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Windows 8

Pivoting from Rugged Windows Mobile Handhelds to Windows Tablets

Posted by Rob Tiffany on
Pivoting from Rugged Windows Mobile Handhelds to Windows Tablets

I first noticed the phenomenon of companies with route drivers moving from ruggedized Windows Mobile handhelds to Windows tablets a few years ago.

The thinking was you could turn these folks who perform direct store delivery (DSD), pickup and delivery, and dispatched tasks into sellers and marketers. The tablet would run a bigger version of the handheld app, while also providing a vivid product catalog and perhaps even videos to show the customer at the point of activity. The Windows tablets back then were thick, heavy, and had marginal battery life that wouldn’t make it through a complete shift without charging it in the truck while driving. A lot of them followed Intel’s reference design for a healthcare-focused tablet with an integrated handle. Anyway, in spite of the shortcomings of yesterday’s Windows 7 tablets, it was a good idea. The Windows Forms apps that ran on the .NET Compact Framework were easily ported to the full .NET Framework on the tablet since the only change was the screen size. Those field employees found their app easier to use (and see) while becoming part-time upsellers.

Tablet App

Things are even better with today’s Windows 8 tablets. The world’s most popular operating system is faster, more secure, and uses less memory and fewer resources than it’s predecessors. Intel has followed suit with a system on chip (SoC) design called Clover Trail (Atom) that gives thin and light tablets better performance, x86 compatibility, and 10 hours of battery life. OEMs have combined Windows 8 and Intel’s new multicore Atom processor to create enterprise-class tablets that are thinner and lighter than the iPad. All of them support capacitive multitouch and some include a digitizer stylus. A huge opportunity has presented itself to move the .NET Compact Framework apps that most every company around the world depend on to run their business. Using Microsoft’s latest version of Visual Studio and .NET, those full screen Windows Mobile apps can be upsized to full screen Windows Forms apps designed for touch on Windows 8 tablets. Your existing UI, business logic, SQL Server Compact database, and data sync code will all make the move. Once you enlarge your font sizes as well as your touchable UI elements, you’ll be good to go for deployment. There is no faster, cheaper or lower risk way to move your existing apps to the tablet era. Contrast this with the millions you might spend porting those apps to other platforms using completely different development tools, programming languages, and technologies. Speaking of risk, there’s no guarantee that alternate tablet technologies will support your existing Bluetooth and USB peripherals like thermal printers, RS232 adapters, barcode scanners, and DEX interfaces just to name a few.

The focus of your business is to make money at whatever you’re good at. It’s not about perpetually running on the technology Hamster wheel. If you’re considering making a move from Windows Mobile or Windows Embedded Handheld devices to tablets, I’ve just laid out your fastest time to value. Oh, and don’t worry, your updated, full screen, touchable WinForms apps will work just fine with the keyboard and mouse/trackpad on your Windows 7 laptops and tablets. Sounds pretty pragmatic, doesn’t it?

If you’re ready to go deep on this sync technology to build enterprise apps that run on Windows tablets and laptops, click this link to purchase my book, “Keeping Windows 8 Tablets in Sync with SQL Server 2012.”

– Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at https://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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Mobile Device Management

Windows Mobile Provisioner

Posted by Rob Tiffany on
Windows Mobile Provisioner

In the Spring of 2006, I created a Mobile Device Management (MDM) package for Microsoft called Windows Mobile Provisioner.  It was used by Microsoft IT (MSIT) to rapidly provision and manage Windows Mobile devices / smartphones for our employees in the years before we developed and shipped System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008.  I drew on my experience in designing, developing, shipping, marketing, and selling the NetPerceptor MDM package for the cloud (Level 3) back in 2003 with my co-founder Darren.  Of course, OMA DM and CSPs made creating an MDM system much easier in 2006.

Windows Mobile Provisioner fully integrated with Active Directory to allow the management of policies, settings, and over-the-air (OTA) software distribution based on Microsoft users and groups.  As you might imagine, there was a Management and Reporting dashboard as well as a mobile client for user self-service.

