The Dangers of Turning Back the Clock – SMB Computing

windows-evo2Even as we try to embrace new technology, there is always comfort and stability in the familiar.  In our small offices, we probably still have Windows machines that run virtually every operating system from Windows 8 on back through to XP for some limited purposes machines.  I’m pretty sure we still have some Windows 3.X floppies lying around. Not that we have any drives that could read them.  Windows, we wish we knew how to quit ya’…

 

Anyway…

Microsoft Indroduces Chinese Version of XPMicrosoft has issued another warning to those of us still living in the past, to avoid being compromised by a new email vulnerability in Windows XP.  Maybe this is the final straw to drag us off this old platform for good (or at least until the next end-of-life event for the evolving Windows stable).  Who’s on deck to get knocked off next?  Vista, you out there?

 

 

Microsoft: SMBs are at dire risk opening email on Windows XP machines (via The Inquirer)

IN ITS ALMOST DAILY EFFORT to convince Windows XP die-hards to finally give up their old machines, Microsoft has posted a security advisory about all the terrible things that might happen after it switches off Windows XP support on 8 April. In a very…


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How to successfully Transition Project Managers

By guest contributor Anthony Schatz, part 2 or 2 part series.  Tony is senior partner at RJSL Group, IT project management consultancy and staff augmentation outfit based in Chicago.

We all know project resources are ever changing.  It always seems that once you have a well-oiled team and everyone is working towards the same goal, inevitably a key member is promoted, removed, or leaves your project.  As project managers, we are trained to work through these situations and keep the project moving forward.  However, what happens when the project manager is replaced?  Who leads the transition?  Who ensures the project continues to move forward?

Here are some key components to ensure a smooth transition from one PM to another:

Sponsor(s)/Key Stakeholder Communication – This group will make or break a successful transition.  These are high-level resources that need to understand their project will not be negatively impacted by this change.  This group is mainly concerned about completing the project successfully.  Explain to them why the transition is taking place and what the plan is to keep the project moving forward.  If possible, have face-to-face meetings.  Follow up these meetings with an email to have a written record of what was discussed.

Make sure you reach out to ALL sponsors/stakeholders, whether they are deeply involved or not.  If you miss one key resource, it could jeopardize the transition.

Team Communication – Much like with the sponsors, it is important to explain to the team why the transition is taking place and what the plan is to continue to move forward.  It is important to explain the project is not changing and the team’s responsibilities are not changing.  Each resource is still responsible for the work assigned to them.

Documentation – A successful transition relies on the transitioning PM having all the project documentation up to date.  Project standards (project schedule, risk and issues log, project charter, and status reports) provide the new project manager an understanding of what steps are necessary to continue moving the project forward.  Further, good documentation allows the new PM to get up to speed without having to ask redundant questions that have already been answered.

Mobile BI – The Future is Here

By guest contributor, Anthony Schatz.  part 1 or 2 part series.  Tony is senior partner at RJSL Group, IT project management consultancy and staff augmentation outfit based in Chicago.

When a representative of your company goes out to call on a perspective customer and walks into the customer’s office, you, as a company, want your representatives to have the most current, accurate, and actionable data at their fingertips.  With the integration of smart phones, tablets, and iPADs used by field representatives, the need for and use of mobile BI is a reality.

Two examples come to mind: Pharmaceutical Sales Reps and Consumer Electronic Field Teams.  There is a distinct parallel between what these two groups do and the information they need to complete their jobs.  For the most part, both groups go into accounts, talk with decision makers and auxiliary staff, and attempt to increase the sell through of their product.

mobileBIThe major question that needs to be asked and answered for the pharma rep and the CE field rep is: What will make the them more successful in driving sales for the company?  The simple answer is information.  Here is the caveat to that answer; it is not just information, but real, up-to-date, actionable information.  This is where mobile BI comes into play.

