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I am responsible for making decisions regarding the purchase of computer hardware, software and services. I advise others regarding the tactical and strategic implementations of technologies and IT-related services. The financial security and stability of my own company, the companies of my clients and all the associated …

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Business is king.

Too many in IT have forgotten why they are in IT, and exactly how and why they are fed.

You can evangelise technology until you're blue in the face, but if it delivers no meaningful value to a business, why should it be adopted by that business? This is a question many IT vendors should be asking, but aren't.

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Re: Business is king.

I don't want to appear cynical[*], negative, and so on, but I think you've missed an important point: "Why should I adopt this?" is a question many IT *buyers* should be asking, but frequently aren't.

[*] Well, OK, I'll admit it. I *do* want to appear cynical. It's right there in my name. But in this case, the rest is true.

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Stop

Re: Business is king.

I think you missed the key point, and even substituted a new one. This is not about evangelising any particular technology. This is about being able to evaluate the options based on honest and accurate technical information. As the 800lb gorilla/market leader starts to use obscure marketing techniques instead of technical information to inform their audience, you are risking a lot to use their systems.

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Re: Business is king.

I still ask that question. It's why I use XP 64-bit Edition and Office 2003 on shiny new hardware.

Does Office 2007/2010 and Windows 7/8 bring me any extra benefits with newer hardware? Or do I get a better deal running Windows XP x64 on new hardware, at speeds the supposedly "faster" Windows 7 has yet to match? I don't need DirectX 10/11 - nor do I need IE9, either: I use Opera. Funnily enough, most of my clients (banks and telecoms) have also been sticking with Windows XP (even the 32-bit version, despite its limitations) - even on new hardware - and this isn't for a lack of Windows 7 licence stickers on the box.

I absolutely love new hardware, and Intel has made sure that the benefits have been pretty good in recent years, with mind-boggling advances in speed, bandwidth improvements and power efficiency. The same cannot be said of Microsoft - does Windows 7 use a miserly 175MB of RAM upon boot-up, leaving the other 15.8GB for me? Does it hell. I have to pay for a shit-load of DRM and "visual experience" features I neither need nor want. Do they help me, or my work? No. 2005 was the high-water line for Microsoft - ever since then, they've been on a decline.

In recent years, quite a few organisations (mostly software - Microsoft isn't alone in their guilt here: Witness the stupidity of Gnome 3 and KDE 4 if you need any further proof that this daft concept of selling an "experience" has gone too far! Witness the growing popularity of Xfce, as more and more people are ditching their digital baubles and going back to human/computer interfaces that deliver REAL productivity) have forgotten about delivering "what works" and decided that they want to sell you an "experience". Never mind that an experience is actually a perception of an event - not a product - and they're all just falling over themselves to put human-computer interfaces back 20 years in favour of more eye candy. Does the Ribbon actually help me, or simply gobble up valuable desktop real estate and get in my way? Does Metro help, or is it just another hindrance?

To be honest, I found myself doing the job quicker with Office 2003 and XP 64-bit, so I simply stopped giving money to Microsoft (Intel and NVidia, on the other hand, have done very nicely out of me - largely thanks to their continued driver support and compelling new products.) Even Intel's own C/C++ compiler software has proven to be worth the subscription charge that I pay for my Windows and Linux licences for Parallel Studio XE. Microsoft's Visual Studio has gotten less and less useful for C programming since 2005 - and if you don't want to induce howls of laughter, you'd better not discuss Visual Studio 2012's new "visual experience". All-caps menus? Yummy.

The computer I use is a tool used for achieving tasks - work: I do not expect - or want - to be sold an "experience" - because, 9 times out of 10, the actual experience is one of irritation. Ironically, when productivity software focuses on entertainment value at the expense of utility, it loses both entertainment and utility value (as far as I am concerned, anyway.)

Don't talk to me about Metro. There are some who think that the full-screen "experience" is an advancement. Quite frankly, I enjoyed the full-screen "experience" on my Commodore 64, back in the day - and I don't think it is a new or improved concept: Rather, I think Metro deserves to stay in the past, where it belongs. At least the Commodore 64 had Creatures and Armalyte...

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Re: Business is king.

> At least the Commodore 64 had Creatures and Armalyte...

Best not forget Mayhem in Monsterland.

I agreed with everything you said but while I join in the lamenting of bloated software including operating systems, when Microsoft stop producing security updates for XP, what options will we realistically have? Do we move on or take the risk?

I'd move towards FOSS if it wasn't for one little issue: the users. I know we ALL think we have the dumbest users but I seriously had to reconsider my employment when informed that there was a bug in our mail order system. The total on an order for two £50 items was calculated at £100, not £96 as apparently expected. I kid you not. And the fear of the new I have encountered when upgrading software beggars belief.

The sound of the hell desk phone ringing already haunts my dreams. At least with Windows, these people are in their comfort zone. Implementing all out change, something Linux flavoured, something outside of that comfort zone could end in my having an all out mental break down. It forces me to refrain from suggesting to my boss that we don't have to pay the idiot tax to Microsoft.

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Re: Business is king.

Linux as a client OS is a no-go for many companies. I personally have been thinking about the security update issue, and I would probably continue using Windows XP Professional x64 Edition anyway - just not directly connected to the net without fairly judicious (hardware) firewall rules. Run productivity software on it, compile code on it, but keep a Linux (Debian GNU/kFreeBSD is not a bad idea - I despise the Linux kernel, but I can cope with GNU userland) to hand for net access and more risky stuff like e-mail handling.

It's not ideal, but then again, neither is Metro and that damned Office ribbon. Clippy, come back - all is forgiven! (God, I never thought I'd see myself saying that.)

