Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Is Microsoft the most exciting company in tech today?

Microsoft Is the Most Exciting Company in Tech, Hands Down – says Adrian Covert (Adrian’s LinkedIn). I think that’s going a bit too far Adrian. Microsoft announced some cool new products and initiatives this week, but they’re so far behind the pack that it’s hard to get excited about anything they announce. I think part of my lack of enthusiasm can be attributed to Microsoft’s history of bailing on products and initiatives at the first sign of trouble. I think Windows 8, Windows Mobile 8, and the Windows RT kernel they share is a move in the right direction, but Microsoft needs the development community and a vibrant ecosystem to have a shot at getting back in the game. Will Windows 8, and the Surface tablet, be enough to re-engage the development community? We’ll see.


Microsoft and West Coast Customs Build 400-hp Mobile Device

Project Detroit

Microsoft teamed up with West Coast Customs to build the ultimate 400-hp mobile device – and they’re calling it “Project Detroit.” The Ford Mustang fast back replicate (2012 Mustang inside) is packed with the latest Microsoft technology – the list includes: a Lumina 800 running Windows Phone 7, Viper’s SmartStart App, an all digital and customizable instrument cluster, a heads-up display that includes Bing Maps, Blue Oval’s Sync system, an XBox 360, a 4G hotspot, and a whole lot more.

You can read all “Project Detroit” on the Wired Autopia site, and if you’re interested in following the build, tune in to Channel 9′s site and watch the Discovery Velocity Network this Sunday at 9:00 PM.

To top it off (pun intended), Microsoft will be making all the source code from “Project Detroit” available on CodePlex, so you can build your own Bat Car.


Azure Services Platform

I spent a little time today trying to get to know Microsoft’s Azure Services Platform. Why? Because with a name like Azure it’s hard not to take notice. Kidding. The Azure Services Platform is a competitor to a service we use at Palo Alto Software so I felt like I should at least get up-to-speed with Microsoft’s shot at offering cloud computing services.

The Azure Services Platform includes: Windows Azure, .NET Services, SQL Services, and Live Services.

Windows Azure is at the core of the platform. Microsoft describes it like this:

Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Azure Services Platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage Web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.

To build these applications and services, developers can use their existing Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 expertise. In addition, Windows Azure supports popular standards and protocols including SOAP, REST, and XML. Windows Azure is an open platform that will support both Microsoft and non-Microsoft languages and environments.

Clear as mud right?

.NET Services, SQL Services, and Live Services complete the tool set – for now.

Frankly, I’m having a hard time getting excited about the Azure Services Platform. Why? Because I’m a big fan of AWS . AWS, Amazon’s cloud computing services, has a better feature set (IMO) and it just passed its’ one year anniversary. Additionally, pricing for AWS is established and a solid SLA is already in place. Nobody knows what the Azure Services Platform is going to cost and there are a lot of other details that still need to be flushed out. The Azure Services Platform is currently only available as a CTP. On top of all of that, Windows Azure is more like the Mosso service than it is Amazon’s EC2. In my experience a heavily abstracted server architecture (Windows Azure) presents a lot of challenges given the tools available to the majority of developers today. We’ve benefited on a number of occasions from the low level access we have to our EC2 instances. You might not need it, but if you do, it’s really nice to have.

I’m glad to see Microsoft entering the cloud computing space because deep pockets are required to compete and I think we’ll all benefit from more competition in this space. It’s just hard to get excited about because it isn’t all that innovative.

Will the Azure Services Platform flame out?

Sources:
Azure Services Platform
David Aiken on Azure
Wikipedia – Azure Services Platform
TechCrunchIT – Azure: Video


Vista Ultimate Dreamscene

I’m running Windows Vista Ultimate at home and bumped into a cool new feature available to Ultimate users as an Ultimate Exclusive. The feature is called Dreamscene and it makes it easy to replace your boring static wallpaper with exciting dynamic wallpaper – apparently, without taxing your system resources too much. If you’re an Ultimate user and good about downloading updates (even the optional updates) it’s probably already installed; if you don’t already have it installed, you can use Windows Update to download and install Dreamscene. While you’re updating – grab the Dreamscene Content Pack as well.

