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* Posts by Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

20 posts • joined 15 Mar 2011

Is tech the preserve of the young able-bodied? Let's talk over a fine dinner and claret

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Pet hate for me with my older eyes - software that doesn't give you the ability to manage font sizes for viewing easily, consistently or at all, e.g. OS X, Apple Mail and Evernote (but there are a lot more, especially on the Mac). Elegant zooming and scaling is one of the main reasons I spend most of my time in Parallels/Windows on the MacBook Air. And no, changing the screen resolution (solution offered by one Fanbois I asked) is not an acceptable answer.

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Enterprise adolescent: Salesforce.com's struggles at 15

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Jargon evolution

Reporting became decision support

Decision support became business intelligence

Business intelligence became analytics

Analytics became big data

The problem is that while technology has undoubtedly progressed, arguably requiring new jargon along the way, marketeers reclassify everything that's gone before under the latest hot term.

As a result, big data is today used to refer to anything from genuinely large scale data analysis using things like Hadoop, down to basic reporting capability embedded in CRM systems - or not, as the case may be :-)

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Never been a better time NOT to be selling servers

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

What about the big hosters?

Does anyone know if any of the analysts keeps track of servers installed in the mega-cloud datacentres owned by Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc? Would be interesting to compare those numbers with server shipments direct to customers. And of the numbers quoted by Gartner, how many servers were shipped to internet/cloud service providers as opposed to normal businesses? Seems like the stats are only telling part of the story.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook v Microsoft's Ballmer: Seconds out, round two!

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

The emperor has no clothes

While such blunt competitor-bashing is not something to be applauded in itself, this is another step towards dismantling the myth that Apple is somehow magically different from other big technology players. Perhaps it had something for a brief spell, but now it's sounding and acting like everyone else in the pack

Apple under Jobs drove a much-needed shake-up in a couple of industries (music and mobile telco), but it also distorted a lot of peoples’ perceptions of reality. I’m not knocking what Apple is chucking out the door per se, but the latest round of tablets and phones are not actually that well differentiated from the competition, if at all.

It’s still arguably ahead of the pack with the MacBook Air from a hardware perspective, but having just upgraded my own MBA to Mavericks, I haven’t spotted anything to write home about there. I can still get a lot more work done in the Windows VM running in Parallels. Meanwhile, other players are not that far off in terms of hardware specs, and are innovating more than Apple on form-factors.

I personally hope more people start to see through the many Apple claims that can no longer be substantiated (if they ever could in some cases), and begin to realise that wind is now swirling freely around the emperor’s nether regions. To sooner the influence of religion and fluffy aspirational/image factors are reduced in this industry, the better.

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How to spot a coders comment

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Not about comments but...

This thread reminds me of the user who phoned me one day many years ago saying an error message had appeared that he didn't understand. It read:

"IT IS LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR THIS MESSAGE TO EVER APPEAR".

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SMBs are tumbling into the cloud? Oh get real

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Precision on Cloud and SMB

@dan1980 - You make two very good points. I suggest you take a look at the research linked to in the article.

We interviewed three size bands that most would include in the 'SMB space' - 10-25, 25-100 and 100-250 employees. To your first point, found some pretty big differences between these bands. If you download the report you will also see that we distinguished between different forms of (hosted) cloud - not just infrastructure versus apps as a service, but also different categories of apps.

As an industry analyst, I am always interested in hearing stories from the field, and you are not the first person to mention the demise of SBS as driver to hosted options for some, but the numbers are not as high as your comment implies based on our research (if you sample the market in a representative manner). This is mostly because the majority of resellers are doing little or nothing with cloud at the moment.

If you are up for a chat, I would be interested in your perspective (or anyone else out there selling into the lower end of the market). You can reach me through our website (www.freeformdynamics.com).

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Stock dips as fanbois complain of dodgy Wi-Fi on MacBook Air

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Um, my new MBA seems to work OK

Have been mostly using it on home office WiFi and with Huawei MiFi box, but not seeing the same problems as I was with an older MacBook Pro, which was (still is) very flakey in the same environment. Is this supposed to be a problem with just some of the new MBAs or all of them? If the latter, then perhaps I need to do some more methodical testing.

WRT to the machine itself, I have to say that it is living up to the battery life claims - I have the i7 version and getting at least 10 hours on a single charge doing everyday office type stuff.

