InsideMicrosoft part of the Blog News Channel Mon, 06 May 2013 22:14:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dell’s Plan for the Consumerization of IT Mon, 29 Apr 2013 22:21:21 +0000 Nathan Weinberg 2.1.tabletsmeanbusinessThanks to trends like Bring Your Own Device, previously closed business computing environment are being broken wide open with multiple forms of devices running very different operating systems, all bringing new challenges for IT. As part of our series, in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®, I took a look at what Dell is offering as it’s analysis of these trends, and plans for helping businesses deal with and thrive under the new environment.

In a 15 page paper on the subject, Dell outlines what it sees as “Five Trends Shaping the
Future of Enterprise Mobility”. The look towards social networks, already a dominant force in employees’ personal lives, as changing behaviors in the office, forcing a part of this consumerization. On Facebook, people expect to know what everyone is up to at any time, and easily keep track of several hundred relationships with minimal effort. There’s every reason to believe that as people get used to this behavior with their friends, they will expect to be able to maintain intercompany communications with the same ease, speed and flexibility, something traditional computing just hasn’t been good for.

Another trend influencing the bigger picture is the rise of flexible working arrangements and environments. Companies are getting smarter and realizing that an employee that can work anywhere and anytime is an employee that can work better. Employees need to be able to get things done every hour of the day and in every corner of the earth, meaning they don’t want to be tethered to their desktop PCs, and their managers shouldn’t want that either. If your workers are willing to take a tablet to lunch and get work done while eating a sandwich or during a vacation or medical leave or while watching the kids, there’s no smart reason to stand in their way, and in fact companies need to do more to make it easier for employees to do so.

The rise in powerful mobile devices is changing how we handle everything and is certainly changing our working habits. In a perfect example, one of my fellow managers gave birth this past week, having a wonderful baby boy at 2 AM. Five hours later, she was emailing her team instructions on how to handle some minor tasks from her hospital bed, before the team was even in the office! Hopefully, she eventually had some rest.

The point is that employees are already tethered to their mobile devices and enjoy using them for everything. The more they can work on them, the better for them, the company, and the people who rely on them. Mobile device growth continues unabated both in terms of the number of smart devices and their capabilities. On my latest phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note II, even if I’m just watching a movie on it, I can also answer my email at the same time in a split-screen mode, bringing a very obvious form of work-play balance in a neat 5.5 inch package.

Employees who can and want to take advantage of these options are often your hardest and most capable workers, and the most important goal of IT should always be to enable the company’s stars to be exactly that. Evolving business models require companies to be able work innovatively, so a company that doesn’t embrace these trends may very likely fall behind one that does. And lastly, employees expect their company to give them the options they need to succeed. Every time I interview a prospective hire, and hear about the frustration they had trying to work in their company’s antiquated IT environment, I know that’s a company failing on all of these counts.

So, what recommendations does Dell offer to companies that agree that they need to move forward and embrace the consumerization of IT? There are nine, which I’ll summarize here:

  1. Articulate a clear technology philosophy and set a consumerization strategy that follows that philosophy.
  2. Tight-fisted security and anti-social media policies often have the opposite effect, driving employees to circumvent security controls and socialize unprofessionally. Better to work with them than against them.
  3. Stop preventing employees from using their own devices, starting by encouraging them to use their smartphones for work. Smartphones are the fastest growing category, and the first place you should direct your efforts.
  4. Supply employees with tools and apps designed to make it easier to get work done on their devices.
  5. Try out giving field workers and executives tablets and seeing if it works well and replaces existing devices. Encourage other employees to bring their personal tablets.
  6. Develop clear philosophies on cost sharing of such device initiatives with employees, and pay close attention to when the business case can and cannot be met for paying for such devices.
  7. Invest in desktop virtualization where appropriate, since it allows all those disparate devices to conform when needed, and provides many advantages.
  8. Don’t lose sight of software licensing restrictions. If your employees use software with harsh restrictions, each additional device could require you to re-purchase software, adding significant costs.
  9. Don’t use end user stipends.

I found this last point to be of particular interest. The paper points out that end users aren’t particularly good at picking devices, especially since they value mobility over business capabilities. Stipends also allow for an infinite number of user-chosen configurations and support headaches.

