nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

back to article
NYPD head of IT doubles down on Windows smartphone idiocy

Silver badge

Hold on, if I read this right

MS gave them 36,000 free phones and if they didn't like them after 2 years, will replace them free with 36,000 phones that the NYPD choose.

Not sure what the lifespan of an NYPD phone is, but that looks like they've got somewhere between 36 and 72 thousand free phones out of MS. That will pay for an awful lot of app..

35
1
Silver badge

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Was Microsoft really so desperate they made an offer to not only provide free Windows Phones, but buy 36K competitor phones in two years? Something about that sounds fishy.

The only upside is that since the software was only written two years ago, they probably have a lot of the people who helped with the initial design process (I'm assuming the actual programming was probably contracted out) who will now have the benefit of hindsight if they're smart and rather than porting they redesign the apps from the ground up. It is always said if you want quality software, develop it twice, since the first time you'll end up with a lot of limitations for stuff you didn't think about when you designed it the first time.

26
0
Silver badge

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

> develop it twice

Not really, read Brook's "Mythical man-month" and see what he says about the "second-system effect"

17
0
Silver badge

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Was Microsoft really so desperate they made an offer to not only provide free Windows Phones, but buy 36K competitor phones in two years? Something about that sounds fishy.

I'm not so sure. Go back three years or so, and Slurp were indeed desperate to get traction in the enterprise market with their phones. At that point they still believed they'd be able to carve out a lucrative share of the phone market as the mythical "third ecosystem", but actual sales figures were poor. I suspect they'd have been sufficiently keen to win the NYPD contract that giving the phones away for free was seen as a good deal for Microsoft - and likewise the "buy the next one for you" promise. The $15-25m cost is chump change for MS, and they'd have hoped other police forces and public bodies would follow the NYPD lead, using the logic "if it's good enough for NYPD..."

Of course, what's actually happened is that it's all blown up in Microsoft's face, and all they've got to show for giving away the phones is some very potent brand damage for Windows Phone.

22
0

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

The second-system effect is the tendency of small, elegant, and successful systems, to be succeeded by over-engineered, bloated systems.

However, as we are talking about Windows 8.1 applications, they don't meet ANY of those three criteria, as they are most likely NOT small, NOT elegant, and NOT successful. As such, using them as a prototype and developing version 2 sounds like a very viable plan.

23
4
Anonymous Coward

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Using the argument that the app would have to be rewritten is a false one.

Mobile platforms are not static. If they had gone with Android, then they would probably have to rewrite to handle changes in the Android platform over the last two years. If they had gone with Apple, they would probably have to do the same. If they had started with Android and switched to IOS or vice versa they would have had to rewrite the applications.

Mobile development has a much higher cycle rate than desktop development. For a version 1 mobile app to last two years without a rewrite makes it a rather long-lasting, most likely already end-of-life application.

23
5
Gold badge

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

In fairness, Brooks also suggests "Plan to throw one away, because you will anyway." and he goes on to note that you might end up throwing two away because of the second system effect.

18
0
Silver badge
Devil

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

No doubt it's not the cost of the phones themselves, but rather the cost of the infrastructure that surrounds them, and the long-term support and maintenance costs for "beyond 2 years from now".

Micro-shaft obviously wanted to lock them into a windows-based solution, so that (in perpetuity) they'd be Micro-shaft's biggest phone customer, locked in to "that solution" so that the cost becomes prohibitive to switch out of it, later on down the road. You know, like using Active Directory... or Office 365. Or any OTHER Micro-shaft product.

Switching to Apple _now_ would probably save money long term. Switching to Android, similar. They chose Apple.

Besides, there's no such thing as a FREE LUNCH. There's always a cost. You just need to recognize it. And if someone's GIVING AWAY a "solution", you _know_ that strings will be attached at some point, if not already there.

16
7
Silver badge
Devil

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

"using them as a prototype and developing version 2 sounds like a very viable plan."

what I've often said about Micro-shaft's tendency to move the target: If you're gonna have to re-learn, re-develop, or re-ANYTHING for that matter, you might as well switch to something with an actual future to it.

I said that about ".Not" back in the early noughties, learned Linux/BSD instead. Now I do most of my development in either Linux or BSD. Seems to have worked out pretty well. Meanwhile, Micro-shaft has moved the target 2 or 3 additional times (3 if you count 'Silverlight'), the most recent one being UWP.

From the mid-to-late 1990's - using C++ with MFC worked pretty well. And then:

change #1: ".Not" initiative and C-pound

change #2: Silverlight [which failed]

change #3: Windows 8 CRapps using their 'RT' nonsense

change #4: UWP

I'm glad I jumped ship early on.

