Sep 30 2014

Windows 10 in the law firm

Jason

Back in June I did a talk at a conference on mobility. There was a bit of future gazing from me on where I thought law firms would go next with their desktop PC’s. It was a conference sponsored by the UK magazine Computing, unfortunately one of their journalists then reported what I’d said as the current strategy for our firm!

Windows 10

Today’s launch of the next version of Windows by Microsoft, Windows 10, made me more sure that the future of legal desktops is from the Redmond company rather than from Cupertino. The following are the highlights I picked out, things that iron out those kinks in Windows 8 to make Windows 10 more of a certainty in law firms.

  • Continuum” – this is a new feature that adapts the OS to the device, got a keyboard and mouse and the new modern UI apps will open in windows and the device acts like a Windows 7 desktop machine. Snap off the keyboard and use like a tablet and things revert to a full screen more touch friendly interface. You could do it in Windows 8.1 but this now works as it should, automatically.
  •  The Start Menu is back. This wasn’t a big deal for me, but for lots of folks it was. So can only be a good thing it’s back, allows that desktop or modern UI split in a seamless rather than jarring way.
  • Desktops for different purposes. You can use one for personal and one for business. I’m not sure whether this is more than Windows 8.1’s ability to have a desktop on one monitor and a modern app on the other, it sounds like it but information is light at the moment.

I’m sure there’ll be much more over the coming weeks, but I’m convinced Windows 10 and the hybrid desktop/modern UI works for legal. Allowing old legacy apps to continue in a desktop mode as now, but then brings the flexibility to pick up the screen and access data in a modern touch friendly way on the move. Also this will be one version of Windows for phone, tablet and desktop with one Windows Store. This one platform and the develop once platform Microsoft are pushing should be great news for legal vendors. In fact it’s the one thing I liked about their Matter Centre product they demoed at ILTA (more about that in a post I promised early in September but have yet to write!)

But to pinch a headline after seeing the launch today, I do believe Windows 10 could be the catalyst for law firms next PC refreshes!

Update:

Just read some more on Windows 10 and the new security features really stood out. Whereas bitlocker in Windows 7 protected the data on the device, Windows 10 will have an additional layer of protection using containers and data separation at the app and file level to protect the data wherever it goes – on tablet, PC, USB drive, cloud etc. Very interesting from a law firms point of view in protecting client data.

 

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Mar 22 2014

LawTech Futures 2014 – one slot not to miss!

Jason

This years sold out LawTech Futures event kicks off this Tuesday (25th March 2014) with Sir Tim Berners-Lee as Keynote Speaker.

I’ll be back again doing an “Inspect-a-Gadget” slot again on the Lounge Stage at 13:40.

lawtechfutures2014

As with a lot of conferences the synopsis of your talk is submitted weeks in advance and the difficulty in getting this right for the mobile and app world is that its an area that moves so fast. The gist though of what I will talk about is covered in the bullets. But inevitably some things have changed a little, for example I won’t be mentioning the BlackBerry as there’s not much new to say unfortunately. So I thought I’d throw up a quick blog post to take a more detailed look at what I’ll be talking about on Tuesday.

  • A bit of future gazing into the technology that law firms of the future will be using
  • A look at the new technology there is available right now to underpin IT in law firms in the new mobile world
  • Office365, Azure, Windows 8, Office 2013
  • The challenges law firms face in the new app/mobile ecosystem
  • A look at some OneDrive/DropBox solutions available for law firms that integrate into current Legal IT software

It’s a lot to get through in 20 minutes but I am at the conference all day and would be happy to chat through what we’re doing in this space and particularly interested to hear what other law firms are doing. Message me on twitter @planty on the day.

Hope to see you at the Lounge stage at 1:40pm on Tuesday!

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Jul 8 2013

BYOD article written for Managing Partner magazine

Jason

Back in March I wrote an article for Managing Partner magazine. I was asked to hold back on publishing myself for a few months, but now you can read the post in full here.

Managing Partner March 2013

It’s an interesting time to be in corporate IT, the booming consumer technology market is starting to flood into the corporate space and along with it comes a whole heap of problems and challenges. New buzz words are starting to dominate marketing material and new products are touted as answers to these challenges.

So when asked to write an article looking at the emerging technology for lawyers and their clients it was hard to decide where to start. But I’m going to pick two of these “buzzwords”, two that have been around for some time but I think will emerge from the hype and will now start to make a difference in Legal IT. Those two are BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and The Cloud.