I agree, and propose an alternative: More limited stipends. Rather than not implementing such a program, IT needs to come up with a device category right for the company, or for different types of employees. I see in our firm the proliferation of iPads, which have proven generally worthless for our particular business needs. In a company like ours, where powerful software and complex productivity are key, it would make sense to offer stipends on Windows tablets only. As a manager, I’d want my people on something like Dell’s Latitude 10 Tablet, featuring the Intel® Atom™ Z2760 processor, which does all of the fun things an entertainment or media tablet like the iPad can do, but also does the job when real work needs to get done. In another company, where simpler needs make more sense for consumer IT devices, I might encourage an iPad-only stipend, thus cutting down on IT support costs. Every company needs the right strategy here.

I encourage you to read the paper, and share your own conclusions. I think Dell has made some excellent ones and provides any IT and corporate decision makers with a great starting point towards making these important decisions.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®.

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A Look at Dell Wyse’ Cloud Computing Solutions Featuring Intel® Technology Mon, 29 Apr 2013 22:19:53 +0000 Nathan Weinberg I’ve long used Wyse PocketCloud, a great (free) app for remote access to your Windows or Mac PC from Android and iOS devices, to get work done with nothing but my tablet. It’s the best designed app I’ve seen for tablet remote access, with a downright innovative control scheme and better performance than other solutions I’ve tried. It’s my go-to solution for simple remote access, and when setting up employees in our organization, I always encourage them to use it.

What I didn’t know until being asked to learn more about it for our ongoing series (in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®), is that Wyse produces a lot more than PocketCloud. Wyse has all of these more advance cloud client computing solutions featuring Intel® technology that go beyond the simple get-to-your-remote-PC app that I knew about.

Wyse makes hardware, in fact, the kind of thin clients that can in many cases replace the kind of standard PCs companies like mine usually stock. Many are small boxes, the size of (and looking a lot like) your router, except that it provides access to a fully featured and powerful PC environment via the cloud without the power and hardware challenges of actual PC hardware. That tiny box has connections for four USB ports, two monitors, audio, and other peripherals, while drawing 7 watts of power and using practically no space at all, changing how you look at the desktop PC.

In the IT environment I deal with every day, I can see the very real advantage devices like this can bring. With thin client access to desktops, besides saving space and energy, you wind up with systems that can be more easily administered and managed in one place, while being accessed from any place. An employee can utilize the same environment from any desk in the office, as well as the desk at home, on the road or other means creating opportunities through flexibility. Also, for some employees doing more complex tasks, where you can never have enough computing power, the cloud servers deliver a lot more capabilities, and simpler means to increasing those capabilities than trying to add power to individual desktop PCs.

Wyse also offers thin client laptops, and even a netbook that can get up to 8 hours of battery life while accessing the same full-power system environment. This gives you the same portability and battery life of much maligned and underpowered netbooks without the drawbacks of their slow processors and limited ability to do pretty much anything. Also interesting, from a security perspective, is that since the system is all in the cloud, corporate data is extremely safe since none of it is on the machine.

With so many end users switching from laptops and desktops to tablets at home, it makes sense to offer more flexible cloud client options as an alternative to the desktop PC. Dell has only owned Wyse since last year, but I can imagine it would be a good idea for them to offer these same corporate solutions as a means for families and students to get full-powered PCs as needed, pulling their power from the cloud. Given time, Dell can apply what they know about designing good hardware and mobile PCs to Wyse’s already well-working designs, and put together a solution good not just for the office but the post-PC world at home.

Right now though, the focus is on businesses. Businesses that invest in such cloud client solutions can find it makes managing and securing those systems easier for IT, more reliable and simpler for employees, and downright cheaper when implemented in a way that’s right for every business.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®.

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How Modern Software Improves Modern Hardware Mon, 29 Apr 2013 22:18:50 +0000 Nathan Weinberg Since dual core and 64-bit processors started going mainstream, computer users have had more power than they know what to do with. In fact, they’ve had more power than their software knows what to do with. To truly take advantage of major advances in modern processors, modern software is required, all of which makes the upgrade cycle much more interesting.

Previously, software and hardware advances were less interrelated, and an advance in one did not advance or require as much the other. Sure, you might need a faster processor to run a faster version of Windows, or a new game to push that new graphics card to the limit, but these were questions of pure speed, not capabilities. It’s analogous to the difference between a faster car and a self-driving car. A faster car runs faster everywhere, but a self driving car is just a regular car until you have roads that allow and support the use of cars that can drive themselves.