Whether pharma reps or CE reps, resources in the field need data and information before they enter a business and it has to be timely and informative.  Mobile BI platforms, accessible through a web portal, allow a company to provide specific and actionable data to their field representatives through an on-going basis.  Now, with all the mobile technologies available to your mobile workforce, field representatives can go into a client armed with up to date such as:

  • Sales data for the product and the customer
  • % of the time the customer sells your product versus competitor products
  • Competitor information (promotions, sales comparisons, product comparisons…)

One of Mobile BI’s great benefits is to help drive sales through arming your sales force with information prior to making that sales call.  Your reps will be able to make informative, actionable plans to follow when interacting with the customer.

Mobile BI gives your sales force the flexibility it needs in the field to make decisions, but ensures those decisions are based on timely, actionable, and objective data.

The Evolving Mobile Battle Rages On…

phonefightAs an  avid user of business technology, I try to keep abreast of the competition in mobile devices, but suffer from the dilemma that many other frustrated users do.  No one device seems to have it all covered in a way that let’s me settle on one mobile platform for communications and other business functions.  I’m not exactly on the sidelines of this epic battle among Android, IOS, Windows and others.  I’m stuck in the middle of it all.

My tether to Windows Mobile was recently undone by the lack of compelling upgrade options from my last generation Windows Mobile 7.5 device.  Unfortunately, it’s not been a clean break.  I settled on HTC’s One (Android) partially because I still couldn’t justify an iPhone as a serious replacement, but also on the hopes that the platform could give me the business seriousness of Windows with the depth of utilities and and apps in the iPhone environment.  Beware of being halfway into anything…

Just this morning I tried to receive and the upload some MS  Office docs on my Android phone to the Google drive of my child’s elementary school class.  Despite the “native” interaction you’d expect from Android and Google’s suite, I couldn’t save the .doc files to my 32GB android phone so I could then upload them to the Google drive.  The more I tried to work around the frustration, the more it became apparent that my hip new Android device seems to suffer from some of the same compatibility problems that Apple has in its closed, but wildly popular, environment.  My new phone can’t even support this simple (and widely used) document type.

tabletphone1Then it shouldn’t surprise you that I continue to carry at least 2 smartphones on most days, and up to 3 on others as I try to tap the particular strengths of each.  If my pockets look fat to you, it’s not because my wallet is overstuffed.  You probably have just seen me rolling with my 3 best (can’t-do-without-them) frenemies.  Stop me sometime, I’ll introduce you to the Bros – Sir 3GS, and the HTC twins (fraternal) – Mr. One and Mr. HD7.

Can somebody get me the Ph*** out of this mess???  With that I introduce you to Microsoft’s next volley in this battle…  That tablet’s going to look pretty silly when I hold it up to my ear to make a call.

*****

Reposted From Mobile News via ZDNET, By  

dell-venue-8-pro

Windows 8.1 gets a bad reputation as a tablet OS in spite of all the work Microsoft has put into it. While it’s true that it’s quite a stretch to build a platform that covers all possible computing forms, Windows 8.1 has some nice features that leaves Android behind.

Snap view

Microsoft wasn’t the first to develop a scheme allowing multiple apps to run and display at the same time, but it’s done it better than anyone. Snap view allows putting multiple apps onscreen and then adjusting each pane to the size that works best.

While Android doesn’t have this ability, Samsung has its multi-view which works in a similar fashion. It’s restricted to a few approved apps, though, and that is a big limiter compared to Windows 8.1. It’s only on a few Galaxy devices and not part of Android proper.

Samsung’s multi-view is better than Microsoft’s snap view in one area, and that’s the ability to rotate the screen to portrait and still use it. The Windows 8.1 snap view will only work in landscape, in fact it disables screen rotation when it’s active. That smacks of laziness of the developers of Windows and needs to be fixed.

The one restriction aside, snap view in Windows 8.1 is well implemented and it’s nice to find it ingrained in the OS.

Updates

Galaxy Note 8.0

Have a lengthy discussion about Android and it will eventually turn to the thorny subject of updates. Perhaps the lack of updates is a more accurate way to put it.

