Microsoft Windows 8 vs. Apple Mountain Lion is like comparing Gasoline vs. Diesel Fuel

The blogosphere has been in overdrive with reviews of the latest operating system releases from both Microsoft and Apple.  It is very entertaining to read the endless commentary debating the merits and faults of each operating system.  In many respects it is a classic “Coke vs. Pepsi” style debate.  Most people have a definite taste preference that is unlikely to change.  We all recall age old question: “Are you a Mac or a PC?”

Both camps seem to miss the point entirely:  Unlike Coke vs. Pepsi where both are Cola products that can, and frequently are substituted for each other, the same does not apply to the Windows and Apple operating systems.  Apple operating systems only run on Apple hardware.  And, barring 3rd party software (Parallels or VMWare Fusion) or custom installations (Boot Camp), no version of Microsoft Windows can run on Apple Hardware.  (And if you are running Microsoft Windows in some capacity on an Apple computer, is that not making them equal? – but I digress.)

I view Apple like Diesel powered vehicles and Microsoft like Gasoline powered vehicles.  You can sing the praises of Diesel engines and their increased fuel efficiency vs. the performance of Gasoline engines.  The fact is that no matter how many Diesel vehicles are sold this year, the number will pale by comparison to the number of Gasoline vehicles.  And, if you were to add up all the gas vs. diesel fueled vehicles in similar fashion to the installed base of Microsoft Windows vs. the Apple operating systems, you start to see the futility of debating who is going to win the operating system war.

Does it really matter how great Diesel is vs. Gasoline as a Fuel for an engine?  If you have a Gasoline powered car, you are using Gasoline in the fuel tank.  Diesel is not an option or substitute.  The same holds true for running most line-of-business software applications:  The Apple operating system is just not an option.   Microsoft Windows, and its’ many flavors are the only choice on the menu.  As an example, virtually all Professional Tax preparation, Accounting System, and Audit/Write-up software applications are Microsoft Windows only.   (Cloud based products excluded.)

We can discuss how spectacular Apple Mountain Lion is:  the iPad/iPhone like experience brought to an iMac or MacBook Pro, the new cool graphics, widgets, whatever…  But, the practical reality is that if I am in a Microsoft Windows world, debating the merits of Microsoft Windows 8 vs. Apple Mountain Lion just makes for either wishful thinking or great cocktail conversation.  We can even marvel at the new interface of Windows 8 and how Microsoft is trying to unify the user experience across all devices but you will never see it running on an iPad or an iPhone.

Some will say it is not about the Business environment but about Consumers and which operating system, Microsoft or Apple, is going to power my Toaster, or on a more serious note, my Smartphone, Tablet, and possibly Computer – if not replaced by a Tablet.

I respond that the conversation is not about which Fossil Fuel will power my next car: Gasoline or Diesel – but what comes next?   Using the car analogy, it will most likely be a hybrid or perhaps a fully electric vehicle.  Maybe Fusion technology will be available in my lifetime.

The next operating system to power my Smartphone, Toaster, or Computer could be Android or ChomeOS – both from Google.  If that becomes true, where does that leave the Microsoft vs. Apple operating system debate?

It is spectacular that Microsoft and Apple are definitely making technology easier to use than ever before with their evolutionary changes in the operating systems.

The concern is that Microsoft and Apple may be perfecting the Buggy Whip for the the Horse Drawn Carriage, both of which were completely replaced by the Motor Carriage, within one generation.  And, Microsoft and Apple may wake up one day and realize that Google has completely changed the model by eliminating the concept of an operating system and having everything run in “The Cloud.”

Blackberry Email Account Architecture and Sync Issues with Gmail

Blackberry Sad Gmail Due to a fundamental change in the architecture of the Blackberry software, the synchronization of Contacts and Calendar entries between accounts is no longer supported.  In the early days of a Blackberry, if you had a company email address that was connected to a Microsoft Exchange Server and a personal use account at Gmail, you could use the Google Sync App to keep the contacts and calendar synchronized between the two.

