Windows 7 Could Mean Lots of New Hardware

The recession, along with the mixed bag that is Vista, didn't exactly inspire PC sales. But Microsoft expects all that to change with Windows 7, as IT may finally get to indulge in the sometimes long-put-off PC refreshes.

Fortunately, you don't always need a new machine for Windows 7. Many older systems that run XP can do just as well with 7. New machines, though, are often the best and cleanest way to upgrade. And with prices as low as they are, new machines don't have to be a deal-breaker.

The PC refresh comments came from Microsoft's Neil Holloway, who was grilled by analysts in London recently. Holloway was less bullish on servers; because so many of you consolidate servers through virtualization, demand for hardware is down some 20 percent. That's good news for IT, bad news for IBM, HP and Dell!

Is a new machine the best upgrade and are PCs as affordable as I suggest? Are you buying fewer servers because of consolidation? Fire up the PC of your choice and send answers to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on December 03, 2009 at 11:53 AM4 comments


Microsoft's Extreme Makeover

As Microsoft picked off companies like Novell, WordPerfect and Netscape in the '80s and '90s, its public image suffered. Redmond was the evil empire, reducing consumer choice by putting key vendors out of business.

Interestingly, this was all on Bill Gates' watch. As tough a competitor as Steve Ballmer is, he has treated the competition quite differently, and as a result, Microsoft has lost much of its negative connotation. Add to Ballmer's efforts the fact that Google dominates search and many Web services the way Redmond manhandles operating systems, and Microsoft's image is lightened even further. Today, many find Microsoft a terrific and trusted partner.

I'm finding that myself, at this very moment. Earlier this year, the Redmond Media Group inked a deal with Microsoft to take over MSDN Magazine and TechNet Magazine. We've been working with Microsoft for most of this year, and it's going great.

Here's another example. Last year, we started Virtualization Review magazine and soon got to know the major virt players. I now hear over and over that Microsoft is a better partner for third parties than VMware. VMware should correct this tout de suite if it wants to maintain its healthy growth.

What do you think? Has Microsoft changed? Was the negative perception valid in the first place? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on December 03, 2009 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Mobile Windows Surge Due

When Microsoft wants into a market, it usually only takes three tries. But in the case of smartphones, Microsoft's mobile operating system is on version 6.5 -- and is still a bit of an also-ran.

Microsoft hopes that six-and-a-half times is the charm, and is in the midst of a major mobile push that includes new partners and new features.

Trouble is, Android is now in the market and getting great reviews. And prying an iPhone away from a happy user is like yanking a rifle from Sarah Palin's strong, attractive hands -- good luck with that!

Have you tried Android? Are Windows phones any good? Answers welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on December 02, 2009 at 11:53 AM6 comments


Will Bugs Drive IE 8 Adoption?

American car companies were well-known for planned obsolesce. If the engine, body and transmission all go, you have to buy a new buggy. With software, you lose support, so when code breaks, it's tough to fix. IE 6 and 7 aren't yet obsolete and still get bug fixes, but Microsoft would clearly rather have you on IE 8.

Since not all of you are, Microsoft has no choice but to address a zero-day exploit that lets hackers access a deleted CSS object and somehow gain entry to your machine. Fortunately, there's one more step the hateful hacker must take: Users have to be lured to a malicious Web site for the damage to be done.

There's no word on a specific fix, but Microsoft already has a more general solution: IE 8.

Posted by Doug Barney on December 02, 2009 at 11:53 AM2 comments


Azure Prepped for Private Clouds: Next Round

Azure is a pretty cool cloud development and application serving platform. I have only two concerns: It's pretty new, which may mean immature, but a bigger deal is that Azure is designed for apps that run on external clouds -- namely Microsoft datacenters. Maybe this is because the first rev of a product shouldn't be expected to do too much. Or maybe Redmond is trying to sell its own cloud services.

Either way, Microsoft has heard the pleas of customers, and now says, albeit vaguely, that the next rev will let IT build their own clouds, something that competitors such as VMware already offer.

Internal clouds may not always seem important to vendors, but they are a requirement for many in IT. You see, not all of you trust data to a datacenter you've never seen and don't control. Oh, and what if the cloud vendors start tacking on charges and raising rates like my MasterCard provider? One more reason not to trust the cloud.

Posted by Doug Barney on November 30, 2009 at 11:53 AM1 comments


Office 2010, Anyone?

Have you tried the latest rev of Office? Like it, hate it or are you somewhere in between?

We're doing a feature story based on real users' experiences, and are particularly interested in the new Web feature. If you care to weigh in, shoot me a note at [email protected] and we'll be in touch.

