Tag Archives: Mobility

Technology

Microsoft Surface: my attempt to cut through the hype

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve watched the hype build about Microsoft’s mysterious mystery event (thank goodness I missed the build-up last week as I was still on holiday in France…), watched the news break, and watched everyone either go ooooh, ahhhh, or hrmmm…

I couldn’t stand it any more and decided that I too should weigh in with my comments on some of the comments I’ve seen about Microsoft Surface. I may even come back and add to this list over the next few days:

  • Microsoft is too late to the tablet game: Maybe they are. There’s the iPad, and then there’s… well, no-one really. But there’s still plenty to play for. Maybe back in 2007 someone asked for a tablet and got a table instead? Seriously, the device we previously knew as Surface was rebranded PixelSense last year, but we don’t seem to get the PixelSense screen tech in the Surface tablets.
  • It looks good: it does – really good. But we don’t yet know enough about the Surface hardware – if this is underpowered, or battery life is poor, or the screen is unresponsive, then it will fail, just like all the other iPad wannabes.
  • The keyboard in the cover is a gimmick/great idea/an admission that soft keyboards don’t work: horses for courses, I’d say – there are times when I use my iPad keyboard and times when I elect for a physical version – this way we get both.
  • Microsoft is cutting OEM’s throats? Are they really? My view (personally, not as an employee) is that it’s saying “come on guys, this is what can be done when you put your mind to it – stop letting Apple run away with the tablet market and design something that’s just as good, now that we have (finally) got an operating system (nearly) ready for you”. But there is an issue when (presumably) Microsoft doesn’t charge itself $85 per device for a copy of Windows.
  • This will undermine Ultrabook sales: perhaps it will, but however big the marketing push, they would have been niche anyway. Do IT Managers really have money to spend on “sexy” laptops when functional ones cost half as much? It might have killed off the Windows tablet market though, except that Surface will only be available from Microsoft Stores and online, which limits its availability somewhat, and makes it a consumer-only purchase. OEMs don’t really need to worry too much (sure, PC sales are in decline… but there are many factors behind that and mobile devices have been expected to surpass PC for a while now). And for those of us outside the US… we might not even get a sniff.
  • Ah, so it’s for consumers, so it puts Microsoft back in the game when it comes to consumerisation? Hrm Not really. On BYOD, there seems to be a shift towards choose your own device (CYOD) – i.e. we’ll give you more choice, maybe even let you contribute to have a better device, but it needs to run Windows. CIOs do need to re-architect applications to embrace cloud, mobility, big data and consumerisation – but that’s a big ask and it’s not happening overnight. Until then there’s life in Windows 7 (and 8) for a while. And laptops/tablets are only one side of the story; Microsoft is still struggling for smartphone market share…
  • Two versions of Windows, both on Surface devices, one that runs Windows RT and one for Windows 8 Pro – what gives? On this I agree, it will confuse the market. Maybe the x86 hardware should have been a reference platform for OEMs to sell in the business market, with ARM to consumers?
  • Analysts say… Really. There is some really good insight there, seriously. But now what do CIOs say? How about: where will this help me to deliver business value; what’s the impact on the rest of the IT environment; how can I transition to become a competitive (internal) IT service provider who no longer cares about devices and operating systems? Having said that, I think Forrester’s Sarah Rotman Epps is correct to highlight issues with the way Windows is marketed and sold, and IDC’s Crawford Del Prete (@Craw) is right on the money:
MSFT Surface must win the hearts of consumers before the minds of CIOs. Good start #surface
@Craw
Crawford Del Prete

For some time now, we (geeks, tech journalists and IT types like me) have lambasted Microsoft for being unimaginative, lacking innovation, and for being late to market. This time they have something bold, exciting and that could really shake up the way that PCs look and feel. They’ve also kept it secret and created a buzz (albeit a little too early, some might say) perhaps a bit like another company that seems to get credit for everything it does…

Let’s give the Surface a chance to get out of the door before we write it off, hey? It could actually be really good.

