Windows Enterprise Desktop


December 3, 2012  5:03 PM

Windows 8: New Year, New Version?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel
Future Windows Come in Shades of Blue?

Future Windows Come in Shades of Blue?

One of my favorite Windows pundits is Woody Leonhard (a bona fide Windows and Office guru). He definitely grabbed my attention, and started me thinking hard this morning, with his piece for the InfoWorld Tech Watch entitled “Is a new version of Windows 8 coming … every year?” He quotes Mary Jo Foley (ZDNet) and Tom Warren (The Verge) as circulating strong rumors to the effect that “yearly upgrades will be the norm for Windows soon.” The most profound basis for the upcoming Windows 8 versions currently code-named “Blue,” is to consolidate SDKs and APIs for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Windows RT under a single umbrella. Woody quotes Tom Warren on this subject as follows:

Once Windows Blue is released, the Windows SDK will be updated to support the new release and Microsoft will stop accepting apps that are built specifically for Windows 8, pushing developers to create apps for Blue. Windows 8 apps will continue to run on Blue despite the planned SDK changes.

His re-interpretation of Warren’s remarks is consonant with my own — namely, that this updated version of the Windows SDK for Blue will cover all the bases, with requiring separate stuff (or compilations) for the various Winodws sub-platforms for ARM-based tablets, x86 platforms, or Windows Phone devices. Woody also remarks that “Once Blue is released, all new Windows Store aps will be required to work on all three platforms. At least, I think that’s what he’s saying.” FWIW, so do I, not just because of the admittedly opaque and obtuse language from Warren himself, but also because that’s what makes sense for users and developers alike (not to mention Microsoft, too, what with having to maintain only  a single SDK and development environments once that convergence is completed).

Can this really happen in a year? It’s an ambitious goal, and there’s a lot of work for Microsoft to do to make things ready, after which there’ll be even more work for developers to do to catch up with the lastest state of the SDK and the tools that support it. Jury’s still out on the timing, but the idea is solid. I certainly hope MS can deliver on this goal, even if it takes a little longer than is currently forecast.

November 30, 2012  5:26 PM

The x86 Surface Makes Itself Known: Dream Tablet or Disappointment?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

OK, so now we know more about the Microsoft Surface x86 models, the up-market, Windows 8 Pro-based big brothers to those ARM-based Surface platforms running Windows 8 RT. Here’s a quick recap of the specifications, straight from MS:

Microsoft Specs for Windows 8 Pro Surface tablet PC.

Microsoft Specs for Windows 8 Pro Surface tablet PC.

What’s missing from this description is the RAM (4 GB DDR3 soldered in, can’t find out if an 8 GB model is planned or available), the CPU (an ultra-low voltage i5 dual core Ivy Bridge CPU, probably an i5-3427U or i5-3317U, much like the models found in current MacBook Air offerings), and the display resolution (a full 1920 x 1080 vs. 1366 x 768 for the RT model). The 64 GB model bears an $899 MSRP and the 128 GB model a $999 MSRP (I’m guessing this means no 8 GB RAM-equipped models just yet). No covers are included in this pricing, either, so you’ll have to pay $99 for the ultra-slim Touch or $120 or so for the thicker but more “keyboardy” Type covers in addition. Nothing is known about battery life just yet, but the 42 W-h battery is slightly bigger than the 35 W-h battery included in MacBook Air 11″ and somewhat smaller than the 50 W-h battery in its 13″ counterpart, both of which enjoy excellent battery life. Another potential gotcha: the amount of SSD storage space left over after the OS and pre-loads are considered (there’s been a huge flap about the Samsung ATIV tablet lately, which comes with about half of the 64 GB SSD model’s space already gone when it reaches users’ hands).

What’s wrong with this picture? Lots of pundits, analysts, and consumers are voicing displeasure with the pricing of these units. But they’re $100 less than equivalent MacBook Air 11″ models with the same SSD sizes and the 1.7 GHz OEM CPU models (probably identical to those in the x86 Surface tablets, though I can’t find details on CPU makes and models just yet). Given that the keyboard/cover brings price, weight, and functionality into complete parity with MacBook Air 11″ models, another way to interpret this strategy may be as Microsoft’s confident assertion that “our tablets are as good as the MacBook Air 11-inch models.”

