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Apr 13 14

Bob German to speak at Microsoft Life Sciences Partner Workshop on the Cloud and the Future of SharePoint

by sadalit

Bob German will present at the Microsoft Life Sciences Partner Workshop on the Cloud and the Future of SharePoint, April 16 in Malvern, PA.  He will present “Developing future-focused solutions on premises” from 9 am – 12 pm.

During this two-day workshop the Microsoft Life Sciences team, in collaboration with the Malvern MTC and BlueMetal Architects, will detail their view of compliance and the cloud and how Office 365 and Windows Azure are ideally and uniquely suited for addressing many of the life sciences needs and requirements from across R&D, Clinical Trials, Sales and Marketing, and Patient Engagement.  They will also discuss the new the Cloud Application Model and how to take the next steps to drive industry solutions to the cloud.
Topics will include:
-         Market assessment and opportunity overview
-         Key messaging from the 2014 SharePoint Conference
-         The future vision for SharePoint
-         Latest innovations in Office 365, Yammer and SharePoint
-         Cloud App Model and building future proof solutions

Tuesday, April 15th – 10:00 AM to 5PM
Wednesday April 16th 2014 9:00 AM– 3:00 PM

To Register please email paultys@microsoft.com.

Apr 8 14

“Your Fans are Waiting” – Microsoft’s Build Conference – Day 1

by Dave Davis

[Cross-posted from blog.davemdavis.net]

build2014_devconferenceI am recently attended Microsoft’s Developer’s Conference, Build 2014.  When I have attended conferences in the past, I have usually blogged about all the great announcements throughout the conference.  As I sit here, at the beginning of Day 3, I have not written about a single announcement.  I decided to change up how I report on the conference. This time around I am going to give my two cents on different announcements made.  There are plenty of articles that list the many announcements made. In future posts, I will dig deeper into different topics.

Windows Phone 8.1 – Long Live Silverlight

One of the biggest announcements was the next version of Microsoft’s phone operating system, Windows Phone 8.1.  This release caps the “Blue” series of products that started with Windows 8.1.  For the last couple of years, Microsoft has talked about operating system convergence. Their goal is to have one operating system core run across all devices and to have a common API to code across them.  With Windows Phone 8.1, they are one step closer to reaching that goal.

Windows Phone 8.1 is basically WindowsRT with a phone app and a Silverlight emulator – or at least that is how I think about it.  With this leap Microsoft has reached 90% convergence with Windows 8.1 and Phone 8.1.  You can now write phone apps using the same WinRT API and Xaml as modern apps (more on that later). You can also continue to write phone apps using Silverlight, so your past investments on the phone platform are not lost. In fact Microsoft has advanced the phone Silverlight to 8.1 and allows developers writing apps in Silverlight to access the same functionality as a Windows Xaml (that is what they call the new app paradigm) phone app.

A lot of great new features are coming in the next release and you can read about them on the Windows Phone site. Overall I am impressed with what Microsoft has done with the phone.  Some of these features should have been there from the beginning and are catch up, and some are innovative and can’t be found on other platforms. This new version will be available to all devices running Windows Phone 8 later this summer.  A developer preview will be available the beginning of April.

Cortanaimage

Cortana is a fictional artificially intelligent (AI) character in the Halo video game series. ~Wikipedia

With Window Phone 8.1, Microsoft has introduced the world to Cortana. If you play Halo this is a reintroduction – Cortana is Master Chief’s AI assistant in the game. As with Master Chief, Cortana is a personal assistant for the masses. Cortana is part Apple Siri and part Google Now.

Microsoft interviewed real personal assistants to learn what is needed to provide a personal assistant experiences. The key point they heard over and over again is the Notebook.  This book contains all the personal information that allows the assistant to be productive. Cortana has a notebook where your personal information is stored for analysis. The key thing to remember is that the user is in control of what information to provide.  The more they provide the better Cortana can help. Remember it is all about context.

One of the differences between Siri and Now and with Cortana is that Microsoft has allowed developers to integrate their applications with Cortana. For instance a user can say “Facebook Find Jane Doe.” Cortana will pass that “Find Jane Doe” to the Facebook application.  Then Facebook can handle what to do with the information passed.

There were a few devices available at Build to play with. Microsoft is releasing Cortana as beta.  They are saying that her voice algorithms are still being trained.  The more they are used the better they will become.  I had fairly good success with the recognition, and the functionality that I tried worked pretty well. If Cortana is half as good as they advertise she will surpass the capability of Siri and be on par with Google Now.  Only time will tell how Cortana will do.  Currently Cortana is only available on the Phone but it is not hard to imagine that she will be coming to Windows devices and Xbox’s in the future.

