Posts Tagged microsoft

Sharepoint with a dash of Metro

One of the frequent posters on the Office 365 Grid community Matt Hughes, has posted a free Master Page template for Sharepoint online… sharpening up the experience with a Metro overhaul. Read more here : http://community.office365.com/en-us/blogs/the_grid/archive/2012/06/29/free-sharepoint-office-365-master-page-amp-css-grid-user-post.aspx

This could be the first in many free templates to update the existing Sharepoint Online experience to the new world of Metro sharpness.

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It’s hip to be square!

Bill Gates and a Tablet PC in 2002

Today Microsoft pulled one out of the bag. Something that has long been predicted but never executed upon. They have announced a Tablet PC named “Surface” and will release it later this year in time for Windows 8. Microsoft have been talking about slate or tablet PC’s for years now, and to be honest had more intent around tablet computing than Apple ever did. On more than one occasion in the early part of the 2000’s Steve Jobs was quoted to say that Apple had no interest in Tablet computing especially given the Newton was a flop. Microsoft on the other hand dabbled with pen based computing in Windows XP and improved on the technology over time although it remained an after thought. It wasn’t until Windows 8 came along that Microsoft became touch focused. The Windows 8 interface (Metro) is built on the strengths of Windows Phone 7 and created an entirely different way of interacting with the Windows operating system and its apps.

Personally I like the Metro interface and so it would seem do other people. Recently I have noticed more and more interfaces seem to “fall in line” with the Metro mantra… clean sharp lines with a minimalist approach to delivering information. Hey even the recently refreshed Gmail interface lends itself to a metro-esque experience! Having recently installed Windows 8 (both server and client) Release Preview the Metro experience permeates through to every aspect of the operating system, from the installation to the device management. Metro is more than an interface for touch computing its a sharper, smarter way of doing things.

This sharpness will deliver a better user experience in my opinion, removing noise from day-to-day tasks, giving users a more focused interface to work with. This sharpness has been carried through to the Surface tablet released today, with sharp lines it delivers on Microsoft’s vision of the future. If the edgy new TV spot by Microsoft is anything to go by… I am looking forward to it!

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Is Google in panic mode?

I have owned an iPhone since they launched in 2007 and an iPad from day one. I love Apple products, however I found it frustrating that Microsoft’s attitude towards the device was one of a competitor rather than just another platform to deliver software and services to. I had the desire to edit documents on my iOS device and had a look around for a version of Office, as we all know none existed, however Quick Office appeared to deliver quite a good experience on both the iPhone and the iPad, it had slick integration with Dropbox and Google docs as well as the ability to send files to and from my Mac/PC over Wifi.

I have used the version of Office that is baked into Windows Phone 7 as well and it IS better, however Quick Office already addressed a large chunk of the mobile / tablet market with some recorded 400 Million users! That is a Massive number and something that Microsoft needs to be aware of when it tries to use the functionality upsell story of their own product. 400 Million users have decided Quick Office fills the gap that the lack of Microsoft Office for iOS left.

The recent news that Google purchased Quick Office came as no surprise to me. A rich “office” experience on the iOS has been lacking an really Quick Office is the only company in the last 2 years to come close to what Microsoft has already established in the desktop world. I do get the feeling that Google are changing their direction with this purchase, remember Google are the company that until recently were pushing a “browser centric” operating system (Chrome OS). The browser (until now) has formed one of Googles more convincing sales pitches, that is all of your information exists purely in the browser/cloud, there is no need for a client application. I disagreed with this approach, applications accessing cloud services is the best experience in my opinion and it would seem that Google have started to recognize this as well with the purchase of Quick Office.

Expect things to get interesting when Microsoft launch their version of Office for iOS later this year (rumored to be November 10th 2012). Microsoft are the current kings of collaboration, offering a richer integration that what Quick Office offered, however the “good enough” approach may see some users stick with Quick Office and wait for the improvements that arise out of the Google partnership.

