Dynamics CRM on Windows RT/Surface First Look


There are a lot of blogs, articles and reviews already out there for Windows Surface, Windows 8 and Windows RT. This post will focus on the use of Windows Surface and Dynamics CRM 2011. If you are not aware, Microsoft just announced UR11 which provides Dynamics CRM 2011 support for Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10 and Office 2013.

First, a little about the device. Windows Surface

One of the first things to get used to in Windows 8 and the Windows Surface device are the differences between Apps (Windows UI mode) and desktop mode. The desktop mode applications are the traditional Windows based applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer, etc.). The Apps (now called Windows UI) are touch enabled or touch specific “mini” versions of desktop applications. There are additional differences when it comes to the Windows RT versions, however, we won’t go fully into those differences in this review.

On the Windows Surface device, there is a “full” desktop browser which is Internet Explorer 10. There is also a Windows UI app (I’ll call it IE App) that is essentially a mini version of IE 10 and is both touch and HTML5 optimized. The IE App is a slimmed down version of IE10 and does not allow any plugins of any kind (Flash, Silverlight, Java, etc.).

It’s also important to note that even the full IE10 client on Windows RT (Surface) does NOT support Silverlight plugins. In fact no plugins are currently supported on this platform. The only ones that will be supported are those that can be downloaded and installed through the Windows App Store…so that means no Flash, Java, 3rd party plugins/apps like Toolbar helpers (Evernote, Google, Snagit, Adobe PDF, etc.).

It will be possible for these plugins and helpers to be available, at some point in the future, however, those companies must create specific versions for the ARM architecture and go through Windows App store validation (everyone can thank Apple for starting this trend).

There is currently a “limited” Flash client that has been pre-installed on Surface. From what I have found, limited means those sites that Microsoft has deemed to be ok to display/run flash in the IE10 browser…a whitelist of sorts is managed and maintained by Microsoft. Frankly, I was never a fan of Adobe Flash and think Jobs was absolutely correct in his assessment of Flash. Technically there appears to be a way to “hack” this list but do so at your own risk. I personally don’t recommend you do this, but, if you’re feeling adventurous, here is the link. http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?p=33443315

Overall I really like the touch interface using the Internet Explorer App. It does sometimes require a double tap on a target for it to register. I attribute this to the CRM client not being fully touch aware…yet.

Hyperlinks in CRM columns often require a double-tap. Sometimes the double-tap registers as a Zoom and the screen just zooms in closer instead of opening the record. It might be a better practice to highlight the record, then press the edit button (or use the Touch Cover/mouse). BTW, I really like the Touch Cover much more than I expected I would. It works great and I recommend it. I have not tried the Type Cover yet, if any of you have please let me know what you think.

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The IE App does not use the “traditional” CRM popup, e.g. when opening an Account or Contact record, rather it pops the form to a new full browser screen. Nothing wrong with this, just something you should be aware of.

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The IE App/IE10 does show the lookups as traditional popups. And yes, Find and Advanced Find work perfectly fine.

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In my testing I discovered the settings between IE10 and IE App appear to be shared settings. E.g. I saw errors on several lookups, Dialogs, Export to Excel and the service calendar in both the IE App and IE10, however, after enabling Compatibility View in IE10, the settings “carried over” to the IE App. After enabling Compatibility View, I was able to successfully use Lookups, Run Dialogs and Service calendar in both IE10 and IE App and made the application fully functional.

To enable Compatibility View, press the Alt key then select Tools, Compatibility View Settings

Add this website – dynamics.com

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Note, compatibility view will allow export to excel, however, maintaining a connection between the Excel spreadsheet and CRM is not currently possible. The CRM Outlook client installs functionality for maintaining a connection between the exported data and the spreadsheet. Outlook and Dynamics CRM for Outlook client cannot be installed on Windows RT, therefore, the ability to refresh the CRM data in the spreadsheet from Excel is not available.

