Can we (yet) rely on computer algorithms and machine-learning to make sense of that most unpredictable substance in the universe – human behaviour?
The Boston Globe has reported that the city of Boston is moving from Microsoft software to Google Apps online, including transitioning from Exchange to Gmail for email and calendaring, from Microsoft Office to Google Docs, and from Windows file shares to Google Drive to storing documents. In short, all that will be left on the desktop will be the Microsoft Windows OS.
From the article:
It will cost Boston around $800,000 to move over to Gmail, Google Docs for word processing, and Google’s cloud service for storing documents. But by dropping some Microsoft products, the city government will save at least $280,000 a year.
“The number one reason that organizations are going to Google is price,” said Matt Cain, an analyst at the tech research firm Gartner Inc.
What’s more, Cain said, Google’s contract terms are much simpler than dealing with Microsoft.
It’s believed the transition will take a year. That doesn’t sound very long. Dropping Microsoft Office for Google Docs is a bold move and document conversion could prove challenging. I wonder what testing was completed to build the busines case for the switch.
“Anyone with a current Gmail account will not have much trouble transitioning,” said David Nero, director of technology for Boston.
Hmmm. A significant percentage of employees may already have personal Gmail accounts which certainly helps in terms of familiarity with Gmail’s user interface. But dropping Outlook and Office at work may come as a bit of a shock. And moving from having any on-premise Office suite to browser-based is unlikely to be that straightforward.
According to the article, Microsoft software was costing an estimated $100 per employee per year compared to approximately $50 per user per year for a Google Apps subscription. But that’s comparing on-premise software licensing with an online subscription. A similar level of savings would also have been achieved by switching to Office 365. Government pricing plans offered by Google and Microsoft are closely aligned for comparible features.
If the migration is predicted to cost $800,000 and will save $280,000 per year, it will take nearly 3 years for the project to break even. It would be interesting to have an update in 18 months time once the transition has been completed and operational for 6 months. If the decision really was primarily about price, it’s a bad one.
We moved from Exchange and Outlook to Gmail three years ago. We still have Office on the desktop. Some aspects of Google Docs knock the socks off of Office Web Apps. And vice versa… The decision of which is best to use should be based on the ways you work, not just the price.
One claim we certainly would agree with is that Google’s contract terms for cloud services are a lot more straightforward to deal with. Both as a customer and as a partner. Microsoft needs to get on top of that.
Disclaimer: Joining Dots Ltd has a paid subscription to both Google Apps for Business and Microsoft Office 365 for Enterprise. We continue to test and compare the features in each.
Today Microsoft has announced a major overhaul to their online email service, Hotmail.
Pointless sidenote: Somebody told me about Hotmail back in 1997 and I originally had the address email@example.com but lost it when I forgot about the account. When I next logged in, after Microsoft had acquired it (around 1999 I think), the nearest I could get to snr included a 4-digit number tagged on the end….
Anyways, back to the subject of this post. Microsoft have announced a new updated version of the service that will use the domain Outlook.com named after their popular email client. However, the interface is not Outlook as we know it but instead adopts the new Metro user interface being introduced with Windows 8 and also being applied to just about all of Microsoft’s online services.
Here’s a screenshot (click on it to view larger):
Should enjoy an empty inbox while it lasts…
Note the sidebar down the right side of the screen. Lots of emphasis on social networks and sharing contacts and content.
Here’s a preview video from Microsoft
Interesting to see Skype integration highlighted. Lots more details and screenshots included in the Verge article, link below.
Source: The Verge, 31 July 2012
At the beginning of last week came news about updates to two competing intranet platforms – Microsoft’s preview of the next version of SharePoint and Office; and IBM’s latest incarnation of Lotus and related technologies, renamed the Intranet Experience Suite.
Despite sharing very similar feature sets, the two announcements were positioned very differently. Microsoft’s announcement seemed aimed at the individual user. IBM seems to be targeting the people holding the budgets for the software, the CIOs and CMOs.
