Category Archives: General

Australian Government Inquiry into IT Pricing report released

The Australian Government released its report into IT pricing entitled “At what cost? IT pricing and the Australia tax” today. You can read and download the report from the Australian Government Inquiry website here – http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=ic/itpricing/report.htm

A quick summary of the report showed (to no surprise) that Australians pay a hefty price for IT related products when compared with the rest of the world. The inquiry also investigated facotrs, such as wages, cost of living, taxes, market size, exchange rates, and localisation costs.

  • We pay an average of 66% more for Microsoft products,  42% more for Adobe products and 51% more for Autodesk products.
  • We pay 52% more for music.
  • We pay 16% more for ebooks.
  • We pay 46% more for hardware.
  • And we pay 84% more for games!

The report put forward 10 recommendations. It will be interesting to see whether the Australian Government has the resources to wage this battle and get its way. The points below are taken directly from the report.

  1. The Committee recommends that the ABS develop a comprehensive program to monitor and report expenditure on IT products, hardware and software, both domestically and overseas, as well as the size and volume of the online retail market.
  2.  Considering the importance of IT products to education, and in the interests of greater transparency in this area, the Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in consultation with Universities Australia and CAUDIT, conduct a comprehensive study of the future IT needs of and costs faced by Australian Universities, in order to provide clearer financial parameters for negotiations.
  3. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider a whole-of-government accessible IT procurement policy, to be developed by relevant agencies including AGIMO, and in consultation with relevant stakeholder groups including ACCAN.
  4. The Committee recommends that the parallel importation restrictions still found in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) be lifted, and that the parallel importation defence in the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth) be reviewed and broadened to ensure it is effective in allowing the importation of genuine goods.
  5. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government amend the Copyright Act’s section 10(1) anti-circumvention provisions to clarify and secure consumers’ rights to circumvent technological protection measures that control geographic market segmentation.
  6. The Committee further recommends that the Australian Government investigate options to educate Australian consumers and businesses as to:
    1. the extent to which they may circumvent geoblocking mechanisms in order to access cheaper legitimate goods;
    2. the tools and techniques which they may use to do so; and
    3. the way in which their rights under the Australian Consumer Law may be affected should they choose to do so.
  7. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in conjunction with relevant agencies, consider the creation of a ‘right of resale’ in relation to digitally distributed content, and clarification of ‘fair use’ rights for consumers, businesses, and educational institutions, including restrictions on vendors’ ability to ‘lock’ digital content into a particular ecosystem.
  8. The Committee recommends the repeal of section 51(3) of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
  9. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government consider enacting a ban on geoblocking as an option of last resort, should persistent market failure exist in spite of the changes to the Competition and Consumer Act and the Copyright Act recommended in this report.
  10. That the Australian Government investigate the feasibility of amending the Competition and Consumer Act so that contracts or terms of service which seek to enforce geoblocking are considered void.

There is a very interesting discussion in Chapter 4 regarding copyright, circumvention, compatitions and remedies. If you are involved in the IT industry, this is a must read section.

I’m hoping that we will have a balanced market and pricing parity leading to a win for vendors, businesses and consumers in Australia in the future.

Major reorganization at Microsoft

Tech journalist, Mary Jo Foley, just released a news flash regarding major organizational changes at Microsoft. It is definitely too early to tell what the ramifications will be.

The full article and her analysis of this news can be found here.

 

 

I have received the Microsoft MVP Award for the fourth year

I have just been awarded as a Microsoft MVP for the fourth year. I am honoured to receive this award and to continue to help in bringing positive change in the IT Industry.

MVP Logo

“Congratulations! We are pleased to present you with the 2013 Microsoft® MVP Award! This award is given to exceptional technical community leaders who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with others. We appreciate your outstanding contributions in Small Business Server technical communities during the past year.”

As the independent voice of users worldwide, your influence on technical communities is felt in many ways—enhancing people’s lives and contributing to our industry’s success. We’re deeply grateful to you for sharing your feedback, comments, answers, and expertise with technical communities. In recognition of your commitment, Microsoft is pleased to honor you with the Most Valuable Professional Award. Thank you for empowering the community with your outstanding leadership!

Steven A. Ballmer
Chief Executive Officer
Microsoft Corporation

 

Thank you for your exceptional contributions to technical communities! It gives us great pleasure to present you with the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award for the technical expertise you generously provide to others. By sharing your knowledge, experience, and objective feedback, you inspire and help people to solve problems and discover new capabilities every day. We are honored to welcome you as a Microsoft MVP.

Rich Kaplan
Corporate Vice President
Customer and Partner Advocacy
Microsoft Corporation

 

 

Administrator’s Guide eBook versions released

I have released the eBook versions of the Administrator’s Guide to Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

The books are available in the following formats.

iBooks (ePUB) – http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/an-administrator%e2%80%99s-guide-to-microsoft%c2%ae-windows%c2%ae-server-2012-essentials/13560486

Kindle (Mobi) – http://www.amazon.com/Administrators-Windows-Server-Essentials-ebook/dp/B00B2895QO

Purchasers of the ebooks above will also be entitled to a PDF copy, which has enhanced page layout and higher resolution screenshots. The PDF copy can be purchased directly from the website here

Enterprise Solutions for SMB by Third Tier and the SMBKitchen crew

I’ve teamed with with the Third Tier, a US based company that provides advanced support services to IT Professionals. We are putting together a new technology based resource portal/book project to help IT Professionals navigate the new IT landscape with the release of Windows Server 2012 and work out how this will can be used in small business. My fellow crew members are Amy Babinchak, Susan Bradley, David Shackelford, Lee Wilbur, Kevin Royalty and Philip Elder. Third Tier have put out a press release about this upcoming project here – http://www.thirdtier.net/2013/01/enterprise-solutions-for-smb-by-third-tier-and-the-smbkitchen-crew/.

