MS Office: Click-to-Run and APP-V vs. Windows Installer and MSI

MS (Microsoft) Office has a new distribution packaging method for retail customers, starting with the release of Office 2010 and proliferated in Microsoft Office 2013, called Click to Run. Sometimes expressed as Click-to-Run or Click-2-Run. I’ll bold the text if I don’t use hyphens but typically I’ll express it as Click-to-Run when not using embellishments (Bold/Underline/Italic) to my text.

So what is Click-to-Run? Virtualized, streaming copy of Microsoft Office, installed from a webpage. It’s a small download, typically 800KB to 2MB in size. This small file essentially is an endpoint on your (local, client) computer to kick off the download off the pre-sequenced, published (installed) to the cloud, copy of Office. It’s kind of like a virtual jukebox librarian or that insurance commercial with that lady or something that gets it for you (web merchant), charges you (via the website basket dealy bob) and starts installing it. Actually by installing it I mean that it’s

It’s like an snapshot image of an install of Office from a computer elsewhere. Except instead of the disk image concept, you’re simply extracting the install of Office off the computer, not the entire file system bit by bit (forensic) or operating system (sysprep).

How’s this different from getting it on CD or DVD at the store? No more box, unless you go to the store and get a hollow cardboard box with a card containing the 25 character product key you would use, but you still get it from the web. The overall vision for years from software makers was to do away with the dreaded “box” concept and that you should just be able to “plug it in” (your computer) and go, and by “go” I mean install your additional software, updates, get your backed up data synched back down (cloud) etc… Now you can…if you have all that stuff at least.

Saves the carbon footprint and the file size (500-1,200 MB) and performance hit by going over the optical (DVD) drive that’s usually built-in to your computer.

User upgrade, ramp up times (deployment). The interactive user experiences a benefit of having any one of the Office applications such as Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote running in a second or two depending on device and speed of ISP*.

So how does that work under the hood? What are the nuts and bolts?

Old method: Windows Installer databases packaged in the form of an MSI file in the Windows file system typically in the form of physical, optical media (CD-ROM or DVD). ISO*** and EXE images (files) have become the preferred download method.

New method: Virtualized packages using APP-V (SoftGrid) containing “sequenced” installs of a particular application or service. It’s another way of virtualizing something, in this case not just the install but the “sequence” of that install, like a disk image of an app, if you will.

Benefits? Faster deployment time, smaller footprint in terms of disk space, throttling (bandwidth allocation), centralized management and administration, roaming settings. You can also run Office side-by-side with other MSI based installs. A very common headache for users are issues related to multiple office versions on the same pc. You an also use APP-V to create your own packages from software that’s non-Office or even non-Microsoft, I believe.

Negatives? Initial adoption and OEM Office software conflicts. However, there is hope for OEM (pre-loaded) installs of Windows with a buy Office shortcut. Microsoft now has a diagnostic package to resolve most issues relating to failed installs with Click to Run. Search for Microsoft, Office, install, troubleshooter, diagnostic, or Office and MSDT.

In the end it’s really just rhetoric of a “cloud” and “consumer IT” philosophy. The current major trends in the software industry. Click-to-run follows the principle of on-demand software, kind of like Netflix but for desktop computer apps. Enter Windows 8 into the equation and it’s a pretty good experience now because you’re settings and files now roam with you. Roaming profiles have always been a challenge in managing Windows domains.

Can I still get MSI installs of Office? For individual (consumers) no, except in the enterprise for organizations licensed to run this as such. But even then they may still use APP-V to sequence the Office 2013 install their way anyway.

Microsoft markets to both individuals, schools, government, small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs), and even corporations and enterprises. The type of need you have determines what Microsoft allows you to purchase. An
“individual” is usually the best unless it’s for a job or school. Microsoft has something called @EDU that gets you the “could” stuff for colleges.

You also have SkyDrive and Office Web Apps now also, so it’s not as big as it once was to have Word. But if you need to do any complex word processing feature, good luck that or GoogleDocs or other online embedded doc viewers like Office Web Apps. Outlook.com is pretty cool though if you can’t use Outlook installed on your computer for whatever reason.