Updates to Android devices are at the whim of the device makers and carriers and there’s no guarantee that a given device will ever get that shiny new version of Android. If they do, it will likely be long after it’s available from Google.

Windows device owners aren’t saddled with this update envy, as all updates are pushed to devices. A very few may not have the smoothest update experience, but at least they get the chance to grab new updates.

While it’s true that Android devices continue working just fine without each new OS update, they do miss getting some security updates that are part of these OS renewals.

Mobile experience improvement

Android has been out longer than Windows 8, and it seems that the user experience (UX) is roughly the same as it’s been for a long time. Sure there are minor improvements with each new version, but that’s about it.

The story is different when it comes to Windows 8. While there were some serious shortcomings in the original version of Windows 8, Microsoft stepped up to the plate and ironed them out with Windows 8.1.

That Windows 8.1 rolled out so fast is a testament to the new Microsoft. The improvements that are ingrained in Windows 8.1 are not minor. The advantage of snap view is due in large part to the 8.1 upgrade.

Rumors are already appearing about the upcoming Windows 9, which will no doubt be another major step forward as far as the UX is concerned.

Sharing

We’ve been taught since an early age that sharing is a good thing, and that certainly applies to information. The ability to send information from one app to another is very powerful on mobile devices.

Both Windows 8.1 and Android have the ability to share information between apps, but the Windows implementation seems to be more consistent. The Share feature is always available right there in the Charms menu, and many apps have it implemented well.

There are a few apps that don’t have the ability to share, Google’s Chrome comes to mind, but for the most part apps make it simple to do so.

A great example of sharing in Windows 8.1 was given to me by a friend. He’s able to take ink notes in Windows Journal on his tablet and share them to his Evernote cloud where all his other notes live.

Another good example is the ability to share web pages to the Windows 8.1 Reading List app. This saves information on the web to read later in the Reading List app designed specifically for that purpose.

Sharing information is not missing from Android, but it’s more useful in Windows 8.1 in this writer’s experience.

The evolution of Windows

Windows 8.1 isn’t for everyone but it’s coming along nicely. It’s not strictly a mobile OS but it’s evolving into a decent one. The advantages discussed here are not the only ones over Android, but they are big enough to make a difference.

Some may feel that the availability of Microsoft Office on Windows 8.1 is a big advantage over Android and wonder why it’s not on this short list. While the absence of Office on Android is a disadvantage over Windows for some, it’s not for the millions of current Android users and thus is not discussed here.

Android makes more sense for some mobile users as it’s a robust platform for tablets and phones. It’s now making its way onto the desktop, too. Those wanting a pure mobile UX can do well with Android.

Windows is a better mobile OS than some realize, and it would be a mistake to overlook it. Mobile devices of all types are now available with Windows 8.1, and that alone could be an advantage for some over Android.

See Related: 

Topics: MobilityAndroidLaptopsTabletsWindows 8

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long.

Strategize and Organize – SMBs’ Best Use of the Cloud

Why your SMB cloud strategy could benefit from an integrated approach

Via ZDNET (Heather Clancy)

For many small businesses, one of the biggest perceived advantages of migrating to cloud applications and infrastructure services is the management proposition, the idea that it will free up their staff from an unwanted IT burden.

In some ways, that’s very true, since updates happen behind the scenes and provisioning usually can be handled very easily by individuals.

But if your small company decides to embrace a whole suite of cloud services – especially if it wants to integrate them with existing applications hosted within an on-premise server — it should consider working with a managed service provider (MSP) to make the administration simpler. The benefits of doing so include being able to offer employees access from a centralized Web portal for all applications, consolidating where data is stored and secured, and ensuring that collaborative processes can bridge multiple applications.

There are literally dozens of former VARs and IT solution providers cropping up to offer this sort of functionality as a managed service. One example is TOGLcloud, a hosted offering developed by a group of MSPs that felt most of the current offerings weren’t designed with smaller businesses in mind.

I’m not going to try to name all the options here, but there are several lists published by MSPMentor that offer a good jumping off point for anyone wanting to research their options. (Warning, you’ll have to register to get to most of the content.)

