iDevice Restore Gotchas

Sometimes the best thing to do is to wipe it and start over. Unless…

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I’ve said this before, but I’ve been in mobile devices since 1996. In fact, I cut my journalistic teeth on WindowsCE devices, getting started with a Casio E10 back in 1996. It’s been an interesting journey that got me involved with many members of the Windows Mobile MVP community.  Along the way, I also helped get pocketnow.com and Gear Diary, both of them mobile device sites (though Gear Diary is more of a mobile computing than mobile DEVICE site now-a-days) off the ground.  During that time, I got involved in custom Windows Mobile device ROM’s for a number of different devices. I was even able to make (albeit very basic) mods to some ROM’s so that when I hard reset a Windows Mobile device or PocketPC Phone, custom software would automatically install as part of the process.  During my brief romp in the Android world, I got very good at rooting Android phones with and without rooting tools.

I got my first iPhone in 2008, with the iPhone 3G. At that point, the device was still an AT&T exclusive, which for me was ok. As a Chicago resident, that metro area provided enough dense coverage that I didn’t think I’d have any call coverage issues.  As many found out, that was an incorrect assumption.  3G was still new at the time, and the iPhone 3G was plagued with both battery and call quality/ dropping issues due to radios and radio ROMS that would desperately try – come hell or high water – to keep or find a 3G signal.  As such, batteries would drain faster than you could say, “Bob’s your uncle;” and call quality tanked.  The fledgling iDevice had tower switching issues; and tended to drop more calls than it connected.  I had my iPhone 3G for less than 3 months before I sold it due to too many dropped calls.  I can remember speaking with a writing partner, and during one critical 20 minute call at my desk, my iPhone dropped the call 11 times.  At the end of the day, I had to ask myself if I would tolerate that level of performance from any OTHER mobile device I was using or reviewing, and the answer was a very quick and resounding, “no.”  So, out it went.

So, fast forward to present day…

I’m currently using an iPhone 5, on AT&T again (I left AT&T for T-Mobile, then came back with the release of the iPhone 5).  When it comes to mobile devices, I’ve somewhat changed my point of view and philosophy – I’m a little tired of the cuts and bruises one receives when living on the ragged, hairy, bleeding edge, so I’m very happy to be back inside Apple’s Walled Garden.  No jail breaking for me… I did jail break my iPhone 5 at one point and ventured outside of the walled garden for all of, like, 27 and a half minutes, and quickly ran back home.  Cydia… Oy!!  What a hot mess THAT is! Never again.

Anyway, the point to all of this rambling..?  Very simple – well, perhaps not THAT simple.  But there are a couple things that I wanted to say to everyone about their phones in general, and then wanted to point out something that SHOULD work, but absolutely doesn’t.  I’ll get to that in a sec…