So yeah - if you MUST re-learn, re-learn something with an actual FUTURE, something that isn't going to change every other year and require you to re-re-re-learn. Then you can focus on getting actual WORK done, actual PROJECTS COMPLETED, and maintain them without re-re-writing.

12
9
Silver badge

@bombastic bob

Well they are going to be locked into a Windows based solution - on the server side. Nothing was said about the NYPD scrapping that, so when they rewrite their apps for iOS and buy the 36,000 iPhones, they'll still have all those Windows servers and software on the backend.

Perhaps Microsoft makes more from that than Apple will make from the sale of those iPhones, so other than the poor slob in charge of the Windows Phone product line they don't care about the NYPD switching to iPhones. Given that they'll have written the apps twice within the space of a couple years, at this point it would be difficult for anyone to seriously consider moving the server side to a new platform since it would mean rewriting those apps a third time!

7
1

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Free with a 2 year contract, just like your normal phone purches.

13
0

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

read Brook's "Mythical man-month" and see what he says about the "second-system effect"

Let's not cherry-pick famous quotes.

Among the things Brooks actually says about "second systems" is

"The management question, therefore, is not whether to build a pilot system and throw it away. You will do that. […] Hence plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow.

[Brooks's italics.]

I am fairly sure this is what was alluded to by "develop it twice".

What you have in mind is, I guess,

"The general tendency is to over-design the second system, using all the ideas and frills that were cautiously sidetracked on the first one. The result, as Ovid says, is a 'big pile.'"

This is also famous, but hardly applies to the topic at hand (it may apply to specialized NYPD app development - I don't know).

The quote that comes to my mind, however, is

"[An architect] knows he doesn’t know what he’s doing, so he does it carefully and with great restraint."

This applies, according to Brooks, to the first system. In the case of NYPD's "first system" knowledge of what one does not know was conspicuously absent while all care and restraint was, apparently, thrown to the wind because the phones were FREE.

11
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Sorry, but Windows Phone 8 applications were small and elegant - especially compared to Android ones, since no Java was involved.

7
5
Silver badge

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Didn't M$ have a mountain of these things they couldn't flog at any price? I bet they found a way to write these off and actually profit from the tax benefit.

10
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Just like Google wants to lock you in in its data slurping ecosystem. Probably they went to iOS because they couldn't trust Android.

From a MS perspective, probably NYPD already uses Office, don't know what their mail system is, I wouldn't be surprised if it was Exchange already. ActiveSync is a documented protocol and many iOS and Android application do use it to communicate with Exchange. Other protocols (HTTP, SOAP, REST, etc) are fairly standard and there could be no issue to have an iOS app communicate with a Windows backend.

For the matter, NYPD has another project builf with MS, the "Domain Awareness System".

3
2
Silver badge
Joke

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

it's all blown up in Microsoft's face, and all they've got to show for giving away the phones is some very potent brand damage for Windows Phone

Yeah, imagine the accounting write-down they are going to swallow for that. My guess is that they will push it up to a dollar because that is a nice round number and you can offset the inflated figure against tax

2
0
SVV
Bronze badge

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

It's true that they may be able to write this one time loss off against tax. But that comes at the price of having gained the reputation as "the phone they couldn't even give away for free".

And that ain't so good for the long term prospects for MS in the phone market (such as they were at about 3% market share anyway.....)

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

Not really, read Brook's "Mythical man-month" and see what he says about the "second-system effect"

But he also wrote "plan to throw one away". How unusual for an IT director to have not only read Brooks but also taken his advice to heart and followed it 36,000 times.

3
0
Silver badge
Pirate

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

"and all they've got to show for giving away the phones is some very potent brand damage for Windows Phone."

Brand damage for Windows Phone? Isn't that like worrying about termite damage on a house that's been burned to the ground?

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Hold on, if I read this right

You don't need to write Android apps in Java you can also write them in C/C++.

If they had gone for an Android Open Source option on decent hardware and avoided Google Play Services then they could have extended the life of the phones and kept secure for as long as they wanted.

At least with an open source option you aren't at the mercy of the Big Company to decide when you have to move on. A team hacking, maintaining and securing both the apps and the OS could have created a good solution not only for the NYPD but a service they could also resell to other state and federal agencies.

0
0
ROC

Re: Hold on, if I read this right - Not small/elegant/successful?

Evidence for that claim?

