Windows Phone 8: Ready for…

… Going back to my night stand drawer.

Nokia Lumia 920
Nokia Lumia 920

Yes, if you do not want to continue reading and just get the resumed version of my review, this is it, put it simple. Windows Phone 8 is not ready as an enterprise device (or consumer for that matter) and if you are considering it, unless it is free and comes with free 3-year service and a week vacation in Thailand with all expenses paid, you should look somewhere else.

Now back to a detailed review.

Hardware

I got a Nokia Lumia 920 that is apparently the Windows Phone 8 (WP8 for short) to have. First of all if you are used to the iPhone 4/4S this thing will feel massive in your hands. And heavy too. Even though it is pretty much all plastic, it does feel well built and solid. With such size comes a big (and really good looking) screen. And of course the bigger the screen, the worst it is on battery life and here is no different. If you talk relatively often, do some web surfing and share your LTE with other devices, battery will die FAST. I mean you will have to recharge before the end of the day guaranteed.

Camera is awesome, especially in low light situations (simply blows the iPhone 5 out of the water in that respect). And the interface, running apps and accessing the net with it feels really fast.

Software

Here it is where things start to go downhill with the phone. Not to sound a broken record, but the lack of apps is still a problem (even though it is getting better – I can now have TripIt, Netflix, Evernote, etc all on WP8). That would not be too bad as in a way after using WP8 I realized how many apps on iOS I really did not use or needed it.

But when we start digging into the Microsoft stack and the integration between WP8 and other Microsoft products, we realize WP8 was indeed rushed out of the door and more than that, the whole thing leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. It is simply poor and I will explain why.

First of all: this is a Microsoft platform and you expect it to play nicely with all Microsoft things. Nope, not the case. No RDP client from Microsoft for their own WP8 platform! Office on WP8 is such a terrible product that if I could uninstall it I would do it. I had to download a third party app to open CSV files. Excel on WP8 cannot open CSV? And when we start testing all the remaining Office apps and file compatibility you realize that Microsoft probably bought a license from Documents to Go (from 5 years ago) and loaded on WP8 instead of loading a real Microsoft Office suite on the device. If I need poor Office compatibility I will go back  to iOS or use Android.

Then there is the terrible experience with Windows Live. I am supposed to use the same ID that I use on the Surface and on Windows 8 with the phone. For some reason I cannot buy anything on the phone. It keeps asking me to add a payment method to my account and when I add my usual business credit card it says it cannot be added as it is ALREADY on my account. If it is there why I cannot buy anything with it? This simply shows the platform was not only properly tested but there is a lack of integration with the rest of the Microsoft world. Not cohesive. If we look at iOS my Apple ID works flawlessly on my iPhone, iPad or OSX. Not the case here. I know not everyone is experiencing this but again I do know several other people with the same issue so my point regarding testing and integration is certainly valid.

And I did not even get to the Exchange integration yet…

Speaking of that, it does work. Sort of. As many people I know, I do have a mailbox with many folders and rules moving emails to these folders as I receive them. Guess what? Outlook on WP8 CANNOT tell me I have a new email on a folder, unless I manually select the folder and choose to sync it. Great if you have 5 folders. What about 200 like I have? Windows Mobile 5 and 6 could do that like a decade ago. Not anymore. We can send rovers to Mars and remote control them from here but we cannot show “X” unread emails on subfolders. Yay…

Conclusion

If you hate yourself or want to give a phone to someone you do not like or even want to get rid of your girlfriend but does not have a clue how to do it, simply buy a WP8 device for yourself or as a present to one of these people you do not care.

Seriously the poor integration with Microsoft products, the really bad Office suite loaded on the phone and the lack of several apps (some from Microsoft like I mentioned – RDP client) simply turn this phone (that hardware wise is pretty good) into just another mobile device and not a true game changer that can challenge iOS or Android devices at this stage.

My iPhone will be back in service tonight. Thank Lord.

CR

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Nirvana Phone. Is the Motorola Atrix the answer?

Today Motorola announced their new flagship phone, the Motorola Atrix. Citrix right after announced they are shipping the Citrix Receiver on this device and Chris Fleck also blogged about this phone as being the first true ‘Nirvana Phone’, a term they coined years ago for a phone that one day would be the perfect replacement for the road warriors out there.