Instructions for activating Windows Vista Ultimate Dreamscene:

  1. Right-click the desktop
  2. Select Personalize from the menu that appears
  3. Select Desktop Background on the Personalizaton screen
  4. Select Windows Dreamscene for Picture Location on the Desktop Background screen
  5. Select a Dreamscene, your background will update, click Ok after you settle on a Dreamscene for your background. NOTE: If you don’t have the Content Pack installed, you will only see one Dreamscene in the list of available Dreamscenes. The Content Pack brings the number closer to ten.

Dreamscene is working pretty well for me on my modestly equiped Lenovo laptop so far. I like the liveliness it brings to the background – I have a rainy day scene running for my background. Oh, Dreamscene is also smart enough to go into a static state when the laptop is running on battery power. If you are a Vista Ultimat user – it’s worth a look.

Dreamscene
   (Vista Dreamscene: Select "Windows Dream Scene" for Picture Location)

 


Google Apps – Sneaking up on MS Office?

I’m a big fan of Google Apps. If you check my browser history you’ll see a lot of action around docs.google.com. I think Google Apps is sneaking up on the flank side of MS Office for the sneak attack – but I’m an early adopter and smart enough to realize that I don’t represent the masses. MS Office still owns the lion’s share of the office productivity market. Bernard Lunn, a self described "later early adopter," writes today on "Why Google Apps is a Serious Threat to Microsoft Office."

This is the perspective of a “skeptical, later early adopter”; the sort of person who Microsoft needs to retain and should have been able to retain easily. I don’t spend time on productivity tools that may at some date make me more productive, but which today are just a frustrating time sink. That describes the majority of people. MS Office can be annoying, but it does work. So any serious alternative has to offer a significant advantage and at the same time make adoption a total breeze. [continue reading]

In his post, Bernard does an excellent job of summarizing some of the key reasons more and more people are logging into docs.google.com. Collaboration, and mobile access are two of the key reasons.

Microsoft managers, patting themselves on the back for cooking-up a nice marketshare pie chart, need to keep one thing in mind – a lot of current Office users are dabbling in docs.google.com – at some point, the tipping point, they’ll stop adding Office to the cart when they’re configuring a new machine because docs.google.com is good enough. I have Office on both of my machines at the office and I spend more time in docs.google.com than I do Office.


Microsoft Auto

Microsoft Auto will team up with Ford in 2008 to bring us Ford SINK. I got a laugh out of this video that spoofs the service. Learn more about the real deal on the Windows Automotive site.


Office Live Workspaces Beta Announced – Snore

Office Live Workspaces

Scoble posted a video interview yesterday with a couple managers from the Office Live Workspaces (OLW) team – they talk about the service, the future of the service, and walk us through a demo. Microsoft announced the BETA for (OLW) yesterday. Sign-up here if you’re in to this kind of thing – Windows Live ID required. Personally, I have very little need for a service like OLW.

Office Live Workspaces is an improvement over previous versions of Office Live which were more small business oriented and very SharePoint like but the service has a huge anchor tied to it – it requires Microsoft Office.

I have multiple copies of Office 2003 and 2007 so I’m by no means an Office hater but I use Word and Excel less and less as the months pass. Instead, I’m using services like Google DOCS and Google Calendar more and more. Why? Primarily, because I can access the services from almost anywhere without any system requirements other than a decent internet connection and a browser. Access from anywhere is important to me because I use multiple computers on a daily basis – I simply can’t afford to spend time keeping client-side software current on all these machines.

Collaborative functionality is another major reason why I’m using services like Google DOCS more and more. If I need to collaborate on a document with a team, I’m going to use Google DOCS. I’m done passing Word and Excel files around in e-mail – constantly trying to track changes and a mess of files with files names that get more and more creative as the collaborative process continues.

Microsoft is losing the ability to provide me with products that work the way I want to work. I understand why they have to protect Office – it’s a cash cow and all that – but that huge anchor is going to really screw them up in the long-term if they can’t put it down and move Office forward at a faster pace and in a revolutionary as opposed to evolutionary way. How hard would it really be for Microsoft to offer the Office suite as 100% web-based solution? I’d pay for that and they’d probably get more out of me over the years than they do currently for Office.

