Tuesday 17 February 2015

Windows 10 means Microsoft 2.0

A little while ago, I was reading an article from Cliff Saran on Computer World titled Windows 10: Microsoft at the crossroads which I consider some required reading for those following the recent change of fortunes for Microsoft. 

I think that Microsoft has suffered from an image problem for the past few years. I won't go into the details, but I think that Windows 8 was a really good example of a company that stopped listening properly to their existing and prospective customers.

I think that has Microsoft has changed. And, more importantly it continuing to change.

Cliff's article details the different ways that Microsoft is handling both the release and the upkeep of their next version of the Windows operating system. As Forrester has noted that roughly 10% of users have migrated to Windows 8.x and even fewer enterprise customers have plans to move to Windows 8.x, Microsoft needed to change it's game. 

And, I believe it has done so with Windows 10 in three major ways. 

Windows 10 will be a subscription model
First, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for the first 12-months. After that we can assume that Microsoft will charge a monthly or yearly subscription. This is fundamental change for Microsoft from a license perspective with a move away from monolithic upgrades to a newer version. Windows 10 will then operate on a subscription basis - just like Office 365. Which for Office, seemed to work pretty well. (Disclaimer: our company uses it, and things seem OK so far.) 

Microsoft Universal Apps
Microsoft has released a really cool augmented visualization tool called HoloLens that solves some the nasty VR issues (like being sick in front of your friends) and allows computer generated graphics (think Skype video-chats and your current MineCraft project) to be over -layed onto your living room or office space. Cool, but the key ideas behind this technology is that Microsoft is creating a form of universal applications that can be displayed on any medium including; desktops, tablets, phones and even the HoloLens. Think responsive websites but taken to the next level for all of the Microsoft application eco-system. You can read more about Microsoft Universal Apps strategy here

Business as Usual Migrations and Updates
The third key component of the new Microsoft strategy is a managed approach to continuous cycles of innovation. Since you are now buying a subscription with Windows 10, Microsoft will need to keep adding features to ensure that you stay with Windows. Recognizing that enterprise customers will need a mixed or more flexible approach, Microsoft will support a "consumer paced" update cycle, a four month delayed cycle and a way for customers to opt-out of certain features or all future updates. Gartner has a great diagram that illustrates the the new Microsoft update process as shown below;

With these core changes, I can now understand why Microsoft didn't call it Windows 9. In binary, 1 and 0 means the number 2. 

As I see it, Windows 10 is really Microsoft 2.0

Monday 9 February 2015

Microsoft Malware Protections in the Cloud - MAPS

When I first received my invite to join Google mail (Gmail) years ago, I was immediately surprised by what was missing: a global SPAM directory or registry. I thought to myself - this is the first time that someone knows what people are flagging as SPAM. Once you have a few (or maybe a few thousand) users complaining about a particular email (SPAM) from a particular sender (a SPAMMER) then you could be pretty sure that the email in question was SPAM. It was a crowd-sourced SPAM filter - updated dynamically by now millions of users every day. That omission was quickly corrected by Google, and now I have to say that their collective SPAM filter is very good. As is the more recent incarnation of Hotmail, Outlook.com

Which brings me to the next surprise. If Microsoft knows what people are using, and what kind of errors are occurring on the Windows desktop and server platforms, why doesn't Microsoft have the best crowd-sourced anti-malware and anti-virus system in the world? Who needs a monthly virus definition from Symantec (if you pay your money) when you should have daily, dynamic scans of your systems updated through the collective experience (wisdom) of hundreds of millions of other users?

Well, now you can. Sort of. You can now receive the benefit of other users' experience and dynamic updates through the Microsoft Active Protection Service (MAPS).

The Microsoft Active Protection Service is the cloud service that enables: Clients to report key telemetry events and suspicious malware queries to the cloud, whilst providing real-time blocking responses back to the client.
The MAPS service is available for all Microsoft's antivirus products and services, including:
  • Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection
  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • System Center Endpoint Protection
  • Windows Defender on Windows 8 and later versions
You can join the MAPS program through the free Microsoft anti-virus/malware program using the Settings tab as shown here:

To help manage your privacy concerns, Microsoft reports all data through an encrypted connection and apparently only relevant data is included in the analysis process. If you are an enterprise customer, your data is most likely blocked by your corporate firewall, and therefore your particular threat landscape won't be included in Microsoft's updates.

If you need to find out more about the related confidentiality agreement from Microsoft you can look at the Microsoft System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection Privacy Statement for details

To give you an idea of how this malware telemetry is being exploited, you can see from the following chart that System Center Endpoint Protection is actually contributing roughly 10% of the malware signatures reviewed and included in Microsoft updates. 

That means people like you and I adding to the system - resulting in 10% fewer malware attacks and fewer security incidents.

You can read more about the Microsoft Cloud Protection effort here on the Microsoft Malware Protection home blog page.