Nevertheless, there’s a lot of whining and moaning on the Web about the x86 Surface offerings. Key complaints include:

1. Pricing is too high. The RT model needs to be under $300 for RT to compete with Kindle/Nook/Android tablets. The x86 model needs to be under $700 to compete with iPad and 10″ Android tablets. Valid points from a marketing perspective, but I’m not sure I agree – at least for the x86 platform — because it can run the whole gamut of Windows desktop applications.
2. Battery life is too short. Full-day battery life is needed (like the iPad offers) to make a tablet truly use-worthy. Jury’s still out on this one, and neither 11″  (5 hours) nor 13″ (7 hours) MacBook Air models make the 8-plus hours needed to reach this goal, either. We’ll get a better read on this when and as reviewers can actually test these platforms.
3. The Windows 8 user experience sucks. I’m not sure what this has to do with Surface x86 tablets, but several disappointed pundits have voiced this concern as dooming the Surface in any case. To these curmudgeons I say: learn how to make Win8 stand up and bark on its own, or install Start8, Classic Shell, or any of a number of other good Start menu stand-ins.

As for myself, I’m inclined to reserve judgement until I have the chance to work and play with one of these units for a while. I want to understand how well it works as a pure tablet, especially with desktop apps (I still haven’t found too many compelling Windows Store apps to keep me in the modern UI for long on Windows 8), how long the battery lasts, how well it performs and behaves, what wireless connectivity is like, and a great deal more before I can pronounce it either a success or a failure. It should be interesting to find out where the chips will fall, though, and I do like the size, weight, form factor, and screen resolution. Stay tuned, and I’ll report further as I learn more…


November 29, 2012  7:55 PM

Microsoft sells 40 million Windows 8 licenses — but whom to?

Ed Tittel Stuart Johnston Profile: Stuart Johnston

Microsoft claims that 40 million users have already moved to Windows 8, but IT pros doubt that many of those licenses went to corporate shops.

Microsoft claims it sold 40 million licenses for Windows 8 in the first month of its commercial availability. However, IT pros remain hesitant to deploy Windows 8.

The company hasn’t  provided any details regarding business versus consumer sales. Some IT pros doubt the sales include many businesses.

“How the hell did they sell 40 million licenses so fast?” said Bill Miller, director of IT for the South Carolina Dept. of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services. “I don’t know if I can believe that. I don’t know anybody doing any deployments. Most people say they’re not doing Windows 8″

“Even our [Microsoft] sales reps said it’s not enterprise-ready,” Miller added.

That’s largely because of the system’s revamped interface.

Many users haven’t deployed Windows 8 for various reasons such as lack of legacy application support, in addition to the obvious training issues with the new user interface. For the foreseeable future, Miller plans to roll out new PCs with Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.

IT pros are only half as interested in Windows 8 as they were Windows 7 three years ago, according to a Forrester Research study released in November.

“While we’ve seen a lot of interest in Windows 8, we currently do not have any deployments in the works,” said a spokesperson for a large Microsoft reseller who requested anonymity.

One important issue for their customers is that tools to enable IT to deploy and manage Windows 8 are still in beta and won’t be available until Microsoft’s System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 ships next year, the reseller said.

For comparison, in January 2010, Microsoft announced it had sold 60 million licenses for Windows 7 in its first two months of commercial availability – which made it the fastest selling version of Windows to that point. Now, Microsoft claims that early Windows 8 sales have surpassed that on a month-by-month basis.

That puts the two systems on the same trajectory, said Rob Helm, managing vice president of research for independent analysis firm Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash.

“The key is how many devices are deployed with Windows 8, and we won’t have a good picture of that until the end of January [when Microsoft reports Christmas quarter earnings],” Helm added.

Many of those licenses may have been sold into the channel but have not actually been sold to customers yet, some observers theorized. Additionally, Microsoft license agreements enable customers to deploy Windows 7 in place of Windows 8, or to buy machines with Windows 8 installed but then downgrade those systems to Windows 7 or earlier. Microsoft still gets to count those as Windows 8 licenses nonetheless.

