Sunday, 22 March 2020

My struggle with mobile

From 2010 to 2018 WindowsPhone was my chosen mobile device. I mostly used Nokia devices. If you have a PC and you were working for the IT industry then most of the client side is based on Windows as well as the server side. Microsoft had committed to their software working best on Windows so WindowsPhone was a reasonable choice. 

However, in a Twitter post a senior Microsoft executive said WindowsPhone was over. Support continued until December 2019 but Microsoft recommended people moved to IOS (Apple) or Andoid (Google) devices. A big blow to those of us who really found the WindowsPhone environment to be the best mobile environment.

I gave up my WindowsPhone permanently in 2018. I sold my remaining device on Ebay. For the previous year support from services on the device had been ebbing away slowly and Microsoft had withdrawn functionality. I tried a number of Android devices. Samsung, LG, and then the new Nokia devices. Currently I am on an iPhone 8 Plus. 

My concerns with leaving the Microsoft environment were several. The first is data privacy. No tech firm entirely segregates your data from others. Apart for the obvious factors like location data each company sells advertising. Primarily your personal data. Microsoft’s main customer base is business so they spend a lot of time on data privacy, compliance, protection and the like. 

Google seems to have the weakest data privacy stance. If you give data to Google it will sell it to someone. Apple is a lot better. So just from a perspective of trust in data handling I feel better with Apple. 

The devices available for both Android and Apple all provide are a grid of icons. The apps are similar although Apple’s apps seem more polished. The problem with the Android world is manufacturer customisation. Samsung is possibly the worst but LG is close. They have apps that they make that can’t be removed. Samsung duplicate Google apps for the sake of a corporate strategy of trying not to rely on Google and almost avoiding mention of them. 

Another problem of the Android world is updates. Security of Android is a problem. If every manufacturer can customise Android they can also leave the OS open to security issues. In the case of Chinese manufacturers there is the ongoing suspicion of Chinese Government monitoring. It’s a world in which users seem to have make decisions on devices not just on colour and features. 

I have been using Apple’s IOS for about 6 months. I have another phone, a Nokia 8.1, in a box. I don’t really work inside the Apple ecosystem of services so having an iPhone is a bit odd. 

There is a certain pressure to move back to Android. Microsoft has put all it’s services on Android, the Microsoft Launcher customises Android to be a “Microsoft Phone”. In a turnaround it seems that Google has created a mobile operating system for Microsoft to customise  whereas Apple’s closed and locked down environment provides a lot less.

I haven’t settled. I would still be using WindowsPhone if it still existed. I am keeping the iPhone for now but I think the draw of Microsoft services and PC integration will take me back to Android.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Windows Lite is now Windows 10X

Last year I wrote about Windows Lite. That never was a real name or at least I hoped it wouldn't be. However, now we have the first look at what it may be and the name is Windows 10x.

Back in 2015 Microsoft announced that Windows 10 was the "last version of Windows". True, if you mean there won't be something called Windows 11. There wont! What Microsoft has settled into is a series of updates that happen twice a year in spring and autumn. The older schedule of monthly security updates also applies. That is Windows we already know about.

However, for a long time Microsoft has wanted to modernise Windows. By modern we mean a more mobile style OS. The sort of operating environment that links to Microsoft's cloud services, is a lot less complex for daily tasks, is secure and updates like a phone.

They have tried. Windows 8 was a touch friendly move to get rid of old Windows. However, the PCs were not ready for such a radical change. Business users, who make the most money for Microsoft, were not ready for the move. So they staged a retreat. Similarly Windows RT, using ARM processors, looked like Windows but couldn't run traditional Windows applications and Windows 10 S ran only applications you could download from Microsoft's online store.

Each attempt had positive aspects but all failed because Microsoft were trying to marry the experience most people get on their mobile device with the requirement to run full screen applications like Word, Photoshop or Excel.  Trying to get both things working proved to be a long road.

What they have come up with is firstly reducing Windows to it's core components. This is Windows Core OS (WCOS). This is designed to provide the fundamental things and operating system can do. On top of this is container technology. A container is a space where an application can run on it's own. The container has the application but also, and crucially, the parts of the operating system that make it run. Types of containers include traditional Windows applications, new web style applications and Universal Windows Applications (UWP). This latter category was the type of application that WindowsPhone was championing.

Windows 10X will first launch on dual screen devices. You won't see it on a PC near you soon. However, it might become the modern Windows that allows Microsoft to transition from the the PC world of the 1990s, where Windows started, to the lighter mobile applications and services environment of the 2020s.

Microsoft Blog Introducing Windows 10X