One interesting soundbite by Turbotodd when talking about IBM:
By 2017, the CMO will have greater control of the IT budget than the CIO, according to Gartner. Marketing budgets will grow 7-8 percent over the next 12 months, which is 2-3 times that of IT budgets
Well Gartner are hardly the most accurate source for predictions and I doubt CMOs will have greater control of the entire IT budget given it serves more than just marketing purposes. But many organisations have yet to leverage the current big Internet trends of social media, mobile devices and big data, internally or externally. Marketing is one of the departments with the most to gain or lose (along with Customer Services and R&D). It makes sense that a chunk of any increase in their budget should be spent on using enabling technologies. And that means CMOs and CIOs are going to need to work more closely together over the next few years.
IBM does seem to be taking the more strategic approach to the next generation of Intranets that are beginning to emerge. Microsoft, for all the gains made in the enterprise space, still focuses on IT departments and end-users when articulating what their products are for. I shouldn’t complain because that’s what Joining Dots was set up to help with (out of frustration whilst at Microsoft). But it is interesting to compare the different approaches the two largest vendors take.
From experience, few organisations have well thought out plans for how to use Intranets to drive better decision and actions. The successful projects always start with a strategic slant or business case, even when it’s a new feature that seeds the idea…
- New IBM software transforms the digital experience – Turbotodd, 13th July 2012
- The new SharePoint – Microsoft SharePoint team blog, 17th July 2012
- SharePoint 2013 Preview – Microsoft
- IBM Intranet Experience Suite – IBM
- Why does the IT industry listen to Gartner – ZDNet, 23 July 2012
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Last weekend, I wanted to find out what time the Wimbledon men’s finals match began. TV coverage started around about 1pm but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the start time. So off I went to Internet search. And whilst I was at it, decided to compare Google and Bing.
Google search results for Wimbledon – Click image to view larger
Bing search results for Wimbledon – Click image to view larger
What’s interesting is that each is taking a very different approach to displaying the results.
Google seems to be trying to save you visiting a web site if a quick answer is what you are looking for. You get to see recent match results and the date/time for the next matches to take place. Yey – found what I was looking for. You also see a variety of different sources – news articles, location map as well as the official web site.
Bing displays no information about the current tournament in its results summaries. And appears to assume you might not find what you’re looking for at the first attempt, offering a list of related searches in a prominent position over on the right of the results. Bing manages to display more results than Google in a smaller space, but it seems to be at the expense of helping decide which result is most likely to be useful.
From a personal perspective, I find the ‘Related searches’ list distracting on the Bing results page. It pulls my eyes over to it instead of reading the main results area. Google puts a list of related search links at the end of the first page. This feels more logical – if you haven’t clicked anything on the first page, maybe the results need refining.
It’s a similar story when searching for other facts, such as weather:
Yes, the UK weather this summer really is that bad…
I find I still favour Google for searches. Quick facts can usually be found without needing to click further. Whether web sites like that outcome is another matter. But when it comes to applying these lessons for enterprise search designs, saving clicks can be a big productivity boost.
I haven’t found an example yet where Bing delivers demonstrably better search results, despite what Steve Ballmer says. Has anybody else? And of course the missing element to both is the conversation taking place in real-time. Google is starting to push it’s Google+ social network, if you’re signed in. But no Twitter, no Facebook, no chattering updates. They’re all taking place in the digital walled gardens.
Microsoft UK recently posted an ‘Office 365 vs Google Apps‘ presentation to SlideShare, positioned as a day in the life of an IT professional.
We don’t entirely agree with all of the points made. And as we happen to be a subscribing customer of both Office 365 and Google Apps, we thought we’d add our own comments based on actual experiences.
The modified presentation is embedded below.
Personally, I think the presentation is weak and damages Microsoft’s credibility. Far better arguments could have been easily made to show where Office 365 is superior to Google Apps for business activities.
