Some of Microsoft's greatest battles aren't being fought in the open, contentious field of constant public opinion and media coverage. If there's one thing Microsoft has always done better than the competition, it's blowing open new areas of opportunity and running with the ball on the sly. Apple and Samsung can keep their tactical flags limited to consumer electronics; Microsoft has far greater potential as a rising star in the cloud arena. The war started with its drive to push email to the cloud with Office 365, and the next leg of battle sits in the helm of Windows Azure and XaaS dominance.
If you're under the impression that we are not yet in the era of massive, prevalent 'big data', you're wildly mistaken. Our data needs are already climbing to astronomical levels, with IBM stating that 90 percent of the data in existence today was created in just the last two years. Not surprisingly, much of these growing data needs are being tossed into virtual environments whether it be on-premise in a VMWare or Hyper-V driven route, or my personal favorite: cloud-hosted virtual machines.
Cloud workspace platform Podio introduced another round of fresh updates on Thursday, bringing exciting new functionality to the quickly evolving SaaS offering. Hot on the heels of a major UI facelift that was released back in late April, the newest refresh brings much requested real-time chat capability with online members of your various workspaces. For my company that uses Podio on a daily basis, these additions are definitely appreciated.
For those unfamiliar with the service, I provided a mostly positive in-depth review back in December of last year. For those who have never given Podio a spin, placing a label on what it "is" definitely takes a little effort since it is almost anything you want it to be. The product fills the gap of online task, project, and customer management that is much cheaper and flexible than any other mainstream CRM offering. It also correctly introduces the aspect of "professional social", something which Yammer forces down your throat -- but Podio makes feel like a natural fit.
It's almost as if some in Congress forget that we've been down this path before. Garbage legislation, now under the moniker of the Marketplace Fairness Act, has been discussed in various guises and masks over the last 20 years or so. Streamlined Sales Tax. Remote Sales Tax. Distant Sales Tax. They've been tried, debated and debunked each time before.
But it's funny how larger than ever state budget deficits perk up the ears of slimy congressmen on the umpteenth attempt at an Internet sales tax. While proponents like J Marra, writing for BetaNews this week, are in favor of this bill, I stand tall against it, without hesitation.
Second in a series. Out of fairness, I follow up my long analysis "The enterprise will never embrace Apple" with some advice for the company. There's room in the enterprise if only Apple made more effect. None of these suggestions is outside the reach of CEO Tim Cook and the core leadership.
Perhaps Apple stays out of the enterprise game because the top brass knows that they have little expertise in the general directions that big business is heading. Their lack of desire (or capability) for true Active Directory integration, for example, is already public knowledge. When it comes to virtualization and the move to virtual desktops, Apple has no public strategy for allowing (or supporting) such an infrastructure on OS X devices, at least first party. To put it plainly, Apple's overall game plan for cozying up to the wants of enterprise is nearly nonexistent.
First in a series. If there is one company that clearly doesn't care about the corporate world, it is Apple. As iOS continues to forge flagship status as Apple's core offering, OS X gets second-class-citizen treatment in every possible way from the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. While the enterprise reluctantly builds out BYOD (bring your own device) initiatives to support usage of Apple devices at the workplace, this is a far stretch from openly embracing iOS or OS X as viable corporate platforms. Apple's presence in the boardroom is due to bottom-up organic acceptance as opposed to top-down purposeful planning.
By even conservative estimates, the enterprise IT market is massive, and growing steadily as the recession continues to recede. IDC recently pinned US corporate IT spending for 2013 at $474 billion, a 6 percent increase over the previous year. And globally, Gartner says that this figure is closer to $2.679 trillion, which represents a 2.5 percent year over year bump. Yet while Apple's sales in phones and tablets continues to stay consistently solid, the company's attitude towards enterprise hasn't changed one bit. For lack of a better description, top Apple executives just "don't care".
Many people considered this company irrelevant and dead years ago. Yet with nearly three million paying Internet service subscribers still, this provider is anything but dried up -- yet. Internet access, among other subscription services, makes up a clear majority of its continuing sales and its greatest chunk of profits as a whole. Subscriber growth peaked off back in 2002, but for this aging Internet heirloom, at this point they will no doubt take what they can get. Who the heck am I referring to?
Don't choke on your coffee, but it's none other than AOL. Namely, their dialup Internet service division. It's hard to believe that in the year 2013 any company has more than a trickle of subscribers left on dial up, but this attests to the sad state of broadband adoption in the United States. Of the estimated 74 percent of Americans who have internet access in their homes (2010 figures), a full 6 percent of those are still on dial-up service. There are a myriad of issues affecting broadband adoption, including things such as lack of access, pricing, reluctance to switch, etc.
Nearly six months ago, I voiced in on the Google Apps vs Office 365 debate and let it be known that (at the time) I fully believed Google Apps was the better platform in many respects. Fast forward to February 27, and Microsoft unveiled why waiting until the second (or third) try on a given product is usually a good bet. In all honesty, I think Microsoft has been on the right track with Office 365 for four to five months now, introducing quality features and fixing stability issues that plagued its reputation in the past.
I'll go so far as to say that the Office 365 ecosystem has been nothing short of respectable lately. My technology consulting company FireLogic steadily has recommended the suite as reliable alternative to Google Apps for some months now, and the results are extremely positive. Heavy Microsoft shops moving away from their legacy on-premise Exchange servers are itching for a new home, and the company seems to have a cloud of its own that is living up to even my stringent expectations.
We all know software vendors have vested interests that sway some of the decisions they make. When I heard that Microsoft was the real driving force behind a sly K-12 school privacy bill making the rounds in Massachusetts, I immediately smelled something rotten. While the public purpose behind the bill aims squarely at protecting student privacy, it's not hard to connect the dots back to Redmond, Wash.
Even though it's easy to see why Microsoft would prop up such a bill (to ease Google Apps' rise in the K-12 educational market), I question the long-term business sense of such dirty grandstanding. Microsoft's Office 365 for Education is already free for students and staff of any qualifying school district (just like Google Apps), and the suite is pretty darn good competition for Google on technical and functional merit alone. So what's the sense in playing dirty just to sign on a few more seats here or there based on misinformation?
If you surveyed the different directions K-12 school districts take in the United States, you'd find nothing less than a hodgepodge of technologies. The mess that was known as "Novell Hell" universally bows down to a diverse array of technologies including Active Directory, campus-wide Wi-Fi, iPads, Chromebooks, and a little bit of everything else in between. While it's reassuring that most districts I'm in discussions with are moving to cloud-based Google Apps or Office 365 for their email, the end-user device side of things is murkier.
I'm not going to call myself an expert in K-12 technology and policy, but seeing that I spent the last four years supporting and training users' technology needs at my former high school district, I've got good experience understanding the issues affecting teachers and students alike. After attending educational tech conferences year after year, the common consensus stands: everyone in education knows where they want to be, but the paths some of them take to get there are muddled with too much idealism and not enough realism.
The competition in the Google Apps backup market is steadily ramping up, with more than a few contenders jumping in lately to have a piece of this newfound need. Just two months ago, I wrote about my (mostly) positive thoughts regarding Apps backup provider Backupify. But in order to do the competition justice, I decided to give the other popular alternative Spanning a run for the money.
Your choices don't stop at Spanning and Backupify, in case you're wondering. Google stepped into the backup arena with its first party Vault solution earlier last year, which takes the crown for being the most integrated option (for apparent reasons.) Some of the junior vendors in this space also include CloudAlly and SysCloudSoft. These two latter providers try to edge out Spanning and Backupify with better pricing, but they are not yet as established so it is tough to judge them on cost comparison alone.
While Betanews isn't usually a place for political discourse, I'm going against the grain on this one. It's because I strongly believe the real answer to solving our serious gun crime problem in America rests in something most readers on this site tend to embrace: technology. More specifically, what we refer to as Big Data. I fully believe we have a data problem, not a gun problem. While the debate at large focuses on reaching the same end goal, the fingers point at the wrong solution.
Big Data, in my opinion, does have a spot in this debate. While Robert Cringely one month ago wrote why he believed just the opposite, I think we have more than enough examples of where Big Data has been helping more than hurting. If you listened solely to the press conferences politicians hold in Washington, you'd almost come to the conclusion that all the guns used in recent crimes pulled their own triggers. There seems to be a steady forgetfulness that nearly every recent mass tragedy was actually perpetrated by individuals with some form of mental illness. But this doesn't stir the headlines the same way gun debates do, so the topic gets swept to the wayside.
Even though Microsoft's lips have been sealed shut on the topic, launch of Office 2013 (and the new Office 365) is imminent. Speculation is fueled by the Office 2013 available on its Home Use Program (HUP) website, something which has customarily preceded most prior Office launches. If the show is about to begin, then all of these preparatory charades are quite the indicator.
Martin Brinkman provided a wonderful in-depth preview on Office 2013 this past summer, and the great majority of what he covered is still valid in the final bits. I've personally been using a MSDN copy of Office 2013 Pro Plus since about late October and am quite pleased with the product. Ever since Microsoft dabbled with x64 capability in Office 2010, in-house developers increased memory and security aspects that 64-bit provides and the result is a smoother, safer Office experience. Microsoft posted a long Technet article on the benefits of x64 Office 2013 this last summer.
There's an excellent debate raging on the front pages of BetaNews for the past few weeks, and it's a topic that I feel quite entrenched in. Seeing as my computer repair business FireLogic deals with customers of all types on a daily basis, I thought I should drop my own two cents in on the subject. Joe Wilcox has argued the death knell for the PC is just about here, while a few others, like Wayne Williams (and myself), dispute the notion with quite the vigor.
I think this topic deserves some definite attention because there seems to be a perception out there that the rise in mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones and the like will completely eradicate the traditional PC. It's a touchy topic for my colleagues in the computer repair industry, and something that is frequently debated on the forums of a website dedicated to "our kind" over at Technibble.com.
While the cloud generally provides for better reliability than on-premise systems, having a solid backup plan is still a universal necessity. Cloud solutions like Google Apps and Office 365 have nearly eliminated the notion of data loss due to technological failure. The systems and processes in place that govern the storage of your important data with players like Google and Microsoft are rock solid. We can fault providers for service downtime any day of the week; but you'll be hard pressed to read about cases where they actually lost your data.
The biggest issue with data loss on cloud platforms lies within the acute problem of human error. We aren't perfect and will likely always be dealing with data loss stemming from incorrect clicks, mistaken deletion, and other similar circumstances. For this very reason, even with its inherent safety nets, the cloud needs a fallback of its own.
The original story was not very newsworthy at face value. An obscure, hard-to-pronounce city in Germany announced that its experiments with one time open source wonder OpenOffice had gone sour and they wanted their Microsoft Office back. Freiburg's city council released a draft resolution recently that covered numerous IT problems, but the one which raised more than a few eyebrows happened to be their frank disappointment with OpenOffice.
Among other things, the resolution had some pointed words about their OpenOffice experiences since 2007: