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The courts have ruled: Mobile sites must be accessible. But why did enterprises ever resist?

When the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (Oct. 7) let stand a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it ended a long-lasting battle about whether mobile sites — as well as desktop sites — need to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and provide full accessibility to those who are visually impaired. The appellate panel had ruled that mobile sites do indeed need to be fully compatible, and the Supreme Court decided to not intervene in that ruling.

Although this decision should end the debate and make it clear to companies that sites must be coded to be fully compatible — and, no, throwing in a toolbar option doesn’t do it — it’s astounding that companies ever resisted it. The appellate decision at issue here is Robles vs. Domino’s Pizza, and Domino’s was a classic resister.

Domino’s argued that the literal phrasing of the ADA — passed by Congress in 1990 — doesn’t mention mobile or websites and merely references “places of public accommodation,” which Domino’s chose to interpret as just applying to its physical store locations. Even though the internet had existed for quite a long time by 1990 (as had the much newer World Wide Web), the popularization of the web for most businesses and consumers didn’t happen until about 1995. So Congress, which is typically many years behind the times anyway, especially in technology, can be forgiven for not specifying website support.

The appellate panel that wrote the decision, speaking of itself in the third person, wasn’t having it: “The panel held that the ADA applied to Domino’s website and app because the Act mandates that places of public accommodation, like Domino’s, provide auxiliary aids and services to make visual materials available to individuals who are blind. Even though customers primarily accessed the website and app away from Domino’s physical restaurants, the panel stated that the ADA applies to the services of a public accommodation, not services in a place of public accommodation. The panel stated that the website and app connected customers to the goods and services of Domino’s physical restaurants.” [Note: the emphasis referenced here was from the appellate panel’s decision.]

But Domino’s executives already knew that. They simply didn’t want to be bothered with the expense of changing all of its pages. But why? In 2019, there’s nothing especially difficult or, relatively speaking, expensive about making a site compatible. And it opens the door to purchases from a large number of visually impaired customers, in addition to the gratitude of friends/family of those visually impaired customers. In short, Domino’s went out of its way to alienate a lot of customers. Kris Rivenburgh, an attorney specializing in accessibility issues who runs a site called, estimates that from 15% to 20% of the current U.S. population has a visual disability that impacts their ability to navigate mobile and desktop websites. That’s a lot of lost pizza sales.

And Domino’s wasn’t alone. Robles also sued Yum Brands, which owns Pizza Hut, for the same offense.

My bafflement at these companies is similar to my confusion with companies that initially resisted the European Union’s GDPR privacy requirements. To those who resist, I ask, “Have you actually read the full text of GDPR? It’s like a best practices document for privacy from about five years ago. Forget the rules: This is all stuff you should be doing anyway — years ago, and especially right now. Supporting these rules will help your business in countless ways. There is literally no strategic reason to resist.”

That said, making a mobile site fully compatible — and that includes wearable apps such as a watch — requires a comprehensive review of all pages so that everything needed to conduct business can be easily presented to a screen reader. “Just because there’s a form, that doesn’t mean it’s readable,” Rivenburgh said in an interview with Computerworld. That means all videos need closed-captioning as well as text transcripts, Rivenburgh said.

All relevant departments have to be involved. For example, does an audio or text presentation preserve the desired branding? And once page code is redone, compatibility teams need to stay involved in development efforts permanently, as every site change needs to stay compatible.

Yes, it’s now the law that companies must keep all sites compatible. So, yes, that means the Supreme Court is forcing you to endure increased revenue and better customer relations. Consider it the Domino Effect.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Microsoft gives enterprises another 9 months to get off Exchange Server 2010

Microsoft today issued a support reprieve to Exchange Server 2010, saying it would continue to service the on-premises enterprise software for an extra nine months.

“After investigating and analyzing the deployment state of an extensive number of Exchange customers, we have decided to move the end of Extended Support for Exchange Server 2010 from January 14, 2020, to October 13, 2020,” wrote Greg Taylor, director of product marketing for the Exchange team, in a Monday post to the group’s blog.

Extended Support is the label Microsoft uses for the second half of its traditional decade of support for commercial products. Although the company declines to address non-security flaws (at least, without a paid support plan in place) or add new features during Extended Support, it does still service the software with security updates.

Microsoft launched Exchange Server 2010 in November 2009.

“Your installation of Exchange 2010 will, of course, continue to run after [Oct. 13, 2020]; however, due to the changes and potential end-of-support risks, we strongly recommend you migrate from Exchange 2010 as soon as possible,” Taylor said.