Now, what are they doing about smartphones?

Technology

Consumerisation think tank panel at Dell Technology Camp 2012 (#DellTechCamp)

Yesterday afternoon, I took part in a panel discussion on the evolution of consumerisation as part of a Dell Technology Camp and in advance of the publication of the third part of Dell/TNS Global’s Evolving Workforce research.  It was the first time I’ve taken part in an event like this and I have to admit I was pretty nervous but it was also an enjoyable experience – particularly given the wonderful surroundings of the Saatchi Gallery in south-west London.  I only wish I’d been able to tweet during the event (I did scribble some notes but was focusing so much on the conversation that tweeting would have been a step to far for this Gen-Xer who isn’t so great at “partial attention”!)

Evolving Workforce Think Tank @ #DellTechCampChaired by Stephen O’Donnell (@stephenodonnell), the discussion examined a number of topics related to consumerisation, including: the generational divide myth; recruiting and retaining talent; new working practices; technology choices; security;controlling costs and driving profit; and the impacts of geography and market sector on progress.

Dell have produced a Storify story about the whole day (not just the panel discussion) – and you can catch the recording of the live stream – but, for those who don’t have a couple of hours to spare, I thought I’d blog the highlights… I guess you could think of them as the tweets that never were:

  • Stephen Yap, TNS UK: It’s a myth that only generation Y gets “social” and consumerisation; TNS’ research finds that older generations are more accepting of IT as a transformation agent (and younger people are more sceptical).  [Something that one of my Baby Boomer colleagues, Vin Hughes, suggested over a year ago in a blog post about the digital world and generational labels.]
  • Alexis Lane, The Head Partnership: Organisations need a element of control to stay within the law, including open communication of policies.
  • Stephen Yap: IT is not just a utility – get it right and it can be a motivator for employees.
  • Mark Wilson (@MarkWilsonIT): The IT department is just a provider of “stuff” in our personal clouds – just like our bank, supermarket, email provider, etc. [Credit is due to Joe Baguley (@JoeBaguley) for that one... also see my post on the rise of the personal cloud, inspired by David Gentle (@DaveGentle).]
  • Helen Calthrop-Owen, Axicom: Consumerisation is part of a bigger change regarding how people work together.
  • Tim Weber (@Tim_Weber), BBC: Policies alone are not enough – citing Joshua Klein (@JoshuaKlein) he says that we need to “hack our work“, noting that it could get you fired, or you could be a big winner.
  • Bryan Jones (@BryanAtDell), Dell: It’s not “lazy IT” that holds us back so much as cultural challenges – the key is to create “competitive differentiation”.
  • Mathias Knöfel (@MathiasContext): Consider the cost factors and end user benefit – given a choice users will pay for flexibility.
  • Mark Wilson: Get under the surface of BYO and you’ll find it’s more about choice – giving users the ability to trade up to a “sexier” device [credit due to Garry Martin (@GarryMartin).]
  • Stephen Yap: Emerging markets see employer-provided devices as attractive (they tend not to have PCs at home); meanwhile in the US/Canada it’s about Bring Your Own Cloud [what I called the personal cloud] – questioning the need for corporate IT. Not so much about the choice of device but working in the way in which we have become accustomed to.
  • Alexis Lane: Increasingly difficult to draw lines of ownership (intellectual property and corporate data vs. life) – often old questions arise in a new context (e.g. the ownership of a contact database cf. LinkedIn profile).
  • Stuart Collingwood, Nivio: Enterprise-grade social media does exist; devices are more emotional and entitlement can create friction (i.e. who is entitled to what); light touch integration is required for end users to access corporate IT.
