Sunday, 29 April 2018

Neverware





After hardware and software we now have Neverware.

It's a marketing thing. Neverware isn't a computer science concept but it is an idea that is based on the Chromebook. Chromebook's are Google's idea of cloud computing. You have a laptop, and most of them are laptops, which is little more than a browser. Traditional PCs rely on an operating system that can stand alone in the world. Traditional PCs can connect to networks but are defined by having access to applications that function on their own. They can store significant amounts of data without an Internet connection. They can do real work, play music and play games without needing to connect to anything.

A Chromebook is the opposite. It has a minuscule operating system. The operating system is primarily there to run the Google Chrome web browser and connect to Google services on the Internet. No internet connection means it can do very little. There are grey lines. Chromebooks can store some stuff and do have some offline capability. However, these abilities are seen as complementing what is expected to be an "always online" experience with occasional disconnection.

While Chromebooks can be bought in retail stores there is inevitably an open source project to reproduce the experience. This is called Chromium. Chromium was started by Google to provide open source code that feeds into the propriety Google technology around Chrome and Chromebooks.

Back to Neverware. Neverware is a version of Chromium that allows almost anyone to convert a laptop to Chrome OS. In effect turn old laptops that might be heading for recycling into usable devices you grandmother might like. If you have an old laptop running Windows Vista or something equally as unloved you can create a USB installation kit and turn it into a Chromebook. It will even boot from the USB so you can have a "PC on a USB stick".

You can literally buy an old laptop suitable for conversion for under £50 on ebay. With Chromebooks starting at £199 new giving an old laptop a Chromebook conversion with Neverware might be just the thing to revive an old PC.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Why Windows isn't the future


Windows isn't the future and Microsoft have said so.

Yes, Microsoft has abolished the Windows and Devices Group. In a structural re-organisation Terry Myerson, the head of Windows is departing from Microsoft. Myerson's job is also going. Windows client development is now being put in with Windows server and Azure cloud services. Windows "experiences", the user interface and how we actually interact with our PCs is being put in the hands of Joe Belfiore.

In one way this is really just a Microsoft internal re-organisation that isn't going to affect how I use my computer next week. On the other hand, this is kind of revolutionary. For the first time in about 30 years, Windows is being demoted to a sub-part of Microsoft. It's not going away but Microsoft now earns the most money from businesses via cloud services, server products and Office software. The largest growth being in subscription-based Office 365.

Myserson was formally chief of the Windowsphone division and took over Windows itself to overcome the negative reaction to Windows 8. As consumers have moved to phones as their primary computing device, only turning to PCs to get real work done, Microsoft's failure in the mobile phone market has pushed it out of consumer services. Closing down the phone business, Groove Music (formally Xbox Music, Zune), and anything that might attract consumers is the rebranding of Microsoft as for business only.  If you want consumer services then look to Google, Apple, Spotify and the like.

Windows itself is now receiving "S Mode". Microsoft wants a Windows for consumers that run Microsoft Store apps and not random software downloaded from the web. If an app isn't in the Store then it can't be installed. Google products are not currently in the Store so the Chrome browser is out and Edge is in. Web apps using PWA will be available and older apps prepared for Store distribution. The new simpler managed Windows experience will be like mobile phone experiences. A Windows that doesn't run Windows application software.

Business can opt out of "S Mode" and get regular Windows. They already use Systems Center to manage software or Intune. The latest idea is Microsoft 365 where Microsoft bundle cloud Office with Windows licensing as a service subscription for business. The first step to enterprise services management in Microsoft's cloud.

Windows, as it is now, will be de-emphasised. It won't go away for years but the re-organisation confirms the trend. Microsoft is looking for a way to move away from Windows after 30 years of it being central to its strategy for making money.

Meanwhile, as if to say exactly the opposite, Windows 10 1803 update comes out in April 2018. However, it really just confirms that Windows is now just a service with OS updates delivered regularly instead of buying a new version every three years in a box or on a DVD.

Something called Windows will still exist in the future but it will not be the thing that leads Microsoft's development process.