No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works…

Apparently, there’s a nasty bug that Microsoft is chasing…

No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works...

During a beta period, a tester or test manager should always expect to find bugs and, more importantly to expect run with buggy software. It’s never really end user ready, despite the fact that you’re opening your user base up to a wider audience.

Case in point – Microsoft has opened up Windows 10 to its Windows Insiders.  You can get prerelease builds of Windows on the Fast, Slow and Release Preview rings.

  • Fast Ring – You get (nearly) every build that Microsoft releases to its Insider program.  While there’s a lot of churn here, you get the most builds, and you’ll also likely see the most bugs. Builds are released almost every other week.
  • Slow Ring – Slow Ring is more stable than Fast Ring, but you don’t see as much churn. Things are still buggy; but there’s a bit more polish than with Fast Ring. While there’s still risk with Slow Ring, but with the right hardware combinations, it can still be very usable.
  • Release Preview – You can think of builds released in this ring being of Release Candidate quality.  This gets you things early, but nearly everything here is production ready, or can be considered Production Ready. Builds hit here a week or two before this hits Windows Update for everyone else.

So, with this model in mind, last week (as of this writing), Windows Insider guru Gabe Aul stated that there wouldn’t be any new builds of Windows 10 to the Fast Ring due to a bug that needed additional development time and attention.

According to Aul, there’s a bug in both Mobile and PC versions of Windows 10 that causes system crashes (what we used to call the Blue Screen of Death). Thankfully, the defect was caught before it hit Fast Ring (so, by Microsoft’s internal testing team), and as such, the details on the bug are sketchy at best. All we know is that it causes PC’s and phones to crash.

UPDATE – While writing this article, Microsoft released Insider Preview Build 14342 on 2016-05-10.  The updated build includes the following:

  • Updated Extensions in Microsoft Edge
  • Real-Time Web Notifications in Edge
  • Swipe navigation in Edge
  • Bash on Ubuntu on Windows Improvements
  • Skype Universal Windows Platform (UWP) Update
  • Updated Windows Ink Workspace Icon
  • Updated Visuals for UAC (User Account Control) dialog
  • Middle click to dismiss Action Center
  • Apps for Websites
  • Feedback Hub Improvements

The crashing bug noted above, has been resolved.

Are you installing preview builds of Windows 10?  How do you find the latest builds?  Are they worth the time and effort? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area, below, and give me your thoughts on them?

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Microsoft Releases Surface Hub

The long awaited update to Microsoft’s Perceptive Pixel PC’s has finally shipped.

Surface-hub-1

This is a huge deal for the enterprise…

One of the things that I like the most about my current job and role in IT is that my company has a Windows 8.x powered Perceptive Pixel PC.  It sits in one very specific conference room, and quite honestly, I tend to live in that room, mostly because of this particular PC.

Perceptive Pixel is Surface Hub, before it was Surface Hub.  The update and launch of this device has been a long time coming, and Microsoft’s General Manager of Devices Marketing, Brian Hall said, “… our Surface team works together better because we have Surface Hub.”

The difference between Perceptive Pixel and Surface Hub is that PP is really a giant Surface Pro 3 styled touch screen.  Surface Hub is really more of an interactive whiteboard. It’s really designed to take advantage of Windows 10 and incorporates collaboration tools like Skype for Business, Office, including OneNote, and Windows Universal apps (if any of note actually existed…but I digress…)

Surface Hub can be mounted on a wall or movable stand and resembles a flat screen television but with a touch screen; and really has little to no difference than Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book.  Microsoft is targeting the device for the enterprise in the fields of healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, consulting, defense, finance and education.  However, it’s really going to work well in any corporate setting.  Not only does it allow physical attendees to interact with it, but via Skype for Business, even remote meeting attendees can use its interactive and collaboration features.

In today’s fast paced business environments that often include distributed teams, having the ability to have everyone see what you’re seeing at the same time as well as collectively and collaboratively interacting with meeting resources and files – sometimes at the SAME time – is going to be a huge productivity boosting benefit.

Surface Hub is said to come in two flavors – an 55″ model and an 84″ model.  Prospective pricing was announced for the devices about this time a year ago.  The 1080p equipped, 55″ model will cost $6,999 USD and the 4k capable, 84″ model will cost $19,999.  The devices actually started shipping in March 2016 (as opposed to the original September 2015), and have also seen a price increase over their initial pricing.  The 55″ device cost $8,999 and the 84″ device cost $21,999.

Now… I wonder how easy it will be to upgrade our Perceptive Pixel PC here in the office…?

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Initial Impressions of Windows 10 Mobile

Well… I’ve upgraded my BLU WIN HD LTE handset…, and… yeah.