  • Bryan Jones: There is no silver bullet (in terms of technology); what’s required is a “portfolio discussion” about on premise IT; extrenal service provision (e.g. cloud) and how to bridge the gap.
  • Stuart Collingwood: Employee expectations for IT performance are “brutal”; tolerance of “corporate lethargy” and inflexible applications has dropped.
  • Tim Weber: Users tend to blame devices or applications but may be other issues; legacy holds us back (e.g. network performance).
  • Mark Wilson: Returning to issues of cost – tax implications with benefits in kind – need clearer advice from government.
  • Bryan Jones: The consumer knows what is possible – consumerisation is not solely an IT issue but raises business functional questions. The trick is to simplify IT, to become more responsive – and innovation is occurring whether we like it or not – there’s an opportunity to embrace it and to listen across the organisation, not just to IT.
  • Stephen Yap: There’s a shift towards outcome-based working with an unspoken contract between freedom and blurred boundaries [i.e. no more 9-5] and digital natives find this easier to understand.
  • PJ Dwyer, Dell: Flexible working is popular, but some employees dislike the remoteness/don’t feel part of the team.
  • Tim Weber: In addition to recognition issues, some roles require collaborative working and presence; interesting to see that Twitter (distributed by nature) has triggered Tweet-Ups – the Human Being is a social animal and companies are social organisations; consider team dynamics (e.g. in a large team, others suspicious that they are carrying the load) – management becomes a task of ensuring everyone knows what their colleagues are doing.
  • Marie-Christine Pygott, Context: Communications occur in many ways – if employees are not present, they are not on the mind of others (you can’t walk over to their desk for a chat).
Evolving #Workforce: Does a flexible working policy turn you into a flexible but virtual.. hermit?
@TNS_UK
TNS UK
  • Stephen O’Donnell: We need a virtual watercooler, do we need to use social media to highlight work milestones [or even, "I'm taking the kids to school, I'll be back in 20 mins"]?
  • Stuart Collingwood: Expect to see that scenario become more common as future generations enter the workplace (and we’re already seeing changing literacy styles, such as use of “text speak” in written English).
  • Carly Tatum, Dell: Communications work in different ways; bringing people into a group situation from social media context can induce a different dynamic [one that doesn't always work].
  • Mathias Knöfel: Often, meeting people face to face changes the relationship from that point onwards.
  • PJ Dwyer: Emerging markets have different perspectives, due to different stages of development.
Emerging countries leapfrogging with tech as no legacy technology. Getting best tech, big incentive #DellTechCamp
@GStudentAgain
Margo Smale
  • Stephen Yap: In BRIC, for example, skipping PCs and moving straight to smartphones; also leapfrogging legacy in the workplace – not as encumbered.  It will be interesting to see the change as security, etc. become bigger issues in developing nations. Also cultural differences as in some geographies work and technology may act as motivators.
  • Alexis Lane: When talking about the security of information, we need to understand what it is we are protecting. It’s not realistic to say “everything” – what can we be more relaxed about?
  • Tim Weber: The “castle/moat model” makes less sense as we become more mobile and blast more holes in the walls – need to look at data level and see what can be done to protect it; requires clever thinking, supported by technology, to understand how to protect the things that are critical to your company.
  • Stuart Collingwood: We have to think differently about how we build systems – it’s hard (and expensive) to retrofit so we need to re-architect from the ground up.

Graphic Recording from Evolving Workforce Think Tank at #DellTechCamp

Key takeaways

For those who find even that list too much to work through – here are the key takeaways from around the table:

