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  • Is Windows RT Enterprise Ready… Yet?

    Fast forward a year and Windows RT 8.1 may now very well be ready for the enterprise and consumer to boot. In fact I think Windows RT is the PC your mother should have.

    Asus VivoTab RT with 3G

    At MSC Mobility we are always trying to challenge the status quo and test the use case that is mobility. With Windows RT 8.1 and the ‘enterprise pack’ now offering a suitable level of management via our MDM services we decided to put it to the test once again with one of the new additions to our Victorian sale team, Sam Baker.

    A quick scan of eBay turned up an Asus VivoTab RT refurb unit that came with a keyboard and more importantly 3G connectivity which was one of the pre requisites (and quite hard to find in an RT device) for this challenge.

    So it’s a tablet, a laptop and a dockable PC. Perfect right?

    The first question I hear you say is ‘so why bother with the restrictions of RT? Why not just jump to Windows 8.1 Pro and be done with it.’ To understand this at the core we need to understand the difference between a desktop OS like Windows, OSX or Linux vs a mobile operating system like Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows RT and more importantly what that difference means to the enterprise.

    Toolbar overload is a common reason to deploy and use a SoE

    The traditional desktop OS has been with us for a long time and along with the open hackable, programmable and mature operating system comes a lot of shall we say bloat and risk. With bloat and risk comes cost to manage. Most enterprise’s lock down a desktop to a Standard Operating Environment (SoE). The locked down SoE offers clear direction, management and cost for the enterprise but often leaves the user wanting more. ‘I just need to install this program or extension’ is a common service desk request. Current market data puts the management of a SoE at between $130 and $170 per month. The majority of the cost is in testing and releasing new versions of the SoE. The risk of infection or security breach makes up a significant component of this cost. This is due to what I call the bottom up access of a desktop OS. That is, any application can get root access to the operating system and effectively ‘see’ other applications that are installed. Once an application knows what is on the operating system it can then exploit any vulnerabilities. It is for this reason that extensive testing and effective SoE lockdown is so important for an enterprise. That seemingly ‘safe’ extension deployed in V1 has the ability to become rogue in V2 if not checked and macros within the Office suite can run havoc if enabled. Some enterprise SoE’s have hundreds of applications, extensions and macros that need to be continually tested to avoid this.

    Modern mobile OS's use App Sandboxing with top down access

    Modern mobile OS’s use App Sandboxing with top down access

    The modern mobile operating system however works on a completely new premise of sandboxing all applications and restricting extensions via closed app stores and limited permission sets. I call this top down access. Any application can request access to another application via published API’s with user permission prompts. ie: I would like application A to access my contacts or pictures as two common examples that you have probably seen on your smartphone or tablet on first run of a newly installed app.

    Even when permission is granted the access is still over the top rather than along the bottom so nefarious additional behaviour without your knowledge is very unlikely. No app can see another app nor get root level access to it is the basic premised of a modern mobile OS. This walled garden approach offers a much higher level of security while also offering application freedom for the user in the modern world. So with RT deployed and managed via MDM there is very little risk of users getting themselves in much trouble, no concerns about too many toolbars ‘appearing’ in Internet Explorer (IE) or dangerous apps with known vulnerabilities being installed. Microsoft have taken this message to heart right down to Office RT being limited in what it can do. Macros in Excel and Word are probably the 2 biggest issues that may arise if you were to deploy RT and your company relies heavily on them as they are severely restricted in Office RT.

    As part of the RT 8.1 update VPN support is now available.  A year or so ago I would have said this is a must for a mobile OS however with the move to Office 365 and other cloud services MSC has now largely retired our reliance on a VPN for sales staff as a sign of the changing mobile times.

    So what happened throughout this experiment?

