First thoughts about CrEdge (ium)

After listening to the very popular Windows Weekly podcast curtesey of Leo Laporte, Mary Jo Foley and Paull Thurrott, I thought I would take the new Chromium based Edge browser for a spin.    As Leo suggested in the podcast it didnt take to find a safe download ( as the browser has not been realeased yet), but I have now installed it on my Surface Go and have been really please with the results so far.

Up until CrEdge I have always used the current Edge version plus Google Chrome on my device,  as certain website would prove laggy or not open completely.  Now I am no web developer  but the new Edge seems very responsive and quick on all the website I have used so far.  However using Chrome has always been a bot of a processor hog to say the least.

So whats changed.

Well quite simply Edge has become a Chromium browser, instead of using the Trident rendering engine. This really means for the end user that …. it simply works and works well now.   Of course the frontend at present looks very much like Google Chrome, but I suspect this will evolve as it gets to release.

A clean clear cut view of the Chromium Edge browser

Whats works now is that you can use your Microsoft Account to sync information accross devices, you can also utilise the extensions from both the Microsoft Store and other 3 rd party stores.  So if you have your favourite Chrome extension, you can use that in the New Edge.   Other features that have made it accross are the Read Aloud feature, which offers the ability for students to get an accessible reading view of any webpage they are looking at.

The new Edge browser allows extensions to be installed from the Google Store

The other great thing is that it isnt just for Windows 10,  New Edge will be available for Windows 7 devices as well, giving compatability in browser technologies for companies moving to Windows 10 in the future. This is really important as we draw near the end of support for Windows 7 in Jan 2020.

So at present this becomes my default browser on my Surface, and I am super excited that the browser is this good this early on.    In this identity centric world we have I am also keen that I only need to manage my Microsoft Account, not having to manage a Google account on my device to.

A final word of warning

When the new Edge becomes available and you get to make it your default browser expect to see the warning message

You are replacing Edge with Edge? Do you want to make Edge your new default browser ?

 

Man I love humour in IT !

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Further adventures with Surface Go

My Surface Go  has proven its worth since purchasing it last year.    I now have standardised on the Surface Go whenever I am out at a customer site, as  discussed before at 1.15lbs its simply the lightest devie to pop in a rack sack and take with you.   My Surface Go is now running 19H1 (or 1903 in old money) version of Windows 10, so I can talk about the best of whats coming to WIndows in the future.

So as I pack the bag today for another client visit, I thought I would take a moment to talk about whats in the bag these days, and how I use some of the new connectivity with apps like Your Phone to get the best from my day to day to life with Surface Go.

So the first thing I have done to my Surface Go is to give it some body armour, really to protect from the day to day travels and knocks.  So I have invested in a Kensington case for the device.   This is great as it does not put to much weight on to the device, and concentrate on protecting the corners of the device in case it should slip out from your bag.    I would certainly reomend anyone looking at the device for daily out and about use or even a school looking at 1-2-1  the body armour is eesential!

The Surface Go with the durable Kensington body armour

The other greay thing about the Kensington case is that it leave the kick stand free, so you still get to use all of the Surface Go’s frictionless kickstand to get the best angle for use.    The case also has a pen holder for the Surface pen which is quite nice as you are not reliant on the magnetic strip to keep your pen close to you !

The only down side I have found with the case is the power connector, which can now be somewhat of a tricky operation to connect, event though its magnetic!  However a small price to pay in comparison to a new screen !

The space for the power connector can be a bit fiddly to get to

Now of course you may be aware that Surface Go has a USB-C connector, which can connect you to a massive list of accessories.   You can even charge your Surface Go via the USB, this is really handy if yoiu are travelling light and you only have your phone charge with you.   To use USB charging on the Surface Go, you need to have a charger that kicks out at least 15 watts of power, likewise if your looking to charge from a battery pack, you really need to ensure you have a USB-PD pack and cable,  this will enable the Surface Go to ‘Fast Charge’ from the pack . USB-PD stands for Power Delivery by the way !

The main adpater I plug into to USB-C is a USB-C to HDMI connector, allowing me to connect to HDMI displays (£34.99 from all good Microsoft Stores). This makes it easy to simply connect to any HDMI ready source via cable, however on the odd occasion where a cable doesnt reach etc I also carry a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter ! (Please remember to make sure that you keep your adapter firmware up-to-date).

Your Surface Go can be charged on the USB port

So thats what I take with me on my travels, however with the bi-annual updates to Windows, its the functionality that truly allows me to achive more with my Surface Go.

