A problem with the Windows 8 ecosystem AKA All I want is a dock


Microsoft Windows 8 has many great things about it, and some things that could be better. It has as many naysayers as it does great features and, as you probably know, I’m certainly not one of them. I’m a fan of it’s new tile interface (matches my Lumia 920 very well), it’s new sync features, it’s inclusion of an “app store” and more…but I do have an issue with it, and that is is the ecosystem.

This is an area that Microsoft can’t directly control, however I feel they must surely be able to take action to improve the situation. The situation is this:

I’ve got a Samsung Ativ Tab, the Windows RT device released a couple of months ago. It’s a great device: it’s sexy, it’s light, it’s quick, it’s got Office – I’m a big fan. I love using it in it’s tablet form but the other week I noticed the dock connector on the bottom of the tablet and thought about all the extra things I could do with a keyboard attachment too.

Samsung Ativ Tab Connector Here’s the dock.

I got into work and emailed one of our distributor partners to find out how much the dock would be, it’s availability etc. – and this is there the story starts.

The reply was quick to come back that I would need AA-RD8NMKD/UK, but that’s listed as being for the “Windows 8 Pro versions only” so no dice. I pointed this out and waited for the correct part code to come back. I chased up a few hours later to be told that there isn’t a dock available because “the RT version comes with the keyboard” – which isn’t correct.

I also asked our Samsung account manager who came back with the part code for a generic bluetooth keyboard!

I’m now at a loss as to whether this dock even exists and if it does, how on earth one is supposed to buy it. This kind of thing is surely going to put consumers off moving to one of these devices – if someone with direct access to distributors and even the manufacturer can’t get a straight answer, how is someone’s mum/auntie/dad/niece/brother going to fare in PC World?! There will either be so much confusion they just decide not to bother OR they’re sold the wrong item, causing them inconvenience and giving a better experience of Windows 8. (In this scenario, it’s doesn’t matter if it’s RT or 8, Samsung or Microsoft – it will be seen as the fault of Microsoft and Windows 8).

I’m confused as to why the item I was originally given is listed as “only for Windows 8 Pro devices” – what’s the difference? A hardware manufacturer surely isn’t going to incur the extra cost of changing the manufacturing process for two such similar devices? I can’t see that it’s an OS level issue either?

After much searching I’ve managed to find comparable pictures of the 2 devices:

Ativ Tab

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Ativ Smart PC

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The top device there is clearly designed to have the ability to dock – so why can’t I find one anywhere?! Is it that they share the same dock? Is the Ativ Tab add-on simply not released yet? So many questions!

A “regular” consumer would have given up on this about a week ago and at best decided to get a different Windows tablet (be that RT or Pro) or, at worst, gone and bought an iPad.

If anyone reading this can shed some light, that’d be great 🙂

Windows RT tablets, Reviews & iPads


I had a Twitter conversation with a couple of bloggers from ZDNet today and don’t feel that it was resolved. I don’t know if I’m wrong, if they didn’t understand my point, if they just wanted me to leave them alone or a bit of all three…but here’s the gist.

Matt Baxter-Reynolds (@mbrit) posted a review of the Lenovo Yoga 11 (see it here) which included the following:

“It can’t be a tablet because it weighs too much. It comes in at 1190g (2.6lbs). (For comparison, an iPad mini with silicon case weighs 376g — meaning a stack of about three of them weigh the same as the Yoga”

Now I don’t see how this is a true/fair comparison. The Yoga is almost 50% bigger than an iPad mini (11” vs 7.9”) AND includes a keyboard. I find it very doubtful that any consumer will be tossing up between these 2 devices…one is a small tablet and the other is a small laptop that converts to a tablet form factor. This was the first point I made on Twitter…it feels like the iPad comparison has been thrown in there more to further the “ipads are better than Windows tablets” cause – even when they’re apples and oranges. (No pun intended).

The conversation then moved onto the fact that the Yoga is, at 2.8lbs, too heavy to be a tablet. Now that I agree with…if you’re looking at it being used as a tablet 100% of the time. However I don’t think people will be using it like that. If you want a Windows RT tablet, that will be a tablet ALL the time, there are plenty of other choices…get a Surface or a Samung Ativ Tab; these give you the same OS in a much lighter package.

The most common usage scenario I see for the Yoga (and other convertible devices of this ilk) is 80/20 – a laptop 80% of the time and then being converted to a tablet ~in certain scenarios ~ when required. Thus users get all the benefits of having a full keyboard (a big reason for the extra weight) when working in Office etc with the flexibility to switch it up when needed.

 

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I made the point that there ARE cases where it’s ability to transform is useful without it’s weight being an issue – these are primarily desk based scenarios. James Kendrick at this point said:

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Now this I don’t agree with at all. You’re in a meeting with a colleague or two and you want to review some documents on your device…is it only me who would prefer to do that in tablet mode, echoing the more natural feeling “looking at paper documents”, rather than all 3 people huddling round a laptop screen?

You’re in a larger meeting, say 8 people around the boardroom table, and have PowerPoint slide you’d like everyone to take a look at. It’s going to me MUCH easier to flip your Yoga into tablet mode and pass that around than a full on laptop.

I think it’s quite widely felt that, in a meeting setting, the screen of a laptop makes an effective barrier between the people involved. Again, flipping your Yoga into tablet mode allows you to negate that, hopefully making everyone feel more comfortable and keeping them engaged etc., and the weight won’t matter because you’re not carrying it.

The feeling that a tablet is only of use if you’re carrying it is, in my opinion, missing part of the picture.

My initial point was that comparing the Yoga to the iPad Mini is not a true comparison, perhaps a little disingenuous and done to tap into that Apple vs Microsoft battle so often prevalent with tablets – even though it’s not really part of the discussion. I re-iterated that point, to which James Kendrick replied:

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Which doesn’t really make any sense! The above is not the same as comparing an 11” convertible laptop with keyboard to a 7.9” tablet without a keyboard.

I’m keen to understand if it’s just me who sees it like this or if there’s anyone out there that agrees with me, so I welcome your feedback!

Managing Windows RT tablets & Windows Intune Licensing Changes


Windows 8 RT is a new member of the Windows family, and one that’s caused/causing some confusion when it comes to management. It transpired a while ago that Windows RT pcs/tablets will not be able to join Active Directory domains and since then, people have been wondering exactly how they’d manage these devices. Well the answer is here – Windows Intune & System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) SP1.

“Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT devices will be managed by the next release of Windows Intune.  IT Pros will have the flexibility of using either the Windows Intune or Configuration Manager 2012 SP1 console to set mobile security policies, distribute mobile apps and view reports.  We’ll share more details as we get closer to the next release of Windows Intune.”

As Windows Intune is becoming more of a star, it’s getting some licensing changes too – always a favourite thing of mine 🙂

  1. We are shifting from a per-device to a per-user licensing model.  Each user license for Windows Intune covers up to 5 managed devices.
  2. There will be a Windows Intune user license that includes the rights to System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, enabling organizations to manage those devices through either Windows Intune or Configuration Manager, or both
  3. Organizations that already own System Center 2012 Configuration Manager licenses, such as through the Core CAL, will have access to Windows Intune at a reduced price
  4. We will also make a version of Windows Intune available without rights to Windows Enterprise, thereby lowering the cost for organizations that are not ready to move to the latest operating system.

That final point is something I’ve been hoping to see since the first release of Intune. I’ve always felt that having the desktop OS and a systems management product intertwined muddy the waters and made it a more difficult proposition in many cases; so this is a positive move that will enable Intune to shine in its own light.

It’s also interesting to note that SP1 of SCCM will be able to manage other types of devices including:

  • Windows Embedded Thin Clients
  • Point of Sale (PoS) terminals
  • Digital Signage
  • Kiosks

as well as:

  • Distribution point for Windows Azure to help reduce infrastructure costs
  • Automation of administrative tasks through PowerShell support
  • Management of Mac OS X clients and Linux and UNIX servers
  • I’m pleased to see this move to bring Windows RT into the management fold, making it easier for partners AND customers to tell, understand and take part in the Windows 8 story.

    See the whole post over at:

    http://blogs.technet.com/b/server-cloud/archive/2012/09/10/system-center-2012-configuration-manager-sp1-beta-and-windows-intune-update.aspx

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