logo_windows7 beta promises to deliver substantial user experience improvements over the global whipping boy of OS releases: Vista. According to Microsoft, the key improvements in Windows 7  include an improved task bar (at the bottom of the screen), making it easier to use, adding a jump list of the most recently and most frequently used documents, features for window-manipulation to increase the scale of folder or application windows, IE 8, Windows Live Essentials which incorporates many Live services – messenger, photos, mail, word processing, movie making – support for touch screens and networking with other Windows 7 PCs in the home.

My impressions of the new OS are that Windows 7 will also improve the performance and responsiveness of the OS in everyday applications – shutdown, hibernate, power usage, reboot, open file for example, which were the big issues for many users.

ncpNCP, the German VPN specialist has been working with Windows 7 and introduced their own beta client in early January 2009. According to Simon Ford, Director of Sales, the software works and will be ready to go GA whenever Microsoft makes Windows 7 generally available. Of course, in security applications there really isn't a beta option, so this designation is purely to align with Microsoft release vectors, justify the free download option and to reserve the right to make last minute changes to the commercial release.

GA for Windows 7 is expected "forthcoming", according to Microsoft's Engineering Blog. The release is thought to be the anti-Vista storyline, with an uncharacteristic non-launch and therefore non-disappointment to paraphrase Alexander Wolfe of Information Week. It is entirely likely that this release will happen sooner than later to restart the revenue growth that Microsoft has been accustomed to over the past many years, and to restore the shine on the brand somewhat tarnished by the gap between expectations and delivery that was the disappointment caused by Vista. 

In our briefing, Simon mentioned that their 64-bit client for Notebooks has been well received since Cisco and other security vendors have not (yet) delivered product, which gave me pause to consider the natural trend to smaller and more mobile devices in the enterprise. Of course, NCP offers a unified VPN implementation including security management services where the Enterprise Secure Gateway supports:

  • NCP clients running on laptops of various Windows versions
  • clients from leading VPN vendors
  • unique NCP-developed clients for devices like 64-bit netbooks
  • unique NCP-developed clients for [[Symbian]] mobile devices
  • unique NCP-developed clients for Windows Mobile devices
  • support for Apple's iPhone VPN client

NCP does not support BlackBerry or Google Android. BlackBerry enables only Java applets, which sufficiently neuters the VPN client application to render it unsatisfactory. Customers would have to support their BlackBerry users with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and its data application support features. For many users this model is unsatisfactory since all traffic, though encrypted traverses through one of the regional RIM data centers in Waterloo Canada, Plano Texas, London UK or Australia (I think), which may disqualify BlackBerry in many enterprises.

Android is not yet suited or marketed for business applications. As I understand it, there is no 'corporate email' client on T-Mobile's G1, yet. 

We also discussed the mobile phone clients and how mobile phones are taking on more and more of the functions previously reserved for laptops. The NCP solution set is particularly useful in a wide range of enterprise applications where security of communications must be device or brand independent. The new NCP client for Windows 7 promises to maintain and strengthen that powerful positioning.

On a related note, NCP also announced release 9.1 of the Secure Entry client which now offers support for Wireless Service Provider Roaming (WISPr). This feature supports auto-login by the client without engaging a browser. NCP users can establish a VPN connection at a WISPr-supported WiFi hotspot with only one click, improving productivity of busy mobile professionals.

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