What does the future of Windows Mobile look like?

Lumia 950 XL
Microsoft who originally launched their first smartphones back in 2002, compared to both Apple and Google (launching in 2007 and 2008 respectively) have been in the smartphone game a lot longer than their main competitors, but looking at their current marketshare they look more like the underdog.

By 2007, Microsoft’s smartphone platform was the most popular in the US, but this quickly faded after Apple and Google entered the market.  Today, these numbers are at an all-time low with US marketshare of Windows Mobile (and Windows Phone) down from 4.8% in early 2015 to just 1.6% at the end of December 2015. In the UK, Microsoft is in a much healthier position of 9.2% with iOS at 38.6% and Android taking the lions share with 51.9%.

With Microsoft continuing to struggle in its home turf and its marketshare slipping away in spite of the launch of its new Windows Mobile 10 platform and phones late last year, the question again arises – what does the future of Windows Mobile look like to Microsoft?

Despite both the loss in marketshare and revenue from Windows Mobile, taking a look at Microsoft’s more recent tablet-laptop hybrid Surface Pro may provide some answers.

In their recently announced quarterly fiscal results they revealed an impressive $1.35 billion in revenue generated by their Surface line, up from $1.1 billion the same time last year.  The now very successful Surface line is headed by Panos Panay who also recently took the lead on their Windows Mobile division. The most recent Microsoft flagship phones the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL launched under his leadership, however they would have been designed and developed before this time. On its announcement, the new feature which had the most time under the spotlight was Continiuum, which lets you plug up the phone to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and use it like a PC. The apps you have access to in this mode are the same as those available when using a phone and these will scale as needed to the screen plugged in.

Looking ahead to where the future of Windows Mobile lies, there have been rumours for some time of Microsoft working with Intel to get Windows Mobile working on x86 processors (the same ones that power their laptops and PCs) and even more recently x86 support was listed on their manufactures design guideline specification for Windows Mobile, although this information has since been pulled from their site.

With Panos Panay currently developing future Windows Mobile devices, alongside the next Surface models, we may see the next Windows Mobile flagship branded with the Surface stamp, reserving the Lumia name for both low and mid-range devices in the future.

A Surface flagship phone could see a Surface-like premium metal build and include an x86 processor, meaning when in Continuum mode, it can also run full PC applications in addition to scaling mobile apps.  As well as using full PC apps on your phone, a more unified brand could make Microsoft flagship phones easier to market and sell to consumers with the simpler name ‘Surface Phone’ compared to the current ‘Lumia 950’.

The future of Windows Mobile may look bleak now, especially in the US, but with such a heritage with smart devices and the very successful launch of Windows 10 on PCs they can’t be dismissed.

3D scanning is coming to a smartphone near you

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3D scanning, used to make models which could be manipulated on a PC or printed on a 3D printer, requiring sophisticated depth-sensing cameras.  These 3D cameras can be both very expensive and much larger than a regular camera sensor, both traditionally being barriers to bringing the technology to mobile in a more mainstream way.

Microsoft, no stranger to 3D camera technology, has developed multiple commercial versions of its Xbox Kinect 3D motion camera and has shown off several prototypes on miniaturized, mobile versions of 3D cameras. They have now announced a new, software driven approach to bringing 3D scanning to the mass market called “MobileFusion”.

MobileFusion doesn’t rely on any special 3D hardware but is entirely driven by an app being developed for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The main focus for the app is to create digital versions of real life objects that can be then printed on a 3D printer.

The trick to using a single camera to capture depth is that it needs to be slowly moved around the object, so it does take longer to capture, however the cost and availability bonuses of the app should make this an exciting addition to the phone’s feature set.

The reason why this is a major step forward is that currently 3D scanners are very limited and conversely, most people own a smartphone.  This remarkable technology will let anyone capture digital copies of real world objects be it at a museum, outside, in home or in the office.

With many more 3D objects available and the power to create them at ease, 3D printing may get its shot at mainstream success beyond the current niches that have adopted the technology so far.

As smartphones continue to grow, which is right for your business?

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It’s no secret that smartphones are getting bigger and bigger. Apple was last to the party with the 5.5” screen ‘iPhone 6 Plus’ last September, but extra-large sized phones have been available for both Android and Windows phones beforehand.   There has been a substantial increase in consumption patterns for this size of phone.  Extra-large phones now make up 20% of the market in 2015 up from just 6% at the beginning of 2014.  This number is likely to increase even further as more phone manufactures decide to make these ‘larger than life’ phones their flagship devices, instead of being an interesting niche side offering.