Introduction

Ok… I’ve got a few thoughts on Windows 10 Mobile, and I need for everyone to understand the justification behind them, so… bear with me a moment.  This may sound a bit critical, but in the end, I don’t think anyone can blame me…

Windows 10 MobileI started my mobile Windows journey in 1997 with the Casio E10, a WindowsCE powered handheld device that had a 320×240 pixel, 4 grayscaled LCD that received electrical power via 2 AAA batteries.  WindowsCE itself was released by Microsoft in 1996 at COMDEX.  The OS was meant to power handheld computers and act as an embedded OS for other industrial applications. Comparatively speaking, while the devices weren’t really cutting edge, even for the day, they (and the Palm Pilot) were an advancement in computing technology that were the precursors to all mobile devices including all smartphones on the market today.

I got involved early, becoming quite the expert in nearly all versions of WindowsCE, PocketPC and Windows Mobile, prior to it being totally scrapped and changed for Windows Phone.  In fact, I became so competent, I was able to craft my own option ROM’s for PocketPC devices  to use after a hard reset (so all my third party apps would install, as hard resets were a common practice to resolve technical glitches caused by bad third party apps). I also got into flashing alternative ROM’s and OS builds on my Windows Mobile devices.  You couple that with a lot of my desktop Windows experience, and I feel I have a solid basis from which to rate an evaluatory impression on Windows 10 Mobile…

Here it is – meh.  And honestly, I’m being generous. Here’s why…

  • Universal Apps
    In short… where the heck are they? There may be some available and in the Windows Store, but they certainly don’t exist in the numbers and volume that Microsoft was hoping for this far into the release and support of Windows 10.The whole advantage to Windows 10, at least from  Microsoft’s advertised position to its developer community, is that you can write one (1) app, and it should work on every version of Windows 10 and every device that runs it, regardless of screen size or version.  That’s (supposed) to be the draw for developers and Windows 10, code once, run everywhere.  That’s a “universal” app.Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of universal apps in the Windows Store, and I don’t see a lot of developers flocking to the universal app banner.  With developers still ignoring Windows 10 and this new development platform, I’m wondering where the draw is for consumers to choose Windows 10 Mobile over iOS or Android.  Quite honestly, as a consumer, I don’t see it.Consumers want apps. We want games. We want utility apps or “task-oriented” apps (I want to do my banking, I want to buy something from <pick a store>, I want to play <a game>…) With Windows Phone/ Windows 10 Mobile, there’s a really great chance that the app or tool you’re looking for, doesn’t exist on that platform; and won’t. PeriodHere’s the capper, though – according to an article published about a year or so ago on Business Insider, the Universal App platform has issue and problems.  Microsoft also hasn’t really given developers a genuine reason to build Universal Windows Apps (hence, the reason why, a year later, you don’t really see any in the Windows Store…)

    Universal Apps are really a boon for the mobile platform.  The idea here is that Microsoft gets apps for its mobile-powered devices when developers move to the Universal App Platform.  However, regular PC apps and PC development platforms like Visual Studio continue to work just fine, so, there’s no real reason for any developer to change what they’re doing.

    A year after its release, there really aren’t any Universal Apps to speak of, and with Windows 10 Mobile now released to the wild (as of this time last month), the absence of Universal Apps is a huge hole, and one that is made additionally glaring due to Windows Phone’s dismal, global market share of just 1.1%.

    (Interestingly enough, while doing research for this article, I stumbled on a TON of articles dated 2012 that had the IDC predicting that Windows Phone would surpass iOS in global market share by 2016.  Ouch.  That was a bit of miss, wouldn’t you say?)