 

Footnotes

ISP stands for Internet Service Provider

C2R is a common acronym for Click to Run technology pertaining to Microsoft Office product offerings.

ISO contains entire contents of an entire file system in one file for publishing to physical media like DVD or USB (flash) drive.

ClickOnce is a deployment method used in Visual Studio, the development tool Microsoft markets to developers.

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Don’t Judge!!! Except when…

You don’t want to judge anyone or anything on a personal level but on a professional level I’d say “Yes, do judge!” Because money’s involved and there’s always a marketing angle (gimmick) attached. You don’t want to judge someone individually or a companies philosophies. But when it comes to an ad campaign. Oh heck yes! Please judge.

That’s the one reason I don’t care much for personal opinions in ads or suggestive content. Not that I won’t like what perceive (think) they’re suggesting, just that someone else might not. That’s all.

The first thing I ask myself when (I suspect) someone tries to sell me something looks or sounds to me like a gimmick is “is there money involved here?” and what I always tell myself (if I’m lucky) is “there usually is”.

Does that give me the right to judge someone prior to further investigation (vetting)? No, just be skeptical.

A good example, in my opinion of course, are the use of tattoos (body art) in society today. I honestly can no longer tell if someone gets one (tattoo) because they’re simply expressing themselves, communicating a belief, or exploiting themselves. But that would be judging them. Right? Yes, unless they try to sell me something… Then I start eyeballing (judging) and analyzing their artwork.

Don’t get me wrong though, there’s some tattoos that are just cool artwork. I don’t have them but the more cool ones I see, the more I want one… Just hope I don’t whore (exploit) myself out after I do. Not judging there (am I?), just expressing an opinion about two separate things that every once in a while seem to collide. (art/money)

Office 365 and “cloud” subscriptions

What is could computing? It’s storing stuff in the cloud and having everything in one central place for accessibility, agility, and redundancy. Some go all-in and dump it all up there. Others, like me, use a hybrid solution. There are some documents that I don’t want out there, for obvious reasons.

 

What’s Office 365? I’ve been using Office 365 for quite a while. But I was using it back before it was even called Office 365, can’t even recall right now what it was. Which is probably good. I actually have two subscriptions. One for Home and Business called “Office 365 Home and Business” that I purchased a one year subscription for $99.00, bumping up my SkyDrive (cloud) storage by 20GB (I think). I purchased that along with my Surface Pro from Microsoft Store. The other subscription is Office 365 Enterprise 4 (E4) that’s basically an enterprise subscription, really an E3, grandfathered in from when I worked at Microsoft. Legacy account that was upgraded to Office 365 back when it was released. I recently converted it to a paid subscription for $20.00/month. So I have two subscriptions for 120.00+99.00=$219.00/year. Each cover one user (me).

 

Subscriptions are really just paying per month or per year, or whatever service contract you get into. Stop paying, stop using. Like the phone or electric company. Or, your internet service provider charging you per month as opposed to metering your usage and charging you for that (wireless data plans).

 

SharePoint is a web solution (web application, service running on web server(s)) that enables you to create a business portal (site collections/subsites) without the need to know web development or web design. It’s like FrontPage but for businesses and it’s all web based. So you don’t need to install an app on the client. But you can install Office suite or SharePoint Workspace (Groove) and interact with SharePoint server from the client with those apps acting as the client front end to interface with SharePoint’s front end. It’s sometimes hosted on premise, partner hosting, or on Office 365 subscription.

 

SharePoint Online is the “cloud” service or off-premise or outsourced version of SharePoint. They host it, not you. It comes bundled in enterprise (volume) offerings of Office 365.