Taylor implied that Microsoft had extended support because customers were having trouble meeting the original January deadline. “We recognize discontinuing support for a product that has been as popular and reliable as Exchange Server 2010 can be an adjustment,” he said. “We also know that some of you are in the midst of upgrades to a newer version of Exchange Server on-premises, or more transformative migrations to the cloud with Office 365 and Exchange Online.”

Exchange Server 2010 was initially slated to leave support alongside Windows 7. With the extension, it will instead accompany Office 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 into retirement.

Upgrade options range from keeping email on-premises to shunting everything to the cloud with Exchange Online, the Microsoft-hosted service typically obtained as a part of an Office 365 (or Microsoft 365) subscription. Alternately, enterprises can do a bit of both, ending with a hybrid solution where parts of Exchange are in-house, parts run on Microsoft’s servers.

On-premises options include Exchange 2013 (which exits support April 11, 2023) and Exchange 2016 (Oct. 14, 2025); direct upgrades from Exchange Server 2010 to the latest, Exchange Server 2019 (also Oct. 14, 2025), are not possible. Microsoft’s Taylor, not surprisingly, touted Exchange Online. “Clearly, we think moving to Exchange Online and Office 365 is a good idea,” Taylor wrote. “It gets you out of the upgrade business.”

FastTrack, a Microsoft assistance program designed to help large customers manage upgrades or on-premises to cloud migrations, may be available to those doing the latter, Taylor noted. Microsoft 365, a costly subscription package that bundles Windows 10 with Office 365, offers FastTrack, although caveats apply.

More information about Exchange Server 2010’s support roadmap can be found in a series of just-updated documents on Microsoft’s website.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Windows 10 1909: What’s in it for enterprises?

Microsoft upends its Windows servicing model, if not regularly, then often enough to put the “con” in “consistency.”

The latest revision or revamp or reconsideration took place this summer when the Redmond, Wash. company confirmed that it was dispensing with the year’s second feature upgrade – at least in the familiar form known for the two years prior – and would instead issue a minor update that collected fixes for its predecessor.

Microsoft would sprinkle a pinch of new functionality on that update to disguise its bland flavor. But that would fool nobody. The fall “upgrade” – second in the Windows-as-a-service-mandated annual two – would be little more than yet another monthly “cumulative update.”

Yet this fall’s refresh – 1909 – won’t be unimportant to or ignored by enterprises, not when it carries the support banner farthest into the future.

Here are the characteristics of Windows 10 1909 that are important for enterprise IT to know.

30 months of support

For many, this is the most important trait of 1909, as the extra 12 months – beyond the standard 18 for the spring’s refresh – provides the flexibility needed for no-way-to-screw-up annual upgrades. (As Computerworld has pointed out elsewhere, the most agile organizations may even be able to pull off biennial upgrades under a 30-month support lifecycle.)

Windows 10 1909 will be the second fall feature upgrade to receive 30 months of support after Microsoft’s September 2018 announcement – 1809 was the first – and so it should receive security updates until mid-April 2022. (1809’s support runs until May 11, 2021, the extra month caused by its delayed release last year.)

The caveat for the additional support is that it applies only to Windows 10 Enterprise, the priciest SKU (stock-keeping unit) in Microsoft’s portfolio. Small and mid-sized organizations running Windows 10 Pro must make do with 18 months of support.

Computerworld doesn’t expect that Microsoft will relax this Enterprise-only policy. The company’s ultimate goal is to have all business users on Enterprise (paid for by subscriptions) and support should prove to be the best means for accomplishing that.

Sorry, Windows 10 Pro users.

Smaller ‘upgrade’ from 1903

In July, Microsoft disclosed that 19H2 – at the time, its name for 1909 – would be a “scoped release” with a “smaller set of … improvements, enterprise features, and quality enhancements.”

What does that mean?

Rather than deliver a renewed Windows 10, as it has with the seven feature upgrades thus far, Microsoft will issue a retread of Windows 10 1903 – the two will be identical in content and packaging – with a very small smattering of new functionality.

For all intents and purposes, Windows 10 1909 will be an update, a refresh to Windows 10 1903, not a true feature upgrade as customers have known them.

Nothing will illustrate that better than how Microsoft plans to deliver 1909 to users running the immediate predecessor, 1903. “They share the same Cumulative Update package,” the company said, referring to the fall refresh and the update for 1903 (the latter will presumably launch at the same time). So, 1909 will be a cumulative update, just like those Microsoft issues several times monthly, from its size to how it’s distributed.

Like any other cumulative update, the one that turns 1903 into 1909 will be handled by Windows Update as well as the Windows Update for Business (WUfB) spin-off. Organizations that rely on platforms such as WSUS (Windows Server Update Service) or SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) will be able to move machines from 1903 to 1909 using those management tools, as usual.

