Category: Windows

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Windows 10 Product Familiy

Windows 10 Editions and upgrade paths

Last week Microsoft announced the different editions of Windows 10. As in the past Microsoft offers Windows in different editions that are tailored for various different use cases and scenarios. Windows 10 will power an broad range of devices – everything from PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox One, Microsoft HoloLens and Surface Hub. It will also power the world around us, core to devices making up the Internet of Things, everything from elevators to ATMs to heart rate monitors to wearables.

Editions

The different Windows 10 editions address specific needs of our various customer groups, from consumers to small businesses to the largest enterprises.

  • Windows 10 Home – Windows 10 Home is the consumer-focused desktop edition.
  • Windows 10 Mobile – Windows 10 Mobile is designed to deliver the best user experience on smaller, mobile, touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets.
  • Windows 10 Pro – Windows 10 Pro is a desktop edition for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s. Building upon both the familiar and innovative features of Windows 10 Home, it has many extra features to meet the diverse needs of small businesses. Windows 10 Pro will add some management capabilities to the Windows 10 and also adds Windows Update for Business.
  • Windows 10 Enterprise – Windows 10 Enterprise builds on Windows 10 Pro, adding advanced features designed to meet the demands of medium and large sized organizations. Windows 10 Enterprise will be available to Volume Licensing customers and adds some features such as Direct Access, Branch Cache and Windows Update for Business. With Windows 10 Enterprise customers will also get access to the Long Term Servicing Branch to better control deployment options for future updates.
  • Windows 10 Education – Windows 10 Education builds on Windows 10 Enterprise, and is designed to meet the needs of schools – staff, administrators, teachers and students. This edition will be available through academic Volume Licensing, and there will be paths for schools and students using Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro devices to upgrade to Windows 10 Education.
  • Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise – Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise is designed to deliver the best customer experience to business customers on smartphones and small tablets. It will be available to our Volume Licensing customers. Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise will adds a flexible ways for businesses to manage updates.
  • Windows 10 IoT  – Windows 10 will also be avaialble for different industry devices like ATMs, rteail point of sale, handheld terminals and industrial robotics and as well for IoT (Internet of Things) devices with a Windows 10 IoT Core edition.

Upgrade

As Microsoft  announced in January this year, for the first time ever, Microsoft is offering the full versions of Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Pro as a free and easy upgrade for qualifying Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year after launch. Once you upgrade, you have Windows 10 for free on that device. In the Microsoft Partner Network Microsoft published some more information about the upgrade paths.

Microsoft will offer a free upgrade to Windows 10 for qualified Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices in the first year. After the first year, upgrades will be paid via boxed product and VL Upgrades.

  • Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 7 Home Basic and Home Premium devices upgrade to Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 8/8.1 Pro and Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate devices upgrade to Windows 10 Pro
  • If upgraded within the first 12 months following launch, the device will receive ongoing Windows 10 updates for free for the life of that device
  • Excludes Windows Enterprise and RT devices
  • The free Windows 10 upgrade is delivered through Windows Update; domain-joined machines can manually get the update via Windows Update. The upgrade cannot be deployed through WSUS.

Windows Update for Business

At Ignite, Microsoft  announced the free Windows Update for Business service, available for all Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise devices, designed to help organisations keep their Windows devices always up to date with the latest security and features. In case you missed it, check out the blog, Announcing Windows Update for Business for what the service will provide.



Windows Server 2016 Whats new in Hyper-V

What’s new in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V

Back in October Microsoft released the first public Windows Server Technical Preview for the next release of Windows Server. At TechEd Europe Ben Armstrong, Principal Program Manager on the Hyper-V team at Microsoft, talked about a couple of new features which are coming in the next release of Windows Server Hyper-V. Microsoft this week officially announced Windows Server 2016, System Center 2016 and Hyper-V Server 2016 along with some other great products and releases at Microsoft Ignite. This here is a quick overview about the new features in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V and this is still not a complete list with all the features coming to the next version.

Nano Server

Nano Server

Microsoft announced Nano Server, and the next Cloud Platform Server will you allow to run Hyper-V and of course also inside Hyper-V Virtual Machines.