BYOD

The consumer market in technology has accelerated way past the corporate world in the past few years, largely thanks to Apple and its iPhone and iPad. No longer is a lawyer happy with a standard BlackBerry and a plain old corporate laptop. The challenge for Legal IT (in fact any corporate IT department) is that the simplicity and flexibility people have at home they now want in the office and they also want it in a device that looks good. So the law firm board member now wants those papers on his or her iPad rather than stapled together in their briefcase.

For the IT department, that could historically control the computers it looked after and more importantly could control and secure the data on those computers, the flexibility and loss of control on personal devices is a big worry. However it will be a very brave IT department that continues to stand by the old ways and refuses to allow their end users the ability to bring in and use their own tablet or smartphone, not least because they’ll go and do it anyway!

So how do you maintain the control and security of the firm’s data?

It depends on the device; each device will have a different requirement for how the data is used.

BYOD

On the one side is the smartphone which is built around an “App” whereas at the other is the traditional PC with it’s desktop integration, the tablet fits in the middle as it can be used to consume and use both.

Securing the data on these devices can therefore be about securing the “App” right through to providing a secure way to access the firm’s desktop on the device. This is a fast moving space at the moment, but some of the key players that provide solutions to manage this are: Citrix, Mobile Iron, Good Technologies and the new BlackBerry Fusion application. These solutions offer ways to control the devices that you allow to access your corporate networks. They can allow you to control the Apps and services on those devices, auto configure things like WiFi and email, allow you to control and wipe data and Apps selectively and even provide white lists (and black lists) of Apps you can install on the devices. They are designed to allow you to keep the firms data separate from the user’s personal data.

Effectively these solutions are bringing the control and security the BlackBerry gave to corporate IT departments to a variety of devices. They also aim to keep the control of the data that belongs to the firm whilst allowing the device as a whole to be freely used as a personal device.

So what happens to the BlackBerry in the legal arena then? BlackBerry has just launched their new version and with it they bring some new features to assist in this personal/corporate split.

BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry 10 or BBX is the new operating system for the good old BlackBerry device and it brings with it “BlackBerry Balance”, this is a feature that lets you toggle between two profiles on the smartphone. A personal profile and a work profile. This allows corporate policies and controls to be placed on the work profile, yet leave the personal profile more open.

It will be interesting to see how the new BlackBerry fares in a crowded smartphone market, especially as the BYOD solutions (including their own BlackBerry Fusion solution) mentioned previously allow the control of data across a wider range of devices on the other three platforms (Apple, Android and Windows Phone). Even security conscious government departments have cleared the iPhone (CESG, GCHQ’s data security arm cleared the iPhone for Level 3 data, that data deemed restricted, in late 2012).

Another emerging area in the BYOD space is around tablets. We all know how phenomenally popular the iPad has been and how it has seen off some rivals (notably the BlackBerry Playbook), but this year I think will see the rise of a couple of challengers. On one side the Android tablets led currently by the successful Nexus 7 and I think as the year goes on from the Windows 8 platform.

Windows 8

It’s still early days for Windows 8 and it’s fair to say early impressions of the Microsoft Surface RT tablet device have been mixed. I think a lot of the negative reviews have come from the confusion in the way the software runs in either the “Desktop” or as an “App”, once you understand this it makes the perfect sense why there are two versions of the surface tablet (the RT and the “Pro” versions) and helps to see where the roadmap is leading.

The “desktop” world can be easily explained as the way every piece of software runs that you currently have on your Windows 7 desktop. So Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, iTunes etc are all desktop software. Microsoft supports this world in Windows 8, however the desktop is now tucked away below a new “desktop tile” on the start screen. You can pin a tile for Word to the start screen, but launch it and it opens in that desktop space. So the desktop as you know it from the windows 7 world is effectively a layer below this new start screen.

New in Windows 8 though is a development platform, this is where the “Apps” come in. Adobe may create the next version of Photoshop as an “App”, and you launch it in the same way from a tile on the start screen, but this time it doesn’t switch into the desktop environment to run. It just runs the “App” basically like your iPad or iPhone does.

The “desktop” world still requires you to install the software in the same old way; the “App” world though transitions the software into an AppStore (Windows Store). For now most of the Legal IT world consists of desktop software and until such time that vendors start to build “App” versions of this software there is an argument to say stick with Windows 7. The shift has started though, OpenText already provide a Windows 8 App to access their document management system.