Office Live has been in the works for two years – a good decisive strategic decision to make Office available in the cloud two years ago would have Microsoft in a better position today. Make the decision and implement guys before it’s too late. Office Live Workspaces – Snore.


New York Post Reports Microsoft and Yahoo! Talking

BILL’S HARD DRIVE By PETER LAURIA and ZACHERY KOUWE – Business – New York Post Online Edition

May 4, 2007 — Stung by the loss of Internet advertising firm DoubleClick to Google last month, Microsoft has intensified its pursuit of a deal with Yahoo!, asking the company to re-enter formal negotiations, The Post has learned.

Good or bad? I’m still forming my thoughts. I have friends that work for Right Media, recently acquired by Yahoo!, I wonder what they think of this? I’ll update this post as more news flows in.

Update 05/07/07:

The Wall Street Journal reports that the talks are no longer active. [ Source ] Maybe this was just a press play on Microsoft’s part to test the waters and the market. A deal of this size ( excess of 50 billion for Yahoo! ) requires a scouting mission or two. After all, a deal like this is a lot about public perception.


Silverlight

SilverlightMix07 started yesterday, Microsoft’s developer oriented conference, so the pipes are pushing a lot of Microsoft bits this week. Silverlight, Microsoft’s Flash/Flex/Apollo competitor, is capturing the bulk of the attention. Trying to figure out what Silverlight is all about? Check out these links.

The Universal Desktop – The how and when of Adobe and Microsoft’s Rich Internet Application Technologies

TechCrunch – The Web Just Got Richer

The Universal Desktop – My lunch with Ray Ozzie and Scott Guthrie 

Tim Sneath’s Blog – Microsoft Developer Evangelist 

Updated 05/03 

Knowledge @ Wharton -  The Man Who Would Change Microsoft: Ray Ozzie’s Vision for Connected Software

CNET News.com – Ozzie’s Quiet Revolution at Microsoft 

Ed Burnette’s Dev Connection – Dissecting  Silverlight

Scoble -  Microsoft "rebooted the Web" yesterday

Scott Hanelman’s Computerzen.com -  Hanselminutes Podcast 63 – Scott Guthrie and Jason Zander on Silverlight

SmugBlog: Don MacAskill – Thoughts on Silverlight 

Channel9 – Scott Guthrie: Silverlight and Cross-Platform CLR (video) 

Updated 05 / 08

ScottGu’s Blog – Silverlight ** probably one of the best overviews ** 


What’s a RIA?

Rich Internet Applications, RIAs, are the talk of Geek Town lately. New development tools from Microsoft and Adobe (Silverlight and Apollo respectively) promise to be the tools eager developers will use to build this new generation of software applications. Are geeks geeking out over an acronym again? Or is there something revolutionary coming down the road from Geek Town?

The citizens of Geek Town have been tossing the term RIA around for years but it has only recently become popular. IMO the term is still being defined. The Wikipedia page describing the term is a collection of loosely coupled facts (some simply wrong) that’s difficult to string together – I think it’s obvious the citizens of Wikipedia are struggling to define it well. My definition of a RIA is fairly general. A RIA is a software application that looks and behaves like a traditional client-side software application but it’s available from any computer with an Internet connection and the data it’s accessing is primarily (off-line mode will be a feature of many RIAs) stored in the cloud. That’s how I define a RIA now but I’m sure my definition, like Wikipedia’s, will evolve over time as well. The technology used to create the RIA isn’t important. Accessibility is the primary driver in my definition.

I think there’s good reason to be excited about RIAs and the changes that are sure to come with them. A RIA combines everything we love about the latest generation of web apps. with functionality we’ve come to expect from traditional client-side software that doesn’t live inside a web browser. Accessibility is what I love most about the web apps. I use everyday – I can access the same information in Google Calendar or Google Reader from any machine with and Internet connection. The current generation of web apps. is great but we’re coming close to reaching the limits of what we can do in the browser. I still use a number of traditional client-side software apps but over the last year the scales have tipped in favor of web apps. Traditional client-side software simply feels bulky, isolated, and behind the times from a design and look-and-feel perspective. Inexpensive hardware is also a driver behind the move to web apps. Installing tradiditioanal client-side software in the traditional way just doesn’t make sense from a convenience or cost perspective for people with access to multiple computers.