I have been using a Lumia 640 running WP 8.1 for almost 2 years, and consider it a "small app" platform - WP apps usually are, and WP 8.1 tends to run them well in 0.5-1GB of RAM. Android usually needs more RAM to perform well (partly because of its platform and vendor software bloat).

Not sure how to measure "elegant", but WP 8.1 and its apps seem comparable in usability and features to similar apps (for the same time period) for Android in my experience with both platforms (have not touched iPhones). I find the overall UI elegantly easy-to-use to the extent that this characteristic was what motivated me to use WP 8.1 as best suited for introducing my wife to smartphones in her first step up from feature phones. I was dreading getting her up to speed on Android until I learned about the WP option since she is not the "techie" type, despite several years on her home PC running Linux - she would have been lost without her live-in tech guy, me.

In fact, I was so impressed in teaching her how to use WP, I decided to switch from Android to WP myself. I have kept dabbling in Android phones and tablets since then, but keep coming back to WP for its "elegance", although not so much for Win 10 Phone since it has lost apps, is far more intrusive with MS's ramped up "telemetry", and annoying with forced updates.

"Successful" depends on the criteria for measuring success. From what I have read about this project before, it was a success in terms of meeting the needs of the NYPD. There may have even been an additional bonus in keeping the Android and iPhone users from "mixing" their job and personal phone usage/apps, which was something I hated about my job when I had to submit my Android phone to biz restrictions in order to support my on-call duties. It all depends...

The only real negative I see is that MS has since withdrawn support for WP 8.1 with a very uncertain upgrade path in Win10 P - it may be alive, but barely, so not a good bet from the current perspective ("Surface Phone" notions being only a wished-for rumor). However, as pointed out here, 2 years is a fairly typical life-cycle for replacement of business phones and apps for them, so a conversion of some sort would have been just about inevitable.

Meanwhile I intend to keep using my Lumia 640 running WP 8.1 until it ceases to perform in terms of hardware and/or functions - it "just works" for me (and wife).

0
0

When your head of IT has a law degree (from somewhere) and an M.B.A. from Harvard what else could you expect.

35
0
Silver badge

She is the daughter and grand-daughter of wealth, so can't be expected to start at the bottom, like normal people, but in her defence she has at least got a job.

Many trust fund babies never bother.

Of course, I'm really glad I don't work for one of these inherited wealth pillocks (any more).

23
0
Silver badge

Uh..yeah. And since she screams and whines lowest, she gets her way. WTF?????

Ok.. maybe this is just the way NYC does things.. It's all about your connections, name, etc. but for crying out loud... put some competence and/or experience in place, especially for tech stuff.

12
1
I3N
Angel

For the latter ...

Expect?

Experienced a bunch of insults ...

If I had only know of his later claim to fame would be sending a chicken sandwich on a balloon flight ...

hahaha

0
0
Silver badge

"Many trust fund babies never bother."

And now we know why.

1
1

Overdetermined

When your head of IT has a combo JD/MBA from Harvard what other result could you expect?

20
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Overdetermined

Hey Boss, these phones are free.

But they are crap. no one uses them.

Think of the Budget savings you can tell the Mayor

Where do I sign

22
0
Coat

Body politic

It's also on Ms Tisch's head. NYPD sources have already laid the blame at her feet

Fingered by cops fed up to the back teeth who would give an arm and a leg if they could hand responsibility for watching their back to a different body with more spine and less cheek than this bum.

15
0
Silver badge

"She's a terror if she doesn't get her way, so I usually let her get her way"

Bingo. And there's the entire situation in a nutshell.

Sad thing is, the NYPD suck at being cops just as much as they suck at being computer experts.

24
3
Anonymous Coward

"Sad thing is, the NYPD suck at being cops just as much as they suck at being computer experts."

I've always wondered, if NYPD are "New York's finest", then finest what?

19
2
Silver badge

then finest what?

@AC - From someone who watched them up close and personal for may years, the answer is corruption. Most US big cities are corrupt cesspools from top to bottom and have been for decades, particularly in the Northeast.

9
1
Bronze badge

Re: then finest what?

Pretty much any city in Dixie on line 2.

1
0

Re: then finest what?

how did she get the job in the first place? oh... wait...

0
0
Silver badge

Continuing the theme

" I don't care if you're Jesus fucking Christ, you get a panel of experts."

But choose the panel well, The Last Supper didn't go that well.

37
0

I for one

still mourn the loss of my Windows phone - a cheap Lumia. It was very usable, intuitive even. The issue with the missing apps was a bit of a bummer, I'll admit that. I still prefer the general system / interface over my droids or the iPhones some friends have. It is so simple even my mom can use it!