Since the Blackberry device supports Gmail natively as a specific type of email account type, the functionality has significantly changed.  RIM has taken the position that your Business Contacts and Calendar should be separate and apart from your Personal Contacts and Calendar.  Each account you create on a Blackberry device gets its’ own email folder, calendar, and contact list.  The problem is that RIM does not maintain this separation in the default view when displaying the Contacts or Calendars for business and personal items.

In what I term, “Defective by Design”, the Blackberry commingles all personal and business contacts in one view.  It does the same for all personal and business calendar entries.  Even though you can select to display the Contacts or Calendar associated with just one account, i.e. your Gmail account, as soon as you return to the main menu or leave the contacts or calendar app, the selection changes back to “all.”  This would seem to contradict RIM’s reasoning of personal vs. business because the default view for contacts and calendar events always commingles the personal and business accounts.

It is interesting that in addition to having an “All Messages” commingled folder, the Blackberry device also has individual folders (App icons) for each mail account.  Why they do not give the same option for quickly and permanently allowing one specific view, personal or business, for Contacts and Calendar entries as a default or as dedicated App button is a mystery.

This is a problem because many people were previously using Google Sync to keep all of the Gmail Contacts/Calendar Events and all of the Microsoft Exchange Contacts/Calendar Events in complete and perfect synchronization. Make a change in one, and it magically appeared in the other.  Because of the current Blackberry architecture, users see all of their Contacts and Calendar Entries duplicated unless they select just one of the views, personal or business every time the return to the Contact or Calender App.

With the new architecture, each account and its corresponding mail, contacts, and calendar stand alone.  Each account can sync back only to its’ respective Mail Server:  Gmail or Microsoft Exchange.

If you truly separate your personal life using Gmail and your business life using Microsoft Exchange on your Blackberry, then this is nothing more than an incredible annoyance.  All of your Personal and Business Contacts and Calendar Events, by default, will display all of the time – unless you make a selection each time you enter the Contact or Calendar App.  There will not be any duplicates but your personal and business life will be forever commingled in the display on your Blackberry.

If you use want to use your Gmail Account and Microsoft Exchange account interchangeably, accessing the same set of synchronized contacts and calendar events, this feature will no longer be supported.  Google has announced that it will be discontinuing Google Sync for Blackberry effective September 1st, 2012.  This will require you to do some serious housekeeping and separation of your personal from business contacts to avoid displaying duplicates on your Blackberry.

Why Blackberry is a dead product – The six-hour support phone call.

RIP RIMLack of efficient and timely support by RIM is the number one reason why the Blackberry Smartphone is soon to be a completely dead product.

Today, I spent over six hours on the phone with Blackberry support simply to get an AT&T 9810 Torch Blackberry to sync contacts using the Blackberry Cloud Services for Microsoft Office365.  Unconscionable.  What was so incredibly frustrating was the endless trial and error solutions being suggested, each followed with the support technician saying, “Well, that should have worked.”  This is the manufacturer of the device fumbling around and guessing instead of  instilling confidence with proper diagnostic procedures and tested solutions.

The Blackberry platform has always had a myriad of quirks.  I have always been amazed at the willingness of people to accept sub-par quality in technology, specifically software.  If your dishwasher was as finicky as Blackberry devices, GE would be out of business.

Love or hate the Steve Job’s “Walled Garden”, Apple products work as advertised and provide a superlative user experience.   Blackberry too lives in a completely proprietary closed loop and yet cannot even begin to approach that which has been accomplished by Apple.

Solutions tried today, (excuses for the technology), were, in no particular order:  “The device needs another Security Wipe”; “The device needs a factory reset”; “The Service Book is corrupted”; “The Service Book did not register correctly”; “We have to delete the account here at RIM so you can properly recreate it in the device”; “There may be a problem with the Blackberry Cloud Servers connecting to Office365”; “Try a hard reset by pulling the battery”; (Did that at least ten times.) “Do an RSET” – (deletes all entries and reloads them from the server); “Completely delete all accounts and re-create them”; And the list went on…

How does RIM run a business and more importantly, how can anyone else run a business with Blackberry technology that lacks hard fast solutions to resolve technical issues?  When Blackberry was the leading edge, we accepted these issues as part of being “early adopters.”  When you compare the near seamless connectivity experience and stability with an Apple IOS device or even an Android device to Microsoft Exchange, the fact that the Blackberry platform is still so susceptible to significant connectivity synchronization issues is borderline criminal.

