] ] Try­ing out stuff at Mi­crosoft

Daily Trust - - IT WORLD -

If the events of the last two weeks are any­thing to go by, we are go­ing to be see­ing a new, im­proved, and ag­gres­sive Mi­crosoft. Al­though the var­i­ous ini­tia­tives at the com­pany ob­vi­ously didn’t start af­ter Nadella be­came the CEO just two months ago, we must con­grat­u­late him for at least be­ing the bearer of great news for Mi­crosoft share­hold­ers and cus­tomers. What a dif­fer­ence a few weeks can make in per­cep­tion.

Four an­nounce­ments in the past few weeks, a cou­ple of which are po­ten­tially game-chang­ing, are quite plenty for a com­pany crit­ics have al­most writ­ten off on in­no­va­tion. The new tech moves in­clude: a) turn­ing iPad into a work­horse by in­cor­po­rat­ing Mi­crosoft Of­fice 365, b) bring­ing back fa­mil­iar Win­dows fea­tures, c) drop­ping li­cens­ing fees on some Win­dows de­vices, and d) an­nounc­ing Cor­tana, a smart­phone per­sonal as­sis­tant that will ri­val Ap­ple’s Siri and Google Now.

Mi­crosoft Of­fice in iPad

Mi­crosoft Of­fice in iPad was the topic of last week’s ar­ti­cle in this col­umn, to which you should re­fer for more de­tails. Suf­fice to say that, for pro­duc­tiv­ity buffs, in­cor­po­rat­ing Of­fice into iPad is po­ten­tially like chang­ing iPad from ba­si­cally a toy to a work­horse. Folks who have real work to do on iPad, that is, be­yond send­ing/re­ceiv­ing emails; re­ceiv­ing, com­pos­ing, and send­ing SMS, mak­ing and re­ceiv­ing phone calls, tak­ing pic­tures, etc., might just have hit it big. Writ­ing letters on let­ter­heads, de­vel­op­ing a de­cent doc­u­ment (re­port, book, etc.), craft­ing Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tions for a must-win prospect, car­ry­ing out anal­y­sis on spread­sheet, are pro­duc­tiv­ity tools you can now en­joy in iPad. Thus, we no longer have to con­tend with the poor qual­ity of al­ter­nate pro­duc­tiv­ity tools in iPad: Ap­ple’s iWork app re­quires a rather clumsy file con­ver­sion oper­a­tion, and other apps (King­soft Of­fice, Quick­of­fice, and Doc­sToGo) are quite in­fe­rior to Of­fice. Al­though a few Of­fice func­tions are said to ac­tu­ally be eas­ier in iPad than on tra­di­tional PCs, be­cause of the touch tech­nol­ogy, Of­fice in iPad is work-in-progress, as it lacks some of the fea­tures found in the desk­top/lap­top ver­sion. I told you last week that you could only save on Mi­crosoft’s OneDrive and that there is no al­lowance for print­ing. There are also no key­board short cuts, no th­e­saurus, and you can’t check gram­mar. Many tech an­a­lysts have also fussed over the fact that Of­fice in iPad strug­gles with col­lab­o­ra­tion. Al­though touch screen typ­ing is sleek, I per­son­ally find the stan­dard key­board to be the ul­ti­mate typ­ing tool, if a large doc­u­ment is be­ing pro­duced.

Bring­ing back fa­mil­iar Win­dows fea­tures on the PC

Be care­ful what you throw at your cus­tomers, for they can al­ways re­ject them. I guess not a lot of folks switched to Win­dows 8 op­er­at­ing sys­tem since it was launched on 26 Oc­to­ber, 2012. You see, the static short­cuts of stan­dard Win­dows on the screen of PCs and lap­tops have been sup­planted in Win­dows 8 by live tiles that “bris­tle with ac­tiv­ity.” One “PC How-To” guide en­thu­si­as­ti­cally de­scribed Win­dows 8 Start screen as “full of an­i­mated short­cuts known as Live Tiles.”

The Win­dows 8 live tiles are quite pleas­ing to the eye and they are also en­dowed with im­pres­sive on-the-fly func­tion­al­i­ties. The user in­ter­face (UI) is quite pretty, and some be­lieve that the op­er­at­ing sys­tem is prob­a­bly the “fresh­est, clean­est, and most imag­i­na­tive” one around. If that’s the case, why has the adop­tion of Win­dows 8 by con­sumers been dis­mal?