Others point to Microsoft’s generous upgrade pricing offers, which range as low as $15 to $40.

“It’s kind of hard not to sell 40 million licenses when it’s so steeply discounted,” said Scott Frazier, IT administrator at electrical contractor, Con. J. Franke Electric in Stockton, Calif.

CEO Steve Ballmer has even higher ambitions for Windows 8, telling attendees at Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting this week that he foresees 400 million Windows 8 machines to be sold in the next year.

Microsoft did not respond to requests to break out Windows 8 sales figures.


November 28, 2012  7:35 PM

Interesting Fallout from Windows Update KB2762895

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Yesterday, Microsoft pushed an out-of-band (non-Patch Tuesday) update labeled KB2762895, which is designed to address application compatibility issues with Windows. Since its release, various parties have reported issues ranging from annoying to serious. I found something interesting with Internet Explorer in its wake that I figured out how to fix myself.

Here is the "Show Details" blurb from Windows Update's Update History.

Here is the “Show Details” blurb from Windows Update’s Update History.

On Windows 7 Forums, various users have reported conditions ranging from freezing of the Windows Taskbar and Windows Explorer (1) to application load failures following reboot (2) for McAfee, iCloud, Secunia, and Google Drive. In my own case, the default new tab behavior in IE9 for Windows 7 changed from

Post KB2762895 install left (above), restored to default right (below)

After the KB was installed, I started getting my default home page when I clicked the New Tab button in IE 9, instead of the familiar and desirable New Tab page. A quick jump into IE’s Internet Options General tab in the Tabs pane showed that the “Your first home page” option was now selected for the “When a new tab is opened…” control. A quick hop into its pull-down menu let me restore it to the default selection “The new tab page” as I prefer it to be.

I’ll be curious to see what other reports of difficulty appear after the patch has had a chance to hit more desktops. This looks like one you’ll want to watch carefully, and be on the lookout for unforeseen and unintended side effects. Stay tuned, and I’ll report further as I learn more.


November 26, 2012  4:32 PM

“Real Windows 8 users are not using the Metro apps.”

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Today’s blog title is a verbatim quote from David Gewirtz’ absolutely fascinating ZDNet story entitled “Dogfooding Windows 8: six long-term Windows users tell all.” It also nicely summarizes my own attitudes and experiences as far as Windows 8 goes. The premise of the story is that Gewirtz interviewed 6 of his colleagues about their use of Windows 8, some of whom have been in those trenches for 12 months or longer, others of whom have started digging into the latest Windows OS pretty recently since its commercial release on October 26, 2012 (his roster includes Jason Perlow, Michael Krigsman, Michael Lee, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, and Andrew Brust).

The upshot of the article — well worth reading — is that real power users don’t mess with Windows Store apps much, if at all. They get their work done on the desktop, running desktop applications, which is what still drives them to use Windows, first and foremost. Maybe that means all the hoopla about the Windows Store (the interface formerly known as Metro, or TIFKAM) is vastly overblown. Enterprises can dig into Windows 8 as and when they see fit, and simply side-step the whole UI flap by installing a Start menu replacement such as Start 8 (my personal favorite, and the favorite of half or more of the ZDnet stable that Gewirtz interviewed), Classic Shell, or whatever they select to meet corporate software licensing and purchase standards (there are plenty of options out there as Lance Whitney’s November 8 CNET story amply illustrates).

If your users don’t have to use the Windows Store UI, and can get to their applications using a Start menu replacement, there’s an argument to be made that Windows 8 is just like Windows 7, only faster, somewhat more secure, and with some nice new features and functions. The ZDnet stable doesn’t even make extensive use of touch, and yet half of them prefer Windows 8 to Windows 7. The new OS did get dings from one of these technical professionals for restarting after an automatic update, which failed to launch various manual services that he wanted running on his machine, so that turning off automatic updates was his only option to ensure proper operation.

This provides an interesting new perspective on business use of Windows 8, though. I’m not sure it will accelerate migration in the enterprise, but at least it removes one hitherto potent barrier to adoption and use. What if Microsoft launched a new user interface paradigm, and nobody in the business world paid attention? Perhaps we’ll all find out…


November 21, 2012  6:06 PM

Windows 8 Enterprise Features

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

OK, so let’s assume that — just for grins — an enterprise might be willing to ask the question: “What’s in Windows 8 for my kind of business computing needs?” Michael Otney, a regular contributor to WindowsITPro, takes a stab at answering that question in his 11/21/2012 story entitled “Top 10: Windows 8 Enterprise Features.” Of these features, several carry over from Windows 7/Windows Server 2008, including DirectAccess, BranchCache, and AppLocker, with BitLocker having been introduced with Vista. One feature really isn’t a feature at all — it’s simply the existence of a Windows 8 Enterprise edition, aimed at that eponymous class of user or organization (an Enterprise edition also goes back to Vista and was available for Windows 7 as well).

So far, Win 8 Pro is more than enough for most of us...

So far, Win 8 Pro is more than enough for most of us…

Here’s a list of his features (sans the edition itself), in alphabetical order, that here include pointers to useful overview and tutorial information:

AppLocker: administrative controls to determine what applications are permitted to run on a Windows machine, much like the software restriction policies introduced in Windows Server 2003. Provides controls over executable files, installer files, and DLLS. 4Sysops has a peachy 4-part tutorial on this subject/technology.
BitLocker: full disk encryption for Windows that works at the volume level, also available for removable media in a form named BitLocker To Go. MyWindows8.org has a nice tutorial on how to use this technology in the newest Windows desktop OS.
BranchCache
: a technology for copying content from a central data center or host cloud content server at a branch office location, to enable local client access to content. TechNet offers a great BranchCache overview, and a complete Windows Server 2012 BranchCache Deployment Guide is also available from MS.
Client Hyper-V: a complete Type 0 hypervisor, Hyper-V is now included in Windows 8. Microsoft offers an excellent overview on TechNet, entitled simply “Client Hyper-V.” For a great discussion of Client Hyper-V, including a comparison with Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode, see Paul Thurrott’s “Virtualize with Hyper-V” Windows 8 Tip.
DirectAccess: a remote access technology that supports automatic, direct, secure links without requiring use of a VPN connection. MS offers an interesting deployment guide entitled “Work Smart: Connecting Remotely Using Windows 8 DirectAccess.” Deb Shinder also offers some great coverage in a What’s New? piece on this topic.
RAM size: Windows 8 ups the ante on memory sizes considerably for x64 processors: the base level OS supports up to 128 GB, and both Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise support up to 512 GB, with a maximum of 2 physical CPUs — though up to 256 logical cores are supported on x64 CPUs.
RemoteFX: supports access to remote touch and USB devices for remote access and control applications, specifically designed to support “rich virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments. SearchVirtualDesktop’s “Fast Guide to Microsoft’s RemoteFX” is helpful, as are Microsoft’s Host Server and Personal Virtual Desktops Step-by-Step Guides.
Secure Boot: New to Windows 8, Secure Boot uses UEFI to store certificates for OSes permitted to load and run during boot-up, to stymie malware loads before an OS is running. This can be tricky stuff, but Intel’s (a chief developer of this technology) guide entitled “Microsoft Windows 8 – Enabling Secure Boot” covers all the important bases. For even more info consult these two books from Intel: Beyond BIOS and Harnessing the UEFI Shell.
Windows to Go: A way to encapsulate a complete, standalone Windows 8 runtime on a USB drive (a UFD of at least 32GB is required for this to work) for portable use. See Microsoft’s Windows To Go: Feature Overview, and its Step-by-Step tutorial, both on TechNet.

All in all, this makes for an interesting set of features and functions available to enterprise users. But it still begs the question as to whether any of these — or all of them taken together — constitute a sufficient inducement to get enterprises to migrate to Windows 8 sooner rather than later. Given the fact that many such organizations have only recently completed their migrations to Windows 7, methinks it is going to take at least 1-2 years for many of them to start developing any kind of enthusiasm for or interest in what Windows 8 has to offer the enterprise, features and functions notwithstanding.

