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August 2012

PureNokia: Things Are About To Change....

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 0

Things are about to change…..according to Nokia.
They have an announcement due about the new Windows 8 phones on the 5th September and I’m getting rather excited about it, mainly because I’m due an upgrade at around the time the new phones are due to arrive.
The video suggest that Nokia PureView, the HD high quality camera, is coming to their Windows Phones – though this is purely speculation at this time.  Stay tuned to the Nokia announcements soon.

Redeemable by Voucher Only....


When I’m not sat in front of a movie screen at the cinema or watching a film, or being at work, you can almost guarantee that I’m reading a book on my Kindle – having fully embraced the digital format of the eBook after a bit of soul searching to give up on those paper bound beauties.
However, there is one element of the eBook phenomenon that has yet to be mastered in the same way as a physical book: the element of gift.
Whenever I seem to want to gift an eBook, I find that I have to purchase an Amazon gift card and then forward on an email with a book recommendation along with a line “or buy something you really want”, as a disclaimer that the book I’ve carefully selected may not appeal or enlighten that person’s life in some way.
But then I read this on Pando just the other day and it seemed to make a lot of sense - http://pandodaily.com/2012/08/21/livrada-bridges-the-gap-between-physical-books-and-the-digital-world
I love the idea of being able to select an eBook and then order up a voucher redemption code for a particular eBook.  It ensures that the perfectly selected gift is passed on and it means that we finally have something physical to enclose within the birthday card you pass on to your nearest. 
Sure those redemption codes can still be passed on electronically for those who still don’t want to have to deal with postage and fiddle around with gift cards – especially if the recipient is far away and out of postal range (or at least not without some cost attached to it). 
So, there you go – redeemable voucher codes for eBooks.  Amazon – make it happen!

Vorsprung durch Technick: The Passion for Innovation

Saturday, August 25, 2012 0

Very rarely does a TV advert come along that stirs up so much emotion and feeling that you grow fond of it and develop an attachment to it.  But think back over the years to those ‘classic advertisements’ that you still remember to this day and it’s obvious that we do, deep down hold onto them for so long when they are done so very right.

That’s exactly how I feel about the following advert from Audi though;

The blend of automotive driving passion, competition – blended against physics, technology and cutting edge science for me just ticks all of the right boxes in my technical wired brain.

It’s the challenge and dynamics of what makes us human – the ability to design, understand, better, improve, re-design and reach for the very edge of perfection and then to keep on pushing beyond that marker for something truly awe inspiring that breaks our pre-conceptions of ‘what is’.

Whilst I’m not tempted to go cash in, sell my car and go out and buy an Audi right now, I feel I can still be inspired by their work, their pride and their passion and apply it in my own life and work.  After all, I see this same passion and pride and determination in others too – Ferrari, Microsoft, Sony, Apple, Google, Nokia, Tesla, SpaceX, *Insert your own company name here*.

The human race thrives on this innovation and desire to reach for the stars and beyond.  Touch the very fabric of what it means to be alive and dare to dream big.  Think about or watch this advert the next time you need any such motivation – I know I will.

Oh No!

Saturday, August 18, 2012 0

The popularity of the ‘Angry Birds’ franchise has been revolutionary; with Rovio spinning off its game beyond the touch screen mobile phone devices into plush toys, t-shirts, clothing, radios, etc. in the process making absolutely millions along the way.
Which is all great, but there is one game that I cannot get off my mind, that seems absolutely prime for a reboot and re-launch.  I believe it would work great on touch screens and would almost certainly sell just as much as the bird flinging game. 
The game I speak of – Lemmings!

For the uninitiated, Lemmings was first released back in 1991 as a puzzle game – the objective of which was to guide and save as many suicidal lemmings as possible to their safe haven.  You do this by assigning some of those little guys a job – say to dig a hole or block a pathway or build a bridge.  Save enough of the little blighters and you progress to the next level. 
The simplicity of the game and addictiveness of the challenge of saving the little rodents is what makes this an absolutely timeless classic and one that deserves to be brought back for the modern mobile phone playing gamer.
I’m convinced that if brought back in its original format (no one wants to see “Lemmings 3D”), it would be a huge success and a genuine challenger to those Angry, Angry Birds.

