More Evidence that Users Pick Terrible Passwords

Looking at two recent security studies together, one thing stands out. End users expect Web sites to keep their accounts secure, but they are overwhelmingly unwilling to help defend themselves by logging in with decent passwords.

The new data comes from an analysis by Keeper Security of 10 million passwords that were newly exposed through data breaches in 2016 and from a large-scale international survey conducted by Gemalto.

The Gemalto survey of 9,000 consumers shows that users are appropriately wary about their security. Nearly 60 percent believed social media networks posed a great risk, more than a third thought online or mobile banking left them vulnerable to cybercriminals, and nearly 60 percent believed they'd be the victim of a breach at some point.

Yet when it comes down to responsibility for protecting and securing customer data, respondents said 70 percent of the responsibility lies with the company and 30 percent lies with themselves.

The Keeper Security analysis of passwords revealed in 2016 completely confirms that the attitudes that emerged in that survey are backed up by real end-user behavior. The most popular passwords were jaw-droppingly horrible after years of media attention to passwords, data breaches and security problems. The top five were:

  • 123456
  • 123456789
  • qwerty
  • 12345678
  • 111111

"Looking at the list of 2016's most common passwords, we couldn't stop shaking our heads. Nearly 17 percent of users are safeguarding their accounts with '123456,'" wrote Darren Guccione, co-founder and CEO of Keeper Security, in a blog post about the results. The top 25 most common passwords accounted for more than 50 percent of the passwords in the breaches.

Like the users in the Gemalto survey, the companies behind both surveys fault the Web sites more than the end users for the problems.

"We can criticize all we want about the chronic failure of users to employ strong passwords. After all, it's in the user's best interests to do so. But the bigger responsibility lies with website owners who fail to enforce the most basic password complexity policies. It isn't hard to do, but the list make it clear that many still don't bother," Guccione wrote.

There's certainly something to blaming the Web site companies. First, they know better. Second, when attackers sweep up millions of passwords in a big breach, they get the great passwords along with the crappy ones. But just because a company isn't doing what is necessary to protect you, is no reason not to defend your own account at all. It's like arguing that because it's a country's responsibility to field an army to defend the borders against foreign invaders, individuals don't need to lock their doors against local burglars.

These new studies underscore that if part of your business involves securing customers' environments, relying on their end users in any way to secure their own accounts with voluntarily strong passwords is an enormous mistake.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 18, 2017 at 1:32 PM0 comments

Microsoft Rolls Out More Azure MOOCs

Microsoft this week padded its selection of massively open online courses (MOOCs) focusing on the Azure public cloud technology stack.

The free Azure courses, which are supposed to take from four to 18 hours to complete, were first unveiled in early December by Gavriella Schuster, the corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group. While not aimed exclusively at partners, the courses on OpenEdx, which itself runs on Azure, give partners an inexpensive way to skill up on a technology area that Microsoft is pushing hard and hoping to grow fast.

While announcing the rollout of the first slate of six courses last month, Schuster said another six courses would be arriving in the next few weeks, with more education investments coming throughout 2017.

Eduardo Kassner, CTO of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, unveiled five of those new courses in a blog post on Wednesday. They are Managing Azure Workloads, Automating Azure Workloads, Azure App Service, Databases in Azure, and Azure Security and Compliance.

Kassner said more courses are also in the works, including one on Application Deployment and Management.

The original six courses launched in December were Azure Fundamentals, Azure for AWS Experts, Azure Virtual Machines, Azure Virtual Networks, Azure Identity, and Azure Storage.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 12, 2017 at 12:02 PM0 comments

Kaseya: MSPs Up Their Rates

It's the start of a new year; it must be time for MSP resource reports. This week, two MSP tools vendors released reports designed to help MSPs, both their current partners and, of course, other MSPs that they hope to attract to their platforms.

Kaseya issued its sixth annual MSP pricing survey, a data-rich, 21-page resource for any MSP wrestling with finding the right way to price their services.

This time Kaseya got fourth-quarter 2016 responses from 920 MSPs, more than twice as many respondents as last year. They came in from 50 countries, and some of the queries are broken out across three broad regions -- North America, EMEA and Asia-Pac -- making it possible to do some very rough apples-to-apples comparisons by geography.

