Archive for the ‘Mobile devices’ Category

Transformer Man…

August 18, 2011

I got to take a look at one of our tech team’s new toy, yesterday – an ASUS Transformer tablet. Those of you who have read my brain-dumpings before will know how much of a fan of the tablet genre I am, and how much I love my iPad. I use a fair bit of Apple stuff, but I am absolutely not against all other vendors; however I hadn’t yet seen a tablet that I thought was the equal of or better than the iPad.

However, I was impressed with this one. It was fast, slick, seemed to work well. There was no discernible lag to the interface, which seems to be the case with many tablets. The keyboard/dock/extra battery worked very well, with hotkeys for certain functions and a really useable track pad. I was even able to play Fruit Ninja (badly, but that’s down to me not the device) using the track pad. And I gather the dock adds an extra 8 hours of battery, which is pretty awesome – somewhere close to 18 hours all in, apparently.

Downsides? Well, I’m not convinced the elongated (widescreen) form factor is for me – it wants to be in portrait whereas I tend towards landscape with tablets. It’s blooming heavy with the keyboard dock – unscientific measurement (holding apples in one hand, android in the other) suggests that the weight is roughly the same as my iPad and 11″ MacBook Air. I didn’t like the ouside coating, a plasticcy, sort-of carbon fibre effect. Although as Phill pointed out, it’s probably scratch resistant and does form a protective shell for the device when the keyboard dock is closed.

With access to a virtual desktop delivered by Citrix, VMware View or similar, this could be all the device you need…

I don’t think I will be replacing my iPad right now, but it’s good to see there’s some good competition at last!

Total Value of Ownership and ‘Martini Computing’

June 30, 2011

After the event with HP’s CTO I hosted, I was fortunate to be invited to an event in London with the President and CEO of Citrix, Mark Templeton. I was quite impressed with the guy, if I am honest – a really down to earth chap, which you don’t expect at the higher echelons of a large organisation. After the main event, which was a presentation and a Q and A, he was more than happy to have a chat over a cup of coffee, which was enlightening.

Some of the stuff he talked about resonated with me, as it was similar to the way we try to shape our own business. He was saying that while they are a public company and have a duty to their shareholders, they are more interested in building something interesting and powerful, which will deliver benefits to their customers – whilst having fun – than focusing short term on the needs of those shareholders. We try to do the same – focus on employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, in our belief that the former drives the latter. If we treat our customers right, the rest will follow – I’m sure that’s an appropriate standpoint. We’re privately owned, but I’m sure Mark’s attitude will deliver for his shareholders in the long term.

Anyway, back to business… Mark was talking about the way in which IT calculate the return of spending money – or how business calculates the return of spending money on IT. This is generally based on TCO – total cost of ownership – and whether having a lower TCO will generate a return for the investment over a given time period.

The suggestion was that in this day and age, we should be looking at Total Value of Ownership – TVO – instead. This means concentrating more on the benefits an IT solution will deliver to the business rather than the pure costs.

I guess this is particularly appropriate in the virtual desktop space where Citrix play – it’s difficult to justify a VDI project on capital grounds over the cost of replacing PCs, but the benefits come in terms of, yes, lowered operational expenditure but also in flexibility of workspace, device independent computing (letting users choose their access device), home working, employee experience… We’re likely to role out VDI for our own users, and can see such benefits, as an employer which likes to be nice to its staff, as really important. I look forward to the day when all users can access IT systems securely using the device of their choice, wherever and whenever they want. Maybe we should call it Martini computing….

Corporate SaaS app stores ready to go? VMware Horizon App Manager

May 24, 2011

Does your company consume any SaaS apps, yet? We do. Due to the success of Softcat and the speed with which we have grown, we recently invested in a new HR system – somewhere to track holidays, expenses, training and development etc. It’s great – I now have zero need to use a pen in a work context at last (still have to use them to sign birthday cards, but that’s it!). Unfortunately, the usernames and passwords are not (yet!) aligned with our AD – so there is no single sign-on. Being the awkward ‘user’ that I am, I of course forgot my username…

So I was thinking about this in readiness for this post, and you know what? We already consume a load of SaaS apps that I hadn’t really thought about in those terms. In fact, this is one of my ‘pet hates’ for this industry. Every vendor we deal with – Microsoft, VMware, HP, EMC etc – has a portal, full of really useful information, tech specs, knowledge bases etc. Really handy – but each one requires a different login – and usually a different password policy. Needless to say, there is no identity integration for any of these, so it is a management nightmare.

Over time, I think we will see more and more of this stuff – portals masquerading as SaaS apps (hell, the VMware one is driven by Salesforce.com) and pure SaaS apps, as organisations pursue a hybrid strategy – a mixture of maintaining infrastructure and applications for core services, and bringing in services from outside where that makes more sense.

VMware have for some time been talking about ‘Project Horizon‘, which was planned to address these issues. Well, the first stage of this is now live, with the launch of VMware Horizon App Manager. HAM, as I’m sure it won’t be abbreviated to, extends your corporate identity into cloud services, enabling single-sign on to services such as salesforce.com, Webex etc.