As this info was under NDA, before the announcement I was discussing which phone this would be (as none of the CTPs had that information) and I mentioned before the announcement that I was certain it was the Atrix, what was later confirmed. 🙂

So here is my take on the Atrix and on the whole Nirvana phone concept and how I see this working one day.

First it will take more than manufacturers to make this idea work. The goal is to have a phone and from that be able to do almost everything you need during the day. Sure people have different needs and for that reason no phone will ever be the silver bullet that will work for every single person out there.

Secondly, if I need to carry ANYTHING, it defeats the purpose IMHO. For example, as of today even with the Atrix, you will need to travel with a bluetooth keyboard (and potentially a mouse), a dock, cables to hook this up to a TV/Monitor and so on. Well if that is the case I will carry my DAMN LAPTOP!

Of course if hotels for example would start offering bluetooth keyboards/mice combos even for a small rental fee per day, that would help a LOT this idea. I personally would pay US$ 4 a day for this. After all, the target market for this is probably someone that is always on the road on business so US$ 4 a day extra on expenses will not create another breakdown of the US economy. Even with the hotels jumping into this idea, unless they also provide docks and cables you would still need to carry something.

That brings us to Apple and their iOS. Not many people dug into AirPlay and what this could mean for this concept. If Apple opens up AirPlay to third parties AND work with other manufacturers to embed this into TVs, Monitors, Receivers, etc this would make an iOS device the true Nirvana thing. Just being able to walk into a hotel room and from your pocket send the video-out of the Citrix Receiver to the TV and wirelessly use a keyboard/mouse would be much better than having a dock and cables, even hotel provided ones (what I do think would help a lot this ‘Nirvana Phone’  concept). An iPad in this case would be the perfect thing to carry as it has a large enough screen for the local apps and processing power to run some very decent ones (what would mean companies writing iOS apps that tie into their backend systems/databases) when offline and when in a hotel room, use the Citrix Receiver/AirPlay to really shine as a Thin Client.

Regarding the Atrix, I still think it suffers from the same issues as any other Android device: giving the power back to the carriers. As an example, the Android device I have, bought 18 months ago from our loved carrier in Canada, Robbers (ok, it is Rogers), came with Android 1.6 and the freaking bastards over there refuse to release ANY updates for this particular phone. So once I rooted the damn thing and loaded Android 2.2, things got better. But this is NOT supported by the carrier and more than that, it is not really something you would give to most users to do. That is the main reason why I think Android sucks.

Add to that the fragmentation now created by Motorola, LG, Sony, Samsung and so on where an Android application that runs on a device like the Atrix will not work the same way on an HTC phone with their ‘Sense’ interface. In that respect, controlling the OS proved to be the right thing to do, at least from taking the power off the carriers and giving it back to the users. At the end it is up to me to decide if I do want to run the latest and greatest OS on the device I BOUGHT, not to the carrier. Their answer to that is ‘just buy the new model and get into another three year contract with us’. Sure, they want to milk the cow. Yes, you are the cow.

For the Apple bashers/haters out there, I do accept the fact my old iPhone 2G cannot run iOS 4. It is the same reason why your Pentium MMX laptop cannot run Windows 7. This market is used to that. But not intentionally preventing your Intel i5 machine from running Windows 7 just because it shipped with Windows XP.

So back to the whole Nirvana phone topic and resuming: I like the idea but I do think the Atrix is far from being the ‘One’ (hint to Motorola – name the next one Motorola ‘Neo’) and without help from other businesses like hotels, there will always be a drawback for this concept to really take off. And finally in my mind Apple is the one that can pull this off, given the traction iTunes will bring to AirPlay enabled devices like TVs and Monitors, really making things easier and better for us consumers.

I guess time to start a keyboard/mouse rental business that will partner with someone like Hilton…

CR

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My iPhone. Goodbye.