    • Creating proposals – We use Microsoft Word like most of the business world. We have some tables and lookups where we can put a prospect or customers name into 1 field and have it populate throughout the document. Word RT met the challenge.
    • We need to PDF documents. Word RT offers the print to PDF feature so another tick in the box.
    • Most of our reports in Excel contained drop list filters and Excel RT didn’t miss a beat.
    • With IE as the browser for access to our tablet optimised instance of ServiceNow for CRM service and support, RT was successful on all fronts.
    • GoToMeeting for our weekly sales call. There’s an app for that. Tick.
    • So what about the gorilla in the room, email. With RT 8.1 the email client was upgraded from what could be best described as a ‘consumer email’ client to Outlook RT rather so another great big (perhaps the biggest) tick of them all.
    • Using OneNote for taking notes in meetings when in pure tablet mode worked flawlessly although there are many other note taking apps in the Windows store if that floats your boat.
    • Taking a screenshot. (Something I seem to do most days for one reason or another). Tick

    Attaching a bluetooth mouse and keyboard along with a external screen was simple and highlighted the flexible nature of this device when docked into ‘desktop mode’. This is something an iPad simply cannot do.

    The setup.  Outlook 8.1 RT running on small screen and connected to 24” monitor up scaling resolution to 1920 x 1080.  Editing a Word document and browsing the internet.  Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (no dongle required.)

    The setup.

    Outlook 8.1 RT running on small screen and connected to 24” monitor up scaling resolution to 1920 x 1080.  Editing a Word document and browsing the internet.  Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (no dongle required.)

    We found all 3 use cases were required most weeks.

    1. Plugging the tablet into the supplied keyboard offered a suitable ultra-book solution for any sales guy with a whopping 17 hours of battery life to support a real full work day mobile experience.
    2. Tablet only mode matched our personal needs for social feeds like facebook and twitter along with effective consumption while on the go and meeting note taking.
    3. Full desktop mode when more screen real estate was required.

    So is RT now ready for the enterprise? The answer almost certainly lies in your company’s mobile strategy. As we did at MSC, if you can take a segment of your workforce and offer them a mobile operating system over a desktop operating system you can expect your management costs to be significantly reduced. Understanding what your users need and then deploying the most appropriate mobile OS from there is almost certainly the best first step. Will you be able to remove your entire desktop OS fleet? Most certainly not. Will you be able to reduce your desktop fleet is the question you should be asking your business.

    If a $500-$800 ultra-mobile device that works as a tablet, ultrabook and desktop, with management costs representative of the mobile device rather than a desktop sounds like it is something you’re your organisation could benefit from, then talk to MSC Mobility about developing your mobile strategy to transform your organisation today.

    MSC Mobility consulting helps enterprise and government customers navigate this mobile transformation so you can make the right decision the first time.

    Have you deployed windows RT? We would love to hear about your experiences.

     
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  • Is the iPad the best thing for Microsoft & what does it mean for enterprise IT?

    Below is an article I just wrote for my current employer MSC Mobility.

    Last week finally saw the arrival of Microsoft Office on the iPad. Big deal? Yes a very big deal.

    The last few years have seen many Office competitors born, acquired and some go on to become very successful. Documents To Go by Dataviz was the name that started it all in mobile office editors and was so popular on BlackBerry that RIM acquired Dataviz in 2010. At that stage Docs To Go was also one of the leading iPad Office editing offerings on the market which made this acquisition an interesting one as RIM was searching for an answer to consumerisation. Not to be left out Google acquired QuickOffice in 2012 with the aim of making the online Google Apps suite of products connect with mobile devices more natively. Citrix acquired Byte Squared (Makers of Office2 ) in 2013 to integrate with their ShareFile product to offer secure mobile editing end to end, and throughout all of this Polaris Office had been shipping on Samsung devices since 2011. Apple decided to get serious in 2013 offering free Pages, Keynote and Numbers with any new iPad or iPhone purchase.

     

    So is there a market for Office editing on iPad? Absolutely yes. Has anyone taken the lead position? Absolutely not.