The end goal here, I think, is a ‘corporate app store’, a self-service portal whereby users can gain access to apps hosted both on internal infrastructure and delivered from ‘the cloud’. IT will be responsible for a service catalogue from which the business can select the relevant applications for their needs. Wouldn’t this be better than running around with a CD installing stuff?

There are a few future developments planned already, listed in the press release. There are a few extra I would like to see:

Workflow for requesting applications including line-of-business sign-off.

Metering – who is using what apps? This is an element of Software Asset Management, really – making sure that the software (or Software as a Service!) you have paid for is being used.

Automated de-provisioning of accounts triggered by an HR process – this strikes me as really important in the world of ‘cloud’. If someone leaves your organisation, how do you make sure they don’t still have access to your SaaS apps?

I’m sure we’ll see a profusion of identity services in this space, and I look forward to the day of any app on any device: secured, managed and catalogued by IT…

More from the always-insightful Brian Madden here.

VMware SlideRockets into the productivity app space…

April 27, 2011

I woke up this morning to the news that VMware have acquired SlideRocket, a SaaS provider delivering an online presentation experience. I guess this is similar to Prezi, of which Robert Scoble is a big fan. Exciting times! VMware seem to be amassing a serious stack- infrastructure, app virtualisation (ThinApp), app delivery and PaaS (Springsource), database (Gemfire), messaging and collaboration (Zimbra), file-based backup (Mozy) and now productivity software.

Very interesting times afoot. Some have suggested that VMware might create or acquire an operating system (there was a fair bit of speculation about SuSE before Attachmate’s acquisition of Novell), but it seems to be that the strategy is more about designing an environment in which apps run directly on cloud infrastructure, and are delivered to any device. I think this is less about replacing the existing OS, and more about rendering it less and less relevant.

I wonder what’s next?

HP Notebook Roadmap Session

April 8, 2011

It’s a Friday, so I thought I would share some photos. We had the HP/ Intel bus in at Softcat this morning, showing off their latest range of notebooks and going through some roadmaps with our account managers. HP are to be commended on sharing this stuff – one of the pieces of feedback we get regularly from customers is that they feel vendors let them down in terms of visibility on when a line will change. If you need to know about HP roadmap – ask your Softcat account manager!

The bus itself is quite impressive; I wonder if I could borrow it for the summer festival season – can you imagine turning up at Glastonbury in something like that? It would put my 1976 VW Camper to shame…

The One Plan to rule them all

March 22, 2011

I’m a big fan of what the mobile phone network Three are doing with their One Plan. Unlimited data, inclusive of tethering, shows they have an enlightened view of the way the world of mobile devices and data may be going. They’ve encouraged Skype, Messenger etc for some time. I’ve been using a MiFi for the last year or so with my iPad and MacBook and it is flawless.  Now that you get WiFi tethering in IOS 4.3, I think I am going to move to the One Plan and use that instead.

It got me thinking, though, about the number of SIMs and contracts we have and are likely to have, as more and more devices are connected via mobile data. In our household, off the top of my head there are two phones, a MiFi, a Kindle, a satnav – all of which have SIMs and data connections. If I hadn’t had to get the iPad as soon as it came out, I would probably have a 3G one of those too. Add into the mix the likelihood of connected cars and other devices, and I could well imagine that each of us could have four or five SIMs and potentially contracts to manage (inclusive data on the Kindle and satnav notwithstanding).

Wouldn’t it be good to be able to have a single plan with multiple SIMs across many different devices?

iPhone 4 ‘No Service’

February 13, 2011

I got back from VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) in Orlando early Saturday morning. After suffering AT&T (I see now why Americans are so excited about getting iPhone on a second carrier), I was keen to let the family know when I was going to make it home.

Unfortunately, my iPhone wouldn’t connect to O2. It was stuck on ‘searching…’:

Phone home?

I did the old ‘turn it off, turn in back on again’. No dice. Resetting the network settings didn’t work either. It was connecting to wireless just fine. I like to think of myself as someone who can fix these things, so I was getting a bit annoyed. In my frustration, I tapped the ‘Automatic’ button under Carriers repeatedly, four or five times. As if by magic, up popped a list of the UK networks – I tapped O2 and there I was.

So if that happens to you, give it a go…

How to win the tablet war…

February 11, 2011

Up until now, there has really been very little competition for my beloved iPad. I guess the Galaxy Tab is probably the closest… I’m pleased to see that the HP WebOS tablet looks good, although the price has yet to be revealed, it doesn’t sound like it will have 3G, and it probably won’t be out until the summer. All the same I am keen to have a play!

Nokia doesn’t seem to have got anywhere with tablets, despite the fact that the Nokia N770 (I think it was) could be considered an early attempt. Who knows, maybe the tie-up with Microsoft will accelerate this!

I’ve just been away at a conference, and it made me think about how a forward-thinking company could win, or at least have a good go. The wireless at this conference was terrible – and without it, my access to email, Twitter etc was severely limited. Meanwhile, my Kindle just worked and I have been able to download a couple of books for the flight back. Wouldn’t it be great if a tablet manufacturer managed to do the whole ‘global 3G’ thing that Amazon have done? Admittedly a tablet will drag a whole lot more bandwidth, but for regular travellers it would be a godsend.

Anyone up for the challenge?