The speed race in processors and other pieces of hardware ended years ago. If it hadn’t, Intel® would be releasing a 15 gigahertz Pentium 4 by now. Instead, you can buy an off-the-shelf PC today that runs at the same basic speed a PC released in 2002 could have. The newer PC smokes the old one because while both processors might be running at 2.2 GHz, the modern one isn’t one processor, it’s many. A 64-bit processor can run instructions 4 billion times as large as a 32-bit one. A dual core processor is almost like having 2 processors, and a quad core is twice that. Add in multi-threading, and you have a maching that for all practical purposes might as well have 4 or 8 2.2 GHz processors.

None of this means anything without the right software. Install an old version of Windows on the newest, fastest Dell with a 64-bit quad- or six-core chip, and you might get nothing more than the power of a single logical processor, not the 8-12 logical processors you paid for and would have gotten with a more up-to-date release. As a result, upgrading your software will often upgrade the hardware because the powerful hardware you bought years ago pre-dated the advancements in software required to take advantage of it.

Since we are in the midst of a series examining different modern IT issues, it’s useful to point out that it used to be that aging software in a corporate environment was the norm, but that trend has strong reasons to change. Older hardware is better capable of running modern software than at any time in the past. Windows 8′s system requirements are “If you could run Windows 7, you can run Windows 8 faster”. “If you could run Windows Vista, you can run Windows 7 faster”. Efficient operating system design by Microsoft means that a PC from 2006 could run Windows 8 in 2013, some without any upgrades. Business computers are in fact the most likely to have been more powerful than average when purchased seven years ago, and more likely to have survived until now, to be able to make the move to the new OS.

The fact is that while everyone knows that newer hardware is faster than older hardware, many software developers have been doing such a great job writing apps that, with each upgrade, run faster than the previous version. Sometimes it’s a new feature that makes use of the software more productive, but more often these days it’s better written code and better use of modern hardware and software capabilities that makes that newer software so much more awesome.

We’ve had amazingly fast computer hardware for a decade at this point. 2013 hardware is faster than 2003 hardware, but 2013 software can run faster on 2003 hardware than 2003 software ever could and draw less electricity while doing it. We’ve had dual core processors for years, but modern software knows what to do with it. We’ve had 64-bit processors since the 90s on desktop PCs (and the 70s in other cases), but if you aren’t running a very up-to-date version of your favorite software, it isn’t taking advantage of it. In fact, until a couple of years ago, it was common for systems with 64-bit processors to ship with the 32-bit version of the OS installed for compatibility reasons. Thankfully, that trend is almost dead.

Businesses have more reasons to perform upgrades, since they can then do more with the hardware they already have. Windows 8, or the latest Office or Photoshop can put both cores on your CPU to work (or all four cores or more, as it were). They can serve up 64-bit instructions to that CPU many times faster than a 32-bit one would have been. A new OS, in turn, adds APIs and features to your computer, while new software takes advantage of those additions so that they, too, can run faster. All of which is why it once you put a price on productivity, it can often be more expensive to keep the older, slower version of critical business software than absorbing the cost of the next version.

It’s extremely likely that whatever machine you are using right now, the software you are running isn’t taking full advantage of its capabilities, and in some instances, the software needed to take advantage does exist yet. For this reason, it’s important to look at PC hardware as an investment that can grow over time. By picking a processor with features that haven’t been fully utilized yet, you are picking a computer that will only get better with age, like a fine wine.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®.

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IT’s Challenges in An Evolving Mobile Device Landscape Tue, 09 Apr 2013 02:16:50 +0000 Nathan Weinberg Ten years ago, managing IT in a company was simple. Okay, to be fair, it was incredibly complex, with enormous tasks facing system administrators, who had to configure complex computer systems, often with out of date hardware, major security concerns, and inadequate tools. IT has never had it easy, but there are very different challenges today, and one of the biggest questions modern IT departments now face is how to manage the myriad devices users bring into the corporate environment.

A lot of the more complex traditional challenges of IT, including corporate servers and security, have been greatly simplified by evolving and more powerful tools and cloud solutions, and that outdated hardware we all knew and loved has mostly been replaced by cheaper and more than adequate PCs. Since nature abhors letting anything become too easy, the void left by those challenges has been filled by smartphones, tablets, and whatever other strange devices users decide to plug into the company network.

