The Future of the PC OEM Market

Microsoft's announcement of new Surface Tablet PCs is a seismic shift in a PC OEM market whose plates have been already shifting as of late. IBM, who created the IBM-compatible PC market (remember that term?) sold out to Lenovo eight years ago. And today we are left with a tiny number of PC and laptop players. If Microsoft muscles out one or two more, it may be a survivable offense.

Now it looks like we are looking at a bifurcated market. Microsoft will play a partial role, which is odd. Then again, Microsoft is known for picking and choosing markets.

The further area of bifurcation is that the server market is left alone. Why on earth would Microsoft get into this side? Then again, you never know.

What would a Microsoft server look like? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/20/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Is the Chromebook Already Dead?

Here are some reader thoughts on the future of Google's Chrome OS-based machines:

I received a free one from Google via the Citrix Synergy event in San Fran. in 2011.  After one year of non-use, it is being given to a dev friend in Canada next month when I meet him in Chicago.  I found a Web site that showed how to wipe the device so all personal info is gone.

To me, the Chromebook makes a good paperweight or doorstop.
-Carl

Our school has invested in 40 Chromebooks, and the teachers using them love them. The students also love them since any work they do on them is available at home on their computers with Google accounts. Also, if apps are downloaded via the Chromebook, those same apps are available at home on Chrome Web browsers.

These computers are light and have no drives. IT loves the ease of set up. We even have teachers setting up printing on their own without a lot of IT intervention. We certainly see some use to them and we're glad to see desktop models now available.

Regarding your advocacy for Windows laptops, we have some of those as well. But they require much more maintenance and IT attention than our Chromebooks. Our Chromebooks are working very well, even better than iPads.
-Davel

I got a free Chromebook in the mail and was elated...until I used it. It is just a browser in a box. I use it occasionally for browsing when I travel because it is light, but I do not use Google docs so it isn't useful for work. It doesn't have a network jack, so it isn't useful for network-related work. I refuse to pay for the 3G account, so unless I have access to a WLAN, it isn't good for much.

The most depressing thing is that there really is no way of opening anything off of a USB drive because the file manager is so convoluted and hard to find. Until I find a Linux distro that I want to try on it, I am using it for a paperweight.

-IT Overlord

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 06/20/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


At the Forefront of Identity Management

The Microsoft Forefront security line just keeps on growing. The newest member is an update to Forefront Identity Manager 2010.

Identity Manager isn't just for Windows, but manages access and passwords for heterogeneous systems. I tried to find out for you what these other systems were by going to the Identity Manager Web site, downloading the data sheet and moseying around. But nowhere could I find mention of a non-Windows computers. I have to assume by heterogeneous they mean Linux, Unix and mainframes.

In any event, R2 lets end users more easily reset passwords, and lets IT create system of role-based access to network resources.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/18/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Microsoft Simplifies VDI Branding

Through acquisition and development, Microsoft has a confusing array of virtualization tools that address PC-style computing. You've got the old-style PC virtualization in which one machine becomes more than one. You have application virtualization that came from the acquisition of Softricity (this used to be called Softgrid but was renamed App-v). And you have server-based thin client computing in all its forms.

There's more but I'll lose you if I go on too long.

OK, one more: RemoteFX was acquired along with Callista Technology by Microsoft. This product lets high-end graphics apps render when delivered on thin clients -- not an easy task to pull off. This is a form of server-based thin clint computing, but a very specific one.

To make all the confusion I laid out earlier go away, at least from a branding standpoint, Microsoft announced RemoteFX is now the new name for some of this stuff, at least the pure VDI tools. This is almost exactly what Microsoft did with its four separate lines of ERP/CRM tools. Instead of fully integrating them, it just lumped them all under one name: Dynamics.

As far as I can tell, there are still a lot of desktop-oriented virt tools that don't fall under the RemoteFX umbrella, so I'll remain a mite confused (but I'm used to that).

Do you use any Microsoft PC, desktop or application virtualization wares? If so, how do you like them? Let us all know by writing dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/18/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Forget the Facebook IPO Debacle, Fix the Interface!

You've all the heard about how the Facebook stock, well, fell on its face. Don't you love it when folks lose money?

Many blame the underwriters. I blame the idiotic new interface. The old interface was great. Mid-stream it changed into something I can only describe as bizarre. And here's the truly weird thing: There are two interfaces. And you can't choose which you'd like to see -- if your friend has the old good one, you are in luck. If they have the new incomprehensible one, have fun.

