Robin, my marketing-blogger/colleague over at marketingblog.eu sent me a file about the first video-project they did for Datanews. They (VNU) taped the keynote Bill Gates gave yesterday in Brussels at the Microsoft Business Innovation Event and in it he runs through a brief history of the most important IT developments of the past 10 years and he shares his vision on how software can be used as an instrument to simplofy business solutions. I’d normally have posted this on Inside Microsoft, but since Vizaweb’s still down, I’ll post it here.
Nathan has disappeared from the blogosphere. His honeymoon is supposed to be over for a while already but he hasn’t posted anything for the last six days. He hasn’t showed up online for the last six days either, so nobody knows where he is. A few possible answers:
1. He’s chained to a sink, doing the dishes, the laptop is out of reach.
2. His wife forbids him to blog, now that he’s married he has to obey.
3. He extended his honeymoon by at least a week, having fun somewhere.
4. Something happened.
I don’t know which one of these 4 it is, but I hope it’s not the last one. I’ve been posting a few things on his Google blog (the last 10+ items) but I don’t have the time to start moderating the 6000 comments that are in the cue.
Has anyone seen Nathan?
A few days ago, on the 28th of June, we were invited over at Microsoft’s Belux headquarters to come see and participate in a product demo for Vista and Office 2007. Nothing new, I hear you say. Indeed, a lot of features were already covered by the Dutch Developer Consultant in the EMEA .NET Platform Evangelism Group, Hans Verbeeck, on the Dev & IT Pro Days event I attended a few months ago. (read the articles here and here). However, since then a lot of updates have been released and recently the second beta has been made public for trial. Tom Mertens and David Boschmans sent out an email to some bloggers to invite them to come have a look at what Microsoft has been up to. They’ve set up a dozen of laptops we could play with to explore the environment of Vista and to see what’s new in Office 2007. A nice move from ‘the’ company.
After Tom’s introduction, David started the presentation. And here’s the twist. To demo just how good things are, David did the entire presentation on a Mac. You read it right. On a bloody Mac. And it didn’t crash or freeze. I was impressed. Not only because it’s not common for Microsoftees to be enthusiastic about Mac, but even more because it’s the ultimate example of compatibility. On a f*cking Mac! Damn. I’m still not over it.
David focused on the upgraded instant search feature, which can be customized for every search engine you like. Then he did a demo of the different options in the file viewer or whatever you call it. We all know about the thumbnail view, which up until now was the largest possible preview of images and various documents in folders (apart from the filmstrip view), but now they’ve added this live preview thing which is pretty great, I think. Yes, I know they already had that on a Mac and yadayada. But I don’t work on a Mac, and now I can have it too. Which is cool. Embrace and hug (or whatever Microsoft’s slogan is).
David also talked about IE7 but I didn’t find anything new there, as far as I can remember. Security is a big issue for Mac users, so Ine (a true Mac-lover) asked if using Vista would make her Mac a haven for viruses. The issue was countered pretty good by Jurgen Van Duvel, stating that IE7 was practically built from zero to what it is, with secured layers, sandbox and a virtual drive to isolate processes that want to write to or alter core Windows files. (I also covered it in the Vista review of the Dev Days). Personally I think all this virus shit is overrated. I’ve been virus-free for over three years. No trojans, no ad or malware. It can all be brought back to 2 issues: a decent scanner and safe surfing behavior. Seriously. If I look around me, to all the people that ask me to take a look at their PC (‘cuz that’s what friends do, right?) I see a lot of things that make me wonder. I have one golden rule for people: ‘if they offer you something you weren’t looking for, just click the red square with the ‘x’. Don’t click ‘Yes’, don’t click ‘No’, just close the offer. Then activate the popup blocker. Add to this rule: scan every 10 days, use AdAware every week. Clean your temp files and you’ll be good.
Here’s the most wonderful part of the evening:
Media Center running on a Mac, as if Vista alone wasn’t enough:
David ran in over-time, so Tom urged him to round it up. He showed some cool features in Powerpoint (the predefined image cropping, easily added effects and text-wrapping) and showed off the ‘blogging from within Word’ option. He also noted the built-in RSS reader for IE7 and the fact you could also read those feeds from within Outlook. OPML can be imported and exported. Which is nice.
Just before dinner, Patrick Viane, the guy with the dirty job at Microsoft, came to tell us some nice stories of things he had encountered. Patrick tracks mainly the bad guys, which means he sends out mystery shoppers to resellers to find out if they’re illegally selling Windows. He explained about the Genuine Advantage features and the logic behind the idea of validating your Windows version. In the BeLux (Belgium/Luxemburg) region, over 1.000.000 users validated their software within weeks after the release. That’s a very good sign.
