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Microsoft Thinking Of Moving Away From Betas

Mary Jo Foley reports that Microsoft is considering abandoning the traditional beta-reliant software development model for something more similar to open source collaboration (just with closed source). Basically, instead of the slow beta process, Microsoft would release more frequent Community Technology Previews, like they are doing with Vista.

I think the model Vista is using is great. Release one beta at the beginning of the public evaluation process, release a CTP as often as possible, and release beta two as the release candidate. Abandoning beta altogether for a full-on CTP model might be even better.

Plus, Microsoft can use it to make fun of Google. “Another Google beta? Puh-leaze! Beta is so five years ago!” :-)

March 15th, 2006 Posted by | General, Vista, Windows | one comment

Developers Prepping For Vista

MSDN has an article detailing the ten things to do to make your application a Vista app:

  • Follow the Vista style guidelines, including Aero, Common File Dialogs, the Windows Vista Wizard, Task Dialogs, Rich Preview Handlers, and Live Icons.
  • Use Windows Presentation Foundation to provide next-gen user experiences, including vector graphics, multimedia (audio and video), animation, 3-D modeling, advanced text rendering, and document support.
  • Use virtual folders and Vista’s new search
  • Make sure your app can run in least priveleges mode
  • Use Vista’s IT APIs, including Event Logging System, Transactional File System, Function Discovery, Application Recovery, and ClickOnce installation.
  • Use Windows Error Reporting
  • Use the Vista networking subsystem, including Vista’s P2P
  • Use the Vista RSS platform, including the shared feed list
  • Use XML-based document packaging to better share and integrate document data
  • Use mobility features, like Network Location Awareness to change what your app does depending on what network the machine is currently hooked up to, Device Synch, Tablet PC features, Windows SideShow, and power management libraries

(via Old New Thing)

Also, someone asks in the MSDN forums about Segoe UI. Segoe UI is the new Windows Vista UI font, and the one programs should default to for most things. Sadly, as Raymond Chen answers to the poster, the standard MS Shell Dlg, which maps to the current system font of MS Sans Serif, won’t work, since Segoe UI has different metrics. As a result, you can’t use MS Shell Dlg and trust the OS to do the work for you, you have to program for Segoe UI.

You should. Its a great font.

March 15th, 2006 Posted by | General, Vista, Windows | no comments

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Microsoft’s Vista, Live Strategies

1 - Cover2 - Pages 20-213 - Pages 22-234 - Pages 24-25
(click any to enlarge)

The Seattle Weekly is running a cover story by Mary Jo Foley (of Microsoft Watch fame) about the major challenges facing Microsoft and Windows this year. Besides that I absolutely love any that starts with a funny custom-made cartoon image, the article has some good insights, including some from myself (:-)).

In the article, Ms. Foley maintains that “Windows XP now is looking rather dated”. When it comes to the topic of enticing people to upgrade, many (including myself) maintain that it will be necessary for Microsoft to prove that there is a significant need to have Vista that XP doesn’t fill, a reason XP isn’t good enough for you.

Besides Windows haters, it is quite clear to most that XP is the most stable, best operating system Microsoft has released, and many people are plenty satisfied. I view Vista as a must-have for myself, because it has plenty of things for early adopters to feast on, but the common arguement is that the regular user has little to gain.

However, the arguement that XP looks dated gives me pause. I hadn’t even thought in that direction, but there are plenty of consumers who don’t want that “old” operating system. There are plenty of home users who would upgrade, or get a new system, just because they don’t want to feel like they’re running an out-of date operating system.

If that arguement works, its a little less of the market Microsoft needs to worry about. Now businesses, they’re tough customers…

Beyond that, the article discusses that while Vista, feature-wise, is an improvement but not an evolution, Microsoft is opening the operating system up to web services that may ulitmately change the way we use Windows. An accurate quote, from Sandro Villinger:

Vista doesn’t have the killer feature that will make everyone want Vista the day it comes out

Brandon LeBlanc makes the point that Microsoft may wind up criticized for not having the sexy features, and instead focusing on fixing problems and improving the core operating system. Sexy features get headlines, but I’d rather have a better OS.

