Good morning, Data Sheet readers. The attack last November on Sony’s computer network signaled a turning point in how business leaders think about cybersecurity. Fortune’s in-depth investigation digs into the circumstances that allowed it to happen. Plus, if your organization is spending lots of money to develop its own customer-facing mobile application, it might want to reprioritize.
Much to my chagrin, I omitted the link to yesterday’s item about STEM careers that don’t require a math or science degree. Here’s your remedy. Now, make your Thursday great!
TOP OF MIND
Sony should have seen it coming. Of all the cyberattacks clamoring for headlines over the past year, the break-in at Sony Pictures Entertainment was far from the largest. But it is arguably the most embarrassing and sobering—the incident that terrified corporate boardrooms into thinking about malware in an entirely different way.
Where did Sony’s management go wrong? Fortune just published a 12,000-word investigative report informed by interviews with more than 50 Sony executives (current and former), cybersecurity experts and law-enforcement officials. You can find Part 1 on Fortune.com today; the rest will publish on Friday and Saturday.
The economic impact of the Internet of things will reach at least $3.9 trillion by 2025, according to a new analysis by McKinsey Global Institute. The biggest potential source of value will come in factories, through predictive maintenance and improved operations management.
BMW, Ford steer toward car sharing. Owners of the German automaker’s latest Mini can put their vehicles into the DriveNow pool when they’re idle. In exchange, they will earn some rental income. Meanwhile, Ford is researching its own car-sharing program in collaboration with a startup called Getaround.
Google is spending $600 million to turn an old Alabama coal plant into a data center powered by clean energy.
Breach disclosure timing questioned. Officials initially decided to treat the massive federal computer break-in, which may have exposed up to 18 million employees, as two separate incidents: one involving personnel files, the other centered on security clearance. Was someone trying to save face?
Why many branded mobile apps will fall short
Corporate technology teams are falling all over themselves to create mobile apps, often hiring outside experts given scarce internal talent. But is their focus misplaced?
Mobile apps generally fall into two big categories. Some projects—the ones you hear trumpeted loudly like the Starbucks loyalty system—are meant to engage customers or prospects. Others, such as Family Dollar's store management solution, are attempts to streamline business processes. That trend is reflected and reinforced by high-profile alliances between IBM and Apple, and (more recently) between Red Hat and Samsung.
Given new statistics about the shortage of development talent along with new research about attention spans, businesses might want to prioritize the latter. At the very least, it seems time for a reality check about who it’s possible to reach with a branded mobile app.
Here’s the thing: app downloads aren’t really a great indicator of success, even though it’s what many organizations still hold up as evidence.
Most people use just a handful of apps regularly: the mix depends not just on the person, but on the day and what they have to do on that day. Forrester Research dubs these interactions “mobile moments,” the point in time at which someone reaches for his or her smartphone for specific information, in context.
“Owning mobile moments equates to owning at least a part of the customer relationship,” the research firm writes in a report released this week with this rather ominous title: “Your Customers Will Not Download Your App” (registration required). “These moments can be monetized or, in the case of e-business professionals, used to serve your customers in their moments of need.”
So, for example, someone might consult an app to check into a flight or seek a departure time update. Or she or he might conduct in-store research, looking up technical specifications for a product or conducting a price check.
Communications and social networks claim the most mobile moments today, accounting for roughly 21% of the time people spend on their smartphones, according to Forrester. Media plays—notably weather and sports—are the next biggest category claiming attention. The best a brand can really hope for at this stage of the game is to engage its most frequent or loyal customers.
The biggest takeaway: enterprise mobile development teams should spend more time seeking ways to engage people through apps they already use. Forrester’s researchers note:
Few enterprise apps offer enough compelling, exclusive services, functionality, and information or the phenomenal convenience necessary to be just a destination. Even firms such as United Airlines allow passengers to export their boarding passes to Apple Passbook for convenience or look up flight information or purchase tickets on third-party apps such as TripIt or Orbitz.
Against that backdrop, what are enterprise mobile developers actually prioritizing?