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November 19, 2012  3:43 PM

Jakob Nielsen slams Win8

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Before I cover what Mr. Nielsen has to say about Windows 8,  let me explain a little about who Jakob Nielsen is. A former Sun Distinguished Engineer (back in the days when that really meant something), Nielsen is also the author of numerous influential and widely-read books on Web design and Web usability, most notably: Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. I’ve read this 1999 book at least four times — the last time in 2011, while revising my HTML For Dummies into its 13th edition overall, and every time I read it, I get more and more useful or indispensable information out of its contents.

Nielsen's 1999 on Web usability remains a potent classic on this subject.

Nielsen’s 1999 on Web usability remains a potent classic on this subject.

According to Reisinger, “Nielsen says that the new Windows 8 users interface ‘smothers usability with big colorful tiles while hiding needed features.’” To come to this summation, Nielsen assembled one dozen experienced PC users to take Windows 8 for test spins, both on conventional desktops and on the new Microsoft Surface PCs (Windows 8 RT models, those being the only kind publicly available at this time). Users noticed a dual-nature to the Windows 8 OS, where the tablet- and touch-focused Start screen and Windows Store UI contrasted greatly with a traditional PC-oriented desktop interface. One problem for users, according to Nielsen, is that differing design concepts require users to “remember where to go for which features.” Another problem is that the dual focus creates an “inconsistent user experience.” Net result: reduced usability overall. Inside the Windows Store UI, Nielsen found its lack of multiple window support to be “one of the worst aspects of Windows 8 for power users.”

As other power users and experts have also concluded, Reisinger’s story also states that “…Nielsen believes that Microsoft has focused on tablets with Windows 8 to the detriment of PCs.” Furthermore, Nielsen is quoted as saying that Windows 8 is “weak on tablets” but that it is “terrible for PCs,” where “on a regular PC, Windows 8 is Mr. Hyde: a monster that terrorizes poor office workers and strangles their productivity.”

Ouch! In closing, however, Nielsen holds out some hope for the future saying that “Windows 7 is a good product and … Windows 8 is a misguided one.” His plans probably echo that of many other readers, especially those using Windows in the enterprise: “I’ll stay with Win7 the next few years and hope for better times with Windows 9. One great thing about Microsoft is that they do have a history of correcting their mistakes.” Let’s hope further that Mr. Nielsen is correct!


November 16, 2012  6:24 PM

The Enterprise Path to Win8 Adoption

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Over at Forbes, David K. Johnson has just released a very interesting article entitled “Seven Reasons Windows 8 Adoption in the Enterprise Is at Risk.” The story poses some potentially noteworthy observations to suggest that, for at least the next year, widespread Windows 8 adoptions in the enterprise are unlikely at best:

It's likely to take a while before enterprise users sit themselves down in front of a Win8 PC or tablet.

It’s likely to take a while before enterprise users sit themselves down in front of a Win8 PC or tablet.

1. Most IT shops are still in the midst of their Windows XP to 7 migration: True enough, and with a 3 to 5 year life cycle for most desktops, enterprises will want to work their way through that cycle before starting another one.
2. Windows 8 makes strides in security and manageability, but Windows 7 is good enough for most: True again, with UEFI and secure boot, an improved BitLocker, and even Dynamic Access control as tempting inducements to move to Windows 8, none of these makes a killer argument that waiting is a mistake. At present, perceived value of the upgrade comes nowhere close to matching time and effort involved in making wholesale desktop migration work.
3. The New Windows interface is a major change that carries added support risk for I&O. Certainly, the new UI paradigm has been the focus of so much ranting and raving that there’s no need to question or belabor this point.
4. Confusion between Windows RT and Windows 8. With the ARM-only RT out there alongside the x86 full-blown Windows 8 version, RT poses a potential trap for buyers, especially those who — like most enterprise workers — expect access to a desktop for legacy and conventional applications in addition to Windows Store apps. This could blow up for those not careful enough to distinguish Windows RT from Windows 8.
5. Limited availability of apps in the Windows App Store. Johnson cites the numbers game that so many analysts have discussed: an almost 30-to-1 ratio for Apple Store vs. Microsoft Store apps (only 4K for RT, in fact) with over 700K apps for Android (70-to-1 vis-a-vis the MS Store). Until MS achieves critical mass — on which point Johnson cites Frank Gillett to observe this could take a year or longer — there isn’t enough “stuff” available for the Windows Store UI to spur adoption and deployment.
6. Comparatively high Windows 8 resource requirements for tablets. The cost and features requirements for Windows 8 tablets that can run full-blown applications comes at a serious cost, weight, and resource disadvantage as compared to iOS or Android alternatives. A medium-range iPad is available for just over $600, and Android tablets run from $400 to 800; a reasonable x86-based Surface tablet is hard to buy for under $1,000, and it’s easy to spend $1,300 to $1,500 for a fully tricked-out model.
7. Fragmented OEM hardware ecosystem. Too many choices, where many OEMs also pander to consumer desires to get “just good enough” capability at the lowest possible price. Without strong enterprise demand, there’s no inducement for OEMs to start building truly “business-class” tablets and convertibles with an emphasis on reliability and durability. This will probably change over time, but Davidson is right to opine that it’s much likely to happen later,  rather than sooner.