 

So if someone approaches and asks me What is Office 365? what do I tell them? I tell them that Office 365 is simply a suite of web applications (running on web servers on the Internet), similar to how the Microsoft Office suite bundles apps for Windows or Mac computers. Microsoft Office is not an application*, it’s a product or a SKU (stock keeping unit). A box, if you will. Just another way to get the apps, or in this case, services. Office 365 Home and Business can be purchased in a box at a store but it’s just a card with a (25 character) product key to unlock the product. But that’s all done online, you just buy a license in a box, basically.

 

Home/Startup/SMB versus Large Organization/Corporation/Enterprise:
Office 365 Home and Business, gives you more storage in the cloud (SkyDrive, 20GB) and Skype minutes (60/month). I’m not sure if they replenish per month or not. Or if it’s just 60 for the whole year. Need to check on that.

Office 365 Enterprise suites, give you SharePoint Online, Exchange, Lync, Office suite (clients). I think with the higher suites (E3/E4) you’ll get more web services like Office Web Apps hosted (not on SkyDrive) or Visio Services (not on E1/E2). That was last time I checked. So I could be off on those. But I do know that it’s not related to SkyDrive, you store your documents in SharePoint Document Libraries (repositories).

 

For consumers (personal individual end-users) or small business (SMB) owners, startups, what have you; cloud computing a good thing. For enterprises (large organizations, corporations) it’s also good, but not as important if you understand Microsoft Licensing and volume licensing or enterprise agreements. MS partners and ISVs should have a grasp of MS licensing concepts.

 

Single, LLC startups should look at getting Home and Business. Enterprises the E1-E4 suites. I’ll try to refine the E-x model later.

 

Okay, so it’s a suite of applications. So what applications are in that now? Okay, here’s the selling points begin: You get SharePoint Online (business portal), Exchange (email server), Communications Server (now Lync Server?) for instant messaging (IM) and online meetings. Pretty easy sell to someone already into that stuff already and using them on-premise. Even if they’re not using SharePoint or Exchange. There’s some other features included but I won’t get into those yet.

 

SharePoint

Exchange

Lync

Office Professional 2010 (client machines)

 

The big sell for me is having both SharePoint Online and Exchange, sometimes referred to as SPO, hosted and outsourced. Because even if Microsoft hosts it and I can’t touch the servers, from an HR/operational perspective you’ve just eliminated the need for 1) two full time administrators (SP/Exchange), 2) server hardware, 3) carbon footprint, and 4) operational costs (reducing TCO**: power, cooling equip., backup, peripherals, cables, upkeep, etc…).

 

The tough sell is if someone isn’t currently running Exchange or SharePoint. But there’s migration paths out (whitepapers) out there, demos, accelerators, etc… if someone wants to read further.

 

It’s a subscription based The fees are doled out per month, per user.

 

So great, I’m sold. Where do I get it now? Partner/VAR (value added reseller) or direct marketing?

 

Talk to a local or trusted certified (gold, silver, etc…) Microsoft Partner or if you have a Microsoft Store nearby, visit that and ask them. Merchants who are partners may have a partner sticker (branding) in their window, entry, kiosk, billboard, or in their ads in local periodicals (newspapers, yellow pages) or other media (radio/TV/web). You can locate either through Microsoft PinPoint (Bing or Google it). If you don’t want to talk to a partner call 800-MICROSOFT or visit Office365.com. Or, just search Bing.com or Google.com for Office 365 and you’ll get ads, assuming you’re not blocking ads. I recommend Bing.com if you want to check ads, but that’s just because I haven’t used Google as much lately. I use Bing for the reward points accumulated with every search when I’m logged in with Microsoft Account (Live/Hotmail) or Facebook. Partners should be able to answer the simple (pre-sales) questions without charging for anything. But if they don’t, you can go to another or just contact Microsoft sales over phone or electronically using the information above.

 

I encourage consumers or small businesses to get in touch with their local MS partner, if available, in their region. Because, it promotes local merchants which in turn helps local commerce. But Microsoft.com should always have an entry point like chat to speak to a rep. Just during normal business hours. After hours you may get someone in chat on the Answers desk, they may not know as much.