  • Stephen O’Donnell: Consumerisation is happening, it won’t stop – indeed it will accelerate; employees like it, it frees them up from coming to the office as well as from Victorian-style employment contracts; work is becoming more outcome-based; difficult to draw line between work and home; requires serious management – need to think, plan and come up with new ways of thinking.
  • Tim Weber: There is no single solution; every company needs to look at legacy – not just productivity and happy employees but the underlying stategic business model – suss that out and have clarity of thinking to drive company forward; remain flexible as things will constantly change on the roadmap.
  • Mathias Knöfel: BYOD gives opportunities for flexibiity with the right incentives but also risks that need to be thought through more carefully (e.g. legal/risk).
  • Mark Wilson: From an end-user perspective, don’t just think about the “Digital Natives”, also consider “Digital Pioneers” who have seen previous waves of IT transformation and those with no time/inclination too (Digital Luddites); from a management standpoint we need to develop new attitudes to work – become more trusting and results oriented; and the IT department needs to address issues around legacy, removing barriers through innovation and avoiding stagnation; finally, we can’t close lid on this box!
  • PJ Dwyer: It’s happening now; organisations need to be proactive and it affects not just IT but also HR, legal – indeed the whole business. Flexibility and choice are key to success and aspirations vary by market and geography.
  • Marie-Christine Pygott: There are pros and cons to consumerisation – it changes the dynamic of an organisation – the way people work, their flexibility, work/life balance but also who teaches whom – employees suggest more about the technology used; there is no single solution and we need need integrated strategies; communication is vital; also differentiation in different parts of the world.
  • Stuart Collingwood: Consider company culture – not just policy and structural issues – need to instil communications protocols, sensitivities and context within company culture – requires a top down approach.  Culture is safety net and policy handbooks are not enough. People will use technology more responsibly than you might give them credit for.
  • Alexis Lane: Embedding culture of the organisation and taking a decision as to what the company needs to be is important. It’s exciting to consider technology as a motivation – and from a legal perspective we need to get to heart of data issues.
  • Bryan Jones: Not just a technology discussion – people and process too; competitive advantage downstream is enormous; culture is critical to changing the dynamic in a company; it permeates, into how we communicate internally and how we interact with customers.
  • Stephen Yap: Enterprise IT has ever been more exciting than now; we’re at a tipping point, elevating the significance of IT within the organisation and to our lives; not just about IT professionals but it makes a difference to all – in how we work and how we live; not just happy and motivated workers but new business models, new ways of doing things. And the conversations that we’re having are more strategic than 10 years ago; IT is making a bigger difference than ever before.

tl;dr view

Stephen O’Donnell’s summary: there is an enormous opportunity for businesses to adopt and drive the socialisation and consumerisation of IT; to really make a difference in driving down costs, improving agility and improving employee/customer communication. On the other side, there is a risk that we “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, that we don’t follow the processes because it’s all new, that we under manage employees, don’t deal with security appropriately, don’t invest in the underlying infrastructure and so don’t achieve the benefits.

Image credits – Dell’s Official Flickr Page, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Visual communication/storytelling by Creative Connection.

Technology

Short takes: Flexible working and data protection for mobile devices

It’s been another busy week and I’m still struggling to get a meaningful volume of blog posts online so here are the highlights from a couple of online events I attended recently…

Work smarter, not harder… the art of flexible working

Citrix Online has been running a series of webcasts to promote its Go To Meeting platform and I’ve attended a few of them recently. The others have been oriented towards presenting but, this week, Lynne Copp from the Work Life Company (@worklifecompany) was talking about embracing flexible working. As someone who has worked primarily from home for a number of years now, it would have been great for me to get a bit more advice on how to achieve a better work/life balance (it was touched upon, but most of the session seemed to be targeted how organisations need to change to embrace flexible working practices) but some interesting resources have been made available including:

Extending enterprise data protection to mobile devices

Yesterday, I joined an IDC/Autonomy event looking at the impact of mobile devices on enterprise data protection.

IDC’s Carla Arend (@carla_arend) spoke about how IDC sees four forces of IT industry transformation in cloud, mobility, big data/analytics and social business. I was going to say “they forgot consumerisation” but then it was mentioned as an overarching topic. I was certainly surprised that the term used to describe the ease of use that many consumer services provide was that we have been “spoiled” but the principle that enterprise IT often lags behind is certainly valid!