Kaseya highlighted overall growth across the market. The company says 26 percent of respondents reported their average monthly recurring revenue (MRR) growth over the last three years is more than 15 percent. That's up a few points from the 23 percent who reported growth at that level last year.

Getting down to brass tacks on pricing, the largest group of respondents (39 percent) picked "up to $125" for their average charge for ongoing server support and maintenance per month per device. The average size of monthly managed services contracts was going up. In 2015, the most common range was the $1,001-$2,500 -- selected by 35 percent of respondents. That's still the most popular in 2016, with 37 percent of respondents picking that range.

But the lower range of up to $1,000 dropped in 2016 from 34 percent to 23 percent, meaning way more respondents had raised their rates. One big gainer was the $2,501-$5,000 range, which went from 19 percent of respondents to 22 percent of respondents.

The top 10 services offered by the highest-growth partners were (in descending order) backup and recovery (either cloud or onsite), server support, network and connectivity support, desktop support, service desk, desktop security, remote monitoring, cloud services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), hosting services on MSP-owned equipment, and enhanced network performance monitoring.

Although one piece of advice that regularly comes to MSPs is to not spread yourself too thin, Kaseya reported that the highest-growth MSPs were adding complexity -- adding services, tiers and more to their practices.

The full report is available here.

Also this week, Continuum released "Scaling for Success: The MSP Guide to Operational Efficiency." Partly a pitch for the Continuum platform, the 27-page guide also includes recommendations and organizational charts for re-orienting an MSP practice around an outsourced network operations center. The Continuum guide is here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 11, 2017 at 11:58 AM0 comments

Gallery: Windows PCs from CES

While Internet of Things integrations and putting personal assistant technologies into cars or desktop robots dominated the CES headlines out of Las Vegas this week, there were plenty of interesting new systems and gadgets for businesses running Windows 10.

The category of two-in-one detachables that start as a PC, where the screen can be taken off to make a tablet, saw a few more entries this week. The most interesting is the Dell Latitude 7285, which is moving the ball forward with a wireless charging capability.

Dell Latitude 7285

It's a bit of a wait, with availability set for the summer and pricing to be revealed during Dell EMC World in May. The 12-inch Latitude 7285 will use WiTricity magnetic resonance wireless charging. Dependencies for full functionality will include a charging mat and a WiGig wireless dock. The appeal will be the ability to remove the device without unplugging anything and return to work at the desk with content appearing on external displays without plugging anything back in.

Another new offering in the category of detachables modeled after the Microsoft Surface is the latest rev of the Lenovo Miix. In April, Lenovo will make available the Miix 720, which will start at $1,000, a price that includes the keyboard but may not include the Lenovo Active Pen 2, depending on geography. The new detachable comes in champagne (as shown below) or iron-gray and, like many of the new machines on display at CES this year, includes a USB Type-C port, in this case Thunderbolt 3.

Lenovo Miix 720

Heavy-duty workstations have their place at this year's show, too. With all the attention on augmented, mixed and virtual reality, Dell is positioning a new laptop as its first VR-ready mobile workstation. The Precision 7720 is designed for VR content creation with power from 7th-Gen Intel Core and Intel Xeon processors and NVIDIA Pascal Quadro graphics. The U.S. starting price is $1,700.

Dell Precision 7720

Another forthcoming Dell system is aimed at the Windows 10 Creators Update. By the end of this quarter, Dell will start taking orders for the Dell Canvas, a 27-inch QHD smart workspace supporting touch, digital pen and totems or dials. Pricing in the United States starts at $1,800.

Dell Canvas

HP is also pushing forward in this area, where form factors are changing rapidly to accommodate or encourage new work styles. HP displayed its second-generation Sprout Pro, which features an HD resolution projector, a touch mat that's also a secondary horizontal display, and 2-D/3-D cameras. Top updates are a faster Intel Core i7 processor, 1TB of SSHD storage, up to 16GB of RAM and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M graphics. The systems will be available in some countries starting in March, with pricing to be announced later.