  • Nokia Here Apps are Gone
    This is a crushing blow to the platform.  One of the biggest reasons why I really liked the Windows Phone/ Windows 10 Mobile platform was in no small part due to Nokia’s Here apps.I used Drive (part of Here Maps) for my daily commute, as it memorized the commute route and then gave you traffic reports and guidance along it so that you could get to work on time.  The Windows Phone version is the only version that does this.  Other versions of Drive on other mobile platforms do the routing thing, but the Windows Phone version was the only one that did the route memorization and advanced alerts.However, with Drive and the rest of Nokia’s HERE Apps NOT coming to Windows 10 Mobile, this is just another reason, from a consumer’s point of view, to ignore the platform.By the way, according to Nokia, the reasoning behind this…  The Universal Apps platform, and the absence of a few key API’s no longer supported by Windows 10 (again, in favor of the Universal Apps platform).  Regardless of how much Nokia asked (dare I say, “begged??”) Microsoft NOT to deprecate these key API’s, Microsoft did it anyway, and hence… bye-bye HERE Apps.This definitely seems to be a case of Microsoft cutting off its nose to spite its face.  I also see this as a fatal move for the platform and is a certain sign that the end is near. If Nokia (of all companies…NOKIA!) abandons Windows Phone, then I have no reason to believe it’s going to survive much past 2017.
  • Windows 10 UI Advantage?
    Yeah… there isn’t any really.  Not on mobile, anyway.The UI on Windows 10 mobile is the tile interface, and that really dominates anything and everything on a Windows Mobile device and has really, since Windows Phone 7.  Microsoft really didn’t make any global UI changes of any note, in my opinion, except for what they did to Settings.On the desktop side of the Windows 10 world, they totally redesigned Settings and changed the way it looks on both Desktop and Mobile. While the mobile side of the world isn’t 100% identical to what you see on the desktop side (and vice-versa…) they’re similar enough for you to be able to not only see the similarities; but to use one vs. the other without any issues or problems.Other than this, however, I really don’t see a consumer based advantage to having the same UI on all Windows 10 devices.  From my perspective, a Windows Phone is still a Windows Phone; and as much as I may like the UI from a mobile perspective – and I do – it ain’t buyin’ me anything.  The Advantage to the same OS, regardless of platform was supposed to be Windows’ Universal Apps, and we all know how well THAT’S turned out (or do I have to go into it again..?  No??  Ok…)

Conclusion

Let’s face it bubba… Windows 10 Mobile is a total and complete bust.

There aren’t any – and in my opinion unless developers worldwide have some sort of, uh-hem, universal epiphany about Universal Apps – there won’t be any Universal Apps for Windows that will make any kind of difference, or lasting impression.  There certainly won’t be any that make Android or iOS users dump their devices for Windows Phone in general.

With Nokia HERE apps – and especially the Windows Mobile specific version of Here Drive – taking a powder from the platform completely by the end of June (meaning that they’re going to stop working for Windows Phone 8.x devices, too), one of the biggest draws to the platform is now totally gone.  Nokia is recommending that all former HERE Maps users on both OS versions look to Windows Maps (a horrible mapping, solution, BTW… Same maps, but rotten UI) for all future mapping and navigation needs.

Finally, without a real compelling UI advantage over Windows Phone 8.x, I not only don’t see the real need or desire for current users to upgrade existing devices; there’s no real drive for new users to make Windows 10 Mobile their OS of choice over an Android or iOS device.

I mean, Windows 10 may be familiar – and that may be a good thing from a desktop computing experience point of view – but from a mobile computing perspective, familiar isn’t compelling.

Its familiar.  That’s it; and familiar is boring.  Familiar isn’t going to make people drop their iPhone or cutting edge Android FLAGSHIP phone for what really only appears to be a mid-range Windows 10 Mobile device (as there really aren’t any compelling Windows 10 Mobile Flagship phones available, despite what Microsoft may have released with Nokia branding…)

I don’t mean to be down on Windows Phone or Windows 10 Mobile.  I really don’t. As I said at the beginning of this whole hullabaloo – I cut my teeth on Microsoft Mobile Devices.  This is really my platform.

The problem is, not only is Microsoft a little too little, a little too late; they’re really just in the way now.  They’re noise… they’re an annoying gnat that you’ve been trying to swat out of your face for a while now, and just won’t go away or die.

It’s sad really, but like Blackberry – who once totally OWNED the mobile device market 10-12 years ago – Windows Phone just needs to go away so that the rest of us can just move on.

It’s over kids.  These really aren’t the Droids you’re looking for…

Agree or disagree with me?  Am I missing something that really needs to be brought to light here?  Are there other nails that need to be jackhammered into the Windows 10 Mobile coffin?  Have I missed the mark, if even by a little bit..?

If so, I would REALLY welcome your input and your comments in the Discussion area below.  This has been a bit painful for me to write and to admit to not only myself, but to say out loud to all of you as well.

I really don’t want to be right on this one, man; but I can’t help but think that I am.  I mean , I know I predicted  the demise of Windows Phone just over six months ago; but predictions can often be wrong and miss the mark. The more that I look at all of this – all of the evidence – I can’t help but think that I’m right; and I really don’t want to be.

As I said, meet me in the Discussion area and give me your thoughts…or at least pass me a box of Kleenex…

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Windows 10 Mobile Released

Windows10-Mobile-wallpaper-img5

 

 

There’s at least some good news for those that have Windows Phones…

The last couple of days has been kinda brutal on Windows Phone. With Nokia essentially killing all of its Windows Phone apps, including HERE Maps, it’s been a rough week.

That is, until now… well… maybe.