Critically the “four forces of IT industry transformation” are being driven by business initiatives – and IT departments need to support those requirements. The view put forward was that IT organisations that embrace these initiatives will be able to get funding; whilst those who still take a technology-centric view will be forced to continue down the line of doing more with less (which seems increasingly unsustainable to me…).

This shift has implications for data management and protection – managing data on premise and in the cloud, archiving data generated outside the organisation (e.g. in social media, or other external forums), managing data on mobile devices, and deciding what to do with big data (store it all, or just some of the results?)

Looking at BYOD (which is inevitable for most organisations, with or without the CIO’s blessing!) there are concerns about: who manages the device; who protects it (IDC spoke about backup/archive but I would add encryption too); what happens to data when a device is lost/stolen, or when the device is otherwise replaced; and how can organisations ensure compliance on unmanaged devices?

Meanwhile, organisational application usage is moving outside traditional office applications too, with office apps, enterprise apps, and web apps running on increasing numbers of devices and new machine (sensor) and social media data sets being added to the mix (often originating outside the organisation). Data volumes create challenges too, as well as the variety of locations from which that data originates or resides. This leads to a requirement to carefully consider which data needs to be retained and which may be deleted.

Cloud services can provide some answers and many organisations expect to increasingly adopt cloud services for storage – whether that is to support increasing volumes of application data, or for PC backups. IDC is predicting that the next cloud wave will be around the protection of smart mobile devices.

There’s more detail in IDC’s survey results (European Software Survey 2012, European Storage Survey 2011) but I’ve certainly given the tl;dr view here…

Unfortunately I didn’t stick around for the Autonomy section… it may have been good but the first few minutes were feeling too much like a product pitch to me (and to my colleague who was also online)… sometimes I want the views, opinions and strategic view – thought leadership, rather than sales – and I did say it’s been a busy week!

Technology

Giffgaff gotcha

A few months ago, I wrote about Giffgaff – and I’m still very happy with paying less for a mobile service on the O2 network than I would from O2 (and earning credit for referrals, answering questions, etc. in the process).  Unfortunately I fell foul of a little complexity in the service this week and I think it’s worth mentioning.

Giffgaff account detailsAfter getting cut off a call mid flow, I logged into the Giffgaff website, under My giffgaff, looked for the My account panel, and saw that my credit had reduced from around £5 to just 16p.  The reason was that my “Goodybag” (a bundle of calls, text and data) had expired and that the “Auto Top-up” only applies to my “credit” balance (a separate pay as you go balance for chargable services that are not included in the Goodybag, like 0845 numbers).

It is possible to buy your next Goodybag to pick up where an expired one has left off (as you can see, I’ve done this now) – but that’s not the same as Auto Top-up.  (Quite why my Auto Top-up didn’t trigger is anyone’s guess but I’m kind of happy it didn’t as I would have carried on chatting and surfing, thinking I was using my included minutes/megabytes, but actually spending money…)

Get a free giffgaff SimAs I recommended Giffgaff to readers of this blog (indeed, I still do recommend them), I thought I should highlight this potential source of confusion, in case anyone else trips up like I did!

[Update 18 June 2012: Giffgaff have announced that they will launch recurring Goodybag topups on 20 June 2012)

Technology

Just bought the latest smartphone? Your old “brick” might come in useful somewhere too!

I bought my first mobile phone in 1995 (a Nokia 2140). At the time my friends thought I was “yuppie” and there was a bit of a social stigma attached (to be fair, I was a bit of an idiot about it) but, within a couple of years mobiles were starting to become universally accepted…

Fast forward almost two decades and, a couple of weeks ago, I was at an event where Telefonica O2’s vice president of research and development, Mike Short, mentioned that there are now 6 billion mobile devices in our world and that’s still growing at a phenominal rate. The telcos count this based on subscriptions (which includes feature phones, smartphones, tablets, mobile payment systems, and more) but have you ever thought about the uses that old mobile handsets can be put to?

