Windows 8.1 Update and App Store: Microsoft’s Devices and Services strategy -weakness indicator

A week after Microsoft Level 1 help called and escalated to Level 2 with a scheduled callback for same day between 2pm -4pm, still can’t reach Microsoft App store.  Figured I’d upgrade to Windows 8.1 as inference was it would fix the problem while waiting for a callback.  Small problem; Upgrade to 8.1 links you to Windows 8.1 app store which doesn’t work.  Hmmm guest they’re really not interested in the Small and Medium Business market as much as the profess or readiness is an issue.


Over the past several weeks I’ve been tracking the various vendors: Microsoft, Apple Google, and Amazon as far as service quality; part of my Industry Analyst and IT Service Management (ITSM) background**.  A strong component of that is incident handling.  While uptime the customer experiences is the most important metric, handling a response in a timely manner is likely number two on the priority list, closely followed by customer communication.  Based upon that criteria Microsoft readiness to fulfill it’s new Business Strategy of Devices and Services is lacking.  Or may be Small and Medium Business (SMB) is just not the demographic it is going for now; instead using SMB as a buffer to its large enterprise customer business, as large enterprise is now in a transformation to Bring your own Device (BYOD) and virtual working, despite the fallback of Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard to an “on campus” policy.

On the flipside I can see why Apple is able to charge premium rates for products and services.  The AppleCare service representatives my wife and I talked with over the course of two weeks to resolve contact syncing issues, ICloud setup, and updating her IPhone to the new OS were impressive.  They continually pushed to ensure their systems and product issues were resolved, scheduling calls, and calling back numerous times throughout the week.   It looks like they are using consumer service as a training ground for moving to Enterprise Services.  If they make a move into enterprise services, they are likely to become the Mercedes-Benz or BMW in the market.  If Apple become the BMW of services, Amazon is likely to take on the role of Toyota or GM role, leaving Microsoft in the Ford, Nissan, or Chrysler position as it works out its ITSM issues.  Between Amazon and Apple, Microsoft is going to have a significant challenge is the services business if all they do is focus on the technology side the equation.

**yes, I event keep response records for the IT support I give my wife throughout the year and track support hours using QuickBooks -though she doesn’t get an invoice from me.  I might have to reconsider that some day 🙂

Windows 8 UI/UX and other service delivery issues

Had Windows 8 support reach out to me on Saturday to fix Windows App store issues.  After about an hour of the support rep. remotely managing my system, he escalated to level 2.  They scheduled a call for between 2-5 same day.  However, no reply call came. I expect they are pouring over the several system reports level 1 created to figure out the problem.  Interestingly enough, wife’s new Windows 8 laptop is now having the same problem:  Have internet connectivity as indicated by Outlook and IE browsing, but Store App reports no Internet access.  Been looking at the various forums and chat rooms since; seems to be a common problem emerging.

In the meantime after the last automatic windows update several of my applications do not load now.  These are mostly video applications: Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 and Pinnacle Studio 16.  These were working the past year before the update, so I expect whatever crunch Windows App store may have also zapped my video applications.  Not going to be too happy if I have to rebuild the system again to fix this.   I can see why average end users, outside of Redmond, are not upgrading and switching to services like Google and closed systems like Apple.   Something’s broken in the design and delivery system.  I expect one of the causes maybe Microsoft’s success; the fact that there are some many products now and configurations, its hard to keep control of it all.  Justification for having Enterprise Architects and Configuration Management Databases (CMDB) and focusing on IT Service management (ITSM).

I was going to work on building a Server today, however, I think my time is going to be better served developing my own ITSM system for my home infrastructure.  Well at least MS Access works, so I’ll start inventorying my hardware and software this week.  Maybe I should consider starting an ITSM service for small business as I don’t see Office365 filling that role either; there are other critiques that point out that Office does not cover all of the office functions people do.  I was disappointed that Business Contract Manager and MS Accounting products were deprecated as they had almost enough functionality when integrated with the rest of Office to create a working small business infrastructure.

Structure in Threes: Capabilitiy Models

Most of yesterday was dedicated to continuing to fix my wife’s IPhone contacts and syncing with desktop.  By 10pm I had finally reloaded a restored copy of her contacts to both laptop and phone.  Later today its back to AppleCare to restore her apps.  Apple is still suggesting using ICloud to sync multiple devices, but at this juncture its unlikely she will trust any cloud provider.  This has taught her a lesson businesses are either about to learn the hard way or have Enterprise Architects, like myself, developing disaster contingency and continuity plans prior to jumping to the cloud:  Technology changes that you run your business on require serious change management.  And even then the a poor implementation can require many hours to recover.  Another lesson or side benefit, she’s starting to see what my career really is about: enabling others,  preventing crises, and recovering from crises.  The unfortunate thing about the Enterprise Architecture profession is that goals one and two are what enables goal three, but goal three is the only one that gets other’s attention.

This morning before jumping back on IPhone recovery, I’m reading through the COBIT 5 management guide.  It’s rather odd how most standards, processes and models now take the form of the CMMI maturity model.  While I’m a supporter of the maturity model construct it has it’s deficiencies or rather I should say poor adaptation of the concept leaves deficiencies in the applied domain.  Often I’ve seen various organizations adapt the maturity model construct for their domain of expertise but as a marketing tool to infer gaps which their product or service naturally fulfills.  However, these capabilities are often not completely filled by the product or service as the capabilities have to be built with these tools, knowledge, processes and behaviors.