The first image below shows the client app where a user could rapidly configure Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) from a single screen:

Mobile Provisioner: Exchange Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second image below shows the client app’s ability to configure the data connections for different mobile operators globally:

Mobile Provisioner: Data Connections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last image below shows how the client app allowed users to change the themes of their smartphone:

Mobile Provisioner: Device Themes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, my MDM solution sent health metrics as well as device and app inventory to the server for analysis.  Administrators could push out patches, anti-virus definitions, ROM packages, and other software to selected devices.  Apps could also be remotely uninstalled.  In addition to the features described in the images above, the rich client app that accompanied the MDM agent gave users the ability to view and download apps, ring tones, and other content made available to users and groups via Active Directory security. I certainly hope the MDM solution your company is using “at least” does all the stuff I just mentioned from a long time ago.

It was a great experience being an early pioneer in the Mobile Device Management (MDM) space; and the first to do it in the cloud at the beginning of the 21st century.  Back then, I could count all the MDM competitors on my two hands.  Fast-forward to 2012, I think there’s over 100 different players in this space.  The majority of them are indistinguishable from each other as they all target the identical MDM APIs exposed by iOS and Android.  As usual, differentiation will be invented by marketers.

Good Times,

Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at https://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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Mobile Enterprise Application Platform

Confronting the Consumerization of IT with Microsoft MEAP

Posted by Rob Tiffany on
Confronting the Consumerization of IT with Microsoft MEAP

CIOs are asking for help in confronting the tidal wave of mobile devices entering the enterprise and IT departments have raised the white flag as attempts to block consumer-focused smartphones and tablets have failed.

The Consumerization of IT has been a growing trend fueled by cloud-delivered services and compelling mobile devices with wireless capabilities.  This trend snowballs more and more each year, meaning it’s time to embrace it rather than put your head in the sand.  Microsoft MEAP is the answer.  I’ve been talking to you about how Microsoft aligns with Gartner’s Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) for years now, and I wanted to update you on how we’ve evolved with respect to Gartner’s Critical Capabilities.  As a refresher, MEAP is Software + Services that allow IT orgs to extend corporate apps to mobile employees and business partners.  This platform must support:

  1. Multiple mobile applications
  2. Multiple mobile operating systems
  3. Multiple backend systems maximizing ROI vs. tactical solutions

It’s already a $1 Billion business and 95% of orgs will choose MEAP over point solutions by 2012.   The picture below represents some of our familiar cloud and on-premise servers on top and a wide spectrum of mobile devices from Microsoft and other manufacturers on the bottom:

Microsoft MEAP

Let’s do a quick rundown of Gartner’s Critical Capability list so you can see how we rise to their challenge:

  1. Integrated Development Environment for composing server and client-side logic: Microsoft Visual Studio supports on-premise and cloud server development and targets clients such as Windows, Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, the Web, Nokia S60, and the Macintosh.
  2. Application Client Runtime: Various flavors of Microsoft .NET (Silverlight, .NET, Compact Framework) run on Azure, Windows Server, Windows, the Mac, Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, and Nokia S60.  Guess what, you can use MonoTouch to take your .NET skills to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.  MonoDroid is in the preview stage and will bring .NET to Android phones and tablets in the future.
  3. Enterprise Application Integration Tools: Connecting mobile devices to a variety of backend packages like Dynamics or SAP is critical.  Microsoft supports this integration in the cloud via Windows Azure AppFabric and on-premise though SQL Server Integration Services and dozens of adapters.  Tools like our Business Intelligence Dev Studio make EAI a repeatable, drag and drop exercise.
  4. Packaged Mobile Apps: Microsoft delivers the Office suite across Windows, Windows Phone 7, Windows Mobile, the Web and the Mac.  Office will be coming to Nokia in the future and One Note just arrived on iOS.
  5. Multichannel Servers: Windows Server + SQL Server on-premise and Windows Azure + SQL Azure in the cloud represents Microsoft’s mobile middleware platforms.  Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) delivers cross-platform SOAP & REST Web Services and cross-platform wire protocols like XML, JSON and OData.
  6. Software Distribution: Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager supports pushing software out to Windows and Windows Mobile.  Windows Phone 7 has Marketplace for this function.
  7. Security: Data-in-transit is secured by SSL across all platforms.  Data-at-Rest security for apps is facilitated on Windows by BitLocker, Windows Mobile through encryption policies and Windows Phone 7 through AESManaged in Silverlight.  Cross-platform auth is facilitated by Microsoft Windows Identity Foundation so devices can access resources via a Windows Live ID, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, ADFS and others.
  8. Hosting: It goes without saying the Microsoft knocks the hosting requirement out of the park with Azure.