It’s unclear how the update will be identified, how users — or IT admins — will choose between simply updating 1903 with yet another cumulative (like the seven deployed so far since 1903’s late May launch) or “upgrading” 1903 to 1909, and how each will be serviced after that (with a single cumulative update for both, or separate updates).

Microsoft has been mostly silent about enterprise and 1909, with the exception of a few general statements in a July 1 blog.

Same as it ever was

Using 1909 to upgrade anything older than Windows 10 1903 should be no problem for enterprise IT administrators.

In that July 1 post, John Wilcox, a Windows-as-a-service evangelist at Microsoft, tried to put IT pros at ease. “For those devices in your environment running Windows 10, version 1809 or earlier versions of Windows 10, the update process will remain unchanged,” Wilcox wrote. “You will have the option to update to [1909] just as you did with previous releases.”

The pledge that past practices hold for the present means that shops running, say 1709, can upgrade as usual to 1909, which is in actuality, 1903 plus a handful of extra features – but which can be maintained until April 2022 (1909’s end of support) rather than December 2020 (1903’s retirement).

Look, no — or almost no — retraining

For companies wary of waiting too long between Windows 10 upgrades — fearing that the more they skip, the more new must be introduced and taught to employees — 1909’s feature-less format is a godsend.

Because of 1909’s same-as-1903 characteristics – the difference makers between the two are minor, as “TK” outlines – jumping to that refresh is the same as deploying 1903, retraining-wise.

The downsizing of the fall upgrade to little more than a reprise of 1903, along with the 30-month support stretch for Enterprise, translates into not only annual upgrades but also only annual feature refreshes. That’s a double boon for enterprise IT.

The new features Microsoft mentioned

Unlike the more feature-packed Windows 10 201H — the code name for what, if Microsoft’s four-digit format prevails next March, will ultimately be named 2003, even if that designator has already been used by Redmond in Windows Server 2003 — this fall’s upgrade’s feature set hasn’t been constantly trumpeted by the Insider spokespeople, Dona Sarkar and Brandon LeBlanc.

Last week, however, the pair laid out the list of new-for-1909 features in this post to the Insider blog.

None are ground shaking or groundbreaking.

All will be disabled by default at deployment, Microsoft has said, another twist new to feature upgrades (in that the features won’t be there, at least not initially). Only after 1909 is in place, and on Microsoft’s schedule, will the company in stages enable the new features. Microsoft’s dubbed this process “controlled feature rollout,” or CFR, as if it was new to either it or software developers in general. It’s not.

Not surprisingly, questions remain. Will IT staff be able, likely through one or more group policies, to defer the new feature enablement for a period or even indefinitely? Will enterprise administrators be able to switch on selected features? Or only all? Will they have any control at all, or must they, like with the spring upgrades, taketh what Microsoft giveth?

One and done, or is this the new normal?

“Is this going to be the planned direction for all H1/H2 releases going forward?” asked someone identified as ConfigMgrDave in a comment appended to Wilcox’s July 1 post. “Will 20H2 be a CU [cumulative update] for 20H1 like this? Asking, as this could have some impact on how my organization plans their releases and how we can leverage the H1 build to perform a more thorough set of app/hardware testing and not be in such a rush!”

Wilcox was coy. “Will 20H2 have the same exact update option as 19H2? Unknown at this point,” he wrote. “Is the planned direction to continue to invest and improve the process so that users will continue to see improvements, absolutely.”

The time and resources expended on revising Windows 10’s update/upgrade model to adjust for 1909’s unusual format, contents and distribution argue against a one-time effort. In point of fact, it’s difficult to believe that the expense is anything but a permanent redrawing of the model (or as permanent as Microsoft, which has repeatedly changed its mind on the matter in the past four years, wants to make it) through 2020 and beyond. That is, Windows 10 2009, or 20H2, will be like 1909 in that it will be a retread of 2003 (or 20H1), include only minor feature changes and be delivered as a cumulative update.

So it will go for 2109 and 2209, assuming Microsoft has the patience to stick with the concept that long.

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Microsoft: Enterprises have upgraded Windows 10 just once a year from the start

When Microsoft extended support for Windows 10 Enterprise and Education – making it much easier for organizations to upgrade the OS just once a year – it simply bowed to a reality that had been in place since the operating system’s debut in 2015, according to a company document.

In a corner of a September 2018 document titled “Joint FAQs” and labeled “For Partner Use Only,” Microsoft acknowledged that many of its larger customers had been on an annual upgrade cadence since their beginnings with Windows 10. The FAQ was a companion to a Sept. 6, 2018 announcement of a change to Windows 10’s support, the third that year.