Windows and Hyper-V Containers

Hyper-V Windows Containers

ReFS Accelerated VHDX Operations

If you create a fixed size VHDX file in Windows Server 2012 R2 and older this could take awhile since it had to write down all the zero blocks to the storage. If you had ODX you could leverage the storage do to this for you. In Windows Server 2016 if you create a fixed size VHDX on a ReFS volume, you can leverage ReFS and let the work instead, which allows you to create a fixed VHDX instantly. This also works with merging VHDX files, which is again great for backup operations and checkpoints.

Nested Virtualization

With Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V Microsoft allows you to run Hyper-V Servers inside Hyper-V Virtual Machines. This is a absolutely great feature if you want to train people or want to demo Hyper-V to others. You can check out my blog posted about Nested Hyper-V if you want to know more about it.

New Shared VHDX format

Hyper-V Shared VHDX

With Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft introduced a new feature to Hyper-V called Shared VHDX, which allowed you to attach a Virtual Disk (VHDX) to multiple VMs to build guest clusters. But in Windows Server 2012 R2 had some missing features such as missing Host based Backup of Shared VHDX files or online resizing of Shared VDHX files. In Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V Microsoft is working hard to bring the missing pieces together:

  • Host Based Backup of Shared VHDX files
  • Online Resize of Shared VHDX
  • Some usability change in the UI
  • Shared VHDX files are now a new type of VHD called .vhds files.

Host Resource Protection

This feature coming from Microsoft Azure, protects your Hyper-V host resources from virtual machines which are trying to attack the fabric for example trough generating high CPU workloads and other attacks. Host Resource Protection dynamically identifies virtual machines that are not “playing well” and reduce their resource allocation.

Virtual TPM

Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V allows you to add a Virtual TPM chip to your Virtual Machine, which allows you encrypt your VM using Windows Server Bitlocker. This will be a great features to protect Virtual Machine content especially from admins and when you host Virtual Machines in the cloud.

Linux Secure Boot

With Windows Server 2012 R2 introduced Generation 2 Virtual Machines which allowed you to use the Secure Boot features for Virtual Machines running Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 and higher. With Hyper-V Server 2016 Microsoft allows you to use Secure Boot for Linux Virtual Machines.

Shielded VMs

Hyper-V Shielded VMs

Shielded Virtual Machines can only run in fabrics that are designated as owners of that virtual machines. Shielded Virtual Machines will need to be encrypted by Bitlocker (or other solutions) in order to ensure that only the designated owners can run this virtual machine. This requires other parts of the Microsoft Windows Server stack such as the Host Guardian Service or/and TPM.

Better Stretched Hyper-V Cluster using built-in Storage Replica

With the next version of Windows Server 2016, Microsoft a new feature called Storage Replica which allows you to replicated Storage in Windows Server 2016. This can also be used for File Servers or for Virtual Machine Storage. You are now enable to replicated CSVs from within the same cluster or to another cluster using this Windows Server feature.

Virtual Machine Storage Resiliency

Hyper-V Storage Resiliency

With the Windows Server 2012 R2 and later, Microsoft Failover Clustering was more less designed for Application protection and has kind of a basic design for Hyper-V Virtual Machines. Which is most cases works great and does exactly what it should. But in some scenarios like “quick” network outages this could cause more troubles than it should have done. With Virtual Machine Storage Resiliency in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, Storage fabric outages no longer mean that virtual machines crash, Virtual machines are paused an resumed automatically in response to storage fabric problems. In Windows Server 2012 R2 if a VM lost storage connection over 60 seconds the VM crashed. In Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V the Virtual Machine gets paused until the storage comes back. If the storage does not come back within a time you can still let it failover.

Virtual Machine Cluster Resiliency

As the same as Storage Resiliency, Cluster Resiliency helps during quick node  or network failures. With Virtual Machine Cluster Resiliency for Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, VMs continue to run even when a node falls out of the cluster membership. This brings resiliency to transient failures and nodes which often repeat this, are quarantined. So if a nodes falls out of the cluster, virtual machines running on this node are kept alive until the node joins back into the cluster, if the cluster node does not come back within four minutes, the virtual machines get failed over to another Hyper-V node. But if one node goes in quarantine too many times, Hyper-V and the Failover Cluster automatically live migrate the virtual machines from that node to another, when the node comes back.

PowerShell Direct

Hyper-V PowerShell Direct

This feature is totally awesome. In Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V Microsoft allowed you to copy files into the virtual machines without having network connectivity using the VMBus. With Windows Server 2016 you can now use PowerShell Direct to run PowerShell command inside the Virtual Machine using the VMBus.