Windows 8 Update 1

image

Microsoft is also updating Windows 8.1 with Update 1. This update brings some more enhancements for mouse and keyboard users.  The three main updates include, right click context menus on the start screen, title bars in modern application, and pinning modern applications to the task bar.  These small steps should help make the experience better for non-touch devices.

The update will be available for free for all Windows 8.1 users and will be required for user to continue getting Windows update. The Update will be generally available with the April Patch Tuesday (April 8).  Microsoft provided the update to attendees. I have been using since day 1 of the conference.  It is okay, I don’t have an opinion one way or another.  I have been using Windows 8 since the first developer preview and have adapted to it nicely.  Some people seem to like this update. If it makes you more productive then great.

Microsoft did not call this “Update 1,” they just called it Update.  There was a rumor that they were going to talk about the next version of Windows. They did not explicitly say “Windows 9 will be…” but they did hint at a few pieces that are coming, potentially in an Update later this year or vNext.  The Start Menu is coming back…with tiles, and modern apps will be windowed. More to come so stay tuned.

Universal Apps

imageOne of the key points of Day 1 is “convergence’’.  Carrying that theme forward, Microsoft announced Universal Apps.  As of Visual Studio Update 2, developer will be able to create Universal Apps.  What does that mean?  Since Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 have 90% convergence of APIs, including Xaml, it makes sense that you will want to create applications that reuse as much code as possible.

You can currently do that with Portable class libraries (PCL) or shared files. Each of these are still possible. Universal apps have behaviors of PCL but are implemented like shared files.  Think shared files with better tooling. Universal apps have a shared project that contains no reference, only files. The shared files live here.  Since there may be times when you will need to access an API that isn’t part of that convergence you can use conditional compilation.  That tells me that the shared files care complied for each project and not as a PCL dll.

So now you can maximize code reuse.  There is so much more you can do with Universal Apps.  I hope to write about these in the future. Currently Universal Apps support is available for Windows and Windows Phone, using C#/VB/C++ and HTML/JavaScript. They did demo a Xbox Universal App that isn’t currently available but it makes sense since Xbox runs on Windows 8.  There were sessions that covered developing Universal Apps for Xbox so it is coming. We will soon be able to realize the “Three Screens and a Cloud” theme from many years ago!

Touch Office

The week before build Microsoft announced Office for iPad. These are touch-first variations of the worlds most popular productivity suite. Windows Tablet users have had office on their devices since the beginning but not the touch enabled ones.  These were the full blown versions.  At Build Microsoft showed off the Touch Enabled Office (to be released later this year).  We have known that they have been working on these apps for a while.  They did show off PowerPoint last year at Build 2013. What they did announce was that the Windows versions are being built as Universal Apps, so the functionality you get on Windows will also be available on the Phone.

Free Windows

There is no surprise that Windows 8 has not taken off.  They were late to the game.  Apple and Google have the market share when it comes to mobile. Bringing Office to the iPad first shows that Microsoft has shifted from a Windows-first company to a mobile-first company.  That is yet another theme that continued throughout the conference. There were more demos using iPads and Android devices than in any other Microsoft conference combined.

iOS devices tend to be geared toward the high end users; as such Android has been able to chip away at Apples market share with low end devices.  In order to be more competitive, Microsoft is making Windows 8.1 free for 9” devices and small to include phones. They seem to be geared towards making more money from services than from operating systems. This makes sense since people don’t upgrade OS’s often but they do renew useful services. In fact, in order to use all the features of Office for the iPad, the user has to have an Office 365 account. Services are the future.

Day 1 Keynote

The Day 1 Keynote ended with Stephen Elop marking three new Windows Phones that won’t be available until later this year and not in the US. And with Satya Nadella delivering pre-canned answers to pre-canned questions, delivering the same talking points that he has been handing out since he took over. If I sound sarcastic it is because I am.  The keynote was 3 hours long with Elop and Nadella taking about an hour.  Three hours in an uncomfortable chair in a crowed room will make people a little antsy.  Next time keep it around 2 hours and have the CEO play more of an active roll.

That aside I think that Day 1 delivered a lot of good stuff.  It shows that Microsoft is moving in the right direction, even to the point of being innovative. It seems the days of complete secrecy are coming to an end. They not only showed off what is here but what is coming in the near future.   I still have a lot of sessions that I want to see to really understand what was announced, but overall I am happier with this year’s Build than I was with the last one.

In the next post I will cover Day 2 keynote and give you My Two Cents.

Apr 7 14

Tablet Apps for Healthcare Providers

by John Pelak

In a recent blog posting, Jennifer Bresnick quoted Microsoft’s Peter Han’s thoughts on what mobile EHR users look for in a tablet – it’s an interesting read.

