community edition of the popular NoSQL database. 

Goody, more money for enterprise software startups! OpenView Venture Partners, the firm behind ExactTarget, Mashery, Monetate, Spreadfast and Zmags, is raising another $250 million fund.


The practice of large enterprises "crowdsourcing" technical skills they don't have in-house (yet) is gaining credibility. Yesterday, developer BMC Software, integrator Booz Allen Hamilton and electronics maker Harman all turned to the [topcoder] community to get up to speed on Apple's Swift programming language. They'll pay up to $500,000 in prizes as an incentive. Comcast, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Humana have also used the site's 660,000 data scientists, developers and designers to fill skills gaps.

But crowdsourcing doesn't have to be confined to external communities. My research into the trend over the past month led me to two tools explicitly designed for the purpose of exploiting (yes, an ugly word, but it applies) the intelligence within your own organization: Waggl and Portal of Pain (aka PoP). 

Although their focus is slightly different, both services were created to gather feedback quickly (without subjecting people to lengthy surveys) and anonymously (so that the identity of the person behind the idea can't skew the results). Both work by letting people both contribute and vote. "There is a huge difference in perception about a strategy or initiative when the audience thinks that the ideas came from them, even if the ideas endorse what management was going to do anyway," notes PoP founder Hayes Drumwright.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and F5 Networks are both early PoP customers, while MGM Resorts, Domino's Pizza and Sanofi are experimenting with Waggl. Sanofi decision-support manager Claire Derbyshire told me the tool was instrumental for identifying suggestions to rethink how the pharmaceutical company collects customer insights (without subjecting anyone to survey fatigue). Waggl works by presenting people with two ideas: they choose which they like better.

"I needed something that looked different, felt different and behaved different," Derbyshire says. "The results were staggering. … Once they got into it, they were reading contributions, voting and staying engaged until the end."

Your company doesn't have to commit to either service for an extended length of time, because they're handled as subscriptions. But Waggl CEO Michael Papay hopes this minimalistic approach will become more habitual: "It's a very simple tool that can pulse the answer in near real time."

How is your organization gathering crowd intelligence? Share your perspective at


What are the odds of pulling off that play? SAP is building quite a name in sports analytics, with a hand in two massive projects detailed this week. You probably won't find its name on stadiums, except maybe on digital scorecards: SAP is playing a number-crunching role in locker rooms and training facilities. In California, it is working on big data and scouting apps at the new San Francisco 49ers stadium. Closer to home, it just inked a deal to create player performance and fan interaction technology for Germany's most successful soccer team in Munich.


VMworld: Learn about latest virtualization innovation. (Aug. 24 – 28, San Francisco)

Boxworks14: Talk enterprise cloud strategy. (Sept. 2 – 4, San Francisco)

Atlassian Summit: Build software, collaboratively. (Sept. 9 – 11, San Jose, Calif.)

Open Data Center Alliance Forecast 2014: Catch up on enterprise cloud trends. (Sept. 22 – 24, San Francisco)

Oracle OpenWorld: Get a roadmap reality check. (Sept. 27 – Oct. 2, San Francisco)

Interop: Actionable solutions for IT headaches. (Sept. 29 – Oct. 3, New York)

Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2014: Compare notes. (Oct. 5 – 9, Orlando, Fla.)

Splunk .conf2014. Glean intelligence from machine data. (Oct. 6 – 9, Las Vegas)

Dreamforce: Pick from 1,400 sessions about the world's largest cloud ecosystem. (Oct. 13-16, San Francisco)

Strata/Hadoop World: Analyze big data tools and techniques. (Oct. 15 – 17, New York)

TBM Conference 2014: Manage the business of IT. (Oct. 28- 30, Miami Beach)

AWS re:Invent: Hear the latest about Amazon Web Services. (Nov. 11 – 14, Las Vegas)

Gartner Data Center Conference: Get new ideas for operations and management. (Dec. 2 – 5, Las Vegas)