I have a Nokia 6021 that I keep as a spare handset (it’s pretty dumb, but makes calls, has Bluetooth, battery lasts a while, and it’s almost indestructable) but most of my other handsets have been sold or recycled over the years.

O2’s recycling scheme supports their Think Big programme but I’d like to think there’s a fair chance that old handsets can find a use in the developing world too. Because mobile commerce is not just about smartphones – the Mobile Internet and NFC – but, in parts of the world where bandwith is more scarce, there are many examples of mobile projects using SMS, or even a missed call:

So maybe it’s time to dig out that old mobile that’s gathering dust somewhere and send it for recycling? Even if there is limited financial reward for you, it might still have a life elsewhere, or, at the very least the components can be recycled for environmental purposes.

Technology

Giffgaff – why did no-one tell me about this before?

Get a free giffgaff SIMOver the Christmas holidays, I completed my new year rationalisation of mobile contracts by switching my mobile phone from O2 (£16.50 for 200 minutes and a 500MB data bolt on, monthly rolling contract) to Giffgaff (£10 for 250 minutes and “unlimited” data). Having done so, I really don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner (apart from the fact I didn’t know about it!) – especially as Giffgaff not only runs on O2’s network but is actually owned by Telefonica/O2! Indeed, O2’s own careers website describes Giffgaff like this:

“Giff-what? Yes, we know it’s a funny name. Giffgaff is a brand new mobile network that doesn’t play by mainstream rules.

Instead, the company’s customers help run the company in return for cash rewards. Hence the term ‘giffgaff’, which means ‘mutual giving’, as any ancient Scot will tell you.

Customers can earn rewards for helping other customers with queries, designing marketing materials or by recruiting new members.

The business runs a tight ship – it has no call centres, high street shops and doesn’t splash out on expensive, glossy ad campaigns.

The result of this is that giffgaff keeps its costs low and and is able to pass the savings on to all its customers.

Although giffgaff is owned by O2 it is run as a separate company by a small group of passionate, full-time employees based in Beaconsfield just 8 miles north of Slough.”

This sounded good – and with a referral code that earned both me and the referrer a £5 credit I signed up. If you’re interested in signing up then we can both earn a fiver too!

So, what’s the catch? Surely there has to be one? The only difference that I can see is the support framework if things don’t work as they should. There is community support and you can “ask an agent” from the Giffgaff website but there is no call centre (which, depending on your view of call centres, may be A Good Thing).

Once I received my SIM, I activated it, including adding a £10 Goodybag to my account and then started to plan for transferring my number. I’ve had the same mobile number for a long time (10 years or more) and I didn’t want to lose it but there was clear guidance on the Giffgaff website setting out  the steps I needed to take to transfer my number and setting my expectations for the day of transfer (although I did panic a bit when the number still  hadn’t ported at the end of business hours – it finally became live in the early evening). I also needed to cut down the Giffgaff SIM to fit my phone (most phones use the standard SIM but my Nokia Lumia 800 uses a micro SIM) – there’s a template for this but I bought a SIM cutter for a few pounds on the Internet.

With my voice services transferred I needed to set up the APN for mobile data access on my smartphone, set up mobile messaging, and set up voicemail. All of this was covered in a handy Giffgaffer’s guide to Windows Phone 7(.5) – I’ve sure there are similar guides for iOS, Android, etc. too.

All in all, I’m really pleased with my switch to Giffgaff. If you’re not happy messing around with SIMs and entering a few settings in your phone, it may not be for you, but for anyone who is out of contract with their current mobile provider, is happy supporting their own technology, and who can get an O2 signal (the O2 status checker provides coverage details for a given postcode) then Giffgaff might be worth a try.

