Tag Archives: Microsoft

Robot Assistants: Google Inbox v. Microsoft Office 2016

The infamous paper clip - the first robot assistant (we just didn't know it at the time)
The infamous paper clip – the first robot assistant (we just didn’t know it at the time)

Last October, one of Gartner’s predictions for the digital future was that we will have robot assistants helping us perform work – not mechanical work, but office-based work such as content creation:

By 2018, 20 percent of business content will be authored by machines.

This is a bold claim – two years isn’t a long time, and 20% of office productivity is a lot of… documents and spreadsheets and presentations.

I’ve long been a fan of Google Inbox, the alternative interface to Gmail. Inbox recently announced that 10% of email replies using Google Inbox are now written by the built-in SmartReply feature – probably the biggest current implementation of a robot assistant. Continue reading Robot Assistants: Google Inbox v. Microsoft Office 2016

Review of 2015 predictions

Time to look back on the 2015 predictions from 12 months ago…. how many of those crystal ball predictions came true?

1. Self-service: Next generation self-service offerings

When was the last time you telephoned a call centre? I can’t remember.

According to a report from Dimension Data, “Social media is already the first choice for Gen Y (globally).Continue reading Review of 2015 predictions

Windows 10 – six month review

The Windows 10 start menu. It's back!!
The Windows 10 start menu. It’s back!!

I’ve run Windows 10 as the Operating System on my work laptop since the start of January.

I’ve been through some ups and downs with the latest version of Windows, and came very close to uninstalling it. Six months on though, I’m delighted with Windows 10. It’s evolved a fair bit, and Microsoft claim it will be ready for general release during this summer.

Before I go into detail, note that I’m running Windows 10 on some pretty beefy hardware – a Surface Pro with an i7 processor, 8Gb memory and 500Gb solid state hard drive. I don’t know how Windows 10 will perform on lower spec hardware. I’m on build 10162 which has been very stable (as in, one blue screen in a fortnight – more details below).

The two key areas I think Microsoft have improved upon are the Start menu and notifications. The rest feels a bit like some simple repainting on previous features. Continue reading Windows 10 – six month review

Digital Media predictions in 2015

Each year I forecast some predictions in the Digital Media/ Internet world, and at the end of the year I score those predictions to see whether they came true or not.

1. Self-service: Next generation self-service offerings

Expect to see more companies offering portals for customers to service themselves.

For instance, think of the last time you bought an airline ticket – you probably bought the ticket through a website and checked in online or through your smartphone.

This will become more commonplace. I can’t remember the last time I put coins in a parking meter – I use my smartphone to pay for parking instead.

Through 2014 we’ll see coins used less, and you’ll be calling help desks less because you’ll be buying and servicing your needs online instead. Continue reading Digital Media predictions in 2015

Review of 2014 predictions

Blackberry shares in 2014 - at 49% growth, there are worse things you could have done with your money
Blackberry shares in 2014 – at 49% growth, there are worse things you could have done with your money

How did my 2014 Digital Media predictions from last December turn out?

2014 has been another interesting year in the digital world. The end of a terrible recession has forced most companies to place digital at the heart of their strategy. #Fintech has become a recognised term for banks, insurance companies and other financial services organisations trying to update their systems to become ‘digital‘.

1. TV will change

Last December I predicted Ultra HD will become production ready, 3D TV will disappear and we’ll start seeing transparent TVs on the market. Continue reading Review of 2014 predictions

Who is the most innovative Digital company?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/69730904@N03/8813574238/in/photolist-eqPSyw-epTCc8-epTGev-en4VSP-eqPSPS-eqPTLS-eqPTc7-eqPTq9-doNVTr-efQAXy-efJRYB-efQBp5-em66tj-efsmR6-cENafG-dMJvs3-en4PPF-e6EqJu-ecJRVJ-e6pKQ6-ek6sgo-ei8Brh-eAWKCw-dFV5kN-eqB6TM-bNkiBe-dYvGXF-efMgFh-eATBuR-eh7hDz-eh7hi8-eh7hu4-eh7h4p-eh7hag-eh7ho6-eAWK9m-efhiTw-dUz93S-dYvGYV-bK2B1V-efWWxb-efWWTJ-efRb6H-efRbwx-efWX7U-efWWZs-efWWB9-efWWsQ-efRbCg-efRbuv-efWWEY/
Google Glass. Beware in bathrooms of someone winking at you.