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IT staff clamouring to pay for their own BYOD kit, says survey

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics
Alert

Sanity check

The report actually says that 70% of employees *are allowed* to use their own devices for work, which is a bit different to them being expected to pay for their own kit.

Furthermore, even though the methodology section of the report actually says very little about the the research methodology itself, I infer from the uneven distribution of the sample than this was a web survey. If that is the case, the sample will be heavily skewed towards those with stronger opinions or a higher level of enthusiasm for all this stuff (due to self-selection), hence the numbers looking implausibly high. It's the same with the Reg surveys we run, which is why you always see a self-selection disclaimer on Reg research reports.

Lastly, on a specific point, we know from our own research that 'being allowed' to use your own equipment for work is not the same as there being a formal BYOD policy in place. This is probably why some of the wording in the report is a bit woolly around expenses - e.g. the assertion that some respondents "would" claim for WiFi costs, which has an implied "if they could", so in reality means they probably can't.

Bottom line, this survey report has some interesting stuff in it, but you need to be careful not to take it on face value. See my Survey Survival Guide for more tips on interpreting surveys, especially those designed primarily to drive PR:

Survey Survival Guide: http://researchbeat.com/the-survey-survival-guide/

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Windows 8.1 Start button SPOTTED in the wild

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Out of the box

We have been using Windows 8 for many months. I have never had a problem with getting a new desktop user going if I spend 5 mins setting the desktop up for them. If you clear off all the metro stuff from the start menu and add the tiles relating to the desktop apps they use (in a logical order), then give them a quick navigation lesson, they hit the ground running and the lack of start button really is not an issue.

This is fine for a small team like us, but that desk side startup process will not scale if you have lots of users.

The biggest problem with Windows 8 IMO is the out-of-the-box experience that assumes your priority is to get going in the new world of full screen metro apps, when the actual priority for most users (in a biz context) is to get up and running with their familiar (and typically essential) desktop apps.

So, what Microsoft needs to get right is not the features per se, but the default settings and default contents/layout of the start screen. It's the out-of-the-box experience that should be the priority for 8.1.

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Office Software Checkpoint

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

@A Long Fellow (from the author of the report)

Ouch! We rarely get into specific products and services with Reg research because of the danger of drawing this kind of fire.

The problem we had in this case, though, was actually the reverse of the one you assume. The Office 365 users participating in the study (while small in number as we said) were generally pretty content. Our concern was therefore not how to twist the data positively to make Microsoft look good, but how to write it up so it didn't come across as a shilling job without misrepresenting what was, in reality, a net positive view from those with experience.

I guess whether you think we struck the right balance will probably depend on your general disposition to Microsoft, cloud computing, the subscription model, and so on. We know from having done a shed load of research on alternative delivery/payment models that some are very negative, some are very positive, but the majority are actually quite pragmatic about how they view these things (useful in some areas, problematic in others).

It's pretty much the same with views of Microsoft. Some people hate the company, some are big fans, but the majority take the view that some of the stuff it does is good, and other stuff is not – no different to any other big supplier.

Anyway, I am unlikely to change your mind, but it would be genuinely useful to know which bits of the report you found distasteful or misleading. Have you had problems with Office 365 yourself?

If you are simply objecting to the concept of sponsorship, well there's not much I can say - in a world where people don't want to pay explicitly, you have to fund decent content somehow. All we can do is be up front about it and keep things objective.

In the meantime, while I empathise with people out there who say that trying to move away from Microsoft Office is more trouble than it's worth, in our little corner of the world we have been experimenting with the concept of using MS Office *by exception* rather than *by default*. As a small company we obviously have more freedom here, but there is a lot of stuff we do internally that doesn't require significant formatting, or the sophisticated Excel-style functionality, that can be handled in a device/editor/viewer agnostic way.

We are still working through this, but I would interested in the experiences of anyone else who is looking at how best to deal with multiple types of end point devices and operating systems.

Or is everyone waiting for iOS, Android and BlackBerry versions of MS Office? :-)

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Ten ancestors of the netbook

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Quaderna

I had an Olivetti Quaderna - travelled all over the Middle East with it on business on many occasions. In the year or so I was using it, I never saw another one out there in the wild. I did post a problem about it on a bulletin board once, though, and who should respond but (now Sir) Terry Pratchett. He wrote at least part of one of the Discworld novels on a Quaderna, I seem to remember while he was travelling in Australia (well I have a vague recollection of Oz being mentioned).