At BlueMetal, we build lots of tablet applications on lots of platforms (including Windows 8, iOS, and Android), and are especially interested in helping healthcare providers improve patient care via careful application of mobile technologies.  In reading Peter’s thoughts, it’s clear that he’s identified many of the non-functional requirements we’ve heard echoed by many of our clients across industry verticals (e.g. long battery life, pocket-sized form factors.)  But he also put his finger on some healthcare provider-focused features (e.g., cleanliness/cleanability), which are key to mass adoption.

I worked for a couple of years with a team that built clinical applications on early slate computers for a healthcare group based in Boston, and I was often surprised by what providers cited as critical app features versus those they felt were unimportant.  In response to an email question I sent about tablet usage in clinical settings, an ER doctor responded “when you can provide a device that fits in my pocket and enables me to respond to this message while standing in the middle of the ER without my having to support my arms, then you’ll have something I think will be useful.”

We’re fortunate to be here at a time when such devices are readily available.   There’s so much we can do with devices that can capture typed, written, spoken, and video input, which can also securely store, upload, and download data. It’s now up to us to provide applications worth (and worthy of) using in these settings.  If you’re interested, we’d be glad to discuss – thanks.

Apr 6 14

Join us at SharePoint Saturday Boston, 4/12/14

by sadalit

BlueMetal is a proud Gold sponsor of SharePoint Saturday Boston this upcoming Saturday, 4/12/14.  We will be raffling off an Xbox One, and we have three great speakers at the event:

Location:  Microsoft Office at One Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142

Schedule:  8:00AM – 6:00PM

Register here.

Mar 30 14

We’ll be at New England GiveCamp April 4-6

by sadalit

BlueMetal will be sponsoring the 5th Annual New England GiveCamp (http://newenglandgivecamp.org) Apr. 4-6 at the Microsoft office in Cambridge, and we’ll be participating as well.  The GiveCamp is an annual 48-hour Hackathon for local charities.  Last year, BlueMetalers redesigned and rebuilt the websites for Earthen Vessels, Charles River Conservancy, and Fuerza, and this year we’re excited to do more!

Learn: Jim O’Neil’s blog on the event.

See: time lapse of last year’s event.

Register:  http://negc2014.eventbrite.com.

Mar 27 14

BlueMetal sponsoring and speaking at SQL Saturday Madison, 3/29/14

by sadalit

BlueMetal is a proud sponsor of SQL Saturday Madison on 3/29/14.   SQLSaturday is a training event for SQL Server professionals and those wanting to learn about SQL Server. The event will take place at a new location this year: the American Family Insurance Training center at 6000 American Parkway, Building A, Madison, WI 53783.

Ted Krueger will present Upgrading and Migrating SQL Server with limited downtime.

Bill Lescher will present Fast and Flexible with Better Database Design.

Click here to register!

Mar 26 14

BlueMetal hosts the Global Windows Azure Bootcamp – Saturday 3/29/14

by sadalit

We’re excited to host the Global Windows Azure Bootcamp on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at our Watertown offices from 8 am to 6:30 pm.  This is a one day deep dive class to help thousands of people get up to speed on developing Cloud Computing Applications for Windows Azure. In addition to this great learning opportunity the hands-on labs will pool a huge global compute farm to perform diabetes research.   We hope you’ll join us!

Click here to learn more and register.

Mar 21 14

BlueMetal sponsoring and speaking at the Best of SharePoint Conference, 3/26

by sadalit

BlueMetal is a proud sponsor of the Best of SharePoint Conference - a local, free event that delivers SharePoint Conference content and presenters so you can learn what is new and exciting with SharePoint 2013!  Presenting some of the most well-received session leaders of the SharePoint community, Best of SPC 2014 is your source for the news on SharePoint 2013 and the hot topics from Vegas.

Location:  Microsoft Cambridge Office – 1 Cambridge Center, Cambridge Massachusetts 02142

Click here to register.

Choose from a variety of sessions, including: (See full list on registration page)

• Developing Future-focused, On-premises Solutions, with Bob German (BlueMetal Architects)
• When Should We Use SharePoint Out-Of-The-Box, Add Third-Party Apps or Build Custom Solutions, with Richard Harbridge (Microsoft)
• Overcoming Barriers to Achieve Social Business Success and Adoption, with Sue Hanley (Susan Hanley LLC)
• The Strategy Behind Building a Successful Social Intranet, with Joel Oleson (ViewDo Labs)
• SharePoint On-premises, in the Cloud, and Everything in Between, with Christian Buckley (Metalogix)
• SharePoint Online Management and Control, with Chris Bortlik (Microsoft)
• SkyDrive Pro and Mobility: Access Your Files While on the Go From Any Device and Platform, with Kieran Gupta (Microsoft)
• Complex Problem Solving with the New HTML5 APIs, with Scot Hillier (Scott Hillier Technical Solutions, LLC)
• Leverage What You Already Know About SharePoint as You Move Into 2013, with Scott Jamison (Jornata)

And don’t forget to join us afterwards for our SharePint at Champions just around the corner!  We hope to see you there!