  1. Do NOT Fear the Hard Reset
    I said this in a lengthy column back when I was writing for pocketnow, I think.  If you have a smartphone (back then, they were called PDA’s (personal digital assistants), and they didn’t have cellular connectivity), you’re going to put apps on it, and not all of them work and play well together.  Some developers just don’t produce quality code and don’t test well.  As a software quality professional with 25 years of experience, you have no idea how much that very common behavior just makes my teeth itch…As such, you’re likely going to wind up with a device that gets really screwed up at one point or another. When that happens, your best course of action is not to pull your hair out trying to fix things.  Most of your information is either backed up in your Google account on your Android phone, in OneDrive on your Windows Phone or in iCloud on your iPhone.  Don’t worry about it. Just hard reset the thing and rebuild the device from scratch and be done with it.If you’ve installed a lot of apps and had a good, functional back up of the device prior to things going south, you could also do a simple restore (which may save you time when rebuilding or reestablishing your device’s setup).  Unfortunately, depending on how diligent you are in backing up your device, you may or may not have a good, device back up available. Yes, you can try to trouble shoot the problems, but the likelihood of you pinpointing what combination of apps and/or settings that sent your device south is very slim.  The best thing to do is admit defeat, put on your big boy undies and wipe the device and rebuild. You may find that you’ll not only resolve the problem, but may see a huge performance boost. Your smartphone likes it when it’s clean.
  2. Make Sure you have a Solid Internet Connection
    Back during the jailbreak hay day, one of the things that Apple did to make certain you couldn’t jailbreak your device and to keep it running the way they wanted it to was to insure that it phoned home during a restore or reset operation.  This is fine when you have a decent Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet connection…and this is where things can get ugly – not so much when you’re using your iPhone as a hotspot.  iTunes puts the device in recovery mode before it verifies the ROM – AND, get this – it does it every single time you want to restore the phone to factory fresh.Dear Apple… STOP IT!This is the one thing that I mentioned above that absolutely should work, but doesn’t.  With iOS 8, though, you probably won’t need to do that anymore.  Apple has made it increasingly harder and harder for jail breakers to find an exploit so that they can actually create a jailbreak of iOS 7.x.  They’ve plugged nearly all the holes. I still think it’s important to verify that the restore file I am using isn’t corrupted or tampered with, but there HAS to be a better way to do this than by phoning home each and EVERY time I want or need to restore the device.  There has to be a way to do that ONCE and ONLY once per mobile OS version. Once that verification is done, I shouldn’t have to worry about what KIND of internet connection I have – Wi-Fi, wired or hotspot via my iPhone. I just wanna restore the thing and get it working again.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop myself from performing a restore because I was out and about and was using my iPhone as a hotspot. In one instance during a recent move to a new geographic area, I had problems with my iPhone, started the restore and then realized I no longer had an internet connection when iTunes tried to verify the restore file.  I had to pack up my MacBook Pro, my iPhone and jump in the car and try to find a MacDonald’s or Starbucks so I could have my cell phone – my only connection to the people who were helping me move – back from the dead.Restoring your phone shouldn’t be so complicated…I’m just sayin’.
  3. Don’t Connect your Smartphone to your PC through a USB Hub
    Yeah… I know this one can be hard, especially if you’re connecting through a laptop and don’t have a docking station (can you say every Mac EVER made) and you hate plugging and chugging a bunch of cords in and out of your computer; but don’t do this if you can help it.  I can’t tell you how many different times I’ve had iPhones get stuck in recovery mode because the signal from the PC burps because it’s connected through a USB hub.  Some people have better luck when the USB hub has its own power source and isn’t drawing juice from the laptop to split your USB port. This isn’t always the case. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if the hub is powered or not.  I’ve had to retry iOS restores many different times on both iPhones and iPads due to weak or poor USB signals when I use USB hubs.  After the second or third failure, I usually just plug and chug USB cables out of USB ports and plug my iDevice directly into the PC. It usually works first try after that.If you’ve got an Android device, don’t try to root it while connected through a USB hub.  Some Android devices don’t recover well if the rooting or flashing process burps.  Don’t turn your cool smartphone into a brick or paper weight. Connect to your PC directly.

I started out making this totally about Apple products, but found out as I went through the process that the gotchas that I’ve pointed out can occur with just about any and all makes, models and mobile OS’.  The iDevice Phone Home thing is all Apple, though; and it really just needs to stop.

Do you have any mobile device horror stories that you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear them.  Why don’t you join me in the comments section, below and tell me what happened to you.

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Facebook Acquires VR firm Oculus for $2B

Facebook is on an acquisition binge. This one has me scratching my head…

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Facebook has been on an acquisition binge recently. Just the other day, it announced that it would buy VR developer Oculus VR for $2.0B. A few weeks ago, it announced it was acquiring the mobile messaging application WhatsApp for $19.0B. Apparently, it has cash to burn…

The Oculus deal includes $400M in cash, and $1.6B in stock. If all goes well for Oculus, post-acquisition, its employees could receive another $300M in incentive bonuses if specific, undisclosed targets are reached. Oculus was made famous due to its crowd-funded start on Kickstarter, where it received approximately $2.4M in funding.

While it has yet to release a product, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg indicated his company’s interest and commitment in the organization by saying that, “mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow. Oculus’ technologies could “change the way we work, play and communicate.” Facebook is planning to use the acquired company and its virtual reality technology to expand its “communications, media, entertainment, education and other areas.”

While Facebook is happy with the development, the rest of the world – or at least part of it – clearly isn’t. Markus Persson, the creator of the popular block-building game, Minecraft, said he WAS in talks with Oculus to bring the two together, but has since killed the deal. According to Persson, “Facebook creeps me out.”