When Apple announced the iPhone three years ago, I was excited. It was truly a revolutionary product, way ahead of everything else at the time (sidenote: sorry but I do not see the iPad on the same league – it is just a ‘bigger’ thing that has a three year old OS/Interface on it). I told myself that day, January, 9th that I would be buying one (even though I live in Canada and things do move very slowly up here when compared to the US) when released. And once I managed to find my way to the Microsoft MVP Summit in the following year I got one.

Great device. At the time. Three years ago.

Fast forward three years and the latest and greatest iPhone is indeed VERY similar to the one released that year. In many ways the platform became stagnant. Sure there are tons of apps on the AppStore. But that does not mean the platform itself is evolving.

Looking at the iPhone today, now the ‘reality distortion field’ effect worn out, I can clearly see all the flaws on the iPhone, after using it for over three years. In many ways, it is a PAIN IN THE ASS phone.

First of all the thing is totally tied to Apple (and I do not like Apple for several reasons, even though I do have four Apple machines at home) what means ‘you, peasant, use what we Apple want you to use’. It is almost like a ‘Porschesque’ experience. When I got my Porsche, at the time there was no way to hook up an iPod to the vehicle due to a proprietary fiber optic bus. No bluetooth either. When I asked Porsche why, they told me in a Porsche all you want to hear is the engine, not music from your iPod. Great. Same approach applies to Apple and their products. If you ever wondered why you cannot arrange your music library into ease-to-follow folders, it is because you do NOT need it. Trust Apple on that. They know what you need/want better than you or your mommy.

Adding to that, the freaking phone, three years later has no Flash support. Exchange sync is simply mediocre (did you notice when you have rules to move emails to folders and get a new email in one of these, the iPhone mail app does not show that?). The whole app sync with iTunes is another major PITA. The list goes on.

So yesterday when I saw the announcement of Windows Phone 7 I was impressed. The same way when I saw the iPhone announcement. Beautiful interface (and logical), Zune/Xbox Live integration, several manufacturers to choose your phone from and perfect Exchange/Office support out-of-the-box. So long iPhone. I am dumping you as soon as Windows Phone 7 is out.

Add to that: Flash will almost certain be there once the phones start shipping and Microsoft does allow you to develop/add things like bluetooth keyboard/mouse support, what the iPhone does NOT support officially – three years LATER – making it a piece of shit thin client, no matter what Gus Pinto or Chris Fleck, with their own reality distortion fields, say. I am not saying the Windows Phone 7 devices will be better thin clients but for sure companies like Celio will be able to release accessories that support Windows Phone 7 out-of-the-box making it a much more viable thin client at the end.

Finally, a critical thing Microsoft has in its advantage is the three years the iPhone has been out. If they are smart, by now they understand everything the iPhone has NOT delivered and its shortcomings, having learned with Apple’s mistakes in this space (and successes as well).

This will allow Microsoft to deliver not the Jesus phone.

But God’s one.

Let’s pray.

CR

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Citrix and the iPad

No matter how much I try not to write about the iPad, there are several crazy things I have been reading lately about the Jesus Tablet and many have the word Citrix cruising along.

For some people, for unknown reasons, the iPad is seen as the tablet God himself handed out to Moses, or Steve Jobs for that matter. The solution for all our problems and the device that will bring VDI to the masses.

Bullcrap.

And I will explain why and complain about Citrix later.

Screen. It is awesome to see a bigger screen in a device that can be potentially used as some sort of thin client. There are a couple issues there. The resolution is fixed at 1024×768 and some apps, in this day and age, refuse to work on less than higher resolutions. Two options: you either keep moving around the screen (painful) or you scale the resolution down to match the native display one (what technically is bad and if you know anything about video you know the reasons why). So, yes, better than the iPhone but still not that incredible. But I could live with that.

Keyboard. Here is where the big problems start. The on-screen keyboard may be great for a quick ‘checking my email’ thing but to use that to reply to long emails or to write a document, that is just unbearable. Fanboys will say go and get an external keyboard! Yes, great idea. Now I need to carry a freaking iPad PLUS a keyboard. Awesome.

Mouse. No word so far if a bluetooth one is supported. As of today, based on what we know, no support. Even if it is added at a later date, great, another device to carry with the iPad and the keyboard above.