One of the more established players included on MSPMentor’s North American lists that is focused specifically on helping small businesses build an integrated approach to cloud strategy is eight-year-old ComputerSupport.com, with its ITAnyWhere Cloud offering.

“Small businesses can log into one place, all their files, all their productivity tools are there. Their Salesforce.com is there, too,” said Kirill Bensonoff, founder of the company. “They no longer need to have any infrastructure other than these services.”

What makes ComputerSupport.com interesting are relationships with some pretty big–name players when it comes to hosted desktop and cloud infrastructure services: it is an Amazon Web Services Consulting Partner, specializing in the cloud service provider’s QuickStart services; a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that can migrate small companies to a managed Office365 service; and a Citrix Silver Solution Advisor and Service Provider that offers access to the cloud through Citrix XenApp and Citrix XenMobile. It has VMware, ShoreTel and SonicWall credentials. What’s more, ComputerSupport.com is even a member of the Apple Consultants Network.

The ITAnyWhere Cloud service, currently in its third generation, runs on top of AmazonWeb Services, for scalability, compliance support, security and multiregion access. Small companies can log in through a portal, where managers can handle provisioning, or remove and add users quickly. The services are supported 24×7 by ComputerSupport.com, which also handles migration of legacy applications into the hosted environment if appropriate. It’s a fixed-fee offering, but Bensonoff declined to reveal pricing. That depends, in part, on the migration and setup required by the business.

Most of ComputerSupport.com’s customers are small businesses with 30 to 50 employees that originally had at least one server managed in-house, Bensonoff said.

Maybe all of this is more than your business can handle, but if a piecemeal cloud apps strategy is starting to create management headaches as your team grows and becomes more mobile  – and you don’t have the in-house staff to sort them out — a turnkey approach like ITAnyWhere Cloud might be worth an evaluation.

Going Cash Free? It’s Not Just for Consumers Anymore…

Yesterday I went to a soft opening for a new artisan bakery, Hewn Bread, in our suburban Chicago community of Evanston.  (Full disclosure: We knew of the soft opening precisely because we know the owners, but I’m a fiend for fresh-baked bread regardless, so I probably would have discovered it by smell alone if I hadn’t already known about it.)

Besides the expected shelves full of fine goods and the nostalgic “throwback” mental association I get from the growth of new businesses using good old-fashioned quality and simple, traditional methods, I was a little surprised to find myself paying for my rustic French Wheat Loaf with a debit card on the bakery’s iPad-style PDA.  I’d gotten used to seeing this at farmer’s markets and other parts of the “smaller” economy, but it was certainly new to witness such technology at a traditional retailer.

Part of the surprise was my own choice to use a debit card for a such a small purchase, which I generally disfavor as a consumer, because it’s typically unnecessary when I’ve got cash.  The other part of my surprise is really less unexpected the more I realize that modern business has changed.  I’m normally sensitive to the fact that the added costs of debit and credit transactions for the merchant are ultimately passed along to us consumers, and I always hear gripes on that subject from small business owners.  However, the social media interaction between this new business and its prospective customers seems well-served by this innovative technology.

At checkout I was given the option of having a printed or emailed receipt.  While I declined both options to avoid adding to the vaults full of paper and electronic receipts that drive my wife crazy, I suddenly got why cash-free or “cash-less” has become just as attractive for some businesses as it is for many consumers.  Small Business Matters recently posted an article on PayPal’s newest entry into the point-of-sale (POS) market that reflects this growing trend.  -Paul for SMBMatters  BTW, the bread was great!  What else would you expect to hear from a bread junkie?

PayPal encourages small retailers to ‘lose your cash register’

Summary: The mobile and digital payment company is running a competitive trade-in under which it will help retailers get outfitted with an iPad solution in exchange for old cash registers.

ipad_checkout_here

PayPal has launched a competitive trade-in-program designed to get more small retailers to use iPad point-of-sale (POS) solutions that happen to use its payment processing services.