     

    Unfortunately no product to date has been able to format (render) an Office document correctly 100% of the time. On countless occasions I have seen many weird and wonderful wonky representations of Excel charts, PowerPoint presentations and Word documents. Just recently I opened MSC’s monthly numbers that were emailed to me on an Android Tablet with the latest version of Polaris Office and was so convinced that the sender had sent the wrong sheet out I asked them to re check it and send again. Polaris Office had completely transposed the numbers and the chart was trending down not up. Imagine a board meeting with company projections heading in the wrong direction because the software screwed it up. Disastrous. Due this this ongoing inadequacy we have seen ‘rendering offerings’ come to the market. Two worthy of calling out are SlideShark which renders PowerPoint perfectly in iPad or iPhone via some sneaky magic on the server and NetApp Connect (formally ionGrid Stratos) which renders all of the Microsoft Office suite perfectly on an iPad. Once again this is via some server side coding to make up for the poor job done by native iPad formatting. The 3rd alternative is to use a remote access service such as, Citrix or CloudOn as 2 examples. These fix the formatting issues but come with a raft of their own issues around usability such as right click options and performance over the WAN.

     

    So with Microsoft finally turning up for the game on iPad are all of these now B or C grade at best? Will you still be happy with that table of contents that is all out of whack, an image that is in the wrong spot or Excel chart that you are just not sure is correct? Would you still buy a 3rd party app knowing that Microsoft Office is available for free for viewing only?

     

    My hat goes off to Microsoft for their execution of version 1 of Office on iPad. A great easy to use client that focuses on the core needs of a mobile user and that will continue to get better over time. Most importantly pixel perfect formatting of the entire Office suite. No more doubting the software.

     

    It is however the backend that I am more interested in which seems a bit strange given the points raised. As we saw with the iPad coming in from the top of the enterprise down will this move by Microsoft spur the largest and fastest take-up of a new version of Office in the enterprise in history? I think it will.

     

    e-mail archivierung in office 365.jpg

    I am picturing C level execs in a board meeting comparing notes on their iPads and observing an exec with iPad Office and more importantly Office 365 to support the editing of documents showing the other C level execs how ‘cool it is’. In other words the leaders of the enterprise selling to other leaders. The consumerisation of IT at its best. These executives will undoubtedly go back to their organisations and ask, ‘When are we moving to Office 365. I want it.’ Just like they did in the early days of what I called the ‘iFad era’ where we saw PA’s of executives from government and enterprise lining up to purchase the latest iPad on launch day, just because.

     

    So back to the title of this article, ‘Is the iPad the best thing for Microsoft’. Absolutely it is. I believe we will look back on 2014 and attribute Office arriving on the iPad as being one of the major compelling reasons that Office 365 became the fastest adopted Office upgrade by the enterprise in history and as such lead the transition of Microsoft from a legacy software licencing vendor to a major cloud, services and subscription player. With a new leader at the helm of Microsoft, this is a win for Apple, and a win for Microsoft a win for iPad users everywhere.

     

    Go to www.appstore.com/microsoftoffice from your iPad to test it out for yourself.


    … AND JUST 10 DAYS LATER.

    Wow my predictions don’t usually come true this fast but here it is http://mdm.sc/1qjQFiO The Queensland Government looks like they are the 1st state government to jump on the Office 365 bandwagon.  Who will be next?

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  • Mobile Market Attraction

    Below is an article I just wrote for my current employer MSC Mobility.

     

    Watching the mobile market for many years now it is interesting to see the wholesale changes that have happened like BYOD consumerisation and adoption vs the mainstays of where the true ROI lays. (Field service automation etc). The IT world has a habit of coming up with new names for the same thing. Cloud = Mainframe…

    So to get above the weeds in your MDM selection we have started to see attraction becoming more and more important. In my opinion I see 3 layers of attraction:

    1. The Consumer.

    The devices you choose to deploy must have consumer market attraction to be successful. Blackberry, Symbian or Win Mo are 3 examples of platforms that now have no market attraction. Deploying these would be the same as telling your employees they need to wear cardigans with leather patches on the elbows as their uniform or insisting that CRT monitors are going to make a comeback. The device, simply put, must be attractive.

    CRT Monitor.png

    2.  The Platform.

    The MDM platform you choose must also be attractive to the device manufacturer. The likes of Citrix, MobileIron or AirWatch are very attractive to Samsung and Apple because of their amazing market penetration (1000’s of customer each). The attraction leads to deep partnering to ensure they are on the inside of what is coming next like per app VPN from Apple’s latest iOS release or Samsung’s Knox program for added security.  Should you pick a non-attractive MDM vendor with little market share such as Silverback MDM, Amtel or Excitor – who all failed to make it into the Gartner magic quadrant at all this year – you may well be left on the side-line wondering what went wrong when everyone else offers support for something new like Knox.

    3.  The Ecosystem. 

    The wider eco system is probably the most significant aspect of enterprise attraction. In recent times it can be argued that Apple has fallen behind the cool curve and that their current phone is too small. It is however their enormous market attraction and eco system that still provides the necessary attraction to keep them on top of the hill. From car integration to docks and of course the amazing App Store. In enterprise terms you should be looking for the equivalent. Is the MDMattractive to your current firewall provider, mail platform, certificate provider, Document ManagementSystem, Web Filtering Gateway and so on.  AirWatchMobileIron and Citrix have all launched extensive app partner programs ranging from app connect to Mobile Application Management. Their solutions are designed to ensure you can go above and beyond email on a mobile phone and hence their broad market penetration.

    Some in the technology office still hold to the mantra ‘we can tell the users what they can have’ however in a consumer driven world attractiveness is a major determinant. Perhaps more enterprise friendly products will gain greater traction combining wow-factor with enterprise needs… or perhaps IT will simply have to give users what they want.

     
  • iPhone 5 – what I like about it

    As you would expect I grabbed an iPhone 5 on launch day so I have now had it for the best part of a week and here is what I have found.

    Bigger Screen

    The extra screen realestate is excellent.  Noticably you do feel you need to stretch to get the top or bottom corner of the screen with your thumb.  I would agree that anything bigger than this would become a 2 hand task.  I have really noticed the extra length when the keyboard is active.  ie: composing an new email you now have a lot more email context once you take out the header and keyboard space requirement.   (Can’t wait for a lot more apps to update to make use of this extra space)  The other noticable difference is watching youtube videos in full wide screen.  they just look great.

    Faster

    The speed.  Telstra have done a great job with 4G and I was pleasantly surprised to see full 4G coverage while out to dinner in Sunshine Beach last night.  Even on 3G the speed bump is noticeable due to the dual channel HSDPA.

    Weight

    I managed to get out for my first Run with my iPhone 5 on my arm (1/2 stuffed into an iPhone 4 armband)  Reducing the weight by 20% is very noficable.  The headphones are OK but nothing revolutionary.

     

    Everything else is just an incremental software update that you get with iOS 6.  I did however notice that Siri is significantly faster which could be due to a better software release or also to do with the faster A6 process combined with 4G connectivity.

     

    The new lightening connector is nice and I think will work much better than the older 30 pin connector over time.  For now the biggest pain is no 3rd party connectors to covert it to 30 pin so I can listen to my podcasts in the car on the way to work.  I have been using my headphones… which sucks.  There are a lot of them on eBay right now but none that are shipping.  I think we will just have to wait a couple of weeks as there is no way I will be forking out $35 to apple for one.

     

    All in all it is as you would expect a 5 star device.

     

     
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  • iPad and iPhone mirroring on PC not mac.

     

     

    AirServer – The saviour at last.

    As someone who constantly needs to show iOS apps to prospects I run into times where I need to do it remotley.  Up until this app I have had to show my ipad or iphone via video (webcam or similar) showing the screen or jailbreaking the device to run 3rd party apps that can show the screen.  Neither of these have been ideal.

    Alas no longer is this the case.  I can now show my iPad and iPhone srceen remotely via webex (we use Join.me) and most importantly for me on a PC not on a Mac.  The best bit… it just works great.