With both consumers and business users doing even more with the content of their larger smart phones, the need for small to medium sized tablets has also decreased. Why carry around a 7” tablet when you have a 5.5” phone in your pocket?  As applications, services and support becomes even more universal across the competing mobile platforms, almost any modern smart phone could be used for business, so with all the competing platforms and devices – which makes most sense for your business?

The primary consideration for business will be to strike a good balance of cost, functionality and administration effort required.

• Price is the most obvious point here and multiplying this by the size of your workforce is critical. What could seem a reasonable price difference between handsets at face value will balloon in size if it is to become the new company standard when you do your rollout.
• Functionality between different devices used to vary far more greatly than it does today but is still a very important consideration.  How great does the camera quality need to be?  Will wireless charging be utilised?  How big is ‘big enough’ for the screen to view ever increasing content application to help workflow on the move?  And the perpetual question of how long will the battery last in ‘real world’ use time?
• Administration effort may not come up in conversation much on picking the perfect phone but is potentially the biggest pain area if not considered thoroughly. Some Smartphones are very much consumer focused and can be used as great business phones – but only after deleting bloat apps, changing settings, disabling features, downloading essential tools and compliance procedures.  Many of these tasks can be assisted with MDM but even with an MDM layer, some phones are simply quicker and thus more preferable to select and setup than others.

If your office runs Microsoft software then the overlooked Windows Phones could be perfect for you. The system is quick and battery efficient and comes with Microsoft Office pre-installed, which saves time downloading the de facto tool every time you roll out a new device. They are also very price competitive:   for example the new 5” Lumia 640 can picked up £129 which makes it cheaper than the 5” Motorola G at £149 and a staggering difference to the 4.7” iPhone 6 starting at £539 unlocked.

There’s no perfect phone for all businesses, so your choice will be tailored to your own business needs, the support lifespan from the manufacturers and new technical innovations that could help improve your worker’s business performance.

What makes you decide which phone your business has chosen this year or is planning to purchase this year?   Let us know which you think is right for your business and what the deciding factor was?
Kind regards and thanks

 

This Week’s Technology News – 10th November 2014

Microsoft-Logo

Microsoft’s wants government at the table for “arms race” privacy talks
Speaking at Harvard Law School, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, described the increasing battle between technology companies and governments over data access and user privacy as unworkable, along with the need for integrated discussions from different government departments. “Ultimately there are only two ways to better protect peoples privacy: stronger technology or better laws,” he said.  Smith confirmed that a new consensus had to be sought to balance public safety and personal privacy – hence the spate of courtroom battles in Europe and the US to protect their position (as last reported in our blog on 8th August).

A reminder that Microsoft’s first sea change was in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in September 2001 when Microsoft and other internet companies and telecoms organisations agreed to voluntarily share data with US law agencies.   Microsoft adopted the principle that if it was legally obligated to do something it would comply, but otherwise it would not and that if its Government desired greater powers that had to be agreed by Congress.

The second game changer was the leaking of classified information about widespread surveillance and data collection by the US government, from disaffected NSA worker Edward Snowden. The impact of this was an immense loss of trust of technology companies by enterprise customers, with heightened concerns in Europe, Brazil and Japan.  Microsoft’s own survey found a 10-15% overall drop in trust from customers.

Besides strengthening encryption, Microsoft’s counter was to bolster its legal position around its enterprise client’s data:  “We said, if the US government came and served a subpoena on us, seeking the email or other records of an enterprise customer, we would resist that, we would go to court, we would argue to a federal judge that that subpoena ought to be served on the customer, not on us. Second, we said that if the data in question were stored exclusively outside the United States, we would go to court and challenge the extraterritorial reach,” Smith said.

Smith continued:  “One could understand a rule that would say, if you have an American citizen or resident, that is storing data in another place, one could imagine a public policy rationale that would enable the US government to serve a warrant. That stands in sharp contrast to the current position that the Department of Justice is taking in the lawsuit. They are basically saying, if the data center was built or is operated by an American company then they can reach anything inside. That really goes to the heart of sovereignty.”

US citizens might start to bristle if they thought about the long game.  For example, Chinese firm Alibaba is likely to go ahead and build a data centre in the US.  What then if the Chinese Government, Russian, Iranian or North Korean Government wanted to gain access to data stored in an offshore country?  How are those citizens’ rights protected, as it would no longer be by its own constitution and laws.