Virtual Machine Configuration Changes

Hyper-V vNext VM Configuration Files

In Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, Microsoft will change the Virtual Machine configuration files. Today the Hyper-V VM configuration files had the xml file format. You were able to open the file and check and edit the virtual machine configuration inside that file, even it was never supported. By running more and more workloads virtual and in a dynamic cloud way, scale and performance gets even more critical. In the next version of Hyper-V Microsoft will change the VM configuration from the xml file to a binary file format. The new binary format brings more efficient performance at large scale. Microsoft also now includes a resilient logging for changes in the configuration files so this should protect virtual machines from corruption.

New file extensions:

  • .VMCX (Virtual Machine Configuration) – replaces the .xml file
  • .VMRS (Virtual Machine Runtime State) – replaces .bin and .vsv file

Production VM Checkpoints (Snapshots)

Hyper-V vNext Production CheckPoint

Virtual Machine Checkpoints or in older versions Virtual Machine Snapshots were a great solution to take a state of a virtual machine and save it, doing some changes and if something fails you could simply revert back to the time you took the checkpoint. This was not really supported to use in production, since a lot of applications couldn’t handle that process. Microsoft now changed that behavior now fully supports it in production environments. For this Production Checkpoints are now using VSS instead of the Saved State to create the checkpoint. This means if you are restoring a checkpoint this is just like restoring a system from a backup. For the user everything works as before and there is no difference in how you have to take the checkpoint. Production Checkpoints are enabled by default, but you can change back to the old behavior if you need to. But still using Checkpoints brings some other challenges, like the growing .avhdx file, which still apply.

Hyper-V Replica support for Hot Add of VHDX

Hyper-V Replica was one of the greatest new features in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V. In Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, if you have hot added a VHDX file to a Virtual Machine, replication failed. In Hyper-V 2016 when you add a new virtual hard disk to a virtual machine that is being replicated, it is automatically added to the not-replicated set so replication continues to run and you can then online update this set with via PowerShell and the VM will automatically resynchronize and everything works as expected.

Hot add / remove of Virtual Machine Memory

Hyper-V vNext Runtime Memory Resize

In Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V you could decrease the Minimum Memory and increase the Maximum Memory of a Virtual Machine using Dynamic Memory while the VM was running. In Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V, you can now increase and decrease the Memory assigned to virtual machines while they are running, even if they are using static memory.

Hot add / remove of virtual network adapters

Hyper-V vNext Hot Add and Remove Virtual Network Adapters

This was maybe the feature VMware fan boys all over the world have used against Hyper-V. However I didn’t really saw a lot of customers doing this, but it is great that you can now hot add and remove network adapters from Virtual Machines.

Virtual Network Adapter Identification

Hyper-V vNext Virtual Network Adapter Identification

For me more important than hot add or remove virtual network adapters is this feature. When dealing with automation you are always happy you can identify different network adapters. For the Hyper-V hosts we have different solutions such as Consistent Device Naming (CDN), sort by PCI slot using PowerShell and other options to identify network adapters. But we didn’t really have a great solution for Virtual Machines. With Network Adapter Identification this changes. You can name individual virtual network adapters in the virtual machine settings and see the same name inside the guest virtual machine.

PowerShell on the Hyper-V Host

PowerShell in the guest

Hyper-V Manager Improvements

Finally, this is something which is not a problem in most environments , since we know how things work. But a lot of people which are Hyper-V beginners coming from VMware or other platforms, they have some simple troubles with Hyper-V Manager. In the next version there are a couple of create improvements which make things a lot easier.

  • Hyper-V Manager is now connecting via WinRM instead of WMI
  • Support for alternate credentials (Requires that you have CredSSP enabled on the server and client)
  • Connected to Hyper-V Hosts via IP address
  • Mange Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V and the next version of Hyper-V from the latest console

Power Management improvements

SleepStudy Report Connected Standby Transitions

Microsoft updated the hypervisor power management model to support new modes of power management. And this is one of the reasons I run Windows 10 Technical Preview on my Surface Pro 3. Surface Pro 3 is a device which can run Connected Standby, but if you install Hyper-V on Windows 8.1 Connected Standby stops working. In the next version of Hyper-V Connected Standby will work.