So far for the ‘official blabla’. It was time to have more beers and enjoy dinner. And what a dinner it was:
Picture by Pietel
After dinner we were invited to play around with the cool Acer -which had a Media Center on it- and the Microsoftees helped you explore the laptops (and the Mac) with the Vista and Office 2007 experience on them. Seriously. Microsoft made a 180Â° turn in the approach towards bloggers and consumers. I had a great time, once again. Thanks guys!
Cross-posted on Marketing Thoughts.
So, I was sent to the Microsoft Windows Live Road Show in London by my future boss, and invited by Kris from MSN BeLux. Microsoft paid for the trip and took care of hotel reservation and any travel expenses I’d have to make. Pretty awesome. Although it hasn’t been that long since I saw Phil Holden at the last road show in Brussels, I was eager to know what he’s been up to these last few weeks. He also brought Koji Kato, the man who codes faster than his shadow and apparently the Group Program Manager at Windows Live. Phil ‘borrowed’ Koji to bring him to London and do some Gadgets demos to show us what they’ve got up their sleeves.
I went to London by Eurostar, for the first time in my life I travelled business class and it was pretty WAW. So much service, free food, free drinks… I had to stop myself from enjoying it too much on the way there, so I wouldn’t arrive drunk or sick or something like that. Something some other folks in the same coach clearly saw no problem in.
Anyways… I arrived in London a small hour before it started at the Zero 101 building in Peter Street. I was quite surprised to find out what kind of neighborhood it was. Let’s say there was a lot of neon light behind the windows. But I wasn’t there for sightseeing. I went straight to the school (yup, in the same street as the neon ‘drive-in’ stores) where it was all happening.
I met Darren Straight and Robert Gale who got there a bit early to interview Phil Holden. Nice people and very nice to meet them, really. Robert had a cool accent. Just like the one you hear in the movies. Then Kris from MSN arrived and a bit later Pieter from Mess.be. The Belgian Side was complete.
I also met someone from LiveSide and asked how they got all this info so quickly. Seems they’re pretty networked, and that’s about it. I had hoped for a greater story, but nope. Then the session started and we all sat down and listened to Phil as he explained the status of Windows Live today.
What I remember: At this thime there are about 17 Live services, and if you include the previous marks that adds up to about 20. The day before the session, on May 15th, M6 went live. (Milestone 6) LiveMail (or M6) has an improved performance and has some subtle but effective UI tweaks. At this time there are between 3 and 4 million users, but they’re going to add more invites, so the user number can grow and they can adjust the service in scale.
The Live Messenger has about 8 million users, but Messenger 7 and 7.5 have about 210 million, so that needs some more work. I’m currently trying the beta and I like what I see. There’s still some work to be done, but it’s getting close to what I look for in a chat client. I kicked out Trillian. Let’s see where this brings me. Recent changes in the Messenger are: the shorter login time (from an average 45 secs to about 20 secs), and some smaller issues I forgot.
Main idea is that Live.com still needs to improve in performance. Within 2 months there’s going to be a large performance upgrade which would make things a lot more easier to use, and above all: faster. Another big main idea is that they need to enable a decent 1st run experience, so that first time users can find their way more easily and have less to worry about. Also scheduled in the category ‘real soon’.
What’s also pretty impressive is the plans they have for a “Share Setup” mode, where you can export your live.com settings (make it portable) and transfer it to other users so they can enjoy what you’ve been putting together. Incredibly handy if you’re the IT dude in the family and everybody keeps asking you how stuff works. Export, end questions, start fun. Easy as that. Close to this topic will be the appearance of sponsored pages where a news service or sports service introduces a sponsored page filled with content, like for example NBA or Sky. They would offer you a load of content, in exchange for that they’ll have some ads.
Last but not least in Phil’s intro was the demo of the new Live Local service where they’ve started to upgrade all footage with HQ images. In the US it’s already there, it’s going to be rolled out in the UK really soon, in the next few months the rest of Europe will follow. The images are waaaay clearer than those on Google’s Satellite view or Earth. Really. What I’ve seen was wicked to the third degree. I can’t wait to see that for Belgium. So closed-up (not street sight, but bird’s eye view) and so incredibly sharp. A subtle ‘wtf’ came out of some mouths while Phil showed some footage from the London Bridge. Amazing.