Windows doesn't have a very bright future - and with Apple has cannibalising its professional Mac line and focusing on being another consumer electronics company, I think we're going to be going through some dark times. I regard it as a tragedy that the improvements on the hardware side have not been matched by improvements in the software side - just more bloat, more pointless features (except the ones I want - they've been removed, of course) - and, of course, more expense.

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Pint

Re: Business is king.

"As the 800lb gorilla/market leader starts to use obscure marketing techniques"

I detest with a passion the obscure marketing technique of not putting f*king prices on their websites, so you have to contact them, then constantly nagging you to buy their products once they've got your contact details.

Almost as bad as the recruitment company that keeps on contacting me asking if I'm looking for staff, even although I don't bloody work in HR.

Pint, because I need to cool down, these people make my blood boil.

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Windows

Re: Business is king.

> I'd move towards FOSS if it wasn't for one little issue: the users.

On the few occasions where I have given users a PC running Linux instead of Windows, they didn't actually notice. They noticed that their mail app was different or that Office looked a little different but they had no clue that they weren't using Windows.

Users have problems with changes in the way apps work, you get the same reaction moving them (on Windows) from MS Office to OpenOffice/OfficeLibre as you do from, say, MS Office 2003 to MS Office 2007. There is no difference in the learning curve, they don't really notice the different brand. Microsoft have numbed them to the pain with their "shuffle the deckchairs and pretend things are better" approach to UI "upgrades" between versions. Take advantage of this end-user training by Microsoft and upgrade your users to something that greatly lowers your company's IT costs.

Moving to Linux won't be any more painful than "upgrading" Microsoft Windows.

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Re: Business is king.

Speaking from just my own experience then there are measurable performance benefits in Win7 64 over XP64. It all depends on your users requirents and application suite but for me the re-write that brought in the DWM has had a huge effect.

More apps opening without conflicts, overall lower CPU usage. None of my userbase use 3D or intensive rendering but a lot of apps with very large amounts of GUI object created/destroyed - these apps were (proprietary or in-house) developed in isolation so never tested against each other to play nice (I inherited this situation by the way!)

In my experience it comes down to a few things - take the time to understand the technology under the hood down to a component (for hardware) or a platform (for s/w) level and don't let shiny shiny distract you from your users best interests so you choose the right tool for the right job.

Also, vendor relationship is important. My technique is to not trust a word they say unless a) you have shared a meal with your rep and, more importantly, seen them shit-faced at 1am in the morning and b) gone to them with a real or imagined 'crisis' ( and yes, I have made a few up) to see what sort of response you get. It pays to get a measure of someone before you start giving other peoples money to them.

Just my 2 cents.

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Thumb Up

This.

"If you're a large enough company, you can afford to adopt the attitude that "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM/Cisco/Microsoft/Oracle/VMware/etc." A goof in IT spend is a small wobble in the share price; it is not an upset that could cost you the entire company. Small businesses, start-ups and SMEs don't have that buffer. An IT cock-up can be the difference between making a slim profit and going broke. In this space there is no room for "faith"."

This. Exactly.

I wish I could add several "pint" icons as well as a thumbs up...

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Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

"At the end of the day it doesn't have a tangible effect on the landscape because Apple is a consumer electronics company, not an IT company."

I'd beg to differ.. Right or wrong, fanboi or not, the likes of Apple are driving the consumerism of IT 'stuff'. Users wont put up with being abused much longer. With corporate dictats on what they're allowed to have and not allowed to have. See the BYOD articles all over the place.

Apple and similar kit isnt for the likes of US, its for everyone else.. But we have to deal with everyone else every day to make stuff work for them.

So we'd best get used to the 'but at home I've got....' kind of attitudes, as they young trendy types who are 20something facebookers now will in short order be our CxOs of the companies we're still drones in, and they'll not want to understand why they shouldnt/cant have at work whatever shiny they have at home.

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Headmaster

Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

Apple can "have an effect on the landscape", but "they affect the landscape".

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Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

If users won't put up with being abused much longer does that mean they're going to get rid of their iShiny and cancel their Facebook accounts?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

"they[sic] young trendy types who are 20something facebookers now will in short order be our CxOs of the companies we're still drones in, and they'll not want to understand why they shouldnt/cant have at work whatever shiny they have at home"

If you work for the unwise and irresponsible, you are doomed. I've worked very hard to ensure I can afford some career mobility, and I appreciate that not everyone has these luxuries, but when you let shiny toys take priority over data security and network integrity someone is going to have to pay the price and it probably won't be the CwhateverO.

All those places currently being rooted because their SCADA systems are open to the internet? There's a triumph of convenience over sense. BYOD seems pretty close to me.

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Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

Oh, I'm aware of this. A lot of the "BYOD is inevitable" stuff? I wrote it. There's more in the hopper. But right now, today, Apple's real world effect on the business computing landscape is negligible. The provide "default untrusted endpoints" that you either treat as a thin client or a limited-functionality device to be targeted by mobile device management software. These devices are supplements to the primary enterprise computing environments; nice to haves, but not "make or break."

This can - and will - change. I've customers on the bleeding edge of this revolution. That said, even in the SME space, Apple as anything other than an expensive document viewer/rdp client is still nearly nil. Even when and where it is used by "creatives," this mostly occurs in a vacuum. Content produced locally on the Mac, pushed to a central repository. True enterprise integration on the levels you see with Microsoft is almost unheard of.

Right now, today, Apple makes CE equipment. Isolated, disposable, replaceable; interchangeable with any other device that does the same task. Apple devices are appliances, not ecosystems. Apple has gone to great pains to preserve that.

And the articles on how that will affect us all...well...that's for the future!