HP Sprout Pro

For more standard laptops, the 360-degree hinges popularized by the Lenovo Yoga line seem to be winning the design battle. Lenovo is out with another Yoga for professionals, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga. The 14-inch metallic silver notebook has an OLED screen, a rechargeable pen and a next generation of Lenovo's "rise and fall" keyboard. The ThinkPad X1 Yoga is available next month starting at $1,500.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga

Dell is bringing the 360-degree hinge party to its popular XPS 13 line this year. The company is claiming 15 hours of battery life for the new XPS 13, which includes Dell's InfinityEdge, 5.7-million-pixel touch display, a fanless design and all USB Type-C ports to help keep the profile slim. The system is available from and Best Buy in the United States for $1,000 and up.

Dell XPS 13

Toshiba is billing its new Toshiba Portégé X20W two-in-one, with a 360-degree hinge, as a premium Windows 10 Pro system. Distribution will vary by color. A slate-gray version will be available exclusively from and in Microsoft Stores. An onyx-blue version will be available at the end of the month from Toshiba's Web site and later from other resellers. Among the laptop's impressive specs are a 15.4mm thickness, a weight of less than 2.5 pounds and a claimed battery life of 16 hours.

Toshiba Portégé X20W

HP is following up on its arresting brown and gold HP Spectre x360 line with a higher-powered second-generation system. The 15.6-inch screen sports 4K resolution, while battery improvements allow the machine to run for up to 12 hours, HP claims. Refreshes on the processor from Intel, graphics from NVIDIA and speakers from Bang & Olufsen undergird this update. Preorders are already available at prices starting at $1,500.

HP Spectre x360

Later this month, HP will release a refresh of its slender HP EliteBook x360. The 14.9mm thick convertible features a 13.3-inch display, an IR camera and a stated battery life of 16 hours and 30 minutes.

HP EliteBook 360

In the thin and light category, LG Electronics previewed a few clamshell designs for release later in the year. Dubbed LG Gram, the laptops come in three screen sizes -- 13.3-inch, 14-inch and 15.6-inch. The two smaller-screen models weigh in at about 2.1 pounds, while the bigger screen version is only 2.4 pounds.

LG Gram

Among the thousands of different devices on display at CES, one stood out for business users on the go. Kingston Digital Inc. unveiled an enormous USB flash drive. The DataTraveler Ultimate Generation Terabyte offers up to 2TB of storage space. It doubles the capacity that Kingston came out with in 2013.

Kingston DataTraveler Ultimate GT USB flash drives

According to a storage chart provided by Kingston, the huge little drive could hold 166 HD movies (.MKV) or 1,792 compressed .MP4 movies. It sports USB 3.1 Gen 1 to exchange all that data with a PC as quickly as possible.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 06, 2017 at 8:28 AM0 comments

MSPs Kite Technology and AIS Merge for Focus and Scale

One of the first MSP mergers of the year involves two trends that are expected to be big in M&A in 2017 -- vertically oriented intellectual property (IP) and using the cloud to scale.

Kite Technology Group, based in Owings Mill, Md., closed a deal effective this week to acquire AIS Technology LLC, based in Germantown, Wis. Terms of the merger weren't disclosed, but the MSP operations will continue as Kite Technology Group. AIS Owner and President Nick Oliver joins Kite as executive vice president and will be a part owner of the 26-employee combined company, along with current Kite CEO Greg DiDio and Kite Technology Founder Jeff Kite.

Both companies have a long-standing focus of providing MSP services to insurance agencies but bring very different business models to that particular vertical.

"Nick focused primarily on the insurance vertical market and a remote service plan," Kite said in an interview Wednesday. That low-touch approach and his high profile at the national insurance agent conferences both Kite and Oliver attend (and where they met in the early 2000s) have resulted in AIS having customers in 22 states, Kite said.

Kite Technology has taken a more high-touch, white-glove experience approach and has also accepted referrals, resulting in about 45 percent of the former Kite Technology's business being non-insurance agency clients, he said. "Because we were interested in both insurance and non-insurance clients, that sort of led us to focus geographically, so the Mid-Atlantic has been our base," Kite said. "Most of our clients are within a one-hour reach, but we have some Long Island, and northern New Jersey and a lot of central Pennsylvania, down the Delaware corridor."

While AIS has the remote-services approach, Kite says the firm he founded 24 years ago has been building infrastructure that could take AIS' services to the next level.

"What we brought to the deal was [this.] Through our involvement in HTG for eight years now, and Connectwise building best practices -- all of that whole HTG way, if you will -- we have grown our company 22 percent per year average over the last six years. We've done a really good job on operational maturity, and we have the ability to scale our operation. Nick has the reach and the national footprint. We think we can each bring that together and do a much better job of serving clients in a much broader base."

Among those resources poised to help the whole operation grow is an already segmented help desk operation. Kite's corner office sits between the I-Team, which is focused on insurance-industry clients, and, he jokes for want of a different letter rather than a marker of priority, an A-Team focused on non-vertical clients.

As every solution provider with a strong vertical business must, Kite Technology will need to address anew the question of how strongly to prioritize its vertical business versus other types of customers.

"We actually have a sales summit planned for two weeks from now. We are going to do a two-day deep dive where we're going to look very closely at where do we take this now that we're all together," Kite said. "I can tell you that my intention is to maintain a dual-pronged strategy, where within our geographically reachable market, to me that's a comfort zone of one to two hours, I'm comfortable serving clients outside of our insurance vertical niche. I believe that we're going to continue to reach clients and grow that business. And I know for sure that we are going to be intentional about expanding what Nick has done in that remote-only-type service model to an even broader national market."

Meanwhile, as many channel executives predict that IP will become even more important for the tech channel in the year ahead, the Kite-AIS business is an example that IP isn't just for coding ISVs.

"It's much more than an IT understanding of the insurance agency," Kite said when asked about the company's core IP. "We also provide consulting. We have, I think, six staff now who have been full-time employed inside an insurance agency. We know what it takes, understand the complexities."

Keys are knowing how insurance agency employees live in the browser and the big insurance company Web pages and knowing the peculiarities and browser versions or settings that make each site work best, as well as helping clients navigate support for the crucial line-of-business applications like AMS360, Applied TAM and Applied Epic.

As the Kite-AIS deal just a few days into 2017 demonstrates, combining vertical expertise and spinning up a strong cloud/remote support model is one way that growing MSPs will be grabbing for the brass ring of national scale in 2017.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 04, 2017 at 2:03 PM0 comments

Koenigsbauer: E3 Is the 'Hero SKU' but E5 Is the Future of Office 365

E3 is the "hero SKU" for Office 365, Microsoft's top Office marketing executive told financial analysts this month, but the company's long-term vision focuses on the newer and more comprehensive E5 SKU.

In a Barclays Global Technology Conference call, Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president of Office Marketing, described Microsoft's Office 365 business strategy as being about two things -- expanding "sockets," Microsoft parlance for seats of Office 365 that give the company a beachhead at a customer site, and increasing "ARPU," the abbreviation for average revenue per user that company executives regularly use as shorthand for upselling Office 365 seats with higher-end cloud services.

Koenigsbauer described the socket-expansion part of the business as moving from a phase one, focused on moving existing on-premises Exchange and Office client customers to the cloud, into a phase two aimed at broadening Office 365's customer base.

"With Office 365, of course there is more on-prem to cloud that we feel like we have to go through, but we also feel like...opportunities in emerging markets, opportunities in small business, opportunities serving customers we've not served before, [such as] the deskless-oriented workers. We think there is a big opportunity for us to expand our socket base," Koenigsbauer said according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the Dec. 7 call.

But the E3 SKU, which adds the Office client rights in a per-user model along with more collaboration value than the baseline E1 package, helped drive the current mix of premium Office 365 SKUs to about 60 percent, Koenigsbauer said.

"Right now, let's say E3 is our hero SKU. It's the one we lead with the most," he said, crediting E3 for much of the ARPU increase for Microsoft over the last two years.

ARPU efforts over the next few years center on "selling the long-term vision around E5" and the year-old SKU's three core components of security, analytics and voice services, Koenigsbauer told the analysts.

"The one that's...getting the most amount of attention from customers right now, not surprisingly, is security," he said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 14, 2016 at 10:41 AM0 comments

Nadella, Other Major Tech Execs, Meeting with Trump

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella numbered among the tech titans trooping to Trump Tower on Wednesday for a roundtable meeting with the president-elect.

The attendee list, reported by The New York Times on Tuesday, included Elon Musk, Tesla; Larry Page and Eric E. Schmidt, Alphabet; Tim Cook, Apple; Jeff Bezos,; Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook; Safra Catz, Oracle; Brian Krzanich, Intel; Chuck Robbins, Cisco; Ginni Rometty, IBM; and Nadella.

While Donald Trump's transition team declined to discuss the agenda, likely topics include jobs, H-1B visas, corporate profits held offshore and data privacy.

The potential exists for the meeting to be uncomfortable, as the Silicon Valley community, with the high-profile exception of Trump technology adviser Peter Thiel, often loudly opposed Trump's candidacy, with Bezos and Cook's Apple, in particular, drawing Twitter and campaign-rally fire from Trump during the campaign.

Whatever Nadella might advocate for privately in the meeting, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith laid out Microsoft's public positions in a Nov. 9 open letter. Smith called on the president-elect and Congress to collaborate with the tech industry on worker retraining to reduce inequality, investment in U.S. infrastructure, and finding a balance between privacy and public safety.

Nadella is not the only one with deep Microsoft ties to have a chance to bend Trump's ear. The tech roundtable comes a few days after Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates began publicly describing an eight-minute telephone call he had with Trump two weeks ago.

Given the length of the call, it is unlikely Gates pressed much Microsoft business. Gates indicated that he focused instead on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and his new fund for fighting climate change through investments in promising technologies, called Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

"The key point I was pushing there was the opportunity for innovation in not only energy but also medicine and education and encouraging the idea that that's a great deal and a great thing for American leadership," Gates told Bloomberg.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 14, 2016 at 10:31 AM0 comments

Microsoft: 20,000 Partners Transacting in CSP

The relatively new Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program has officially become the primary way that partners sell Microsoft cloud products, a Microsoft executive said.

"Today we have more than 20,000 partners transacting through CSP," said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, on Tuesday in a year-end update for media and analysts.

"Our cloud solution provider program, or CSP, which puts our partners at the center of the customer relationship, is our strongest go-to-market offering yet," Schuster said, and also described CSP as "our primary mode of transaction with our customers at this time, and it continues to grow month over month."

The remarks echo similar statements in July during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), when Schuster said more than 17,000 partners were transacting in CSP. At the time, she also hinted at the strength of CSP versus the other through-partner cloud sales channels -- saying that during the month of May, partners had sold more services through CSP than through Open, Advisor and Syndication.

After years of partners asking Microsoft for permission to bill customers directly for Office 365 and other Microsoft cloud services, Microsoft began rolling out its CSP program in stages beginning in early 2015. The CSP model allows partners to offer a full stack of services, both Microsoft and non-Microsoft, with one contract, one bill and one point of contact for support.

A key to making CSP a volume play was the introduction of the indirect, or two-tier, model, whereby distributors and global hosting partners act as the point of contact on Microsoft services for a broader set of CSP reseller partners. The introduction of that part of the program in late 2015 set the stage for a major scaling up of CSP. Schuster said the 20,000 partners currently represent 470 percent growth from the 3,500 transacting partners of a year ago.

While the partner numbers selling through CSP represent a channel scale that few in the industry can match, Microsoft has thrown around bigger numbers in the past, and it's unclear what some of those other partners are doing now. For example, at the 2015 WPC, then-COO Kevin Turner said there were 75,000 partners transacting in the Microsoft cloud.

During this week's call, Schuster also pointed to evidence that partners were becoming more engaged with the Microsoft cloud by enrolling in competencies, the partner designations of specialization that require enrollment fees, training, testing, case studies and other steps. Without providing raw numbers, Schuster said that the number of partners with a gold or silver cloud competency had increased 86 percent year over year and that there was a 53 percent increase in the number of partners with three or more cloud competencies.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 07, 2016 at 9:57 AM0 comments

Microsoft Expands Azure Training with Free Courses, Testing Discounts

Hoping to help narrow a skills gap around its public cloud services for partners and customers, Microsoft on Tuesday rolled out six new and free massively open online courses (MOOCs) for Azure, along with discounts for related certification testing.

"These courses are designed to help partners respond to the surging demand, realize positive returns and grow their market opportunity. Partners can also take this training to their customers, which helps them grow the technical literacy in their customer environment as well," said Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, in a conference call with media and analysts.

The initial slate of course titles are Azure Fundamentals, Microsoft Azure for AWS Experts, Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines, Microsoft Azure Virtual Networks, Microsoft Azure Identity and Microsoft Azure Storage. Schuster said another six courses will follow in the next few weeks, with more education investments following throughout 2017.

She positioned the Azure MOOC training as being in line with other recent technical training moves from Microsoft, such as the Microsoft Virtual Academy, the Cloud + Enterprise University boot camps and the Microsoft Professional Program.

The new Azure courses typically take anywhere from four to 16 hours to complete, Schuster said. "These courses are so much more than online video learning. They really focus on the way learners learn today. They incorporate videos, hands-on labs, graded assessments, office hours and much more," she said.

Completion of any of the courses comes with a digital certificate of completion that can be shared on a LinkedIn profile.

The testing offers are $99 for a single Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam, practice test and retake for any of the courses, or $279 for three MCP exams, practice tests and retakes. Those packages would ordinarily cost $429 and $1,287, respectively, according to a Microsoft chart on a related blog post.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 06, 2016 at 2:50 PM0 comments

Top 10 Most Important Products for Microsoft Partners

Windows is still a common denominator in most partners' practices, even in this cloud-first, mobile-first era, a recent RCP reader survey shows.

In a survey this fall, RCP asked readers, "What Microsoft products do you commonly include in customer solutions?" Readers were asked to choose from a list of 17 core business products and they could select as many products as they used.

10. Skype for Business
The Skype for Business communication suite edged out a lot of other products for the 10th spot on the list. In all, 41 percent of respondents said they commonly included Skype for Business in their solutions. That put Skype ahead of management tools like System Center and Intune, and ahead of the Dynamics products, which are represented, at least for now, by a relatively small but committed core of partners. (That may change with the recent release of Dynamics 365.)

8 (tie). Azure & Hyper-V
Eighth-place was a tie between Microsoft's strategic Azure public cloud platform and the Hyper-V virtualization technology. Both checked in at 42 percent.

7. SharePoint Server
SharePoint, with its customization options and broad use cases, has a vibrant community of partners around it, and finds its way into the solutions of 44 percent of the partners in this survey.

6. Exchange Server
Office 365 is surging in the market (see below) and gets most of the attention from Microsoft's top brass, but there's still a place for on-premises Exchange in the partner community. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent), commonly include Exchange in their solutions.

5. SQL Server
Microsoft's flagship database technology is also key for Microsoft partners. Some 56 percent regularly include SQL Server in their solutions.

4. Office 365
Office 365 is way up the list of products that readers commonly include in solutions. With 64 percent putting Office 365 in solutions offered to customers, the cloud productivity suite is a clear staple of the modern Microsoft partner business model.

3. Office
Tradition dominates the top three in this list. The Office suite itself is a hair ahead of Office 365 at 65 percent.

2. Windows Client
When it comes to Microsoft-based solutions, the product that made Microsoft a household name is still critically important. The client version of Windows is a component of customer solutions for about 68 percent of respondents.

1. Windows Server
Azure and Azure Stack are getting heavy investment and Microsoft's enterprise servers are starting to support Linux as their OS, but when it comes to partner solutions, the on-premise Windows Server remains the most widely used product at 69 percent. Whether it's powering SQL databases, Exchange servers, SharePoint solutions and custom applications or simply running a domain or serving up files, Windows server still forms the base of the partner solution stack.


Posted by Scott Bekker on December 01, 2016 at 11:34 AM0 comments

Windows 10, PCaaS Offer Faint Hope for Stability in PC Market

International Data Corp. updated its worldwide PC shipment forecast for 2016 on Wednesday with a projection that's slightly less red than it was in August.

With most of the sales booked for the year, the headline number is a projected decline of 6.4 percent to about 258.2 million units shipped. That's better than the 7.2 percent decline that IDC projected when it last ran the numbers three months ago.

One reason things have improved has little to do with demand. Anticipation of component shortages in display panels and storage drove a channel build-up in the third quarter, IDC said. That channel-led boost is expected to peter out during the first quarter of 2017.

As the market matures for the smartphones and tablets that dramatically disrupted PC sales over the last decade, those segments are exerting less downward pressure on PCs and allowing the PC market to stabilize. While consumer sales are expected to remain weak, IDC foresees some low single-digit growth in the commercial market over the next few years.

IDC analyst Neha Mahajan offered a few reasons for optimism in the U.S. market. "Backed by early Windows 10 transitions that are expected to boost commercial PC shipments in the next couple of years, and steady growth of PCaaS (PC as a Service) which should help shorten refresh cycles of commercial systems in the long-term, the overall U.S. PC market sentiment certainly seems to be improving," Mahajan said in a statement.