Outlook is not supported on Windows RT and Microsoft has no immediate plans to support Outlook on Surface (they are positioning it as a consumer device and the built in mail/calendar apps are designed for those purposes).

The above also means, currently, no CRM Offline support on Surface/RT.

Since the above is the case, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you use Email Router and NOT Outlook for processing email. If you don’t setup Email Router your emails will not be sent/received in CRM.

Word Mail Merge does not work. There is a special RT version of Word installed on the Surface (Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013). This provides most of the capabilities of standard Word (and Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) however, it is a special version compiled specifically to run on the ARM architecture. One of the main limitations of this office is no Activex or Visual Basic for Applications are allowed to run. I believe this is the reason that Mail Merge does not work with Dynamics CRM.

CRM does not detect that Lync App is running so the presence/notification jewels are not available. I certainly hope this is addressed soon.

If the CRM client has any Silverlight screens, they will not work. The install plugin message is seen but it still won’t work on the IE App (no plugins of any kind). Note they do work in IE10 on the device. In my view, this is a leading indicator on why you should think about rebuilding any specific functionality you have built in Silverlight to either HTML5 or HTML/JavaScript.

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Attachments work with Skydrive stored documents, very easily. I like what they did here.

We happen to use ClickDimensions as our marketing tool and it does work with either client in compatibility view. I tested all functions and found no issues, from HTML emails, landing pages, websites etc.

Admin issues.

Settings, Customization – click and drag, even in compatibility mode is a little flaky. It sometimes works but overall not recommended that you make a lot of customization changes on Surface at this time. Oddly, the IE App works a bit better in this area. I found the drag and drop worked much more reliably and smoother. Still a tiny bit flaky but overall workable for making fast changes on the go.

Creating processes all seem to work fine.

Where this device excels (no pun intended) over the iPad are:

The Touch Pad is cool and typing on it is much easier and better than I expected it would be. The only downside, no Fn (function) keys. Bummer, there is plenty of space for them…e.g. no F1, F5, etc.. Still Touch Pad is Recommended!

Excel, Word and PowerPoint are available and does 99% of what most people use them for.

USB support! Yeah, great way to expand storage if needed and more importantly to share data while on the road. This also means USB devices are supported. Slight caveat that some drivers may not be ready for Windows RT.

Micro SD card support! Again Yeah!

External monitor support, and can duplicate or extend the desktop. Standard micro-HDMI out port will display any app to the screen or extend the monitor to the other screens. Perfect for giving presentations on external projectors and monitors. I have a 27” monitor at the office and the Surface works great with its 1366×768 (HD) display on the device AND it shows full resolution on the larger monitor (1920X1200 in this case). Only trouble is you want to start touching and swiping on the large monitor J

Printer support out of the box. I have a Canon wireless printer and it detected it automatically and set it up for me…I didn’t have to do a thing….it just worked!

Snapping running apps, e.g. I can have 2 apps running side by side and can adjust the sizes of each. In the case below I have CRM and Email running side by side.

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Apple, hear any of that?!

On a final note for this post, keep in mind that Microsoft Surface does not currently have a 3G/4G cellular option. This is a WiFi only device so for those businesses that require always connected capabilities they must purchase a MiFi/Hotspot type device, or use local Wifi that may be available. Additional Windows RT devices are hitting that market that will have cellular 3G/4G built in but those are not Microsoft Surface devices (e.g. Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, HP, etc.).

Overall I am really excited about these new devices and think it opens up a whole new paradigm for traveling users in particular. To me, the biggest limitation of an iPad is that is has been a companion device. What I mean is, I couldn’t replace what I do with the iPad. I need the power of a full laptop and access to the Office applications. We are now on the verge of having devices that give us the best of both worlds (and might I add additional capabilities for regulated industries…you know who you are). I could be on the precipice of finally having a small, light and fast device that has great battery life and lets me do everything I need it to do.

Stay tuned for some additional first looks of some of the other applications in our solution framework.

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