SaaS Passes the Sniff Test

When it comes to desert, the proof is in the pudding. When it comes to IT products and services, the proof is in what sells. And right now SaaS is selling.

And if Gartner is to be believed (and this is one of the rare cases where I believe them) SaaS will keep right on selling.

Garter researchers found that 77% of companies surveyed will increase spending on SaaS. That means they like it, they really like it.

SaaS clearly can't perform as well as on-premises, but there is no infrastructure to worry about -- just buy it and go!

Once you're sold on SaaS, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) might make sense. Here your developers just worry about developing -- not servers, operating systems, scaling and the rest. And some PaaS services boast visual development environments that need no coding. Your folks, IT or business people, can define what they need and the software almost builds itself!

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/10/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Windows 8 and Touch

Readers share whether or not they agree with Doug that Windows 8 really does need a touch screen for optimal use:

I don't entirely agree with your assessment of the need for touch screens on the desktop.  I find using a mouse with Windows 8 instead of a touch monitor quite satisfying. 
In fact, I like to use a mouse on my Surface RT better than like the touch screen.  (Maybe that's just me!  I hate fingerprints on the screen.)  I haven't played with Hyper-V yet but the free VMware Player works well with Windows 8.  I did all my testing with Windows 8 CP/RP with the VMware Player.  

(And I don't see any problems that are being reported with Hyper-V.)  Licensing is a problem but I would not use unlicensed code in a production environment anyway so...

I think the absence of ADS with Windows RT is a two-fold strategy for Microsoft.  First, it discourages the enterprise from investing in the Surface instead of going to their favorite Windows OEMs for Windows 8 Pro.  Second, if the enterprise wants Windows RT instead, Microsoft can offer the enterprise a whole new set of management tools for the Surface RT. 
-Marc

Not sure what the fuss is about. I use Windows 8 all the time without a touch screen and have had no problems. I have also installed Windows 8 on new computers for clients who I thought would say no to it -- again no-one has any issues. The new start screen is fine with a mouse and the desktop is just as they know it. In fact people seem to quite enjoy the new start screen and apps.
-John

I totally disagree, Win8 works fine on a desktop/laptop once you learn how the mouse is used. And also knowing some of the main hotkeys does not hurt either. A touch screen would be nice but is not needed, and articles like this give users a misguided view of Win 8. I personally am upgrading my home desktop and my parents desktop, and think that once they get used to it my parents will like Win 8 better than Win 7. Just like any new OS there is always a learning curve and I think that is what most people do not like.
-'80s Rocker

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/07/2012 at 1:19 PM6 comments


Windows Blue To Confuse Market Next Summer?

Windows 8 is one confusing operating system. It has two wildly different interfaces and, for hardware, two vastly divergent approaches with Intel and ARM.

Now Microsoft is going to befuddle us all more next summer if rumors of Windows Blue are to be believed.

This new OS is kind of a cross between Windows RT and Windows Phone. The idea is to have one OS that spans phones and low-end Windows machines, one that supports the Win RT apps store style of software development and distribution.

The bigger goal is to have something that can better compete with iPad and Android. Good luck with all that.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/07/2012 at 1:19 PM7 comments


Windows 8 Not Doing Great

IT is taking a huge wait and see attitude with Windows 8. Most shops are in the midst of Windows 7 adoption, a fairly smooth upgrade from XP for end users. If you can use XP you can use Win 7.

Windows 8, on the other hand, is highly disruptive. And many are struggling to figure out its dual interfaces. You, the Redmond Report reader, either love or hate Win 8.

Consumers are equally troubled. If you are looking for a tablet, the iPad is the gold standard while Android-based devices are cheap. If you are looking for a PC, Windows 8 seems a bit weird.

All this has consumer demand lower than Sylvia Plath. Windows 8 sales are 21 percent lower than the equivalent PC sales last fall.

My guess is that Windows 8 is just an initial foray into tablet-style computing, and the version two or three years from now will smooth its huge wrinkles.

Meanwhile Apple has an opportunity to build a true Win 8 competitor, either a Mac with a tablet UI or an iPad with real productivity possibility, a Surface version of the iPad, so to speak.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/07/2012 at 1:19 PM12 comments


Windows 8 and the Future of Netbooks

Netbooks have long been an impulse buy. Heck, a new one is less than $250. I can barely buy my boys a sushi dinner for that amount.

So far I've resisted the impulse. The keyboards are too small and most of the people I ask say they are flakier than a week-old croissant. And that low price is a tease. If you want to keep them from freezing you need more than the standard 1 GB of RAM.