    Thank-you very much AirServer Team.

    Get a free copy and try it out for yourself.

    http://www.airserverapp.com/en/Download/Referrer/60398

     

     
  • what will your next device look like

     

    It’s always quite interesting to look at the changes that have occurred all rolled up together.  Amazing how far we have come in such a short time and where we will end up in a few years more.

    I cant wait for the next generation of apps that support multicore processing to kick in.  This + fast networks like 4G and beyond will change the game yet again.

    Enjoy.

     

    Symphony Teleca gathered up various data points and technologies in this infographic that helps explain what features to expect.

     
  • Nexus for iPad Demo

    Well I have my 15 mins (or really 5 mins and 7 seconds) of fame on http://iongrid.com/content/resources

    I really like the Nexus for iPad product and think it has a big future ahead of it.  The best is yet to come.

     
  • Siri vs Watson – a modern day battle of the sexes

    Watson vs Siri – A natural language showdown.  The ultimate battle of the sexes

    Having now had some time to use and digest the capabilities of Apples integration of Siri into it’s new iPhone 4S and previously having understood the capabilities of Watson from IBM I thought it was timely to look as what is becoming the new battlefield of voice recognition.

    Mobile voice recognition has been around for a long time.  I recall using it back on Windows Mobile 5 many years ago now.  Some implementations required you to record the voice tag to the contact and then it simply matched the tag and applied the action.  Soon after the need for the voice tag was removed and the software looked up the contact or activity via speech to text translation.  This type of voice interaction (ie: Call Randall, open email etc.) is basically dumb voice matching and should not be compared to a natural language engine like Siri or Watson.

    What is natural language

    The first place to start is to watch this video of IBM’s Watson in action.

    Quite amazing right?  Less than a year after Watsons public debut he now has his first job.   The first Watson deployment will be with WellPoint nurses who manage complex patient cases and review treatment requests from medical providers.   Imagine Watson listening in the background in every doctors consultation room throughout the world.  I feel a bit weezy, and crook (Aussie slang for sick) or I feel tight and gunky in the chest.  Watson needs to work out what the person is actually saying and learn from it.  What is the context of weezy, what does crook mean and how does gunky relate to chest and tight?  Simple for us mere humans but a real challenge for a computer and some software to actually ‘understand’.

    So lets leap forward 10 years.  Watson is sitting in the corner and listening to 1000’s of conversations and doctors diagnosis of those conversations.  After the doctor diagnoses your condition he turns to Watson and says.  Watson do you agree?  He reply’s with based on the information provided I estimate with 89% accuracy that you are correct.   Rolling up all the info outbreaks of disease could be isolated and contained faster than ever.  This really is ground breaking technology.

    Coming out swinging from the other corner is Apple’s Siri.  With its consumer focused deployment on millions of iPhones it is basically the opposite approach to IBM’s Watson.  Siri in a lot of ways is similar in architecture in that it sends all voice commands back to the mother ship for diagnosis and translation and then delivers the result back to the phone.  So with millions and millions of requests coming in each day can Siri learn faster that Watson?  Will it become the platform of choice?  Will consumerisation win the war.  Sell to the consumer and let them take it to work then let the enterprise work out how to support it vs Sell it to the enterprise approach of IBM.  Apples approach certainly seems to be working for them at present with iOS penetration into the enterprise at an all time high.  Can they caplitalise on this and sell server software with Siri to enterprise customers or will they keep the secret sauce to themselves to sell more Apple devices?

    Interesting times ahead.

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  • Going Social with f commerce

    Thought it was time to take the facebook plunge and put up a social shop to see if I can sell some more ski tuning tools   Have a look at page  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ski-Snowboard-Tuning-Tools/172419312847414  and let me know what you think.

    The big question is… is facebook ready for commerce.  Some are calling if ‘F Commerce’ rather than e-commerce.  Time will tell.

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  • Walking on water

    I am going to be all over this, this summer.  Stay tuned.  Be sure to watch the whole thing.

     
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