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Sharepoint adoption

Taxonomy is a word that is used quite frequently when describing the classification and management of information within Sharepoint. Sharepoint is the information management component of Office 365, and as great as it is there can be some hurdles to getting users to adopt it. In a perfect world Sharepoint would replace the file share and any other document based processes within your business. Chris Riley blogged recently on Taxonomy and how important it is to any Sharepoint deployment, cloud or on premise.

Taxonomy Planning in SharePoint 2010 – End User – NothingButSharePoint.com.

The biggest limitation with Sharepoint is that there are NO limitations… Time and time again Sharepoint deployments fail due to lack of planning. You can plan your Sharepoint deployment so that your users aren’t put off. Keeping it simple and easy to understand while at the same time enforcing a level of governance to ensure the data stored is searchable and relevant.

Going from a file share to Sharepoint takes some getting used to and with a good amount a planning it should make logical sense to the user from the get-go. One of the tools we have found to be useful that allow users to work from a familiar environment is Harmon.ie . This tool is a plug in for Outlook and is accessible from the main Outlook pane or any new calendar or mail item. It allows a user to interact with their Sharepoint sites and document libraries right from within Outlook, no need to change to a different app or grapple with the browser experience. Navigation is handled similar to traditional folder structures and its that familiar navigation that adds to its ease of use.

Harmon.ie is free up to 250 seats however there is an “Enterprise” version available for USD$129/user/year. There is also an iPad and iPhone client available for free, this client allows navigation of your Sharepoint sites and at a glance view the documents and their meta data. With the current lack of Office for iOS the premium version of the iOS client will take a user to the Web App interface for quick editing of documents. My iPad uses a version of Quick Office (a 3rd party Office style editor) and Harmon.ie recognizes this and allows you to edit documents in this app seamlessly.

The important thing from an administrative point of view is to architect the structure of the information within Sharepoint ahead of time. The moment users are able to access the site they will revert to old habits if strict governance isn’t present. Office 365 has to be the cheapest content management solution on the market and with some good planning it can be the best experience for an end-user as well.

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Cisco Unity voicemail now compatible with Office 365… (sort of)

One of the more “novel” features of Exchange Server 2010 was the “speech to text” functionality of the Unified Messaging Server. This required an additional server deployed within your Exchange environment and depending on the number of users, quite a high spec’ed piece of kit. This was largely due to the fact that it dealt with transcribing audio from voice mails into text that could in turn be viewed as an email. When I say novel, I mean no dis-respect to the team that developed this feature, it’s just that most people are used to voice mail as a feature you usually listen to… old habits die-hard I guess.

With Office 365 the speech to text capability is part of the Exchange Online Plan 2 or the E3 and E4 Office 365 suite. There are also requirements for the interface that transfers the audio from the PBX into the cloud (Exchange Online UM service). This can be delivered by a compatible IP PBX or an IP Media Gateway, some configuration is required, however if you have a current voicemail solution with an IP PBX this shouldn’t be that difficult to configure. For more information see here: http://community.office365.com/en-us/w/exchange/569.aspx

Cisco IP Phone

The one “island” in the Office 365 UM story has been the Cisco Unity solution… until now. Cisco has released a rather detailed step by step guide on how to configure your Unity service to allow it to perform the following:

  1. Deliver Voicemail to the inbox of a user
  2. Allow a user to have their email etc read out over the phone.

There is a glaring omission, the “novel” feature of speech to text, it would appear that this feature was too difficult to include in this release. I wonder if we will see it at all. However it is at least a step towards unity between Office 365 and the Cisco VoIP solution that has a large percentage of the corporate market. In my time at Microsoft I saw a large number of customers with sunk costs in Cisco voice solutions that just didn’t want to budge, and as such Exchange Online was off-limits, this announcement may see those customers review that position.

For the detailed step by step guide on configuring Cisco Unity for use with Office 365 go here:

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/voice_ip_comm/connection/8x/unified_messaging/guide/85xcucumg025.html#wp1189441

First posted by Ryan here: http://wp.me/p2g7KP-4w

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