Under the Cash for Registers initiative, companies will receive free PayPal payment processing services for the remainder of the year when they turn in their old cash registers and start using an iPad-based payment solutions, such as PayPal Here. The offer doesn’t just apply to the transaction fees for PayPal services, it covers them for credit-card, debit-card and check processing, according to the company’s information about the program.

PayPal Here encompasses an iPad, card reader, iPad stand, cash drawer and printer. There are a number of pre-integrated solutions that PayPal has organized to help with the transformation.

Some of the companies that PayPal is working with include Erply, a POS and inventory management software developer; Leapset, which integrates POS information with a company’s customer relationship management systems; Leaf, which develops customer loyalty  and business intelligence solutions; NCR | Silver, which provides POS hardware;  ShopKeep POS, which sells an iPad POS system; and Vend, a POS and inventory management software application developer.

The program officially kicks off in June, according to a blog post written by David Marcus, president of PayPal.

“In addition to this great offer, we will make participating businesses known to our 55+ million U.S. (128 million worldwide) and growing customer base, and drive meaningful incremental business to them, stimulating the vibrant small-business community in America,” Marcus writes.

The rise of the tablet computer has signaled a turning point for small-business POS solutions, a trend that began accelerating in 2012 and is continuing to gain momentum.

Related stories:

Reblogged from ZDNET.

By Heather Clancy for Small Business Matters

Surfacing: Can Microsoft Get Above Water in the Tablet Storm?

Surface Pro preview: Triple-play UI is its best innovation

Takeaway: As a hybrid tablet/laptop, Microsoft Surface Pro makes a bold pitch to reinvent the portable PC, but a few big caveats get in the way. Read TechRepublic’s product preview.

Photo credit: Microsoft

Over the past six months I’ve asked a lot of IT professionals, business folks, and technophiles what they think about Microsoft Surface. I asked them whether it could be the kind of work tablet they’d want to use, and whether they expect it to be more friendly to business and IT than the Apple iPad and Android tablets. The responses have been surprisingly optimistic. Very few people have been dismissive of Surface, even though it’s fighting from behind in the tablet race.

As I dug deeper with the people who were excited about the Surface, I quickly realized that most of them had very little interest in Surface RT — the less expensive, ARM-based version of Surface that can’t run traditional Windows apps. By far, the most interest — especially from IT pros and techies — was focused on Surface Pro, the Microsoft tablet running a full version of Windows 8 on an Intel processor.

As a result, I’ve been looking forward to taking one for a spin and reporting to the TechRepublic crowd on how it performs. With Surface Pro officially launching on Friday, I can report that I’ve been trying out a Surface Pro and I can share some of my early observations and conclusions.

As a frame of reference, I’ve also been using the Surface RT since its launch in October and I’ve been regularly using the Nexus 7, iPad, and iPad Mini in recent months. In the past I’ve been pretty skeptical about the usefulness of tablets for general computing. I think tablets have their place for specific tasks and functions and as companion devices, but I think most knowledge workers find that using a tablet as their primary system involves too many compromises.

Of course, Microsoft set out to change that with the Surface. Just in case you get distracted and don’t finish reading this post then I’ll give you my two quick takeaways on the Surface Pro: It feels like a much more complete version of Surface RT and I can say without hesitation that Surface Pro is capable of doing more than other tablet on the market.

Does that mean I’m ready to make Surface Pro my next laptop, or that I would recommend it as a viable PC alternative for business professionals? Not quite yet.

How’s the overall user experience?

I’m not going to get into all of the specs for the Surface Pro or compare its details to the Surface RT or the latest iPad. We’ll do all of that in the full review on ZDNet next week. Suffice it to say, the Surface Pro is far more powerful than its RT brother, and the iPad, and virtually all Android tablets. But, the tradeoff is an $899 base price and battery life that is much more like a laptop than a tablet. For now, let’s veer away from the numbers and feature lists and focus on user experience and how well this thing really works as a product.