Many Messengers....


I’m getting confused by Skype and Microsoft’s various ‘chat’ and instant messenger platforms. 

‘Messenger’ (formerly ‘Live Messenger’ which was formerly ‘MSN Messenger’), seemed to be the IM platform of record for everything Microsoft and the work they undertook to bring “Facebook Chat” into this platform seemed to be a stroke of genius as Messenger users signed up and moved to the social networking site for their chat fix.

Windows 8 has a built-in, seemingly cut down version of ‘Messenger’ which allows a IM and Facebook Chat integration without having to switch to the full blown desktop client.  Video chat and file sharing and many of the advanced features are missing from this version, as you might expect.  This cut down version also appears in the new Outlook.com.

‘Lync’ (formerly ‘Communicator’), is the business/enterprise focused messenger, which allows everything from video conferencing, screen share (formerly ‘LiveMeeting’), collaboration tools and Outlook and Office applications integration.

And then, there’s Skype which seems to be creeping into all sorts of Microsoft products (which can only be expected from the acquisition), from Xbox, to Windows Phone, Office and Outlook.com for video conferencing.My confusion though stems from the fact that each of these systems (with the exception of Messenger and the cut down Windows 8 client), are all separate entities that don’t work with each other to allow a single, unified messaging system.
Screenshots have recently emerged of the new Windows 8 Skype client – which looks absolutely fantastic and looks like something I could potentially use.  Putting Lync to one side, the only problem is that all of my contacts are either in Messenger or Facebook Chat!

It’s my hope that by using Windows 8’s “People Hub” and/or “Microsoft Account”, they are going to allow you to register multiple accounts (Messenger, Facebook, Skype), and link them together into a single interface/application that can then be used from Windows, Xbox, Windows Phone, etc., similar to how multiple email accounts, Twitter and other social network feeds are amalgamated together into a single view.
At work, I’ve recently started using Lync for IM and screen sharing with 3rd parties for support and I have to admit that I’ve been really impressed with its functionality.  I (very), briefly used Communicator before it and noticed that some of the file sharing functions have been removed for some reason, but other than that, it remains a great product.
Again though, I’m a little confused at the lack of scope the service offers.  I understand the Lync is for internal communications with your co-workers, but I haven’t been able to fathom given the social world we now live in and the popularity of LinkedIn for collaboration and connectivity, why Lync doesn’t allow you link and expand your professional network?
I’m not an administrator or expert in Lync, so such features may already be available for configuration, but why not allow Lync to connect to your Facebook, LinkedIn, social network feeds and/or simply other domains of partnering companies, i.e. allowing @contoso.com users to communicate with @northwinds.com users, whilst blocking personal contacts owning @hotmail.com addresses for example.
Microsoft’s IM approach is scattered across multiple platforms right now – and whilst I can see exactly where each of these platforms fits into the overall eco-systems of corporate communications, consumer products and video conferencing, in today’s ever connected and ‘always available’ mentality bringing all of these services together would be a huge win.
Being able to also individually control your presence on each of these platforms would be an even bigger win; the control and ease of use should be built into all of these products for Microsoft to truly build a fantastic communications hub, regardless of application and/or device.
It’s simply a matter of doing it.  IM me when its done.

Smart Watch


I’ve always been a watch wearer – ever since I can remember, there has always been a clock digital or analogue attached to my wrist.  Over the years they have changed and performed a number of different functions; calculators, data storage, telephone address book, world time, stop watches – hell, some of them even told the time too!
These days I sport a Seiko analogue watch that has a timer and date calendar and that’s about it; but there seems to be a market trend towards wanting more from your wrist wear.  There have been a few Kickstarter a project outlining some of the ideas to bring these fancier features to market – and the trend suggests that the way to do it is to pair your watch to your phone and allow your mobile device to do all of the heavy lifting.
This actually makes a lot of sense – your phone more than likely to already have the connectivity, battery life and applications to support the functions most of us would require/expect from a smart watch.
Ultimately, a smart watch brings us one step closer to a wearable computer.  Expect to see them sold in a store near you anytime soon…..

