Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Retirement of the Corporate PC

Remember the company car?  Neither do I.   There’s a good chance the company-provided PC that most information workers are issued is trending toward extinction as well.

The net result could be a boon for PC retailers.  Policy agreements become SLA’s with the employee, and the budget moves out of IT and into HR.

Posted on Linked In:  Retirement of the Corporate PC

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/retirement-corporate-pc-jim-wilcox

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Live Process Migration

For years now, I’ve been watching Microsoft Windows evolve.  From a bit of a distance I’ve been watching the bigger picture unfold, and a number of details have led me to speculate on a particular feature that I think could be the next big thing in technology….   Live process migration.  

This is not the first time I’ve mused about the possibility… [A big feature I’d love to see in Windows 11] it’s just that as I work with tools across the spectrum of Microsoft’s tool chest, I’ve realized there are a few pieces I hadn’t really connected before, but they’re definitely a part of it.

What is live process migration?  Folks who work with virtual machines on a regular basis are often familiar with a fancy feature / operation known as live virtual machine migration….  VMWare’s vSphere product refers to the capability as vMotion.  It’s the ability to re-target a virtual machine instance, while it’s running… to move it from one host to another.

In sci-fi pseudo psycho-babble meta physio-medical terms, this might be akin to transitioning a person’s consciousness from one body to another, while they’re awake…  kinda wild stuff.

As you can imagine, live VM migration is a heavy duty operation… the guest machine must stay in sync across two host computers during the transition in order to seamlessly operate. For the average user, it’s hard to imagine practical applications. 

That said, live process migration is no small feat either.  A lot of things have to be put in place in order for it to work… but the practical applications are much easier to spot. 

Imagine watching a movie on Netflix on your Xbox (or maybe even your Hololens), but it’s time to roll.   No problem, with a simple flick gesture, and without missing a beat, the running Netflix app transitions to your tablet (or your phone), and you’re off.   Then you get to your vehicle, and your vehicle has a smart technology based media system in it that your tablet hands off the process to.   It could work for any process, but live streaming media is an easy scenario.

From a technical perspective, there’s a bunch of things required to make this work, especially across whole different classes of hardware…  but these problems are rapidly being solved by the universal nature of Windows 10 and Azure.

Commonality required:

  • Global Identity (e.g. Windows Live)
  • Centralized Application Configuration
    • Windows 10 apps natively and seamlessly store configuration data in the cloud
  • Binary compatibility
    • Universal apps are one deployable package that runs on everything from embedded devices to large desktops and everything in between.
  • Inter-nodal process synchronization
    • Nothing exemplifies this better than the 1st class remote debugging operation  in Visual Studio.  You can run an app on a phone or device from your laptop, hit breakpoints, and manipulate runtime state (local variables) from the laptop and watch the device react in real time.
  • Handoff protocol
    • I’m sure it exists, but I don’t have a good word to describe this, but it’s probably based on something like SIP
  • Runtime device capability checking (the part that sparked this blog post).
Over the years, there have been a lot of “write once, run anywhere” coding schemes.  Most involve writing a program and having the compiler sort out what works on each type of hardware…. what you get is a different flavor of the program for different kinds of hardware.  In Windows 10, it’s different.  In Windows 10, the developer codes for different device capabilities, and the application checks for the required hardware at run time.  
While the UWP does an amazing job of abstracting away the details, it puts some burden on the hardware at runtime…  the app developer has to write code to check, anyway: hey, is there a hardware camera shutter button in this machine?  If yes, don’t put a soft camera shutter button on the screen, but now the app has to check the hardware every time it runs.
I struggled a bit trying to understand this latter point…  why would Microsoft want it to work that way?  Except for a few plug & play scenarios, it could be optimized away at application install time…  unless your process can move to a different host computer/phone/console/tablet/VR gear.
While I am (more recently) a Microsoft V/TSP working for BlueMetal, an Insight company, I have no inside information on this topic.  I’m just looking at what’s on the table right now.   We’re almost there already.  Yesterday, I showed my son how to save a document to OneDrive, and within moments, pick up his Windows 10 phone and start editing the same document on it.
In my mind, there’s little doubt that Microsoft has been working its way up to this since Windows Phone 7… the only question in my mind is how many of these tri-annual Windows 10 updates will it be before “App-V Motion”-style live process migration is a practical reality.
Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Windows 10 and the Near Zero Hardware Liability Enterprise

With Windows 10, Microsoft is re-defining the BYOD (bring your own device) game, and it’s a subtly aggressive move that many will probably appreciate.