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Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

Witness the latest young and trendy CEO, one Mark Zuckerburg - who has presided over an "interesting" IPO and impulse-driven splurge on Instagram, and who probably won't be CEO of Facebook for too much longer. Anyone who got caught up in the hype and invested in Facebook also got splashed with the cold water of reality: Young and trendy does not always mean profitable. Ask Jack Wills or Abercrombie and Fitch if you want to know how fickle "young and trendy" is, and they're the ones who really have to pay attention to that sort of thing.

Most CEOs have learned (or learn pretty quickly afterward) that if something doesn't have business legs, it won't run. Look at Nokia: They have ignored their business for too long, and it is costing them dearly. Don't say "Oh, it's Apple" - it's not. Even Nokia's low-end phones (where Apple doesn't compete) - which were always a best-seller, back in the good old days, are being eaten away by rivals, because Nokia simply doesn't deliver what the consumer wants. Not everyone wants an Apple device, but Nokia is generally disinterested in anyone's opinion but its own.

Sun also lost interest in its customer base, too - and decided to focus on "young and trendy" open source, courtesy of a "young and trendy" pony-tailed CEO - while completely ignoring what was actually bringing home the bacon... Completely different market segment - almost identical result: If you ignore commercial reality, expect a bite in the ass sooner rather than later.

Corollary: I do not expect to see many successful "young and trendy" CEOs - because idealism (one unique preserve of the young and trendy) does not lend itself well to commercial pragmatism, which is a requirement for any successful CEO.

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Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

@Nick

You're right, thats the point I was making. But head in the sand isnt an appropriate attitude. Sysadmins need to have the plan in place before the request comes in. Or you will end up in the situation of a lost BlackPadXFireZoom-ablet lost somewhere with next weeks stock price on the front screen. Because somebody decided they wanted the gadget, but IT werent providing it, so they went and did it themselves.

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Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

I think there's a certain amount of talking at cross-purposes here, Trevor. What you're describing is in effect the influence that Apple devices SHOULD currently have on business computing. What the others are describing is the effect they actually have, which is to skew the provision and support of IT in a manner out of all proportion to their actual use or importance.

I suspect there's any number of of people here who know only too well how unimportant their day-to-day work of providing and supporting systems is regarded as being the moment one of their senior management goes (paraphrasing) "Yes, yes, disaster recovery and security are all very well, but what about my shiny new iPhone?"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

BYOD is a hot topic for discussion in the industry, but in terms of actual impact *so far* it is negligible. The article is correct in that regard.

To your point, this could change in the future... and it has already changed in some outlier companies. The question there is if this is just the flavor of the month topic for marketing and IT press to ruminate on as the next big thing, or if we're truly seeing the beginning of a fundamental change in the industry. IMHO it's too early to tell, but I've been around long enough to see quite a few next big things come and go... and if their TCO is higher (not sure if this is the case or not with BYOD), that's usually not a good sign.

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Boffin

Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

"Apple can 'have an effect on the landscape', but 'they affect the landscape'."

Or "they can effect a change in the landscape".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

I think that the OP will now be seriously affected and I am worried about the long-term effects.

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FAIL

Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

I down voted for this comment:Witness the latest young and trendy CEO, one Mark Zuckerburg - who has presided over an "interesting" IPO and impulse-driven splurge on Instagram, and who probably won't be CEO of Facebook for too much longer.

What about have 53% of the voting rights do people not understand. Even if you got every single other shareholder to vote to oust him you still lose 53-47.

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Windows

Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

My place of work provides a 'home desktop' which takes the form of a Citrix receiver login to a desktop for those of us with Windows/Linux/Macos X and a vmware login for the pad people ('power cloud' app??).

It seems to be secure in the sense that I can't copy anything out of the Citrix receiver desktop, nor can I put files directly into it (I e-mail them or put them in my dropbox, both being virus scanned on the way over to the 'home desktop').

Do people think that this approach is 'secure' (given a sensible definition of secure)?

It is bloody useful from home, and I'm increasingly using it at work using my own laptop on the guest wifi.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple doesnt effect the landscape?

kjrunner: having the most voting rights doesn't translate to always getting your own way lest you end up as the only shareholder - best of luck raising funding in that situation. If you don't appease your shareholders you could end up with stock that isn't worth much. It's the double-edged sword of equity fund-raising.

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Anonymous Coward

If you want your vehicle to perform better....

Then the best advice anyone can get is to "go on a course to learn how to drive faster", much better value than a racing air filter, a tuned up engine, or a 5K race exhaust. Strangely IT departments (managers I'm looking at you) dont seem to agree. I am a consultant and deal with a mix of large and small clients in London, one of my favourite questions to the CIO who has "just bought into the NetApp/Cisco/IBM/etc dream" is to ask them... "So who in this room is going to be the NetApp/etc guru, who is going to inhabit the product day and night, who is going to become "an animal" at NetApp". Normally this is met with blank stares, of course the unspoken 2nd part is that "nobody here is capable of operating all the features and functions you are talking about".

I'm an old-time Solaris/Oracle guy, mainframe class reliability, uptimes measures in years, etc. Putting high end products and complexity in the hands of the average IT monkey, with poor operational discipline/rigor is not going to work.

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Re: If you want your vehicle to perform better....

I googled "economic driving" to get a different point of view on making a car "perform better", but I suppose that isn't the point you were making.

Still: http://www.talktalk.co.uk/money/features/car_fuel_economy.html

Top tips there: walk, bicycle, cadge a lift from someone else. Still possibly not addressing your point...

In another domain: we have database servers that perform poorly. Upon inquiry, we have many data tables without indexes. I don't think that's a coincidence, even though our IT maintenance guy huffs and puffs when asked about an increase in data storage allowance that we could get as an external hard disk from PC World, or as a USB flash memory stick from Asda. Well, we couldn't actually, the bugger has blocked off the USB ports. But still.

So, is educating our programmers in correct use of an RDBMS more expensive than just buying a beefier server?

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Puts me in mind of a Joel on Software blog post

Where he attributes at least part of his company's success to free trials with two important differences to the normal "first month free" type promotions: Firstly, you don't insist on a immediate sign up with Credit Card "which you can easily cancel if you don't want to keep the service, honest" and, secondly, you make it completely clear how the user can get back out of your system to whatever they were using before. One anecdote being that MS Excel didn't overtake Lotus 123 until it started offering "save as 123" as well as "load from 123" so the barrier to "just having a look" suddenly drops.

Sounds like a similar situation here. The fear of lock-in means that many people can't even take the risk of a trial lest it turns out to be completely wasted work. And that companies seem to be making it even harder to find out what they are planning or working on just increases the uncertainty and fear.

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Coffee/keyboard

Microsoft? Transparent?!

I am not a Microsoft hater. I appreciate much of what they done. I'm typing this on a Win 7 box. I even resisted writing "Micro$oft". But I go back to the DOS days. My standard toolkit still has a copy of a86 and Ralph Brown's interrupt list. So I remember all the Microsoft-only "APIs", and all the anti-competitive malarkey Microsoft engaged in. Yes, they seem to have reformed. But in the same way that Mrs Thatcher made me anti-Tory, Microsoft made me pro-openess and pro-transparency an I haven't entirely forgiven either. So seeing the words "Microsoft" and "transparency" in the same sentence made me choke. A sober spell doesn't stop them being a urunk; I'm sure they're itching to return to type. And when Apple have made it work so successfully, who can blame them?

Now, back to my entrails.

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Anonymous Coward

well said!

Very, VERY well said. My impression is that bits of Microsoft have reformed and produce good honest products that stand on their own, but on the whole "the beast" still tries to use its desktop/productivity to force one to buy everything else from them.

Just as IBM did in the old days... and Google will probably be doing inside of 5 years.

As you've said, the only way to preserve sanity is to focus on openness - open standards - so that one can walk away from one's current vendor if they start to try and get one by the short and curlies.

The funny thing with Apple is that they have stuck to the traditional vertical integration model which was the norm in the '80s and early '90s... expensive proprietary kit that work well. It's a pity that, now that they have gained a decent market share, they are behaving the same sort of thuggish behaviour as Oracle, Microsoft, old IBM (though in a different way).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: well said!

concurred. Unfortunately, even when one makes a rational choice some sales weasel gets to the suits of the customer and bingo, a 3 year contract written to shovel money to a non-delivering set of drunken code monkeys managed by PHBs, ( that's pointy haired bastards) who keep the client suits on side and completely stuff up what the business needs. The poor users are ignored and eventually have to use something that shows the end users were never asked what they do, what they need, and how the work flow goes. Bonuses all round for the ensuing disaster and another round of IT investigations and new software search begins.

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Re: well said!

Apple does not stick to traditional vertical integration.

Jack Tramiel understood what vertical integration was - he owned the entire supply chain, and used it to drive his competitors out of business. That is not something you see too often in today's ITIL-obsessed world.

Apple happens to have control of their OS and some control over their hardware - give or take the odd Chinese star getting an iPhone 5 prototype because he knows a few people at Foxconn.

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Alien

Meanwhile in the channel..

..the likes of Intel, Dell, HP and IBM are flooding the VARs with invitations to roadmaps, product launches and the like..

Whilst working for a VAR, I always tried to relay the information to our end users, sometimes were were blessed with copies of the presentations, but if not, I'd take notes and relay the info as accurately as possible.

When it comes to the issue of faith, I see most "Tech Titans" as nothing more than organisations that appease shareholders by mass producing tech products that [should theoretically] fly off distribution's shelves into the cabinets of end users with a maximum of two degrees of seperation (as in distribution and the reseller/VAR)

However is the server game, servers are very much the same, irrespective of the manufucaturer. We are all promised great technical support over the SLA period combined with advanced warranty replacement on the kit and components we integrate into the solution. Sadly this often entails a tedious session to their call centres based in the ass end of the planet, or via an anal on-line portal.

Sure Microsoft will advocate SQL on thier Wintel platform, whereas Oracle can also offer a "wrapped solution" comprising of Oracle branded sofware, x86 Servers, storage and backup.

So, what do we trust? Our cobbled together rack of branded switches, x86 servers and storage or the single branded package from Oracle, Dell, HP and/or IBM?

Either way they all achieve the same result, but we're left to make the choices of what we integrate into the DC to achieve the solution.

Can we trust the Titans of Tech? Probably not, but we have the option of choice as to who we deal with when purchasing equipment, however the budget often plays an integral part of the choices we make, so we make a choice of who is the best of a bad bunch!

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Coat

Reasons for obscurity

Actually, I wonder whether a small point re Roadmaps might be worth making? Roadmaps might be getting harder to come by, because well, certainly in the desktop space, we've been in the "here be dragons" sector of the map for some time. If as a vendor you're resorting to be-ribboned interfaces, and passing cloud-shaped bandwagons, then perhaps you've started to run out of viable reasons for Joe Public/ SMEs to upgrade... CS6, Office 20WTF, I'm looking at you. For vendors wanting to hit next Quarter's tagets, app lock-in tied to forced OS obsolecence may soon become the only tool in the toolbox...

(Why am I getting my coat? Coz I'd still be happy to pay for an upgrade where the bugs are all fixed, and the formats are all open... but, Shangri-La apparently not appearing on any roadmap soon... )

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Apple's Success

Revered Author» Apple built an empire on spin, secrecy and hype.

I disagree with you about Apple. It cannot be that Apple's success is built upon marketing and keeping schtum. If it were, we would all be using Macs, but the percentage of mac users hasn't really increased in the last 10 years. If Apple were such masters at controlling the public will, then we would all be using macs now.

Apple have, however, released a series of consumer devices that people have really liked. They have taken existing products and made them items easy to use and popular. Look at Nokia for the converse.

Apple's success is built upon popular products, not spin, secrecy and hype. The spin, secrecy and hype just happens to be the Apple method of doing business. Call me a fanboi if you like ( I was certainly one in the System 6-7 era ), but I think it's lazy to blame it on maketing.

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Gold badge

Re: Apple's Success

Apple's products are nothing particularly special. They never have been. Apple turns “compute” into “appliance,” but they are far from the only ones to do so. They are not even the best at doing so for most products they have offered over time.

What they are is fantastic at marketing. More to the point, they were led by a marketing genius who knew when a new product was ready for market, and when “it wasn’t quite there yet.” Remember that the iPad sat on the drawing board for ages before release; there were variants of it before the first iPhones protypes were born!

No, the genius was pure marketing. Knowing that releasing the iPad would do more harm than good if the tech couldn’t A, B, C or [one of D or E]. Controlling the message, spin, hype…it’s an important part of that. Reading the market, pre-seeding the market and then executing that market you so carefully prepared…that is the execution excellence that separates this particular appliance company from all others.

Apple has never succeeded on the strength of their technology; nothing about their technology was ever all that special to begin with. They succeeded because they know when and how to release their technology to achieve maximum effect. That’s the beauty of Apple, and it’s something that everyone else is having a miserable time reproducing.

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Re: Apple's Success

I disagree. Apple did well with the iPhone and iPad not because of great marketing but because they are very good at not being bound by the limits of what other products on the market do (or claim to do) I guess you can say that's great marketing because it's recognizing what people need rather than what they think they want, and being willing to create products that don't try to be all things for all people like Microsoft did in their tablet efforts.

There were smartphones before iPhone, but it was the first with a full browser and a large enough screen that it was actually usable. Apple showed there is a much bigger market for a phone that does a great job of browsing but can't run apps than there is for all the predecessors that did a terrible job browsing but let you install apps. They didn't add apps until a year later, and while they're obviously very important, Apple realized that a great browser and some simple built in apps would make a device that's useful from day one, rather than relying on developers to create apps leading to a bad user experience for the early adopters who buy before there are any apps.

With the iPad, they recognized that years of previous failed efforts to sell tablets by others had to tried to do too much. Microsoft always looked at the problem as "how can we make a tablet that's a replacement for a PC?" where the person replacing the PC were MS engineers and their friends who used PCs for pretty much everything under the sun.

Apple recognized that there a lot of people who have very limited needs from their PCs, and use them primarily to consume content, not create it. So they didn't even worry about making it work for people who need a word processor or spreadsheet or photo editor. They made it work great for people who browse the web, check email, watch videos and perhaps do a few other simple things. There are a lot of people who are like that, who only bought PCs to be able to email their friends and surf the web and don't buy or install third party programs.

You see this showing up as tablet sales grow at a very fast rate while PC sales have been esssentially flat for almost two years now, and Intel just issued a warning for Q3. Some may think that Windows 8 will turn that around, but the only chance Windows 8 has at stopping the iPad's sales momentum is if people start buying Surface instead (which I doubt, because by pushing the Pro model they continue their mistakes of trying to be all things to all people) PC sales have peaked and will never resume growth again, tablets fulfill the needs of many millions of light users who no longer need a PC in their lives at all.

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Re: Apple's Success

So your argument is exactly what I said? Apple excel at marketing: knowing when to introduce a product to the market and when the technology is not there yet?

You seem to be arguing that Apple do something "special" with their gear. I see zero evidence of that. They simply choose not to release products until the technology has advanced to the point that the product which can be released meets their standards of excellence.

The iPod, iPhone and iPad did not appear from a vacuum. There is a clear line of technological progression – in design, battery life, form factor, and UIs – from across the entire IT industry leading to the development of each device. These devices were not revolutionary, they were evolutionary.

The success of Apple is that they didn’t sit around and release version after version of not-quite-working crap. They certainly built them in the lab – the Samsung case showed us the real world evidence of that – but these products never saw the light of day in the market. Apple didn’t invent awesome with a pixie wand and Steve Jobs’ tears. They begged, borrowed and stole ideas from everyone else, mixed with a few evolutionary ideas of their own and then threw the design out because it wasn’t ready yet and came back and tried again a few years later. They repeated this process until Jobs was satisfied in the end user experience.

Funnily enough, everyone else (well, except RIM,) started coming out with similar stuff right around the same time. Again; there is lots of clear evidence of evolution towards current mobile tech inside various companies. They did exactly what Apple did: they begged, borrowed and stole ideas from everyone else, then mixed with a dash of homegrown evolution.

The difference is that these other companies took any prototype they could knock together and went to market with it. They released failure after failure. (Well, except Fujitsu. P1510D and subsequent devices rocked the socks off everyone who had them, but the cost of the tech was too high for a very long time.)

Remember that a lot of the very innovations you tout – such as the mere ability to have “applications” as opposed to HTML “apps” – on your iThing were initially verboten. Even with Apple’s magnificent execution and Jobs’ genius, they launched without native apps, cloud sync and most of the “services” which would eventually make the consumer electronics appliances that Apple sells so compelling.

But Apple still isn’t redefining the enterprise market here. Nothing they do is revolutionary. Their success is that of execution and marketing, not R&D. Indeed; they are quite happy with this arrangement. Everyone else in the world – in a desperate, but blind attempt to be Apple – spends billions on R&D. Apple then simply takes the ideas – licensing or buying out if they have to, stealing or “changing just enough” if they can – and grinds them like a WoW player until they’ve QAed all the userland bugs out.