The COBIT 5 generic capabilities model points to level characteristics, level generic enablers, and generic level enabler capabilities.  However, it appears the rating of conformance is a subjective exercise.  May be that is acceptable at present as this field become more defined.  However, linking performance to organizational design then become more subjective also.  It may be the design methodology I’m working on will have to include the concept of tolerance and performance ranges (similar to physical product engineering) for the results of selecting the various design attributes.  I’ll have a better handle on that when I encode the governance model into a spreadsheet and link it to the organizational design spreadsheet.  The results should give me a more robust assessment criteria as well as a diagnostic tool for clients that will guide them to a more specific areas to address rather than a shotgun approach.


Steve Jobs remembered

Steve Jobs Feb. 24, 1955 – Oct 6, 2011

Entrepreneur, Reinventor, Stylist, Visionary

I was on the exhibition floor of SharePoint 2011 yesterday when someone gave me the news about Jobs’ passing.  My first reaction, you have to be kidding.  Sure he was ill, but he’d bounced back before.  How can he be gone, he’s Steve Jobs?   I was nonplused.  My next reaction was to check out the news on IPhone.   The report of his passing was true. 

I am not an Applehead, I purchased an IPhone reluctantly as my wife thought other smartphones were too complicated to operate.  It’s been several years now, I’m still using an IPhone 3G. I still prefer a Windows Laptop to a Mac though many of my relatives in creative industries are confirm Mac users.  The one thing that differentiates my thoughts regarding Apple vs. Microsoft is that my decisions are not techno-religious in nature.  I can point out the technical reasons why I prefer one over the other.  These reasons are based upon attributes of the design philosophy of each.  Sure there are some emotional aspects to that in regard to which attributes I prioritize higher.  However, what I believe makes my thoughts on the topic different is making those explicit.

Jobs and Apple had been written off years ago when the Windows operating system and Microsoft Office took off.  The company looked to collapse or at least fade off into history as a has been.  Those that wrote the company and Steve off didn’t understand this wasn’t the end, nor was the future caving in to business pressures and become another PC clone.  Steve had a design philosophy that he was sure would be successful in the long run.  Fast forward a decade or two Apple has surpassed Microsoft in market capitalization.  It has become an admired corporation again, though many would argue they’re not a PC or technology corporation. 

I would say to those critics; you’re right.  Apple is not a high tech firm, though they consume high technology.  Apple through Jobs guidance has become an experience and stylist firm with technology.  If Apple were in the food industry I would say they’d be Starbucks.  Both focus on all the details of providing an intentional experience.  As I sadly end this post and say good-by to an industry colleague and competitor by proxy with a modified quote by Steve: Where ever you are now I’m sure you’ll make it insanely great.  Bless       

Content Vs. Style, Complexity Vs. Simplicity

Started pondering the various swings in popular culture last night and the unintended consequences lots of little decisions make upon our lives. The biggest of these that came to mind are the various oxymoron’s that pervade our culture and thinking processes. The first of these examples is what Joseph Pine of Experience Economy and Mass Customization notoriety called out. We are moving to a culture of experiences and small personalization to establish our identities. A simple look around one see lots of individually customized devices, yet they somehow all look the same. In the mélange of customizations that our devices enable as a whole the look and behave relatively the same. In the sixties young people would state that everyone one looked the same in a suite and they were going to be different. I would hazard to say those “radicals” once they all got together all looked the same also. In the end the hippy cloths were just another uniform to identify with a community which yields a portion of someone’s identity.

This sounds rather harsh, inferring that people are shallow and only concern with style over substance. I look at what magazines, articles and media information is most popular should confirm that. I believe porn, celebrity news and fashion categories are still on the top of the most view information on the net. And if we go the point closer to the technology world, Apple, once considered a one the ropes and a technology simpleton (not my label but others who had branded them such) has emerged to be at the top of the capital pyramid above Oracle and Microsoft, all based upon Steve Job’s attention to style. If one strips down the latest Apple technology it is very basic, little room for variability most of the decisions are made for you. Yet consumers loved it because you could add little applets to personalize your experience. Apple even created an exchange, closed market, where you could buy customizations. Purchasing these provided an additional revenue stream above and beyond the original device. Think of this as the Printer Cartage market dynamic model converted to software.

Now the interesting hypocrisy of our thinking. Many love the ability to purchase and piece together just the applets we want for the experience, but when it comes to the Air Travel we’re upset with the unbundling of the services (e.g., Seats selection, Meals, Baggage, etc.) An interesting change of perceptions depending upon the context.

Now many would infer I’m unfairly beating up on Apple, calling their products simplistic and almost inferring they are toys. I will admit I have friends that are: Any Buddy but [IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, …] you put the company title in. I however look at the intention behind the result; make it achieve the function easily from the user’s perspective (i.e., simplicity). Having been in the complexity business for years –hopefully fighting against it, not fostering it—I’ll state a maxim that was once told to me be a mentoring engineer: “Complexity is easy, Simplicity is hard” Watching the evolution of devices from Apple I am impressed with their focus to that implied mantra “make it easy for the end user”.

With that little bit of insight, I wonder how much are we trying to do the same in our roles as of late vs. complicate things for other to make it easy for ourselves?