So what do I want you to take away from all this?

Microsoft has a great MEAP stack comprised of servers and skillsets you probably already have at your company.  You get maximum reuse on our servers and in our cloud which means you save money when it’s time to build and deploy your second, third and fourth mobile app without new training, new servers, and different technologies each time.  I hope you’re pleasantly surprised to see that our .NET application runtime lives on so many mobile platforms.  Again, this means that your existing .NET skills can be reused on Microsoft devices, the Web, Mac, Nokia and even the iPad.  Who knew?  I’m looking forward to bring Android into the .NET camp as well.

It’s a brave new world of disparate devices connected to the cloud.  Companies have no choice but to target most all of them when constructing B2C apps to sell products or bring in new customers.  They’ve also found that this is the case in supporting their own employees and business partners with B2E and B2B apps.  No single company has so many different skillsets and competencies to pull this off.

There is one thing that most companies do have though.  A Microsoft infrastructure in their data center or the cloud, Windows on desktops, laptops and tablets, plus teams of .NET developers.  As I’ve just shown you, these .NET developers armed with Visual Studio or MonoTouch can be unleashed to allow you to reach almost every mobile platform.  This dramatically reduces the amount of extra Java and Eclipse skills that you’ll consider bringing in-house or outsourcing in order to target platforms like Android or the Blackberry.  Through the magic of WCF, all these platforms can connect to your critical Microsoft back-end resources and beyond.  You save money on training, use the servers you already have, resuse business logic and get to market faster.  No matter what platform you need to target, Microsoft and its partners want to help you reach your goals.

Looks like you’re already ahead of the game in taking on the Consumerization of IT.

-Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at https://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7: If at First You Don’t Succeed

Posted by Rob Tiffany on
Windows Phone 7: If at First You Don’t Succeed

Written by: J. Gerry Purdy
10/20/2010 
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You have to hand it to Microsoft.   They have certainly fulfilled the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Microsoft has had a number of previous attempts to build a successful operating system for the mobile market with WinPad, Windows Mobile and Win CE.  These efforts – simply because they were Microsoft – generated some market presence but nowhere near the market share achieved by major players such as RIM (BlackBerry), Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android).

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I thought it was poignant when Rob Tiffany, Mobility Architect at Microsoft, told me at CTIA that Microsoft went back to the drawing board to develop a new mobile OS from the ground up.  Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, introduced Windows Phone 7 on Monday, Oct. 11 at a press conference in New York.

 

The reviews on Windows Phone 7 (WP7) have generally been positive.  I appeared on Brian Sullivan’s show on FoxBusiness to explain why I thought Microsoft would succeed with WP7, especially in the enterprise space.

One of the most important changes that WP7 provides over past Windows Mobile efforts is a re-architecture of the user interface.   Microsoft abandoned the desktop metaphor of the Start menu driving a list of applications.   While that was acceptable on the desktop, it wasn’t well-received in the mobile environment.

There are a number of user interface and technical innovations that WP7 brings to the mobile market, including:

 

  • New platform – WP7 is not an enhancement to previous Windows mobile efforts. It’s developed from the ‘ground up’ – no more forcing people to go through the Windows Start menu. It was designed to provide users with easy access to the information they want and need.

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  • Active tiles – users can decide what’s important to them and allocate tiles to give them the information they need, e.g. a tile for messaging, a tile for social, a tile for news, etc. Take a look at the sample home screen on a sample WP7 phone.  It shows a number of Active Tiles that are user defined to make the initial images on the phone’s start up screen comfortable and personal to the user.
  • Panoramas – with panoramas, you swipe left and right to get more information.  This is a new user paradigm much like flip/scroll has become in the iPhone and Android for looking through lists by swiping up and down. This allows you to swipe left and right – a very cool concept. Take a look at the wide panoramas below.  Notice that the phone image at the top can sweep to the right to cover all the information about a topic and the sweep back to the left.  This allows applications to present a lot of information that appears the way the eye looks at the world – in a panoramic fashion.  Vertical scrolling is good for lists where panoramas are good for showing more of one kind of information such as a photo or image or set of items in a group.
  • Apps – Microsoft has created solid development tools to make it easy for (consumer and enterprise) developers to build exciting apps, e.g. extending X-Box for gaming, etc. and then publishing them in the Windows Phone Marketplace.