After that, the article moves into Windows Live, the Sidebar and Gadgets. Apparently, Microsoft plans on having developers release applications with the tag “Live-Ready”, for those that tie into Windows Live services. Interesting idea. It also maintains that the Sidebar may be the sleeper hit of the OS. Guess who agrees?

5 - quote“Gadgets can be dragged from a Web page and onto the Sidebar and off the Sidebar and onto the rest of the desktop,” says Nathan Weinberg, a Vista tester and senior editor of the InsideMicrosoft blog ( Both Microsoft and third-party developers will create Gadgets. The ultimate goal: “Since Gadgets are a part of Windows Live, Microsoft can deliver any of its Live properties as a new part of Windows, with a simple drag and drop,” says Weinberg.

That’s significant for the software business, for users, and for antitrust lawyers alike. “Since various legal issues prevent Microsoft from bundling more into the operating system, Sidebar allows Microsoft to expand horizontally, instead of vertically,” Weinberg notes. “Microsoft can throw in all sorts of new features through Gadgets and the Sidebar. Of course, any other developers can design Gadgets that might be better than Microsoft’s own, and there is a project under way to bring Google’s own ‘widgets’ over to Windows Live.” Even if those developers are building better features, “as long as Microsoft owns the platform, they win.”

I agonized over that horizontal/vertical sentence, not sure whether it made my point perfectly or made no sense, but I’m glad I went with it. I think it puts it the right way.

Anyway, there are a lot of questions surrounding upgrades to Vista, whether through boxed copies or new hardware. This article should get you up to speed, whether you’ve been obsessed or ignorant, so read it.

Images are screenshots from the Weekly’s freely available online version of the print edition, using DjVu, a pretty good alternative to PDF.

March 15th, 2006 Posted by | General, Live, Vista, Windows | one comment

If You Don’t Like Origami…

For the people who were underwhelmed by Microsoft’s Origami, I present: Microsoft Sushi!

Microsoft Sushi

There’s no way this tastes good. All that seewead just looks bad. And if that green square is wasabi, I’m not gonna make it!
(via Digg)

March 15th, 2006 Posted by | General, Humor, Tablet PC | no comments

NCAA Brackets For Excel

Microsoft has released NCAA tournament brackets for either Excel or Visio, as a free downloadable template containing the schedule for both the men and women’s college basketball tournaments. Very cool.

I hadn’t realized how many sports-related templates there were. They have soccer ones, the NFL schedule, the Torino Olympics events schedule, baseball scorecards, fantasy sports league standings, a SuDoKu solver, team roster, and even a snack schedule for sports teams. If you have Office 2003, then most of them will work for you.
(via LifeHacker)

March 15th, 2006 Posted by | Applications, General, Office | no comments

Sony Announces More Bad News For PS3 Fans

Sony held a major press conference this morning to address PS3 delays, announcing the console will drop in November, launching simultaneously in Japan, Europe and the U.S.. Sony intends to ship six million units by March 2007, the end of their fiscal 2006, which, if they meet it, could give Microsoft a ten million unit lead.

Sony blames DRM related to the Blu-Ray drive for the delay, but not only are Sont liars, they are bad liars. How do we know there are a lot more reasons for the delay? Sony also said they will ship final developer kits in June. The fact is, if you’re console’s only issue is DRM, you would have shipped a dev kit.

So, why is the PS3 getting delayed? One reason is likely pricing. The components in the PS3 are very expensive, and every day later the console ships is a little money Sony saves. The Blu-Ray drive, key to Sony’s internal strategies but an albatross on this console, is going to remain very expensive for a few years, costing as much as a Core Xbox 360 with an extra wired controller, while the Cell processor, by itself, costs about the same as a Sony PSP.

However, Sony’s not content to shoot itself in the foot with just those two components. They’ve announced that every PS3 will ship with a 60 gig hard drive, triple the size of the 360s. There will be no cheaper hard drive-less version. The HD, at current prices, would add about sixty bucks to the price of the console.

Sony said yesterday that the minimum launch price for the console, which will hit stores sometime between November 1-10, will be 50,000 JP YEN. That’s a minimum base price of $425.60 at current exchange rates, assuming Sony doesn’t charge U.S. users a bit more.