Technology

Making an “ordinary” O2 3G data SIM work in an iPad without a tariff change

The history of my various mobile telcommuncations contracts is a long one, so I’ll spare readers the details but after my recent customer service debacle with Three, I’ve cut them loose (they tried to offer me an iPad 2 for “free” to stay with them… the sort of “free” that involves a 2 year contract… no thanks…).

I planned to use an O2 SIM that was already activated for mobile data in my iPad so I cut it down to micro SIM size, using a cutter that I bought on the ‘net for a few pounds. After booting the iPad with the new SIM, it found the O2 network but told me that I didn’t have a data contract and gave me a number to call O2, and a reference to quote (the identifier for my SIM).

O2 told me that it would require a tariff change and that iPad data is different to mobile broadband. I’m sure they meant that it’s billed differently, rather than that it’s different in any other way (special Apple “iTCP/IP” or “iHTTPS”?) but Tim Biller (@Timbo_Baggins) suggested I look at the Access Point Name (APN) settings.

It took a while to find the right ones – googling for APN O2 iPad told me to change from ibrowse.o2.co.uk (username/password: browse/password) to idata.o2.co.uk (username/password: vertigo/password) but they didn’t work. I needed to think of this the other way around: my SIM works in a 3G dongle so I googled APN O2 dongle and found an extensive list of APNs for UK mobile network providers. Changing the APN in my iPad to mobile.o2.co.uk (username/password: web/web) did the trick, as tested by browsing the ‘net (albeit only GPRS where I live) with Wi-Fi turned off.

The advantage of this approach is that the same SIM now works in my iPad or in my dongle (using an adapter) allowing 3G data access from either device, on the same bill, but only one at a time (that’s fine).

Next step is to switch my phone over from O2 (£16.50 a month including 500MB data) to Giffgaff (£10 a month with unlimited data, same network…). I already have the SIM, just waiting to get Christmas out of the way before I try to transfer my phone number!

[Update 16 January 2012: Some time over the last few days, this stopped working for me. The SIM is still active and works in my 3G dongle, but I guess O2 have made some changes in the network that stop this simple APN change from working with an iPad - madness, as my iPad must place less load on the network than a dongle with a Windows PC, albeit more than a smartphone would...]

Technology

A workaround for iPad users/Three UK subscribers to access their mobile broadband bills on another device

Three UK (3) has just been added to my list of mobile operators who haven’t got a clue about customer service.

For the last few months I’ve been using Three’s mobile broadband service on my iPad. The in-store service when I joined the network was pretty lousy but today that got a whole lot worse. I needed to store a copy of my bills and found that the My 3 portal was only available to me over Three’s 3G network from my iPad. Access from a PC, or over Wi-Fi needed a password. And resetting that password needed the ability to receive SMS, a capability that my iPad does not have…

So I called Three. Actually, I rang several numbers for Three, trying to avoid paying for the call (I can’t use their free number because I don’t have a phone on their network…) and I spoke to someone who understood the issue but couldn’t help because they were in the mobile dongle department. He transferred me to someone in the iPad team (approx. 10 minute wait…) who confirmed I could only access my bills on my iPad and when I asked how I could download them he suggested either dragging and dropping them to my email (what?!). At this point, I think he was well off his script and just making things up but he asked me if I have an iPhone 4S. I don’t, so he suggested going into store, putting my SIM into the store’s iPhone 4S, and getting the password sent by SMS to it…

[Thinking about the situation as I write this post, I don't have an iPhone 4S but I do  have another phone that can take a micro SIM... but Three asked if I had an iPhone 4S]

My issues here are: having to pay to speak to a customer service agent and being kept on hold for a while; getting poor advice from the agent (unless Three can tell me how to drag and drop my bill from their portal to my email, on an iPad); and not getting an answer to my problem. Visiting a store is simply not worth the effort (20-odd mile drive, pay for parking, an hour of my time) – but could well lose Three a customer.

