This last week had a couple of interesting changes announced and rumored from Microsoft (disclosure Microsoft is a client of the author). The first was some needed changes to Office that will likely upset a lot of people. The second was the announcement of a Generation 3 HoloLens. (What happened to generation 2? Well, like Windows 9, Microsoft pretty much just skipped it.) And third was the application of AI in the patching process that could dramatically reduce the expense and aggravation attached to it. Let’s talk about each in turn.
Starting with the new Office updates; first a new simplified ribbon designed to help people better focus on their work and more naturally collaborate with others. It is also more customizable, so the most used features will be easier to access. The appearance of the product better uses the improved graphics performance on newer PCs, so the product will look more modern. And finally, search has been improved with a stronger AI back end that will provide recommendations and a better connection to Microsoft Graph. Microsoft Graph is a new capability in across Microsoft applications that improve user onboarding, helps manage employee profiles, helps with document conversion, and improves email syncing.
This mostly sounds wonderful (I’m still not all that clear on Microsoft Graph) so why will it likely piss off users? There are users who embrace change, generally younger users, and there are users that hate change which generally fall into older categories. This tends to make updating any product a lot more drama filled than you otherwise would expect. But if products aren’t updated then can fall so far behind the technology curve that a newer product from another vendor is likely to displace it.
I’ve never really found an effortless way though this other than just listen to the complaints while keeping the comments on age, inflexibility and whining to yourself as they won’t help. In a few months this will pass, and these rigid folks will eventually adjust to the new capability. They’ll grow to like some of the changes but forget this process and get upset again the next time the product is changed.
Personally, I view these changes as positive but, in my business, if you don’t learn to love change you’re dead.
Generation 3 HoloLens
I personally think that HoloLens will eventually evolve into what will replace our cellphones, tablets and laptops. A connected head mounted display with AI (Cortana/Alexa) and AR that will allow us to put virtual monitors where ever we need them and allow us to communicate with less likelihood of walking into a telephone pole or fall into a ditch. What was interesting about rumor of this latest version (code named Sydney), due early in 2019, is that it leapfrogs the second-generation device and moves to Generation 3. Historically Generation 3 devices are the most improved. This is because it takes 3 generations to address the user feedback on the first-generation device.
Timing typically works like this, Generation One comes out and it is really rough with much of the technology not really yet adapted to the use case. Generation 2 addresses the most annoying problems and reflects the component suppliers coming up to speed on the technology making the device more usable. With that improved customer base and two generations of customer feedback, Generation 3 is massively changed going from more of a guess about what the market needs to something that better matches a now known need. The 3rd generation of the iPod and iPhone were reflective of this and coincided with massive adoption as a result. The old saying that “the prospectors get the arrows and the settlers get the gold” is often applied here with the settlers being the ones who wait till the third generation.
I don’t think Generation 3 will get us to a broad market potential iPhone killer yet, but I do think the device will be massively improved and begin to look more practical in that eventual role as a result. Oh, and it is supposed to be cost reduced as well so market adaption for its current industrial use should accelerate as a result.
AI for Windows patches
One of the biggest complaints desktop analysts are getting surrounding Windows is that the number and speed of patches is unmanageable. Since most address security exploits which are coming at unprecedented rates (so you really do have to apply them) the cost of assuring application and unique device compatibility is extra ordinary. I’ve heard of services firms trying to charge what they charge to roll out a new version of Windows to apply every major patch costing millions of dollars a shot.
Up until now Microsoft just didn’t have the bandwidth to do this testing for their customers, the numbers of unique applications and hardware exceeded by magnitudes the resources they could focus on this. But that is one of the huge benefits of deep learning, machine learning and AI technology. It can scale massively better than you can scale people allowing the April 2018 update to roll out far faster and with far fewer problems than earlier efforts like the Fall Creators Update.
This best thing about this technology is that, once applied, it improves the process at machine speed and this means that every subsequent patch process should be a huge improvement over the prior effort. This doesn’t mean the pain is going away, sadly the level of malware and breach attempts are also accelerating, but it does mean there is light at the end of this tunnel.
Wrapping up: the speed of change is increasing – adapt or die
Whether we are talking Office, HoloLens or Windows we are seeing what is likely the beginning of a far faster and far more fluid product development acceleration schedule. For things like HoloLens this is driven by a combination of maturing technology and changing needs, for products like Office they are designed to hold off ever more capable and more numerous competitors, and for products like Windows to offset increased risks with greater automation and machine speed intelligence.
This to me means that those that can embrace change and roll with the punches will be far more successful than those that are more rigid in their thinking and tend to resist change. That might be something to factor into both your personal development and how you select new employees. Or, to put this differently, whether we are talking companies or people, becoming better at adapting will likely be how we assure survival.
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