 

Where I live, Fargo, it would be either Staples (OfficeMax), Best Buy, and the local “computer place” store(s). Either the guys in software, PC area, or service desk (Geek Squad) should be able to help if you ask about Office 365 and “cloud” services.

 

What about privacy and CISPA? Yes, there’s concerns and chatter out there in the media regarding new privacy legislation. Me included. But I won’t get into that in this post. I still don’t know enough to comment on CISPA. But Microsoft does have privacy statements at the corporate, subsidiary, and intellectual property level (Office 365 itself) that by reviewing should help you rationalize the benefits versus risks (Pros vs. Cons) of hosting off-premise (off site) by another company (hosting service). In this case, Microsoft is the hosting service. This really goes the same for Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, etc… They all have privacy statements and I haven’t heard anything that these organizations have ever gone against the principles laid out in those statements. Just be on the lookout for the words statement, policy, or terms and read the fine print.

 

Okay, but what issues are there I need to look out for?

 

*Setup.exe that installs Microsoft Office (MSI based installs, not Click to Run (C2R***)) is, well yes, an executable, so theoretically it could be perceived as an application because of the user interface to install Office to make it easier for a human being (not automation), but it’s really what some software engineers would just a call a wrapper containing of MSIs that calls (makes a request to Windows to run) the Windows Installer (msiexec.exe) service.

Tags: consumer, advocacy, evangelism, marketing, cloud, subscription, storage

 

**TCO stands for total cost of ownership. In the context of this article, it’s the costs to host SharePoint on-premise.

***C2R stands for click to run and is the new technology that installs Office. If you buy online, you’re probably getting a click to run (C2R) install. Some sites you purchase from online (MS Store, educational, vol licensing portal) will give you the option to download full MSI (MicroSoft Installer package, *.msi via setup.exe) based install.

Windows 8 and new devices

The big new thing in Windows 8 has been of course, touch devices. But more interesting for myself as I’ve played with the Windows 8 Professional experience on various devices, both touch (Surface) and non-touch (PC) along with the Windows Phone 8 HTC8x that I have. I’ve noticed two key components that shouldn’t be big news for Windows enthusiasts who are always on the latest and greatest. Those two components are the touch based (metro) apps and the legacy non-touch environment.

Photo below is of my Surface Pro 128GB SSD, around $899 + Office 365 Home and Business Subscription at $99.00. Purchased on Microsoft Store. Best Buy was out of the Surface Pro (Intel/AMD chipsets) but had the Surface RT (ARM chipset). This is Microsoft.

My tablet, Microsoft Surface Pro, stylus pen included, dual cameras, one USB port and no DVD (expected with tablets), paid $99.00 for the keyboard extension that also doubles as a cover.

WP_20130319_107

For me, the experience on my Dell Precision Workstation T7400, legacy (moving) platter hard drive, 4GB RAM, Xeon quad core 5450 proc @ 3GHz that worked great on Windows 7 just can’t handle the load demands of Windows 8 for what I use it for. The 4GBs were just not enough unless I wanted to go completely Desktop and not even touch, pardon the pun, the Start Screen. But I was curious and thought I’d play with the live updates on Start Screen (live tiles) which were cool. But what wasn’t cool was the amount of (free) apps I would install from the app store and the amount of disappointment when I realized that the app didn’t do anything different from what I could do on the desktop. Some metro apps are great though. Don’t get me wrong. For example, the built-in Weather, Money, and News apps are awesome. But with a little bit of work I can just use Internet Explorer 10 and just subscribe to RSS feeds and pin the Favorites Center. Internet Explorer is probably the best thing in Windows 8 because it’s built-in and has the best web experience with Microsoft websites, services, and HTML5 along with Silverlight. But for things like Facebook and Twitter I sometimes need to use Chrome because all the new compatibility and trust usability features in IE10 can’t do it all for all websites. If they target Chrome and not IE (so much anyway) then I’ll just go to Chrome for any demanding tasks on that website. Internet Explorer to me is just more secure and worth the usability snafus that come along with learning new technology.

