The Microsoft Sim for Windows 10

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Getting online on your PC or Microsoft tablet, outside a WiFi area may get easier soon with the new Windows Store listing called ‘Cellular Data’ by Microsoft.   The app is only designed to work with specific  Windows 10 devices and requires a Microsoft Sim.  The app details advise that you will be connect with and pay for a mobile data plan using your Microsoft account for payment, with no long term commitments.

This approach sounds similar to Apple’s with recent iPads, with an Apple Sim you can choose your network carrier on the device and choose a short-term rolling contract. So far the Apple Sim is limited to just the company’s iPad with no plans to date to bring the sim to its phones and laptops.

The safe bet is that the ‘specific Windows 10 devices’ mentioned in Microsoft’s store listing is referring to its own hardware like the Surface 3, which does come with a Sim card slot for LTE access and other future Surface devices with sim card slots. This would let consumers and businesses buy-in Surfaces from Microsoft and then decide later, commitment free which network carrier and tariffs to choose and on which devices.

The other, less safe, but more interesting bet is that in addition to Microsoft’s own hardware, the support for this app and service spans OEMs. So for example, an HP or Lenovo laptop or tablet could also come with Microsoft Sims, letting even more consumers and businesses take advantage of opting-in to mobile data as and when needed. Of course this would be a much more complex relationship between Microsoft and OEMs. If Microsoft didn’t want to cut OEM’s into a % of data plan profits they could offer one-off payments per Microsoft Sim shipped with device’s or simply offer Windows licencing discounts if Microsoft Sims are included with their laptops and tablets.

Whether we see the Microsoft Sim locked down to its own hardware or not, its presence still offers up some much needed flexibility and competition for mobile data users in the Microsoft ecosystem.

At the very least we would be surprised if we don’t see an announcement for an alternative Surface Pro 4 with cellular compatibility and a Microsoft Sim in the box in future.

Lots to shout about at Microsoft’s Autumn NY Windows 10 event

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This week Microsoft held its Windows 10 device event showcasing their latest and greatest for both consumers and enterprise.

• The event kick started with their entertainment platform Xbox, with Windows 10 coming to Xbox One later this year. It brings improved user experience, performance and the ability to run their previous generation of software which has been their most requested feature since launch.

• Next was a new HoloLens demo: the presenter used a new hand held controller whilst wearing the device and battled augmented reality robots live on stage. Visually this was very impressive for an untethered device (ie. Not connected to a PC).  After this the development kit was announced for Q1 2016 with a price tag of $3000.

• The focus then was on fitness with the unveiling of Microsoft Band 2. The new band features a sleeker design with curved screen and new Barometer which measures elevation for more accurate “caloric burn” readings.

• Multiple Microsoft phone announcements followed with the Lumia 550, 950 and 950XL. The two 950’s were the real attention grabbers and feature high performance with liquid cooling and twin antenna for greater connectivity.  Continuum (connecting Windows 10 phone to keyboard and screen through a dock + mouse to use as a PC.  USB memory sticks and hard drives can also be used and in this mode the interface looks and feels like any other PC, at the same time the phone can still be used as a phone.

• From phones to tablets, Surface was next. The Surface Pro 4 us announced with a larger screen, without increasing the size of the device, thanks to smaller bezels. The new Surface is also thinner, more powerful and with better battery life.  Also included is a more advanced stylus with 1-year battery and a new improved, but still optional keyboard with bigger trackpad, separated keys and a fingerprint scanner. These new accessories can also be used with last year’s Surface Pro 3.

• Next Microsoft borrowed the Apple “one more thing..” to announced a new product entirely called the Surface Book. This device is a premium laptop, which you can also rip the screen off to use as a tablet. The base also contains additional computing and graphic processing adding up to 2x the performance of a Mac Book Pro.

All in all, Microsoft announced a lot this week in New York and won the attention and rare applause of their sceptical industry audience . Microsoft is now selling a very compelling ecosystem of not just software and services but also hardware tailored to both. It has a tremendous battle ahead with its rivals, but they have certainly put their best foot forwards to bring genuine intrigue and excitement which was arguably lacking from many recent tech events by Microsoft, Google and Apple.

