This Week in Modern Software logoWelcome to This Week in Modern Software, or TWiMS, our weekly roundup of the most important stories and events surrounding software analytics, cloud computing, application monitoring, development methodologies, programming languages, and other issues that influence modern software.

This week, our top story concerns the enterprise perspective on Apple’s ever-impressive earnings.


TWiMS Top Story:
Apple Had Another Strong Quarter, but the iPad Didn’t—Fast Company

What it’s about: “Another completely insane financial quarter” for Apple, as Fast Company’s John Paul Titlow put it. The numbers, as usual, are enormous: Apple had revenue of $51.5 billion in its fourth fiscal quarter, with a cool $11.1 billion in net profit. CEO Tim Cook called fiscal 2015 Apple’s “most successful year ever” and the iPhone was again the company’s rainmaker. Apple sold 48 million iPhones in Q4, which included the release of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. That’s a 22% year-over-year increase. iPad sales, meanwhile, continue to fall back to earth, though the upcoming iPad Pro launch could help soften the landing. “Apple had a great quarter” doesn’t raise many eyebrows these days; it’s pretty much expected. But the company did get some double-takes for these numbers: Cook said Apple’s enterprise sales are now a $25 billion business annually, a 40% jump in 2015.

Why you should care: Apparently, Apple wasn’t just paying lip service to businesses when talking up its enterprise ambitions. In fact, it appears set to seize a greater part of the corporate device portfolio. On Apple’s earnings call, CEO Tim Cook acknowledged “our penetration is low, but we have significant action going on to really deepen that.” Cook’s referring to high-profile partnerships with enterprise giants like IBM and Cisco, among other efforts. There’s also the upcoming iPad Pro launch, which could goose flagging iPad sales by appealing to business users looking for an ultra-mobile laptop replacement. So will Apple actually become a titan of the enterprise? In many ways, it already is: No one leaves their iPhone at home when they head into the office. But outside of the Internet industry and other creative, image-conscious trades such as advertising and marketing, most companies still roll with Windows machines. Will that ever really change? 

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Empires of the Mind: Oracle Digs Deep on CloudThe Register

What it’s about: Oracle’s annual OpenWorld conference took place this week (along with its JavaOne event), and much of the newsstop us if you’ve heard this onepointed in the same direction: cloud. Among other announcements, Oracle revealed its Oracle Elastic Compute Cloud for shared and dedicated workloads in the cloud. (If that sounds similar to Amazon Web Services’ EC2 cloud and elastic option, that’s because, well, it is.)

cloud computing concept: this week in modern softwareAnother highlight was Oracle Application Container cloud, which will offer Docker containerscheck out more of this week’s Docker news belowas a service. Oracle showed off a slew of other cloud-relevant products and updates as well, such as its Hadoop- and Spark-based Big Data Preparation Cloud Service. If you can’t tell where this is heading, allow Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd to help: According to The Register’s recap, Hurd sees a future where Oracle and one “other” (hmmm, whom might that be?) would dominate the enterprise cloud market.

Why you should care: For a company whose founder once infamously scoffed at the cloud, Oracle sure seems all-in on cloud today. Just count the mentions of cloud on the Oracle OpenWorld website. (Representative example: “Top Oracle OpenWorld Takeaway: Oracle Has Everything You Need to Get to the Cloud.”) While Oracle is playing catch-up in the cloud relative to the surging growth of AWS and other leaders, The Register notes the company remains well positioned to succeed. Oracle has a massive, entrenched customer base, and is good at selling one-stop solutions to those companies. Those solutions are going to increasingly involve moving applications and their underlying infrastructure to cloud environments. According to Fortune, Oracle’s Hurd predicted that 80% of all production applications will run in the cloud by 2025.

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Facebook Will Give Employees Super Slow Internet Speeds Every Tuesday to Better Understand Markets Like India—Business Insider

What it’s about: Facebook employees will get the chance to dog-food their own mobile apps on a 2G wireless connection for an hour every Tuesday, according to Business Insider. Facebook Engineering Director Tom Alison tells the site that “2G Tuesdays” is no gimmick; rather, it’s designed to help employees better understand and empathize with users in global markets where 4G or even 3G access can’t be taken for granted. Quartz notes that Facebook has 120 million users in Africa, one of the company’s major growth markets, and 57% of them use the site on a feature phone with a 2G connection. Using Facebook on a 2G connection has already been an eye-opener for Alison, who told Business Insider: “It definitely tested my patience—it felt like parts of the product were just broken.”

global web concept: this week in modern softwareWhy you should care: When your customers struggle to use your product, it’s not their problem—it’s your problem. That’s true almost regardless of the issue: older device or operating system, poor infrastructure, a lack of technical sophistication, etc. Scoffing at or ignoring issues is akin to locking up shop when thousands or even millions of potential customers are knocking on the door. It’s a smart (and quite simple) strategy: if, like Facebook, you literally want everyone to be on your platform, you’d better be sure they can use it well. The same holds true at smaller scale: If you want anyone to use your app, you’d better invest the time and effort to ensure that the largest number of people can enjoy it in a wide variety of circumstances.