The first thing I noticed as soon as I unboxed the Surface Pro is how thick and heavy it is (even thicker and heavier than the Surface RT). We’ve gotten pretty spoiled in this regard, especially by Apple and Samsung and what they’ve pulled off in slimming down their products. The weight and thickness of the Surface Pro is much closer to the 11-inch MacBook Air and most 11-inch Ultrabooks than to iPad and Android tablets. Otherwise, it looks and feels very sturdy and has the premium finish of a high-end product.

Both the Touch Cover and the Type Cover that I already had for the Surface RT snapped right into place and started working just as well on the Pro as they do on the RT. With the Surface Pro, I also tested Microsoft’sWedge Touch Mouse (right) since the Pro is a full-blown Windows 8 machine. I was glad I did. It’s a handy little mouse (I especially liked the one-finger touch scrolling) and like most Windows operating systems Windows 8 works best when you have quick access to a right-click button.

Once I logged into the Surface Pro with a Windows Live ID, I immediately got many of the settings, accounts, and files that I had already set up on Surface RT. The SkyDrive integration is the highlight of the services experience. It’s nearly as simple as Dropbox and has a lot more options.

Surface also attempts to do some social integration with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and a few other services, but the experience is a mixed bag. There are some things that are nicely streamlined, like replying to Facebook comments and Twitter mentions from within the People Hub, but other things like the ways it mixes up social network streams and notifications is a bit awkward. I kept wanting to just see my raw Facebook and Twitter feeds (displayed in Windows 8’s minimalist text style), but couldn’t find an easy way to do that and so I gave up.

Once you dig in to do some work, that’s where Surface Pro really shines. There are native Windows 8 Metro apps for Evernote and Dropbox — two of the most popular consumer apps that business professionals love — and you have the whole library of standard Windows apps to draw from and install in Desktop Mode.

Metro apps are very visual and highly usable and I wish there were a lot more of them. If there were, I think it would make the Surface a much more attractive option for average workers. The ability to work with the large catalog of traditional Windows software helps soften the blow, but hardly any of that stuff works well in a multitouch interface. For that reason, I found myself relying pretty heavily on the Type Cover keyboard and the Wedge Touch Mouse for most of the time that I was using the Surface Pro.

That said, one of the most pleasant surprises was how effective it felt to move between the Type Cover/Wedge Mouse and the multitouch screen. There are some things that are faster and more effective with touch — like scrolling to a specific part of a page or flipping through images — and there are some things that are more efficient with keyboard and mouse — like long typing and right-clicking for options — and the Surface Pro was the first device that gave me the feeling that the future of business productivity will likely include both.

The digital pen for the Surface Pro also works beautifully. It’s the most accurate and precise digital pen that I’ve used. It can draw really thin lines and it draws on the screen precisely where it’s supposed to. I’ve never been a huge fan of pen computing, but this one gave me a sense that I could use this to annotate some stuff and do virtual whiteboarding that could actually be useful as part of my daily work.

That was my biggest lightbulb moment with the Surface — seeing how it combines a traditional mouse and keyboard experience with multitouch and pen computing in a way that works naturally and integrates the value of all three.

I have other thoughts and observations but I’ll sum up them up into a list of the kudos, caveats, and needs. Then, I’ll sum up my initial analysis about the Surface Pro.

Photo credit: Microsoft

Kudos

  • Threads the needle between touch, keyboard/mouse, and pen computing
  • Metro interface enhances usability and Metro apps continue to multiply
  • Desktop Mode offers full Windows 8 and its traditional app ecosystem
  • Type Cover, Wedge Touch Mouse, and the included digital pen are excellent accessories

Caveats

  • It’s a hybrid that doesn’t stand out as a tablet or laptop
  • Battery life is half of most tablets
  • Won’t sit in a lap
  • Not very useful in portrait mode
  • Microsoft Office is installed, but costs extra

Needs

  • A tiltable screen that can sit in multiple positions
  • A desktop and laptop docking solution
  • Digital pen should store in the casing
  • Integrated wireless broadband should be an option
Photo credit: Microsoft

Analysis

Surface Pro flirts with greatness, but its caveats could become show-stoppers for a lot of users.