No, really.  Like you, I have heard “BYOD game-changer” shticks before, and dismissed it as marketing hype.  Hear me out.  (And also keep in mind that folks once often said “never” with respect to the cloud… but “never” is a lot longer than folks tend to look.)

Let me start by describing what I mean by “near zero hardware liability”.

There are already smaller organizations out there that have completely moved their hardware behind the wizard’s curtain. That is, they own little to no IT hardware themselves (with little to no capital expense, depreciation, or hardware liability.) These companies are typically small, use the cloud to support their infrastructure & services hardware, and BYOD for their employees’ desktop machines.

While cloud services are making serious headway into the enterprise, BYOD has been an arguably harder sell. The whole concept of BYOD has been largely dismissed by most larger companies because BYOD in in the Windows 7 (and prior) world can’t be managed.  Policy can’t be addressed and applied.  Data can’t be protected on an “unmanaged” employee owned device.  Hardware depreciation, liability, and support is kinda small compared to the other liabilities involved.

Imagine a more classically European view of the world however.  In Europe, a user’s computer traditionally is considered to be only a step away from personal property.  Like the days of being given a company car, the days of being issued a PC by your employer may well be coming to an end. 

At the Windows 10 Pre-flight Summit in Redmond this week (6/1-2), it seems the word of the day isn’t so much about “upgrade”.  It is, but there’s a bigger word floating around. 

It’s “provisioning”, or enrolling a device in an enterprise.

In Windows 10, the word “upgrade” is going to die.  It’s not just one platform for multiple devices.  It’s not just one platform for now, until Windows 11.  It’s one platform for the coming decades.  Upgrade to Windows 10, sure.  Update Windows 10, yes.  Upgrade from Windows 10, not in the works.  It’s also one very personal platform in more ways than one.

The day may be coming when part of a hiring decision (both by employee and employer) may be that an employee has devices of their own to bring to the table.  The employee will have their own support network, their own personal liability, and in order to accept the job, the employee must be willing to provision their devices with their employer.

Provisioning a device means the device gets an enterprise managed workspace, as us developers would say, a sandbox where all managed apps and app data live.  Provisioning also sets a minimum acceptable standard policy on the device.  If the device can’t meet the provisioning policy requirements, it won’t be accepted…  (sorry Charlie, you need new hardware.)

I speculate on how much effort it would save companies if they could have the security & policy management without the hardware ownership overhead, but I bet, all told, it would be pretty significant. 

In many ways it will be similar to the car analogy…  you can’t expect to keep a job if you can’t manage your own transportation sufficiently to get you there when you need to be there.

This is also a very aggressive tactic. Imagine an enterprise deciding to implement BYOD, and it’s very successful… to the point where you can’t really get a job at that company without bringing a Windows 10 device.  Is that a labor issue? 

By kicking down as many objections to BYOD as possible, Microsoft may even be looking to drive adoption from the bottom up. Rather than the CIO/CTO decreeing and pushing Windows 10 down, the BYOD user will use Windows 10’s features to overcome the BYOD objections.  Tired of the “golf cart” class standard issue machine at work, a power user brings in their own “hot rod”, and harasses IT until IT realizes the objections can be sufficiently mitigated with Windows 10… and the floodgates open.

I also speculate on the ramifications of the job market.  I could easily envision a day when the mark of a more desirable employee would be the higher end hardware they bring with them.  Imagine how it might re-invigorate the PC market if employee competition drove sales.  Imagine the PC becoming more important than the automobile in terms of employability-driving hardware, as a competitive attribute of an employee.  (The mark of a good chef is their knife set.  The mark of a solid information worker may be their laptop.)

It won’t hit all at once on July 29th.  It all has a ways to go.  It is a very thought provoking possibility.  What do you think? Is this on the path to Tomorrowland?

Edit 6/3:  Day 2 of the conference points out that Hyper-V 6.2 included in some editions of Windows 10 will enable virtualized Trusted Platform Module (v-TPM).  This means that an employer could provide a secure, Bitlocker enabled VM to an employee (which may or may not be provisioned), rather than provisioning the employee’s device as a directly provisioned system.   Yet another way to make BYOD a more Enterprise friendly policy.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

A big feature I’d love to see in Windows 11

With all the announcements coming out of //Build, I’m pretty jazzed about what’s coming in Windows 10.   That doesn’t stop me from wishing there were one or two other scenarios Microsoft would get to… and at this point, I’ll have to hope to see them in something after Windows 10.

“App-V-Motion” running apps, migrating them across devices. 

Enable an app running on the phone or tablet or laptop or desktop to seamlessly transition from device to device.

Imagine it’s getting late in the day…  you have a long running process on your desktop that you need to babysit.  Poor timing, sure, but it happens far too often.   Now, rather than being tethered to your desk, you can transition the process to a mobile device, and simply take it with you.   Perhaps it’ll take longer to complete on the mobile device, so when you get home, you hand it back off to bigger iron. 

or, my other favorite scenario…  you’re watching your favorite movie, but it’s time to roll…. so you hand off the movie player app to your phone, and keep watching while you’re on the go, without missing a beat.

With cloud configuration & storage, this scenario is getting more and more feasible, but given where I’m seeing Windows 10, now, this could potentially be a 10.1 or 10.2 feature.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Google’s Challenge, by the Numbers

Google may have inadvertently worked itself into some awkward dependencies that could be troublesome for it in the next few years.

It’s hard to imagine Web 2.0, now a decade gone by, as the peak of the web, but I think the numbers speak volumes about it.  Below, I’ve grabbed some stats from Wikipedia, as of today (4/26/2015) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems ), that puts together some puzzle pieces together in my head, but introduces a few new ones. 

Originally, I was thinking about Windows market share this past weekend, and how absurd it is that folks think of Windows 8/8.1 a “failure”… (It came up at the Global Azure Cloud Camp Jim O’Neil hosted at BlueMetal’s office in Watertown this past Saturday.)  There’s more Windows 8+ machine (alone) than all versions of Mac OS X combined…  Microsoft’s “failure” is only a failure when compared to Windows XP and Windows 7.

Desktop operating system browsing statistics
Windows 7
  
58.04%
Windows XP
  
16.94%
Windows 8.1
  
10.55%
Mac OS X 10.10
  
3.96%
Windows 8
  
3.52%
Windows Vista
  
1.97%
Mac OS X (other)
  
1.71%
Mac OS X 10.9
  
1.61%
Linux
  
1.5%
Windows (other)
  
0.2%

Windows 8 / 8.1 comes sums at roughly 13%, while OS X (all versions) is (estimating generously) 8%.  So 13% may be a failure compared to Windows 7’s 58%….  but no one thinks of OS X’s 8% market share as anything less than a smash hit.  

I get that the terms of failure for 8.x come from it’s largest customer, the enterprise market, which has largely ignored it. It’s why Windows 10 is a significant comeuppance for Microsoft.

All told, though, among desktop OS’s, Windows is king.  No surprise there, really.  That’s only the beginning of the story. 

Some of the other stats started to catch my attention with respect to all devices, and what folks are using them for.

From the same Wikipedia page:

According to Gartner, the following is the worldwide device shipments (referring to wholesale) by operating system, which includes smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs together.

Worldwide Device Shipments by Operating System
Source Year Android iOS/OS X Windows Others
Gartner[1] 2014 48.61% 11.04% 14.0% 26.34%
Gartner[2] 2013 38.51% 10.12% 13.98% 37.41%
Gartner[3] 2012 22.8% 9.6% 15.62% 51.98%

The above table establishes that “device” shipments of Windows devices is relatively small compared to Android devices, with Apple devices coming in 3rd overall.  If we set form factor aside and look at all consumer “computing devices”, Android is undeniably tops, and has been for a few years already.

Now look at this…  (a breakdown of what OS folks are using web browsers on.)

Web clients’ OS family statistics
Windows
  
55.74%
Linux based
  
22.02%
iOS, OS X
  
17.17%
Symbian, S40
  
2.02%
Other
  
3.05%
Linux based is actually composed of both desktop and Android based devices… digging a bit, the stat that shows Android usage specifically shows it at less than half of “Linux” based stats.

See the rub?

The web is unequivocally consumed by desktops, which are owned by Windows.

Android… the most popular consumer “device” (by an allegedly monopolistic margin in some markets), represents less than half the web traffic.

Either the margin of error is so far off these stats, rendering them all useless, or there’s an interesting story there.

This means the good old browser is being left behind by mobile devices.   This has been observed before, but it’s interesting to note that Google’s hanging on it.  I mean, what’s your home page?  If you’re like a lot of folks, it may well be www.google.com.

Here’s a question.  Is the browser propping up Windows, or is Windows propping up the WWW?

Here’s an answer…  Microsoft’s go-forward strategy is Mobile First / Cloud First.  Windows 10 is a mobile OS that supports desktops, not a desktop OS that supports mobile.  Clearly, Microsoft is taking risks, but their goal is to push Windows into the mobile app world, taking only the parts of the world wide web that are important to mobile and cloud.

One might argue that Windows 10 includes both IE 12 and the Spartan browser.  Further, Microsoft is just releasing a new ASP.NET and MVC web development tools.

No matter what, the web app is not going to vanish overnight.  Still, Microsoft adding yet another browser and more tools is 1) further fragmenting the already terribly fragmented web app platform, 2) a bone thrown to the many enterprises who have built their infrastructure on web technology and can’t afford to fully shift their enterprise app platform (and developer skill set) to mobile apps in the next few years, and 3) continued support for the still critical http protocol that is a core network transport for everything in the Internet of Things.

One might argue Office 365.  The backfire there:  pretty much everyone who has Office 365 also has desktop and even mobile apps.  This leaves Office 365 to be primarily a services back end for those apps, with a web-based UI as a fallback if you for some reason can’t run the native apps.

Apple’s iOS success and Google’s Chromebook failure led Google to cannibalize itself into the (unexpectedly?) wildly successful Android.

Android’s success, in turn, is eating away at Google’s classic model…  Google will likely always be a media platform first, but more and more, that media platform is being confined to (and defined by) Android.  (Like a genie enslaved to its bottle…  “Phenomenal cosmic power, itty-bitty living space.)

All in all, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Microsoft is about done propping up the consumer web as an application platform.

Still, forgetting what Microsoft is doing, Google is SaaS heavy, and has no PaaS or IaaS offering to fall back on.  They have no desktop OS to elevate them.  All the cards in their foreseeable future appear to rest on Android (and therefore Samsung).

With the anti-trust suits already starting against Google because of Android, it’s hard to really see Google’s future over the next decade.

Being at the top, it’s pretty easy to say Android is peaking.   The question is where does that leave Google.  YouTube?  Self-driving cars?

I find myself thinking it makes a bit more sense that Apple and Yahoo have aligned their search with Bing.

What am I missing?

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Is Your Solution Delivery Strategy About to get Avalanched by Windows 10?

HoloLens took the spotlight when //build/ 2015 announced it had sold out in under an hour, but I can’t help but think at least as big a chunk of the excitement is around Windows 10 (or as we developers like to think of it, Windows Unified). As cool as HoloLens is, Windows 10 will most likely be landing in your lap long before HoloLens has images dancing in your living room. 