By today's standards, these machines were really crap, but back then they were truly liberating if you spent a lot of time working while travelling. I even remember that dialling up from hotel rooms over 9600 modems was genuinely useful in a way that today seems unimaginable.

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BYOD: Bring Your Own Device - or Bring Your Own Disaster?

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics
Stop

Whoa - massive unsubstatiated assumption here

I realise the covering piece is there to provoke a reaction, but this phrase is extremely assumptive:

"But some organisations have decided to trust the user and claim big savings in productivity by deploying BYOD"

The implication is that productivity gains are a given if you can overcome some of the risks and practicalities associated with BYOD. There are arguments and experiences that go both ways on this. The first point of order is that just because a user 'feels' they are more productive with their non-standard personal device doesn't mean they actually are. People tend to accentuate the positives and conveniently forget the hassle factor of working around inconsistencies and incompatibilities. Even if they are somehow more 'productive', the lack of cohesion if you have too much diversity within a team or workgroup means lots of time reinventing the wheel, dealing with round trip document editing issues (when different editors are used), and so on. Productivity at an aggregate level is rarely considered in the BYOD discussion, but it should be.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it is all bad, just that even if you overcome the risk and support related challenges, it's not necessarily all good either from a productivity perspective.

In my experience, when people start quoting the benefits of BYOD, most (if not all) of what they tell you are benefits of mobile computing. I guess if you can't afford the cost of deploying mobile technology in a fully supported manner, then the two are essentially the same. My feeling from having talked to a lot of people on this, however, is that you are generally going to get a better result by giving people what they need to do their job. There are enough good devices out there that are enterprise ready and very desirable, so it's no longer a case of business phone must be crap and personal phone sexy.

Sure, BYOD is here, and it probably makes sense to look for ways to accommodate it, e.g. for borderline cases or VIP users wanting to connect up their optional bling. But if a mobile device is really going to have a big productivity impact, wouldn't you be better to supply as an essential tool and make sure it all hangs together at a team, workgroup and company level?

Bottom line is that I would like to see the following discussion point added to the agenda for the live chat:

"Are productivity benefits really a given with BYOD?"

Cheers

Dale

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Windows 8 and the ‘Dad test’ stunts

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics
Black Helicopters

Got that wrong then :-)

It's obviously a lot worse out there than I thought. The article (or non-article as the case may be) was I admit a bit of a rant against what I thought were a bunch of contrived and unhelpful videos. The point I was trying (and obviously failing) to make was not about training in the full-on formal sense, it was more about the number of ways in which users will be provided with a nudge to get them going with an updated UI.

From what you guys are saying there is a high chance that consumers will buy a new PC without ever seeing Windows 8 demonstrated, then miss the in-yer-face hints about corner and edge menus during setup, ignore the one page quick start card that comes in the box when they get stuck, and have no one around or on the end of the phone to give them the hint they need to get going. Fair enough, I’ll take it on the chin for the phrase “this almost never happens” being a bit of an over-statement, but I am not sure I would concede that it *always* happens as some are suggesting.

Re the work side of things, of course people are plonked down in front of PCs without training, and there's always going to be exceptional situations like the guy firing up a new OS for the first time from the other side of the world, but isn't there usually at least someone around or on the end of the phone that users can ask on a basic UI question like “what’s happened to the start menu?”

Again, I am not talking about formal training or support here, which is clearly lacking in a lot of organisations, just someone who can say the words "try moving your mouse to the corners of the screen and see what pops up", and perhaps offer a couple of other basic UI tips.

We've been through this before with XP, and some have been through it with Vista and Windows 7. Everyone moans and groans because they don't like change, and some get stuck on some things initially until ask someone, look it up or work it out through trial and error. And it's not just Windows. I have even seen people struggle when you put a Mac in front of them for the first time (in my experience, people who spend shed loads on Macs often trivialise the learning curve). There’s then Android, which for most people involves a hill to climb too with regard to the UI, but people do get hints from various sources and are obviously getting on with it.

Perhaps iOS is an exception in terms of out of the box usability, and hat tip to Apple for that. Even so, it’s easy for experienced iPhone and iPad users to forget that someone in the early days probably had to show them the ‘press and hold’ trick to move and delete icons, and more recently how to use multi-tap gestures for things like task switching (assuming they know about them even now). Or maybe they consulted some source of help?