Gram for Gram


My long standing affair with Palm has been over for a good 12 months now, having jumped ship from Palm Pre to Windows Phone just before HP finally canned the rather expensive project and later declared that webOS would be no more, which later turned into “webOS will become open sourced” – only to go nowhere….
Until now. 
It seems HP have spun webOS away from Palm and formed a new company known as ‘Gram’, which are likely to transform webOS into something hopefully new and exciting concerning the cloud.  The details of the project are still all very “hush, hush” but I can’t see them about to launch a new mobile or tablet device anytime soon.
It’s safe to say that Palm is now, unfortunately, dead and buried.


Nokia's Bold PR


The world we live in today is all around marketing and PR – as one companies go head-to-head with each other to score big with their customer base and the attraction of new customers willing to switch brands for the next feisty, hip, must-have device.
Whilst I love the gamesmanship, strategically used words/phrases and advertising in just the right way – the part I detest the most is when people in important positions, who should know better make outrageous claims and especially when those people are in the smartphone market.
Way back in 2009, Roger McNamee made the bold prediction that once Palm unleashed the Pre on the world, everyone would give up their iPhones:

"You know the beautiful thing: June 29, 2009, is the two-year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone ... Not one of these people will still be using an iPhone a month later."

Unsurprisingly, that didn’t quite happen – though in my opinion, it would have been a great prediction if it had turned out to be true, but it certainly grabbed a few headlines of news blogs around the world!
So when Chris Weber – Nokia’s Executive VP of Sales and Marketing – tweets that Samsung should take note of the next generation Lumia devices, I can’t help but cringe at what may lie ahead after such a bold statement. 

We already know that the next generation Lumia will, of course, run Microsoft Windows Phone 8 and will take advantage of all of the latest NFC gadgetry built into the software – but is this enough to progress the Nokia flagship phone into the territory of the popular Samsung Galaxy Android devices?  Perhaps Mr Weber knows something more than we do and hopefully, for Nokia, Microsoft and my sake (being a Nokia Lumia user), he’s going to be proved right on this one.
I’m excited for Windows Phone 8; it’s already a solid operating system that can only benefit by being brought closer to the Windows experience and technology.  My Lumia 800 contract is due to expire just around the time the new phones should be available – so I’m even more interested to see just what they have in store.

Technology Ch-Ch-Changes...