Windows 8.1 dethrones XP just before Windows 10 launch

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Windows XP, released back in October 2001 has finally been dethroned from its ‘2nd most popular computer OS’ title by Windows 8.1 now holding 13.12% market share. The most used OS will come as no surprise being Windows 7 which currently holds a commanding 60.89%

Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in April of 2014 so it holding the ‘2nd most popular computer OS’ title for over a year after this date is both impressive and worrying. Whilst it is worth pointing out paid extended support on specific XP versions is still available to organisations willing to spend the cash required, these exceptions are unlikely to do much to market share numbers.

Running an unsupported OS is strongly unadvised against and using it will make you and your data much more susceptible to security threats and exploits which won’t be patched up with updates having been finished.

This news also comes in very close to the July 29th launch of Windows 10 and with the 2 most popular OS’s; Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 being eligible to free upgrades for consumers all signs point to Windows 8.1 dropping back down to 3rd soon after its launch being replaced by Windows 10.

Microsoft has also detailed this week that not all users will be eligible to download Windows 10 on launch day. First in line will be member of the Windows Insider program who will be able to upgrade from their work-in-progress version to the final version on the 29th. Next up will be users who have digitally reserved their free copy and these will be notified in waves. After this Microsoft will open up Windows 10 as a free download to all Windows 7 and 8.1 users however has not stated how long after launch this will be.

Apple’s iOS 9 update hints at a bigger iPads for the office

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This Monday Apple held their annual Worldwide Developer Conference announcing upcoming features and services across their devices.

Arguably the most interesting development was for the iPad, finally allowing true split-screen multitasking to the tablet.

Like many Apple updates the amount of functionality you will get will be depending on which model you own, with only the iPad Air 2 being deemed sufficient to run the full experience called Split View.

The new feature comes as part of iOS 9 and will allow iPad users to launch two Apps at the same time divided by a vertical split in a very similar vein to Windows tablets. iOS 9 also allows apps such as video to be displayed in a floating windows above your current app.

These new multitasking features will help further validate the use of iPads in businesses, being able to both check emails and edit a document at the same time.

Splitting your view does allow you to get more done but it does also make your workspaces smaller.

The announcement of Split View also gives credence to the much rumoured 12” iPad, this will allow the iPad to go toe-to-toe with Windows tablets and potentially squash their momentum with their own market share.

It is likely we will see a 12” iPad Pro launched within the next 12 months and similarities to this and the Surface Pro line will definitely be drawn. With both potentially having similar design and form factor the true battle will be between iOS 9 and Windows 10.

Whilst Microsoft has proven Surface can replace your laptop can Apple do the same for the iPad?

Windows as a Service as Windows 10 becomes the last launch for Microsoft

At last week’s Ignite conference, Microsoft’s developer staff were freely talking about some pretty substantial changes in the future direction of Windows.  It is likely that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows to be released, as Microsoft moves firmly towards “Windows as a Service” fulfilment.

With the engineering and delivery of Windows changed for Windows 10, instead of new releases there will be regular improvements and updates of 10.  How it will work (whilst being a sizeable task), will see Microsoft splitting up operating system components like the Start Menu and built-in apps into separate parts. These can then be updated independently to the entire Windows core operating system.  This gives highly desirable flexibility to span across multiple devices and provide smoother background monthly updates instead of new version launches every 2-3 years.

The apps and services that power Windows 10 are nearing launch and the new version of Windows 10 is currently being trialled by a number of test participants.

All of this bodes well for Managed Service Providers as our embrace of “as a Service” packages makes moving to the Cloud increasingly convenient, smoother and more flexible for tailoring the end user experience.

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Microsoft adding MDM to Office 365

Microsoft has announced this week that Mobile Device Management (MDM) capabilities will be coming to all their Office 365 commercial plans – for no extra cost.

