The last Windows 10 Cloud post (for now)……….

So Windows 10 Cloud; runs only apps from the Store, can be upgraded for a fee, and most likely will be revealed on the 2nd of May. Target market at launch looks to be education. We may even get a new Surface for our troubles.

Okay got it?

Good.

So what is the benefit of this thing for you, me, and the guy playing Solitaire on a netbook from 2000?

First things first. Windows 10 Cloud is competing with Chromebooks chiefly which means this is the low end of computing. So budget to middle devices. This is not gaming rig or Adobe whatever material. It runs stuff from the Windows Store, so stop bitching about Chrome or Firefox (you can always upgrade to full Windows). So what we have is a slightly lightweight and appliance like version of Windows. The kind of device that would be used for light browsing and cheap enough that if lost it wouldn’t be a big deal.

So who would buy this? Potentially people who want a simplified computing experience. For every person who wants to tinker with the OS, there is someone who wants something that quick boots so they can go. Another customer are those who need a second device. Maybe you game but want a PC for non gaming stuff or you need a travel computer; this may be for you. Lastly you just need something with a keyboard to use the Internet on. Say a parent wants to give their kid a computer for college. Something durable to last the four or more years away. Or you’re a person that lives on your phone but sometimes needs a larger screen.

ITS A PC DO WHAT YA WANT

 

The above title was brought to you by SEO.

We are now a week away from Microsoft’s next big event in which they may show off a new piece of hardware (or not).

However we do now that this event will be focused on the Education market.

Now the event is believed to be the unveiling of Windows 10 Cloud; a version of Windows that from leaks appears to be designed to compete with Google’s Chromebooks. For those that don’t know, Chromebooks run ChromeOS (a operating system based on Google’s Chrome browser). Chromebooks have seen steady growth; especially in the education market. This growth, along with data suggesting Chrome has helped grow the stagnating PC market, is cited as reason for the new Windows variant.

Windows 10 Cloud is a version of Windows 10 that locks the system so users can only use applications coming out of the Windows store. In some ways it is similar to Windows RT (the version of Windows 8 for ARM devices) with the difference being Cloud users can upgrade to full Windows. Now according to information from Windows Central, Cloud’s target specs are designed to compete with ChromeOS.

For Windows 10 Cloud and devices running it to compete they have to make a case for why it is a better choice than a Chromebook or an iPad.

For educators and schools a Chromebook has benefits in terms of cost, software, and maintenance. Cost is simple; compared to a Windows PC, Mac, or an iPad Chromebooks are cheaper. For example Dell sells an Education laptop  with both Windows and Chrome. For a 13 inch laptop the Windows device runs for $519 and the Chromebook for $299. Compare that same Chromebook to a 9.7 inch iPad (sans keyboard) that runs for $309; Chromebooks make sense. With software the benefit of running Chrome is it’s lightweight and limited. ChromeOS is basically a browser so it doesn’t have the same overhead a PC or Mac does. Also a lot of the materials used in schools today are web based like testing. Lastly ChromeOS is easier to deploy and maintain. Chromebooks limited nature makes it perfect for schools and school districts that have little or no IT support. This is not mentioning Google’s services like G Suite; which are free or discounted.

 

Win_central_edu_sales

image: Windows Central

 

 

Another factor in the education space is the differing needs of students according to age. The needs of a teacher with First graders is much different than a 10th grade History teacher. One reason iPads work well in schools and had larger adoption than Macs is they are excellent tools for K-5. In those grades the simpler and more intuitive tablet works. Touch is an easier concept for early learning. Making an iPad work beyond this period requires extras like keyboards and sometimes isn’t the best solution for older students.

So Windows 10 Cloud is facing a few hurdles.

And this was just the education market.

Windows 10 Cloud’s first hurdle will be explaining why it exists and why customers should consider it. Microsoft went down this path with Windows RT and it was rejected. Now there have been improvements. Windows Store and Windows 10, unlike RT, allow all apps to run on the desktop. Also Cloud will allow users to upgrade to “real” Windows whenever they like. But it also brings back something RT did have; a light weight, faster version of Windows.

Windows Cloud’s education and student focus allows for it to be sold as a secure OS. The fact it only runs pre-approved apps means it avoids a lot of the things people associate  Windows with; viruses  and undeletable junk software. One of the benefits of having a simpler system like a Chromebook is its built to work as an appliance. They are designed to be easily picked up and used. In an education environment that ability to pick it up and just use it without a lot load time or checking for updates is benefit. And this brings us to cost and deployment.