Other developers are taking similar actions. One developer said, “I am really upset by this. I had nothing but grief as a developer of Facebook titles, and the direction and actions of Facebook are not ones I can support.” It’s not all doom and gloom, however, some think that Facebook could help Oculus monetize the Rift and make it successful.

Personally, I have my doubts. Weird Facebook stuff aside, I am seriously wondering how a social networking company, even one as successful as Facebook, can marry its core competencies with software that requires VR hardware AND your computer or other computing device in order to create an integrated experience. To me, this just seems really clunky and doomed to failure.

Currently, the user integration paradigm – computing device (PC, smartphone or tablet), web browser or app and user – don’t provide for an elegant way to incorporate any other kind of hardware or interim device. From my perspective, the big time of Facebook games like Farm Town or Farmville are long gone. That was SO 7 years (2007) ago… Like the WhatsApp acquisition, I have no idea what Facebook intends to do, or what they think they’re going to gain, other than, perhaps to keep some other company from acquiring it.

With WhatsApp, its purchase was redundant. They already have Facebook Messenger; and have indicated that they don’t have any plans on bringing it and Facebook Messenger together, either now or in the future. In my mind, that acquisition was purposefully executed to keep Google (and its competing social network, Google+) from getting their hands on the intellectual property.

What do YOU think of this development? Is this something that works for you, or is it something creepy? I know I always ask you guys for your opinion, but this time I really would like you to chime in. What do you think? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Tell me what you think in the comments section below and let’s see if we can sort this one out.

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Google Throws a Cloud Storage Gauntlet

… at the feet of Dropbox, Microsoft and everyone else offering online storage services

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A couple years ago, I did a huge article for InformationWeek on the top cloud based storage services available at the time. These services were cross platform – meaning they could be used on Windows, OS X, Linux and perhaps a mobile OS or two (most likely, Android and iOS). At the time, Dropbox was the king of the hill. They were the service that most everyone knew about, and its name had become synonymous with cloud storage.  You shoved things in your dropbox whether you had an account with them or another service.  They were so popular and easy to use, that BYTE, hosted via InformationWeek, and the now RE-defunct reincarnation of BYTE Magazine, asked that their editing staff use it for all of our articles.

Today, that’s no longer the case. Dropbox is still a VERY popular service; but there are other solutions out there that should be given very serious consideration.  Among them are Microsoft’s OneDrive, LiveDrive and of course, Google Drive.  There are a ton of others out there, but recently Google did something VERY cool and very strategic. They dramatically lowered the price of and restructured their storage plans.

The new plans… oh yeah. They’re crazy cheap.

→ 1TB – $10/ month
→ 10TB – $100/ month
→ 20TB – $200/ month
→ 30TB – $300/ month

Notice, please that these are measured in TERABYTES, and not gigabytes. You can store a file up to 1TB in size. If you use Google Apps as your office suite of choice, those files don’t use your storage space. They’re up in Google Drive for free. If you use Google Apps or Gmail for email, your mail shares storage space with Google Drive.  If you use Google+ to store and share photos, photos bigger than 2048×2048 pixels use your storage. Anything and everything smaller than that is free.  Please also note that the 1TB plan is the INTRODUCTORY or lowest tiered plan offered.  Skip going to Starbucks twice a month, and it’s paid for… the bottom three tiers are obviously meant for businesses.  Unless you’re a total shutterbug, it’s doubtful you’re going to come close to filling up or need 10TB – 30TB of storage.  Their prices are also consumer prohibitive.

Previously, I had a 400GB plan and I was paying $20/ month for it. Google migrated me off that legacy plan and gave me 2.5x the storage for half the price.  The change was instantaneous and completely transparent.  In the blink of an eye, I went to using 10% of my storage to less than 1%; and I’m only paying half of what I was previously paying for the past year or so.

I’ve got a Google+ account, but I don’t share any photos on it. Most of my friends and family are on Facebook, and that’s where I share any photos I take.  It’s unlikely that I will fill up my 1TB Google Drive cup any time soon. Honestly, I’ll be very lucky to get back to 10-12% usage again.  However, I like having all of my productivity data backed up via an off-site system.

