After spending a number of years working in the educational tech sector, I can safely pinpoint the two camps that make up the meandering discussion about 1:1 computing plans for K-12 education today. On the one side, we have eager innovators who are determined to place a device in each student's hand -- even if that device fulfills nothing more than a checkbox on an administrator's 'five year outlook' plan.
And in contrast, we have the technical neophytes who are well entrenched in their opposition to devices in the classroom. These folks are the ones most likely to be ingrained in the "industrial force-feeding" approach to education, which by most accounts, is falling flat on its face. As the US continues to slide in education, most recently ranked 17th globally, the debate is no longer whether or not we need a wholesale adjustment of how we teach our youngest minds. Much more importantly, the discussion should be laser focused on how we get US education out of its growing rut.
Microsoft slipped one under the radar for everyone who relies on its Azure service for Windows virtual machines. In a move that even took me off guard, Microsoft has reversed a longstanding policy of not allowing any form of RDS (Remote Desktop Services) on Windows Azure.
Previous policies strictly enforced remote desktop access on Azure only for the purposes of "administration and maintenance." As of July 1, this stumbling block for many Azure early adopters is finally gone, with a few caveats which I'll point out shortly.
When Active Directory first hit the enterprise computing scene over a decade ago, the tech pundits dismissed AD as just another Microsoft sideshow. Something that would never see any widescale adoption in the face of NetWare and other heavy hitters in the LDAP arena. Even longtime Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott got it wrong and doubted success. Thirteen years later and organizations small and large live and die by their Active Directory domains.
It's funny, then, that AD is the sole dinosaur running atop on-premise servers at corporations worldwide which supposedly "can't" be moved to the cloud. Microsoft has been busily converting its on-premise products into cloud platforms with relatively good results over the last 3-4 years. While Microsoft surely doesn't want to become a has-been within the physical server arena for organizations hesitant to move to the cloud, it no doubt has been playing two face when it comes to on-prem vs cloud-hosted solutions.
Ever since Edward Snowden leaked what seems to be the mother lode of the decade, the internet has been fervently abuzz with speculation about Prism. The (aptly named) program was setup by the United States NSA (National Security Agency) to work hand in hand with internet giants to cull over mountains of data related to users of numerous services from Facebook to Gmail to Hotmail. Whether or not this information is accurately being used for its intended purpose -- thwarting terror attacks -- is still up for debate. But one thing we do know for sure is not only the type of data being plucked, but more importantly the overarching power this data yields.
It seems the crafty folks at MIT haven't been sitting back and watching this drama unfold. They've gone ahead and launched a representative cloud tool called Immersion that is very accurate in its portrayal of the inner workings of your entire digital life (or at least, the one contained to your Gmail account). National Journal's Brian Fung first covered this astonishing project, and it was since picked up similarly by eWeek.
Perpetual release cycles. Windows 8.1. The unified Windows ecosystem. If there are any key takeaways to remember from Microsoft's cornerstone keynote at the Build 2013 conference, these three items would sum it up quite well. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reminded thousands of developers on stage last week that the company isn't getting left in the dust and it has a solid plan going forward.
While most of the tech world was keenly focused solely on Build 2013 as the gateway to the first official peek at Windows 8.1, Ballmer's keynote had a few other important messages to deliver. The Windows update, formerly known as "Blue", may have stole the show but Microsoft had a grander agenda to piggyback at the developer conference.
If you're an avid SkyDrive or Office 365 user who happens to leverage Office Web Apps, Microsoft let loose information on a round of updates that will be hitting the browser based suite quite "soon" according to an official Office 365 blog video.
The posting was part of Microsoft's informal "Garage Series" set of video-blogs aimed at IT professionals who support Office. I happened to stumble upon this week-old entry and was quite surprised at what Microsoft has in store -- namely, hitting Google Docs where Office Web Apps haven't been able to thus far: rich real time co-authoring and collaboration.
The hype bubble around Windows 8.1 is steadily building this week. Microsoft will supposedly dump a full preview version of 8.1 in ISO format, and the rumored date across the net happens to be June 26. In step, BetaNews readers have been sounding off on Wayne Williams' post asking the big question at hand: Will you be installing Windows 8.1?
Interestingly, just by chance, I found out myself that you don't need to wait until the 8.1 ISO hits the web. Some of the biggest, and most requested, changes are already floating around in the wild -- albeit in a slightly different package than you may expect. Both the new Start Button and the 'Boot to Desktop' option are fully viewable in the latest Windows Server 2012 R2 preview build. You can download a full preview copy for yourself over at TechNet.
Online meetings have been synonymous for nearly the last decade with well known platforms like GoToMeeting and Webex. And rightfully so. Both cloud collaboration suites are fairly mature offerings, with expanded feature sets that replicate (nearly) every aspect of a face to face meeting. As an IT professional by day, I'm frequently involved in client meetings over both platforms and have helped countless others leverage these products for their own businesses.
Yet there are numerous things which irk me about the status quo from these two offerings. The biggest happens to be the substantial cost attached to each. It's hard to believe that two platforms with such maturity have not been able to bring their price levels down considerably with as much engineering and prevalent, cost-effective cloud technology as exists today.
The very notion of telecommuting has been present in the mainstream white-collar workplace now for well over a decade. Yet for one of the worst offenders in padding operating and travel expenses, namely the U.S. Congress, the notion of mentioning telecommuting seems to be downright sinful. One would think that these calls for a "virtual Congress" come from watchdog groups of various political winds. But shockingly enough, one of Congress' very own -- House member Steve Pearce of New Mexico (R) -- is leading the push to bring our legislative branch full circle into the 21st century.
The premise behind the technical, and very much cultural, shift in thinking for how Congress does its business is quite down to earth. "Corporations and government agencies use remote work technology; it’s time that Congress does the same," says Pearce on a landing page for his initiative. "Members of Congress can debate, vote, and carry out their constitutional duties without having to leave the accountability and personal contact of their congressional districts." A wholesale breath of fresh air, I say.
The war for the hearts and minds of potential cloud email users at organizations worldwide is far from over. Both Microsoft and Google are winning small field skirmishes for their respective corners over the past few years. Most recently, Microsoft won huge contracts with the State of Texas and the City of Chicago moving to Office 365's vision for the cloud. Conversely, Google Apps chalked up big converts in the form of CBC Radio Canada and the US National Archives.
UK business technology website Computing.co.uk has published the results of a survey it ran across 160 IT decision makers from organizations of all shapes and sizes. While the survey sheds light on numerous opinions surrounding the major cloud email platforms, its most shocking finding is that a whopping 37 percent of organizations moving to the cloud for email are opting for Office 365 over all the major players. Other cloud vendors included in the survey results were Google Apps, Apple iWork, and QuickOffice.
Merely a half year ago, my thoughts on Office 365 were salty at best. Outages continuously plagued the service. Its treatment of browser-based users who wished to forego desktop versions of Outlook and Office disappointed. And spam filtering was bottom tier, proving to do little in stemming waves of junk mail. In the February 2013 release, Microsoft turned a new page and proved why it's a reliable comeback kid in the cloud.
If you don't believe Microsoft is transorming itself into a company solidly rooted in the cloud, you're clearly missing the writing on the wall. The company's past three years have been nothing short of a cloud-cluster of budding services while simultaneously sun-setting legacy on-premise products. Windows Small Business Server bid its farewell, while runaway hits like Azure sweep the Redmond, Wash. horizon. Yet even as Office 365 for consumers came out to relatively loud fanfare, the main attraction of the Office 365 product line is the business-oriented offerings.
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.