When I tell this my colleagues I get weird looks: I'm one of the few Linux users in our department (one of two, I think).

21
3

Re: I for one

> still mourn the loss of my Windows phone - a cheap Lumia.

You can get an Android for $50.00 or less these days, but no help for software compatibility or usability. Wherefore art thou POSIX?

1
5
Anonymous Coward

This story stinks....

.... not of pigs, but porkies. #FakeNews #FakeFeminism

1
23
Anonymous Coward

Re: This story stinks....

My equally valid opinion is that it smacks of sinecure gone wrong.

It doesn't matter that she is female what matters is how she managed to get control in the first place.

21
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: This story stinks....

... by "Fake" I mean true, but manufactured to get the headlines they want, to invoke the policies THEY want. Problem reaction solution. Here's another possible candidate...

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41096514

1
2
Anonymous Coward

Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Going from Microsoft dumb to apple dumb.

No only do you have a limited selection of hardware, so no industrial options, nothing suitable for marine police. But you are also locked into apples walled garden and limited application SDK.

Gone from bad to something not quite as bad.

7
10
Silver badge

Re: Out of the frying pan, into the fire

But it's shiny and all the cool kids love it.

9
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Out of the frying pan, into the fire

Working in an industry where the vendors like to push freedom to do anything with as many bells and whistles as can be mustered (because that's what the execs like to buy and the analysts say should be bought), I'd personally have no objection to the 'walled garden' or 'limited' functions when the main consideration is supposed to be whether the whole thing delivers the outcomes required.

Less really is, sometimes, more.

10
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Out of the frying pan, into the fire

... but at least you don't have to worry about waht some doughnut-chomping NYPD street cop who, I expect, is not likely to be all that IT-savvy, might be installing on it...

1
1

Mobile development is about 85-95% back-end. Get the database, B2B, and WebAPI correct, and the front end does more or less nothing. With the tech they would have used (lets assume Silverlight), its all MVVM, so data-bound display.

Building a new front-end to consume the already created API is not the end of the world.

Also, the Lumia were a reliable cheap phone. Android was (and still is) a pig to develop for, as its always changing. Never done an iOS app except via Xamarin.Forms (and only because it was basically for free, and never deployed it), so wont comment on that.

8
2

Assuming they wrote the mobile code in C#, then by using Xamarin they could at least salvage much of the apps' business logic.

4
0
Silver badge

> Android was (and still is) a pig to develop for, as its always changing.

You appear to be defending MS mobile device development methods as if there was ever some sort of consistency between the several very different platforms they have had since 2000 or so. It started as PocketPC, went through various Windows Mobile and then was replaced by the completely incompatible Windows Phone. And then there was Zune and Kin. Even Windows Phone 7 was dumped, along with XNA, when WP8 came out which was very different. Windows 10 Mobile was different again and rewrites to UWP were required.

On the other hand Android 2.3 apps still run on the latest versions.

1
0

I'll admit to that, and in my case I never touched Windows CE or Mobile 7. Started at 8.0.

The upgrade to 8.1 was the total of clicking 'compile', then resubmitting to the store.

Upgrading to UWP took probably about 20 minutes, then a days testing, then submitting to the store (with the same certificates etc as 8 and 8.1). Not a big deal.

Android is next to impossible. Write it targeting 4.4 (where I started), then you want to update to anything newer. Cant use the same package as your Capabilities have changed, so for instance, if you want to use the camera, you still need permissions on the GPS for your 4.4 to work, just not on your 6 or whatever. Basically we had to release a whole new app side by side with the old one. Great. Oh, and needed a new certificate and account (for mostly unrelated reasons).

I found Windows deployment really simple and obvious. Android deployment has fought me every step of the way.

2
0

But the Phones are Upgradable!?!

This whole mess being played out in the press is pretty shady. The phones that were issued are upgradable to Windows 10 mobile. No matter the OS, apps need to be patched, upgraded, and maintained to be in lockstep with new OS platforms. Conversion to UWP is supposed to be pretty easy.

Windows 10 mobile is about 2 years old. There has been time to plan an upgrade. The Elite x3 or Alcatel are valid options for the next 2 years. By that time Windows will be on its next device.

RIM still has active contracts so why not Microsoft. She was fiscally responsible if not smooth. It sounds like someone really wants iPhones and are throwing this lady under the bus along the way.

4
5

Is the blond in the article the same person that did this deal?

If it is, start watching out for the ditzy blond jokes as she is one of her own makings.

0
6

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing