Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Apache Cordova and SharePoint Online / Office 365

The concept came from a good place, but at this point, the story is best described as “science experiment”, as I mentioned at SharePoint Saturday Boston 2015.  I was working on a cross-platform Apache Cordova project for Windows, Windows Phone and Android when the call for speakers hit.  I said “why not?” and I signed myself up to present it…

The good news is that the story’s not without some worth to someone exploring the idea of hooking into SharePoint from an Apache Cordova-based app. Tools that exist today at least assist in the process.

The demo code is mostly about accessing files from your personal SharePoint profile document library (A.K.A. OneDrive for business) and indeed, the code is using file access code in addition to SharePoint connection.  The hardest work in a browser based app is to authenticate with Office 365, and this code does that, and then opens up to the rest of SharePoint…
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

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

Apache Cordova and Windows Universal (8.1)

Thanks to everyone who made it out to the Granite State Windows Platform Users Group last night (April 16, 2015) to see my presentation on using Apache Cordova to create Windows Universal (8.1) “store apps”. 

I walked away feeling like I’d helped inspire everyone who attended…  even as an “intro” level presentation, the demos seemed to keep everyone engaged, asking questions, and prompting me to go “off-roading” to check out various features. 

We really had fun with it!

So while the best part of the presentation was the demos, the slides do have some great links in them.

 
 

If you missed it, don’t worry too much…  I’ll keep this presentation dusted off & ready for upcoming events, as well…  I could imagine it fitting well into a Code Camp event or something akin to it in the coming year.  

Heck, feel free to reach out to me if you think this is something you’d like to know more about… I’m happy to have a chat about it.

Next month’s meeting is already scheduled…  we’re looking forward to Jim O’Neil coming to reprise his Boston Code Camp 23 presentation on Themes in Windows Universal (8.1).   Please join us!

Meetup:  http://www.meetup.com/Granite-State-NH-WPDev 



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

Candy Crush Saga Would Fail on Windows Phone

Several sites including pocketgamer.fr and WMPowerUser are reporting that King has decided to not bring it’s popular Candy Crush Saga game to the Windows Phone ecosystem.  (It’s “on hold indefinitely”.)  I suspect Disney and Mojang have much more to do with this than Windows Phone’s market share.

Most sites reporting King’s changed stance cite poor growth of the Windows Phone ecosystem as the reason for putting Candy Crush for Windows Phone on hold.  I don’t believe them.

The news, of late, ironically, has been loudly about two things.  1)  after a lull while Nokia was absorbed by Microsoft, Windows Phone has significantly improved its market share in the past quarter or so.  2)  Microsoft bought Mojang.

The more likely reason:  (and I would love for King to prove me wrong, but…) I’m reasonably certain that if King released Candy Crush Saga for Windows Phone right now, it would fail… and I bet they know that.

I speculate that King has been holding their Candy Crush Saga app hostage from the Windows Phone ecosystem for some time, possibly hoping Microsoft would buy King in… a Mojang/Minecraft-like multi-billion dollar play. 

Clearly, Microsoft buying Mojang was a smart choice, since Minecraft has almost become a gaming platform of its own. There is a Minecraft community and ecosystem with many vendors producing products and supporting it for their own continued success.  I suspect that for those vendors, Microsoft buying Mojang will multiply Minecraft’s ecosystem success;  the ecosystem will be more broadly and more consistently available to more players.

King, on the other hand, is a one-hit wonder who’s core titles are fading as all titles do.

Candy Crush Saga’s fading brand isn’t the reason the title would fail on Windows Phone, however.  

The reason Candy Crush Saga would fail on Windows Phone is because Windows Phone has developed its own ecosystem, and King’s niche in that ecosystem has been filled by an even bigger fish…  namely Disney. 

Yes, Candy Crush Saga would have to compete with the likes of titles such as Frozen Free Fall and Maleficent Free Fall, which are both magnificent implementations of switch/match games that even I have burned some measurable amounts of time and real cash in.

To me, the message is clear.  King has made its bed. How embarrassing would it be for King to release it’s flagship titles to Windows Phone only to be shrugged off by the Windows Phone app market for the effort?  Especially after trying to leverage its brand to strong-arm Windows Phone.  Frankly, a failure like that could put King’s position in the iPhone and Android ecosystems at risk… which would bring potential value down in the eyes of, say, Apple or Google.

I suspect there are other app publishers facing similar choices.  Perhaps they have likewise made their beds. I believe the Windows Unified platform is the platform that successful iPhone and Android publishers can’t afford to fail on.  Such publishers have two choices 1) get in before a competitor fills their niche, (and succeed), or 2) watch and miss out while realizing in ever more clear hindsight over next decade that Windows Unified was the opportunity they wish they hadn’t written off.

[Edit:  1/8/2015 – So King has published Candy Crush Saga to Windows Phone 8, now, and I’m very pleased to see it… it’s one less reason for folks to avoid the Windows Phone platform deciding to make the switch or not.   Will the Windows Phone edition be successful?   By many measures of an app on a platform, it already is.   Will it be the success it was on other platforms in reasonable comparison?   That remains to be seen, and I still think my analysis is correct, but I think that King still held out for Microsoft to offer up some form of subsidy…  I notice that Microsoft has been shelling out for ads for Minecraft, and in those same ad spaces are lots of ads for Candy Crush, as well.]

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Trading iPhone for Windows Phone – What You Give Up

As Jornata continues to integrate with BlueMetal, lots of things internally are coming together.  One of the things I’m loving is the internal dialog with the team that I’m now a part of at BlueMetal.  Our “geek chat” messaging reminds me of the best dialogs I’d been a part of at other companies, except amped. This isn’t coming from just any technology architect. These folks are well-known technology thought leaders, evangelists, and MVP’s. With sincere respect, I’ll try to avoid getting myself in trouble with them and BlueMetal, but I’m feeling a bit like a kid in a candy store.

Being the C#/mobile (and therefore Windows Phone) junkie that I am, I always watch what’s going on in the space. 

While the Windows Phone market share at BlueMetal is significantly higher than the general population, BlueMetal’s not just some extension of Microsoft.  There’s a lot of the team internally that are Apple and Android fans.   Naturally, when the news of Apple Watch broke, the conversation really picked up, and it was all fantastic stuff to consider.

One bit that came up that I wanted to write this post about, however, was a number of misconceptions that Apple fans had about Apple vs. “not Apple” in the smartphone area.  I can’t resist. There are good reasons to not consider Windows Phone, but some are just misunderstandings.

Here was a viewpoint:
————-
The things I would be giving up by switching [from iPhone] to Android or Windows Phone:

  1. iMessage 
  2. Photostream
  3. Find My iPhone
  4. My apps – the ones which I’ve already bought and the free ones which all work so well.  Windows phone doesn’t have the volume of Apps and Android doesn’t have the stability and polish
  5. iCloud backup
  6. iTunes – songs  I purchase are automatically downloaded to other iPhones and Macs
  7. Apple Watch
————-
 
The response was quick and, interestingly slanted in defense of Windows Phone… here’s a synopsis, including my own viewpoint:
  1. iMessage is platform specific, locking out non Apple users.   Consider Skype, Lync, or even Facebook Messenger instead.
  2. Photostream – Windows Phone has this functionality built into the OS, uploading photos to OneDrive.  (and OneDrive has working multi-factor authentication, so you won’t have to worry so much about selfies unexpectedly going viral.
  3. Find my Phone – yes, built into the Windows Phone OS… just a check box, and yes, it’s saved several of my family members more than once.
  4. Apps –  I have to admit, there’s no recovery for the investment made on iPhone/iPad apps, but there is this saving grace…  with Windows Unified apps, the app purchases you make on phone apps often entitle you to the same app for tablet and PC as well.   The marketplace is improving daily, so the general marketplace app gap is narrowing.  The Windows Phone app marketplace has better technical governance than Android’s, but not as mature as Apple’s, yet.
  5. iCloud backup – Windows Phone has OneDrive backups with much easier access to the content.
  6. iTunes – consider Xbox Music. With a low priced subscription, you can stream music to your phone, PC, tablet, and Xbox, and if you purchase or rip music, it makes it available thru the cloud to ask your devices… No need to sync your phone with a PC. Content just shows up.
  7.  Apple Watch?   Hard to say on this one… but I consciously traded my watch for a good smartphone long before iPhone came out.
Still others piped up and noted how well integrated Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 (and I would add Xbox)…  All of them work independently, but put them together, and you have a ton of really great ways to do things like manage your home network, participate in entertainment, and even keep your kids safe while browsing the ‘net.
 
In my opinion, Apple serves a few purposes…  they change folks’ minds about what technology is socially acceptable.  The industry needs them for their competition and for their tech fashion sense.
 
It seems clear to me that the net result is that by trading in an iPhone for Windows Phone, you give up some investment in Apple, but you gain quite a bit of functionality and security for doing so, especially if you’re also a Windows and/or Xbox user already.