We go through this cy­cle with Win­dows from time to time: one ver­sion is great, the other is bad. Win­dows 8 cer­tainly seems to be­long in the lat­ter, and Mi­crosoft thinks it knows how to fix the prob­lems. In Win­dows 8.1 re­leased three days ago, Mi­crosoft has brought back aban­doned stan­dard Win­dows fea­tures. You will get your mouse and key­board back, and you will now au­to­mat­i­cally go to the desk­top af­ter boot­ing or “un-lock­ing,” the clas­sic Start menu is back, and you now boot into desk­top, again. The close (X) and min­i­mize (-) icons in the up­per right-hand cor­ner, and the taskbar along the bot­tom of the clas­sic desk­top are now back.

Drop­ping Win­dows li­cens­ing fees

The essence here is that Mi­crosoft will no longer charge a fee to hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­ers that want to put Win­dows in de­vices with screens whose sizes are less than nine inches. This de­ci­sion runs against Mi­crosoft’s tra­di­tional model of li­cens­ing Win­dows to PC hard­ware mak­ers, which rep­re­sents one of the most sta­ble and sig­nif­i­cant sources of rev­enue for Mi­crosoft. But for “minia­tur­ized” de­vices (smart­phones), the free-li­cens­ing model is ac­tu­ally what hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­ers know, cour­tesy of Google’s free An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem, which runs three out of ev­ery four smart­phones sold to­day. Thus, if Mi­crosoft wants to play in the smart­phone world, which it should be­cause the PC is dy­ing, rel­a­tively speak­ing, it will have to give out Win­dows Mo­bile for free. In re­turn, Mi­crosoft gets more apps for Win­dows plat­form and some rev­enue.

Vir­tual as­sis­tant in Win­dows

Cor­tana, Mi­crosoft’s new vir­tual as­sis­tant for Win­dows OS for smart­phones, may as well be the sassi­est smart­phone in­no­va­tion yet by Mi­crosoft. Cor­tana is in­tended to take on Ap­ple’s Siri and Google Now. I can see many folks, par­tic­u­larly, the younger ones, get­ting hooked on Cor­tana. It as­sists you mostly via voice in­ter­ac­tion and car­ries out such tasks as: searches, ap­point­ment re­minders, giv­ing news and weather and flight in­for­ma­tion. Cor­tana also pro­vides con­text-spe­cific pre­dic­tions. A few an­a­lysts feel that Cor­tana trumps Siri and Google Now in a fea­ture called Cor­tana’s Note­book, where you can cus­tom­ize what is tracked, in­clud­ing spe­cific in­ter­ests such as sports team, news topics, people in your in­ner cir­cle, and the places you fre­quent.

The bot­tom line in this ar­ti­cle is that Mi­crosoft is ag­gres­sively try­ing out stuff, to see what might click. Ten­sion is high in the Nige­rian tele­coms sec­tor as work­ers fear los­ing their jobs due to the new ap­proach of Busi­ness Process Out­sourc­ing model be­ing adopted by the tele­coms ser­vice providers.

Due to this new ap­proach in busi­ness model and a more com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment, tele­coms oper­a­tors have been im­ple­ment­ing one form of re­struc­tur­ing or the other.

Sale of the as­sets es­pe­cially base sta­tions is part of the out­sourc­ing model im­ple­mented by the tele­coms firms to cut costs fol­low­ing dwin­dling rev­enues.

Al­though out­sourc­ing of tower ser­vices is a global phe­nom­e­non in the tele­coms busi­ness, oper­a­tors in Nigeria are, how­ever, lev­er­ag­ing on the busi­ness model now to cut down on their cost of oper­a­tion.

Ex­perts are of the view that this may be the sec­ond time that the sec­tor will ex­pe­ri­ence huge job losses, fol­low­ing the out­sourc­ing ex­er­cise for the cus­tomer ser­vice sec­tion of the ma­jor oper­a­tors four years ago, which saw a lot of em­ploy­ees in the in­dus­try los­ing their jobs.

Air­tel Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions had on Septem­ber 30, 2011 sacked all their cus­tomer care staff num­ber­ing 3000 due to salary dis­agree­ment. But Air­tel Nigeria and its Call Cen­tre BPO ser­vices providers, Tech Mahin­dra and Spanco, de­nied the re­port.

With the out­sourc­ing model, tele­coms firms are ex­pected to hands-off their in­volve­ment in the pro­vi­sion and main­te­nance of tow­ers and in­stead al­low com­pa­nies with core com­pe­tence in the area to man­age such ser­vices.

Eti­salat had an­nounced a main­te­nance agree­ment pact across Africa with Huawei at re­cently con­cluded Mo­bile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

MTN Nigeria was in a me­dia re­port said to have sacked 252 en­gi­neers who were re­spon­si­ble for the oper­a­tion and main­te­nance of its base sta­tions na­tion­wide last week while Eti­salat in an­other re­port was al­leged to have car­ried out a mass sack.

The sacks in MTN fol­lowed dwin­dling rev­enue and the BPO busi­ness strat­egy as those staffs whose du­ties had been out­sourced could

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