Blackberry, having practically invented mobile Smartphone synchronization should be the absolute best and most stable platform available.  To yield slightly, I will concede that when the Blackberry devices work, they work well, within the limitations of a device that is significantly behind in the feature set of a modern day Smartphone.  When a Blackberry fails, the trial and error guessing game begins and hours of time will be wasted to get the device to re-connect

To be fair, the Blackberry support technician completely understood the problem and to RIM’s credit was a USA based employee on the East Coast with English as a first language.  Unfortunately, there was no higher level of support engineer available without submitting extensive log files from the device and awaiting a call back.  My only option was to muddle through with the current support engineer.

By the fifth hour, we started to retry things we had already done “crossing our fingers” and hoping that the solution would work “this time.”

Eventually, we were able to get the Microsoft Exchange contacts to sync but there was still an issue with the Google Calendar that remained unresolved.  Seems that the Blackberry 9810 will not remember the Calendar view selection.  The client wanted to see just the default Microsoft Exchange Calendar and only view the Google Calendar when specifically selected.  We were not able to remove the Google Calendar view – no matter what – until we physically deleted the capability of the Blackberry 9810 to display it.  This is a short term fix pending the resolution from the next level of support at RIM.

As a Consultant, there is no possible way I can bill my client full rate for six hours on the phone with Blackberry support.  Nor can I bill the additional one to two hours of follow-up time with the higher level Blackberry support engineer that will call me back after reviewing the log files and case notes from the initial support call.

If I had known and was able to tell my client in advance that this service call would take six to eight hours and cost as much as two iPhones, I am certain they would have tossed the Blackberry in the trash and headed to the Apple store or out to get a top-of-the-line Android Smartphone.

And therein lies the issue:  In the five years of the iPhone’s existence (see my article, Apple iPhone turns 5 – A Proven Formula for Success Copied), and the approximate three years of Android, I have NEVER had a support call for one of those devices last more than one to two hours.  With Blackberry, the minimum support call is never less than two hours and, as you can see from today’s experience, usually much longer.

There is no reason to believe that RIM will change any of its’ current policies or the way in which it fails to deliver an acceptable support experience.   Entrenched in a mindset that is over a decade in the making, even if Blackberry 10 is evolutionary as a Smartphone platform, RIM will be unlikely to ever meet the expectations of the overall customer experience as set by the competition.

 

Office365 Hosted Microsoft Exchange Email – The Better Value

Office365 LogoMicrosoft Office365 as a hosted Exchange platform offers an almost unbeatable value especially if you are tied to Outlook and a Smartphone or Blackberry.  Starting at $4 per month for a basic 25GB mailbox, you get all of the features of the Microsoft Exchange experience plus ActiveSync for mobile devices (iPhones, iPads, Androids) and optionally, the Blackberry Enterprise Server functionality if you are a Blackberry user.

Prior to Microsoft Office365, to have the equivalent hosted Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync or Blackberry Enterprise Server experience from many of the well-known Internet Providers would have cost four times as much. (The introduction of Office365 has narrowed that gap to only twice as much for essentially the same service offering.)

One of the best features of Microsoft Exchange as an email platform is the ability to have absolutely synchronized mailbox folders between Outlook and any Smartphone, iPad, iPhone, Android, and Outlook Web Access.  That means that no matter how you connect to your email account, every received and sent message, along with your calendar, will be visible on every device at all times. When you send a message from your mobile phone, it will synchronize and show up in the “sent” folder of your desktop copy of Outlook.

This seamless synchronization alone knocks out the free POP3/IMAP email accounts provided by the hosting providers such as GoDaddy, Yahoo, 1and1, or Rackspace.  Sure, IMAP can give you a similar synchronized email experience but IMAP cannot help you with your Outlook calendar.

The obvious benefit of an off-premise, Microsoft Cloud based solution for hosting of your email vs. having your own on-premise email Server is virtually zero downtime and the ability to access your email at any time as long as you can find an Internet connection.