In fact, I have quite an extensive backup strategy:
→ My productivity data backed up via Google Drive
→ All of my Mac’s user data is locally backed up via Time Machine
→ All of my iTunes data is stored in iCloud and is backed up locally via a home network NAS.  I also employ iTunes Match to backup music I didn’t purchase via iTunes.
→ All of my Mac’s user data is backed up via BackBlaze.

While this may seem a bit like overkill, if you have ANYTHING critical – family photos of friends and loved ones who may have passed, are old, or are simply irreplaceable; critical, encrypted personal files (like birth, marriage or death certificates or tax documents); sensitive work or project files, etc. – then having a backup strategy similar to this, where you have a few different ways of getting back something that may have accidentally been lost, can be very important to you.  There is NOTHING in this world like the relief you feel when you realize that you have the correct version of the file you need backed up locally when your internet connection is on the fritz and you have a work deadline to meet; or vice versa when you find that a local file and its backup copy are both corrupted and your online backup system (like Backblaze) allows you to retrieve a previous version of the file without missing a beat. It’s at that point that you look at your backup strategy and say, “yep.   I’m awesome. I set this up correctly and the $XX dollars I pay for this every month is more than worth it.”

It’s at that point that your family/accountant/business partner or boss crowns you, “king of anything,” and tells you how awesome they think you really are.  When you don’t have it, you better have some other kind of golden parachute – a comfy couch to sleep on, paper records, other accounts or a new job to go to – if you don’t have that kind of backup strategy in place.

With prices like this – $10 bucks a month for 1TB of cloud storage – I can’t think of any valid reason why you wouldn’t have something like this setup for your data.  I’m not saying that Google Drive is a must have for everyone. There are a number of reasons why some people may not feel comfortable with trusting Google, of all companies, with your personal and private data, family photos, etc.  I mean…they are GOOGLE after all…  However, after paying upwards of $50 bucks a month for about the same amount of space on another service, this seems like a total no brainer to me.

What do YOU think, though?  Do you have a Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or other cloud based storage account?  Do you use the free version, or do you pay for additional space? Do you feel comfortable with Google being the steward of your photos, home movies and tax documentation? More importantly, is there a better deal out there?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this deal, this issue and on Google Drive (and other cloud based storage solutions) in general, in the comments section below.

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The New Mac Pro Doesn’t do Windows 7

If you’re looking at running Windows 7 via Boot Camp, you’re not going to do it with the new Mac Pro.

I’ve heard (generally) nothing but praise from those Mac Pro users who have finally been able to get their hands on one of these highly anticipated and highly coveted computers from Cupertino’s Apple. Once received and setup, the newly redesigned Mac Pro is said to deliver top computing performance in a very small and chic package.

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One of the best things about any Intel based Mac is that it natively runs just about any desktop operating system you throw at it. With the right tools, you can likely make it triple-boot OS X, Linux AND Windows…though, not Windows 7.  Apple has surprisingly ended Windows 7 support on their newest, flagship desktop computer.  If users want to install Windows on their Mac Pro, it’s going to have to be a version of Windows 8.x or later.  Boot Camp drivers for their newer hardware won’t be Windows 7 compatible.

The change was originally discovered by Mac developer Twocanoes and later confirmed by Apple. Users who will be moving to the Mac Pro will either need to upgrade to Windows 8, migrate their Windows 7 based Boot Camp partition to a VM package like Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion, or will need to forego use of the Mac Pro and choose another Mac. Windows 8’s lack of popularity and low adoption rates have made Windows 7 a much more attractive choice in the enterprise where the touch based systems Windows 8 is really intended for, have generally not appeared.

Apple has chosen the Mac Pro as the first computer that will not support Windows 7. It’s logical to assume that future systems will also lack support for earlier versions of Windows.  Apple stopped supporting Windows XP and Windows Vista in 2011.

Apple’s discontinuation of Windows 7 Boot Camp support this early in the Windows 8 life cycle, at least in my mind, is a bit of a surprise. Windows 8 is vastly unpopular, even with traditional Microsoft supporters. I’m certain many consumer users will either stick with Windows 7 or wait until Windows 9 – currently codenamed Threshold – is released before making a decision to abandon Windows 7 for a more current version.  Enterprise OS lifecycles are usually, very elongated, and I don’t expect any IT department to leave Windows 7 behind – heck, many IT departments are just now migrating off Windows XP and on to Windows 7 – any time soon. The fact that Apple has discontinued support for Windows 7 and earlier just means they don’t want to deal with the OS mess that Microsoft let out of Redmond any longer than they absolutely have to.