Your Phone

I have been an Android user ever since my trusty Windows Phone  was put into retirement. Currently I am running a Galaxy S8 device, but I connect that to my Surface Go with the Your Phone app. Your Phone was part of the 1809 release of Windows 10 and allows you to connect to your Andorid phone and retrieve the last 20 photos from the device and also send and receive texts.   So frequently when I am travelling on the train, I can text directly from Surface GO, sometimes I will leave the phone in my bag.    To setup Your Phone simply launch the app from the Start Menu, follow the instructions to text the link to your phone  and then download the companion app on the Android device and you should then be linked.

Get the Your Phone app up and running on your Surface Go

Where next for Your Phone ?  Well you may have caught the latest version of Your Phone now supports Android screen mirroring.  This means you can see your Android phone screen and use directly in the Your Phone app.    So using any of the Android apps ie Snapchat (if you need to)  to booking your next hotel for your business trip can now be completed on your Surface.   Note this is not running the app natively in Windows (however I suspect that may be in the a not to far distant release) but simply mirroing the screen, but its a great start in the world of truly mobile working accross devices.

19H1

With the next version of Windows 10 just receiving the finishing touches, I would also recomend the new Office webapp, which is a part of the new build. This Progressive Web App, connects you through to your Office 365 subscription in one click. Its incredibly useful as it gives you a great summary of where you are in the day.

Office PWA opens your world !

Select from your favourite apps, online apps and documents from one screen.  You can customise this space to meet your needs and requirement. Its a great imporovement on the previous version and is coming in the 1903 release of Windows 10.

In summary

Have you ever sat on a train, looked around you and seen everyone with there laptops tapping away on Excel for example?   Well this is the world of mobile working that embraces the highest paid office exec to first line worker.  However devices like the Surface Go empower this at an affordable price by giving you more functionality with Windows 10 and the power of the Microsoft Cloud.  Surface Go has truly established its place in the modern workers rack-sack of life.

I am now using the Surface Go as my out and about machine.  Listed above are just a few things that fine tune my working experience, but at the end of the day I have a full blown PC, which is extremely powerful when paired with the Microsoft Cloud for the Modern Workplace.

Take a look at Surface Go in the Microsoft Store – if your a student sign in with your EDU account to receive a student discount.

So what is the Windows Mixed Reality platform?

Do you remember the hype over the Windows Mixed Reality platform?  I certainly do !  That’s what made me go an order one on the day of launch, and I have got to say that after it arrived I was left fairly deflated with what I had just spent my money on. However with the arrival of my Surface Book2 I finally got it  and since then I have become a bit of an addict.

Tip one – get the right device to run WMR

Biggest tip for sure is get the right device to run Windows Mixed Reality!  When I first got the headset, I had heard the WMR would work on a Surface Pro 4, but plugging the device failed the WMR hardware test.  So I tried on a Surface Laptop, that too failed.   So I then brought a Lenovo laptop which met the criteria, I spent about £600 on the device, and though it ran it was very buggy.   For example the speed of setting the environment took upto 10 minutues easily.  Moving around was very a painful experience, yet the device met the requirement of WMR.  So the frustrations of a middle aged man came through and I packed it up and stored it underneath my bed.

Lets fast foward into October 2018 when I start my new job working with the amazing team in Surface in the UK supporting education customers on there journey. This meant I could get my hands on a Surface Book 2 !, with an 8th gen Intel processor and chipset I thought it would be an ideal candidate for WMR – and it was !

The Surface Book2 amazingly useful all round device but the powerhouse behind getting the best from WMR

 

Before I could use Surface with WMR of course I needed a new USB C to HDMI connector, so a swift purchase from the Microsoft store fixed that.   Plugged in the headset and boon we were away, in the same room which had taken 10 minutes to setup, we were ready to go within 10 seconds, I could use the WMR controllers to navigate around swiftly and easily from the comfort of my chair.

Tip two – think outside the box !

My job role is mainly based from home, which is good in some respects and bad in others.   The distraction of the being located near the coffee pot and in short range of the TV remote control can be a bit distracting.  However with WMR and my Surface Book 2 I created my virtual office, which would give me access to all the information I require.  I can :

  • Access my files
  • Using desktop applications
  • Use the Windows Store to add apps
  • Use Teams to make calls as require
  • Listen to music

So here is a quick look around my office

 

As you can see my various screens are set up!  Didn’t have to purchase four super large screen and put them in my office at home, I simply look and use the screen I want to.  As you can see my Mail app is open on the left hand side and on the right is my calendar.

How about typing?

Well typing is as easy for me as texting with the controllers. However with more applications like Microsoft Office, having inbuilt dictation I made not need to use them in the future.  Also the Immersive Reader application is now available in WMR also which allows for accessibility in using these headsets as it does across the rest of the Microsoft platform.

There aren’t many views like this – the view from my window !

It may sound bizarre in a world of open plan offices  and commuting to work, but having a view like this is quite therapeutic !  It means I can take some away from the screen as I would do in the physical world, listen to some music for example.