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If Everyone Is Now a Software Company, Should They Operate More Like Software Companies?ZDNet

What it’s about: A new poll confirms something New Relic has been saying for a while now: Every business is a software business these days. In the QASymphony-sponsored survey, which included 600 IT and business professionals, nearly two-thirds of respondents said software now drives their company’s most important decisions. The survey included several other compelling nuggets, too: A full two-thirds of respondents said half of their company’s development time was spent ensuring code quality and/or fixing bugs. More than half (52%) are using mobile, social, and other applications as part of their customer engagement strategy. And 22% said the quality of their firm’s software was “paramount” to corporate success and growth prospects.

Why you should care: As QASymphony’s CMO Jeff Perkins said in a statement: “Software doesn’t support a business; it can create, transform, and revolutionize a business. This tells us that essentially, every company is a software company and this puts a real premium on software quality.” Indeed, with so much riding on your software, ensuring its optimal health and performance is crucial. Over at ZDNet, Joe McKendrick asks, “But are these companies doing enough to ensure the quality and performance of their software?” His answer is: No, not yet. The gap between the importance of software in corporate decision-making and the importance of software quality certainly speaks to that. McKendrick suggests that companies need to not only use software—they’re clearly doing so already—but to operate more like actual software companies. The survey respondents would seem to agree: 63% said the way software firms operate is fundamentally different than other industries, and that there are “very important, very valuable distinctions.”

Further reading:


How Popular Is Docker? Depends on Who You AskThe New Stack

What it’s about: The headline says it all: Docker remains white-hot, but actual adoption rates vary depending on your source. The New Stack’s Susan Hall breaks down two different industry reports that underscore that point: A Datadog survey of 7,000 companies that use its cloud monitoring service found that Docker adoption has increased almost fivefold during the past 12 months, from 1.8% to 8.3%. But a Skytap poll of 206 firms conducted at VMWorld found 25% had adopted containers, while a much higher rate—nearly half of the sample—reported plans to deploy containers in the next 12 months.

Why you should care: The enormous interest in Docker and containerization in general is very real. But this is new territory, and actual adoption and use cases can vary widely depending on perspective. Datadog notes, for instance, that the companies in its poll “skew toward ‘early adopters’ and toward companies that take their software infrastructure seriously.” There’s certainly a difference, too, in sample sizes of 7,000 and 200, give or take. As New Relic’s Senior Director of Solution Marketing Abner Germanow said here of New Relic data on Docker usage: “This is still early days.” (Hall cites New Relic’s data in her piece.) Docker adoption will certainly vary depending on the source, but it appears we’re only scratching the surface. Fixate IO analyst Chris Riley tells Hall: “It is true that nearly every company I talk to these days is using Docker in some capacity and they ‘plan’ on using it more. But how they are using it is barely a toe in the water.”

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Google Turning Its Lucrative Web Search Over to AI Machines (RankBrain)—Bloomberg

A.I. concept: this week in modern softwareWhat it’s about: Google senior research scientist Greg Corrado told Bloomberg this week that the company has been using an artificial-intelligence system, dubbed “RankBrain,” to help interpret a “very large fraction” of Web searches over the past several months. And apparently RankBrain’s pretty good at its job: When engineers on the Google search team were shown certain Web pages and asked to guess where they’d rank in Google search results, they guessed with 70% accuracy. RankBrain guessed right 80% of the time. Corrado told Bloomberg that RankBrain is particularly useful in helping Google interpret the 15% of queries it receives each day that its search engine has never seen before.

Why you should care: Prepare to bow down to your machine overlords. Or at least to have them help you find stuff online, because it’s evident Google’s heavy investment in machine learning and A.I. isn’t just a R&D conceit. Rather, it’s heavily baked into the company’s core product: search. For now, it remains just one of many variables in the ever-mysterious and awesomely powerful Google search algorithmsbut its use seems likely to grow, particularly as Google and other organizations achieve new breakthroughs in machine learning and A.I. (Researchers and purists would probably point out that machine learning and A.I. aren’t actually the same thing, and that RankBrain is more the former than the latteralthough it sure does seem pretty smart.) Finally, that 15% figure noted above may be the most fascinating: Humans apparently need software to help us understand our own questions.

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Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a wide variety of publications and companies. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek story, “Are You Too Old for IT?” He’s also a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards. View posts by .

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