Part of me was hoping for a fire sale on these puppies when Windows 8 shipped, but that was probably just a pipe dream. I'd sure scoop one for $100 though at this point I have no clue what I'd actually do with it.

The iPad pretty much killed netbooks. Now Windows 8 tablets may be the final bullet. Or will they? There is no certainty that Win 8 will succeed (or at least succeed quickly). Win 8 tablets, I doubt, will come close to less than $250. We may look at the new world of Win 8 tablets and their cost and fall back in love with netbooks.

And what could OEMs do with Win 8 and this form factor? You have a real keyboard and let's say you add touch to the display? Could that be a winner and could the price indeed by less than $250. Hmmm...

Will netbooks go the way of the dodo or can Win 8 breathe new life into them? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

 

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/06/2012 at 1:19 PM2 comments


First Look at the New Outlook

A few months back I heard that Hotmail was being replaced by Outlook. At first blush, I thought the Web mail system was being replaced with something that looked and acted a like an HTML version of the PC client. And who doesn't know how to use that?

Instead, to confuse us all, there are now two Outlooks: the PC client and a Web-based replacement for Hotmail.

Reviewers claimed this new Outlook was a big step up, doing a nice job of flagging messages with photos and attachments and putting these into "quick view" mode. This is handy for a couple reasons. These often carry viruses, spam or shams so they can quickly be deleted. In other cases, they are just what we've been looking for, and want to see right away.

Outlook (not sure what we should call the dang thing to distinguish it from the real Outlook) also integrates with social networking, combining Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Gmail and Yahoo contacts into one monster contact file.

It should also integrate well with your Windows Phones and existing Outlook contact lists.

For a Web client, there was one big problem: It was barely functional on a Mac. It couldn't even attach a file. And when you brought it up on the Mac, there was no option to revert back to the old Hotmail. Not cool.

With the beta I also couldn't forward e-mails with files -- it was hard to find options for  an active preview and it only half worked. And with conversation mode, when you forward on an e-mail, the original message is buried under the forwards. And now I have ads along the right-hand side that can't be moved.

Deleting is awkward and is a mistake waiting to happen. You see, when you highlight messages you delete from the top so you can't see all that you are deleting. Weird.

Am I just an Outlook dufus or is the new Outlook less than stellar? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/06/2012 at 1:19 PM10 comments


Why Didn't Apple Make Surface?

Not too long ago I mentioned how much I'd like to see an iPad that had the full capability of a Mac ("A Mac Tab would be Sweet to Swallow").

It got me wondering, if this iPad-style interface, which is similar to Microsoft's new Windows Store app interface is, is such a brilliant idea, why isn't Apple applying it to the Mac?

Is Microsoft the one to pioneer this idea, even though it is really applying an Apple idea to a Microsoft operating system? We are entering bizarro world.

I didn't quite know what to think so I asked an expert, my 16 year old son Nick who is on his second Mac. He thinks a Mac with an iPad interface would be fine as long as it doesn't interfere with his use of the machine -- if it just adds to the experience: "Touch should be an accessory," he says. "That would be cool."

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/05/2012 at 1:19 PM2 comments


Am I Wrong About Cloud Security?

If you're like me you are frustrated that after years -- in fact, decades -- of fighting hackers and building all manner of security software, we are still way to vulnerable. In fact I don't feel one bit safer.

It's kind of like the arms race -- there are more and more hackers with more and more tools. And it's far too easy for script kiddies to get a hold of malware, make a little tweak and set off on a new attack. And criminal and political (countries and movements) hackers are more organized and better backed. All the security companies can do is to keep up.

I wrote about this recently and made the observation that moving apps and data to the cloud may be safer. A lot of the OS-based vectors such as Windows DLL would presumably be entirely closed.

Wow, did I get slapped upside the head by you, the loyal Redmondmag.com reader. Despite the ringing in my ears, I still think the theory has merit. I've never had any of my data in the cloud or Web apps compromised. Maybe I'm just lucky.

Still, I always think reader reaction to what I say is far more important that one I say. If you agree, you can follow the original point and the pounding that followed here.

Is the cloud more stable? Wow, did I get nailed.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/05/2012 at 1:19 PM7 comments


The Complete Win 8 Rundown

Do you care enough about Windows 8 to read 3,900 words? If so, click here.

If you're just mildly interested, you can read the next  words and get a quick run down of Redmond news editor Kurt Mackie's fine report on Win 8 licensing, client management, security and more.