Image

I took a screenshot of one of my tile arrangements. Kind of nice on a touch device but I don’t recommend getting too in love with Windows 8 Start Screen until you get into touch. For non-touch users simply knowing the Start key with the Windows logo icon on the (Microsoft) keyboard is your best friend. But so also, is pinning items to Start menu, or knowing how to add icons to Desktop (legacy) apps is also a good thing to know. I usually pin a program to the Task Bar and pin any important highly used sites to the Favorites Bar in Internet Explorer.

Some of the really great things for both non-touch and touch devices alike in Windows 8 include live tiles, cloud integration, social connectors, one login, picture password, social media integration, search integration, the “geek” menu, file transfers UI graphing and pause button, hyper-v, updated Task Manager, ARM support, etc…etc…etc…

The biggest downside is they removed the Start button for Desktop (non-touch) users. They could have done a SKU that was just touch like RT and given an enterprise version and that would be fine. If there is one I haven’t installed it. But it sounds like there may be something out there. I’ll keep an eye out for that.

The second biggest downsides for me is the usability with things like social media, sharing content or device sharing, and the number of entry points that can take you from one world (Desktop) to the other (Start). The one very useful feature for those who don’t use the new Metro apps is the View in Desktop Version command in Internet Explorer.

However, from using the Surface and Windows Phone 8 there’s lots of potential benefits to using Windows 8. But what would I personally recommend? I would treat it as simple as this. If you’re not using a touch device and don’t have any burning desire or need to have one, then don’t worry about jumping the gun to Windows 8. But be aware that Windows XP ends support (end of life), this includes extended support, on April 14, 2014. That means that you must be on at least Vista at that time or you’ll be putting yourself at risk from both a security and self-help (support articles) standpoint. There won’t be any more security patches after that point, unless it was a real huge exploit, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Therefore for companies I would make sure you are at Windows 7 or 8 by April 14th, 2014. That’s my professional recommendation. But also, don’t feel you need to be on Windows 7, if your company or home has computer(s) with Vista on it. But if you’re not happy with Vista in terms of performance. That’s where I’d thing about just going to Windows 8. Horrible sell, I know but Windows 7 is going to be harder to find and I discourage anyone from buying on eBay or even Amazon (although unlikely Amazon would let me down) unless it’s from an online merchant you really trust. So as of now, you’ll need to get on Windows Vista (latest Service Pack) or Windows 7 or 8 by the end of the year.

If you’re not buying a new device that comes pre-loaded with Windows 8, be sure to run the Windows 8 upgrade advisor, the Windows 7 advisor should still be out there.

I’ll try my hardest in the coming weeks to blog more in the future about migrations and cloud storage, Office 2013, SkyDrive, Office 365, Windows 8. But I’m also studying UNIX-like operating systems including my UNIX bible simply called Inside UNIX. Wow, this is the motherload, the war and peace of UNIX books but there’s probably a bigger one out there somewhere. I have FreeBSD loaded on a VM and playing with that also. Also, I’ll try to point out some cool new devices like the nook, Chromebook, Facebook phone, among others. SSD (solid state drives), smart phones, backups, infrastructure, and ARM processors to name a few will also be brushed upon. The smart phones probably more than the others. The iWatch would be another.

If you want to …

If you want to swim with the dolphins you’re gonna have to get wet. Otherwise you may get thrown in the tank!

By “tank” I mean “think tank”. What’s that term mean anyways? Good question. There’s good think tanks and bad ones. Simplified, it’s anytime I get grilled by some policy board or judged for not doing something the right way. I got the idea after seeing an advertisement for the show Shark Tank and was actually thinking they threw the losers into a tank. Made me laugh when they didn’t do that. I think I’ve seen too much reality TV. But really, it’s the way I feel about life. Also, I always am amused when I hear people use the terms “dolphin” or “shark” in the business environment. But the most infamous “tanks” we have out there are courts and media. And trust me, you don’t want to get thrown in with those fishees now do you? I guess it’s good to think. Just not too much? Who knows. Who cares. Funny quote. Leave it at that.