“All future feature updates of Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions with a targeted release month of September (starting with 1809) will be supported for 30 months from their release date,” wrote Jared Spataro, a Microsoft executive, in the post to a company blog. “This will give customers with longer deployment cycles the time they need to plan, test, and deploy.”

Before Spataro’s missive, all Windows 10 SKUs (stock-keeping units) were allowed 18 months of free support.

As Computerworld wrote in this FAQ here and here and here, the 30-month support extension for enterprises meant that annual-and-just-annual feature upgrades were eminently doable. By exclusively deploying each fall’s upgrade, even the least agile organizations could slow down Microsoft’s Windows-as-a-service tempo.

Turns out that they were so desperate to get out from under Microsoft’s mandated upgrade-every-six-months pace that they’d been doing yearly from the get-go.

“With the six-month release cadence, not every customer could test every release,” Microsoft said in the FAQ for partners. “In fact, we saw strong customer adoption of 1607, with many customers then adopting 1709 and skipping 1703 altogether.”

Here’s how that cadence looks when turned into table format.

screen shot 2019 08 27 at 7.45.20 am IDG/Gregg Keizer

[Note: The intervals are for comparisons only, as they measure from one release date to another. They do not reflect likely deployment timelines for organizations.]

Customers who adopted 1607, whether by upgrading from the original 1507 release (shown in the table) or first deploying Windows 10 with 1607 (more likely), jumped over April 2017’s 1703 and landed on 1709 sometime after the latter’s October 2017 launch.

From there it’s a guess, as Microsoft published the FAQ four months after 1803 and three and a half months before 1809 was ready for even the most daring. One possibility is that enterprises on 1709 upgraded to 1809 even in the face of that version’s disastrous debut and resulting re-release.

More probable, Computerworld believes, organizations rightly steered clear of the 1809 debacle and knowing by then that each yy09 version came with 30 months of support, decided to wait until this year’s 1909 showed. Because 1709 will be supported for Enterprise and Education until April 14, 2020, those customers will have approximately seven months from 1909’s expected release to make the migration. That may seem like a tight timetable, but there are extenuating circumstances with 1909 that make it less of an ordeal than at first glance.

“We decided to formalize this cadence – formalizing the way customers were already behaving,” Microsoft stated in the FAQ. “The goal is to provide relief to those customers.

“We fully appreciate that we have customers who may have ‘normalized’ to the ‘March/April’ releases and are skipping one,” Microsoft added, referring to organizations that had also gone annual but had selected the yy03 upgrade to do that. Those enterprises will undoubtedly want to slip versions to yy09 for the 30-month support benefit, meaning that they’ll have to do a second upgrade only six months after a first, or wait 18 months to move from spring to fall.

“We know that they will figure out how to adjust,” the FAQ continued. “We will be here to help that happen.”

But the message from Microsoft to its partners, and thus for passage from partners to customers, is harsher for customers not running the pricier Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education SKUs.

In response to the question “Why doesn’t this change apply to Windows 10 Home and Pro users?” Microsoft said: “We are happy with the success that our consumer customers have had with twice-yearly updates; these individuals do not face the deployment management challenges that prompt our larger customers to need extra time. If a small business customer has an IT environment complex enough to warrant a longer servicing period, they should evaluate if Enterprise Edition is right for them.”


Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Microsoft tells enterprises to be on Edge

Microsoft on Wednesday kicked off an Edge-is-for-enterprise effort, detailing the corporate features that have been baked into the under-construction browser so far and urging business users to give Edge a go.

“The Dev Channel now has enterprise features enabled by default and is ready for evaluation and supported by detailed deployment and configuration documentation,” said the browser’s makers in a post to a Microsoft blog. “We are also offering full support for deployment in pilot and production environments through our commercial support channels.”

There are currently two versions, or builds, of Edge available to Windows and macOS users: Canary and Dev. The former is a rough build updated daily, while the latter is somewhat more reliable and stable, and updated weekly. Microsoft pushed enterprise IT administrators – and users – to try Dev. (A Beta build will eventually appear, but Microsoft now says it will “be available in the coming months,” implying later rather than sooner.)

IT gets more GPOs, ability to block updates

In a special enterprise-focused section of the Edge Insider site, Microsoft has posted a .zip-format file that contains all the files – including ADMX and ADML files, and an HTML document – for using group policies on Windows and macOS machines to configure Edge in a managed environment.

Last month, Microsoft had previewed those same files and most of the group policies. It wasn’t easy to find the files, though, since Microsoft had hidden them in a post on the Insider forum.