Do you have a Mac that you run Windows on via Boot Camp? Does Apple’s discontinuation of Windows 7 support negatively impact you and the way you work with your Mac?  Can you move your Windows install to either Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion?  I’d love to know what you think of this interesting development. Why don’t you join me in the discussion, below and give me your thoughts?

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The Challenges Ahead at Microsoft

The strategy is devices and services. Here’s why the One Windows Mantra may [still] screw that up…

Satya Nadella may be the new CEO, and he may have 22 years at Microsoft already; but he’s got one hell of a job in front of him. Microsoft is a company VERY set in its ways. Hell froze over; and now Nadella has to figure out a way of getting Microsoft out of the rut they find themselves in. It isn’t going to be easy; and I do NOT envy the spot that he’s in. Everyone both inside and outside the company will likely expect it to get worse before it gets better. I would also expect to see a great deal more personnel churn before all is said and done.

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In the end, Microsoft needs to change. Devices and services are, I think, a direction nearly everyone can agree is the right way for the company to go. However, its execution is going to grate against the growth rings of yesterday. In other words, in order to make devices and services work for Microsoft, they’re going to have to become very good at both Android and iOS development. This means that they’re going to have to put development for ModernUI/MetroUI on the back burner. I mean, no one – in reality, very few shops – are even really doing Windows Phone or Windows Store development. The biggest reason why Microsoft won’t leave Metro development behind isn’t because it’s a bad business decision, but because in order for them to do so, they must embrace a non-Microsoft based product and technology; and Microsoft just doesn’t handle that well. Case in point – Microsoft Office for Mac. Where’s the next version that we’ve been promised? Based on previous releases, it’s over a year late…

The Nokia X is the Android phone that will “carry” a Microsoft brand if not in fact, at least in perception, as Microsoft is in the process of buying Nokia. Microsoft having an Android phone as part of a low-end offering makes a lot of sense. Low end Android devices sell very well, appealing to budget conscious Americans and to users in developing markets. Microsoft already makes approximately $3.4B annually from Android device sales thanks to patent agreements that it holds. With the coming Nokia acquisition, Microsoft could make a ton more from Android smartphones that it sells, if only because Microsoft won’t have to cover patent licensing fees and can undercut the market as a result. They may be able to successfully take on Android-powerhouse Samsung in this market, and win, as a result.

Even though Android currently commands more than 75% of the smartphone market worldwide, and Microsoft stands to make tens of billions of dollars in that market, it’s likely they will kill the Nokia X shortly after it launches and/or the Nokia deal closes. Microsoft did something similar to the Kin 1 and Kin 2 phones that it had spent so much time and money developing; and only after 1 month of sales. Microsoft would have no problem killing the Nokia X.

Why would they do that? It’s really simple – the One Windows philosophy still dominates their culture. In the heart and mind of every ‘Softie is the idea that Windows is good everywhere. It works and fits on every device. If that were true, then Windows RT and Surface RT/Pro devices (RT especially) would have been better received. If that were the case, Windows Phone devices would have a real piece of the smartphone market. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be discussing how Microsoft will likely kill the Nokia X Android smartphone because it simply wouldn’t need to exist in the first place.

Microsoft has to figure out a way of getting past the notion that Microsoft services can only run – and run well – on Microsoft platforms and devices. For example, Outlook.com should run well in any and EVERY browser. Currently, it’s optimized for Internet Explorer. Most other browsers can get to the site and can muddle through tasks, but they don’t work quite right.

I’ve said it before, Microsoft should skin the Android implementation on the Nokia X in such a way that it looks and functions like a Windows Phone. Microsoft Services like Outlook.com, Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft OneDrive should all run and run well, not only on Android, but on iOS; and they should run SO well that people will want and desire them over Google Drive, Google Docs, iCloud and iWork.