Yesterday someone asked me a question which I’ve been asked before but never covered it on this site… “What company do I think is the most consumer-oriented, innovative technology company?”

The context of the question related to Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, who do I rate as the most innovative?

First we need to ask another question – “What is innovation?” To me, innovation is the skill to keep inventing new stuff, to keep redefining products and/ or business models. It’s the constant strive for change for the better, not just the sake of it. Continue reading Who is the most innovative Digital company?

My 2013 Favourites for Gadgets, Books, Apps and Industry Awards

At the end of every year, I’ve listed my highlights of the previous year. See the post from 2012 with links to previous years. Here are some of the highlights from 2013:

Favourite New Gadget

An unflattering photo wearing Google Glass
An unflattering photo wearing Google Glass

There are several contenders from 2013. After 4 years with my previous work laptop, I took the plunge and went for a new convertible tablet/ laptop, the Dell XPS 12. It’s good, in fact the speed is still as fast as the latest laptops in the office, but my original intention was to stop using my paper notepad, and the XPS with the touch screen just can’t replace it. If you are looking for a decent laptop and have the budget available, I recommend the XPS – but keep a paper pad close by.

I also swapped from my iPhone 3GS (or as I preferred to call it, my “iPhone Classic”) to a Samsung Galaxy S4. I prefer the Samsung to Apple in every area except the lack of the red underlining for misspelled words, and that alone is almost a showstopper.

Continuing the Google theme, in December we bought Google Glass at work, and I’ve used them as much as possible. Google Glass is the future without a doubt, however I think it’s a generation (of users) too early. After watching colleagues and some customers struggle to use them in the office, it’s fascinating to watch my kids use them so naturally.

The prize for my favourite between these three? Sorry to wimp out, but it’s a tie between the laptop and Glass.

Favourite Book

I don't agree with all of it, but it's still my favourite read of 2013
I don’t agree with all of it, but it’s still my favourite read of 2013

I’ve been fortunate to read several good books this year. Removing the fictional titles (I rarely read fiction but my ex-manager at Endava guaranteed I’d like a particular author so much that he’d pay for the books if I didn’t like them), here is my 2013 reading list:

  1. The Intention Economy, Doc Searls
  2. The Tao of Twitter, Mark Schaefer
  3. Search Engine Optimisation: An Hour a Day, Jennifer Grappone & Gradiva Couzin
  4. The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson
  5. Total Recall: My Unbelievable Life Story, Arnold Schwarzenegger

I recommend all of them.

The Tao of Twitter provided inspiration, and results, of higher levels of engagement on Twitter.

I’ve recommended the SEO book to everyone I’ve met this year who has shown interest in natural SEO – it’s written in a simple, friendly manner with practical suggestions on almost every page.

The Arnie book caught my eye at Heathrow airport on one of my business trips this year. If you’re unsure about the book, just read the back cover – you’ll be surprised how much he’s achieved in his life.

However the award for my favourite book goes to Doc Searls. I didn’t like (or perhaps a more appropriate word is ‘appreciate’) some of his earlier work such as The Cluetrain Manifesto, and even in The Intention Economy I didn’t agree with all parts of the book (my major criticism is his firm view on open source – why isn’t his book open source if he believes in it so much?) If you need some inspiration for corporate digital transformation, this book will offer it. At Endava we are working with large consultancies who list The Intention Economy as mandatory reading for their senior directors.

Favourite iPhone/ Smartphone App

I’ve had to rename this since defecting to Android!

Strava is still my favourite. It’s the best cycling app available, mainly due to it’s implicit gamification. I sent them some suggestions for improvements which they implemented within a few weeks, so a big “Thank You” there.

A very close second is OneNote. I like how I can create a note in OneNote and it appears on my computer in OneNote. It’s quick to use, and comes with the Microsoft Office stack, so there’s no additional app to install such as EverNote.

