The September 2020 episode of Wechsler Consulting Cloud News comes with a flashlight on the highlights of the Microsoft Ignite 2020 conference, including Azure Orbital, SQL Edge, WVD, Cognitive Services and many more!
This month’s focus topic are the Azure IOT announcements also made at Ignite.
I worked a lot with Microsoft mobile devices during my professional career helping OEMs to create devices as well as supporting customers to operate and manage up to 40.000 Windows Phones in their companies. The last version of Windows Lumia Phones had great hardware and they were really useful enterprise class devices, but, on the other hand, could not make an impact in the all-defining consumer market. This, mainly due to their lack of apps and small size of the eco-system. It was a sad day for me, when Microsoft pulled the plug on their phone business and I had to stow away my Lumia 950 XL, which I really liked due to its high-class, razor-sharp OLED display and the Windows Phone tile UI, which was easy and direct to operate. App development with C#, Visual Studio and .NET was fun and deployments secure using e.g. SCCM or Intune. Sorry, if this sounds a bit nostalgic! 🙂
However, I would never had thought that Microsoft would enter the mobile device space again after the huge losses the last attempts have created.
Surface Duo, therefore, was more than a surprise to me and in the beginning I was really skeptical, if Microsoft was having a “great idea” or just running another attempt to get a “bloody nose”!
After now having a closer look at the specs and capabilities, I cautiously tend to issue a “great idea” judgement, because Microsoft is doing quite some things differently this time! They are not trying to create a new development platform, but are betting on Android, an operating system created by a competitor, which is quite a step for the company. The obvious benefit is that immediately there is a wealth of apps and an intact eco-system available! In addition, they have focused innovation a new device class, the book design, which remotely reminds me at devices with keyboard like the Nokia Communicator as well as some of the HTC Pocket PC models. But, this time the approach is much more versatile, leveraging the two touch screens as display as well as input devices using pen or on-screen keyboard. The book design with hinges to me looks also much more robust and pragmatic than some of the folding screen approaches by the competition. There is some ongoing discussion on the missing second camera, but for normal day use cases the hardware looks well-equipped enough.
Major pain points are the really high price, probably significantly over 1.300,00 € over here in Europe and the fact that the device is currently sold only in the US and foreign markets are treated as second or third class citizens. Looking at the relatively short life time of mobile devices, this is hard to understand and companies such as Samsung and Apple, of course do global rollouts to surf the wave of excitement any device release creates within their dedicated user group. Not to mention that the history of this approach is not so encouraging looking at the list of devices (Zune, Microsoft Band, etc., …) that never went successfully global after an America-First release.
To get more technical info on Surface Duo, have a look at the great video above, or read the interesting and detailed Microsoft Mechanics blog post, which, thankfully, dives into technical details, to spare you the superficial marketing bla-bla one finds nowadays on standard product pages in the store.
Will I buy one, as soon as it becomes available here in Germany? Well, I am heavily tempted, because I do have a feeling that such a device could be a great productivity gain, kind of a small laptop at hand, especially travelling on plane or train, although I still think the price should be more reasonable!
However, sometimes there is pain, when you try to be “cutting edge”!
Many of us remember Windows Plug & Play and we certainly have some painful memories with it, especially originating in its early years. However, over time and with a lot of sweat and tears from the Microsoft product group, it evolved into a cool and robust feature of the Windows OS that has made the life of many IT-Professionals easier.
I am really thrilled about its capabilities! It is a new feature and therefore, yes, there will be some rough edges to expect as well as occasionally missing tool support along the journey, but as an IoT Architect, I would call this a very promising approach to tackle the device provisioning problem, we have in every solution. There are communication technologies available that try to manage this problem on company network level (such as e.g. OPC UA), but none of these have been able to develop a sound Cloud-native strategy, yet. The Plug & Play deep integration into Azure services such as IOTHub and Digital Twins has the potential to develop into a killer feature!
There is a great and detailed video by Olivier Bloch and Stefan Wick on the Azure IOT Show.
To me, this is just the beginning and I am looking forward to see more interesting developments around IoT Plug & Play happening in the following months. I can see room for a lot of IoT development process enhancements, modelling tools, solutions templates, to name just a few of the possible fields of innovation!