Here is another shot from the back of my office !   Seriously early days but being connected to the Microsoft Cloud services, Windows Mixed Reality allows me to be fully exploit the functionality in the comfort of my own home without the distractions.  Don’t get me wrong the WMR headset is not on my head all day but it does focus me my taking out the distraction of the space around me.

Where might this go?    Much as it did back in the 1960’s where someone invented the “open plan” office for striking collaboration and communication in teams of employees (which didn’t quite have the desired affect), students we are teaching could find this as a common way of working in the future. Certainly in school students with educational needs can find there own space and still take part in lessons.

It may well have been off to a slow start and overshadowed by the HoloLens device, but don’t under estimate the power of Windows Mixed Reality from Microsoft.

The buzz phrase is AutoPilot

Well, its all finished for another year – BETT 2019 that is, and what a great show it was.  This was my fifth year of speaking at the show and my first as a member of the Surface Education team.   It was very much four full on days with lots of questions about the Surface product range and especially the new Surface Studio 2.

The Surface stand in full swing at BETT 2019 with the new Surface Studio 2 nearest. The Surface Studio 2 has recently been released in the UK  (available 7th Feb) and contains an Intel 7th Gen I7 processor, 1TB full SSD storage as well as improved graphics processing and screen brightness, all bundled with the ever-popular 28-inch screen which can be lowered into ‘canvas’ mode.

The new Surface Go was also very popular amongst visitors – and it’s ever more popular in the 1-2-1 device rollouts, which really led to the most popular question – “can you tell me more about the Windows AutoPilot deployment”

Well, the short answer is Yes we can! – AutoPilot deployment is a new modern deployment solution available for Surface in the UK.

How does it work?

When you the customer orders a number of devices from a reseller, they are supplied with a Hardware Index File.  This file contains information about the machines you have ordered. When the devices have been delivered all you need to do is open the box and finish the Windows setup, type in your Office 365 account details and the machine will be ready to go (normally within 6-7 mins).   I am sure you will agree this is better than imaging machines and of course quicker for the IT Team!

What do you need to use AutoPilot?

Well you need the following checklist

  • Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD Premium)
  • Microsoft Intune
  • Office 365 tenant
  •  or everything above included in the Microsoft 365 A3 license (And more)

You will also need

  • A reseller that us using the AutoPilot service.

First steps

The first steps are to make sure you are working with a partner that supports AutoPilot.   When done so the partner (through the Microsoft Partner Centre) can request permission to have the role of adding devices to your Azure Directory. Simply put this means that when you order machines they can add them to your Azure Active Directory.

Next using the Intune blade in Azure you can create a deployment profile for new AutoPilot devices, here you can specify the Out of Box Experience for your users, for example skipping the EULA, deciding if the user should be a local admin etc.   Remember to brand your Azure Active Directory at this stage to personalise the experience even more for the end users.

Then the last step is to deploy setting and apps from Intune into the deployment group so that when a user unboxes the device and turns it on all they have to do is :

  • Set the default language
  • Sign in with Office 365

The machine will then configure itself according to the deployment policy.

We have created a simple process document as your starter with AutoPilot for your deployment of devices in schools.

The modern IT Pro toolkit

Windows AutoPilot is a key tool for the modern IT Pro, along with Microsoft Intune, and the Education Store. AutoPilot transforms teacher time as it rapidly allows for the deployment of Surface devices in the classroom.   Windows AutoPilot uses the functionality of Windows 10 to allow IT Pro’s to leverage the power of the cloud in the modern environment,   Legacy technologies such as disk imaging, have become a thing of the past.

Windows AutoPilot and Azure Active Directory allow you to take full control of your cloud connected device, delivering a Modern Desktop Experience to your users.

 

Microsoft Surface Go Part 2 – out in the field

So it has been 4 weeks into using the Surface Go as my main machine – and I thought it was time to share with you how this has gone.    One of my roles in my working week is to manage the IT infrastructure and IT Strategy at Old Buckenham High School in Norfolk.   Now traditionally my work machine for this role has been my Surface Pro 4 however, I thought I would see if the Surface Go would be able to take on the role of the  Pro 4.

Entry sign to Old Buckenham High School
Old Buckenham High School is a typical rural school in Norfolk and makes great use of the Microsoft Cloud

Lets run through a typical school day 

My day starts at home at about 6.30 when I get up and get sorted, a black coffee is soon followed by BBC Breakfast to see how the world is performing since I went to sleep. Generally, I will use the Office 365 admin to check the school’s tenant is functioning as it should be.   The Office 365 admin app is available for free from the Microsoft Store and gives you a health check on the status of your tenant.  

My Surface Go on the lounge table with a cup of tea next to it.
The day starts with using my Surface Go to check the Office 365 status

Next, I will arrive at school approx. 8.30 get into the office.   

