I am a Seattleite. Born and raised in the beautiful, but sometimes very rainy Pacific Northwest. Every year in September, I take my kids to the Western Washington County Fair, also known as the Puyallup Fair. It is an amazingly well run fair and so much fun for the kids. This year was no exception. My son, now seven years old, was particularly fascinated with an exhibit that featured hands-on experience with pioneer day technology. He was churning butter with a hand mixer, pumping water from a well, and running clothing items through a wringer. He was having so much fun that I decided to sit down on a bench and check the college football scores.

It was a Saturday and my beloved WSU Cougars were taking on San Diego State. I grabbed my smartphone and started surfing for info. As far as we’ve come with Mobile browsers, full featured HTML web surfing, pinch and zoom, I still wasn’t getting the info I wanted fast enough. What to do? There has to be an app that will allow me to dial right into the latest news and scores for my favorite teams. So I opened the app marketplace on my phone and searched for sports apps. Sure enough, there was a mobile app specifically designed for fair-going dads in desperate need of live updates for his team. I clicked on the app, got it installed, entered the Cougars and voila: the updated score and a live feed of the play-by-play, all at my fingertips.

This experience of instant gratification when it comes to devices and applications has become commonplace in a very short amount of time. We expect that our devices will give us instant access to the information we need and that applications will be there to support us with one press of a button. So how unsatisfying is it for users when they enter the workplace and there are tons of barriers to getting the apps they need and want?   If we have to open a ticket with help desk, it may take days to get the applications we want. This dichotomy between personal life and work life can be completely frustrating – and not just for the user.  With the influx of personal devices into the enterprise, it is tough for the desktop administrators to figure out just what machines belong to me and which one should have the applications deployed to it.

With ConfigMgr 2012, we’ve introduced the Application Catalog: a web service-backed web site that can be easily deployed in your organization to offer software installations based on individual user permissions. ConfigMgr 2012 makes it easier than ever to make applications available to your users and to monitor the deployment statistics for those applications. Admins still have control over who gets what software and can analyze trends. At the same time, users have an intuitive web site they can visit to get the software they need, when they need it. The Catalog is customizable through categories, application descriptions, icons, help links and other information. As an admin, you control the experience. Your users can search on keywords, browse categories and get the latest applications they need to get the job done.  Some of the end user features of Application Catalog include:

  • Browse and search for software using application names, descriptions, categories, keywords, and more. The end-user “metadata” for application entries in the catalog are also fully localizable in all supported client languages.
  • Install software directly from the catalog. A catalog install is a managed install, which means it adheres to the business logic that you have applied to the app installs and also leverages the full ConfigMgr infrastructure for content download, status monitoring and troubleshooting.
  • Workflow for users to request software and have it approved for install. The requests and approvals are all available in the Admin Console as well as the Application Catalog.

ConfigMgr 2012 is built around the idea of delivering user-centric management (see User-Centric Application Deployment by Bill Anderson), and the Application Catalog is a critical part of this functionality.  It brings users a familiar application experience to the workplace, which at the end of the day not only makes them happy, but helps drive productivity.  That, of course, is what technology is intended to do. 

ConfigMgr 2012 is working to bring users the same convenient, on-demand experience with apps that I had getting game updates at the fair.  I used the app to check the half-time score.  I was feeling good about our chances (the Cougars would eventually go on to lose the game 42-24. Ugh!). By that time, I needed to peel my son away from the wringer. He just couldn’t get enough of that thing. But there was much more to do at the fair. We had to head over to the Milk Barn and check out the Holsteins. Then it was over to the food court for a crusty pup and an elephant ear (sorry for all the fair speak). And as my son headed back to the wringer for one last go, I couldn’t help but watch and think about how far technology has come in just a few hundred years. I wonder what the next few hundred years will bring. As technologists, it is very exciting to think that we have a role to play in how the future shapes out.

 

Bryan Keller
Lead Program Manager
System Center Configuration Manager