The product brilliantly weaves mouse and keyboard with multitouch and pen computing in ways that feel very effective and useful. When you compare it to other tablets, there’s simply a lot more you can do with Surface Pro because of its triple-play interface and its ability to run the full version of Windows 8 in desktop mode.

The problem with Surface Pro is that it’s trying to bridge the gap between two products, a laptop and tablet, and it doesn’t quite stand out enough at either function. It’s lacking a little bit as a tablet and it’s lacking a little bit as laptop, so you have to make too many compromises on both sides.

What makes tablets like the iPad and its top competitors useful is their ease-of-use, portability, battery life, and big catalog of third party tablet apps. Surface Pro fails most of those criteria. Its dual personalities of Metro and Desktop Mode are powerful but complicated. It’s nearly as heavy as three iPads. Its 4-5 hour battery life means it won’t ever make it through a full day without a charge. And, while Surface Pro has all of the native Windows apps, it doesn’t have many touch-friendly tablet apps. Even if the Windows 8 tablet platform becomes a developer favorite, it will likely take a couple years to get a critical mass of productive tablet apps.

So, what about thinking of the Surface Pro as more of a laptop replacement? After all, under-the-hood it’s more like a MacBook Air or an Ultrabook than a tablet. That’s how I spent most of my time with the Surface Pro thinking about it. However, from that perspective, it’s a laptop that won’t sit in your lap properly (the kickstand tips over). The trackpad on the Type Cover is nice for a tablet but doesn’t match the spacious trackpads on the MacBook Air or the best Ultrabooks. And, even some Ultrabooks now offer mobile broadband and much longer battery life than the 4-5 hours you get with Surface Pro.

I can’t help thinking that if you want most of the benefits of the triple-play UI and full Windows 8 in Surface Pro then you’d be better off with a product like the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2, which has 10 hours of battery life, mobile broadband, an integrated pen, and laptop and desktop docks. The hardware isn’t quite as polished, the screen isn’t quite as impressive, and the accessories aren’t quite as slick, but it starts at $679 and overcomes several of the Surface Pro’s shortcomings.

The Surface Pro is one of the most ambitious products I’ve reviewed. It’s trying to do a lot — ultimately, a little bit too much. But, even if it doesn’t sell well, I expect that Surface Pro is going to be remembered as the product that showed us how keyboard/mouse, multitouch, and pen computing can work together in smart and useful ways. And, either Microsoft will fill the gaps in version 2.0 or other products will run with the triple-play UI.

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About Jason Hiner

Jason Hiner is the Editor in Chief of TechRepublic. He writes about the products, people, and ideas that are revolutionizing business with technology.

Double Your Twitter, Double Your Customer Satisfaction

“Sorry, I was sending a tweet”Photo - Ted

One of the funniest scenes in the recent Seth McFarlane movie Ted is when the titular ursine character crashes his car and then offers this feeble apology to his victim.  This incident reflects the ubiquity of Twitter everywhere from business, to politics, to running.

My SMB Matters colleague Richard Lee recently mused about the US Postal Service’s poor customer relationship management practices.  In contrast, I’d like to share an episode that illustrates exemplary customer service, enabled in large part through Twitter.

Take the Good, Take the Bad
I’ve mused before about the consulting profession, wherein the unparalleled intellectual opportunities, exposure to diverse organizations, and network building co-exist with the challenges of a peripatetic lifestyle.  As I’d noted at Built in Chicago, there are a host of products to help manage these issues, but at the end of the day they can still be taxing.