If you have one of the following Windows Mobile devices, you need to stop everything and take a trip over to this link on your Windows Phone. When you do, Internet Explorer Mobile will open to a page for Upgrade Advisor. Tapping Get App will take you to the same page in the Windows Phone Store where you can download the app to your phone.

Upgrade Advisor is an app that will check to see if there’s a Windows 10 Mobile upgrade available for your device. Currently eligible devices include the following:

 

 

Lumia Devices:

  • 1520
  • 930
  • 640
  • 640XL
  • 730
  • 735
  • 830
  • 532
  • 535
  • 540
  • 635 1GB
  • 636 1GB
  • 638 1GB
  • 430
  • 435

BLU Devices

  • Win HD w510u
  • Win HD LTE
  • x150q

MCJ Devices

  • Madosma Q501

You should know that only supported devices will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile. Due to performance issues, not every existing Windows Phone 8 device will get the upgrade. According to Microsoft, “many older devices are not able to successfully upgrade without an impact on the customer experience.”

If you upgrade your device, and you don’t like the results, the experience; or if you feel the performance is bad, you can download the Windows Device Recovery Tool (Direct Download Link) and put Windows Phone 8 back on the device. The Windows Device Recovery Tool has been updated to support all of the noted devices, if they weren’t supported already.

WDRT 3.1.6

According to some support forums that I’ve seen, the following functionality is either missing or deprecated on upgraded devices:

  • Me Tile no longer supported
  • Me Card no longer supported.
  • Cortana can no longer search for
    • apps
    • settings
    • email
    • text messages
    • contacts
    • QR Codes
    • can no longer open apps through voice commands.
  • “Hey Cortana” is no longer available on some upgraded devices.
  • Group tiles can no longer be used to receive social networking status updates.
  • Indoor Maps are no longer available for some locations.
  • Certain enterprise features, including Data Protection Under Lock, are not available. Please contact your Microsoft Volume Licensing representative for more information.
  • At time of Windows 10 Mobile’s release Outlook Mail app cannot open .EML attachments.
  • Outlook Calendar app does not support Tasks.
  • The MDM functionality to prevent saving and sharing Office documents is not supported.

I am currently in the process of upgrading my BLU Win HD LTE device and will have an article posted on the actual upgrade, upgrade experience and anything of note that I find while playing with it afterwards.

Stay tuned for more coverage!

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Nokia Kills HERE Maps for Windows Phone

Now, you truly can’t get there from HERE…

here_maps

In a move that likely has many wondering how long Satya Nadella will allow Windows 10 Mobile to continue to exist, it seems that one of the main staples of the platform, HERE Maps will no longer be developed for Windows 10 Mobile or for Windows Phone, for that matter.

When Microsoft failed to purchase Nokia’s HERE software assets along with Nokia’s hardware business, Nokia decided to sell the asset(s) to an automotive consortium. When that happened, the software disappeared from the Windows Store. The app returned a while after, but apparently, the software is set to make a permanent exist from the platform entire.

Recently, HERE announced that it will be removing ALL of its apps from the Windows Store, including HERE Maps before the end of March 2016.

“In the last few months, we made the HERE apps compatible with Windows 10 by using a workaround that will no longer be effective after June 30, 2016. To continue offering the HERE apps for Windows 10 would require us to redevelop the apps from the ground up, a scenario that led to the business decision to remove our apps from the Windows 10 store.

This means the HERE apps will no longer work on devices running Windows 10 mobile after June 30, 2016. To prepare for this change, we have also decided to remove the HERE apps from the Windows 10 store on March 29, 2016.”

While HERE Maps will continue to work on Windows Phone 8 devices without any kind of disruption, post 2016-03-29, HERE has said that it won’t update the software OR the Maps on that platform at all, except for “critical bug fixes.”

According to HERE, the software is deeply integrated into the Windows Phone OS; and during the development of Windows 10 Mobile, platform changes were made. They felt that the required effort to make the software work on Windows 10 Mobile wasn’t worth the development and testing costs.

While I have a Windows Phone 8 device – a BLU Win HD LTE – that is supposed to be upgradable to Windows 10, this is a bit problematic. One of the biggest draws for Windows Phone/ Windows 10 Mobile is HERE Drive (part of HERE Maps). Without this flagship application, reasons for using devices on the Windows 10 Mobile or Windows Phone 8 platform have substantially decreased. Honestly, with the lack of apps out there for Windows Mobile/ Windows Phone, now that Maps is gone, there really isn’t much use for the platform at all.

Period.

What do you think of this development? Is this the [final] nail in the Windows Phone coffin? Does the platform have any kind of future at all? Why don’t you sound off in the comments section below and let me know what you think?

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