I did find a workaround though, for anyone who has Dropbox installed on their iPad…

  1. Disconnect from any Wi-Fi networks and open the My 3 portal on the iPad (My 3 loads in Safari without asking for credentials if you are connected to the Three network with a 3G connection).
  2. Navigate to Recent Bills and press/hold the PDF icon to open a bill.
  3. Once loaded, open the PDF in Dropbox – it will be saved as a file called viewInvoice.nocache, which is a PDF file, but without the correct file extension.
  4. Rename viewInvoice.nocache to add a .PDF file extension and open it as normal on any device you like.

Interestingly, O2 (whose incompetence caused me to switch my mobile broadband to Three in the first place, but who did later take steps to address the issue) still send me an email every month to say that my mobile broadband payment has failed… that suggests my account is still live… maybe with 5GB of data still loaded… perhaps I should search for that micro SIM and try it again…

Technology

iMessage – the makings of a great idea but still needs some work

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences with iCloud and photostreams. Well, now I’d like to touch on another iOS-related topic: iMessage.

Released to much fanfare about how it will save us all money because we won’t have to pay carriers for SMS, over here in the UK most packages include so many text messages that SMS is pretty close free anyway…

But iMessage has a problem. It actually gets in the way of message transmission.

Last week I wanted to send a message to my Manager. SMS was fine – I just needed to say I was running a few minutes late for our meeting and I would call him shortly. That’s what SMS is good for, right? Except that we’re both iPhone users, so iOS tried to send the message via iMessage. For some reason it couldn’t do that so, after five minutes, it timed out and and sent the message as an SMS instead. Except by then it was too late – SMS is an unreliable transport (i.e. there is no guarantee of delivery) but it’s generally immediate (as long as the device is in range and switched on). Unfortunately, iMessage’s delay meant that my Manager didn’t get my “running late” message until it was, literally, too late.

Send As SMS is an option in iOS, but it’s only a fallback when iMessage is enabled. Meanwhile iMessage has lots of potential for group collaboration and asynchronous conversations. I actually think Apple is onto something with a unified client for various message transports (now they need to add email, social networks, etc. into the mix) but it needs a manual override option too…

Technology

Big things are happening

I saw a great video from Cisco this morning. The fact it’s from Cisco isn’t really relevant (indeed, if I showed it without the last few seconds you woudn’t know) but it’s a great example of how IT is shaping the world that we live in (or, maybe, how the world we live in is driving technology):

In case you can’t see the video above, here are some of the key statistics it contains:

  • Humans created more data in 2009 alone than in all previous years combined.
  • Over the last 15 years, network speeds have increased 18 million times.
  • Information is moving to the cloud; 8/10 IT Managers plan to use cloud computing within the next 3 years.
  • By 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25% of IT labour hours.
  • We’re using multiple devices: by 2015 there will be nearly one mobile-connected device for every person on earth.
  • 2/3 of employees believe they should be able to access information using company-issued devices at any time, at any location.
  • 60% believe they don’t need to be in an office to be productive.
  • This is creating entirely new forms of collaboration.
  • “The real impact of the information revolution isn’t about information management but on relationships; the ability to allow not dozens, or hundreds, but thousands of people to meaningfully interact” [Dr Michael Schrage, MIT].
  • By 2015 companies will generate 50% of web sales via their social presence and mobile applications.
  • Social business software will become a $5bn business by 2013.
  • Who sits at the centre of all this? Who is managing these exponential shifts? The CIO.

Of course, we might expect to see many of these figures cited by a company selling social collaboration software and networking equipment but they are a good indication of the way things are heading.  I would place more emphasis on empowered employees and customers redefining IT provisioning (BYO, for example); on everything as a service (XaaS) changing the IT delivery model, on the need for a new architecture to manage the “app Internet”; and on big data – which will be a key theme for the next few years.

Whatever the technologies underpinning the solution – the overall direction is for IT to provide business services that add value and enhance business agility rather than simply being part of “the cost of doing business” – maybe we need more videos like this to help us think about the possibilities?

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