Favourite Award

The Top 100 Digital Agencies Report 2013 – Endava came 17th

A huge well done and thank you to the team at Endava for ranking us as the 17th largest agency in the eConsultancy Top 100 Digital Agencies. The award was presented for our 2011/12 accounts due to Endava’s financial year finishing after the Econsultancy entry deadline, and so next year is likely to look even healthier.

As well as the Econsultancy, Endava also won a number of other awards which we are also very proud of.

 

This is likely to be my last post of 2013, so I wish you and your family a wonderful festive season, a Merry Christmas, a Happy & Prosperous New Year, or just some good old-fashioned time off.

Review of 2013 predictions

How did my 2013 Digital Media predictions from last December turn out?

2013 was due to be another tough year. Still in the depths of the recession, 2013 followed the pick-me-up of the 2012 London Olympics – it was billed as the hangover year. But 2013 proved, especially in the UK, to be a signal of the end of the recession.

Yahoo! stock price in 2013 - don't you just wish you'd bought a few more of these?
Yahoo! stock price in 2013 – don’t you just wish you’d bought a few more of these?

1. Many, many new devices will be launched

A number of UK retailers and European super brands launched their own tablet devices – Argos, Tesco & Deutsche Telekom to name a few.

And at the end of the year we’ve seen the launch of the new XBox One and PlayStation 4.

And continuing the tradition of previous predictions that it will finally be the year of the 3D printer, even Argos think that at some point we’ll be printing stuff out at home.

Prediction rating: 9/10

2. Yahoo! Makes! A! Comeback!

At the start of 2013, Yahoo! stocks were $19.90. I’m writing this article on 17 December, and Yahoo! stocks are $39.51. A double exclamation mark for that!!

The reason for that valuation? According to Comscore, Yahoo! has seen a 21% increase in visitor numbers, and in July had more traffic than Google.

Prediction rating: 10/10

3. Microsoft to return

It’s been a mixed year for Microsoft. On the good news front, Windows 8.1 has helped with the market perception of their latest Operating System. Personally I couldn’t go back from Windows 8, I really like it. XBox One has also helped.

On the not so good news, 2013 has seen a stuttering stock price and the CEO Steve Ballmer resigned.

In neutral news, Microsoft bought Nokia for $7 billion this year – let’s see what happens.

Microsoft is still a fantastic company. 16% growth (year on year) in the first quarter for 2014 to $18.5 billion revenue with a healthy profit margin. A new CEO who can sort out a strategy for the next decade will also sort out the stock price.

Prediction rating: 6/10

 4. Indoor GPS

Indoor GPS hasn’t taken off as expected. Google are busy mapping (and recording Street View) as many shopping malls and larger buildings as they can.

Prediction rating: 2/10 – perhaps a year or two early

 5. Learning to switch off

2013 didn’t quite promote Quiet-modes as much as I’d expected (or hoped). That being said, when I went on holiday in the Summer and told people I wouldn’t have my mobile or laptop with me, they said it was an inspiration, but they wouldn’t be able to follow suit.

Prediction rating: 1/10 – Am I alone??!

6. Context sensitive

Google has become even more context sensitive in 2013, especially on Android devices with the launch of Google Now. 2014 will see new Android releases which push Google Now to the main menu screen.

Unfortunately other websites haven’t followed suit. I’m not sure whether it’s the funding or the want, or the imagination to build a page which could be different for everyone. Either way, we’re not seeing as many context sensitive, personalised experiences as we should.

Prediction rating: 2/10

7. The end of the QR code

Thankfully I haven’t seen many QR codes recently.

The last time I saw one was when I received Google Glass, and it was used to transfer a number of settings from my computer to Glass. So it made a lot of sense. A lot more sense than replacing a human readable, memorable domain name with a QR code – and that’s why I dislike them.

Prediction rating: 9/10 – QR RIP

 8. Healthcare apps

Our company healthcare insurance has launch a smartphone app which tracks how much exercise we all do. It groups everyone from Endava together and shows a leaderboard of who’s done the most exercise – a great piece of gamification.

We’re at the tip of the iceberg. In years to come we won’t visit a doctor for routine appointments, we’ll use sensors on our smartphone to communicate with healthcare professionals.