Rolling Cluster Upgrade

Hyper-V vNext Rolling Cluster Upgrades

With this new feature you are finally able to upgrade a Hyper-V Cluster from Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V to the next version of Hyper-V without new hardware, no downtime and the ability to roll-back safely if needed. In Windows Server 2012 R2 you had to create a new Hyper-V Cluster while the old Hyper-V Cluster was still running and migrate a Hyper-V Cluster via Cluster Migration Wizard or Live Migration. You can now have Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V Hosts and the next version of Hyper-V running in the same Hyper-V Cluster. To make this scenario possible, the Hyper-V team had to do some changes to the Virtual Machine Upgrade Process

New Virtual Machine Upgrade Process

Hyper-V vNext Update VM Configuration Version

To support Rolling Cluster Upgrades Microsoft had to make some changes to the Virtual Machine Upgrade Process. In the current versions of Hyper-V, Virtual Machines were automatically upgraded from the old to the new version, which means that if you once moved a Virtual Machine to a new Hyper-V host you couldn’t move it back again. In a mixed cluster environment this does not work. In the next version of Hyper-V, Virtual Machines will not be upgraded automatically. Upgrading a virtual machines is a manual operation that is separate from upgrading the Hyper-V host. This allows you to move virtual machines back to earlier version of Hyper-V until they have been manually upgraded.

New way how VM Drivers (integration services) get updated

Since Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V, VM drivers (integration services) were updated with each new host release, and it was required that the VM driver version matches the host version. When new Hyper-V integration services were shipped you had to update the Hyper-V host and form there you could upgrade the VM drivers inside the virtual machine. With Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V Microsoft brings VM driver updates over Windows Update. This means also that you now don’t have to have the VM integration services matching the host version, you simply need the latest version of the integration services released.

Secure Boot Support for Linux

Microsoft is pushing hard to bring more and more supported for Linux operating systems such as dynamic memory and other features. With Hyper-V vNext Microsoft bring Secure Boot support for Linux which works with Ubuntu 14.04 (and later) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12.

PowerShell to enable Secure Boot Support for Linux:

Distributed Storage QoS

Hyper-V vNext Storage QoS

In Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V we got the possibility to limit maximum IOPs for an individual virtual hard disk which was a great feature. Everything worked great when you were running the Virtual Machine on a single Hyper-V host, but when you were running multiple Hyper-V hosts with multiple Virtual Machine against the same storage, the Hyper-V host didn’t know that he had to compete with other servers for Storage IOPs or bandwidth. For example the scenario of a minimum IOPs setting did only work on standalone Hyper-V servers. With the next release of Hyper-V and Windows Server Microsoft adds a lot of new stuff. Together with the Scale-Out File Server and Storage Spaces, Microsoft now allows you to define IOPs reservation for important virtual hard disks and a IOPs reserve and limit that is shared by a group of virtual machines / virtual hard disks. This intelligence, build by Microsoft Research, enables a couple of interesting scenarios especially in service provider environments and large scale enterprises.

Virtual Machine Compute Resiliency

Hyper-V vNext Compute VM Reciliency

Microsoft invested heavily into VM resiliency, especially to hardware failure. One of them is the VM Compute Resiliency feature. This feature allows Virtual Machines to run on a host even if the cluster node is not available to the other nodes in the cluster. For example in Windows Server 2012 R2, if the cluster service couldn’t reach the node in the cluster for 30 seconds, the cluster would failover all the virtual machines to another node. If the same things happens in Windows Server vNext Hyper-V, the node would go into isolated mode for the next 4 minutes (default setting) and when the node comes back in four minutes all the virtual machines will still be running. If it doesn’t come back within four minutes the VMs will failover to another node. If a node is flapping from Isolated Mode to running the cluster service will set the node to quarantined and will move all the virtual machines from the node to another node. This should help keep your workloads running even if there are some hardware or network failures.

Evolving Hyper-V Backup

If you are working in IT you know that Backup is always a issues. And things didn’t really get better by running Virtual Machines running on Storage Systems. With the next release of Hyper-V Server Microsoft will release a completely new architecture to improve reliability, scale and performance of Virtual Machine backups. There are three big changes in the backup architecture:

  • Decoupling backing up virtual machines from backing up the underlying storage.
  • No longer dependent on hardware snapshots for core backup functionality, but still able to take advantage of hardware capabilities when they are present.
  • Built in change tracking for Backup of Virtual Machines

RemoteFX

Microsoft also did some improvements on Windows Server 2016 RemoteFX which now includes support for OpenGL 4.4 and OpenCL 1.1 API. It also allows you to use larger dedicated VRAM and VRAM in now finally configurable.