What am I missing? It must be something because as young as he is, I know Mark Zuckerberg is way smarter than me.

Straighten out this old man at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/15/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Choosy Dads Choose Windows 8

I got a couple e-mails recently from a guy who goes by the name Frugal Dad, who is apparently a dad and frugal. One thing Dad, who I think is actually named Colin, is against is Windows 8 haters. While Colin doesn't use the preview of Win 8, he has seen it, and "the new operating system seems like a bold move for Microsoft. Modeled after today's wildly successful smartphones, Windows 8 could prove to be a real gambit in the PC world," he concludes.

To get the word out, Colin, Dad, er, Frugal has put together a graphic you can post yourself. Hit up his Web site and check it out for yourself!

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/15/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Browser Lockout

Here are some reader reactions to the news that Windows 8 RT can't support rival browsers:

I notice that no one complains that there is no way to install Firefox onto a Chromebook. And Apple not only makes it hard to get a browser into its App Store but has admitted that other browsers won't run as well because of security decisions which only give Safari direct access to the hardware.

This is only an issue because we still remember the antitrust suit from a decade ago.
-Anonymous

Thank you for calling out the fact that the argument for other browsers on a Windows device is solely an argument for the 'traditional' fight -- the argument people are supposed to have choice on a Windows device (which is what the EU and antitrust litigation was all about). However, you also correctly pointed out that on an Apple/iOS device, most users are content with Safari; on Android devices, Chrome. Is this good for the consumer? Maybe. Let's not forget that the consumer did choose to buy the device on which the browser runs.

In the modern day of compliant browsers, have we narrowed the need for replacing our preinstalled browser? On a Windows RT/ARM device, which is more like an Android tablet or Apple iPad, Microsoft is trying to vie for performance -- battery and usability -- which has been the sticking point for a fair amount of complaints. Who's complaining that Android devices don't run other browser, or in your case, that an iPad doesn't run another browser well (if at all)?
-Ryan

This is plain-old-FUD being propagated by Google (Chrome) and Mozilla (Firefox). Nothing changes on the Windows 8 desktop. You can still get any browser you want.

Google even just released a beta of its Chrome browser specifically for Windows 8. It works on the Desktop just as well as the current Windows 7 version and it even has a half-baked Metro interface for this new Windows 8 browser. I say half-baked because it is not available from the Microsoft Store, nor does it follow any Metro programming practices (which was the whole point of Metro in the first place -- a uniform interface so you don't need to hunt for features). In short, you cannot install it without the Windows 8 Desktop as a backdrop.

The point is that Windows-RT is ARM -- not x86. So even though the Windows-RT Desktop looks just like the Windows 8 Desktop, it is NOT the Windows 8 desktop. Legacy code written for the Windows 8 desktop should not be expected to run in the Windows-RT Desktop.

This is really obvious since Microsoft has said outright that you will need to install MS Office '15' under Windows-RT because legacy Office (version 2010 or below) will not run under Windows-RT. (By the way, MS Office 2010 runs perfectly well on the Windows 8 desktop.

Frankly, I think offering Windows-RT with a desktop environment (probably done for file transfer compatibility with Windows 8) causes more confusion than it addresses.

Google and Mozilla will be able to produce whatever browser they want for Windows-RT but, more likely than not, those browsers are going to have to be written for the ARM platform and sold through the MS Store. Apple has the same rules but Google and Mozilla don't seem to care about Apple.
-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 by Doug Barney on 06/15/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Do You Agree Not To Sue?

Readers respond to Microsoft's attempt to block class action lawsuits brought by its software owners:

If I had to guess, these new terms don't really mean much. A good lawyer (which will cost you an arm and a leg) can always get your case in front of a judge but, in most cases, you're just as well off going before Judge Judy. At least then you will get to walk away with a free trip to California and a few hundred bucks for spending money!

Buying anything has always been a case of 'caveat emptor' (buyer beware). But your beef has got to be more than the cost of a software title before you can build a case worth spending your hard-earned money on.

My response to these new terms and conditions? Ho-hum.
-Marc

I'm not sure why anyone would feel the need to join a class action suit against Microsoft based on dissatisfaction with software. Every Microsoft app I'm familiar with either offers a downloadable trial version or can be run for at least 30 days unlicensed. For retail products, if the store won't accept a return, Microsoft will allow you to return the item to them up to 45 days from purchase.