Photo - DoubletreeIt goes with saying that the hotel stay is a central element of the consulting lifestyle.  On the recommendations of a few colleagues, I recently stayed at a DoubleTree.  The burnt cod and limp, flavorless asparagus I had for dinner at the hotel restaurant one evening left much to be desired.  My dissatisfaction was compounded by two other factors that greatly reduced my productivity:

  1. Dysfunctional wireless service that made the days of dial-up seem like science fiction
  2. Disinterested waiters whose turnaround time would frustrate even Rip Van Winkle

Inspired by Dave Carroll’s now-classic video diatribe against United Airlines, I took to social media to voice my discontent, firing off this angry tweet:

Barking up the Right Tree
While I’d previously used Twitter for a variety of purposes, customer service hadn’t been on the menu.  DoubleTree definitely changed my viewpoint that evening.  They quickly responded to my tweet, sent me an email, called me, and made every effort to rectify the situation.  The pièce de resistance was an assortment of wine and cheese waiting for me that evening in my hotel room, along with a handwritten letter of apology.  A cursory glance at their Twitter feed reveals that it is standard operating procedure for DoubleTree to keep close tabs on all customer feedback (positive and negative) and respond quickly.

Obviously, for a hotel with so many locations, (along with the fact that there are many travelers with axes to grind and Twitter accounts), there is a high degree of automation to the process.  Nonetheless, the human followup was excellent, and a nice contrast to the disinterested “yeah, not our problem” responses I’d previously received from the front desk.

Not a Game Changer, But…
Between the two hotels I’d recently stayed at, I definitely preferred the Marriott to the DoubleTree – mainly because of the high number of Marriott Rewards points I’ve socked away over the years.  However, the highly responsive, proactive behavior of the DoubleTree increased my satisfaction with the chain.  As such, I made sure to sing their praises the next day via Twitter.

Having witnessed the perils of TWD (Tweeting While Driving) that befell Ted, I also made sure to put my car in “Park” first.

It’s 2013 and I’m just finding out about the Xbox Smartglass!

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The Xbox Smartglass app is an enhanced technology that allows your android or apple device to communicate with your Xbox 360! “How does this work?” You might ask. The answer is simple. Your devices and tablets can communicate with each other, so why not with your gaming console? The technology works whether you’re at home or another location and with any system just sign in.

As I’ve previously said, the Xbox Smartglass app and your tablet, as long as it runs on androids operating system, or your iDevice it will automatically connect once you’ve signed into your Xbox live profile and opened the app. From there you can control your Xbox and do things like stream videos from the web, play a DVD, or start your game. However from that point you will need to connect your controller. You can use your keyboard on your tablet or iDevice instead of opening up the not so sufficient and slow keyboard method that your Xbox 360 offers.

Being able to type a message and even search the web from your tablet to your console is a simple and pretty cool feature. With Xbox Smartglass I’ve noticed that it memorizes what games or apps I play most on my console. It has even memorized movies that I’ve viewed from watching previews and performing searches. It keeps up with your achievements and awards. I thought that the Smartglass app was especially needed seeing how often I game, use Netflix, search the web, and chat with friends. Another cool feature is the ability to change and edit your profile and avatar. You can multitask and still access your friends list to see what they’re playing or watching.

I can’t see a reason not to download this app onto your device right now and get connected without a controller and the difficulties of typing from your own keyboard. So go and download the app and explore all it has to offer!

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Leap Motion is set for take off!

Sometime early this year, Apple will be releasing a new wireless device that has been compared to Microsoft’s Kinect. This new device or technology is called the Leap Motion Controller/ Sensor. This device acts as a wireless controller for your computer, whether you have a Mac or a PC this device is compatible and lets you scroll, pinch, click and grab using only your hands!

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The use of Leap Motion will electrify you and you’ll get a totally different feel for your computer, job, and gaming console. Yes, I just said gaming console, but for now, let’s stay on the path discussing how this technology works. Leap Motion brings together the works of touch free, 3D motion sensing and motion control, sounds a lot like the kinect right? Well with this technology being about the size of an iPod will give you a whole new look on computing, LEDs, and sensors. The way it works is you just simply plug it into your computer like a USB, install the software and wave your hand to begin.

Besides the technology impacting the world of gaming, it will also bring endless possibilities to healthcare, engineering, and art. We’ll find out next time just how much of an innovation Leap Motion really is!

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