The new MDM features are focused around the Office apps for Android and iOS and will include setting security polices to allow only compliant devices to connect, Device Management to force pin lock requirements and jailbreak detection as well as selective wipe to remove just Office 365 data without remove a user personal information.    In addition to the above healthy package other extended features are also available if you subscribe to Microsoft Intune (part of the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite). These extended features include restricting clipboard features such as copy and paste and saving documents to other applications.    Microsoft is boasting its new mobile management suite is the only one that can fully manage its mobile Office apps.

With Office mobile apps being a natural consideration for organisations currently using Office on laptops and desktops – this play from Microsoft to both add additional control to organisations to protect their data ‘on the go’ and to make the service so reliant on their own Office 365 subscription is a smart one.

Managed Service Providers get to add their value here too, as Office 365 accounts can be fully or partially managed by a provider, whilst also offering local and around-the-clock support on both technical issues and emergency tasks such as wiping a lost phone.

It will be interesting to see how this develops with the imminent release of Windows 10 on both phones and small tablets – and where Microsoft will draw the line, if at all, on mobile and non-mobile devices and what is supported.

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This week’s technology news – 20th March 2015

The Windows 10 launch party welcomes all including pirates

Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be launching this summer to 190 countries. A new feature of the system called Windows Hello was also demo’d for the first time. It also lets users log in via fingerprint, face recognition or iris recognition.

To get ready for Windows 10’s big launch party, Microsoft has been teaming up with app service providers worldwide including Chinese internet giant Tencent who will bring their hugely popular (over 32 million active players) online game ‘League of Legends’ onto the Windows 10 store and their QQ social app which has over 800 million active users.

Microsoft sees China as a huge opportunity for Windows 10 and getting companies onboard in providing relevant and highly successful apps, games and services to the Windows 10 store will go a long way to securing Chinese users to upgrade to Windows 10 this summer.

The biggest challenge has always been getting users to adopt genuine Windows instead of pirated versions. Currently two-thirds of all PCs in China run pirated versions, not purchased from Microsoft.

In an unprecedented move, Microsoft will be allowing these ‘non-genuine’ versions of Windows to also be upgraded to Windows 10 for free. Those who do upgrade in this fashion will still have non-genuine, non-supported systems, but will have access to the new features of Windows 10 – most importantly for Microsoft, being the new Windows 10 store where Microsoft takes 30% of all profits made.

Microsoft continues to be very aggressive in its push of the upcoming Windows 10.  It’s strategy of allowing pirated system upgrades and free upgrades in general, is tactically cunning, showing that its first goal is to get as many people as possible using the new system, sooner rather than later and gain maximum marketshare.

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Amicus ITS explores a trio of cyber security stories in this week’s roundup of technology news:

US healthcare provider Premera not so premier following cyber attack

The FBI were recently called in by Premera Blue Cross, a US non-profit health insurance company which posted revenues in 2013 of $7.6 billion, to investigate a cyber attack on their IT systems which occurred over an eight month period without detection from May 2014.  It is not clear yet how the attackers broke in and the company has not identified how the breach was discovered. However, 1.8 million records were illegally accessed, with medical records, personal data and employee data exposed, as well as any company which did business with Premera Blue Cross.   The data penetrated included:  access to names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, Social Security numbers, member identification number, medical claims information and financial information (though no customer credit card information was held).

This comes on top of another huge cyber attack on Blue Cross Shield insurance giant Anthem, which recently had 78.8 million customer records illegally accessed.

The correct professional PR stance of both Premera and Anthem has been to publish a direct response on the front pages of their websites to try and assuage customer concerns by advising of their remedial steps with their security partners, including offering 24 months of free credit monitoring and ID protection services.

Whether either company will fully regain the trust of their clientele only time will tell, but at least the right reactive steps were taken to tackle the issue head on with its customers.

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Get me insured – I’m under attack!

The US Department of Homeland Security (US DHS) has started a wholesale review of cybersecurity insurance, as it has emerged that security issues have been marginalised and are not forming a core part of an organisation’s enterprise risk management framework.