Hyper-V Cluster Management

This is maybe something you will never use by yourself but there is another great improvements in terms of automation and development. If you have ever used WMI against a Hyper-V Cluster you always had to run it against every Hyper-V Host in the cluster to get all the information. In the next version of Hyper-V you can finally run WMI against Hyper-V Cluster and it will handle it as it would be a single Hyper-V host, so you get all the information from all hosts in the cluster.

This was a quick overview over just some of the feature and improvements which are coming in the next release of Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V which will be released in 2016. There will be much more coming until Microsoft officially releases the next version of Hyper-V and of course some of the stuff I wrote about will be improved as well.

If you want to know more about the next version of Hyper-V checkout Ben Armstrong’s TechEd Europe session or visit some of our TechNet events.

 



What is in my bag for Microsoft Ignite

What’s in my bag for Microsoft Ignite 2015

In a couple of hours I will catch my flight to Chicago with the rest of the itnetx team to join Microsoft Ignite 2015. I am really looking forward to it and meet other enthusiast around Microsoft Cloud solutions and of course meeting with members of the Microsoft Product Group.

What is in my bag for Microsoft Ignite

  • My main devices is of course the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 which I use as my 3-in-1 device, replacing my notebook, tablet and desktop using the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station. Of course it is running the latest Microsoft Windows 10 Insider Preview. Battery life I get is around 8 hours depending on what I am doing I get even some more.
  • As my day to day phone I use the Nokia Lumia 930, which is just a perfect device with a great camera to take picture from the place I travel to and listen to music.
  • Even I like the track pad of the new Surface Pro 3 Type Cover I think I am more productive using a mouse. For that I got the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition.
  • I also got some Bose Quiet Comfort 25 Audio Headphones to listen to music. I really like them because the audio is great and they are really light and comfortable to wear and the active noise canceling works just great, especially on long flights. The integrated microphone is also pretty important to to Lync or Skype for Business calls.
  • When I am at a hotel and I am working or writing some blog post I love to listen to music. For that I use the Nokia MD-12 wireless Bluetooth speaker.
  • To get some extra power if I need it I use the Nokia DC-18 portable Micro USB Charger and a Microsoft Portable Power DC-21.
  • Of course I am also carrying the Microsoft Band which helps me tracks the steps I walk during Microsoft Ignite and the limited sleep I get during this event.
  • For presentations I got a Microsoft Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI and VGA adapter as well as the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter which acts as a Miracast Receiver and is great for presentations.
  • I also carry a USB 3.0, but I don’t use a portable hard drive anymore, since I got unlimited storage space on my OneDrive using Office 365.
  • You might think to charge all these devices I need a lot of different power adapters, well that’s not really true. I just use power adapter of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 which also has a USB port for charging the phone, speaker and other stuff.

I am really looking forward to Ignite and meet some of you in Chicago.



NIC Teaming

Overview on Windows Server and Hyper-V 2012 R2 NIC Teaming and SMB Multichannel

I know this is nothing new but since I had to mention the Whitepaper on NIC Teaming and the use of SMB Multichannel as well as the configuration with System Center Virtual Machine Manager in a couple of meetings I want to make sure you have an overview on my blog.

NIC Teaming

Windows Server NIC Teaming was introduced in Windows Server 2012 (Codename Windows Server 8). NIC teaming, also known as Load Balancing/Failover (LBFO), allows multiple network adapters to be placed into a team for the purposes of bandwidth aggregation, and/or traffic failover to maintain connectivity in the event of a network component failure.

NIC Teaming Recommendation

For design the default and recommended configuration is using NIC Teaming with Switch Independent and Dynamic and in some scenarios where you have the write switches you can use LACP and Dynamic.

Download Windows Server 2012 R2 NIC Teaming (LBFO) Deployment and Management Whitepaper

This guide describes how to deploy and manage NIC Teaming with Windows Server 2012 R2.

You can find the Whitepaper on Windows Server 2012 R2 NIC Teaming (LBFO) Deployment and Management in the Microsoft Download Center.

