Around a year ago, Microsoft issued a press release announcing its intent to deliver Office 2008 for Mac. Well, it seems that Microsoft is now even closer and there is a preview article on Computerworld with quotations from the Microsoft Mac Business Unit here.
For a more detailed overview of what's under the bonnet on Mac Office 2008 then please visit this site. It has some great graphics of the new release plus access to the Mactopia newsletter.
The official release for Mac Office 2008 will be at Macworld where you can join Microsoft if you're lucky enough to be over there.
I know of one University that has been on the beta for Mac Office 2008 and is ready to start installing the final release once they're able to get hold of it. IMHO one of the main features of this new release is that it is all about re-connecting users with the power of Office. As well as this, there are some significant updates to the components in the suite which should impress.
I'm not a Mac user but I look forward to having a tour of Mac Office 2008 with friends and getting their opinion of the new version.
There are some new changes to the the Ultimate Steal website (Office 2007 Ultimate for students, for £38.95, only available online). One of the most significant is that we now accept PayPal (and since we switched that on, it appears to be a popular method).
When students buy their new laptops, before they arrive at university, they normally do it with Dad's credit card (in what one parent described to me as "the last big present" - they wish!). Once they reach uni, they are then on their own. We see that pattern too - we got a little peak of credit card orders when students went home for Christmas ("the last little present"?), but now they are back, and making their loan cheques last, it appears that PayPal is more popular.
Another reason to tell your students about the Ultimate Steal
I've noticed how the use of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems have been growing rapidly in education. I have traditionally thought about "students" rather than "customers", but student expectations have been rising so rapidly, since the introduction of tuition fees, that there is a growing need to manage the customer relationship with potential and current students. Sophisticated customer management techniques are vital to support the continuing development of your business revenues. And effectively managing potential students who are already in touch with you is less expensive than going looking for new ones.
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM system version 4, is being launched on 31st January, at our main offices in Reading, with a follow up launch at The Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh on 26th February. The event will give you a chance to see how the CRM system is developing, and an opportunity to hear a customer talking about how it is being used within their business. (I notice the General Manager for Dynamics CRM worldwide will be there, so a chance to ask some deep questions about our strategy too!).
Use these links to find out more about the event, and register to attend, in London on 31st January or Edinburgh on 26th February.
A customer case study within education
You may also be interested in reading about how one of our customers is using Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The case study is just over a year old, and examines the issues that the DfES wanted to tackle when they implemented a pilot CRM system in their Corporate Services and Development Directorate. You can read more about it on our worldwide Case Studies website
Sounds easy but what's it like in your university? Students have so many web sites to visit both in and out of the university so how can you engage them in your university where you really need their support. One example I have seen is where Coventry University wanted to streamline its student voting system from a traditional paper-based system using web technology. Coventry had two distinct business needs:
When two business needs are presented like that and you know even a fraction of Microsoft's portfolio you can guess what the answer is going to be. SharePoint.
During the summer of 2007, when it was raining everywhere, Peter Yeadon (Coventry's director of the Customer Relationship Management and Portal Development Programme) started work with Artemis. The timescale was really quite tight but working together Coventry and Artemis have delivered a solution that met all expectations. When I say tight, I'm talking 3 weeks.
With the delivery of the solution Coventry has the immediate benefits of:
I'm really pleased with this solution, it shows how a university with a clear business need can work with a partner to deliver something which has clearly realisable benefits and helps to engage students on their terms.
I've put the case study on my SkyDrive below.
2008 hasn't really started any better than 2007 finished - a laptop is stolen from the boot of a car, containing 600,000 personal data records - heaping data disaster upon data disaster. Reality says that laptops will be stolen, even when we think they are secure. I've had a laptop stolen from a hotel room, as have many friends and colleagues, and I know of friends and colleagues who've had laptops stolen from cars, or worse*
While it's wise to do everything to avoid theft (I always use a Kensington lock on my laptop in hotels now), the other important step is to minimise the impact of the loss. According to the BBC news report "Teachers put pupil data at risk", which was prompted by research by RM, teachers in nearly half of England's primary schools back up pupil data on CDs and memory sticks, which they then take out of school. The survey of 933 schools found only 1% of respondents were encrypting the data. And I'm pretty sure that you'll have the same - is there a member of the management team in your university who takes home a complete copy of your student database each night on their laptop?
The information that I wrote last October on data security is still accurate today, and contains an action plan, but here's a very quick reminder of two ends of the scale:
This is potentially quite a boring subject, but the alternative to doing nothing is that you go through quite an 'exciting' time, like HMRC.
We've been through it ourselves - to read our Trustworthy Computing web site for more about our security journey.
* Worse: One friend took his laptop into a supermarket (to avoid leaving it in his boot) and had it stolen from his trolley. Or so he thought. When the security staff at the supermarket watched the CCTV tapes, to help him find the thief, it appeared he'd walked in with an empty trolley. So where was the laptop? On the roof of his car... Before you laugh to hard, I bet you've heard of people leaving phones on the roof of their car, and driving off...
Although this information is predominantly about work we are doing with schools, I thought that it is worth publishing on the HE blog, as many universities have links to teacher training and are actively engaged with schools and their development programmes.
For the last 5 years we have been running a programme, called Partners in Learning, to extend and expand the development of learning, and especially the ways that ICT can support learning in schools. Globally this programme has invested £125 million into projects run in partnership with governments, and government education agencies. In the UK, we have invested £3m, and have been working in partnership with organisations such as the Training Development Agency for Schools (TDA), Futurelab, Childnet and Becta.
As these first projects head towards their conclusion, the next stage of Partners in Learning was announced by Bill Gates at the European Government Leader's Forum last week. This is a further investment of £120m over the next 5 years, and over the next few months we'll be developing the UK programme plan, again in partnership with government and education agencies.