Overall, the trend is away from desktops toward notebooks, and within notebooks to ultra-slim and convertible designs, which IDC expects to account for more than 60 percent of notebook shipments by 2020.

As for next year, IDC is still calling for a 2.1 percent year-over-year decline in shipments for all of 2017.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 30, 2016 at 8:19 AM0 comments

Career Development, Containers and Azure: What To Watch for at Live! 360

Live! 360, one of the biggest Microsoft technology-focused events of the year that is not put on by Microsoft itself, kicks off next week in Orlando, Fla.

While the prime audiences for the show are IT professionals and developers, there's a lot of deep content for Microsoft partners. The conference, which is organized by RCP's parent company 1105 Media, combines the long-running Visual Studio Live! and TechMentor conferences with SQL Server Live!, Office and SharePoint Live!, ModernApps Live! and AppDev Trends.

Here are some sessions across that six-in-one conference that we're tracking at RCP.

Careers Keynote
DevOps, cloud and artificial intelligence are just a few of the trends that are shaking up the IT landscape.

New to the conference this year is a general session by David Foote, co-founder, chief analyst and chief research officer at Foote Partners, an analyst firm focused on IT skills, certification and salary benchmarking. In the Monday evening session kicking off the main conference "Businesses Look to Become More Agile?" Foote plans to reveal important trends and pay data around IT skills.

Containers, Containers, Containers
Containers are already a big deal in the open source world. Microsoft nodded toward containers by making Docker technology and Linux containers available in Azure recently, but that served largely to draw existing container users to the Azure platform. Microsoft's biggest bet yet on containers arrived with Windows Server 2016, when the technology was integrated directly into Windows, making containers available to the general Windows Server user base.

Several sessions at Live! 360 drill down into containers' potential -- and given where the audience is in their container journey, the sessions are aimed at introducing the concepts and taking attendees through the basics. Adam Tuliper is running a session called "The Ultimate Intro to Docker for Developers." For IT professionals, Neil Peterson's two related sessions are "Container Technology and its Impact on Datacenter and Cloud Management" and "In-Depth Introduction to Docker."

A Deep Dive into Windows Server 2016
Windows author and speaker Mark Minasi will give the main keynote for the TechMentor conference on Tuesday morning covering Windows Server 2016. Minasi promises lots of insider tips about key storage features, critical details around containers and the potentially costly licensing traps of the eagerly anticipated Nano Server option. Later in the day, Minasi will also take a crack at explaining how the client-side Windows as a Service licensing works along with key advice for managing the constant updates.

SQL Server 2016 Encryption
Another member of Microsoft's 2016 release class, SQL Server 2016, includes new encryption capabilities, a timely feature set given ongoing concerns about data security, privacy and compliance. Thomas Larock is digging into the new encryption options affecting row-level security, data masking and Always Encrypted.

Getting Up to Speed on Azure
Building Azure expertise is a big theme of the conference. One session with implications for Microsoft partners is the "Migrating Customers to Azure: Lessons Learned from the Field" session by Ido Flatow, a Microsoft MVP and trainer with Sela Group. Flatow is covering common questions customers ask when migrating workloads to Azure, as well as how to overcome frequent obstacles and challenges that arise during the projects.

Among the other Azure-focused sessions are "Linux on Azure for the Microsoft Specialist," "Implementing Azure AD for Hybrid Identity" and "Fully Integrated Azure Resource Manager Deployments."

Next Big Things
Aside from dozens of sessions on traditional Microsoft technologies, many Live! 360 sessions are focused on next-generation technologies. Although some partners are building businesses on them, many are still evaluating where they will fit with Microsoft's and the industry's direction. One of those emerging technologies is the Microsoft Graph, featured in the "Introduction to Microsoft Office Graph" and "How It Works: Office 365 and the Microsoft Graph."

Another emerging technology is PowerApps, which just became more significant this month with the release of Dynamics 365 and is covered in "Get Started with Microsoft PowerApps."

The show also features sessions on the Internet of Things, virtual reality and mixed reality and chat bots.

Posted by Scott Bekker on November 28, 2016 at 1:13 PM0 comments