Perhaps the biggest factor in what device schools buy is cost. If you are a cash strapped district buying $200-400 dollar iPads along with Apple Pencils and keyboards is a non-starter. Remember they are buying in bulk and for about 4-6 years worth of use (and this is just me spit balling about devices for in school use, not 1-to-1 programs). Microsoft has recently introduced a Windows version for Education along with deals for low cost education PCs. However they are still more expensive than a Chromebook which can be picked up at an OfficeMax (I have personally seen teachers in stores looking).

The other factor in choosing devices is maintenance. Some schools have dedicated IT staff; others have at least one teacher who is the dedicated tech support. So deployment and upkeep are big factors. iPads and Chromebooks work in part because they are easier to deploy. They are also easier for teachers to fix without calling tech support. Microsoft has simplified management and deployment with Intune for Education (simplified computer management). However I am unclear if they have solutions for triaging apps and devices.

Now I haven’t talked about software yet and I guess its as good as time as any.

So at the 800 word mark I will switch it up and describe how I think Microsoft will sell Windows 10 Cloud.

 

Win_Cloud_Performance

image: Windows Central

 

 

From an education standpoint, Windows 10 Cloud’s selling point is that it can grow with the student. The fact that Windows went touch three years ago means it runs on tablets but also on those clamshells kids upgrade to as they age. For institutions the argument is they have a one stop shop. Also this is Windows which means Office and in particular OneNote. OneNote is tailor built for students in mind and it’s growing feature set has been designed to appeal to teachers building ad hoc lesson plans. Also Office 365 offers both free and paid options for schools, students, and teachers (including 24/7 customer care). Microsoft also has software like Minecraft for Education (aka Lego Crack). With Windows 10 Microsoft has inking and touch built in.

Unlike Apple they have multiple vendors. In comparison to Google they are more expensive. Or not because Windows 10 Cloud will probably be a free version of the OS. In terms of manageability Windows 10 Cloud Microsoft will argue it has more flexibility; from homegrown offering like Active Directory and Intune to 3rd party vendors. In terms of third party apps and other features I think Microsoft may ink new deals with education software vendors and tout their Edge Browser.

And as far as hardware goes, if there is branded hardware it will be around 10-11 inches (good middle ground for K-12), 6GB of RAM, 64/128 GB, and a SSD. It will have an attached keyboard and come with a pen. I also think it may be built with a different type of material than the magnesium of Surface.

(Now this isn’t certain, but I’m betting on two devices; a clamshell and a smaller tablet)

Okay that’s it turn in later for a nice (and brief) piece on Windows 10 Cloud for everyone else.

 

So I want to talk about Windows Cloud and what it means; but I want to start by talking about Microsoft’s loss of trust amongst Windows enthusiasts.

Microsoft is a software company. The bulk of its money comes from enterprise. Things like Azure, SQL, and SharePoint have way more impact on their bottom line than say Windows. In fact I would argue that Microsoft is far more comfortable and competent when it comes to services than it is on delighting the person PC buying at BestBuy.

Microsoft’s consumer facing products are a mixed bag; for every Xbox there is a Zune, or a Kin. Windows is their biggest consumer facing product but there are times when one wonders if its a stone throw away from mothballs.

Right now many are disillusioned with the company for a myriad of things that revolve around consumer. And a lot of it revolves around commitment.

Commitment to mobile (beyond making iOS and Android apps).

Commitment to gaming (in terms of first party and exclusive games)

And overall commitment to Windows as Microsoft’s platform.

Enthusiasm is waning because the feeling many, including myself, have is Microsoft has quit.

After a period in which it shifted to Windows Phone , premiered Windows 8 and RT, started the Surface line, and pushed out the Xbox One they seem to have hit a rut. Now don’t get me wrong there have been hits, but also failures. Microsoft’s failure to gain traction in mobile has seen them buy Nokia’s hardware unit, they take a write off because they weren’t going to turn into a phone maker. The Xbox One trails the PlayStation 4.

So now Redmond is scrambling and scraping initiatives that leave users and enthusiasts wondering if Microsoft’s product are worth the time. If Microsoft won’t invest in its platform why should anyone else? Microsoft of late acts like it wants to be an app maker for iOS and Android and not do anything with the mobile platform it owns.

And this raises questions for Windows Cloud.

How committed will Microsoft be with it?

In a period in which Microsoft is running silent in regards to the future of Windows Mobile you have to wonder. Will Cloud have the firm backing of Redmond or is it another flash in the pan.

