Viewfinity Updates Cloud-Based Systems Management Package

Welcome to summer. Tech-Ed is over, and the E3 consumer-electronics show has left us with a dearth of enterprise-technology news. So, we're going to take this opportunity to talk about some vendors and subjects we don't often cover.

First up this week is Viewfinity, a systems management company that's taking on the likes of BeyondTrust with a cloud-based package that offers privilege management, patch management and operating-system deployment, among other functions.

Greatest among these, at least in terms of customer interest, is privilege management, says company president Gil Rapaport, who dined with your editor at lunchtime today. "Seventy-five percent of our pipeline and demand is privilege management," he said.

It's not hard to understand why. Most companies take a binary approach to issuing user privileges -- they either open the gates to PCs completely or lock them up tight. Viewfinity's goal is to let IT professionals find a happy medium -- for instance, users should be able to change the time zones on their machines, but letting them download music-sharing applications or large video files is something most administrators would like to avoid.

Version 3.0 of Viewfinity's suite makes that kind of balanced administration possible, and it does it using a native cloud platform -- the company has built its applications for the cloud from the beginning (although customers do have the option of using a purely vendor-hosted service or setting up a "private cloud" inside their own walls). That's a big deal, said Rapaport, who noted that a lot of vendors have trouble porting on-premises applications to the cloud.

He also noted that a cloud model lets Viewfinity get updates easily and quickly to mobile workers, whose numbers are increasing all the time. "With us, install an application and all the sales representatives will get policies within five minutes," Rapaport said.

Viewfinity is wading into some tough waters competing in a hot market, but its offering is intriguing. It's also looking for partners, so there's a channel angle here -- which is good given that RCPU is a channel-focused newsletter.

Partners, which interesting third-party vendors are you working with now? (PR folks, please resist the temptation to respond to this query -- we're looking for feedback from partners here. Thanks.) Send your responses to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 14, 20101 comments

AT&T Sorry for iPad Security Problem

There's a problem with the iPad, but it's not Apple's fault. Or there was a problem, anyway, when a hack targeted at service provider AT&T exposed users' e-mail addresses last week. Folks as famous as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had their e-mails exposed, and the FBI is now involved. So, this is kind of a big deal -- but as for the folks at AT&T, they're just so, so sorry that it happened. Really.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 14, 20100 comments

Microsoft: 90 Percent of Apps in the Cloud Within 10 Years

More specifically, the magnificent Mary Jo Foley tells us that Microsoft could be running 85 to 90 percent of its own applications in the cloud within five to 10 years. (That's according to Microsoft, naturally.) It's an ambitious plan…but we'll believe it when we see it.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 10, 20103 comments

New RiOS Flows from Riverbed

Riverbed Technology, in case you haven't heard of it, is a pretty darn interesting company that produces applications for improving IT performance, specifically network performance. Riverbed this week launched RiOS 6.1, the latest version of its Wide Area Network performance booster.

One of the grande benefits of RiOS (thank you, thank you) is the ability to deploy Exchange over a WAN without the messaging software running like a river of molasses. It also boosts upgrades to Exchange 2010, Joe Ghory, senior product marketing manager at Riverbed, told RCPU over lunch in Framingham recently. "It gives you the ability to upgrade without performance being a concern," Ghory said.

RiOS 6.1 does a slew of other stuff, too -- there's more on it here.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 10, 20100 comments

Random Microsoft Speculation Runs Rampant

When the news hole is gaping, journalists and pundits start filling it with whatever they can find. (Believe us, we know.) So, with iPhone 4 registering a solid "meh" on the excitement scale and Tech-Ed producing not a whole lot of news this week, the rumor mill sputtered back into action.

That's always bad news for poor Steve Ballmer, whose job always seems to be at risk (although we really don't think that it is) whenever there's nothing more high-profile to discuss. So, this week, like clockwork, the speculation about the possible end of Ballmer's reign as Microsoft CEO has cranked itself up again.

We're pretty sure that it's all bunk and Ballmer isn't going anywhere -- and probably shouldn't actually -- but we did enjoy one take on who should replace him, as well as the notion in the same article that Windows and Office "are being assaulted by Apple and Google." Oh yes, assaulted. One of those products might actually drop below 90-something percent market share someday. Tragedy!

Anyway, the best part about the San Francisco Chronicle's list of potential Ballmer replacements is that your editor is just about the only person in the industry who's not on it. Seriously, who are some of these people? And would they really be able to run Microsoft? Well, some might -- but most wouldn't. And it's probably a moot point anyway. But, hey, it's fun to put ol' Steve in the crosshairs from time to time, right? Whatever…

Also this week, and from the same source, the rumor sprang up that Microsoft might be looking to buy AOL, or, more precisely, that AOL might be shopping itself to Microsoft.

Wait…what? AOL? Really? That service that people 70 and older used to use for e-mail? Gosh, we didn't even know that it still existed. Does that mean CompuServe is still around? Now, there was an Internet provider. Anyway, we're not sure whether Microsoft will buy AOL, but we're not holding our breath. The Microsoft-Yahoo buyout rumor lived for years before Microsoft tried to buy the company…and failed. So we'll probably be back here again next time there's a slow week. That's how it works.

And while we're on the subject of randomness, let's unleash a reader e-mail about, oh, say, the Zune. Michael writes:

"I saw your 'joke' about Zune on the blog. [Quick editor's note: We've made fun of Zune so often on here that we don't remember which joke Michael's referring to here…] What I can't figure out is why so many people on your website are against it?

I owned two iPods, and I now own 4 Zune devices. The subscription plan is great, and the Zune HD is as good, if not better, than the iPod touch. I know a lot of people with iPods who love my Zune after they check it out. It also integrates much better with Windows Media Player. It is also nice that you get ten free songs per month that you own.

In any event, the only downside to the Zune is that it is tough to get devices. But, there is a new Kicker device, which is great for playing music at home.

I just thought I'd let you know that not everyone thinks that Zune is a joke."

Michael, thanks for your e-mail. It's not that we think that the Zune itself is a joke. It's a fine device -- and, frankly, your editor is a little miffed that his iPod crapped out recently, this time probably for good. You wrapped things up perfectly, though, when you said that iPod owners love your Zune after they check it out.

How many people bother to check it out in the first place? Not too many. Why? Because it's uncool. Almost everything Microsoft does is uncool. Sure, the Zune might be a better device than the iPod. But cooler trumps better in consumer electronics almost every time. And that's Microsoft's problem.

Have you heard any good rumors about Microsoft lately? Want to praise or bash the Zune? Feel like rambling? Send your thoughts to [email protected]. We've had some truly spectacular reader e-mails lately (thanks to Jeff and Matt in particular) -- so good (and long), in fact, that we're not quite sure what to do with them. We'll figure something out, though. Stay tuned.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 10, 20100 comments

Microsoft Sneaks Out Office Web Apps

Shouldn't this be a bigger deal? Microsoft, all in for the cloud these days and all that, finally flips the switch on a free, Web-based version of Office, and it gets the same treatment news-wise as tomorrow's elementary-school lunch menu. (We're hearing hot dogs and tater tots, by the way. But that's unconfirmed.)

OK, so we all knew that it was coming. But it seems like kind of a shame that Redmond chose not to give OWA (doesn't that sound like a rapper's name or something?) a more prestigious debut. This is, after all, the long-awaited free version of Office that will challenge Google's growing Google Apps franchise and will make Microsoft a serious player in the mainstream cloud-computing business. Right?

Not only that, but in our (extremely limited) experience, OWA actually looks pretty darn good. At first glance, it seems a lot more robust than Google Apps -- which your editor uses every day. So, Microsoft really seems to be on to something here, but it's playing the whole thing in a rather nonchalant manner.

Be chalant, Microsoft! Or something…you know what we mean. We realize that Redmond is probably trying to figure out how to build a user base for OWA without killing the Office cash cow, but here at RCPU, we use both Web-based and client-based "productivity" (no jokes, please…) software every day. So, it's not a zero-sum game by any means. And the birth of OWA shouldn't be a zero-news announcement, either. That's why we're writing about it here…

What are your first impressions of OWA? Send them to [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 09, 20100 comments

Microsoft Makes Cloud Announcements at Tech-Ed

So, we've complained that Tech-Ed hasn't brought much out in the way of news, but it really is a show about education (supposedly) and not so much about new stuff. Still, Tech-Ed hasn't passed this week completely news-free. RCPU officemate and superb journalist Kathleen Richards offers some information on Microsoft's cloud related announcements from the show for us.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 09, 20100 comments

Redmond Offers Information on Office Communications Server 14

Redmond magazine columnist Mary Jo Foley has a pretty darn comprehensive look at what Microsoft is talking about including in OCS 14, its PBX alternative.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 09, 20100 comments

Big Patch Tuesday Coming

Just as the creative force behind most international soccer teams wears the number 10, so will Microsoft release 10 patches tomorrow, perhaps in honor of the World Cup, which starts later this week. Yes, that was all one sentence.

Posted by Lee Pender on June 07, 20100 comments

Microsoft Releases Expression Studio 4

Finally, some news from a conference. But it's not from Tech-Ed; Microsoft released the latest version of its Web-design tool at a show in New York today.    

Posted by Lee Pender on June 07, 20100 comments

Microsoft Tech-Ed vs. Apple WWDC: Lots of Hype, Little News

Maybe we media types really don't have anything better to do with our time. This week, two of the biggest vendors in the technology industry are going head to head with conferences, leading us to produce tons of articles about…not much, really.

Oh, sure, there's the new iPhone. Apple, the new king of technology, unveiled it today at its Worldwide Developers Conference. The new wonder device is smaller, faster...and a bit underwhelming, apparently. iPhone 4 didn't really surprise anybody -- although it looks impressive enough -- and Apple's share price actually fell almost two percent today. Welcome to the world of high expectations, Apple. It's not enough to impress anymore. You have to blow people away.

That's something Microsoft didn't do today, either, as it opened Tech-Ed in New Orleans. There was a bit of news about Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (due in July), and apparently the folks in Redmond tried to convince attendees in New Orleans that Windows Phone 7 will have some sort of practical application for business.

Mostly, though, today's conference showdown added up to a dud of a duel. Maybe the next few days will bring more news, but probably not -- the days of really big launches at conferences have mostly passed. Shows are almost all about networking now and about setting up sales meetings, golf outings and trips to local bars. And that's fine -- it's just not very exciting for those of us who aren't in attendance.

Have you heard anything from Tech-Ed or WWDC that excites you? If so, lay it on us at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 07, 20100 comments

The PC Lives -- No Matter What Steve Jobs Says

The PC era is over. Didn't you know? The smartphone, the tablet computer and various other touch-screen devices have made it obsolete -- or they will soon, anyway. So says Steve Jobs, and Steve Jobs is never wrong…is he?

Maybe he isn't. He said this week that PCs would soon be like trucks. Check out this passage from the Seattle PI blog linked above: "The PC, Jobs suggested, will assume the role of niche workhorse as the touch-screen user interface -- best illustrated, so far, by the iPhone and iPad -- grows in maturity and usefulness."

Steve Jobs obviously isn't from Texas if he thinks that trucks are niche workhorses (not his exact words, we realize, but we think that the PI captured his point), whatever that means. But what if they were? Trucks are still incredibly useful, and manufacturers can still make big money off of them. Maybe that's exactly what Microsoft should do -- stop chasing Apple and Google in consumer search and devices, and focus on Windows, Office, enterprise technologies and the cloud.

Of course, we've been saying this here for a long time: The harder Microsoft tries to be cool, the more it fails in its effort. The vast majority of Microsoft's consumer-oriented creations not named Windows and Office have been money losers. So, let Apple make toys. Microsoft can make serious technology for serious users -- enterprises and the like. Would that be so bad? Not for most partners, it wouldn't.

Still, we don't see the PC going away anytime soon, given that Windows 7 is actually selling pretty well and given that Google's Chrome OS, now due this fall, is going to target…laptops! You remember those, right? We used to use them before we all sold our trucks and bought iPads. Or something like that.

Ray Ozzie is out now preaching that PCs are still relevant. But that's not really the point, is it? Relevant is such a hipster word -- it doesn't matter how "relevant" PCs are with iPad users (although we're guessing that most iPad owners also have at least one laptop of some sort). What matters is that Microsoft and its partners know how to make money off of selling Windows and Office for PCs -- which will likely be staple in the enterprise (at least) for some time to come -- along with keeping companies up-to-date with products such as Windows Server and offerings such as Azure.

In other words, Microsoft should stop trying to be everything to everybody and stop trying to steal everybody's share of every market. Focus on core products -- improve them, make them necessary and indispensable (like Windows 7). And get Azure and the various cloud offerings up and running. Forget about being cool or trying to catch Apple in cuteness or in market share. Let Apple crank out sports cars. Enterprise partners and customers drive trucks, anyway.

Do you see the PC disappearing anytime soon? Answer at [email protected]. And, yes, we will run reader e-mails again one of these weeks. Promise.

Posted on June 03, 20106 comments