SMB Multichannel

Hyper-V over SMB Multichannel

If you use Hyper-V over SMB you can use SMB Multichannel as a even better mode to distribute SMB 3.0 traffic across different network adapters or you could use a mix of both, NIC Teaming and SMB Multichannel. Check out my blog post about Hyper-V over SMB: SMB Multichannel, SMB Direct (RDMA) and Scale-Out File Server and Storage Spaces.

Configuration with System Center Virtual Machine Manager

Logical Switch

Some months back I also wrote some blog post about configuration of Hyper-V Converged Networking and System Center Virtual Machine Manager. This guide will help you to understand how you deploy NIC Teaming with System Center Virtual Machine Manager using the Logical Switch on Hyper-V hosts.



Powershell

Get name of the PowerShell script file inside the script

When you create a script you sometimes want to create some output for a log file for example. In many cases it makes sense to use the script file name for the log file so you can easily see from which .ps1 the .log file was generated for example. To get the name of the PowerShell ps1. file you can use the following command:

This will return the ps1. file object. To get only the name string you could use:

To create a log file with the script file name you could use the following commands:



Powershell

Move files to folder sorted by year and month with PowerShell

I had to sort a lot of files and put them into folders for each month and year. So for example when the files was created/modified in February 2012, the file had to be moved into the folder 2012 and the subfolder 2 (for February). For this I created this quick and dirty script:

Please as always if you use a PowerShell script from the internet, test it first before you run it against your production environment.



Microsoft Band

My Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health User Review

Back in November I finally got my Microsoft Band after spending a lot of time try to find one in different stores in the US. Since then I have used my Microsoft Band every day and I was waiting for the first big update and the release of the Microsoft Health Dashboard to write my first review on the Microsoft Band since the web dashboard was one of the most critical and most important feature for the Microsoft Health platform. Yesterday Microsoft finally released the first major update to the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health with a lot of improvements such as the new Health Dashboard and a Developer SDK Preview.

I was reading a lot of reviews from different only magazines which were trying to review the device, but in my opinion have never really used it or are just wearing some Apple glasses. Let me try to review some of the features of the Microsoft Band and how I use them a little bit differently from the professional reviewers. Of course since I am focusing a lot on the Microsoft platform I am not really neutral, as Swiss people normally are, but I try to give you a good review on the product.

What is the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health

Microsoft Health Cloud

When I was reading some of the reviews done by professionals, I really saw that they didn’t really get the point of the device. Microsoft is advertising the Microsoft Band a fitness band and not as a smartwatch, even the Microsoft Band got a lot of smartwatch features, which by the way are really good, it is a fitness tracker which helps you to collected more and more health data about yourself. The devices was made my some “fitness geeks” inside the Xbox division and what they in my opinion did, was creating a device for themselves. And this is why the Microsoft Band actually an absolutely great device, because it is made from people with passion and not from a marketing research team. As mentioned this is a fitness tracker but of course with some really great smartphone features.

The Microsoft Health platform on the other site is where all your health information collected come together. The platform is not only made for the Microsoft Band but for other vendors as well which can integrate into the Microsoft Health platform. Since I am using the Microsoft Band I started wondering why I didn’t use a device or service like this earlier. We collect so much data about our environments but we do not really measure our health data and try to understand it. With Microsoft Health and the sync to the Microsoft HealthVault you can now get all your health data in one place. I also bought a Fitbit Aria smart scale which sends information about my daily weight to the Microsoft HealthVault. With the Microsoft Band and the Microsoft Health platform as well as the HealthVault I can now collect all my Health information and analyze them in one place.

Fitness Tracker and Workouts

Microsoft Health Dashboard Calories Observations

The most important feature of the Microsoft Band is to measure your fitness and health. The Microsoft Band comes with a lot of sensors and functionality to measure your health, and it shows you have active you were. With the Microsoft Band you can keep track of different kinds of workouts such as running, cycling or just general workouts. I use it a lot when I play badminton to keep track of my heart rate and calories burned. All the data gets synced to the Microsoft Health platform so you can review it on your Microsoft Health apps on Windows Phone, Apple iOS, Android or on the new Microsoft Health Dashboard.