I don’t believe you analysis of Apple is objective. You don’t seem to understand their business model at all. I wouldn’t feel bad about that; many people running multi-billion-dollar companies haven’t obtained clue either!

But the lack of revolutionary ideas is why Apple isn’t a disruptive force in the enterprise.

Yet.

Again, however, that’s a whole other article…

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Re: Apple's Success

Err, actually Trevor I think *you* are missing one quite important point. Innovation is not simply about pure functionality, and Apple do bring something fairly special to the mix. Their fascist adherence to user interface design, and the philosophy that product design should produce an "it just works" mentality. I say fascist with all the connotations of "do as we say, not as we do" of course. Users don't read manuals anymore. Hell, developers barely produce them - no physical product to bulk out maybe - so stuff has to work intuitively. And by intuitively one means conforming to what's expected. Apple do get it wrong and break their own rules occasionally, but for the most part, they get it right in spades. Talking of innovation, ahem, was someone mentioning Windows 8?

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Re: Apple's Success

I never suggested Apple did anything revolutionary with the iPhone or iPad technologically. They didn't invent a new battery chemistry that was 4x better than previous so they could power something in that form factor where before it was out of reach, or make a breakthrough in GPU technology that let them get good graphics performance on a sub watt power budget.

What they introduced with iPhone and with iPad others could have done, the technology was there. But having the technology AVAILABLE and knowing what pieces to put where are two very different things, as is evidenced all of Microsoft's failed attempts in the tablet market versus Apple's hit on their first try. Knowing what to release and being willing to wait to release it until it is done properly is FAR more important for market success than merely having access to the technology. What you dismiss as no big deal is something that everyone else misses. Even after seeing Apple do it, they still don't get it. Look at the TV market, if Jobs really did rethink the TV the way he rethought the tablet, they'll sell a ton of them, and everyone will say nothing in Apple's TV was new or revolutionary, but it won't be the individual pieces of tech, it'll be which ones are chosen and how they're put together - with thought, rather than trying to create a longer list of mismatched features than the competition.

The joke has always been that Microsoft gets it right on the third try. They just throw stuff out there and see what sticks. Unfortunately that leads to a lot of failures, so people don't trust them. Even if one thinks something Microsoft does might be pretty good they'll want to wait around and see what everyone else thinks before they commit to it, lest it be orphaned like OS/2, Alpha NT, Zune, the original XBox, Windows Mobile or Windows Phone 7.x.

I'm curious, why do you bring the enterprise into this when talking about Apple? Apple is doing pretty damn well selling to the consumer, why should they give a shit about the enterprise? Sure, there's plenty of money to be made there, but there's also plenty of money to be made selling cars or creating the next generation of opaque financial products on Wall Street. One other reason for Apple's success you ignore is that they have a VERY narrow market. They choose carefully what markets they'll enter and limit their product offerings. Again, this differs greatly from what everyone else does, who try to segment the market to death with a ton of offerings from top to bottom, with a bunch of customizations at each level. People hate shopping for toothpaste and seeing 20 different kinds of Colgate, humans can only handle so much choice without causing internal stress. Apple gets this, something that almost everyone else selling to the consumer does not.

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Re: Apple's Success

The article discussed Apple's relevance as pertains to the enterprise. It's relevance regarding infiltration and disruption of business IT, from SMEs to large enterprises. I won't dispute that Apple's approach really shook up the CE market. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they levelled the CE market and started rebuilding it from scratch.

Again however, as I see it, their success relies on marketing. Now, in my definition of marketing I do lump in “quality assurance testing;” this is because almost nobody does any form of QA whatsoever in IT anymore. So engaging in QA (as opposed to selling your customers beta products as RTM) is a marketing thing. It’s a differentiator you’re actively choosing in order to make you different from the rest of the competition that cut all those corners.

Apple’s feature/functionality/SKU/etc restriction is also just marketing. As you pointed out, a certain segment of the population can handle choice. This is especially true in the consumer electronics market where people want appliances, not general purpose computers. Again; identify the market, create a mediocre product with limited choices, QA the shit out of those few functions, and then control the message so viciously that you convince an entire generation this is the greatest thing ever.

Knowing what to release and when is marketing. It is studies and focus groups. It’s testing and research, research, research It’s some intuition, but mostly the hard work of real brass tacks marketing which is – I’ll say this again so you get it - market research. Apple has the best of the best in this field working for them. They are the true innovators.

So your arguments don’t alter my stance any. Apple is a consumer electronics appliance provider that doesn’t actually innovate. Instead, they achieve success by limiting options – thus also limiting the potential for business penetration and disruption – and through excellent marketing.

Apple repackage other people’s ideas in a shiny package with a slick video and a clean store. Kudos to them. But it is still just marketing. Marketing par excellence, unmatched by anyone for nearly 100 years, but still marketing.

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Re: Apple's Success

Trevor:"What they are is fantastic at marketing."

I disagree. Apple are fantastic at design, be it interface or hardware. As someone else said the silence etc is just how they do business. They got where they are because products like the iPhone, iPad, MacBook air, retina MacBook pro, iMac etc have all been way ahead of the competition. Most competitors are charging similar prices for kit made of cheap shitty plastic when Apple are using aluminium. Their design has been ahead for some time now.

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Re: Apple's Success

Well, Mark65, we'll have to agree to disagree here. Design is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I buy Samsung, HTC and Asus because I prefer their design to that of Apple. I prefer the keyboard layouts on non-Apple PCs and a number of other design elements that prevent me from buying Apple. It is in fact Apple's design that means I only own products made by them which were given to me. I am not alone.