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…is how responsive the screen is to interaction: visual, touch and motion. That’s where Apple is succeeding and others, Android- and Windows-based devices, are failing compete. It also needs to be ‘Instant On’ like a mobile phone, but most have at least cottoned on to that.
— Update 30th March —
Steven Sinofsky has just posted on the Windows 8 blog details about Touch hardware and Windows 8, expanding on information first shared during the Build conference last October. We attended that conference and have a Samsung Windows 8 tablet prototype in our R&D lab. The touch sensitivity is certainly far superior to previous Windows devices we’ve worked with. But not as superior as the iPad (v1) that I’m still using for day-to-day tablet activities.
Somebody has added a great comment to Steven Sinofsky’s post:
Is there any support for great track pad for the laptops ? Many people (programmers, businesses) have the traditional laptops (may be with touch screen in future) but having a great quality touch with same gesture support will be THE feature for Windows PCs going forward
Spot on question. My primary hardware devices at the moment are an Apple MacBook Air, Apple iPad (v1) and Apple iPhone 3GS. All three have comparible sensitivity in the touch department. No, the MacBook Air does not have a touch-screen but the trackpad is so good that I no longer use a mouse. The same cannot be said for any Windows-based laptops I’ve worked with. Microsoft needs to get better at linking the experience (hate using that word but can’t think of a better one) across different form factors. A tricky challenge when you’re dependent on many different hardware vendors. And given Microsoft is not great at achieving this across software, or even their own web sites, the odds of that happening are not great.
— original post —
Ryan Block at gdgt outlines why he thinks the new iPad retina-display specs are a big deal:
The core experience of the iPad, and every tablet for that matter, is the screen. It’s so fundamental that it’s almost completely forgettable. Post-PC devices have absolutely nothing to hide behind. Specs, form-factors, all that stuff melts away in favor of something else that’s much more intangible. When the software provides the metaphor for the device, every tablet lives and dies by the display and what’s on that display.
So when a device comes along like the iPad that doesn’t just display the application, but actually becomes the application, radically improving its screen radically improves the experience. And when a device’s screen is as radically improved as the display in the new iPad, the device itself is fundamentally changed
Whilst the article emphasises the new retina-display introduced with the latest iPad, the same can be said for other sensory inputs and outputs – the sensitivity of the screen to touch (for swiping, input etc.) and reaction of apps to motion.
The first mobile phone I used that involved a pure touch-based user interface, i.e. no physical keyboard, was the HTC Hero running Google’s Android OS. For me it was a step change in how I used a phone and I loved it from the start. The ability to quickly swipe across screens and retrieve or view different data, whether it was to check emails, find a contact, follow a map, send a Tweet… it was a jump in productivity for me. Until…
… the iPad launched.
Having always been a fan of tablets and frustrated by the lack of progress, it was an easy decision to get one and see if the device was worthy of the hype. I still have it 2 years later and it’s an integral part of my daily work. I don’t still have the HTC Hero. Because once I started using the iPad, the way I touched screens altered. The iPad was way more responsive (read: reacted to a much lighter touch) than the HTC Hero. All of a sudden, I’d go to swipe the screen on the phone and it wouldn’t respond. I’d have to swipe again, but harder. It was nothing compared to the lack of sensitivity on Windows touch-enabled phones but it was enough to be annoying.
Then there’s the thought behind motion on Apple devices. I was delighted the first time I moved the iPhone from my ear to look at the screen (on a dreaded automated call that required keyboard input) – the keypad automatically appeared. On the HTC Hero, I was forever accidentally cancelling calls because it didn’t do that, you had to push a button to reactivate the screen and I’d invariably press the button that ended the call. Doh!
That’s why 2 years later, I now also have an iPhone, albeit the ageing 3GS model. Everything about how it responds to my actions trumps the alternatives I’ve tried. That’s the challenge facing Apple’s rivals. Tablets will, in one form or another, become a standard part of the typical workplace in the coming years. And they are setting the bar for what people have become used to. Alternatives need to either be a lot cheaper or do something fundamentally different that the iPad can’t.
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