On a sidenote, but I don’t have the right URL yet, there’ll be a Greetings platform connected to Live.com and the Live Messenger which is linked to www.us.mypersonalexpression.com, I saw some footage from that. It’s nothing for me, but I can imagine it’ll be used a lot by most ‘regular’ Messenger users.
That concludes Phil’s first contribution. Then he introduced Koji Kato who showed us how to quickly make some gadgets for the Live.com dashboard. I’m not that good of a coder, but I could follow every step he did while creating gadgets ‘on the spot’. He showed off a page with a local map that had geotagged pictures on them. Kind of like Flickr has, but then with a Microsoft flavor. Koji created the page while we were watching, it only took him a couple of minutes to have the webpage ready. Nice moves.
Koji also showed off some nice code to search from within an app, but I don’t remember all of the context, so I’m not going to write more about it. If you’re into coding a little, check this out, I bet you can do some funky stuff with it as well. The coolest thing Koji pulled off was a custom search engine for his tablet PC which recognized his handwriting. Some simple coding, seconds of work for him and there it was. He wrote a few words, they were recognized immediately and then yielded search results. Selecting the words and moving them closer to the top of the field would change the priority of the keywords and caused the search results to change. Very nifty. I was really impressed.
Then it was back to Phil, after some food and drinks and some interviewing by the guys from heaven.fr, who organized this evening chat. Phil showed the Q&A of Live.com, which is currently still in limited beta. It’s a bit like Yahoo Answers, a community-based directory where you can post questions, answer questions from other people and vote on answers that have been posted by other users. In the Q&A you can tag your questions, and of course perform tag query searches. You can customize your experience in a ‘YourQ&A’ section, have a look at the Top Users and see how many kudos they’ve collected from the community, how many questions they’ve posted and answered… personal stats like that. Kudos cannot be traded for gift vouchers. We asked, but no, you can’t. I think they’ve got to add an incentive or something to motivate the participation of the users. It’s not so big yet, but imagine those millions of Messenger and Live Mail users joining in when it goes live … it has a huge potential.
Then came the top of the bill. The most revolutionary thing I’ve seen with Messenger for mobiles. Really, I was f*cking impressed. On his laptop, Phil logged in with account A, and on his mobile phone with account B. He initiated the Messenger, so far nothing new. Then he took a picture from the audience, and transferred it immediately through messenger to the account on the laptop. It took a few seconds (image size 25kb) and the image was transferred. He then recorded a voice clip on his mobile and that too was directly transferred. That takes away all the time you spend typing answers to your online buddies. You say it and send it. It can’t be easier than that. Video footage isn’t supported yet. A funny note: if you send a nudge from the laptop in the conversation with the phone, it vibrates heheheh.
Then the guys from heaven.fr introduced their piece of art. The AJaX RSS Hub (RSS Flux) which hasn’t got a real name yet and is supposed to be released officially somewhere after the summer. It’s a cool flexible RSS aggregator that fetches all the feeds you want it to fetch, but doesn’t capture the content. You can display the feed items by category, language or by site. I preview of how it works is live at xbox360daily.fr, but it’s not really how it looks. It’s more or less an integration of the concept. One thing Kevin Briody (who was also in Brussels the last time) noted was that Microsoft didn’t want to aggregate the full content because that might piss off some bloggers (he didn’t say it in those words, but that was what he meant) so instead the articles are links to the site they came from, which could generate more traffic for the bloggers.
The last notes were vague mentions of subdomain portals which would be launched after the summer and about gadgets for live.com that would have ‘random blogs’ and ‘community sites’ in them. Also that MSDN would become dev.live.com, which is going to be announced at TechEd if I recall it correctly. Windows Live News Groups is also somewhere in the pipeline, but again no release date has been set.
That concludes what I remember of the session. Afterwards we could have a little chat here and there and Phil proposed a lottery where 5 phones could be won by the participants of the event. Everybody wrote his name on a piece of paper and the lucky winners can expect a brand new ‘Messenger Phone’ like the one I wrote about in the previous write-up of the session in Brussels.
The session ended somewhere around 11.30 PM and Kris, Pieter and I took a cab to the hotel. We drank something in the trop cool Light Bar and then went to bed. I woke up the next morning at 8 AM, checked out walked around a bit on Picadilly, enjoying the morning buzz as London awoke. I took a cab to the station and got on the Eurostar back to Brussels. I had a great time. Nice of i-merge to send me there, even nicer of Kris to have me invited. Thanks. Honestly.