It is right for Microsoft to push this issue hard on the principle, as it goes right to the heart of the debate around safeguarding data, and on which our business rests.  But it is also about the policies and governance of that data along with compliance, to ensure end to end assurance and retain the trust of our business customers.

 

Microsoft changes direction with its Office strategy boosting BYOD in the process
For Microsoft, both Windows and Office have been the two big money makers for a long time. Despite the continued success of Microsoft Office, big changes are looming due to the rise of small, smart devices.

For many years, shareholders and consumers alike were demanding Office should also be available on devices like the iPad and Android tablets, as this is where the mobile market share was, in addition to Microsoft’s own tablets. This year Microsoft delivered the app, however users needed a paid Office 365 account to edit documents with no option the buy the app outright as with competitors’ alternatives.

Now Microsoft has changed their tune yet again, opening mobile Office for all.   Now users can download the free app and edit documents without either a one-time payment or a subscription charge. This marks a huge strategic change of direction for the Office team, once a premium, mobile consumers and workers alike can use best-of-class Office for free instead of look-a-likes.

In addition to a change in business direction for Microsoft, giving everyone free and easy access to Office on the go makes going BYOD a much simpler proposition. Now, no matter if a user comes in with an iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet (Windows Phones already came with Office so were always easier to manage), you can now direct them, even automatically with an MDM platform, to download the free Office apps without the need to worry about subscription accounts or managing paid downloads.

Of course with employees even more likely than ever to be editing documents on their mobile device, the need for a coherent MDM policy to secure and contain the data becomes paramount.

 

Microsoft “catapaults” new technology to the visually impaired
Microsoft have announced a unique partnership with Guide Dogs UK charity and urban design group Future Cities Catapault to empower and offer independence to blind and partially sighted people in the UK. This has the potential to change the lives of over two million people in the UK alone.

Most successful projects have a personal connect which drives effort forwards. In this case it was a visually impaired Microsoft employee who cued the firm into collaborating on the pilot.  Microsoft acknowledges a lot of information comes from GPS and annotated maps in the Cloud, not just the lampposts on which the beacons sit.

The technology uses a headset that talks visually to the user with 3D sound conducted through bone conducting headphones ie. “parked cars and overhanging trees ahead” and clicking noises to confirm a desired route and assure the user they are staying on course.  The relayed information on location and navigation data is made via a smartphone (Windows or android) along a boosted route indoors or outdoors with wifi hotspots and bluetooth beacons.  It is like an intelligent Sat Nav for the walker enabling those affected to step out with increased confidence to safely navigate a town or city thoroughfare.

The spinoffs are two fold.  From an employment perspective, the potential for the visually impaired to seek employment and travel to work for the first time when they would not have done so before is huge. With 246 million people across the UK and US visually impaired and 65% out of work, this could change the landscape for accessing employers.   Secondly, the wider ramification of a near invisible technology could extend into an additional technology lifestyle assist, with realtime traffic information (“Your bus is running 10 minutes late”), to assistance in exploring cities or finding places.

Lenovo buys Motorola mobility unit for £1.8 billion

Google strategically purchased Motorola in 2012 for £7.9 billion to make Android-powered smart phones and utilise their patent portfolio to fight patent attacks aimed at their Android platform. This week Google announced the sale of Motorola’s mobility unit to PC manufacturer Lenovo for £1.8 billion. Google will keep the 17,000+ strong patent collection, whereas Lenovo gets the phone-making unit itself and Motorola’s strong brand (needed to tackle the US market). It is safe to assume Motorola will continue to create Android phones, but an additional Windows Phone line which has synergy with Lenovo’s laptops would make a lot of sense too. If Lenovo was to split up its new phone unit into commercial and business offerings, they would be in a unique position to offer businesses, security and productivity focused smartphones. Could this be the move that sees Blackberry being squeezed out of corporate contracts completely?

This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 4th October 2013

MS Office is no longer the selling point it once was for phones & tablets
Microsoft has been using Office as a selling point for Windows Phones and Surface tablets. Apple announced at WWDC that all future iPhone and iPads will be able to download the iWork apps for free. Google is now following suit with a partnership with Quickoffice to allow free access to all Android users. This diminishes Microsoft’s USP in this market. When Office 365 is available on all phone platforms but only by subscription, why pay for 365 when can use an alternative programme for free? To take back control, Microsoft needs to ensure their mobile Office tools are undisputedly best in class and that you get what you pay for.