Once I arrive in the office and click the kettle on, we spark up the Windows Mail application and check the email of the day. Now I am sure this is a daily ritual for many people, however I only see 14 overnight emails, this is primarily down to the use of Microsoft Teams in the school.  Microsoft Teams is the collaborative centrepiece of Office 365 for Teaching and Learning and has seen us reduce the use of email – instead of using the social media based in the Teams to communicate.

Next up is a visit into one of the IT Suites at the school, and the requirement to reset a few passwords for the new Year 7 students.    Though my Surface Go is running in ‘S Mode’, which means I cannot install Win32 apps, I soon download the Microsoft RDP client from the store, and RDP into the server to connect to the User and Computers snap-in to allow me to reset the student’s passwords.

Windows 10 “S Mode” v Windows 10

‘S Mode’ – In Windows 10 like the Surface Laptop the Go comes with Windows 10 running in ‘S mode’.   ‘S mode’ looks and feels like Windows 10 Pro and can access any of the Microsoft Store Apps including Office 365 Pro Plus.  As Microsoft Store apps effectively run in a sandbox environment, this helps ensure a day 1 – day 1000 experience on the device, also ‘S-Mode’ devices authenticate against Microsoft Azure AD, not local AD.    ‘S mode’ doesn’t support fundamental IT Pro’s tool such as PowerShell and Command prompt, so you may wish to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro or Edu.

I still use ‘S mode’ as its quicker to start up and I like the cloud management (more on that later) if I need PowerShell I simply either RDP into a Server or more recently an Azure VM that is connected through to our infrastructure.

Back in the Office, I use the Go with the Spotify app, and my £25.00 JVC Bluetooth headphones while I have lunch, and get on with a few more areas on our staff drive into there new homes in SharePoint online as we continue to move the school on its journey with the Microsoft Cloud.

As the bell goes a Teams notification pops up requesting some help on Microsoft Forms, so as we continue to move more services into the cloud it frees my time up from firefighting the technology to be able to support teachers to achieve more in the classroom.

So a quick pop into room 10 during the free period in the afternoon means we can offer support to the teacher so she can now build a quiz for students that auto marks itself.   Using the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter in the classroom means that I can simply “connect” to the projector to show what I am doing on the board.   After 20 mins of running through Forms, I simply swipe from the right, chose Connect and then Disconnect from the display.

Finally, the last job of the day is to do some routine maintenance on our Azure AD joined cloud devices using Intune for Education.  The Intune for Education portal is designed to admin your estate from any web-connected device, but with its full-size keyboard, I don’t eat into the screen real estate when I am on the move, unlike my iPad which was my companion device previously.

The Intune Education portal makes it simple to refresh a device overnight and also add a new science web app for deployment, so tomorrow, when they sign in kids, will have access to the resource.

The Surface Go running Intune for Education to manage the school cloud devices

Its only towards the end of the working day you realise the battery life is nearing the end,  Surface Go has up to a 9-hour battery life but in its day to day role in the school, it gets used throughout the day.  Though looking in my bag I realise I have left my Surface charger at home, I don’t have a problem as I get out a USB – C charger for my Samsung Galaxy S8, (which I carry with me all the time!).    With enough charge to last me the rest of the evening I quickly use the Your Phone app (which is linked to my Galaxy S8) to text my wife,  that I am on the way home.

So I am a couple of weeks into using the GO as my main machine and talking to colleagues about their own experiences with the device.   In general, I have been really pleased with what the money buys!   An ideal companion machine for my day to day work, as it been able to all the things I have asked of it  – YES,  do I render high-end quality video and need to use Photoshop to manipulate big images  – absolutely not.

I would say the best aspect is simply the portability of the device and the knowledge of having a fully fledged PC device in your bag which is not going to run out of battery life during the day.  Even it did, you can sleep easy in the fact of being able to use your phone USB charger on the go.    The screen quality I have been particularly impressed with, with its uni-bond construction it means sharing the display with people sitting next to you is no problem.

The Surface keyboard is always a great experience to type on and the size of the trackpad is a vast improvement on the Surface 3 from a few years ago.   I guess my only side is the comparison of the size of the keys against the Pro, for someone like me in my late 40’s who has always used a full-scale keyboard and having middle aged chubby fingers I find at the moment I suffer from hitting the wrong keys when typing sometimes.

Peripherals and extras.

I have invested in the new Surface Mobile mouse from the Microsoft Store, so when I am typing I can be a bit quicker with using the mouse.

The Surface Mobile Mouse

The Surface Mobile Mouse is light, ergonomic and only £29.99 from the store.     Of course, the Surface pen is the best experience and has meant I have used the device in ‘tablet’ mode on several occasions just using the pen to input.   I also very much like the thought of Windows Hello (Face ID) working in portrait mode as well as landscape, so I don’t have to bother about passwords if I haven’t got the keyboard attached.