The bottom line is that you could put all sorts of new and unfamiliar things in front of your Dad with no hints and clues about how to get something done and get a similar result. What I take issue with is inferring from such stunts that the new thing they are struggling with is inherently flawed, and that’s exactly the inference of the Dad test videos.

I would be interested in whether people out there who have given Windows 8 a proper go really do think it’s as impenetrable as these videos would have us believe. It’s not my experience, nor that of the people I have introduced it to. Whether you like the changes to the UI or not, the effort/intellect needed to figure how it works (especially if you are a desktop user) is not that different to other UIs. But as someone said in a previous comment, that’s just anecdotal.

OK, shutting up and going away now. Apologies if anyone feels I have wasted their time.

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Windows 8 and you – So, what's next?

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Re: Is anyone bothering with Windows 8 deployment.

Dunno about deployment in business. My guess it that it will follow the usual patterns. It will creep gradually into smaller businesses who buy through retail/dealers and tend not to reimage disks. With larger organisations, it will start with high end laptops of VIP employees, then mobile users, with slates penetrating in parallel. You'll get the odd early adopter rollout more broadly, it will take a couple of years at least for that to get going.

Re consumers universally hating the UI, that is not my personal experience with family and friends, but I am not privy to any objective research in this area. I think the big unknown here is how Microsoft handles the launch/post launch advertising to consumers. It screwed up the Vista marketing by over-positioning, but nailed it pretty well with Windows 7. Having been burned before it is likely to be more careful, and with the slate/Surface factor, it has some interesting things to punt that are a bit different this time around.

I think the important thing to remember is that consumers don't view things or buy things in the same way as IT professionals, so our opinion here is not necessarily representative of the mass market.

Will Microsoft succeed in an effective market entry with Windows 8? My instincts say 2 to 1 odds in favour, but I am not a consumer analyst, so that's pure opinion :-)

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Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Re: Appeal to teenagers, dual screen, low spec machines

Please don't read into my previous post any suggestion of Windows 8 slates undermining the iPad. I do not fear for the future of iOS based tablets at all. I would be surprised if a lot of BYOD personal spend and corporate budget wasn't directed to Windows 8 Pro slates, however, because it immediately removes so many constraints associated with the iPad. For 3 years the story of my iPad use for business purposes has been one of continual workarounds. It has been worth it as the iPad has been the best of an equally constrained bunch, but a Windows 8 Pro equivalent immediately simplifies everything.

What I am not sure of at the moment is how Windows 8 RT slates will do as they come with a different set of constraints. My guess would be that the experience for general purpose business use will still be better than an iPad, but will it be better enough to combat the iBling status symbol factor?

I would be interested in other people's opinions on this.

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Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics
Happy

Appeal to teenagers, dual screen, low spec machines

Don't tell Microsoft this, but I lost posession of the Windows 8 Samsung slate I was given at Tech Ed (for evaluation) within an hour of getting back from the conference. My 14 year old daughter asked to have a look, and after declaring "This is SOOO much better than my iPad", I haven't seen it since. Well I've see it, because she practically lives on it, but I haven't succeeded in getting it back. Her iPad is now sitting idle and I even had a battle to persuade her to give up the Samsung for long enough to upgrade it to W8 RTM.

I am personally using Windows 8 on a dual monitor number crunching rig, and it's very good. Learning curve to get up speed on the differences is well less than an hour, and it is better than Windows 7 for heavy multi-Window multi-screen power user stuff. Also have Windows 8 on a Lenovo T220 laptop convertible. Touch experience on that chunky low res screen nothing like the Samsung slate, but pen has advantages.

Other experiments with Windows 8 on various low spec machines, including an old 1.2Ghz Sony TZ with 2Gb RAM, have also been pretty successful. You notice the performance advantage over Windows 7 more on slower kit with less memory.

I would not say Windows 8 was transformative for business use in desktop mode, but it is an improvement. The real thing that surprised me was how my teenage daughter and her friends, who are all obsessive multi-tasking communicators and Web users, seem to love it.

The thing we are all really impressed with is dropping the Samsung into the dock and in seconds having it flip to a pretty high performance full blown desktop driving a 27 in monitor. That's not to do with Windows 8 per se, but it does open your eyes to the potential of dockable slates when you see it in action.

Also makes you appreciate how limited in scope the iPad is in comparison. I use an iPad every day at the moment, but can't see that lasting when 3G enabled W8 slates are available. The only real issue there is dependency on iTunes at the moment for media, but been meaning to sort that for a while anyway.