  • 24-hour heart rate monitor: Gives you a better understanding of your calorie burn, sleep patterns, and peak and resting heart rate so you can perform at your best.
  • Run: Whether you’re on the treadmill at the gym or outdoors in the rain or sun, you can view your run summary on your band with personalized metrics in the phone app including pace splits and heart rate.
  • Cycling: With the latest update Microsoft supports now a specific mode for cycling, which not only keeps track of your heart rate and calories but also on speed and your route using GPS.
  • Steps: Set a goal and track your progress. Microsoft Band calculates the calories you’ve burned and the distance you’ve traveled each day.
  • Built-in GPS: Measures the distance you’ve run and tracks your pace and route. Save your favorites to retrace your steps and challenge yourself later.
  • Calorie tracking: Count the calories you burn each day. View daily or weekly stats, set goals, and receive a virtual “high-five” when you reach them.
  • Guided Workouts: Fun and challenging workouts from fitness partners like Gold’s Gym, Shape, and Men’s Fitness with exercise prompts on the band and much more in the app.
  • Goal setting: Challenge yourself by setting daily step and calorie goals. Microsoft Band notifies you when you meet them so that you can stay motivated.
  • UV monitor: Get a quick read of the UV Index while you’re out and about.

Sleep Tracker

Microsoft Health Dashboard Sleep Summary

I think one of the coolest and most interesting features is the sleep tracker. When you are going so sleep you just start the “sleep mode” and the Microsoft Band will check how long it took you to fall asleep, who long you slept, how many times and when you did wake up, how your heart rate was during that time, if you were in restful or just light sleep. So you can really find out how good or bad you sleep and probably can try different things to change your sleep behavior.

Smartwatch features

Microsoft Band Smartwatch

As I wrote before, Microsoft is advertising the Microsoft Band as a fitness band and not really as a Smartwatch, but it really is a Smartwatch and I think was one of the smartest moves in the whole campaign. When I hear the word smartwatch I always think about gadgets which will replace our old school watches and I don’t think this will happen in the short term. Probably this is because I am Swiss but I think watches are not just some gadgets to show you some time, they are more kind of personal jewelry. Don’t get me wrong I am not just talking about expensive watches, even cheap watches can be jewelry and help express yourself. I am not saying that we won’t use smartwatches, because for some scenarios they really make your life easier, but I think they will be more of an addition to our watches we already have, instead of replacing them. For example on my right arm I wear a normal Swiss watch and on the left arm I wear the Microsoft Band where I had my Nike Fuelband before. So form a marketing perspective I like the word and the concept of additional “bands” a lot more, than thinking about smartwatches replacing our existing watches. But this is just my personal opinion.

The Microsoft Band comes with a lot of smartwatch features:

  • Text Messaging: Get your text messages right on your wrist.
  • Calls: See incoming call and voicemail notifications on your band.
  • Calendar: Microsoft Band stays in sync with the calendar on your phone, reminding you of important events throughout the day so you can be where you need to be.
  • Email: Monitor and preview email activity right on your band, so you don’t have to pull out your phone in the middle of your lunch date.
  • Smart notifications: Choose which alerts you get on your wrist. Change the notification settings on your phone and your Microsoft Band will match.
  • Watch mode: Turn on “Watch Mode” to always display today’s time and date without pressing any buttons.
  • Facebook & Facebook Messenger: Stay up to date on Facebook without having to check your phone. Get the latest posts, comments, photo notifications, and personal messages on your band.
  • Twitter: Tweets, mentions, retweets, messages, new followers. Set your preferences on your phone and see it all on your wrist.
  • Cortana: If you’re using Windows Phone 8.1, you can take notes and set reminders with your voice using Cortana personal assistant.
  • Weather: Get real-time weather conditions and a 5-day forecast to plan your week.
  • Finance: Create a watch list for select stocks in your Microsoft Health app. View the latest ticker activity right on your wrist.
  • Starbucks: No need to reach for your wallet. Enjoy coffee on the go with your Starbucks card ready to scan at arm’s length.
  • Timer & Stopwatch: Time your laps or your entire workout with the stopwatch. Set alarms to wake up silently or remind you to go for a run.
  • Do-not-disturb mode: Tap the icon on your band to turn all notifications off.

The features are great and they are not just here, they are well optimized for a device on your arm wrist. In my daily life I only use some of the features which are integrated. For example I really like the notifications you get from calls, messengers and text messages. For example if I receive a call during a meeting with a client, I can quickly check my wrist and see if the call is important or not and I can quickly answer it with a text message for example “I will call you back”, or just press it away, without having to take the smartphone out of my pocket. Another feature I like is the Cortana integration. Cortana on your Windows Phone knows when your next meeting or flight is and helps you keep track of that by reminding you to leave to catch the flight or meeting. Another use case I use the Microsoft Band a lot is when I login to somewhere using Two-factor authentication, where I get a security code send as text message, which I can now see on my wrist without using my smartphone.