Once you’ve understood the split above the tablet versions make a bit more sense. The Surface RT tablet will just run the “Apps”, it won’t run the “Desktop” software. To run those you will need a Surface Pro tablet whose release is imminent. Why the split? Well the RT kit has different hardware “underneath the bonnet” and is designed to need much less power, hence much longer battery life (think iPad rather than laptop battery life).

The flexibility of this RT/Pro environment could be of huge benefit to users who travel a lot (lawyers?) as with “Pro” you have a true laptop replacement. You can use the device as a tablet with the “Apps” then connect a mouse and keyboard and use as a desktop PC! Microsoft see this and are launching new versions of their Office Suite (Office 2013), these are the usually fully featured versions of Word and Excel for when in desktop mode, but that also have a new “finger friendly” interface, so that when in tablet mode you can still use your email or read a document with ease.

One interesting feature of Office 13 is the shift to cloud. This seems a nod to the consumer world and allows you to store your documents in the cloud to allow access wherever you have an internet connection. So using file open in Word, for example, no longer has the hard drive (C: drive) front and centre, instead you will see SkyDrive. SkyDrive is Microsoft’s DropBox or Google Drive, your documents in the cloud.

Cloud data

It’s strange to see SkyDrive in the mix as traditionally Office is a corporate product rather than a consumer one, and I can’t really see firms being too happy that their documents are hosted, who knows where in Microsoft’s cloud. However it is more the concept that Office is bringing. The one that your documents can be available anywhere you have an internet connection.

Now most law firms have had an internal document “cloud” for some time in their DMS (document management systems), this has only been available if you were on your firms network. There is now a big scramble in Legal IT to provide a “corporate dropbox”.

A number of vendors are looking to exploit their technologies that are already on the desktops of lawyers. To add functionality to their products to load documents into the cloud, thus allowing access by the lawyers on their own devices and also to allow their clients direct access to the documents.

Workshare’s recent merger with SkyDox well and truly puts them in this space as they look to leverage their Workshare Professional product to help collaboration with clients in the cloud. HP Autonomy is also looking to exploit their ubiquitous DMS with the ability to synchronise with a “dropbox” solution that would be available to clients and lawyers own devices. Netdocuments having always being in the cloud are well placed in this space too. These are just a few vendors to look at solutions in this space and I’m sure a wander round the vendor hall at the Legal IT show will unearth many more!

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Jan 2 2013

Top 5 Legal IT technologies of 2013 and a review of 2012

Jason

Well it’s that time of year again, a time when TV is full of reviews of 2012. Also a time when blogs review predictions from last year and look forward to 2013 in a hope that they can look back next year and say “I told you so”! Who am I to buck the trend, so let’s take a look at what I had last year as key Legal IT technologies in 2012:

First I had was Speech Recognition. Well to be honest Siri continues to be a gimmick and this technology in Legal still isn’t making the significant inroads I thought it might. I am still convinced it will make waves in law firms for a couple of reasons. One, in an age where law firms need to keep costs low this technology will surely prevail and two, technology firms are all continuing to push the boundaries of what this technology can do. But it does look like this is going to be a very slow burner.

Next were a couple of technologies where I was way off, first was SharePoint which kind of fizzled away as a hot topic in 2012 and then I madly suggested a big return of the laptop/netbook! Oh how wrong was I? On the former I’m now happy to admit that I just don’t think SharePoint will be a major player in Legal IT as a document management system. As to the latter, well that really was my my “Decca moment“. I ended up buying an iPad and realised the netbook was dead!

The final two predictions for 2012 are still wait and see, a new vendor emerging as a major Legal IT player and the death of the blackberry. I still think the market is ripe for a new player in Legal IT, I’m not sure exactly what this will be though yet. But I’m not convinced it will be a “disruptive tech” company, I’m thinking it will be a company that delivers something law firms already do, just in a much better way. As for the blackberry it’s wait and see, personally I think BBX will be too late to the market and if those first devices are purely touchscreen that’ll be game over!

2013

So what about 2013, well I think the death of the BlackBerry is still in the mix. If I’m being more specific I think it will be BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) that will be it’s end and as such it will probably be a slow demise as law firms take time to extract the BlackBerry from their estates. To use an analogy of spectacles from my school days, the BB will end up being the NHS specs for the law firm, handed out to those who aren’t fussed about tech or as temporary replacements for the lost or broken iPhones!

Which brings me onto BYOD, it’s been talked about throughout 2012 but this year it will become reality and lead to a real look at data security. It’s time to make the shift from securing the hardware to securing the data on it. Moving the passwords down from the devices to the apps. Stop the focus on locking down hardware and move to facilitating secure use of data on any device. In Legal IT we’d better prepare to enable this as our lawyers are going to bring in their iPads and use them regardless.

Next I think bespoke systems (or at least flexible systems) will start to make a come back. Remember Hatton Blue anyone? The modern versions of this and the rise of ABS law firms will see firms look at their processes and find more efficient ways to do things. This will be much more than case management software, more a mix of case management, online communication and document automation.

Cloud storage I think will be a big topic still through 2013. In particular for Legal IT it will be a specific cloud offering that will be all the rage, a simple dropbox or skydrive type solution. In this area in Legal there are two big players that already have their hat in the ring. Workshare’s SkyDox and HP Autonomy’s LinkSite, at the moment I think the later just has the edge. But there are also smaller vendors offering integration of your DMS into products like box.net. I’ll put up a blog post about this in the coming weeks.

And finally that big one, Windows 8 makes it to the top of my top 5 for 2013. Sure no law firm will run a desktop refresh with Windows 8, but all those replacement laptops and desktops at home WILL come with Windows 8. People will use it and (eventually) start to realise the potential, software vendors will write for it and the hybrid laptop/tablets will start to become the big BYOD item of 2013. Law firms by the end of the year will need to cater for Windows 8 whether they like it or not!

So that’s it my top 5 for 2013.

5 – Death of the BlackBerry, rise of the other three (iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8) in law firms

4 – BYOD

3 – Bespoke systems (Q: are they still 4GL’s??) make a comeback

2 – Cloud storage, specifically “Legal dropbox”

1 – Windows 8

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Nov 13 2012

Windows 8 first thoughts

Jason

I’ve been using Windows 8 for sometime now and I thought I’d put up a post touching on my initial love hate relationship with the new OS and why I can now see this OS for what it is and where I think it could fit into law firms.

I found in the end that the easiest way to understand Windows 8 is to understand the whole “Desktop” vs “App” thing, once you understand this it makes the perfect sense when to stay Windows 7, when to go Windows 8 and also the whole RT version vs the non RT versions on tablets becomes clear!

Lets start with the “desktop” world, easiest way to think of this is that every piece of software you currently have that runs in Windows 7 is the desktop world, it was all designed for the desktop. So Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop etc are all desktop software. Now Microsoft support this world in Windows 8, however the desktop is tucked away below the new tile start screen. You can pin a shortcut tile to this screen for Word, but launch it and it opens in that desktop space. So your desktop as you know it from the windows 7 world is effectively a layer below.

This is where my initial hate came from as I immediately tried to use “desktop” software. This does diminish over time as you get used to it, but read on. If you switch to the “App” world though the OS really does become a much more usable and enjoyable experience.
So Microsoft have created a new development platform in Windows 8, this is where the “Apps” come in. Adobe may create the next version of Photoshop as an “App”, you launch it the same way from a tile but this time it doesn’t switch into the desktop environment to run. It just runs the “App” basically like your iPad or iPhone does.

The “desktop” world still requires you to install the software in the same way, the “App” world though transitions the software into an AppStore. For now most of the Legal IT world has a bunch of desktop software and until such time that vendors start to build “App” versions of this software there is an argument to say stick with Windows 7. But this is the shift, it is effectively two separate environments and obviously your old software runs in the old “desktop” world. Over time though this will shift as more and more “Apps” become available.

So what about tablet versions. Well they’re easy to understand once you’ve understood the split. The RT release (which the surface runs) will just run the “Apps”, it won’t run the “Desktop” software. To run those you will need a tablet running the non RT version (this is what all laptops and desktop PCs will use). The version of office on the surface is an “App” version not the “Desktop” version, so Microsoft are pushing their own software down the “App” route. Why the split? Well the RT kit has different hardware “underneath the bonnet” and needs much less power, hence longer battery life (think iPad rather than laptop battery life).

Over time more suppliers will build “App” versions I’m sure and the need to run this desktop area will diminish. Microsoft have just been sensible in helping to manage the transition to the App world. For developers the great thing is the Windows 8 and the Windows Phone 8 platforms for “Apps” is closely tied meaning it will be fairly straightforward to make your App ready for the phone version once you’ve developed it for the desktop/tablet version.

Finally a slight aside for those thinking that the desktop environment will stay king and windows 8 will fail. This install of Windows 8 was installed on an old laptop, this first thing my 6 year old did when sat in front of it was to touch the tiles on the screen to try and start an app! We may be tethered to the mouse, but intuitively it’s not the right interface for the next generation.

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