The latter is easy. iWork still isn’t as cross platform as it could be or should be, and integrating iCloud into iDevices is so difficult that developers shy away from it or use another cloud service like Dropbox instead. Microsoft has an opportunity to move ahead of Apple in this regard, but needs to really put its head down and work when it comes to Google Services integration on an Android device. While both are good (OK in the case of Apple and its Services) on each of their respective native platforms, if Microsoft could bridge the gap and be good EVERYWHERE, this would go a long way to building device agnosticism into Microsoft products and into their culture. Microsoft will need both if they are going to remain relevant and profitable in the next 10-20 years.

Finally, Microsoft needs to change the way it does business. While Microsoft can still make, literally, billions on licensing Windows in the enterprise and getting OEM’s to pay for Windows when they build and sell PC’s, that business model is dying. If Microsoft is smart, it will abandon it sooner rather than later. There may be money left to be made in enterprise licensing, but if Microsoft is smart, it will begin shifting the focus of monetizing the software license to one that monetizes the service driven by the software.

This means that Microsoft will have to develop software for all platforms and give equal prioritization to releases on all those platforms. If it does turn sideways, this is where Microsoft will screw things up. Entrenched management will have a hard time shifting out of this gear. The whole “Windows first” philosophy that has dominated everything that Microsoft has done as a company over the past 20+ years will have to change. I think their current management team – maybe at all levels – will have trouble making the turn. Successful implementation of “devices and services” may require a huge, HUGE management shake-up at Microsoft. I just have my doubts about how well the company will be able to make the transition with current, entrenched management still walking the One Windows Way. Nadella is going to have be beat the devices and services drum very loudly in order to get everyone’s attention.

In the end, it IS all on Satya Nadella. As the new CEO, he has to set the tone for the new strategy at the company; and he needs to get that moving quickly. The longer it takes, the harder it will be for Microsoft to make the turn and rebrand itself as a company that provides computing services rather than one that provides computer software.

What do you think? Is Microsoft going to be able to recreate itself or will additional management and SLT (senior leadership team) changes be necessary? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Why not join me in the discussion area below and tell me what you think.

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Microsoft’s Goal for 2014 – Don’t Die

It’s a lofty goal. It’s one I hope they succeed at.

You know, I had a quick thought – Microsoft is this year’s RIM. What I mean is, everyone knows that Blackberry is on its way out. It might take them a few more years to die, but unless something really horrible and press-worthy happens, they’re pretty much done. The bulk of the IT press has moved on to other, more interesting targets subjects.

However that doesn’t mean that Microsoft isn’t doing its best to try to stay relevant. Whether or not they succeed still remains to be seen; but I hope they succeed. The company is too deep into enterprise. They’ve got their fingers too deeply into the way I work and into the tools I use on a daily basis to get things done. While there are a few decent Microsoft Office alternatives out there, I don’t know of any [real] Windows alternatives that are worth seriously exploring at this time.

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I love OS X. It’s my OS of choice; but I don’t know of many organizations that deploy it in the enterprise. At least I’ve never been part of one. The same can be said of Linux. Both of these are awesome consumer alternatives, but when it comes to getting things done at the office, it’s Windows or nothing for many companies.

This being the case, my good friend, Preston Gralla had an interesting column. He’s wondering if after Windows 8.1, which was a free update to all Windows 8 users, and Windows 8.1 Spring Update (or whatever they’re really going to call Windows 8.1 Update 1), if Windows will be free at each client endpoint or not. Many Linux distributions are free for home use, and OS X is also free. Preston asks a good question regarding Windows. Will all versions of Windows also be free?

According to Preston (and, honestly, I happen to agree with him) – probably not. Windows endpoint licensing is still a very big business for Microsoft – $4.1 and $4.3 billion in the quarter ending in March 2014. That’s a huge amount of revenue that Microsoft would be giving up if it made Windows free. An ad-based OS based on Bing and sales of Microsoft Services won’t make up for that in a year, let alone in a quarter. Don’t count on a free desktop version of Windows any time in the future.

Updates, Service Packs, yes…perhaps. But full desktop licenses..? Not likely gonna happen. Microsoft may pass on the licensing fees for Windows Phone and perhaps low end Windows tablets (those in the < $250 range). Microsoft doesn’t make a lot of money on Windows Phone and wants to jump start sales of Windows 8 (read Windows RT-based) tablets. They won’t be leaving a lot of money on the table related to those and could conceivably write off those licensing fees to cost of doing business. However, I don’t see Microsoft leaving their mac-daddy money for Desktop Windows licensing on the table. It’s too lucrative a business for Microsoft to abandon that level of revenue to the cost of doing business.

Now, about the RIM analogy… yeah, Microsoft has to do something to help stimulate business. PC Sales are really falling off; and they are desperately trying to find a way to bring people’s money out of mothballs and to a bank account near them.

PC usage is being abandoned for tablets and smartphones. Both Android and iOS are doing well in this new computing space because casual users can spend small amounts of money and still get the basic computing experience – mail, social networking, web browsing – in a small, light, very portable form factor that doesn’t cost as much as a PC.

Microsoft pretty much has the enterprise market fairly well in hand…at least for now. The consumer market where tablets and smartphones are really taking over the computing experience is where they are having the most trouble. They need to figure out how to capture a decent amount of market share here, or they’re going to face further revenue problems. BYOD and CoIT movements are very popular and businesses are making a serious dent into Microsoft’s enterprise market. With basically no presence in the mobile computing market (i.e. the market that many consumers are embracing for their computing experience) the amount of shrinking PC sales overall, and with CoIT/BYOD intruding on what has historically been a solid Microsoft market, Microsoft has to act and act quickly.

If they don’t, they could see themselves exiting the market entirely; and that would be very unfortunate.

No other desktop computing platform commands the level of support that Windows does. Most other mobile computing platforms – even though they can stand on their own – have a symbiotic relationship with what can be considered their desktop counterpart. I hate to beat a dead horse here – Ballmer’s already been replaced by Satya Nadella – but Microsoft’s failure to perform strongly in the mobile market is becoming a bigger and bigger mistake every day.

Nadella needs to get someone with a clear mobile computing vision in place over at Microsoft and he needs to get them in place and moving Microsoft’s mobile platform moving immediately. Without a solid mobile vision, Microsoft is going to face a really tough road in the future. They’re a LOT bigger than RIM/Blackberry, and having the same thing happen to them that happened to Blackberry is going to be, at least I think, nearly unrecoverable not only for Microsoft, but for the computing industry as a whole. Microsoft is too big to die. They have too big of a shareholder base…too big of a consumer and enterprise user base to be allowed to fail.

However, I don’t see anyone on Nadella’s SLT – Senior Leadership Team – with a clear and credible mobile computing vision right now. Windows Phone is and has been a marketing train wreck since 2006 (when it was still Windows Mobile). Microsoft Surface Pro tablets are ok, but the dual MetroUI/ ModernUI and Desktop interfaces need to be rethought and reworked. It might be VERY anti-Microsoft to totally admit defeat and separate the two, but it might be the only thing left to Microsoft at this point that will allow them to move forward.

Combine Windows Phone and Windows Tablet into a single OS (much like iOS is) and leave desktop Windows to its own devices. Market the hell out of mobile computing. Get units in the hands of end users. Make them affordable, high quality and easy to update. Hell, give them away with the subscription of Office 365 if you have to; but do something and do something serious and soon.

If you don’t, consumers may be happy to leave One Windows at the office and leave home computing to iOS and Android, where they’re much happier and the update, upgrade and hardware cycles are familiar, easy and well established.

What do you think? Am I totally off my nut? Is it premature to compare Microsoft to hot mess that Blackberry is, or are they kissing cousins? Why don’t you join me in the discussion area and give me your thoughts on it all?

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Rule #1 – Thou Shalt not Throw a Tantrum at Work

It’s a moot point now, but I’m certain Ballmer is probably kicking himself…

SteveBallmer.jpgYa know… you have to ask yourself… What is it with guys named Steve that run world famous computer companies and their temper? Jobs was famous for it. If you disagreed with him, not only did you lose your job; but it was probably one of the most memorable firings of your career. Some of those are things of legend. I think the last guy that Jobs screamed at still has ringing in his ears.

Ballmer was apparently the same way. Interestingly enough, new information regarding his exit from Microsoft (I don’t like to say firing… it just gives me the willies…at least for Ballmer. I don’t know why.) is just now coming to light. Apparently during a June 2013 Board meeting where Ballmer outlined his acquisition plans for the Nokia buyout, the Board initially rejected the idea. They didn’t see what Ballmer saw when he proposed turning Microsoft into a hardware AND software company. When the Board initially said, “no,” Ballmer hit the ceiling. It was so bad and so loud that it carried out of (an apparently VERY well sound insulated) board room and could be heard down the halls. While the board eventually did back him, it’s obvious that they didn’t take well to Ballmer acting out.