Cross-posted at Marketing Thoughts
Jason Schramm, who writes for the Apple Watch blog here on the Blog News Channel, and who’s behind RadioFirefox and a lot of other sites, had his birthday today. So, yet again we wish somebody a very very happy BDay… *start chorus*
From your loyal fans
Visit Jason’s million sites, start here:
I just came back from the Microsoft Belux headquarters in Diegem where we had a talk and discuss session with evangelist Phil Holden – Director Windows Live, and Kevin Briody – Product Manager Community (MSN Marketing). The session was very interesting and of course it was all about Windows Live and its features. Phil did a demo of almost every feature I knew of. He talked about the integration of the Microsoft Gadgets in the Live.com personal homepage, about the progress in the Live Search and where it’s heading to and about Live Mail and its features. He also talked about Live Messenger and about how the contacts would be integrated into Live Mail and about Microsoft’s first steps into social networking with the Australian test run of the Spaces Friends network. Yeah, the session was quite stuffed.
Live Search is definitely not cruising at top speed yet, that was the first thing Phil admitted. It’s only logical, because they’re still rolling out new features and tuning the existing tool to the needs of the users. However, it’s going to be big and the way it looks now it has a lot of good things about it. I like the concept of infinite search, where you no longer need to browse the search results per page, but all the results are projected in one page and you can just scroll down. The extension of the search with a ‘local site search’ included in the results is also a big progress I think. It sounds really obvious that sometimes the excerpt of a result shows there’s something interesting, but you’d like to find out more from that specific domain only. I’m also pretty keen on the feeds search, where you can click on a feed and see previews of the posts in it. I haven’t seen image integration there, but I think that’s only a matter of time. One remark is that apparently Live Search dropped the RSS feed per search query, but Phil said he’d look into it and agreed that functionality should be integrated as it is now on the ‘regular’ MSN Search. In the Live Search, there hasn’t been any experimenting with decent video or audio search and for now it’s not on the todo list. It would be a great expansion though. The image search is quite advanced and very smooth. It shows a lot of details of the image, but one way or the other it’d be great if you could define your query and limit it to small, medium or large images. The fact the size in mb is shown netx to the dimensions is pretty cool and it’s also pretty handy you can zoom the images if you select them.
The Microsoft Gadgets part is pretty nifty, although a lot of the content actually leads to a new page opening as it does for example with the Google Search gadget and the GMail gadget. Kris is right when he says that it looks like an upgraded link. People should expect such a gadget to add true functionality, which means: previews of GMail and loading Google SERPs into the page you’re looking at right now. Not in a new page. Other gadgets come in pretty handy if you really need them, like stock quotes. It’s truly necessary that there is some sort of general policy about the gadgets. Some sort of certification or seal of approval so to speak. Otherwise you might end up with gadgets in the general archive that have adult or inappropriate content, which would definitely not be a good thing. One must also be aware that a lot of custom gadgets are depending on the services of a third party, so if you don’t stick to the official and ‘tested and approved’ gadgets, it might be that at one time or the other, some gadgets might become corrupted. Normally that shouldn’t happen though.
Windows Live Messenger is going to be extended to SkypeOut-alike feature. Phil had a Philips Phone with him (see picture below) that had a base receiver on USB, which is plugged into your PC, and a portable unit that can be used anywhere around the house (wireless, of course). The phone would connect to your Messenger client and displays all your contacts and their online/offline status. You can access the Windows Live Contacts and make VoIP calls if the user you want to call to is overseas for example, or you can make an ‘analog’ call if you prefer to do so. The phone should be available on the market at the end of May. The Windows Live Call service should have competitive charges compared to SkypeOut. One thing to note is that home users who share accounts on their PC should create a family account with shared contacts, otherwise users might have to log on and off to be able to connect to their personal Messenger profile. Another cool feature is the P2P shared folders, where you can drag and drop files into folders that are synchronized with the user you share them with. Sharing with groups is not yet supported.
Windows Live Mail has the looks of Outlook, which makes it a lot better and user friendly than the hotmail interface, although the feedback on the beta revealed that a lot of people want to hold on to the ‘old’ Hotmail interface, which I totally don’t understand. In this new Mail client, your contacts would be shared, which makes it easier to maintain a contact list. Phil showed a Live.com interface where he grouped his mail accounts, including GMail and the accounts from his provider (Quest) and said you could add any POP3 account to the list. He’s not aware of a maximum number of accounts that can be added. Nobody ever got to the saturation point of that. Presumably nobody has more than 10 or 15 accounts to monitor at once, but it’s possible and that’s cool.