Overall I like the smartwatch features which are integrated but they are not my primary use case for the Microsoft Band or any smartwatch, since there are a lot of things a lot easier to do when you are using your smartphone.

Design and Hardware

Microsoft Band

Let’s talk hardware and design. Well Microsoft did a great job fitting all these sensors inside the Microsoft Band, but of course adding so many sensors make the thing look bulky and the flat screen should be probably replaced with a curved screen. But basically that is all the criticism I have for the hardware design. The weight is absolutely okay and if you have used other fitness tracker before it makes not a difference. Microsoft promises around two days of battery life, for me it is most of the time even more. This is okay but of course I have used the first version of the Nike Fuelband which I had to charge every 4 weeks in average, and I thought charging my band every two days would be hard, but it wasn’t. Since the Microsoft Band only takes a couple of minutes to charge the first 80% this is enough, so I charge it during the time I take a shower.

Software

Microsoft Band Windows Phone App

With software comes all the beauty to the platform. Microsoft offers the Microsoft Health App to sync your Microsoft Band with your phone and with the Microsoft Health Cloud for Windows Phone, Android and iOS. In my opinion the app is great and helps you quickly find things. Of course the app wasn’t the best place to make long term analytics, but for this you have the new released Microsoft Health Dashboard in the web.

Microsoft Health Dashboard

Microsoft Health Dashboard Steps Summary

We had to wait for that, but Microsoft finally released the Microsoft Health Dashboard yesterday. The Microsoft Health Dashboard app is a web console if you will, where you get all the information coming from the Microsoft Band. You have different kind of views to view a specific day, week or month and compare your data. You can get a simple view of the steps and workouts you made or even an overview about your sleep behavior.

Microsoft HealthVault

As mentioned the Microsoft HealthVault is where all your health information comes together. Microsoft HealthVault is a trusted place for people to gather, store, use, and share health information online. Since the latest update you can now setup Microsoft Health to sync data directly to the HealthVault. For me the HealthVault becomes more and more interesting especially if I try to get more data in there such was weight information. For this I bought a Fitbit Aria Smartscale which uploads data to the HealthVault.

Availability

The Microsoft did lunch the Microsoft Band back in November 2014 without a big announcement. Microsoft just released it and made it available in the Microsoft stores months before the Apple Watch will be available. Unfortunately there are two problems, first of all the Microsoft Band is only available in the US and even there it is still hard to get since it is most of the time out of stock. You have to get on some waiting lists and wait to finally get it. One the software site Microsoft released the Microsoft Health app for basically all the mayor smartphone platforms such as Windows Phone, iOS and Android.

Feature Requests

I am pretty happy with the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health, but of course I have some ideas and wishes for future releases.

  • Platforms – Microsoft has now several Health Platforms and apps, such as Microsoft Health, MSN Health, HealthVault and Xbox fitness, to just count a few. It would be great if they would move MSN Health and Xbox Fitness to the Microsoft Health platform.
  • Xbox integration – As mentioned, on your Xbox One you get Xbox Fitness, which is btw great especially if you are using Kinect. Microsoft should make Microsoft Health available over all platforms and integrate the in a single data store.
  • Friends – It would be great if you could add friends using the Microsoft Health to compete with them in workouts or other goals.
  • Badges and Competitions – Would be great if Microsoft would build something like an award system for the Health platform, so you get awarded for workouts and more.
  • Hardware – Even I like my first version Microsoft Band, it would be cool to have a v2 which has kind of a more improved design.
  • More Hardware – It would also be great if Microsoft also offers other products, such as smartscale and other health related gadgets.

Conclusion

Microsoft did a great job with the Microsoft Band and Microsoft Health. They not just created a cool gadget, they really created a product which helps people tracking their health and get more productive. I have used other trackers before like the first version of the Nike Fuelband and I also bought some Fitbit stuff for my parents, since Fitbit is available in German language. I have to say that I totally get the best experience in features and usability with the Microsoft Band, it is easy to use and configure and it shows you the information you need in optimized way.