The original Xbox launched in November 2001 at $299. By May of 2002, the price had been lowered to $199. If Microsoft’s hardware costs drop quickly enough, it can wait a few extra months, and drop the 360, both Core and Premium versions, by $50. They could even offer a 60-gig hard drive option for an extra $20.

Can you imagine on November 1, mere days before the PS3 arrives for $425, the Xbox 360 drops to $250 and $350, with $370 for a 60-gig hard drive? That’d be great publicity for the 360. By November 15, when the PS3 is sold out everywhere, a lot of people are going to look at that $75 savings on the 360 and give it serious consideration.

Especially since Sony decided to associate the PS3′s delay with DRM. Because consumers love DRM.

Other news:

  • No PS2 price drop for awhile
  • PSP will get a major upgrade this spring
  • Sony’s facilities can produce one million units per month, which, based on the six million number, means two million units per month
  • PS3 will indeed be backwards compatible with PS1 and PS2 titles
  • All PS3 games must ship on Blu-Ray
  • Basic PS3 online service will be free, and it looks like there will be a two-tiered premium service, like Xbox 360 Live’s setup

Finally, I’ll leave you with a standard over-the-top Sony hype statement that doesn’t even make sense. This isn’t the same campaign that successfully drowned the Dreamcast, that’s for sure:

The wild statements continue with a new set from Ken regarding the PS3. He says that the “games are ‘live’ and that the PS3 concept is ’4D,’” with titles going “from 8-bit to 16-bit planes, to the ‘space’ that you saw on the PS1/PS2, and now PS3 will be ‘live.’”

And the quote of the day, from a commenter on Binary Bonsai:

Sure, the 360 has come off to a slow start, but at least it included less lying.


March 15th, 2006 Posted by | General, Xbox, Xbox 360 | 2 comments

links for 2006-03-15

March 15th, 2006 Posted by | Bookmarks, General, Vista, Windows | no comments

Windows Sideshow Getting Buzz

One of the overlooked excellent features for Windows Vista is Windows SideShow, which allows for external displays/devices that access data from the computer, even when its off. Time Magazine listed SideShow in its What’s Next In Gadgets showcase, mentioning that some SideShow devices in laptops may actually be removable. Wow.
(via the SideShow blog)

Engadget also notes that PortalPlayer, maker of the guts of the iPod, are supplying a lot of the chips for the SideShow auxiliary displays. That’s some good experience to have on your side.

I gotta say, the one thing that would stop me from buying a UMPC is a well-designed SideShow laptop. I’ve already got my dream next laptop pictured in my mind: The Dell XPS Mobile Concept PC (with its 20-inch screen, detachable Bluetooth keyboard and Bluetooth remote) running Windows Vista, with a detachable Sideshow device. I’d have the mammoth 18-pound monster laptop in my bag, and pull out the Sideshow device for casual use.

Basically, it comes down to this: Either I can buy a laptop with a SideShow device, with the tiny device having very limited functionality but being tied to the monster laptop and the data on it, or I can get a UMPC, retain a lot of my functionality, but have to replicate the data accross two seperate computers. If Microsoft can find a way to tie a UMPC to a specific computer, and tie all the data on the UMPC to that computer, and make them work well together, then I’ll get the UMPC. Otherwise, I’ll settle for the lesser SideShow device, because it’ll “complete” my digital lifestyle better.

Oh, and the 18-pound laptop isn’t for most people. But for me, its like god with a dual core processor.

March 15th, 2006 Posted by | General, Vista, Windows | no comments

Windows Live Mail Reaches A Million Users

Microsoft’s webmail blog announces that, a year into the closed beta for Windows Live Mail, they’ve reached a major milestone: 1 million users. Not bad for a closed service, the eventual successor to Hotmail. I wonder how many users Gmail has (and how many actually use Gmail, and not just the Google Account).

Should be very interesting when Microsoft opens up the Live Mail beta to see how Hotmail’s 100 million users react, how Gmail users react, and if a lot of people switch over to Live Mail. It is certainly a great system, and I expect a lot of people to like it.
(via Omar Shahine)

Also: Bink says they recently shipped Milestone 5 in the beta.

March 15th, 2006 Posted by | General, Google, Hotmail, Live, MSN, Windows | no comments