In Australia, Microsoft is experimenting with a social network feature, based on the popular MSN Spaces. Here you can add friends and browse them, add notes to those friends and manage their contact data, wich is linked to the Windows Live Contacts which are also connected to the Windows Live Messenger. A funny side is you can browse the friends of your friends’ friends unlimited. Since it’s only being deployed in a rather limited form, there hasn’t been set any restrictions to the browsable generations. You can keep clicking for ever This will probably not be available if the service is scaled, but it’s fun for now.
The Windows Live Local services will be extended too, and the streetside view of Virutal Earth which had its testcase in Seattle will also be extended to other cities soon. There hasn’t been a decent advertising strategy developed yet, but one might suspect the integration of Windows Live Local data to be added in the future.
Phil also talked about Windows Live Expo, which recently aired. I asked if they were thinking about adding a payment module to it, the way they have now with Messenger (you can buy SMS tokens, winks and other things) but it hasn’t been developed yet. Expo looks cool, but without payment possibilities, there’s not much added value. They’re working on a feature which would allow users to rate sellers and their items, the way Amazon en eBay do. Adding credibility to the members of a platform is definitely a good thing. It’s one of the main reasons Amazon survived the dotcom bubble and eBay grew so fast: added consumer value. It’s the glue that keeps things together. Participating users will return, trusted users will sell more and people will step into the formula with more belief in its functionality.
I think this sort of conlcudes my review of the keynote. After the session, David Boschmans stole the show with his special Vista edition for the Toshiba Tablet PC. Awesome tool and it looks incredibly handy and robust. Added to the wishlist. More pictures in the Bubbleshare gallery.
If you want to stay up to date with the developments of Windows Live, here are some blogs to tune in to:
Windows Live product teams:
- Windows Live Messenger
- Windows Live Mail
- Windows Live Search
- Windows Live Domains
- Windows Live Family Safety Settings
- Windows Live Favorites
- Windows Live Expo
- Windows Live Local
- Windows Live Mail Desktop
- Windows Live Safety Center
- Windows Live Onecare
- Windows Live Spaces
Interesting blogs about Windows Live:
MS Team blogs:
Today’s pictures (I haven’t had the time to remove the red eyes every here and there and I’m not a professional photographer so sorry if it doesn’t look that smooth)
Download all pictures as a .zip file to edit them yourself or just to keep’m.
Cross-posted on Marketing Thoughts.
Xie, a researcher for the Web Search and Mining group within Microsoft Research Asia, is working on technology called Photo2Search, which is designed to provide information on the go for users of camera phones.
â€œThis technology,â€ Xie says, â€œaims to solve the problem of mapping a physical-world object to a digital-world object. You see an object in the physical world, and you want to know the corresponding information in the digital worldâ€”for example, its price on the Web, user comments, or Web sites. There are many different solutions. You can use a bar code or radio-frequency identification. But using a picture of the object is very convenient and very easy to deploy.â€
Photo2Search works like this: Seeking information about something seen, a user takes a photo of the object and sends the photo, via e-mail or Multimedia Messaging Service, to a Web-based server, which searches an image database for matches. The server then delivers database informationâ€”whether it be a Web page featuring the object in the photo or information associated with the objectâ€”to the user, who can act on the information received: read a menu, enter a gallery, book a hotel room, make a purchase.
Windows Live ID blog launched:
Windows Live ID is the upgrade/replacement for the Microsoft Passport service and is the identity and authentication gateway service for cross-device access to Microsoft online services, such as Windows Live, MSN, Office Live and Xbox Live. Is this the authentication service for the world? No It’s primarily designed for use with Microsoft online services and by Microsoft-affiliated close partners who integrate with Windows Live services to offer combined innovations to our mutual customers. We will continue to support the Passport user base of 300+ Million accounts and seamlessly upgrade these accounts to Windows Live IDs. Partners who have already implemented Passport are already compatible with Windows Live ID.
As a 2.0 Birthday surprise for Nathan, the editor in chief for Inside Google and Inside Microsoft, Randy and Miel thought it’d be cool if there was a bday trail throughout the internet. So, if you read his blogs and like them, and you have a blog of your own, please be so kind to reblog this to make the wish spread over the internet.
Have the greatest birthday ever !!!
Technorati tag: bdaynathan
You don’t look 83 at all !
Yesyes, everyone has his turn, and in 11 hours (CET) it’s Nathan’s turn to get a change in digits. Nobody knows how old Nathan really is. It’s a secret that’s very well kept, it’s almost as secret as Google’s algorithm. Going back through the archives I noticed that last year he didn’t even wrote about his own birthday. So I figured we could try to make this a well commented post and wish him a very happy birthday, for starters. The more the merrier !