 

 

neon

It’s April and we are slowly encroaching on Redstone 3 which means more information on Project Neon, the UI update for Windows 10, is leaking. To recap Neon will be an update to the existing Windows shell coming after the Anniversary Update (which seems to be coming fall 2017).

After the initial leaked info (and my nerding out) I have wondered how major an update this is. Windows 8 was major in that brought in touch/tablet elements. Windows Phone brought the Metro design language.

So what is Neon bringing?

I should also say I had started reading a lot of the commentators remarking on how Neon was a minor refresh adding minor features. So my enthusiasm waned. But then I got excited again.

For one Neon is bringing in a level of polish to Windows. It is something that honestly got lost on the platform when it started backtracking from Windows 8 and Windows Phone. It also appears like Microsoft is focusing on providing more tools and templates to create good designs out of the box. Also it new rumors make me think the overarching goal is to go the last mile in terms of delivering a consistent product.

A number of recent rumors will see features coming that bring real value to users and not just cosmetic changes. Things like in app tab support; for things like File explorer are welcomed productivity features.

Also it looks like Microsoft is working on having a consistent feel and behavior for the design. The rumored blur glass effects are being carried over to the Start Screen.

Now with my excitement I still have questions.

Like what changes are coming to improve touch. Will we see previews for other applications with Neon. The MSN apps need a new coat of paint. Also how does this translate to other form factors like phones (We hope) and tablets?

We may soon get the answers (because I finished this thing the month before Build).

 

 

 

So on May 2, Microsoft will be holding an education focused event. The rumor is the event will cover Windows 10 Cloud and a new computing device from Redmond.

Now the device will NOT be an update to the Surface Pro or Surface Book.

It will also not be the long rumored Phone.

Many are taking cues from an early DigiTimes rumor saying Redmond will be premiering a Surface clamshell device. That rumor said this device would sell for $1,000 and be positioned as an entry model. Given past devices there is debate on whether this PC will be a straight up laptop or something like the Lenovo Yoga (folds into a tablet).

This is just my take on what may go down beginning with the software.

Windows Cloud

Windows 10 Cloud is a new version of Windows in the vein of Home or Business. Microsoft has not been public about Cloud; it hasn’t stated its existence and what we know comes from leaked information. What we do know is Cloud is a fairly locked down version of Windows 10 that only runs software coming from the Windows Store. Also for a price, a user can upgrade the system to full Windows.

On paper Windows Cloud resembles Windows RT; the early ARM based version of Windows 8 that ran only WINRT based apps. Now that where that comparison ends because Cloud can run apps in the modern Windows store that includes x86 applications and apps built on UWP (the updated version of WINRT). Also those apps run in windowed mode which RT did in a limited fashion. So beyond that we don’t know much about Cloud. It’s a locked down variant of Windows.

The thing with Cloud is its widely considered to be a competitor to Google’s ChromeOS. ChromeOS is an OS based of the Chrome browser; the apps you run are web apps and some Android apps (depending on the device). Unlike MacOS and Windows Chrome is a lightweight system; like a mobile OS. Google does most of the maintenance and updating without user input. ChromeOS and Chromebooks basically offer what most of us do with computers now; the browser. While ChromeOS has had some traction in the consumer market it has had serious success in education.

So Cloud exists because of ChromeOS but what does that mean for May?

Windows Cloud is just one part of Microsoft’s possible education play. I say that in part because most of the leaked info about Cloud doesn’t limit it to devices aimed at schools. There is also a version of Windows aimed at the Education market which no one has said is being merged with Cloud. So in my opinion Cloud if its shown off will be a new initiative around offering lower cost entry devices. The education angle will come in the form of new services and updated applications. Things like OneNote, Word, Sway, and Intune for Education.

 

learnwhatsnexthero-web

Surface Cloudbook

So what about hardware?

Now my personal opinion is there is a 50/’50 chance this event will see no branded Microsoft hardware but PCs from partners. I say this if the event’s focus is on Widows Cloud. But if there is a new Surface device this my idea on what it will be.

Given the focus of the event, past Surface devices, and Windows Cloud I think the device will likely be similar to the Surface 3. It won’t be based off the current Surface Pro as that is too large for kids in Elementary and Middle school. I am going under the assumption that this PC will be positioned as a device that can grow with the child; also work for younger students. So I do think the screen size will be around the 10 inch mark; 11 would be pushing.