I would much rather get my money back and move on to the next project than to join a class action, wait forever, fill out pages of documentation, then get back a fraction of my investment. As you say, many of these suits are lawyer enrichment schemes, especially when directed at a company that allows you to try before you buy.
-Dave

Hey, guess what, class action suits have a place! They keep big corporations honest! They keep companies honest. Maybe, all the individuals should sue independently and tie up the courts and corporations for years!
-Anonymous

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 06/13/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Win RT Locks Out Browsers?

The browser wars are not as simple for correspondents to cover as they once were. In early browser days Netscape ruled -- it was all there was. Then IE took over. More recently Netscape (which is subsumed by the open source Firefox) has fought back. And now Chrome is also taking a bite out of PC and laptop browser market share. So on PCs and laptops, the market is segmenting into to the big three, with Safari running on most Macs.

Browsers are splintering in more ways than this. I may have mentioned (and yes you'll hear it again and again) that I just got a new iPad. On the iPad, Safari rules (I downloaded Firefox to get my bookmarks but it doesn't seem to render quite as well) as it does on the iPhone. Mobile is a vendor-specific world ruled by vendor's own browsers. Do I really want to run IE on an IE phone or Chrome on a Windows Phone?

So I have to wonder if the notion of Windows RT (Win 8 on ARM) running only IE should really be all that controversial.

Allow me to back up a second and cover a Microsoft spat that has been going on for a bit (and isn't letting up anytime soon):

Google and Mozilla are openly complaining through blogs that Microsoft is using crafty technical tricks to only allow IE to run on Windows RT. That, they say, isn't right.

At first, the complaints were that non-IE browsers wouldn't run as well as IE on RT -- a handicap that would mean market death for competing browsers. Now Google is saying Chrome won't work at all.

Microsoft has been far too quiet, and as a result, I've no idea how this will all turn out.

As a potential end user, I care this more on principle. On a phone I could care less about a choice of browsers. On a tablet that costs more than a low-end laptop and is, in essence, still a computer, I sure do.

Meanwhile, Google is forging ahead with Chrome on Windows 8 for Intel, so it looks like the limitations will only extend to ARM devices -- most of which are expected to be tablets but there is no reason they all have to be. Chrome for Win 8 will exploit both the old "desktop" and the new "Metro" interface, and seems right on pace with IE.

How do you feel? Let us all know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/13/2012 at 1:19 PM11 comments


Azure Passes PaaS, Moves Directly Down to IaaS

Azure is moving down the stack.  It was originally a Platform as a Service (PaaS) tool, which is more of less a full stack to run your apps -- just one level below Software as a Service (SaaS). Most companies move up to higher levels of sophistication.

With Azure, Microsoft is moving down, broadening the service into Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). IaaS are the basic building blocks -- servers and virtual machines upon which you place things. This means you really have to build everything from scratch to run on the thing.

For those that feel I'm talking down to you, I apologize, but all these categories are pretty new and these terms aren't always used with great precision.

Now Azure has IaaS and PaaS. And Office 365 is Microsoft's answer to SaaS. The story is starting to get pretty complete.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/13/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


You Paid Microsoft, Now You Can't Sue

If you buy and then use certain software products from Microsoft, you agree (remember clicking that little "I agree" box?) to the license terms. The newest licenses have a new twist. If you buy and the software utterly stinks, you can't be part of a class action lawsuit.

At first blush this seems pretty bogus. But so do most class action lawsuits. These suits are designed to do one thing: make the lawyers rich. Plaintiffs are lucky enough to get a piece of Bazooka Joe out of the deal.

Looks like this may extend to all Microsoft products.

What is your take on all this? Don't tell it to the judge, tell it to me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/11/2012 at 1:19 PM5 comments


Patch Tuesday: Déjà Vu, Take Two, Do Over, Rinse and Repeat, Etc.

I really should have saved what I wrote last month about Patch Tuesday, used cut and paste to write today's preview, and my work would be done. That's because this month's patch batch is nearly identical to the last.

Like in May, we have three critical fixes, and the same number of important ones (four). And just like all the Patch Tuesdays in recent memory, remote code execution flaw fixes lead the charge, with elevation of privilege trailing just behind.

What is different is the software targeted this time around. Beside Office, a patch stalwart, Visual Basic for Applications gets a fix. Now there's a blast from the past. (Do you use VBA? If so, what for and how do you like it? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.)

One security expert advises fixing the RCE flaws first and only then going after the elevation of privilege problems. Makes sense to me.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/11/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


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