There are three streams for the PiL programme going forward:
Since 2003, the Microsoft Partners in Learning programme in the UK, has reached over 2.4 million students, as well as providing training materials and resources to around 134,000 teachers, in the UK alone. This amounts to a UK investment of £3 million to date. Through working in partnership with organisations such as the Training Development Agency for Schools (TDA), Futurelab, Childnet and Becta, the focus in the UK has been on building teacher confidence to integrate technology into the learning environment, as well as providing training that has helped foster the innovative use of technology in schools.
As Steve Beswick, Director of Education for Microsoft UK, explains
“Technology underpins the key developments and policy directives that will affect UK education over the next five years. Whether it’s providing the kind of world-class education outlined in the Children’s Plan or ensuring that young people leave education with the skills that equip them for life and work in the world today, ICT is playing an increasing role in the learning environment. “Microsoft realises that technology alone is not sufficient for true education reform. We need to ensure that teachers and students are confident in using ICT if they are to reap the full benefits. It’s also about inspiring schools to think more creatively about how technology can make learning more exciting and relevant for the 21st Century”
“Technology underpins the key developments and policy directives that will affect UK education over the next five years. Whether it’s providing the kind of world-class education outlined in the Children’s Plan or ensuring that young people leave education with the skills that equip them for life and work in the world today, ICT is playing an increasing role in the learning environment.
“Microsoft realises that technology alone is not sufficient for true education reform. We need to ensure that teachers and students are confident in using ICT if they are to reap the full benefits. It’s also about inspiring schools to think more creatively about how technology can make learning more exciting and relevant for the 21st Century”
Partners in Learning initiatives in the UK have included:
Stephen Sayers, Director of Operations and Planning at Futurelab, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to innovation in education, comments: "Microsoft Partners in Learning has been of vital importance in supporting the Enquiring Minds programme of research. Without their resources and support, it would not have been possible to bring the outcomes of this ground-breaking research to such a wide audience of teachers.”
Tim Tarrant, Head of ICT at the TDA, adds: "Since 2005, Partners in Learning has provided the TDA with new opportunities to have a positive impact on schools in the UK and abroad. Microsoft's support for our jointly funded projects has been a great asset, as has the ICT expertise it has also enabled us to access."
The launch team have just released the link to be able to sign up for the Windows Server 2008 launch event (actually, it's also the Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 launch too). This is going to be held on the 19th March, at the ICC in Birmingham. The event is going to feature both Microsoft and external speakers - and I've heard that plans are afoot to have a university on the launch stage!
Register now – places are extremely limited
There are two agendas - one for "IT Professionals" and the other for developers, so choose carefully! (Otherwise, like me at IT Forum, you could end up in the wrong room, with somebody using more unintelligible acronyms than your ears can cope with)
There will be breakout sessions, hands-on labs ready for you to work directly with the products, an Expo area where you’ll be able to see the latest trends in hardware, application development and systems integration, and Ask the Experts where our technical teams will be on hand to answer all your questions.
We've been talking about it for quite some time - and the beta and trial versions of the new 2008 products have been floating around on the web. The official launch event for all of the products - Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 - is happening on March 19th, and will be followed by a series of technical roadshows around the country.
In WIndows Server 2008 there are new web tools, virtualisation technologies, security enhancements and management utilities to help save time, reduce costs and provide a solid foundation for your IT infrastructure. If you'd like to find out more - or download a trial of the products - to help with your ICT planning going forward, then click across to our Heroes Happen Here website, which has all of the latest information, downloads and links to more detailed product information.
My colleague Matt sends details of a Live Meeting event he's hosting online next month:
Microsoft Collaborative Campus Presentation On Tuesday 26th February at 9.30am we will be running a Live Meeting presentation to discuss the Microsoft Collaborative Campus as a way to connect students in a way that provides access to a vast breadth of online services such as mail, file storage and social networking capability. The presentation will be relevant to technical decision makers who are currently responsible for providing these sorts of services to students, and to business decision makers who are interested in understanding how technology can underpin these scenarios for students and staff. To request details for the meeting, and a URL to join the presentation, please email Ceri Morriss in our HE team.
Microsoft Collaborative Campus Presentation
On Tuesday 26th February at 9.30am we will be running a Live Meeting presentation to discuss the Microsoft Collaborative Campus as a way to connect students in a way that provides access to a vast breadth of online services such as mail, file storage and social networking capability. The presentation will be relevant to technical decision makers who are currently responsible for providing these sorts of services to students, and to business decision makers who are interested in understanding how technology can underpin these scenarios for students and staff. To request details for the meeting, and a URL to join the presentation, please email Ceri Morriss in our HE team.
My colleague in the Government team, Ian McKenzie, runs a series of Executive Briefings in conjunction with Microsoft partners. Each briefing covers a specific hot topic within central and local government, and looks at how particular government departments have applied Microsoft's products and services as part of their answer.
Executive Briefing: A New Era for Performance Management in the Public Sector Thursday January 31st, 2008 – London Microsoft & IMGROUP
Executive Briefing: A New Era for Performance Management in the Public Sector
Thursday January 31st, 2008 – London Microsoft & IMGROUP
Next week, Ian's running an Executive Briefing on Performance Management in London, and I thought it would be of interest to some colleges and universities. The issues faced in education are often similar - forecasting, planning, budgeting, financial consolidation and performance analysis - however the methodology for cracking these problems can be different when compared to other parts of the public sector. When I looked at the agenda for this briefing, I thought that there would be some value for you in hearing how central government tackled it - in this case, Nick Manton from the Home Office.
If you are interested in finding out more about the event, on Thursday 31st January, then find out more details here.