Ports. Where are the USB ports so I can plug headsets, webcams, scanners, etc (remember, this is the Moses’s tablet that will bring VDI to the masses as per God’s predictions)? Yes, there are none but for sure you will be able to get a cable that costs $40 that will give you USB ports. Yay, another thing to carry with the keyboard, the mouse and the iPad itself.

Local OS. Sure the iPhone OS was revolutionary. For a phone. For a tablet, are you kidding me you are putting an OS that cannot even multitask on that? Not to mention that several things that make XenDesktop a decent thing, are NOT supported as the local OS cannot do shit about them. Examples? What about Flash redirection? Oh, did I mention that 9.7″ screen cannot even run Flash movies or access Flash websites? Not that I love Flash(it). But the reality is a huge percentage of the web relies on that (Citrix included – have you tried Citrix.com/tv on your iPhone/iPad? Yes, it does not work).

As I mentioned to Chris Fleck, who called me a Nay-Sayer on his blog, sure I can see certain vertical markets using it for several reasons. One is healthcare, where for doctors, using a Win32 app that has an interface designed for touch input, it would be perfect. Small, light, relatively cheap and able to run their Win32 apps that require no flash, no decent video performance and no physical keyboard/mouse. It could be the same case for insurance companies (although the lack of a camera is potentially a big show stopper), warehouses and so on.

The thing is all the above use cases mentioned above are NOT the ones that will bring VDI to the masses. So how can such device do that as several people in the industry are bragging now I have no crazy idea.

As a final note, what really pisses me off is to see Citrix spending all this time twittering/blogging/working on the iPhone/iPad receivers while IGNORING the bugs still there on BOTH Win32 and OS X clients, MUCH bigger markets when compared to all the iCrap stuff above (at least I think that is the case; correct me if I am wrong).

So Citrix, before you keep promoting all these savior, God sent devices, please fix what we, the lower class citizens, use every single day: the Windows and Mac OS X clients. Once you get that going, go nuts with your iPad plans to take over the VDI world.

Riding the ‘what is cool/on the spot’ wave for marketing purposes is not cool. VMWare at least is not doing that.

CR

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Citrix Receiver and the iPhone

Or any other mobile device around the same size for that matter.

I decided to write this post for the simple reason I cannot stand anymore tweets and more tweets about how great the Citrix Receiver 2.0 for the iPhone is. Sure Gus Pinto did an excellent job on it and from what I hear, it works well (I have not tested the latest release even though it is on my iPhone).

Now let me explain why I am fed up with the whole world thinking “this-is-the-greatest-piece-of-software-ever-developed-and-why-this-will-change-the-world”. In three words: “Form Factor Sucks”. Period.

Yes, I said it. The iPhone form factor sucks. Let me finish the phrase please. The iPhone form factor sucks AS A THIN CLIENT DEVICE. Now I am done.

The problems with the iPhone as a Citrix client are very simple to understand:

1. The lack of keyboard.For some quick browsing/reading emails etc that is no big deal. But to type for a while on that thing is a major pain in the ass. No matter what you say regarding this I will not agree. I use my iPhone all the time at home on my wireless to read/post on Twitter, read some of my emails and the usual web browsing. But when I need to post a lenghty reply or write something decent I go to my computer. Even a small Netbook (I tried a Gateway one with AMD CPU and 11″ screen and it was superb) provides a MUCH better experience.

2. Screen Size.Yep, great screen for watching porn and movies on a plane. But Jesus Christ, it sucks balls to read Excel spreadsheets, any decent Word/PDF document and so on. Yes, it is better than nothing but again, try reading a word document on it over a Citrix session for one hour. Sucks. Pinching/rotating is neat but becomes a major PITA after 20 minutes. Am I the only one that can see this?

3. Battery. Yes, the thing drains the battery like nuts if you are on Wi-Fi or 3G plus it gets warm. At least mine does.

Even if someone like RedFly comes out with a dock for the iPhone with video out and the iPhone takes a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, I still think it will suck but now for a different reason. If I have to drag with me a mouse, keyboard and dock, why not bring a netbook and will probably be smaller than all above and will give me the full blown experience? Plus the ICA Client for Win32 has way more features that the one for the iPhone in case I need to access anything over ICA.