 

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Phones will be produced using WP7 by Samsung, HTC, LG and Dell.  I suspect that Motorola may follow along as well in 2011.  Windows Phones will be distributed through AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile in the US at first and then via Verizon and Sprint  in 2011.  Some Windows Phones will have integrated keyboards and others will be touch screen only.  For example, the Samsung Omnia 7 incorporates a Super AMOLED screen, a 4-inch display, 5-mp camera with HD video and support of Xbox Live gaming and media content.

 

Microsoft has implemented multiple processes in the first rendition of Windows Phone which allows each app to switch back and forth.  Some developers may need full-scale multi-tasking for background operation which Microsoft will likely support at some future time.  They store the last place the user was in an application and then re-store it back when the app is re-launched to give the feel of being multi-tasking.  But, Microsoft wanted to make sure the first version was solid and, therefore, they deferred true multi-tasking to a later version.

 

Microsoft has made WP7 work well for both consumers and enterprise.  Consumers get a good user experience right out of the box that they can then personalize with Live Tiles.  Consumers will also get a streaming music service based on Microsoft’s Zune efforts.

 

I believe that WP7 will be received well in the enterprise for a number of reasons, including:

 

  • Microsoft Office. Right out of the box, WP7 will support opening and editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in a mobile edition of MS Office.
  • Outlook. Because Outlook is included as well, enterprise users who already are using Exchange/Outlook will get a friendly, familiar user interface for email. 
  • OneNote.  This is a note taking application that has seen very little adoption in the desktop but may find a much larger following in WP7 especially when joined with sharing of notes from a meeting with co-workers.
  • Security. Microsoft has invested a great deal of effort ‘under the covers’ to incorporate end to end security to make sure that enterprise IT professionals will be comfortable deploying WP7.
  • Enterprise Development.  Microsoft has provided the same development tools that many enterprises have used to create mobile applications.

 

Personally, I would have preferred if Microsoft had made a further separation from Windows by calling the new platform Microsoft Phone (with different version numbers) so that they could then have Windows 7 (for desktop and laptops) and then Phone 7 without the reference to Windows (for phones).

 

As for the tablet arena, most firms are leveraging the personal user interfaces and environments from the mobile world for tablets.  Apple has done this by using iOS from the iPhone with enhancements in the iPad (rather than using the Mac desktop OS).  A number of tablets (including the Samsung Galaxy TAB) are using Google’s Android mobile OS.  Thus, it seems likely to me that Microsoft will eventually develop a version of Windows Phone that they might dub Windows Tablet to support larger screens, gestures and the application Windows Phone Marketplace in the tablet arena.

 

I think RIM should be worried with the introduction of Windows Phone. The BlackBerry user interface has not changed much in the past 10 years.  BlackBerry devices are rock solid and work well but don’t provide the ‘sex appeal’ provided in Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android.  Also, Microsoft has great relationships with enterprise IT. They make it easy for enterprises to roll out Windows Phone instead of just BlackBerry phones. It will be interesting to see how RIM responds to Windows Phone over time.

 

Overall, Microsoft is back in the game with Windows Phone 7.  I look forward to spending some time with a Windows Phone and getting some hands-on experience.  In the end, it’s the users and enterprises that vote with their pocketbook, but it seems highly likely that Microsoft will earn significant market share over the next few years as they evolve Windows Phone.  Kudos to the Microsoft team to give the mobile world another good user experience.

We’ll look back on the mobile market 20-30 years from now and see how important it was to provide a number of different user interfaces and then to see how customers declare what they like the most.  

 

Written By:

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J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D.
Principal Analyst
Mobile & Wireless
MobileTrax LLC

gerry.purdy@mobiletrax.com
404-406-5309

Windows Embedded Handheld

Microsoft Outlines Commitment to the Future of Enterprise Handheld Devices

Posted by Rob Tiffany on
Microsoft Outlines Commitment to the Future of Enterprise Handheld Devices

Microsoft unveils new brand and road map, and extends support for the enterprise handheld devices market.