Screen scraping – the big steal
Defined as copying all the data on a target website, screen scraping in this instance is not the reluctant exercise with your car on a frosty morning. Rather, it is a means for companies to anonymously harvest time critical data and profit from rival websites. Affected industries include financial institutions, bookmakers, online insurance companies, online directories and the travel industry – with loss of revenue and diluted confidence in brand. Blocking measures to differentiate between genuine customers and the 40% of scraper traffic is tricky and the impact can slow up servers and reduce bandwidth. It is a growing problem sign of a new direction in industrial espionage.

Is Government’s new Joint Cyber Unit – the new Mi10?
In a bid to counter the spiralling threat of cyber attacks, the Government has announced the creation of a new Reservist division of IT experts, both full time and part time to work alongside regular forces in defending national security. The JCU will also have the capability to launch strikes in cyber space. With the goal of protecting computer networks and safeguarding vital data, the Government is making a public effort to interface with private sector expertise. Let us hope it thwarts logarithmical IEDs in time.

Windows Phone on the rise in the UK
Windows Phone is still gaining market share. Growth in Europe, especially in the UK shows significant increase. 12% of UK smart phones sold are now Windows Phones against 3% in the US. Nokia produces the majority of Windows Phones now with a strong brand loyalty across Europe. With the Microsoft-Nokia deal planned, the idea of dropping the Nokia brand may backfire, given that the ‘Lumia’ brand Nokia has been using on its Windows Phones is searched for more online than ‘Windows Phone’ itself. The wrong brand choice could undo much of the promising growth occurring on the Microsoft Phone platform, thanks to Nokia.

World’s first digital laser
South Africa’s CSIR laboratories have created the first digital laser. Using an LCD inside a laser, the normal digital pictures were converted and the laser output changed in real time from one mode shape to another. This evolution offers an advancement from traditionally costly devices and time consuming control of the laser beam and has the potential to become a disruptive technology to the current market. The researchers believe (and hope) this has widespread implications for future technologies and applications across devices from communications to medicine.

This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 5th April 2013

Amazon’s Cloud Drive finally includes File Synching
Amazon who holds more Cloud market share than both Google and Microsoft have finally added a file synching feature to Cloud Drive. Cloud storage services are a hugely competitive sector and with Google Drive having suffered 3 service fallouts recently lasting up to 3 hours, it could mark an opportunity for Amazon to promote their alternative further. Amazon’s main differential with Cloud Drive in addition to its vast access to users, is its incorporation into the Kindle Fire tablets. This has helped Amazon gain market share. In conclusion the Cloud storage war will be decided not only on features, but the depth and reach to users and its integration onto different mobile platforms.

ICO compulsory audits of the NHS
The NHS is described as having “significant and widespread data protection compliance concerns” in a consultation document, based on an ICO submitted business case. The Government is investigating making data protection auditing compulsory for the NHS. Currently when a serious data protection problem occurs and is exposed, organisations often do not submit to an audit. ICO reveal that only 53% of NHS organisations referred for audit agreed to it, compared to 71% across the whole public sector. Compulsory audits for the NHS will be the right move to increase patient confidence in what is one of the UK’s largest and most important data control areas.

Windows Phone 123% growth
This week Kantar released its latest data of smartphone market share including data for the UK. Over the last 12 months Windows Phone has shown 123.3% growth in the UK, officially making Microsoft 3rd for Smart Phone market share behind Google and Apple, while Blackberry sits in 4th. This surge of customer interest in Windows Phone is likely due to the launch of Windows Phone 8 and a large marketing campaign, still on-going by Microsoft and Nokia. We predict over the next 12 months Windows Phone will see further growth, while both iOS and Android take the hit to make this happen.

IT Outsourcing on the up
In a recessionary market where cost-savings have included bringing services inhouse, one exception may be the ever increasing outsourcing of IT services. A recent study by Bluewolf (a global business consulting firm), found that out of 200 IT decision makers, 32% said they planned to increase IT outsourcing in the next 12-18 months. Additionally 48% believed they would be hiring more contractors vs full time staff. The ability to capture the best talent managing the latest technology, allied to elasticity of workforce, mobile application assistance, infrastructure support services, cloud data management and disaster planning tailored to a company’s needs will be fundamental to providing the necessary resilience and business continuity to firms in a fast changing commercial environment.