A separate study by 451 Research lists customer relationship management and customer-facing apps as the top priority, ahead of those that prioritize worker productivity, customer service, or internal business processes such as field sales resource management. Close to half of the 480 respondents expect to release at least 10 mobile apps during the next two years. The survey was sponsored by Kony, which counts Aetna, Citi and Weight Watchers among the companies using its mobile application development platform.
Right now, many organizations haven’t really figured out who should be accountable for projects. Among the 451 Research respondents, at least 42% of apps were “owned” by line-of-business teams rather than a corporate information technology department. That creates internal tensions and funding questions, and things will get worse before they get better: another forecast, this one from Gartner, suggests that demand for mobile development services will grow five times faster than capacity between now and 2017.
“Organizations increasingly find it difficult to be proactive against competitive pressures, which is resulting in their mobile apps becoming tactical, rather than strategic,” said Gartner analyst Adrian Leow.
All the more reason to focus mobile expertise where the investment will have the most impact.
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ALSO WORTH SHARING
The seeing iPhone. These smartphone apps, especially navigation guides with a voice, are redefining accessibility.
Yahoo’s chief information officer Alex Stamos jumps ship, to take over managing security for Facebook.
Ello, the social network that wants to replace Facebook, is looking for new members. On Facebook.
Activist investor Carl Icahn sold off the rest of his Netflix shares.
Microsoft doesn’t officially support Windows XP anymore, but the U.S. Navy wants to keep it running. So the software giant is obliging, for a price.
The terrorist group ISIS uses chillingly effective social media techniques. Google’s head lawyer thinks the rest of the world needs to get much better and much louder with counter-messages.
Mobile news app Circa is on “indefinite hiatus,” after failing to find new financing. One pioneering feature I’d love to see emulated elsewhere: the ability to “follow” breaking stories as they’re updated.
Collaboration startup Slack now has more than 1.1 million users. What’s more, it just hired Twitter product lead April Underwood to spearhead development.
Good software is hard to write. Red Hat wants to make it simpler through OpenShift, its cloud-based application development platform. The primary competition: Microsoft and EMC’s Pivotal spinout.
Don’t have enough cash for the vending machine? This startup enables them to accept credit credits, via a smartphone app.
MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS
HackerOne, a computer bug bounty firm, raises $25 million by Robert Hackett
Record labels’ ties to Spotify draw fire in American Idol lawsuit by Jeff John Roberts
This is why Millennial women are saving half as much as men by Kate Ashford
Amazon’s new way of paying authors makes sense, and here’s why by Mathew Ingram
Why Nintendo is betting on eSports, and not VR by John Gaudiosi
How Microsoft is courting law enforcement to its cloud by Jonathan Vanian
Curbside raises $25 million to deliver to the half-lazy shoppers by Kia Kokalitcheva
USAA investment arm leads $24 million funding for connected car startup Automatic by Stacey Higginbotham
ONE MORE THING
New York state of mind. Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma, a big conservationist in China, paid $23 million for more than 28,000 acres of forestland in the Adirondacks, reports The Wall Street Journal. The forestland will remain a preserve and become a personal retreat.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 - 15; Aspen, Colorado)
Esri Business Summit: Mapping the value of data. (July 18 - 21; San Diego)
LinuxCon North America: All about open source. (Aug. 17 - 19; Seattle)
SuccessConnect: Simplify the way the world works. (Aug. 10 - 12; Las Vegas)
VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 - 18; San Francisco)
.conf2015: Splunk's "get your data on" gathering. (Sept. 21 - 24; Las Vegas)
Cassandra Summit: Largest gathering of Cassandra database developers. (Sept. 22 - 24; San Francisco)
BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 - 30; San Francisco)
Workday Rising: Meet and share. (Sept. 28 - Oct. 1; Las Vegas)
HP Engage: Big data, big engagement. (Oct. 4 - 6; San Diego)
Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 - 8; Orlando, Florida)
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: World's largest gather of women technologists. (Oct. 14 - 16; Houston)
Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 - 29; San Francisco)
TBM Conference 2015: Manage IT like a business. (Oct. 26 - 29; Chicago)
QuickBooks Connect: SMBs, entrepreneurs, accountants and developers. (Nov. 2 - 4; San Jose, California)