For web apps. to evolve to the next level the technology has to change – web apps. need more access – more access to the technology that has, until now, given traditional client-side software a performance advantage over web. apps. For web apps. to evolve to the next level they have to move past the boundaries, living in the web browser, creates. The days of dealing with the awkwardness of the << Back and Next >> buttons that don’t really apply in a Web 2.0 world are coming to an end. This isn’t the end for web apps. as we know them or traditional client-side software – this is the beginning of a development period that will bring the two camps together to build better software for users. RIAs will play a major role in re-shaping how we think about software over the next ten years.

Related:

Ebay’s RIA – San Dimas Demo 


Windows Vista Packaging Patched

Earlier this week I came across a Windows Vista Ultimate package here in the office and discovered something interesting – a U.I. flaw in what was probably an uber-expensive package designed by uber-packaging experts from all corners of the world.

I saw the package sitting on a co-worker’s desk and was immediately interested. I’ve worked on designing software packages in the past so a package like the Windows Vista package that is obviously going to be well funded and the product of hundreds of hours of experience deserves some attention. I picked up the package, looked at the front, looked at the back, and proceeded to open it. To my surprise, and some embarrassment because my co-workers were watching, I had a hard time getting it opened. I don’t remember how long it took me to get it opened but I do know it was way longer than it should have been. Even after I got it opened, using what appears to be a last-minute hack, I had difficulty opening and closing the package. Is this for real? How many of these packages is Microsoft shipping? Did they test this at all?

The hack I referred to is illustrated in the photo I took below. The little red piece of tape attached to the top of the package can’t be part of the original design but without it I would have been really stuck. I’m sure the last minute hack was subject to protest on the designers part – it’s ugly. Did Microsoft "Patch" the Windows Vista package? We’ll probably never know.

Vista Package

By the way, I passed the package around the office for a little in-house usability testing and a lot of really smart people turned red trying to get the Windows Vista package opened in front of a crowd. That’s bad design – period.

Has anybody else had this experience? If so, comment.

Does anybody know who designed the package? If so, comment.

Related:

I found this post on the Windows Vista Team Blog that, after having seen the package for myself, is almost comical.

With Windows Vista and 2007 Office system, we didn’t just redesign the software packages themselves, but are also introducing new packaging for the two products.  The packaging has been completely revised and, we hope, foreshadows the great experience that awaits you once you open it.

Source – Announcing New Packaging for …


Me Too

I want what Michael Gartenberger (Jupiter Research) wants. Me too! I also want what Michael already has – a Microsoft Exchange Server. Might be time to look into my own "hosted" Exchange solution.

I love Exchange. Every time I get a new computer or Smartphone, all I do is plug in our Exchange settings and magic happens. All my contacts, calendar items, to-do lists and email flow directly into the new device automatically. Once that happens, if I make a change on one device, it ripples across all the others. Everything is in sync and up to date. It’s nice we’ve solved sync for PIM information but that’s not enough for me now. Now I want sync for everything. I regularly move among multiple PCs and other devices like Smartphones. Trying to keep just two PCs in sync is a total nightmare. Stuff gets lost. I want to have (or have access to) every picture I have taken (I’ve been a digital camera users since 1995), every song in my collection and every document I have written on every one of my PCs. If I take pictures and download them to one of my PCs, I want those photos updated on all my other machines the next time I access them. I want it to happen simply, invisibly and just work. Now, many of you don’t switch regularly between a dozen PCs and Smartphones on a regular basis but there are multiple devices in everyone’s future. Whoever solves this next generation of sync first is going to win big. Oh. And while we’re at it, can I have that cross platform please? – Michael Gartenberger


Windows Vista Myths

Don’t be misled by these 10 Windows Vista myths

Takeaway: The official consumer launch of Windows Vista has brought with it a great deal of confusion, misinformation, and some fairly ignorant assertions. Windows expert Deb Shinder debunks some of the misconceptions she’s been hearing, from exaggerated cost and hardware requirements to feature limitations and compatibility issues.


Folding UMPCs?