For the IT Pro or not?

Is the Surface Go the right choice for the IT Pro in school?   Well, it can certainly deal with the pressures of what’s required to admin a network (through RDP) and use in the day to day job.   What’s priceless about the Surface Go is the portability of a full-blown PC with a weight of only 1.15lbs.  Fully functional running Microsoft Office, using Windows inking, using existing 3rd party software and leveraging all of your schools existing investments.

 

How would I rate the Surface Go 

Portability         10

Battery Life       10

Processor           8

Connectivity       9

Keyboard           9

Overall             9.2 /10 

 

My final thoughts

I guess  I would finish with the same thing I would say about any hardware that you buy, is that you need to get the best out of the device from the software or services you decide to run on the device.   It goes without saying by using the Microsoft Cloud, OneNote, Flow, Power BI etc means I get the utmost best from the portability of the device.   If I didn’t and only used it for word processing then any entry-level device would do.   However, as mentioned the portability around the school is absolutely priceless and also as I do a reasonable amount of train travel with my work the ‘lap ability’ factor is completely priceless even against my Pro device.

In the classroom the same is true with service like the Windows Mixed Reality program which allows students to mix the digital world with the physical, on a device for less than £300 means these are truly transformational times in the world of personal computing.

 

Say hello to Surface Go ! Part 1

OK so it arrived yesterday ! – my new Surface Go…  I have got to admit I am getting a bit of a device complex now, having a Surface Book, Surface Pro, Surface Laptop and now the Go.   I have got to be honest not one device does it all, I still find myself taking the Book out to do demo’s, where as I prefer the to use the Laptop for everyday… I was wondering whether the Go will reduce the wait I have to carry around with me on a day to day basis.

So what have I brought… well Surface Go is available in two flavours in the UK first is a 4gb memory 64gb storage version and the second is 8gb / 128gb.   I opted for the big brother.

First impressions

Well once out of the box you definitely know its a Surface device, the same build quality is evident from the moment you pick it up.   Against the Surface 3 you have the frictionless kick stand (aka Pro 4) which is a great improvement on a budget device.  Now my initial disappointment with the device (seeing that its aimed at students/ edu) is the adoption of a USB C adapter!   What I hear you cry – we have been after Surface devices with USB C for years now and you don’t want one ?    No no no no !  I welcome the inclusion of USB C, especially as I have a USB C phone which means one less charger to carry around,   but I also have a Surface charger  built-in to the device but no USB 3.0 port.

20180830_110402
Up close reveals the Go has a Surface Charger and a USB C  but no USB 3.0

Though we live in the cloud age, and this is a cloud book essentially, I still believe the majority of students would like to see a USB on the device, to plug in there USB stick or device (remember printers … we still use them!)   So perhaps ditching the Surface connector and have replacing it with USB 3.0 may have been a better call.

Powering on the device takes me through the typical Windows 10 setup and of course its great to have a chat with Cortana to tell her about the UK keyboard I need !.

So what Windows do you get ?

Well initially you will launch the device with Windows 10 Home in S mode.   So what exactly is S mode ?    So first lets start with Windows 10 Home – the lowest common denominator in the Windows family, its the ‘retail version’ of Windows so doesn’t come with the functionality of the Enterprise or Professional versions.    S – mode is the cloud variant of Windows 10, which gives you a super fast, super safe environment, looking like and behaving the same as Windows 10.  Imagine it as Windows 10 ‘Cloud’ ideal to work with Microsoft’s Office 365, so you can store your documents in the cloud and share and collaborate with others.  The main difference  is that any software you use will need to be installed from the Microsoft Store – S mode doesn’t support the older software i.e. things that come on a dvd or where you have to click a setup.exe file to get things started. OK  so here is the big deal with S Mode,  it promises to be a day 1 – day 1000 experience for the user, typical things that eventually slow a normal Windows device  down have been removed ensuring the device is always quick to start – no more hour glasses to watch.  Times are indeed changing ..

You know I almost forgot the keyboard !   a vast improvement on the Surface 3 version !  A trackpad that is well proportioned  and very useable and of course the Alcantara  feel makes it as good as the Pro 4 for any spillages  !

20180830_110424
A vast improvement in the keyboard in the GO.  Great feel to the using the keyboard and well proportioned trackpad  makes the device truly portable.

Of course as we continue our tour around the Go we find the MicroSd slot under the kickstand, supporting upto 256gb a quick and easy way to expand the capacity of the device.   I have already added a 64gb card and use it to sync my Onedrive for Business account so I am truly portable with or without internet connectivity (which can be very useful on the way into London on the train).

Beauty is only ‘Screen Deep’

I will be honest I thought I was going to struggle with a small 10 inch screen, however the Pixelsence screen is probably the best on any device. With a resolution of 1800 * 1200 and 10 point multi-touch it really is a pleasure to use – making clarity the top feature will be a key success for people to use the Go on the road. On that basis Surface Go is truly a beautiful device,

Have you said Hello to Windows Hello?