Cyber insurance is a relatively new aspect for the financial markets and given the rise in cyber attacks and major data breaches worldwide in recent months, it seeks to offer an olive branch to the financial toll companies can face from the fall out of attack.  However, delivering the insurance is another matter as data to evaluate the threat landscape is thin on the ground.

Senior Cybersecurity Strategist at the US DHS Tom Finan comments:  “Perhaps unsurprisingly, companies are not publicly disclosing their own damages from cyber incidents they’re experiencing….. big data about cyber incidents could be a potential treasure trove that would aid their efforts (to get insured) immensely.”

Meanwhile in the UK, HM Government in its November 2014 summit between Government departments, leading UK insurers, trade and industry representatives and GCHQ, agreed a joint statement to commit industry and government to closer working to develop the UK’s cyber insurance market. They also recognised the role insurers can play in driving improvements in cyber security risk management.  The cyber insurance market report will be supplied to the Cabinet Office in April 2015.  In the meantime, practical measures for businesses to undertake include:

• Detailed insurance gap analysis
• Network security survey
• Security policy review and development
• Cyber risk identification and quantification exercise
• Risk financing optimisation.

Plus, evaluation by experts on internet and network exposures, including:

• Liability: privacy and confidentiality
• Copyright, trademark, defamation
• Malicious code and viruses
• Business interruption: network outages, computer failures
• Attacks, unauthorised access, theft, website defacement and cyber extortion
• Technology errors and omissions
• Intellectual property infringement.

Clearly, Finan adds, “CISOs need to be a central part of any business risk management discussion going forwards,” he said. “And until they do so, businesses will miss out on otherwise more extensive cybersecurity insurance offerings than would otherwise be available to them.”

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World Economic Forum publishes cyber threat risk framework

The World Economic Forum (WEF) launched a new framework in collaboration with Deloitte recently based on resiliency, to help companies calculate the risk of cyberattacks. The risk calculation involves three components:

• An assessment of a company’s vulnerabilities and defences
• The potential cost of data breaches and
• A profile of the attacker

Understanding the risk vs cost is still very difficult even amongst expert voices.  However, it should force Boards globally to sit up and work through the problem, identifying risk areas within their organisation as they try to get inside the mind of a potential attacker.

The lack of historical data required to estimate the probability of attacks from particular types of attackers in particular industry sectors is a stumbling block. However, if, as the WEF have proposed, businesses globally start to openly share information about cyberthreats, instead of burying their shame, all businesses will gain.  Mass learning will ensure companies start to deploy better strategies, policies and more resilient tactics including education, training and staff awareness which can only be a good thing.

Amicus ITS is part of the new Government led UK IT Cyber Security Forum.  Any enterprise seeking advice about major infrastructure security concerns is invited to contact JP Norman or one of the Sales team on 02380 429429.
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Samsung and Blackberry team up for new secure tablet     

Blackberry has announced a new tablet called SecuTABLET for the public sector and government use.

The SecuTABLET differs greatly from the company’s only previous tablet, the ‘Playbook’, which launched in early 2011. Unlike the Playbook which ran on Blackberry’s own OS and hardware, this new tablet runs on Android for the OS and the hardware is being provided by Samsung.

Samsung is also providing part of the security with its KNOX security layer which helps separate personal and professional apps and data, by having two distinct modes that the user can switch between.

The now Blackberry-owned ‘Secusmart’ is providing encryption, including an inhouse built secured microSD card, equipped with a range of encryption features.

Finally, IBM is providing a software wrapper for secure apps to keep the data of each app separated and protected from others apps and services.

Altogether the SecuTABLET comes with an impressive list of security features, built on-top of a reliable Samsung tablet foundation – but these do come at a cost. The tablet won’t be available for general consumer purchase – and the reported retail price will be $2,380!   This incredibly high price point makes the SecuTABLET very hard to recommend.

Although the amount of security features is impressive, each of the three core security components seem to overlap in actual usage. Blackberry is going to have an uphill battle convincing organisations to go with one of their new tablets instead of, for the same price, three Samsung tablets with KNOX – or even a Microsoft Surface 3.

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