Unless hotels start to rent something like an iPhone docking package that includes all above for $10 a day, I cannot see this idea taking off at all. I mean, being used for the masses. For sure for niche markets (i.e. insurance companies using the iPhone to take pictures and then send these directly to their Win32 frontend software running on Citrix with geotag information stamped by the iPhone GPS) will see this as a great solution and money wise, may justify the money Citrix is spending developing the bloody beast (it is way more than you imagine as Gus salary is way over $500,000 a year). But again, I cannot see this becoming the greatest/most popular ICA device ever. It will be a niche. For sure, great to have for a quick and dirty connection to the office but as a business tool to replace a laptop? No way.

Unless someone wants to join me and start a business to get the LCD/Keyboard/Mouse/Dock rented at major hotels in the US. I am all ears. 🙂 If this happens then for sure I can see myself carrying the iPhone only. If I could plug it somewhere in the hotel room and have access to my desktop using a full blown keyboard, mouse and screen, I would do it in a heartbeat. But as it is today it is just impracticle.

And Citrix, as a final rant, please try to put the same level of effort you guys put on the iPhone receiver on the fuc***g damn ICA Client for OS X. It is still bug hell. Not to mention it is WAY more useful than the freaking iPhone one.

Cheers.

CR

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In a Citrix world, does the iPhone matter?

As I am always reading, today I saw this post at the Citrix Community Blogs regarding the Citrix Receiver for the iPhone. As you can see over there I made some comments and the guys at Citrix replied.

My main question regarding this post is, does the iPhone really matter in this context? Is it a game changer device that will help the adoption of Server Centric solutions (VDI or TS, does not matter)?

I ask because as of today, several Windows Mobile phones not only have video outputs (so you can hook them up to a monitor/Projector/TV) but also have support for Bluetooth keyboards, features that are NOT supported (at least officially AND using the SDK available to us, simple mortals) on the iPhone.

So today, if you want to, you can go out and buy a phone that you can hook up to a monitor and using a small, foldable Bluetooth keyboard, use it as a thin client (an RDP client is indeed available for Windows Mobile; I am sure that is the case for VNC, LogMeIn and as per the post I mentioned above, a Citrix Receiver for Windows Mobile will be out soon). As far as I know that did not really cause a huge commotion on the market. Plus to be honest, I do not know anyone actually doing this. And finally, yes, I think it is somehow a little cumbersome…

If we expand on that idea, you could simply go out and buy something like the RedFly from Celio, that is basically a netbook type device that connects to your Windows Mobile (and other phones like BlackBerries) and gives you a 7″ or 8″ screen and a reasonably sized keyboard. Same as the failed Palm Foleo if you remember that. That would be a killer solution I think, ONLY if the price was in the $50 to $99 range. At $199 (starts at that), you are now in Netbook territory. So if I will be carrying an extra device, why would I go for the RedFly? Yes, I know it is hard to justify…

Back to the iPhone, if all the above is available today, why the iPhone is seen as the ‘Jesus Phone’ (love that term, coined at Gizmodo!) for accessing Citrix?

Not sure to be honest. I do think the iPhone is a great device but to become a really useful thin client, a lot more is needed. The small form factor is indeed great for quickly accessing your servers and doing something… quickly. But for long term use, the form factor does not help at all. And for quick access I can do the same from Windows Mobile or even from the CrapBerry (yes, I do think it is crap. But that I will save for another post).

The netbook like form factor I do think is the way to go but carrying another device is not really a solution. If hotels were willing to rent devices like the RedFly out for $5 a day, THEN I see the potential, big time. They would have these paid off in a couple weeks and would provide a real option for Windows Mobile/CrapBerry users to access Citrix backends! Of course support for the iPhone could be easily added, assuming Apple blesses this type of usage for its iPhone (oh yes, you cannot use the iPhone the way you want; you use it the way Apple wants you to – funny thing is you do not even notice Apple is actually manipulating you all the time).

Is the fate of all this really in the hands of a mobile device like the iPhone at the end? Or in the hands of someone that sees the potential for renting RedFlys at hotels, eliminating the need for us carrying another device?

Time will tell.

Cheers.

CR

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