The current collection of group policy objects (GPOs) also includes those for managing Edge updates, something missing from the bunch previewed in June. One update-related policy, UpdateDefault, for example, lets administrators specify whether and how workers’ copies of Edge use the Microsoft Edge Update service, a spin-off of the updater that handles Office. Policy configurations include disabling updates entirely, allowing manual updates and offering only periodic background updates.

Other policies can be set so that some or all users are allowed to, for instance, update the beta and stable channel builds of the browser, but not the rougher dev and canary versions.

“Customers will be able to control the flow of updates, either by leveraging our general updating mechanisms and using policies to pause updates at a particular version while testing compatibility with a small set of pilot users, or by using the provided offline installers (MSIs and PKGs) to push updates directly to their managed devices on their own schedule,” Microsoft said in the Tuesday blog post.

A list of all currently-supported group policies for full-Chromium Edge is available on this support site. The update-related policies are listed separately here.

Microsoft has yet to integrate Edge deployment and management with its own Intune mobile device management platform – or third-party substitutes – but will, the company said. System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) can be used to deploy the new browser, but like Intune, cannot currently configure Edge. Again, Microsoft pledged that SCCM – widely used in enterprise – would handle such chores at some future date.

IE…, it’s alive!

Two months ago, when Microsoft showed off the new “full-Chromium” Edge – that name reflecting the browser’s adoption of foundational technologies from the Google-centric Chromium open-source project – the firm touted a new Internet Explorer (IE) mode. Unlike the dual-browser approach taken by Windows 10 since 2015, the IE mode would, Microsoft said, “seamlessly render legacy IE-only content in high fidelity inside of Microsoft Edge.”

Rather than open a second browser – IE11 on Windows 10 – when encountering a legacy website or app that required the ancient application, Edge will render IE content so that it is “visually like it’s just a part of the next Microsoft Edge, providing users with the latest UI (user interface).”

IE mode is now ready to try and test in the Dev build on Windows. Because IE-inside-Edge relies on Enterprise Mode and the Enterprise Mode Site List – as does IE11 and old-Edge – IT can designate what sites are drawn by IE and which by Edge. Several group policies also allow IT administrators to customize workers’ experiences. The InternetExplorerIntegrationLevel policy, for instance, lets admins choose to open IE11 (or not) when the employee calls up an old-school site or app.

Microsoft has published documentation on using IE mode inside full-Chromium Edge here.

(An interesting side note in the documentation referenced above: A short FAQ at its end includes the query, “Will IE mode replace Internet Explorer 11?” without actually answering the question. The closest Microsoft comes is when it says, “Internet Explorer is still a component of Windows…” with emphasis added by Computerworld. The word “still” suggests the current condition is not permanent, and that Microsoft will eventually eliminate the stand-alone IE11 and tell customers that their only option is to use Edge and its IE mode.)

Past, present and future

For the first time, Microsoft talked roadmap, albeit in general terms, to Edge’s path in the enterprise.

Trumpeted features, including IE mode and 180+ group policies, that are already in place were joined with several – including the unified search it has pushed for Windows 10, as well as a corporate-focused new tab page that will integrate Office 365 – that have not yet rolled out in their entirety.

The Edge team referred to how it plans to deploy the second group of new features with the phrase “controlled rollout,” reminiscent of the “controlled feature rollout” (CFR) phrase and acronym unveiled by Windows 10’s makers this month. As in Windows 10, the intent seems to be to release Edge previews that will include off-by-default features that will be, assuming everything works as expected, switched “on” at some later date. Each feature will first be tested with a small subgroup; as bugs are uncovered and quashed, and Microsoft becomes convinced the feature works as intended without significant negative side effects, others will be added to the test pool. At some point, presumably, everyone has it enabled by default.

Future features – the roadmap didn’t bother with dates – range from the already-mentioned Intune and SCCM support for deployment and configuration to Information Protection on Windows 10.

Even with the truncated list of features, Microsoft encouraged commercial customers to get going. “We believe that with today’s announcement, the enterprise feature set is complete enough for most companies to start evaluations and pilots,” the Edge team wrote.

Microsoft still has not laid out a timetable for finalizing Edge. While the mid-January retirement of Windows 7 would argue that the deadline should be soon – why craft Edge to work on that OS when the OS itself won’t be supported? – at this point it’s clear that Microsoft interest in the 2009 operating system is only to support corporate customers who pony up for the “Extended Security Updates” (ESR) available through January 2023.

roadmap edge enterprise Microsoft

Microsoft’s enterprise roadmap for ‘full-Chromium’ Edge may be rough, but the developer argued that there was enough there there to start piloting the new browser.

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