Prediction rating: 7/10

9. Drones buzzing in the sky

My favourite TED video this year was about robotic (i.e. automated, unpiloted) drones. And this month Amazon announced that by 2015 they’ll be using drones for deliveries, assuming legislation is available.

Drones will change society more than any other technology in the foreseeable future.

Prediction rating: 7/10 – A bit too early, but we’re on the cusp of a an amazing change to society

Summary

That’s a total of 53 out of a possible 90. Not as good as previous years, although I’d tried to be more adventurous than previous years. I’ll release the 2014 predictions in the next couple of weeks.

Implementing Single Sign On using Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure logoThis week Microsoft announced that it will be extending Active Directory on the Azure cloud. This is a major selling point for Microsoft Azure.

Azure Active Directory has been around for about a year now. It enables organisations to create large Active Directories (up to around 500,000 users), providing a Single Sign On (SSO) solution based on an enterprise-level Identity Management standard. Azure Active Directory extends a company’s existing Active Directory to offer a single login across applications, for free.

The new Premium offering, now in preview (i.e. beta) phase, supports unlimited users, two factor authentication (including phone calls and text messages), to provide a Single Sign On solution across Azure applications, even non-Microsoft ones. If an organisation creates a custom app on Azure, they can add Active Directory as their own branded SSO system, competing with the likes of Facebook Connect, Twitter, and so on.

Organisations have been requesting these types of systems for a while. At Endava we build and host customers’ websites which have millions of users. Identity Management (IM) systems are usually licensed on a per-user basis, which is unaffordable for clients who offer free user accounts, so in the past we’ve usually built custom solutions for IM. Windows Azure Active Directory Premium offers this as a cloud based Identity Management system on a monthly cost rather than per user.

Many IT professionals predict public cloud offerings as the end of private data centres. Other IT professionals think that public cloud is fine for consumer apps, not enterprise level. I believe it depends on what the enterprise is trying to do that makes public cloud an option or not.

Azure Active Directory, especially the Premium offering, significantly strengthens Microsoft’s public cloud offering for the enterprise and provides an affordable IM solution for all websites.

A double family hack

Hacked Mac
Credit: Willy López on Flickr

In a rather odd coincidence, both my mum and mother-in-law’s computers have been hacked in the last couple of weeks.

My mum has a Mac and once the hacker got in (we think it was through an email attachment in Hotmail), they changed the computer system settings and the language – which was quite clever because my mum just left the computer on, clicking around trying to get the language back to English. I suspect the longer the computer was left on, the longer the hacker had to make more changes on the system.

Once the hacker had control of her Hotmail account, they sent out emails saying my parents were abroad and in distress, and required some cash to get them out of trouble. The email looked 80% genuine – good enough for some of my parents’ friends to call me and ask if they were OK.

Unfortunately for my mum, I don’t know very much about Macs, let alone being able to look at an Arabic version of Mac OS and get it back to English. She had to call a computer trainer to come over and help return her computer back to normal, including installing some security software.

Hackers managed to get into my mother-in-law’s Gmail account. We still don’t know how they did this. The first we knew of it was when hackers sent an email to my wife (they didn’t email everyone in the contacts – for instance I didn’t get the email). The email didn’t look like computer generated spam, so my wife phoned her mum and recommended she change the password straight away. The password was already complex – I had set it up originally, including a capital letter, numbers and letters, punctuation and a decent length.

My mother-in-law then called a few days later to say she hadn’t received any emails since the incident. I looked at her laptop and the hackers had set up a Gmail rule redirecting all email into the Bin straight away. This was clever because it meant that for all the emails sent from her account, if someone replied to ask whether it was genuine, the reply would have gone straight to the Bin without my mother-in-law seeing it.

I guess the key takeaways are to keep changing the password regularly, and keep it complex. Never ever open attachments in emails unless you really are expecting something and it looks genuine.

The operating system vendors, Apple and Microsoft, and now mobile operating system vendors too, have a tough balancing act. They have to provide a marketplace for third parties to produce security software, but they also have a duty of care to make their systems secure for users. The argument is that if say, Microsoft, bundled anti-virus software with Windows, the third parties would be out of business within days.

However the email providers don’t have such a balancing act, and really should be prohibiting certain attachments to emails, or checking their contents properly.