It used to be that IT could declare mastery of at least the hardware on every desk. Every PC could be similar, every access point could be locked down, and if you wanted email, you might be lucky enough to get a Blackberry. The huge evolutionary leap forward taken by smartphones (and the lack of participation by the old standard Blackberry in those innovations) meant that a huge percentage of users now have devices in their pockets that rival those on their desks, and are upgraded every 18 months. While certainly some organizations are still fighting that development, forward thinking ones know they can take advantage of all that power, if they can meet those challenges head on. Plus, who wants to tell the CEO he can’t use his shiny new iPhone?

With smartphones breaking down the device firewall, other dominoes have fallen. Laptops outsell desktops now, with tablets pacing to outsell laptops in the near future. Wifi networks are ubiquitous at modern offices, making it easier to bring those home devices to work and get some more productive use out of them (or play Angry Birds during lunch). This means employees can be more efficient, taking their entire corporate server to meetings, to lunch, to offsite events, and not be tethered to a desk, leading to more productive meetings, more active and mobile workforces, and more possibilities for where and how work gets done.

While all of this may sound like a bright future, and for the average employee, it is. The average IT department, however, faces new questions every day on how to support the transition from a secure device monoculture to an omni-diverse free-for-all, where not only can employees have many different devices, but any employee can walk in with some new and odd device and demand it work with their usual workflow. In this four part series, we will examine some of these challenges, and with the help of some suggested solutions from our sponsors, IDG, Dell and Intel®, show how modern IT departments are and will continue to handle these challenges and allow users to take advantage of this new world.

Up until the iPhone came around, many organizations wouldn’t let employees use their own devices, period. A secure device, one that could be wiped remotely by a security protocol, was as far as many organizations would go towards allowing external access to internal resources. When President Obama became the first sitting President of the United States to carry a smartphone and use mobile email, it raised the sorts of questions IT departments have been wrestling with for years, albeit on a larger playing field. What device would he use? How secure would it have to be? What features would need to be disabled?

Every company has different levels of security and accessibility to deal with, but the overall issues are the same. Far more than in the past, companies are now able to take advantage of newer technologies to allow less locked-down access to their employee email and other systems from consumer devices, a trend being called Bring Your Own Device. Most corporate email systems are compatible with all of the popular smartphone platforms, including the security features that allow the peace of mind required to let company emails take up residence on devices that haven’t been purchased by or tightly controlled by an IT manager.

More interestingly, a lot of companies allow employees to go beyond simply using their email and other personal information management systems, and access major portions of their internal systems with a personal device. Depending on where and how a company keeps and manages its data, employees can access internal company networks as easily as if they were sitting at their desk computer in their office, not only from their laptop, but even on a non-PC device like an iPad or smart phone.

Later, I’ll take a look at how virtualization, like Dell’s Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and PocketCloud apps bring the power of a traditional PC to a device as versatile as a simple consumer tablet. I also plan to discuss different scenarios where properly supporting consumer devices in a corporate setting greatly enhance the capabilities of IT, often while reducing the costs of supporting new technologies rather than increasing them. If you have any topics or areas you’d like me to cover, just let me know in the comments.

The next entry in this series will be in about two weeks.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®.

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Software Piracy Meets “Dateline” Fri, 07 Aug 2009 00:30:39 +0000 Nathan Weinberg Dan sent me this video that parodies Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” to deliver a message about software piracy. Take a look:

The link at the end goes to, which is just a redirect to the Business Software Alliance’s page for reporting software piracy.

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How to Install Outlook Connector in Outlook 2010 Wed, 22 Jul 2009 01:23:16 +0000 Nathan Weinberg I had installed Office 2010 last week, and the Outlook Connector installed just fine. When I reformatted and reinstalled Windows 7 over the weekend and then installed Office 2010 and got the same error I’ve been reading about all over the internet. A good number of people are saying they try to install it and get this error message:

You should have Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, 2007 or 2010 installed for the connector.

This was driving me nuts, until I figured it out: Last week, when it worked, I had Outlook 2007 installed, and didn’t after reformatting.

So, I installed a trial of Office 2007, and it worked! Just install Outlook 2007, which you can get here in Office Standard and don’t bother to enter a product key. Create the Hotmail account in Office 2010, it’ll download and install the proper version of Outlook Connector automatically, restart Outlook, and you’re done. Uninstall Outlook 2007 when you’re done.