There are other instances that my friend, Preston Gralla cites in an article regarding Ballmer’s temper (by the way, it’s VERY rarely acceptable to drop the “F-bomb” at work. I don’t care if you’re Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer…you just don’t do it).

Anyway, the current rumor has it that this particular rant is what ultimately lead the board to suggest that they and Ballmer part ways. It was the F-bomb that broke the camel’s back, and the last tantrum – among many over the years – that Ballmer (at least officially) threw at Microsoft.

If you look back at what happened to Jobs when he left Apple, it was largely because of his temper and mouth. As I said, I’m not sure what it is about computer companies with CEO’s named, “Steve;” but they sure do get angry a lot. Gralla sees this as poetic justice, saying that, “for once, the bully got bullied.” It may be bullying. I don’t know. I’ve never met either Jobs or Ballmer, so I really can’t say for certain. However, I would like to say that it wasn’t anger, or a bad temper, or anything else other than “passion.” Perhaps it was misplaced or mismanaged passion, but from what I’ve been able to see, I don’t think Ballmer MEANT to be a jerk. He may have thought YOU were one when you didn’t agree with him or couldn’t understand his message/point/vision, etc.; and that’s why he screamed at your, but I don’t think he meant to be a jerk. I think it may have been a bit different with Jobs. If you didn’t “get it,” I think he thought you were a moron and didn’t want you around.

But that’s (at least part of) the price of genius, isn’t it? Some of them are a bit “out there.”

I don’t know too much about Satya Nadella just yet, but it’s clear he’s making changes to how Microsoft works and functions. This isn’t going to be the same Microsoft that Gates gave to Ballmer. Nadella is definitely going to put his own mark on the company, which is good. He needs to if he’s going to be taken seriously and if the company is going to have any real chance at surviving.

We’ll have to wait and see how Nadella does. 2014 is going to be an interesting year for Microsoft. While it’s not necessarily going to be the making or breaking point, it’s going to set the stage for what is to come for the company, for certain.

What do you think? Are Nadella’s initial management changes good ones? Is his mobile strategy on target? Will he be a better CEO than either Gates or Ballmer? Why don’t you join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think

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It’s Official – Hell Froze Over

Or Microsoft really did get a new CEO with fresh ideas…

Satya-Nadella-700x325

Satya Nadella is starting to make his presence known at Microsoft. Not only did Tony Bates and Tami Reller leave the organization, with additional executive changes still likely to be made; but Microsoft recently announced that its going to make its Xbox Live gaming service available on iOS.

Yes. You read that right…

Microsoft is seriously looking to bring its Xbox Live gaming hub to not only iOS, but Android as well.  Now the platform will be available on every major mobile OS, according to The Verge. The news broke due to a job posting at Microsoft that indicated that, “[Microsoft wanted to] create a modern framework that is open-source, lightweight, extensible and scalable across various platforms including Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.”  Microsoft later confirmed the intent to revive social, mobile gaming. Currently, that effort is blocked by proprietary networks, like Apple’s Game Center.

There’s huge money to be made, here. Limiting mobile gaming to their own platform, Windows Phone and Windows Store, is hurting Microsoft right now.  There aren’t a lot of users on either mobile Microsoft platform, and there are literally millions on both iOS and Android that could provide a huge revenue stream for Microsoft. Xbox is an immensely popular console gaming platform, and not every Xbox user is a Windows Phone user. Being able to play Xbox games, with saved progress from your console and vice versa, will be a huge win on both the iOS and Android platforms.

It’s clear to me that this is a result of Satya Nadella’s new influence. Prior to that, I don’t think either Ballmer or Gates would have sanctioned this kind of move. Julie Larson-Green’s “One Windows” mantra also wouldn’t have supported this effort. It deemphasizes Windows, or at least would have in the eyes of the older organization.

So is this a good idea?  Do you have an Xbox and carry either an iPhone or an Android smartphone? Do you want to see an Xbox Live gaming hub on iOS and Android devices? Is that a good idea, or is this just going to make things weird?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole matter. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below, and let me know what you think?

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