The Firefox Foundation invited their dedicated network of users to participate in the Firefox Flick Contest, which is a contest in which people were asked to create a 30-second ad, in any style (live action or animated,) that brings Firefox to life for the millions of Web users who have yet to discovered Firefox and the better Web experience it delivers. The website has a clear briefing with strict guidelines here.
Apart from personal glory, participants could also win great prizes. This is just one of the great examples of user created vids:
An Internet Explorer update released earlier this week can interfere with some applications, including Google’s Toolbar, according to PatchLink, a maker of patch management software.
Other applications affected by the Web browser patch include business software from Oracle’s Siebel customer relationship management unit and certain Web applications that use specific versions of Java, PatchLink said Friday.
The problems arise because of changes Microsoft made to how the Web browser handles Web programs called ActiveX controls. The modifications are designed to shield Microsoft from liability in a high-profile patent dispute with Eolas Technologies and the University of California.
Competing with Google’s Scholar service, Microsoft launced Windows Live Academic Search.
Windows Live Academic is now in beta. We currently index content related to computer science, physics, electrical engineering, and related subject areas.
Academic search enables you to search for peer reviewed journal articles contained in journal publisher portals and on the web in locations like citeseer.
Academic search works with libraries and institutions to search and provide access to subscription content for their members. Access restricted resources include subscription services or premium peer-reviewed journals. You may be able to access restricted content through your library or institution.
We have built several features designed to help you rapidly find the content you are searching for including abstract previews via our preview pane, sort and group by capability, and citation export.
The available content is a collection of articles and information from about 10 different publisher resources. Data is provided by (amongst others) the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Association for Computing Machinery, and publishers Elsevier and John Wiley & Sons.
The search system is a cooperative effort between the publishers, Windows Live Search and industry association CrossRef.
Got a burning question for the Prime Minister (of the UK)? Nowâ€™s your chance to ask him face-to-face.
Prime Minister Tony Blair and MSN Messenger have teamed up to take Prime Ministerâ€™s Question Time online in a unique competition that will give ten members of the public the chance to put questions live to the PM.
On Tuesday 4th April, winners will hold live video conversations over MSN Messenger with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, the first time he has taken questions via live video over the internet.
Hat tip: Kris from MSN Search
Allrighty, this was the second and last day of the Microsoft Developer & IT Pro Days at the ICC, Ghent. I took the train at 7.30am to be there in time for the Vista Mania presentation and it turned out it was the right thing to do. Tony Krijnen, a Technology Advisor in the Microsoft Platform Group in The Netherlands, and Jurgen Van Duvel, the Product Manager Windows Client and Mobile for Microsoft Belgium & Luxembourg, gave a solid presentation about the what and how of the upcoming Vista.
The focus was on the user as a ‘limited user’, about restrictions and permissions you can set in the new operating system. The parental controls make it hard for kids to bypass the rules and restrictions that have been set by the administrative user. The amount of data you can monitor (sites visited, chats inititated, chat user identification, software used, game played etc) causes a real ‘big brother’ feeling for the protective parent. The only question that remains is: who’s going to teach the parents what and how to monitor the accounts that have been set up for their kids? Because very often the kids know more about computers than the parents do, so perhaps the situation can be reversed. I can very well imagine some kids will use this option to safely guide their parents on the internet, blocking out malicious sites and software and preventing installation of third party wares that are offered for download via pop-ups and fake warnings. Jurgen said: very often it’s the parents who are desperate and incapable of dealing with the huge amount of data that flows their way. I couldn’t agree more. Nevertheless, Microsoft takes it very far with the restrictions that are possible, and that’s a good thing. You’re still in control and you can determine for yourself how far you want to take it. That’s very important.
Also noted: opening the program files now requires consent. Received data is being transmitted to a virtual file that’s stored in a shared folder per user. This virtual sector has been created because legacy apps used to limit usage for non-administrators. The data needed to be able to be written away in the program files folder. That has been bypassed now. Also the IE7 runs in protected mode, preventing data to go beyond the local temporary internet files folder.
IE7 also allows you to set the default search engine to your favorite engine. You’re no longer obligated to use MSN Search, although this service too keeps getting better and better (also check out the new live.com). IE7 uses tabs, like Mozilla does, but also added mini-tabs, which are small previews (or large thumbnails) that give you an overview of the pages you’ve grouped or that are active in a session. There’s an integrated RSS function with a central database (but we knew that already).
The Print Preview underwent some serious changes too, you can now customize the page, clip off headers or footers and manipulate the entire content to get the result you’ve customized yourself.
Phishing has become a serious matter. Sites that are marked as bad make your address bar turn into a specific color (red, or whatever color you specify) and sites you suspect of being phishing projects can be reported to the central database, which is being monitored and moderated manually. If the reported site is malicious, the URL is added to the database so all the Vista users worldwide can be notified of this threat. Windows Update will make sure all the data is being adjusted.
XPS (name will change later) is Microsofts take on the portable document format and will make sure you can create legally bind documents (like PDF does now) and you can store them to modify them later.
The firewall is very accessible, easy to manage and now works both ways (and shows it). There’s an incoming and outgoing movement tracer and it’s very obvious what does what.
Games will be treated like music, where you can collect the sleeve and rating online, so that parents can set restrictions for their kids and prevent unwanted content to be installed and played.
The last thing they (Jurgen and Tony) showed was a demo for SuperFetch. What it does: it takes the load of memory that’s active and transfers it (for instance) on a USB stick. You could also select a portable HD and set the memory capacity to 30Gb, but experiments have shown it might in fact slow things down if you opt for the external HD. SuperFetch ‘copies’ your memory activity and mounts it on the USB flash disk, so that the apps that take loading time in fact see their loading time decrease. The available memory gets ‘larger’ (extended) through this artificial move, so that the computer runs faster and other apps have more room to breathe. That’s why they call it “speed up my system”. (I hope I got this straight, but this is how I think it works – remember I’m not an expert). That concludes the first session of the day.
Next was the ‘Tips & Tricks for ASP.NET 2.0 & Visual Studio 2005′ session with Stefan Schackow, the Program Manager from the ASP.NET Team from Microsoft. He owns the Membership, Role Manager, Profile and Web Parts Personalization features and is currently working on extending these services to both smart clients and the Atlas platform. This session was very technical and I’m not, so I’ll try stick to the things I’ve seen that I still remember.
There’s a PostBackURL feature that allows you to display a URL e.g. for a search function, for instance www.domain.com/search.aspx, and then when users type in a keyword, the fetched data can come from other aspx pages without the URL changing. Data from a products.aspx or services.aspx page can be reported on the same search.aspx page that was initially loaded. This is a feature I need to take back to i-Merge, because there’s a project online that can definitely use this. There’s also a built-in UrlMapping Module to rewrite your paths. It enables â€œvanityâ€ URLs instead of querystrings and also enables easy moving of pages without 404s.
Another thing I took notes about is the so-called ‘no-compile’ page. It’s a new feature in 2.0 to enable .aspx pages to be executed without compilation, whereas in the first version .aspx pages were always dynamically compiled. I don’t really know more about it, sorry. It was way too difficult for me to understand. It was a very interesting session and Stefan flew over it very smoothly. His demos made it all seem so obvious and natural but when I take a look at it afterwards it’s almost Chinese to me. I don’t feel like I wasted my time there, but I think there’s not much more I could take home because I have no coding background at all.
This presentation is up for download, .ppt (767 Kb)
Next session was the Mobile Solutions with Windows Mobile 5.0 and Exchange Server 2003, presented by Tony Krijnen (the same guy from the Vista Mania session). Although Exchange 2003 already supported the wide range of mobile devices (as even Palm and Nokia offer the Exchange ActiveSync capabilities today) with the new Windows Mobile 5.0 system for SmartPhones and PDAâ€™s great new capabilities have become possible. With these new capabilities you are able to enforce a pin lock on a device, remote wipe a device and of course now support push e-mail. In this session these various capabilities were addressed and Tony explained what you will need on the device and server to use these capabilities.
Tony definitely knew what he was doing. He toyed around with various mobile devices (plugged in with USB) and sent email from one device to another, opened powerpoint presentations and excel sheets on his mobile device as if he was scrolling through a list (really, it only took seconds to load) and showed off full contact lists that could be transferred to Outlook, including pictures. He also explained why he preferred a SmartPhone ever since they forced him to use one (because it can be used with one thumb instead of two hands), and then showed some extra features he particularly liked.
Pin-locking a device to prevent repeated requests that started to loop, or to prevent unrestricted access to the device, or remote wiping a device when somebody lost his tool and is afraid his data will be abused. Remote wiping is like a factory reset with data removal. Nothing remains on the device. This too was a very interesting session that explained a lot about the possibilities of mobile toys (business or pleasure). A very cool presentation, lots of funky features.
