IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

ICYMI: Our Channel News Roundup for the Week of January 9th

Cloud news from Citrix and Microsoft, a boatload of vendor executive hirings, and a look at the surprising things that can show up on your doorstep when virtual assistants go rogue are all among the stories we didn’t tell you about this week. By Rich Freeman

So, what’s our excuse this time around for all that reporting we should have done for you but didn’t? Well, hey, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s cold out there. When fingers get cold, they get stiff. And we type with our fingers. So it’s only natural that we’ve been slow at churning out copy lately, right? Even if we are generally in a warm, dry place when we do our typing.

Not buying it? OK, we’ll try to make things up to you with this roundup of news we missed this week.

Citrix Smart ToolsRubber, meet road. Sure, Citrix talked a good game about building workspaces in the cloud and its newly deepened partnership with Microsoft last May during the Citrix Synergy conference in Las Vegas. But let’s face it, talk was mostly what they did. This week, at the Citrix Summit partner event in Anaheim, we saw some real action.

For starters, the company announced that its XenMobile management solution and Citrix Cloud workspace service are now fully integrated, and that a new set of administrative systems for XenApp and XenDesktop called Citrix Smart Tools (pictured) are ready for immediate use.

But it also brought several Microsoft-related offerings first discussed at Synergy last year to life (or much closer to life, anyway). For instance, solutions named XenDesktop Essentials and XenApp Essentials that enable companies to deploy Windows 10 desktops and business applications, respectively, in Microsoft Azure will be arriving in the Azure Marketplace shortly, and a new policy-based network access solution for mobile devices that combines Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility + Security suite and Intune administrative system with Citrix NetScaler Unified Gateway is available now.

Last but not least, Citrix announced that it’s filled a gap in its platform by acquiring Unidesk, a maker of “application layering” technology that simplifies workspace delivery and management by abstracting virtual apps from virtual desktops.

Meanwhile, Citrix partners made announcements of their own at the Summit. For example:

  • AppSense introduced a new edition of DesktopNow, its desktop management and security solution, featuring new support for Citrix XenApp on Windows Server 2016 and expanded support for Windows 10.
  • Dell and Flexxible IT both unveiled hyperconverged infrastructure appliances for use with Citrix-powered virtual desktop infrastructure environments. The Flexxible IT one should be especially interesting to ChannelPro readers: It’s designed specifically for SMB environments with 50 to 1,200 users, comes with Office 365, and can supposedly be installed in as little as 30 minutes.

Microsoft StaffHubMore goodies from Redmond. Turns out Microsoft did some stuff this week that had nothing to do with Citrix, such as:

  • Introduce a single, unified data loss prevention management experience for Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business.
  • Ship StaffHub (pictured), a new Office 365 application that gives employees with no desk, office, or computer of their own (think hotel, restaurant, and retail workers) a place to manage their schedule, share information, and access work-related apps.
  • Begin letting Dynamics 365 subscribers employ the company’s Learning Path tool to create customized online help resources for end users.
  • Add support for devices running macOS Sierra to System Center Configuration Manager.
  • Reveal that Azure SQL Database now offers twice the write performance (to all users) and twice the read performance (to Premium editions users) for the same price as before.

FlowForma BPMSurprise! Other vendors announced products this week too:

  • Elo introduced a new mobile point-of-sale solution that turns traditional POS stations into self-serve kiosks.
  • FlowForma shipped a new edition of its BPM solution for Office 365 (pictured) with graphical design tools that let business managers construct workflows using drag-and-drop functionality.
  • Fortinet pulled the wraps off an updated release of its FortiOS security operating system with capabilities designed to support the vendor’s intent-based network security vision.
  • Oracle added new cloud and mobile capabilities to its retail industry line-of-business suite.
  • Swiftpage released version 19 of its Act! CRM solution with a new companion mobile app, deeper integration with Microsoft Office, and more.

Ricoh Virtual Self-Service HologramWhen you want a personal touch, but not the person. Before we move on, we should probably spend a moment with the week’s most…interesting product launch: Ricoh’s Virtual Self-Service Hologram solution, which can replace receptionists, store greeters, and product demo specialists with talking, moving, and somewhat creepy three dimensional projections. Encountering one of these digital employees—who, needless to say, never call in sick, demand a raise, or take Facebook breaks—makes a “a lasting first impression,” Ricoh helpfully points out on its website. Which is probably true, but could also be said of waking nightmares.

Frank VitaglianoShiny happy people. New year, new gig! Lots of companies had hiring news this week:

There was vendor news this week that didn’t involve executives too. For example, we learned that:

This week’s stats ticker:

  • Global IT spending will rise 2.7 percent in 2017, according to Gartner.
  • The percentage of U.S. small business owners who consider now a good time to expand jumped by 20 points in a post-election small business optimism survey by the National Federation of Independent Business.
  • 72 percent of U.S. SMBs generally and 62 percent of small businesses specifically have yet to invest in cloud security solutions, according to Techaisle.
  • Global spending on 3D printing will grow at a 22.3 percent CAGR through 2020 to $29 billion, according to IDC.

Can’t decide if this is a big number or small one. Here’s one last stat for you: 14.1 percent of U.S. adults have used a fax machine in the last 3 months, according to Fit Small Business.

Alexa Goes RogueAlexa hear, Alexa do. If you were one of the unexpectedly large number of people to get an Amazon Echo last month, you already know that part of what makes the device so convenient is that its built-in virtual assistant, Alexa, is constantly awaiting the next voice command. Unfortunately, the hyper-vigilant, well-intentioned digital helpmate isn’t terribly discriminating about who’s voice command it obeys.

Hence the complaints from Echo owners in San Diego recently concerning a local TV news report about a 6-year-old girl (pictured) who ordered 4 pounds of cookies (also pictured) and a $170 dollhouse via Alexa without parental consent. Seems an anchorperson said the magic words “Alexa ordered me a dollhouse” after the story aired, setting off a wave of additional attempted dollhouse orders in homes with nearby Echos.

Of course, anyone who has an Echo within hearing distance of a television probably isn’t surprised by any of this. The device lights up eagerly every time it hears Alexa’s name in one of those “Alexa moment” ads for the service. For now at least, there continues to be a big difference between intelligence and artificial intelligence.

About the Author

Rich Freeman is ChannelPro's Executive Editor

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