> Technology Ch-Ch-Changes...

Technology Ch-Ch-Changes...

Posted on Saturday, August 18, 2012 | No Comments

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.
Summary
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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