The thing is, there is lots of evidence to back up my position: design is a personal item, not a universal one. Apple have a different design. It is not universally liked…not even liked by the majority of consumers, according to most deep dives into the matter. In fact, a significant minority of individuals who own Apple products dislike the design quite a bit, but buy them for other reasons. (Simplicity being the largest factor.)

So I reject your idea that “design” is critical. It was a selling point to hipsters back when Macs were the 3% of desktop PCs and made nothing else. When they started hitting the consumer electronics market, other factors became far bigger reasons to buy. The hipsters still bang on about design aesthetic, but they are the minority of people who buy Apple products now.

The whole article I wrote; analysing as much data as possible to inform your decisions rather than relying on “gut feel,” “personal experience,” “what seems right” or “what you read in X” is pretty much cemented by this debate. My analysis of Apple and its success in the market comes from having read survey after survey, analysis after analysis and innumerable interviews with people from Apple and other companies involved in the process of selling into the CE market. I have poured over the evidence brought forth in the various trials and tried very hard to build an understanding of what shifts this stuff that is based on the real world, not simply who is loudest on the internet.

The hardcore fanbois have always been design hipsters. But they really, honestly and truly are a nearly irrelevant minority of Apple’s customer base. If you actually delve into the numbers, you’ll find the overwhelming majority of Apple’s customer base are 40 and 50 somethings with little-to-no understanding of technology, nor any desire to ever learn. They bought into the marketing hoopla of “just works” and “ease of use.” Ironic, given that many of the cited use cases they present would actually make RIM or WinPhone the better choice!

Marketing. Apple are good at it; quite possible the best at it. This whole debate – in which you wield arguments unsubstantiated by data, but which Apple’s marketing machine would dearly love everyone to believe – is aught but further proof.

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Re: Apple's Success

"Mediocre product with limited choices"? In what way do iPhone and iPad fit that? You say in another post you prefer Samsung's design, so perhaps a better question is, in what way are Samsung's phones and tablets not mediocre where Apple's are? Is it simply because Samsung has a big product range in both ranging from high to low end with many different form factors and options, where Apple has only one phone and one tablet (not counting the older models they sell at a discount)

Design is obviously an individual thing, some prefer Samsung as you do, others prefer Apple. It is funny how some people (typically techies) who prefer Android seem to want to justify their decision by claiming that Apple is all marketing, implying that people who choose Apple are choosing wrongly because they are falling victim to marketing, whereas people buying Android are obviously smarter because they don't fall for that and make the right choice. The problem is, you are using a definition of marketing so broad that I could equally claim Samsung is all marketing, because the fact they have a wide product mix is every bit as much of a marketing decision as the stuff like doing QA so you only release products that are "done" you point to as Apple marketing. When most Apple haters say "Apple is all marketing" they are basically implying that Apple is getting people to choose the wrong product by brainwashing.

Apple knows its design choices aren't for everyone, they simply produce what they think is the best product for a wide swath of the (high end of the) market and people who agree will buy their product. They do quite well with that, and don't see a need to try to cater to everyone by going after the entire market. Those who disagree with Apple's design choices, because they wanted a larger screen on their phone, wanted LTE capability even when it meant sucking down their phone's battery in half a day, wanted to have access to alternate app stores with no controls, and so on don't choose Apple. When you have only one product in a segment like Apple does (again not counting the old models) then you know your design won't please everyone AND you are telling the world THAT YOU KNOW THAT AND YOU DON'T CARE.

I think it is that "and don't care" part that really pisses off the people who don't like Apple - how DARE they produce only one product when it isn't the one you want? People are used to companies catering to them by presenting them with more options to make them feel like the company cares about their opinion, and Apple doesn't even try to maintain that facade. It is as if a car company sold only one one sedan, one sports car, and one pickup. What they think it should include comes standard, there is no optional equipment. It is just a very arrogant "take it or leave it". It pisses these people off even more that Apple is so damn successful with that arrogant attitude - they feel like the market should punish Apple for that, and the fact they have so many customers means it MUST be something else, these people must be brainwashed or something. They just don't understand, because Apple's design choices didn't fit them.

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Re: Apple's Success

Where did I say that Samsung's stuff was anything other than mediocre? I said I preferred their design elements. Not that they were fundamentally "better."

You leap staunchly to defence without realising that I am not attempting to vilify Apple in any way. I am not impugning their honour. I do not hold a grudge against Apple, nor am recommending against them. I am simply objectively determining their place in the market and giving them props where props are due, without attaching unwarranted significance to other aspects of their business.

Do not presume for a second that "preferring A to B" or "what I use" is an indication of what I believe is "best." Far – far – more details go into a purchase decision than what someone thinks is "best." This is true not simply for me, but for anyone. Price, availability, a balance of the values of various features…the mix and the match result in different choices for everyone; and not everyone even has the same options.

So please don’t waste time attacking me; especially if you cannot check your emotions at the door. Instead, I think that you would benefit from reading this paper.

If that seems like too much work, Ars Technica has a great writeup on it here.

I feel compelled to reiterate how this series of comments does nothing but reinforce the point I was trying to make in the article: buying into hype, marketing, "the controlled message," "what’s popular" or "what everyone else is doing" is not a good plan for people who can’t afford to take risks. Instead I advocate research.

Gather evidence, learn some science; especially the science related to our own psychology and group dynamics. Learn to separate the pre-canned, carefully manicured world we are fed by people who do know that very science – and your own tribal instincts – from reality.

Sometimes "what everyone does" is done for good reason; it is the most efficient possible way. Other times, it is because billions of dollars and lots of time from very smart people has gone into creating an industry that merely believes it is the best way.

