The early era of the IT industry (from the early 1980s onwards) was defined by hardware. The value was embedded in the device itself — speeds, memory, storage. The software came from a range of application developers, then gaming companies, and then web browser companies.
Those days are long-gone.
Today’s global IT industry model is very different and it’s software that has raised the bar. Value is defined by the user, not the device, and software is the means by which value is delivered and built — in what it solves and what it allows users to do, not how fast a device works.
Software has handed the power to the end user. They determine value, instead of hardware companies deciding for them. Remember cell phone features such as three-way calling — did customers really demand that, or did developers say, “oh we can do this, so let’s sell it”?
And think about your own experience, whether you’re at work or at home: The first points of reference are what you’re watching, what you’re doing, the apps you’re running, how easy it was to connect to another gamer or to colleagues in a meeting over video conference. Sure, the hardware is still a big part of the picture — just no longer the only lead.
As the world’s largest PC company, Lenovo is of course an organization with a legacy steeped in hardware. But in recent years we have undergone our own transformation, maintaining our leadership in devices but growing new expertise in software and services with a value proposition based on understanding and solving customer problems.
A smarter future for users
There’s something more at play here, as well. Because of software, devices now adopt the usage habits and preferences of individual users, and over time become tuned to each individual. What I do at work, how I prefer to perform my tasks, and what I want to do when I get home, are a reflection of me, the individual, in the context of the organization I work for.
This works because the different aspects needed to create the ecosystem — the cloud, edge servers, on-premise servers, connectivity, data and network latency management, security, and specialist apps — now work together more-seamlessly than ever before.
As one example, your security requirements at home and work are different. At home, you ask your device to play music, turn lights on and off, stream movies. At work, you ask the same computer for new data on sales, hold conference calls with customers, analyze confidential information. Yet being “at work” might mean sitting in the Starbucks coffee shop closest to your home. So a device like the Lenovo Yoga S940 uses AI to automatically filter out most ambient noise and blur out distracting backgrounds during video calls, detect your absence and auto-lock the display to protect your data from others seeing it, and alert you when it detects a nosy neighbor shoulder surfing from your screen.
The new development ecosystem
To make this a reality means that developers need to have the right foundations to design and develop software with so much capability built in, foundations that create flexibility, are agile, create solutions in acceptable timescales, and do not compromise on security, speed and integration.
In Lenovo’s world, we call this User Device Service (UDS) Platform. UDS Platform lets us build solutions that deliver the value demanded by the customer, using a modular approach that reduces development times, and continuously expands the library of specialist modules that, once built, can be reused in the future.
An example of this in action is the global maintenance support for a large aircraft manufacturer Lenovo works with. With airframes distributed around the world with multiple airlines, this customer has the unique challenge of having to provide support, to do planned work under regulatory schedules, and to provide ad hoc and emergency repairs as required. Balancing customer service, regulatory requirements and risk management with a finite number of engineering experts was achieved by building an augmented reality (AR) solution that placed the expert engineers, with remote engineers around the world.
Using UDS, a team of the airline manufacturer’s engineers working at our Morrisville facility in the U.S. alongside a team of Lenovo software architects, produced a working prototype of the solution in six weeks.
By working with modules, the repeatable elements such as cloud management, data management and version control could be completed quickly. The developers were then free to direct their expertise and effort towards developing the first-time modules, where the real value sits. For this customer, this was in the areas of airframe maintenance, and the specifics about each aircraft type, with these modules then connected in turn to the AR software and headsets. The intelligence in the software brought everything together in a way unique, in this example, to the needs of our customer and its engineers.
As I said in the beginning, this is a new era where the user has complete control, and the user defines value. Whether users are running or working in a business, seeking new online gaming experiences, or enjoying everything a smart home has to offer, the solutions that fulfill these needs have some common attributes:
- They are simple, scalable, usable and secure
- Development involves trusted partners that are part of an ecosystem of market leaders and specialists
- They are timely and relevant — innovation has to make its mark
- They are built on, and create, long-term relationships — with partners and vendors, based on collaboration, and not a historical vendor-customer dynamic
It’s an amazing time to be a software developer. I feel energized by adding innovative and smarter technology to hardware, because our customers deserve it.
What kind of innovative capabilities are you looking for? Drop me a line in the comments.
About the Author
Igor Bergman is Lenovo’s Vice President of Cloud & Software. He has a crazy focus on resolving real customer problems and his passion for AI, ML, IoT, SCRUM, and Kanban is set by a strategic, customer-focused context. Start a conversation with Igor here, on LinkedIn or on Twitter.