The camera’s are important on the Go to me, first off the front facing camera support Windows Hello. The Go has two camera’s   front facing (5mp) and world camera (8mp).  The rear camera is RGB and therefore support the Windows Mixed Reality platform, allowing students to blend the digital with the real world. However lets talk more about Windows Hello and how that improves the sign in experience. Windows Hello has been around since the launch of Windows 10 but normally on high end devices.  However Go brings you Windows Hello at an affordable price point.    Windows Hello replaces your password allowing only you to unlock your device.

Remember Surface Go is a budget version of the Surface family – and if your directly compare it to the Surface Pro you will be disappointed.  However I am now going to use the Go as my work device and see how I get on with it.

Surface Go is small and lightweight for work on the go

So first thing I notice is instead of taking my ruck sack and I can use my smaller back with the device and a USB C Charger.

In my next post I will talk about how Surface Go can be managed from the Microsoft Cloud and how I get on with the Go on a day to day basis.

We will be back soon with another post on the Surface Go soon.

 

 

 

 

An exciting year lies ahead

Its always interesting this time of the year, winding down for christmas gets you thinking about the past year and whats happening in the new year !   20 has seen more innovation from Microsoft, with Office 365 adding more functionality for both business and education, and the ability to turn PC deisgn on its head with the Surface Studio, we have seen all but the death of Windowsphone, but Microsoft never does anything without purpose and thats why I am looking forward to 2017.

Lets take a look at Windows 10 mobile, as you know W10 mobile has been a big part of the Windows 10 direction since it launch.  Dont get me wrong Windows 10 on my Lumia 950 was not a pleasureable experience from the start, but a few builds later my Lumia has truly become my ‘small work PC – with the ability to make calls’.    The big sell was of course UWP or the Universal Windows Platform the ability for apps to be created with one common code base and and for them to work seemlessly across Windows 10 devices.  No mobile store and desktop store  simply one Windows store.

However with the new developments released in W10 mobile during 2016, we have also seen Microsoft pull out of the Lumia range of devices ,  this was replaced with the Elite x3 from HP.  So just whats happening ..   Well the important message going forward in 2017 was released a few weeks ago and that is Windows 10 on ARM.

'Office 365 Love' and Metro Central demonstrated on Surface RTs at the WyConf 2014.
The first attempt of Windows on ARM was the Surface RT – in 2017 it will be a whole new ball game for schools.

So lets wind the clock back to 2013 and the original Surface RT that emerged from Redmond.  Surface RT was Microsoft’s first foray into ARM. Windows RT was a version of Windows 8 that runs on an ARM processor.  However the Surface RT could not utilise any existing software and would only use a really limited number of Apps from its store – so really it limited you to running Microsoft Office on the device.  Manufacturing partners did not see the value of Surface RT against sticking with traditional Windows devices

So Windows has traditionally been based in the Intel x64 platform and when you take a look at the range of processors available these start at the low end Intel Atom  all the way upto the Core I7 processor which is available in high end devices like the Surface Pro / Book.     The Intel Atom though very cheap, really is an uber entry level chip which has been seen in small tablets like the Linx 8.      So where does ARM fit in?   well ARM chips are found in the smartphones and now other devices. ARM was a subset of the Acorn Computer business when its first start producing its RISC based chips in the Acorn Archimedes back in the late 80’s.   Where Acorn stalled and eventually collapsed, ARM simply went on strength to strength producing processors for all the major smartphones on the market.

win_20160914_13_28_20_pro

The Lumia 950 with Windows 10 (right) is really step one in redefining the mobile experience  market. Windows 10 on ARM with the ability to run Win32 will be the games changer of 2017.

So ARM chip are amazingly powerful and amzingly low powered for the price compared with Intel’s offering. ARM chips offer LTE built in (4g connectivity), fast charging  amongst other features,   At that point you realise the gravity of the statement that Microsoft can now get full Windows 10 to run on ARM, this includes UWP but also includes Win 32 applications as well.   So when I talk about Win32 applications, I am really talking about ‘legacy applications’ so things which dont orginate from the Windows store.  So for example Adobe suite on the PC is a Win32 application, so infact its any software which you might have installed from a CD / DVD  in the past.

So what is this meaning for us, (especially ‘us’ in education)? Well  imagine a device, with a touch screen and with a Surface style ‘Pen’, that runs full Windows 10 including your apps & your existing software, (doing so much more than a Chromebook does just in the browser) which has say 15 hrs of battery time in between charges. Good so far? well continue imagining that device with the ability to ‘super fast charge’ by plugging in for 5-10 mins and getting a couple of hours of use from it, plus adding LTE communications ‘built in’ and all this for a price point under £200 – well thats whats coming in 2017.