Consider if you will the Cisco-trained nerd. Indoctrinated for 10+ years in all things Cisco. He is approached by a small business of 50 seats. This business has crunched the numbers as hard as they can and they know that they can only afford to spend $50,000 to upgrade their entire IT infrastructure. It must last 6 years. They have zero wiggle room on this; this is all the money they can possibly get together.

The Cisco nerd – and I have seen this happen many times in my life, involving many different Cisco nerds – will adamantly demand that the company spend $25000 on switches and routers. "If you can’t afford to do things properly, you shouldn’t be in business" is the claim. Chats come out. TCO and long term this and that are mentioned. Huge effort goes in to convincing this business the absolutely must have Cisco because Cisco is the best, and nothing but the best is acceptable. Anything except the exacting deployments outlined in best practice whitepapers is akin to sacrilege.

The CEO of the company turns to me and says "is what he says true? Should I close up my company tomorrow?" I browse to the local computer shop on my phone, pull up some off-the shelf servers, 48-port DLink switches, some SME NAS gear with "meh" replication, VMware licences, MS licenses and backup software licences. I factor in the cost of bandwidth over the 6 year lifespan of the project and some offsite storage in a datacenter I run. I manage to do it for $40,000, including spare parts.

The Cisco nerd explodes with rage. Everything I just described goes against a lifetime of his teaching. He sprays emotion everywhere, verbally assaulting me; even coming within a hair’s breath on more than one occasion of physically assaulting me. For doing math; but not doing it according to the whitepapers in which he has invested his sense of self worth. By rejecting the ideas – and the companies – that he had incorporated into his "tribe" I was not only "insulting" those ideas and products, I was insulting him.

This is my point. It is the point of this article, and ultimately the point of the comment thread we’re engaged in. You have demonstrated in inability to separate emotion and self image from a brand. Apple isn’t what it appears to be at first glance, and it certainly isn’t what its most ardent followers make it out to be. Neither are Microsoft, Cisco, VMware, Oracle or pretty much anyone else you can name.

If you are ever satisfied you know 100% "how things are," then you have stopped seeking evidence and started believing. You have resorted to faith. I get the distinct impression from our little tête-à-tête here that you are willing and capable of resorting to faith. I’m not. So we are never going to resolve this; no more so than any other religious (or political) binary dichotomy will ever be resolved.

I suggest we call it a truce and move on. You have decided that you can label me. In doing so you have associated heaps of extraneous baggage attached to that label with me; most of it without cause. There is thus no room for debate. This thread will simply end up with more of me defending myself against things I never said. Things which instead are associated with the label you have chosen to apply to me.

I’d ask that instead of clicking "reply" and venting your emotions into your poor keyboard (what did it ever do to you?) that you instead click the links I provided you.

Thanks for your time, and have a good day.

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Re: Apple's Success

"In fact, a significant minority of individuals who own Apple products dislike the design quite a bit, but buy them for other reasons. (Simplicity being the largest factor.)"

Is this simplicity not a facet of design? As I stated it is their design of interface and hardware which is ahead. The Macbook Pro retina is way ahead in design - 2kg 15" laptop that's pretty damn thin without being an ultrabook, who surpasses that and is that not a reason (combined with its other design elements) why it sells? The Macbook Air spawned the ultrabook segment in terms of mass market. Intel had to come up with a trademark. The Air was and still is way ahead in its lightness and proportions - design yet again. The simplicity of the OS is design yet again. Apple are a design company. They have always been good at UIs and this coupled with attractive non-beige hardware is why people are buying them.

Reading survey after survey and analysis (i.e. personal opinion) after analysis is meaningless as both are unreliable. Your most reliable would be an interview with an Apple employee depending on whether they were someone in the know rather than the student salesman at the local store.

PS You couldn't do the marketing of "just works" and "ease of use" unless the design was there - the UI design.

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Re: Apple's Success

and here's a survey...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/07/jd_power_smartphone_survey/

"Apple achieves a score of 849 and performs well in all factors, particularly in physical design and ease of operation,"

Both design elements.

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Re: Apple's Success

and here's a survey...

I recall a line from an automobile magazine in the 1980s: "Fiat: 10 million Italians can be wrong".

All a survey demonstrates is that a high proportion of the people who 1) purchased Apple products and 2) responded to the survey indicate they're satisfied with Apple's designs. That says nothing about whether Apple's designs are superior, or whether Apple produces superior designs, unless your metric for "superior design" is "a lot of the people who invest in it say they like it".

And if that is your metric for superior design, then I can't say it sounds like you have anything very interesting to say on the subject. Why would I care whether a design is popular? (Indeed I don't.)

More importantly, this in no way counters Trevor's argument. The survey does nothing to attempt to discern why respondents claim to be satisfied with the designs. It could be partly or mostly the effect of Apple's marketing, which (like all marketing) is intended to do two things: raise awareness of products, and inculcate a positive response to them.

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Anonymous Coward

My problem is not the biggies

my problem is the various "add-on" utilities and tools (backups, alerting, interfaces) that pop up and disppear just as quickly. With some managers who have the "goodie-bag" analysis method (ie. "they gave nice presentations and snazzy mugs") or the "dim light-bulb" method (ie. "I actually understand how this method works, so must insist we adopt it"), I end up with a lot of garbage in my area of responsibility, and endless support tickets to work through.

My first evaluation steps after installing a test product is to a) raise a support call with the company for an obscure message, and b) open a forum discussion about a function that is "not working". If I don't get adequate responses in 5 working days, the product fails its evaluation.

I still recall the grim irony when EMC insisted that they would not support our systems if they did not have the add-on multipath software (at 5K per node). Lying f4ckers. AC for obvious reasons.

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