UMPC sales have been lackluster this year – they started shipping in March. The 1st year (well almost) of the UMPC feels a lot like the 1st year of the Tablet PC – again, lackluster. I hold Microsoft responsible for my over-use of the world “lackluster.” Microsoft needs to find and crown a Marketing Czar that can give Jobs a run for his money. They’ve got the hardware, the software, and the people talent – what they lack is the marketing talent. All the hardware innovation in the world isn’t going to do it – even Fujitsu’s folding UMPC will go mostly un-noticed.

Taking the Origami principle to heart, Fujitsu reckon they’ve got the ultimate UMPC licked, with this swish design for a laptop which literally folds in half to fit your pocket. >> T3


Microsoft Media Center SDK Features Thomas Hawk’s Work

The new Microsoft Media Center SDK includes a sample application that features Thomas Hawk’s photographs. Hawk, in my humble opinion, is a fantastic photographer and I just love browsing his work on Flickr. Check his work out for yourself.


Zune Failing

I really think Microsoft’s new media player, the Zune, is going to flop. All the marketing dollars in the world aren’t going to displace the iPod – at least not this time. Gary Stein recently commented on something that happened on CNN related to the marketing challenge Microsoft faces with Zune. Zune is going to fail because marketing products isn’t one of Microsoft’s strengths. Just look at the Zune website – the fake lifestyle shots are transparent and an instant turn-off for the demographic Microsoft needs most at this point – the kids.

I watched CNN this morning and Soledad O’Brien literally interrupted the tech-biz reporter, who was talking about the Zune, to extoll the virtues of her new, $70 iPod Shuffle. The next time the story came through the cycle, she had gotten her iPod out of her office and demonstrated how cool it was that you could clip it, and essentially un-sold the Zune, and pitched the iPod. — Gary Stein’s post


Microsoft Live Labs: Photosynth

photosynth.jpg

Photosynth, a Microsoft Live Labs production, was a big hit at the Web 2.0 conference and it’s easy to see why. Scoble dug it.

Our software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and displays them in a reconstructed three-dimensional space.

With Photosynth you can:

  • Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angle.
  • Seamlessly zoom in or out of a photo whether it’s megapixels or gigapixels in size.
  • See where pictures were taken in relation to one another.
  • Find similar photos to the one you’re currently viewing.
  • Send a collection – or a particular view of one – to a friend.

    Link to source >>


Quick Tabs in IE 7

Using Quick Tabs in Internet Explorer 7.0 [Microsoft]

Tab through thumbnail images of your opens tabs – helful if you frequently have multiple  tabs open in IE. 


Dare Obasanjo Meets BillG

Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life – Meeting Bill Gates

Last week I got an email from someone at Microsoft asking if my dad was the president of Nigeria. I almost deleted the email without responding until I looked at the person’s email signature and it said "Executive Assistant to Bill Gates". So I responded and it turned out that Bill Gates was going to be in Nigeria over the weekend to meet with my dad and he wanted to chat before his trip.

I enjoyed reading this blog post by Dare Obasanjo (1st son of Nigerian president and Microsoft employee) that describes his recent meeting with Bill Gates. Why? It shows a different side of BillG – the guy that thinks about diseases, not software. Well written and an interesting perspective.


Virtual PC 2004 Now Free!

Virtual PC 2004Virtual PC 2004 is now free. Go download it now. Or, take a look at the DEMO.

You can use Virtual PC to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same computer. I use Virtual PC at the office to test our software on multiple operating systems. I can be in my work environment and have a test environment running in a separate window. It’s pretty slick – I love being able to install all kinds of software without messing up my main work environment.

Why is Microsoft giving Virtual PC away?

Microsoft views virtualization as a tool.  Virtual PC is used for a number of reasons, but the primary reasons are for development and test scenarios and application compatibility.  We already provide Virtual PC as part of MSDN for development and test users, and given that all our other application compatibility tools are free – charging for Virtual PC did not make much sense. – Virtual PC Guy’s Weblog MSDN


About palmIT

palmIT is authored by Cale Bruckner [LinkedIn], President at Concentric Sky, and former SVP Product Development at Palo Alto Software.

Cale Bruckner

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