Always buy Genuine Windows from reputable resellers

Once again, the media are sensationalizing their news stories. In an article titled, “Here’s  your new laptop, complete with new virus!“, news.com.au attempts to hook on to fears that a new PC could be infected with malware. Reading the article closely, you can see that the article refers to new PCs purchased from dubious resellers who bundle in counterfeit copies of Windows. This virus is quite prevalent in the Asia Pacific region, and the USA. Just remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is best to leave it. Buy genuine software from reputable resellers.

Windows Server 2012 is released – Supports in place upgrade!

Don’t let the unassuming simple look and feel of the start up fool you. Windows Server 2012 is a robust, full featured server platform capable of powering the world’s largest datacentres and also small business single server organizations.

Read about the full specifications and the myriad of features from the Microsoft website here – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/default.aspx

An interesting development in this version is the ability to perform an in place upgrade from a previous version. I tested this feature on my test server running Windows Server 2008 R2 with the HyperV role. The process took about half an hour with several server reboots. When it was done, I was presented with the server log in screen. I typed in the password, and was presented with the Windows Server 2012 version of my server. The management tool I had running on the server promptly checked in and announced that the server was online.

A minor detail was observed when all the virtual machines showed up on the system in a critical state and would not start up. This was easily remidied by removing the virtual machines from the HyperV Manager, and importing the virtual machines back. This is probably due to the fact that my virtual machine home folder was not as expected, and was relocated to a different area previously.

All up, it was a relatively painless process and it was a plesant surprise and bonus to see the in place upgrade feature available.

Let’s learn a new word for Windows Server 2012 Essentials – Transmog

There is a word that will crop up more, now that Windows Server 2012 Essentials has been announced. This word is Transmog. What does it mean?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Transmogrify (verb) as “to change or alter greatly and often with grotesque or humorous effect.” The Oxford dictionary defines this word as “transform in a surprising or magical manner.”

This word may also crop up in various incorrectly spelt forms like Transmorg or Transmorgify.

The gist of this word when applied to Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the process of transitioning Server 2012 Essentials into Server 2012 Standard, and move past the 25 user limit. In a sense, this is the old Transition Pack for SBS 2003 (http://bit.ly/Mhttle) revived. Using the Tranmog process, a customer will be able to perform an in place upgrade of their Server 2012 Essentials into Server 2012 Standard, thus bypassing the 25 user limitation. The majority of Server 2012 Essentials function like Remote Web Access and Client Backups will continue to operate and be fully supported up to 75 users and 75 devices. Mind you, the transmogrification process will allow more than 75 users and devices, but support for the Essentials components will not be available on larger numbers of clients and devices.

While this feature/process has been announced, there is no pricing announced. One would imagine that the cost would be roughly the same or more than the cost to move from Windows Server 2012 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 Standard with 25 CALs. For more information on how do perform this process, see this post – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj247582

 

 

 

What’s next after SBS?

The announcement of Microsoft’s new lineup of server products, omitting the Small Business Server name has created a lot of buzz in small business circles.

Microsoft’s stance is that they have consolidated the disparate existence of 4 product skus and have consolidated them into a single sku called Essentials. With this consolidation, they have also removed two major components that were “non standard” in terms of the way these products were installed in SBS when compared with their intended usage within larger organisations. The two products, Exchange and Sharepoint, were addressed by the provision of options to install on separate virtual servers, or to integrate with Cloud based hosted versions of these platforms. With the introduction of a process/feature called Transmorg, the 25 user limit within Windows Server 2012 Essentials can be unlocked while keeping the “SBS” bits like Remote Web Access and Client Backups (previously not available in SBS Standard). However, there are supported limits to how many clients can be backed up, which has been set at 75. Additionally, new features of Windows Server 2012 are readily available in Essentials, particularly Storage Spaces, File History and Application Compatibility.

This is the Microsoft line and message they want to convey to the community.

On the other hand, there are a LOT of partners who are unhappy with the decision to discontinue the SBS brand name. The main concern that many partners have is that Microsoft are pushing customers to the cloud and are cutting the middle man from the equation. Indeed, this has been a prominent theme in many discussions. Many others are disillusioned by the way in which Microsoft have made these decisions without much regard or consultation with the small business community at large. Indeed, other factors like the discontinuation of the Small Business Specialist Competency in favour of more expensive and technically challenging Small Business Silver and Gold Competencies plus the removal of Software Assurance on SBS products after August 2012 were seen as more “aggression” from Microsoft as the organisation does not care for the community.

However, in the end, all that matters is that Microsoft will continue to do business as they see fit in order to provide the optimum outcome for their shareholders. If they choose to do this without the support of their small business reseller community, then that is the strategic decision that they have made and will have to live (or die) by. The community, on the other hand, must recognise that the business environment is constantly changing and that one must adapt with the general business sentiment or risk being swept aside and be irrelevant if they are resistant to change.

One factor that appears to have been missed in the emotion of this frenzy is the need of the small business customer. What does the business owner want? What motivates them to reach into their pockets to shell out money for IT? Who do they trust to provide them with technology that will enhance their operations and profitability?

Will YOU be that trusted advisor?