All in all, I think Johnson does an excellent job of summing up the key arguments. Certainly what’s scariest for lots of enterprises is the paradigm shift in the UI, and the attendant learning curve for users (and support staff) that has to be climbed to make investments in the new OS worthwhile. But with most enterprises lagging 18-36 months behind public release to complete wholesale migration, I think the only potential error in his story is the one year timeframe he imposes on himself. I think he’s right, and likely to stay that way for some time longer than that — another six to 24 months, if the typical time-table for enterprise adoptions for the last four or five major Windows versions (NT, 2000, XP, and Windows 7 — add in Vista if you like, but it never got much traction)  also holds true for Windows 8. So far, I see no reasons why it shouldn’t.


November 14, 2012  6:08 PM

Wish List: Windows 8 Tablet Requirements for Business Use

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

I’ve been working with Windows 8 for nearly one year now, and am slowly but surely moving into the mindset needed for the new OS’s take on desktop and tablet computing. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a Lenovo X220 Tablet with Windows 8 since last March (or just over 8 months now) and have learned alot about what makes for a positive tablet computing experience, thanks as much to my ownership of an iPad 2 as to my interaction with Windows 8 in a tablet (or touchscreen notebook) PC setting. I’ve also been reading lots of reviews of new Windows 8 tablet offerings including the MS Surface PC, the Kupa Ultranote, and most recently the Lenovo Yoga 13 convertible “ultrabook” unit.

The Lenovo Yoga 13 has a lot to recommend it as a business Win8 convertible.

The Lenovo Yoga 13 has a lot to recommend it as a business Win8 convertible.

In working daily with the Lenovo X220 Tablet, and playing with the MS Surface and the Samsung ATIV at the Microsoft Store, plus a brief groping session yesterday with my friend’s brand-new Yoga 13, I’ve formulated a “wish list” for features that I wish were commonplace for all Windows 8 tablets, with ratings for these various units for each such feature.

Ed’s Wish List for Windows 8 Tablet PCs
Feature X220 Tablet MS Surface Yoga 13 Samsung ATIV 700T
Lightweight Not really (4.2 lbs) Yes (1.5 lbs RT; Win8Pro TBD) Close (3.4 lbs) Yes (1.89 lbs)
Easy keyboarding Yes Yes (with cover) Yes Yes (add-on unit)
Enough power Yes RT model lacking; Win8Pro probably Yes Yes
Usable desktop Yes Only for Win 8 Pro models Yes Yes
Usable touch Almost (2 tp) Yes (10 tp for all models) Yes (10 tp) Yes (10 tp)