Posted by Doug Barney on November 30, 2009 at 11:53 AM10 comments


Chrome OS Gains Open Source Home

Google has executed nearly everything to perfection -- except when it comes to Chrome. I first learned of Chrome when I downloaded a beta of the browser. It worked fine, but lacked the features and familiarity of Firefox and IE (which I find pretty interchangeable).

But there is another Chrome, and this puppy is a full-fledged operating system. To reduce the confusion, the browser is simply called Chrome while the OS is called (you guessed it) Chrome OS.

But enough about names. Let's talk about the OS, which, while unfinished, has already been released as open source. Chrome OS is a near-total departure from Windows or Mac OS in that it relies almost entirely on the Internet. Sure, it's a local OS, but after it boots, apps and data reside in the cloud, an approach promulgated by Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy a decade ago.

I like this approach, and I hate it. Given how often Internet connections fail (less so since I bailed on DSL) and how often I'm away from a free wireless hotspot, I can't depend on the 'net. Having said that, I love the idea of all my files being in one location and accessible from whatever device I happen to have.

What I want to see is a hybrid, where my apps are local, the system automatically saves data locally and in the cloud, and the data is synchronized in real-time, not just a backup. What's your optimal system? Send requirements to [email protected] And if you've already got data synchronization nailed, send your answers to the same [email protected] address.

Posted by Doug Barney on November 30, 2009 at 11:53 AM5 comments


IE 8 Safer than Firefox, Riskier than Opera

Microsoft pulled out all the stops to make IE 8 its safest browser ever. Apparently, Opera pulled out a few more, as security company Cenzic says Opera is the most secure browser in the market. IE 8 came in second and, in a shocking result, Firefox came in dead last.

Keep in mind that this is the opinion of one company. I'm not ready to give up on IE 8 and jump to Opera. In fact, when the next release of Firefox emerges, I'm going to give it a shot. If I like it, I'll probably switch back. (I've had no problems with Firefox until I moved to Windows 7 and couldn't install Flash.)

Posted by Doug Barney on November 20, 2009 at 11:53 AM3 comments


An Alliance with Actual Teeth

I've seen a million vendor alliances, all aimed at helping the world, saving the planet and making their wares interoperate. It seems like the more vendors there are in an alliance, the less chance there is of success.

So I was skeptical when 13 vendors joined forces and formed The Cyber Security Alliance. I was going to brush this puppy off and not even write about it. That is, until I learned they're building a $10 million technology center to help ensure that products work together, threats are quickly detected and attacks thwarted.

When you have companies like Microsoft, EMC, HP, Dell and Intel all pitching in, $10 million doesn't sound like a lot. But if these companies really do work together and more investments are made, this could be a pretty effective weapon.

Posted by Doug Barney on November 20, 2009 at 11:53 AM0 comments


Office 2010 Ready To Test

If Office 2007 is just too old, you can now take Office 2010 out for a spin. At least the beta, that is.

One of the coolest features, potentially, is the inclusion of scaled-down, Web-only versions of key Office apps Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This is the area I'm really interested in, so if you've already downloaded and tried the software, let me know what you think at [email protected]

SharePoint 2010 is likewise now in beta, and is now 64-bit only. A lot of the SharePoint tweaks have to do with manageability, such as 500 new PowerShell commands and new ways to deploy the software.

Posted by Doug Barney on November 20, 2009 at 11:53 AM3 comments


Ozzie's Head in the Clouds

Bill Gates was great at grabbing onto a concept and never letting go. Two examples come to mind: a PC on every desk, and information at your fingertips.

Ray Ozzie is much the same way with cloud computing. Every speech he gives is a sales pitch for clouds. So it was no surprise that Ozzie's keynote at this week's Professional Developers Conference was all about Azure.

Was there any new news? Well, Azure will be commercially available on Jan. 1, so if you're not hungover, you could give it a whirl.

One area I've been confused about wasn't entirely cleared up, though. My sense is that Azure is for building apps that run in the Microsoft cloud, not ones you build yourself in your very own datacenter. Ozzie mentioned that Microsoft is working on a single development model for internal and external clouds, but didn't seem to give a lot of detail. If you know the answer to this perplexing question, send it my way at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on November 18, 2009 at 11:53 AM0 comments


IT Jobs: A Total Crapshoot

The IT job market is not only challenged, but demand for certain skills comes and goes faster than NASCAR crew chiefs. What's hot today may be a dud tomorrow, says consulting firm Foote Partners.

The firm believes hiring today is based almost entirely on skills, not to fill a certain title or job opening. So if you're an expert in applications and Web development, you may land a sweet gig -- even if there's no real opening.

Other hot areas? SAP expertise, database and Cisco skills. But before you start training in these areas, remember: They may not stay hot very long.

What's your shop looking for? Send your needs our way at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on November 18, 2009 at 11:53 AM5 comments