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Reg readers love Private Cloud (true)

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics
Stop

Re: SO

Hello Goat Jam and other cloud sceptics.

Dale here again (author of the piece you are commenting on).

I have spent the last 3 or 4 years challenging the marketing and PR people on the over-positioning of cloud offerings - feel free to Google my name if you doubt my credentials here :-)

The way I have learned to think about it is that 80-90% of the stuff underpinning all of the cloud related marketing and press coverage is accounted for by familiar ideas and technology, but the 10-20% that's new does allow a lot of that familiar stuff to be used differently.

In the world of outsourcing, this has enabled hosting companies to provide a lot more choice and flexibility, though contrary to the evangelist rhetoric, this doesn't mean that established hosting models are any less relevant, nor that emerging cloud models are always well-thought out (the industry here is still quite immature). .

Similarly, the whole private cloud thing takes the idea of server farms and clusters to a different place, which again introduces a lot more flexibility (this time typically in your own data centre or computer room), but as our latest Reg reader research makes clear, this does not mean the end of mainframes, big Unix boxes, highly optimised specialise clusters, and so on - at least that's what we're hearing back from the masses.

Pulling these threads together, the other interesting finding from the latest reader research is that most people don't regard so called 'public cloud' and 'private cloud' as having much to do with each other. The first is typically viewed as an evolution of hosting, and the second as an evolution of virtualisation. This says to me that most people have not been influenced by the arbitrary use of 'C' word by vendors and pundits as much as some think.

There's loads of stuff on our site (www.freeformdynamics.com) discussing all this, and you'll find lots of articles on cloud from me and others in our team on El Reg (just search for 'Freeform Dynamics'). In the meantime, though, check out the latest reader study report (link embedded in the original article we are commenting on here), which walks through where private cloud may or may not fit into your landscape.

Netting it all out, it is incorrect to say that everything discussed in relation to cloud is new and/or is the answer to everyone's prayers, but it's also misguided to write it all off as being pure hype and spin. There is substance there that can make life in IT a lot easier if it's applied in the right place in the right way - even if it is bloody irritating having to wade through so much marketing guff to get to it :-)

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Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Re: I stopped reading at...

Hey Magnus, now you have me confused.

The whole point of declaring the skew was so I could NOT spin things to my personal view - you can make your own judgement if you don't agree with my interpretation.

Too many surveys (especially in the PR world) are published based on extremely biased samples that are presented as if they were totally representative of the overall universe. We try to be as straight and transparent as we can with these Reg reader studies, hence being up front about the limitations of online surveys. Reg readers are quick to smell a rat, so even if we wanted to, we probably couldn't pull the wool over most people's eyes.

For those who are interested, the trick we use at Freeform Dynamics when anaysing Reg reader surveys is to focus on comparisons that are unlikely to be affected significantly by the self-selection skew. In this case, for example, we have enough people in the top performer group to make a reasonable comparison with others. Whether the ratio of top performers to others is different to the general population (which it almost certainly is in this survey for the reasons stated) is immaterial to the analysis we have performed.

I am always interested in how people read and interpret survey data, though, as all surveys have limitations and no set of results can ever be taken on face value or in isolation.

Anyway, hope that helps, but if you still think I am spinning you a line on this one, let know what you are worried about and I will clarify or correct accordingly.

Cheers

Dale (author of the piece)

PS - The title of the article was not down to me :-)

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A cloud hangs over the sysadmin

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Cloud will increase the need for IT skills and experience in most areas

Check out the Freeform Dynamics paper 'Applied Cloud Computing' for our view of the impact of cloud on the IT department. A lot of our analysis captured in here was shaped with the help of input from Reg readers. In a nutshell, we see cloud increasing the need for IT skills and experience in many domains/disciplines, and certainly not undermining the role of IT.

You can download the paper from here: http://bit.ly/g15NMw

Feel free to skip the first half of the paper if you are already familiar with the various flavours of cloud - at the time it was written, we felt a 'level set' was necessary (as the Americans would say) as there was so much confusion in the market. The impact on IT bit is in the second half of the paper.

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Mind mapping for IT pros

Dale Vile, Freeform Dynamics

Free tools

Some people were asking about free tools - Vicgee lists some of those in his gallery (see comment from him with link above)

Have had a root around that resource, and it looks very comprehensive for anyone interesting in mind-mapping.

Cheers

Dale

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