If you’re not already preparing for Windows 10, your solution delivery stack could be in for a shock from the client up. Microsoft is in the process of launching a re-boot of itself, and Windows 10 is the fulcrum of that effort. As usual, many of its changes are aimed at pulling developers in. If solution development has a place in your organization, this will likely impact you as well. 

“Mobile First / Cloud First” is, as always, the key phrase, and for a client OS… if it’s not for cloud devices…. give it a moment…  let that sink in…   Yes.  Windows 10 is an OS for mobile devices. Even if your device is a big heavy block of a workstation sitting near your monitor.  It will have the same mobile app store as phones and tablets, and it can be managed by the same Enterprise Mobile Device Manager (MDM).

Windows 8 was an introductory / transitional OS. With Windows 10, the transition matures.  Windows 10’s maturity is likely to make it far more palatable than Windows 8 was. (Keep in mind that Windows 8 is only a “failure” in terms of Microsoft’s other OS releases… Windows 8/8.1 has a bigger install base than some of the most “successful” of its non-Microsoft competitors. If Windows 10 becomes the hit many foresee it to be, it has potential to become the de facto standard platform to truly de-throne XP and even Windows 7.)

Windows 10 also adds a bit of a surprise, especially around browser technology.  Microsoft is tossing in to Windows 10 a whole new web browser (in addition to Internet Explorer) currently code-named Spartan. This new browser is intended to go after the consumer browser market, which IE has lost considerable ground in. I speculate that Spartan will be a breath of fresh air for consumers who feel IE’s bloat-related flaws collectively compels them to download Chrome or Firefox.

If you’re a web application developer who does more than a little HTML, on the other hand, you’re probably already groaning. You know what a pain browser compatibility is. (The browser was never intended to be a homogenous cross-everything platform, but that’s how a lot of web designers treat it, and they’ve shaped culture to expect it. Despite the best efforts of tools like jQuery and others to try homogenize, and trends like responsive to try to change the culture of presentation homogeny, web application developers get severely burned in the crossfire.  I’ve got more than a few scars to prove this, but you don’t have to look further than jQuery’s failed mechanisms for helping developers with these issues.    (First there was $.browser and $.browser.version, then $.support… then, “awe… heck… we give up, use Modernizr“.) /rant )

Spartan is a move that makes total sense, but it can’t help but add complexity to web application developers’ lives.  

In fact, in my mind, the long term net message is… there’s only one way to end browser pain… by getting out of web as a client platform. (Web services are the only part of the web worth salvaging.)

Microsoft has seen what platform diversification has done to its core OS business, and it’s not good. Developers need a consistent platform to deliver consistent solutions on, and that’s been a bigger part of Microsoft’s success over the years than even they seem to have realize.

So if web application development is becoming ever more complex in an already over complicated domain, how should one produce and deploy apps?

In a word:  native (aka mobile).

Windows 10 is a unifying platform, a “pentecostal” event to counter the “tower of babel” event of Windows platforms that have fractured into existence since the end of the .NET Compact Framework era. Where before development was requiring more and more effort to support PC, tablet, smartphone, wearable and even Xbox, Windows 10 has a unified SDK across all those platforms. For the first time ever, a .NET developer can build a single solution that runs in all those devices. There may be runtime differences between platforms that have to be ironed out, still, but not compile-time  (if(system.capability.phone) {} rather than #ifdef WINDOWS_PHONE_APP)

And think about it… what are the big reasons for web deployment?   Centralized management and centralized deployment.  Think back to MDMs and mobile app stores.

(Xamarin plays a roll in all this as well. Between Windows 10 and Xamarin, developers will be able to leverage a good chunk of their code base across all hardware, even non Microsoft platforms such as IOS and Android. This, too, is a breath of fresh air, because the cost of maintaining multiple code bases (and talent pools) is ever climbing. Xamarin will likely never be the 110% development experience that the latest .NET framework is, but neither was Silverlight for Windows Phone 7, yet one could do some fairly heavy lifting with it.)