Thank god I got this to work. It was driving me nuts!

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$10 To Answer This Question Fri, 30 Nov 2007 21:24:32 +0000 Nathan Weinberg I’m completely unable to find an answer (though this Russian forum might have something), so I’ll give ten bucks via PayPal (or whatever) to the first person to give me a working answer to this question:

How do I force an ATI X1550 card to output YPrPb signals on VGA under Windows Vista?

Even if it’s a stupid answer, if it works, I’ll pay you. It’s probably a registry key, or maybe there’s software, or maybe the Russians know something. If I have to buy the ATI HDTV dongle, and you can confirm that for me, I’ll give you five bucks.

Thanks for the assistance.

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Is Windows XP SP3 A Huge Mistake? Fri, 30 Nov 2007 18:12:04 +0000 Nathan Weinberg Microsoft is in the process of testing Service Pack 3 for Windows XP, in preparation for a wide release, and all indications are that it is a significant performance improvement for XP. In fact, the performance of XP under SP3 is so good, that some are saying it makes Windows Vista look like a chump.

It’s already a fact that Windows XP, with a six-year old architecture and tons of patches to stabilize and protect it, is Windows Vista’s number one competitor. XP is relatively stable, carries lower requirements, is compatible with almost everything and is usually already installed on most computers (except brand new ones). The challenge for Microsoft isn’t so much to prove Vista is better than Apple’s Mac OS, but that it is better than XP.

Microsoft until now has been challenging the image of XP in the marketplace, but when SP3 releases, it’ll actually be competing with itself. XP SP3 is an improvement to an already popular operating system, one that puts a direct shot across Vista’s bow, and actually sets up the team that developed SP3 as competition for Windows Vista.

Microsoft’s not stupid. It knows that it is in some ways shooting its own Vista in the foot with SP3, making Vista’s adoption harder against an improved XP point release. It would have been dishonest to its customers to cripple XP SP3 just to help Vista, and you can see how much Microsoft has improved in that it isn’t doing so. An “evil” company certainly would have.

Microsoft is likely counting on two things. Most probably, it will not significantly market SP3 like it did for Service Pack 2 three years ago. Current users will get the improvement, but Microsoft won’t encourage people to buy XP now that it has been improved. Microsoft wants you to get a better XP, but if you don’t have it, they still want you picking up Vista, which is also getting an improved Service Pack 1 release.

Besides that, Microsoft is probably hoping the good will from SP3 will encourage you to keep using Windows. Microsoft is seriously improving an older product at a significant cost to itself, showing commitment to improving its users experience at any cost. Microsoft will remind you that Vista will receive the same commitment, and that Apple charges money for point releases every two years.

Will it work? SP3 is going to cost Microsoft and Vista in the short run, but in the long run it could be a huge help for the company. At the least, if you’re buying XP, you’re still not buying Apple, right?

Photo by doobybrain under CC license

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MSN Video Surges Into Second Place Fri, 30 Nov 2007 16:05:45 +0000 Nathan Weinberg MSN Video is now the second most popular video brand on the internet, following a 25.3% traffic surge in October. MSN jumped to 35 million users, giving it 9% market share, good enough for #2 in an area heavily dominated by Google’s YouTube. Yahoo is half a percentage point behind Google. If Microsoft can sustain big gains for a few more months, they could pull away to become the indisputed top at the “Best of the Rest”.

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iPhone To Get PowerPoint Sync With Mac Office 2008 Fri, 30 Nov 2007 05:41:56 +0000 Nathan Weinberg Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit has announced that Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac OS will allow iPhone and iPod users to sync with PowerPoint. You will be able to run PowerPoint slideshows on your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod Classic and fatty iPod Nano (any iPod with picture support) if you have a Mac with PowerPoint 2008 and iPhoto (2006 or better).

PowerPoint will connect with iPhoto and export your presentation as a series of high resolution photos. Those photos will be saved on your hard drive and synced to your iPhone as photos normally are. Then, you can whip out your iPhone at any time and show slides from your PowerPoint presentation, or you can even plug the iPhone/iPod into a TV or projector to run a version of the presentation, minus the usual animations and transitions.

This via Mary Jo, who mentions that the Exchange sync iPhone users were promised four months has still not arrived, with no word on when or if it is ever coming.

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