The tp in the usable touch row stands for “touchpoints,” as in the number of simultaneous touches the display can sense at any given moment. The minimum Win8 requirement is 5, and all of the new tablets meet or exceed this requirement. My biggest concern is for weight, which really translates into usability in the hand. Even my iPad 2 at 1.625 pounds gets too heavy after a while (which, incidentally, helps explain the potential appeal of the iPad mini and other 7″ tablets), and all of these units are no lighter than that and both of the Lenovo models are significantly heavier (as I guess convertibles must be). The Lenovo keyboards are legendary and quite usable, even on the smaller layouts for these two units; the MS Surface Touch Cover is pretty minimal but surprisingly usable where the Type Cover is a good keyboard in keeping with other MS keyboard offerings; the Samsung keyboard isn’t bad, but its layout takes some getting used to. When it comes to computing horsepower, the bigger Lenovo units offer a great deal more capability (mobile but not ultra-low voltage i5 and i7 models are available), where the slim design of the true MS Surface and Samsung ATIV tablets require lighter-weight CPUs to keep weight and battery requirements manageable. Business users still have to be able to switch between the Modern style (formerly Metro) UI and the desktop to run business applications, so it’s really not yet an option to eschew the desktop entirely. This is the area where the Lenovo units jump ahead of their more svelte but perforce also more limited MS and Samsung counterparts. All the modern units do touch quite well (and even the X220 Tablet is usable, if not as quick or capable as the other tablets in the preceding table) but this is less important when running conventional business apps.

By going through this exercise, my appreciation for the value of a slim but powerful tablet has jumped noticeably. I’m not sure the technology is completely there yet, but the industry is definitely making some great strides. By the time many businesses are really ready to take Windows 8 seriously — which is to say sometime in the next 18-36 months) it’s entirely possible that technology will rise to meet their needs. If a 1.5 pound unit with an attachable and usable keyboard can match today’s Lenovo units for computing horsepower, moving these units should be a slam-dunk proposition!


November 12, 2012  5:26 PM

Interesting Lesson in Customer Support from Lenovo

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you already know that Lenovo has been updating its PC and notebook drivers and software for Windows 8, surely but steadily, since the March-April timeframe of this year. Just recently, I downloaded their latest version of the ThinkVantage Power Manager software (version 3.00.0006) which represented itself on the download page as ready for Windows 7 and Vista but made no mention of  Windows 8. Having had pretty good luck getting 7 stuff to work with 8, I decided to give it a try anyway. It installed without errors or warnings, but lacks any reporting on or coverage of the battery installed in that machine (see photo).

This oddly-shaped battery provides a handle for the convertible tablet/notebook X220 Tablet.

This oddly-shaped battery provides a handle for the convertible tablet/notebook X220 Tablet.

Imagine my surprise when I later downloaded and installed the Lenovo Solution Center for Windows 8… (LSC) and it produced the following screen on the X220 Tablet:

The battery is working fine, but LSC reports "Battery not installed."

The battery is working fine, but LSC reports “Battery not installed.”

This was very interesting, because the battery appeared to be working just fine but simply invisible to the Power Manager (and by extension, to LSC as well). I could see and access it using the built-in Power Options item in Control Panel, and a quick download and test of my favorite third-party battery manager — namely, Battery Bar (and its even better commercial sibling, Battery Bar Pro) — showed that the battery was indeed present, and seemed to be doing its job well enough. I’m not wild about the battery life for the X220 Tablet’s stock battery — the 63Wh 42T4879 model only delivers about 2-3 hours of life under normal usage — so I decided to call support, share this information with them, and see what would happen.

It took me about half an hour to get on the phone with a support technician after initial dial-in. I explained the situation to her as clearly and concisely as I could, and she said that she would research the matter and someone would call me back “soon.” That was on Friday morning (November 9). This morning, the UPS guy rang my doorbell and presented me with a box containing –surprise! — a replacement battery for the X220 Tablet. I can only assume the company decided to replace the battery because of the LSC diagnostic (bogus, IMO) about which I reported to them. Lenovo may end up eating costs for a lot of X220 Tablet batteries, if all those who own these machines and upgrade to Windows 8 do as I have done, and call in to report the LSC status and wind up with a free replacement. The cheapest price I can find for that part number is $42, not to mention costs involved in shipping and handling a replacement unit via UPS Next Day Air (I’m guessing this cost Lenovo at least $60, perhaps more).

But wow! What a way to “update status” on a request for help with immediate delivery of a replacement. You cannot at all fault Lenovo (or IBM Support, which handled my phone call for Lenovo) for slow, faulty, or non-responsive customer service. Without a doubt, this is the very best warranty replacement service I have ever received from any vendor of computing gear, in all the years I’ve been in the industry. Amazing!


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