The next time a hurricane or windstorm sweeps through your area and knocks out the lines, any email being sent to you will be waiting for you as soon as your Internet access is restored or you can find an area that has Internet Access for you to connect – either with your Smartphone, Tablet, or Web Browser.

From a capital vs. operational cost point of view, there are those who will say, “If I purchase Microsoft Small Business Server, which includes Microsoft Exchange Licenses or even if I purchase Microsoft Exchange Licenses separately, it is a one-time fixed purchase cost.  And, if I purchase a Hosted Exchange product, like Office365, I keep paying forever…”

This is all absolutely correct but there is much more to consider.

Overlooked are the additional capital costs of more powerful Server hardware and the storage required to maintain an on-premise Microsoft Exchange environment.  Then there are the required license upgrades every two to three years.  And for any of you that presently have a Microsoft Windows Server with on-premise Exchange, you know that the Servers do not maintain themselves.  There is a never-ending series of payments to your outside IT Consultant or in larger organizations, the full time Microsoft Exchange guru to keep email operational.  Even if you have a full time IT Staff, Microsoft Exchange requires some portion of their time on a continuing basis.

When you combine one-time capital and on-going operational costs together, all of these items make for a more expensive Total Cost of Ownership for on-premise Exchange then the fixed price monthly fee for Microsoft Office365 in the Cloud.

The often ignored Elephant in the room is the real tangible cost of “down time” or your inability to access your email and calendar due to equipment failure, software failure, a virus, loss of power, or what I like to call “premature building failure”, (a complete destruction of your office – think 9/11.)

Surveys show that email and calendar access are the most critical business applications.  Is your business any different?  Can you afford to lose access to your email and calendar?  If so, for how long?  An hour, a half a day, a whole day? And, maybe longer if there is an area wide disaster like the Hurricanes and Tropical Storms that swept through the East Coast in 2011 where some areas did not get their power back for over a week.  No power to your office, no access to your email – and this completely ignores that even if you have power, are the wires that carry the Internet Access to your office up and operating?  Communications lines are last ones on utility poles to get restored.  Electrical Power always comes first.

With access to email and calendar applications, most businesses can continue to function and remain somewhat productive in times of crisis.

The slight premium of $48/year for a basic Microsoft Office365 Hosted Exchange account vs. an on-premise Exchange solution is both assurance that your Microsoft Exchange will always be maintained at the latest version with the newest features and insurance against loss of productivity due to the inability to access your office email Server.

In the long run, Microsoft Office365 lowers your total cost of ownership by providing you with greater reliability and access to your email and calendar than most small businesses could afford to implement on their own.  And, the beauty of the product is that you can implement it for an office of one person or a staff of thousands.

To Learn More About Office365:

http://www.office365.com

To Sign Up for, click:

Office365 – Exchange Online (Plan 1) $4/Month

Office365 – Office Online (Plan E1) $8/Month

Office365 – Office Online (Plan E2) $14/Month

Office365 – Office Online (Plan E3) $20/Month

Office365 – Office Online (Plan E4)  $22/Month

Office Applications in the Cloud – Google Apps for Business and Office365

Google Apps for Business LogoTraditional software applications like Microsoft Office, Microsoft Outlook, Quickbooks, and Contact Management, like ACT! are installed locally on the Computer. One downloads an installation program or inserts a CD/DVD to load the software application to the computers’ hard drive.

Slimmed down versions are available via “The Cloud” in a format called “Software as a Service” or SaaS for short. Examples of Word Processing, Spread Sheet, Presentation, and Email applications, entirely web based would be Microsoft Office365, Microsoft Live and Google Docs.  SalesForce and SugarCRM are examples of full featured Contact Management and Sales Cycle software that are entirely web based. Quckbooks and TurboTax have complete Online Versions as well.

There are definite advantages to both types of offerings depending on the circumstances. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications are usually completely inaccessible if there is no Internet Access. For the true “Mobile Warrior” traditional, locally installed applications may still be the way to go as they guarantee access to applications and data at all times. Many SaaS offerings have or will have shortly, applications which can be installed locally that will provide the ability to access data when not connected to the Internet.