There has never been a more exciting time to be involved in IT (well,…possibly), as the world seems to be changing at a rapid pace towards something more connected and increasingly more futuristic and modern.  We’ve surpassed the PC-age, where users have been shackled to their desks without any connectivity, we’ve moved beyond the initial stages of the Internet, where static web pages were de facto standard and we’ve even developed the humble mobile phone far beyond the basic functionality offered by a Nokia 3210!
Smartphones, tablets, cloud services, virtualisation and unique UXs (user experiences), have been ushered in to replace the boxy, beige PC and CRT monitor that adorned our desks not too long ago – and there is a lot more to come.  Whilst Apple has been the darling of the user community for the past few years, I believe that now, more than ever, Microsoft are set to make a huge comeback.
Consumer IT
The iPad stranglehold is set to become diluted as more and more tablet devices are set to hit the market over this next year; Google with their Nexus7 tablet, Microsoft with their various OEM partners are all set to launch slates as Windows 8 and Surface hits the mainstream and hell, even book shop Amazon are playing in this arena too with their Kindle Fire devices!
The mobile market is due to be shook up too; rumours that next iPhone will be more expensive and will launch with less new features than previous years, Apple are now playing catch up with Samsung’s Galaxy III and have shifted their attentions to courtroom battles to stay relevant and unchallenged.  Windows Phone still has a long way to go, but moving the Phone OS closer to the Windows architecture could just be the kick start the platform requires – especially as the game changes towards mobiles progressing towards further, deeper connectivity with cloud services.
Despite the up-rise in the consumerisation of IT and initiatives such as ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD), ultimately people still need to create and remain connected.  Which is why Office remains a vital piece of the Microsoft set up, especially as Google have all but failed to get their ‘Apps and Spreadsheets’ office wannabe (which I actually tried a couple of weeks back, only to be extremely frustrated by its constant crashing and lack of features), into the hands of the users.   Office365 and Office 2013/15 looks like a shining beacon and despite my initial thoughts that Office was done, I’m now eating my words and back tracking quickly – it remains as relevant as ever!
It’s not just the key pillars of Microsoft’s reach that have been affected, their online services have grown up and put them back in a position of relevance again.  Hotmail services have been over-thrown with a new HTML5 Outlook.com setup, which looks visually stunning and clean on any device you happen to be using.  Skype and further improvements are still set to come and improve this service even further – already 10 million new users have signed up and I’ve finally taken the plunge and shifted my email services from Gmail to Outlook.  SkyDrive (one of my favourites), continues to work like a dream and remains the central point that holds the entire thing together; but with features like ‘fetch’ which allow you pull files from your connected machines using only your Microsoft Account and a bit of clever security is something no one else is doing.
Xbox continues to dominate the home entertainment space and also, surprisingly, continues to offer more to casual and non-gamers in the form of streaming media and Kinect controller less interaction.  Even SmartGlass brings a further element of breaking out beyond the norm.  Fitness applications, educational applications and movies are changing the Xbox platform beyond a games console and pushing users further into the world of Microsoft tech.
Beyond the Consumer
Beyond all of these consumer products though, Microsoft have taken huge strides that will allow them to continue to power the back-end infrastructures that make these consumer IT services operate, seamlessly, almost as the unsung hero that most users are probably even unaware of. 
Server 2012 is due shortly, which is the first server operating system that seamlessly permits and dynamically allows direct integration into the private and public clouds, allowing IT departments the opportunity to build hybrid data centres that grow and operate around the needs of the business.  Allowing this to happen is Microsoft Azure and virtualisation technology Hyper-V, which I am absolutely fascinated by at the moment.
Virtualisation has been around for such a long time now with VMware and Microsoft were fashionably late the virtual party, but the more I read about the developments and improvements in Hyper-V and the storage and clustering technologies behind it – as well as integration into Azure – the more I long to set up and operate a Hyper-V IT based infrastructure. 
It’s not just Server 2012 that comes ‘cloud-ready’ though; SQL Server 2012 and SQL Azure allow the same cloud connected options that seem unique and fresh enough to allow administrators to create complex infrastructures, very simply.  New versions of Exchange 2013, Sharepoint 2013 and Office applications that connect all of these services and more together to produce ever more connected and smarter applications and ways of working – all of which are available to be delivered to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 using ‘business specific’ application stores that are underpinned by Group Policy like control and management.
The management of these infrastructures, wider ranges of devices, increasingly remote, connected works that expect element of social and collaboration techniques to get things done can all be controlled through new Microsoft cloud based Active Directory.  And not forgetting PowerShell command prompt based management for fast deployment and control over all of these elements of the infrastructure is really magical for those that seek ultimate control outside of the GUI.
Developers, Developers, Developers
The infamous chant of Steve Ballmer’s ‘Developers, developers, developers’ is a colourful and important part of Microsoft folklore, but the message still remains true to this day.  Visual Studio 2012 offers a brand new interface and is packed full of all of the tools required to write code to create and build anything you could possibly think of; supported by Microsoft .Net Frameworks, etc.
Whilst I’m not a developer, after seeing just how easy Visual Studio 2012 is to use and create Windows 8 applications, I’m now starting to take a closer look and have even ventured onto the Channel9 videos at some of the introduction courses.  I can’t see me ever becoming a developer, but gaining a basic understanding can never be a bad thing – but it is the fault of VS2012 that is drawing me in to learn more.
The entire IT world has changed and there are so many elements that are on the bubble of improvement for the better both in the world of the IT consumer and for those IT Departments that provide services to their business users and customers.  Microsoft are playing in all of these areas and probably a lot more and based on their coming offering, are undoubtedly on the verge of a huge comeback in all areas.
Whilst I don’t envisage being able to work with all of these components myself (despite my very best efforts to change some of our IT strategies at work), I am taking a keen and close interest in them and how they fit into the IT landscape.
Interesting and exciting times indeed.

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