USB quick charging will give Windows 10 on ARM devices many hours of use from a 5 min charge.
USB quick charging will give Windows 10 on ARM devices many hours of use from a 5 min charge.

So if your a school and your thinking Chromebook for 2017 because they are affordable and they look cool, well my advice for 2017 is  ‘hang on’ for this new range of devices hitting the market. These days its about spending what money we have in education wisely and an ARM based Windows 10 will be that ‘wise’ moment.

So is Windows 10 mobile dead? no !  I believe Windows 10 mobile will be the ‘light version’ in the mobile space with its UWP support. Then you will full Windows 10 on ARM giving you the functionality of Windows 10 now running the range applications but on ultra thin devices. Of course the Intel based devices like Surface will exist for the power user moving forward.

As we enter 2017, Microsoft are re-positioning the ‘mobile-space’ away from Google and Apple.  However I would expect both companies to follow Microsoft’s lead in the next two years.

Remember if you are a school and are looking at refreshing devices in 2017 – hold on .. it will be the best decision you will make !

To find out more come and see me at the Microsoft Stand this year at the BETT Show in London’s ExCel arena.

 

In case you hadn’t heard .. Windows 10 is coming

Windows 10 is coming to a desktop near you in the Summer, here are a few pointers on why Wymondham High School will be deploying it to over 700 desktops PC’s and 250 Surface devices in the Summer holidays.

I think the news coming out of Redmond is a lot to get your head round at the moment. These are indeed changing times, and having recently experienced the Microsoft E2 Global Educators Conference, I can definitely say that decisions you put into play now will have positive and far reaching outcomes for both staff and students at your school.    For those who don’t know me I am the Head of IT Strategy for Wymondham High Academy Trust and therefore responsible for the strategic direction of IT as a teaching and learning tool for 1650 + students.

We are a heavy Office 365 user in the classroom, with teachers making great use of the OneNote Class Notebook Creator, to enhance classroom activities and making learning more engaging.  We were recently one of the first schools in the UK to deploy the new Surface 3 into the classroom.  The next ‘Quantum Leap’ for us is to move from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 Education.  Our team of students and staff have been involved in testing Windows 10, from some of the earliest builds, and we see it evolve almost on a weekly basis into the OS which will underpin the whole IT strategy of the school.

So from our testing in the field I thought I would take this opportunity to run through why I believe Windows 10 Education is the right choice for education.

 

A more organised Start Screen

When you look at Windows 8 it was clearly trying to jump the gap between desktop PC and tablet.   The Start Menu which has been ingrained to computer users since 1995 was not there!  I know some people got to grips with it straight away, however other users have struggled.  So its great to see that Microsoft have listened to feedback and developed the new start screen.

Windows 10
A more organised Start Screen

So Windows 10 has the full feature Live Tiles, which are awesome for the ‘quick glance’ of the overall picture in your workspace, but also hold the traditional Start Menu items on the left hand side, plus access to the new Settings app.   Less of the predictive searching than in Windows 8 to find anything as its all to hand.  If like me you use a Surface 3, the new Continuum functionality detects when detach the keyboard, making Live Tiles bigger and the Start Screen covering the whole screen – nice touch!    From an administrators perspective, the Start Screen can still be managed with the existing Windows GPO back end technologies – but perhaps now is the time to reduce that management and let users be creative with the OS.

Cortana

Cortana is an exciting proposition in the world of education.   Students have opportunities to become more organised by setting reminders, more personalised searches with integration to their smartphones as well.

Welcome to Cortana digital assistant to help personalise learning
Welcome to Cortana digital assistant to help personalise learning

Its really early days in this field, by I am sure that the Cortana API development opens up many opportunities for integration of these services in delivering the personalised learning experience for students in the future.   How powerful could Cortana  be if it were able to look at a student  timetable  via an MIS.     Integration with students smartphones happens now with WindowsPhones, but again  this week we hear Cortana will be debuting on Android and IOS another exciting step for the digital assistant.

As a user Cortana really works for me, I have recently started using the excellent location service to remind me to pick up certain items from a shop.  For students in the wide world this will be part of their daily routine as things like wearable technologies grow. I can only see Cortana’s role expand in education in the future.

Of course this means Cortana is available across all devices that a student uses in the future, phone, tablet & desktop.

Office 365 has really become our learning platform at school in the past year allowing students and teachers to experience the best of the cloud and access work from any internet connected device.  Windows 10 will now let you log in with an organisational account (Office365) much in the same way Windows 8.1 let you sync details via a Windows Live ID.  This is great as it enhances the use of Office 365 as a learning platform.  Students have already benefited from OneNote, and the Office 365 ProPlus benefit.  Organisational account logon will enhance the user experience.

This is a great opportunity for students to sync their learning environment to a home computer and have all the access to the same apps they would have at school.  There will be a few school network managers muttering at this degree of openness, but I believe it needs to come if our education system is to evolve.

Windows 10 Education will allow students to download free apps from specific categories  in the store. So a school could give students access to the ‘Education’ category so they could pick and chose apps to help their own learning.  So a school managed learning app store will be another powerful tool to enhance teaching and learning.

The Power of Spartan

Project Spartan (aka Microsoft Edge) is the new web browser included in Windows 10.  Again a lot of thought has gone into Spartan and its underlying technologies.   Web pages render extremely quickly through the new rendering engine making browsing on Spartan enjoyable experience again, and your browser becoming a real productivity tool once more.  However Spartan also includes inking technologies to allow teachers and students to annotate and share web pages.   So imagine a teacher using a Surface stylus to ink directly over a webpage and instantly share that with the class!

spartan1

Did I mention that Spartan can manage your reading list as well, so Spartan on a small sub inch tablet becomes your ebook reader.

In Windows 7, & 8 I was a heavy Google Chrome user, due to its size and speed in comparison with Internet Explorer.  However since running the Windows 10 technical preview Spartan is now my choice browser. This is a technology replicated to WindowsPhone 10, and I would expect Spartan to evolve onto other platforms in the near future.

A shrewd move is on the cards

While at the E2 conference, we tapped in to the Build 2015 conference which was happening at the same time.  The big news I picked up on was the ability for Android and IOS  developers to port their apps to the Windows Store.  If these developers are keen to reach out to new customers then again the OS generates endless possibilities for education.

Windows Hololens

Of course another exciting development with Windows 10 is the announcement of Hololens  (Holograms).   The ability bring augmented reality into the class room using Hololens as enormous possibilities, from Geography, through to DT.    Students can model designs in AR, before constructing them, giving them a great insight in industry techniques.   In theory trips  could almost have a preview visit, or indeed a trip could be run in AR on Hololens giving the student a completely immersive experience in a place they might not be physically able to visit.  For those who haven’t seen the Hololens demo at the Windows 10 launch check out the YouTube clip below.

The ability  to mix the physical and digital together through developing with Windows 10, means students will be able to create things from a coding / computer science view that are really meaningful and tangible to people.  I believe its through this technology that we could generate the all important entrepreneurs of the future.  So often students feedback to use with ‘ I bored of moving the cat across the screen’ , now I am not saying its a now thing, but Windows 10 with its holographic API’s built-in will inspire a generation.

Scalable Windows

For school network managers Windows 10 is a scalable OS that will run on anything from a £65.00 Linx 7 tablet  all the way through the schools real estate.   Manageable through System Centre, these are not new skills to learn to deploy to your school. However may be the way we do things is beginning to change, gone are the locked down mandatory profiles, and home folders.  Say hello to students working and managing there own ‘cloud space’ effectively,  public resources in SharePoint online, reducing the overhead to the schools.  However this will only happen as a partnership between student, yourselves, SLT and teaching staff, but that’s what education is all about partnership.

Surface 3

As I am writing this blog, I am installing Windows 10 on my Surface 3 device. Wymondham were one of the first schools in the UK to get there hands on Surface 3.   An ideal hybrid for using Windows 10, priced affordably, with the benefit of a touch keyboard and pen device.  Hook that up with a Microsoft  Wireless Display  and you have a awesome teaching tool, as our colleagues at Spooner Row Primary school have found out  by switching to Surface.

If you haven’t experienced Surface 3  here is a small reminder.

Conclusion

If I am shaping my students for a technology rich future and want to empower teaching and learning in the classroom, our ‘tech’  components shape up like this.  Windows 10 Education for its scalability, ease of deployment, Project Spartan, app compatibility.  Office 2016 on my desktop and Office 365 in the cloud.  Match this with devices, which include a pen then I believe schools have a winning formula at a truly affordable price.

graphic

 

I am only touching the tip of the iceberg.

As you can probably guess I am only touching the tip  of the iceberg with the functionality of Windows 10.   This really is an Operating System that has been re-thought from the ground up.   What would I do next about Windows 10 you may ask? Well if I didn’t have Windows 10 I would get myself to http://insider.windows.com and become a Windows 10 Insider and have a play with it.  I have had it running on my Surface Pro 3 for a number of months now and it really is my chosen operating system (I haven’t done that since Windows 7).  Start the conversation with your IT guy, or if your the IT guy reading this, start your conversation with some teacher or the SLT of you school

After experiencing the E2 conference this year – I truly believe you need to forget the “Windows of old”  and that includes Windows 8!   These truly are changing times – don’t get left behind.

 

Follow the Microsoft Education team on twitter @MicrosoftEdUk for news on Windows 10 events.

Windows 10 will be the Windows you love – you just don’t know it yet!