Redmond, Wash. — June 17, 2010 — No one would argue the way we work has changed. From retail, medical, manufacturing and a host of other industries, being tied to a fixed office location simply isn’t an option for a growing portion of the work force, and Microsoft is tackling this trend head-on. “Our Windows Embedded Business is focused on extending Windows and the benefits of cloud computing to the world of specialized devices,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO.

Let’s face it: Real-time access to information isn’t just about increasing productivity. It’s how business is conducted every day around the world.

Steve Ballmer outlines Microsoft’s commitment to the future of enterprise handheld devices and the Motorola ES400.

Historically, Microsoft has offered two software platforms to help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) deliver the next generation of enterprise handheld devices: Windows Embedded CE (the Windows Embedded Compact 7 community technology preview was announced June 1 and is available for download) and Windows Mobile.

Today, during Motorola’s launch event for its ES400 enterprise digital assistant (EDA) in New York, Ballmer announced that Microsoft is making several key investments in the enterprise handheld device market, including the new Windows Embedded Handheld brand. “These releases will provide proven management and security functionality, while giving customers confidence that investments in handheld enterprise devices and line-of-business applications will be protected over time by an extended support life cycle,” Ballmer said.

Windows Embedded Handheld is a new software platform designed to meet key line-of-business (LOB) scenarios and boost productivity of the mobile enterprise work force by enabling users to capture, access and act on business critical information where and when they need it. The first release under the brand is scheduled to come this calendar year and build on the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform with trusted management and security features, as well as enhanced protection for existing enterprise investments in LOB applications on devices.

For users, this means OEMs can take enterprise handheld devices — like the ones you see store employees using when you’re out shopping — and create something extraordinary. These devices can vary greatly in functionality, but imagine the potential to enhance key LOB applications with the rich, immersive user experiences of touch or gesture response, plus enhanced connectivity to Windows-based PCs, servers and enterprise services.

In addition, Ballmer announced that Windows Embedded will continue to support developer tools used in building applications and experiences on today’s devices, including Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and Windows Forms. This will help provide confidence that the existing investments will be protected over time as Microsoft releases new software platforms, as the operating system support life cycle will be extended to more closely align with the typical life cycle of devices in the enterprise.

Likewise for enterprise customers of our OEMs, investments in existing enterprise LOB applications will also be protected. An updated Windows Embedded Handheld platform based on Windows 7 technologies (Windows Embedded Compact 7) will be released in the second half of calendar year 2011, offering enhanced features and functionality to meet the needs of networked enterprise devices. The platform will also enable new key scenarios through support for rich user interfaces and natural input. A clear migration path will be available for these applications with Microsoft tools and technologies to a new application platform based on Microsoft Silverlight and Microsoft XNA, as well as Visual Studio 2010, with the Windows Embedded Handheld release in 2011.

The future for enterprise handheld devices is endless. A current white paper from analyst firm VDC Research estimates there were 2.3 million device shipments in 2009 and anticipates this number to exceed 4.3 million by 2014. The Windows Embedded CE and Windows Mobile platforms accounted for 87 percent of these 2009 shipments, according to VDC Research, and the relationships with its partner ecosystem continue to strengthen.

Motorola’s ES400, just announced today, is a great example of what can be achieved when companies like Motorola and Microsoft collaborate to meet the needs of this space.

The ES400 integrates voice and advanced data capabilities, which bring out the full potential of mobile professionals by empowering them with the information and interaction they need to transform operations, increase enterprise profitability and complete their jobs virtually anywhere, anytime.

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The next year is going to be a very exciting time for Windows Embedded as it continues to bring innovation to the enterprise handheld device space. Be sure to keep an eye on the Windows Embedded Newsroom for updates in the days, weeks and months ahead.

– Rob

Sharing my knowledge and helping others never stops, so connect with me on my blog at https://robtiffany.com , follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RobTiffany and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/robtiffany

Sign Up for my Newsletter and get a FREE Chapter of “Mobile Strategies for Business!”

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