If one has a number of desk based employees coupled with a number of incidental technology use employees such as shop floor personnel, call center staff, and anyone else who should have Corporate Email and perhaps some Word Processing capability to stay connected, but the cost of a dedicated computer is prohibitive, then Software as a Service may be the optimal solution. If the average Office Application Suite costs approximately $300 (Microsoft Office Standard Edition) per seat, then it starts to make economic sense to look at a Software as a Service Online Application Suite in either the Free or Nominal Monthly Subscription cost basis.

Office365 LogoA number of factors affect the pricing but many Small Businesses can get by with the Free Editions of the Suites (Google Docs and Microsoft Live) and for those that need more features prices start as low as $4 for Email or $6 or $8/month for a Basic Suite and go up to $22/Month for a Microsoft Premium Suite which include a fully licensed copy of Microsoft Professional 2010 and Voice Integration with the Microsoft Communications Server.  All Microsoft plans include access to a custom RIM Hosted version of the Blackberry Enterprise Server for seamless Blackberry Connectivity and full Active-Sync support for Android and Apple IOS (iPhone/iPad/iTouch) devices.

Google Docs LogoGoogle Docs (Apps)  are free for individuals and small teams while Google Apps for Business start at $5/month ($50/year) for the Full Featured Suite (Gmail, Docs, Calendar) or $10/month which includes the addition of email archiving, retention policies, and E-discovery which can be beneficial to companies that must follow compliance policies.

The key philosophical difference between Google Apps and Microsoft Office is that Microsoft wants their offering to be an extension of the Microsoft Office Servers and Applications already installed in your corporate environment. Google Apps just wants to make you instantly more productive with zero capital infrastructure cost outlay.

 

Cloud Office Application Suites

Microsoft Live – http://www.live.com  – (Consumer Oriented)
Microsoft Office365 – http://www.office365.com

Google Docs – http://docs.google.com  – (Consumer Oriented)
Google Apps for Business – http://www.google.com/apps/business

 

Cloud Accounting Applications

Quickbooks Online – http://quickbooks.intuit.com
TurboTax Online – http://turbotax.intuit.com

 

Cloud CRM – Customer Relationship Management

SalesForce – http://www.salesforce.com
SugarCRM – http://www.sugarcrm.com

Connect Microsoft Online Services Module for Windows PowerShell to Office365

Office 365Many of the features we take for granted in a traditional or hosted Microsoft Exchange / Outlook environment which can be easily managed in the Exchange Management Console or Outlook itself, require the use of the Microsoft Online Services Module for Windows PowerShell to accomplish in Office365.  These features include, but are not limited to, Delegation and Mailbox Permissions as well as many AD (Active Directory) management features.

 

The Windows PowerShell for Windows Server 2008 SP1/SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP2, Windows 7 and Windows XP SP3 is available at the  Windows PowerShell Web site  http://www.microsoft.com/powershell

 

The Microsoft Online Services Module for Windows PowerShell for Office365 is available here:

http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/Office365-enterprises/ff652560.aspx

 

Windows PowerShell IconOnce both the Windows PowerShell and Microsoft Online Services Module Powershell for Office365 are installed, use the following commands to connect your local PowerShell session and create your Microsoft Online Office365 Administration session:

 

Copy and Paste each of the following commands, in sequence, in to the PowerShell command line window.

Tip:   Copy and paste long strings in to Notepad and turn Word Wrap OFF, then copy and past in to PowerShell.

  • Click on Start > All Programs > Accessories > Windows PowerShell > Windows PowerShell
  • Optional, if script security errors, then use this command once per session:
  • Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned
  • Login to Office365 Administrative Account through the PowerShell
  • $LiveCred = Get-Credential
  • When prompted enter the credentials of an administrator account:

This should be your fully qualified user name such as:

user@your-domain.onmicrosoft.com

  • Create the Session:
  • $Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://ps.outlook.com/powershell/ -Credential $LiveCred -Authentication Basic –AllowRedirection
  • Import-PSSession $Session

To get a list of commands:    Get-Command -Module tmp*

Reference to Available PowerShell Cmdlets in Exchange Online

http://help.outlook.com/en-us/140/dd575549.aspx