Because Windows 10 is one platform that runs across form factors, it essentially means that any app written for Windows 10 is a mobile app. In that light, it means that Windows 10 is most likely to vault Windows into the top spot for mobile platforms by its projected install base. 

This on top of Microsoft’s recent “trickle up” theory of mobile market share growth, where Microsoft has been grabbing market share by targeting the feature phone market.  (This tactic has little effect in the US, where carrier subsidies nullify the low end to “$0”)  At some point Windows Phone will hit critical mass outside the US. Once that happens, even US developers will no longer be able to afford to ignore it.

Even if Microsoft is not contributing directly to your solution stack, Windows 10 and its biases have potential to culturally influence your solutions and solution delivery over the next decade.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Winds of Change

If you hadn’t heard yet, Jornata merged with BlueMetal.  As part of the merger, BlueMetal organized a session of “BlueMetal Academy” to help transition the team.  In spirit of a true merger, Jornata members participated as trainers, as well, showing that Jornata’s culture is really being assimilated, not purged.  (The merger is a solid marriage, rather than simple annexing of resources, both sides bring common values but distinct strength to the partnership). 

At the end of the training, we were asked to come up with one word to reflect what we’d learned over the course of it.  Just one…  on a moment’s notice.  Responses were things like “Integrity”, “Consistency”, “Connection”, “Inspiration”, “Committed”, “Legit” and a few other words of similarly positive connotation.

I had the advantage of being among the last in line to respond, so I considered each of them as they were spoken.   In my head, I responded to each word as it was spoken.  “Yes”, “True”, “Good one”… those all fit.  “What says all of that?”, I thought.  Digging deep, I could only think of one word that conveyed all those qualities… everything we learned.  there’s only one word that says it all, and I didn’t say it to play Captain Obvious…  “BlueMetal”  

Ok…  the cool-aid is either totally Stepford, or totally legit.

Given my experience with BlueMetal teammates in both the SharePoint AND Windows Phone Dev communities, before I ever had the opportunity to join… it’s not Stepford.

That said, I think the expected answer was “Mahan”, as in Mahan Khalsa, author of “Helping Clients Succeed” which plays an over-arching theme across the company.  Someone may have even said that, but I didn’t catch it. I still like my original answer.

This past spring I joined Jornata, mostly to shake up my career.  Jornata was/is a fantastic team to be a part of in its own right.  My prior experience with them in the SharePoint community was also first rate. 

I might have pursued a job at BlueMetal years ago on my own were it not for the daunting commute.

The winds of change clearly had more in store.

Now, I find myself thinking that BlueMetal really looks like the company I always had in mind to work for when I was teaching myself programming as a kid.. and I mean everything..  from its respected thought leaders to its community involvement to its extremely purposeful corporate structure…  being employee-owned…  I realize this team is top to bottom, front to back, enterprise ready, industrial strength, yet premium consumer quality… and they have my back. It will be my honor to have this team’s back.

I’m very much looking forward to settling into the new team, and really looking forward to digging in on a nice juicy app development project.  Duty to the customer has pulled me quite a bit toward infrastructure build outs… Being successful at those things has had the curse of being asked to do more of it. The further away from C# I get, the further I am from my true passion & real value add, and that doesn’t really cut it for me or my team, longer term.

so…  the commute sucks… but if that’s all I can think of to “complain” about…  I guess that’s what it takes to be “The Granite State Hacker”, for keeps.  (I’ll secretly blame NH politicians for making it so hard to find a sufficiently legit tech offices in NH, and work at home every chance I get.)

This marks a new chapter for my career, without a doubt, and I’m sure I’ll be inspired to blog deeper than what had become all too common Microsoft cheerleading posts.  (Now I can be a BlueMetal cheerleader, too!   ok…  I’ll try to refrain from geeking out about my team too much.)