Most Windows upgrades are great for existing machines and technically any PC that supports Win 7 can run 8. That doesn't mean it should. Win 8 is really all about touch. No touch screen equals no fun. If you have a desktop you'll clearly want a touch-ready monitor.

Licensing for virtual machines is another consideration. Win 8 comes with Hyper-V but if you want to do anything with it you need to buy an extra license to run another instance of Win 8. Hmmm.

There are really two  versions of Windows 8: Windows 8 itself and its close cousin Win RT, which runs on ARM. Win 8 is managed just like Win 7, while Win RT is not Active Directory-friendly and is managed through Intune or even through the Windows Store. Weird but that's the  way Microsoft wants it.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/04/2012 at 1:19 PM7 comments


GFI Moves to the Cloud

GFI has been making a lot of moves of late. It bought Sunbelt, makers of the well-regarded Vipre. And now GFI is moving its anti-malware and monitoring wares to the cloud. GFI Cloud is a straightforward offering that includes Vipre security software and its network server monitoring software.

Redmond magazine asked Brien Posey to review GFI Cloud and he liked what he found.

The first claim Posey tested was the promise that the software can be set and operational in minutes. Posey set up a trial through the Web, signed up through a wizard (which asked for some identifying information and offered a selection of services) and then the download of the management agent began.

The ten-minute claim turned out to be accurate, although each additional machine could take a minute or two.

Bottom line is the software works just like on-premise -- just with a lot less fuss.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/04/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Sinofsky's Departure

Readers share their thoughts and opinions on the Windows Chief's company exit:  

Windows 8 could have been the rave of the world, and still could be if Microsoft put out the service pack that it badly needs.  All of the unhappiness over it could have been made to go away if it wasn't for one thing:  Sinofsky's hubris.  'I know what you want better than you know what you want' might work for Apple (at least while Steve Jobs was alive), but the corporate IT wonks of the world won't put up with that from Microsoft.  I think that the Microsoft board still remembers Vista and it hears the lack of love from IT.

Come on, how hard is it to put in a control panel switch to tell the OS which mode to boot up in:  touch-tablet mode or desktop mode?  Same thing for Aqua.  For gosh sakes, the switch is already there in Win 7.  No Start button?  Get real.  Do they realize how much it will cost us in training?  Touch screens cost real money right now and it will be quite a while before they drop in price enough for me to justify replacing our flat screens.
-Vince

I think the reason Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky was told to hit the road is because his management style is team-focused and Microsoft wants to collaborate across divisions. As Sinofsky reached ever more powerful positions, it became increasingly clear that, while he was brilliant and certainly added some needed artistic panache to Windows, a top executive who embraced competitiveness and divisiveness would be an impediment to the overarching corporate goals.  
-Gary

The best theory that I have heard goes something like this:

Sinofsky's launch of Windows 8 has been a spectacular success but that he has stepped on a lot of toes along the way.  (Yes, even Steve Ballmer's toes.) 

Now that Windows 8 is out, so is Steven Sinofsky and his roughshod cowboy way of doing things.  It is time to mend fences in order to build a spirit of collaboration among disparate units of Microsoft who are used to working in a vacuum. 

Unifying paradigms between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8  (more or less resulting in Windows RT) will require more than just collaboration between Windows units but also among Office groups (separating the Office for Mac group from the Office for Windows group never did make much sense to me).  And, to complete the transition, most other Windows applications will need to have consistent 'metro-style' offerings as well. 

Collaboration will have to be the new mantra.
-Marc

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted on 12/04/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


The SharePoint Decision

The majority of readers of Redmond magazine uses SharePoint and has for some years. But a majority isn't everyone and there are still plenty that haven't made the move (and may never in the future).

For those still in contemplation mode, Don Jones has some things to ponder.

Jones' basic premise is that SharePoint is well worth considering given how it helps bring discipline to document storage, access and sharing.

It's also great for creating forms and managing the data that comes from all these forms being filled out.

Jones is also impressed with how well SharePoint supports business intelligence (BI), especially for SQL Server shops.

On the downside, some shops see SharePoint as a perfect replacement for file servers. But SharePoint isn't a traditional file server, and since it's generally used as an adjunct to SQL Server, it is more expensive. It also has more overhead than the file servers it might replace.

Finally SharePoint isn't shareware and can cost a pretty penny, what with SQL Server licenses and SharePoint Server costs.

Jones' advice? If you don't have SharePoint today, trying it out in a small way in the cloud may be the best way to see what it can do.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/03/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


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