Mar 13 14

BlueMetal sponsoring and speaking at TechStravaganza NYC on 3/21

by sadalit

BlueMetal is a proud sponsor of TechStravaganza 2014 in NYC, a one-day grassroots technical conference for IT Pros that is brought to you by local community groups in cooperation with Microsoft.  There are distinct tracks for Windows, SharePoint, Powershell, and Exchange.   This is the fourth year for this event, the first in its new location which has capacity for 600 attendees.  We hope to see you there!

Date and time:  March 21, 2014, 8 am – 5 pm

Location: Held at the new NYC Microsoft Offices at 11 Times Square, New York, NY 10036.

Click here to register.

Update:  Our own Becky Isserman will present a session on Data Visualization in SharePoint 2013.

Abstract:  In this session we will discuss various Business Intelligence Tools, such as PerformancePoint, PowerView, and PowerPivot.  We will answer a series of important questions, such as which tools requires analysis services?  Which tool is dependent on SQL Services Reporting Services?  What are the minimum hardware requirements for each tool?  In the end we will look at some dashboards built in each tool type and discuss scenarios for each tools use.  In the end attendees should understand the difference between each tool, the dependencies, and how each tool is applicable in the real world.

 

 

Mar 11 14

Translating Brand into a Digital Experience – Step 3: Choosing a device strategy that best suits your brand

by jhorgan@bluemetal.com

In our final post on this three part series, we will look at how to choose a mobile strategy wisely to deliver on your unique brand as quickly as possible.

If we take a look at Windows 8, iOS6 an Android, they have unique user interfaces, brands, and gestures. This means that for one OS, your design is easy to build because it echoes that os experience, while for another it may be vastly difference and require more development time.

Let’s take a look at a concrete example of a brand and a derived application that extended from it – Johnson & Johnson and its’ digital health scorecard.

Looking at JnJ’s homepage:

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.18.16 AM

We can see some of the brand aesthetic – highly visual imagery, simple, clean layers of blocked color and font usage.

Look at sample interfaces from Windows 8, iOS6 and Android

Nokia_Best-Buy byond_b66_main_article_1361278810_540x540iphone5c05jpg-e94d57_960w

So naturally when we apply an app design from Johnson & Johnson such as can be found at:

http://www.digitalhealthscorecard.com/

We want to choose an OS that expresses the experience, but also reflects the brand as quickly as possible. In this particular instance Windows 8 is a perfect fit because:

  • Large background canvas for background, people, focused imagery.
  • A process that is linear but can navigate to any step at any time requires a more flexible user experience architecture – i.e. a higher ability to swipe/pinch to various parts of the screen, which is aligned to Windows 8 UX
  • Uses of blocks of colors with font to create a simplified, beautiful experience.

When the experience is applied to Windows 8, we can see how design time is lessened because they are re-using the JnJ brand template to maximum effect.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.37.35 AM

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.38.13 AM

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.37.54 AM

Similarly note how easy it is to port that experience to iOS and Android now that the visual is established: design tweaks come in the form of reusing OS controls to save on development time, while still keeping the overall feel of the experience intact.

photo Screenshot_2014-03-04-13-11-06

Look for an OS that is flexible to your needs – Windows 8 in particular is good at meeting its 3rd party brands first, and itself second because it has an inherent design language that can easily be tweaked through visuals, colors and font choices to reflect another brand, quickly and effectively. iOS6 had a habit of demanding its client brands design their apps to meet its infamous rigid startings, essentially absorbing big companies under its brand umbrella. But with iOS7 that rigidity is  gone because Apple no longer is the only design option, and it must be adaptable to the ever increasing needs of its clients design teams.

When developing your apps, and you have an established brand, you are in control of your mobile strategy- don’t degrade your design style because the OS demands it, choose the right OS that can fulfill on your brand experience first, then alter appropriately for other systems. This will show a radically reduced cost in the time it takes to establish your design style on 3rd party systems.

Reviewing our 3 part series remember this tips in evolving your brand:

  • Design your brand based on your core values, not on what ‘looks good’. Fashions change, but brands that are representative outlast.
  • Express your digital user experience based on your needs, not the perceived restrictions of the device UX.
  • Finally, when rolling out across multiple native apps, choose the UX philosophy that is closely associated with your brand to ensure effective and quick translation to a digital experience.

Earlier posts in the series:

Translating Brand into a Digital Experience – Step 2: Maintaining your brand in the digital age

Translating Brand into a Digital Experience – Step 1: Understanding Brand