Second if we go with the rumor about the clamshell; then this device will look like the Lenovo Yoga Book. This device will be a deviation from what we think of as a Surface device, but not by much. I expect it will use the same aspect ratio use touch, and function like a tablet. The difference will be if the keyboard stays attached. There is a possibility that this may look like a smaller Surface Book. If the keyboard stays attached we could see a new design around a Yoga styled device. I expect a pen will be included. Also if this is an education facing device we may get the first non Magnesium built Surface. Like the Surface 3 this thing will run on a mobile Intel chip (possibly Qualcomm).

 

lenovo-yoga-book-windows-1

Lenovo’s Yogabook a possible guide to Surface Cloudbook

 

My best guess is the May 2 event will focus mostly on Windows Cloud and it’s benefits to education. I’m also guessing Cloud will be a free offering and Cloud devices will be aggressively priced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So this week has been one of the many in which I honestly wonder what Microsoft is doing in mobile.

There has been this growing feeling (on my part) that Microsoft’s retrenchment was a major miscalculation; and one that is just another link in the chain of misery that has followed Windows Phone.

It is as if Microsoft has been hoping if it says nothing and does nothing, Windows Mobile will just die and they can start over (or not).

Microsoft has said in the past it plans to maintain its mobile platform and it has sent out patches and has updated the OS as part of the larger Creator’s update. But the company has also not done anything new for the platform.

There are two concrete truths as I see it. One is Microsoft is concentrating on its successful platform and distancing itself from the unsuccessful one. Two, mobile is to important an environment to be dependent on being a software vendor.

There are parts of Redmond who believe their mobile focus should be on gaining a stronger foothold on iOS and Android. Which is why Office was first available on iOS and why there is DeX optimized version for the Samsung Galaxy S8. I think this is a good idea in half; they need to be on those platforms but not ignore their own.

Microsoft needs a mobile platform; a place to showoff services in a way they simply can’t on the big two systems. No matter how much integration they can get on Android it’ll never be a Microsoft device. I know some like Paul Thurrott think it is time for Microsoft to focus on Android as their platform but that, in my opinion, would be as effective as the retrenchment strategy.

It’s time for Microsoft to stop deluding itself that it can avoid mobile.

If Microsoft’s pullback was to access the future of whatever they think mobile is, they need to share the results.

If they are aiming to get out of the market, go Android or be an ISV, or go a different direction they need to say something. What is occurring now is unprofessional and a disservice to users and developers.

Microsoft’s blunders in mobile, the ones in their control, were avoidable. They weren’t avoided because Microsoft spent crucial years in internecine conflict. Their decision to retrench mobile and focus on the devices they had traction (PC) with has only delayed them and put them further back. Microsoft hasn’t and is not doing the work needed for a come back to the mobile market. They haven’t got a vendor to pick up the low end market where Windows Phone had traction. Companies like BLU or ZTE aren’t there with devices. Also their refocus on enterprises hasn’t gone farther than the NYPD and the HP Elite x3.

Microsoft should have treated mobile in the same way it has treated  Azure and the cloud; as the future of its fortunes. Instead it was treated like the Zune; a me too product never brought into the larger portfolio.

And the biggest sin Microsoft has committed has been silence.

The weak statements of commitment have been followed up with signs that mobile is being winded down. The number of devices have been reduced. And the feature set between PC and Mobile is inconsistent.

Windows may mean less to Redmond’s bottom line but that doesn’t detract from the need for it to continue to do well. There is also the need for Windows to continue its transformation away from desktop computing.

Whether they like it or not mobile needs to be resolved. I just don’t think Microsoft can hold off on it forever.

 

To Satya Nadella, Frank X. Shaw, Terry Myerson, or anyone in Redmond WA that wants to respond,

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

I mean it, ZDNet is reporting the company is selling a “Microsoft Edition” of the S8. So are you done with Windows Mobile?

I don’t mean the bullshit about maintaining of the software; but in actually updating the OS with new features or maybe an update UI.

I only ask because after the  retrenchment there has been silence other than the pat answer of being committed to Windows phone. And honestly that sounds hollow. In actuality Microsoft has done the barest of bare minimums in terms of support. The other reality is Microsoft has shifted its mobile concerns to supporting iOS and Android (when they feel like they toss phone users a bone if we’re lucky).

And now Microsoft is getting ready to sell the Samsung S8 in it’s stores (which they don’t EVER talk about).

So Microsoft would like us to know something; like are you now really done playing catchup in the phone market?

Are you ready to say the words so everyone can move on because you are now done with mobile?

Or are you holding on to dear life because you know saying, “We are done”, kills UWP in its already stagnant tracks.

I mean honestly you should be honest, just be fucking honest; so we and you can move on.

Sincerely a tired fan boy