Last session of the day was the one presented by Dave Webster who is a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft EMEA. He has worked on many development projects in the New England area as a Microsoft Principal Consultant for enterprise customers and ISVs before returning to the UK in 2003. His projects have been primarily in C++ and latterly C# and VB.Net and have used most of the platform technologies from Microsoft including Biztalk, Exchange, COM/DCOM amd MTS/COM+. Dave also worked on the very first Microsoft Digital Dashboard in the late 1990′s. He has a particular passion for working with ISVs and was part of the first dedicated ISV team in Microsoft Consulting Services in the US.
This session was titled: ‘ASP.NET 2.0 – What the bad guys will do’ and in fact it was a crash-course for reversed hacking, by which I mean he first showed us how to hack by inserting lines of code into the login field, and he then explained how to prevent this from happening to your own server or website. Again, this was a very technical session but it was fascinating to see how you could copy-paste (at Microsoft they call it ‘embrace and extend’) lines of code and simply hack applications. It seemed so easy to do. Dave showed Cross Site Scripting, SQL injection, Dictionary attacks, canonicalization attacks etc. and then discussed what ASP.Net has in the box to protect you against these attacks and what you still need to be wary of.
This session is up for download, .ppt (3.56 Mb)
Then there was the closing keynote presentation by Rafal Lukawiecki, a Strategic Consultant and Director who runs Project Botticelli Ltd. In his role as Strategic Consultant and Director at Project Botticelli Ltd, Rafal is responsible for analysing, planning and forecasting the changes in the field of Information Technology. Through direct association with his clients, Rafal is working closely with teams of up to 150 software developers, as well as with investors and their boards of directors. This work allows him to practice the best principles of Microsoft Solutions Framework, and Microsoft Operations Framework – the secrets behind Microsoft’s and many other IT companies’ success.
Rafal was very excited about the Visual Studio 2005 and pointed out teamwork is very important. Not only for the team, but also for the product that team is developing. He pointed out some examples of a team on the Microsoft campus (I believe in block 44) that reviews all the bits and pieces developers have sent in before they go home. This team of reviewers then generates a report on the work the developer has done and tells him what he should do when he arrives back at work the next day. Rafal pointed to the importance of such a review team. He also said ‘change’ is very motivational factor, because if you do the same work for too long, you’re more likely to make mistakes and that should be prevented. Also it’s very logical that you shouldn’t do the same work twice if you can reuse what’s been coded before.
Rafal said Microsoft the next big thing for the following years will be ‘identity’ and ‘access’. Users should be able to move their identities around and gain access to other products and services without having to register again. Microsoft is going to focus on and reinvent the identity concept, because the internet wasn’t made for identity, it was made for anonymity. Rafal explained it with this example: think of it as a tube of toothpaste and the toothpaste has been pressed out of the tube. If you want the paste to get back in the tube, you’ll have to reinvent and rebuild the tube. And that’s exactly what Microsoft needs to do. The dotnet passport was a great success, but it’s also an error. There should be an industry standard that delivers an identity that can be used all over the industry, but for that to happen the concept of identity needs to be thought over again. That’s going to take time, but it’s going to be the next big thing.
I’d like to thank Tom Mertens and Dave Boschmans from Microsoft for the good times and the opportunity to attend this event. Really, I learned a lot and met a lot of cool people. The only thing I regret is not having attended the presentations of Erwin Van Hunen and Wim Verhaeghen, but there were other things going on that I also wanted to see and hear. The ‘good’ presentations almost always fell at the same time so the choices were heartbreaking. Until next time, and thanx for the magnificent organization.
I’ve been in the International Convention Center in Ghent all day to attend the Microsoft Developer & IT Pro Days 2006 event and I must say I was pretty amazed. I met a lot of interesting people and spent quite some time networking in between the sessions. The Microsoftees really turned me on with their fancy things and the new interfaces that were shown for Office 12 (or Office 2007, whatever you want to call it) have left me wanting for more. There’s a second day too, and I’ll return there tomorrow – which by now is only three hours away.
First session I attended was the 2007 Office System Overview, which was pretty amazing. I really like the way Microsoft redesigned the user experience and it’s a big improvement. The contextual menu’s, the semi-transparent floater (mini-bar) when you select text in Word 12, the shrunken navigation menu… it’s going to be so much fun to use this, I can hardly wait to get it.
This session was very commercial and glanced through the new things a bit too fast, but it was clearly intended to be a ‘showcase session’ for people who wanted to get a first look & feel experience. I was pretty amazed.
So, then there was lunch… and I met Maarten Schenk from SixApart who was wondering around foodlessly. We talked a bit until he had to go home to be productive and all that. Too bad he couldn’t stay. Apparently we have a shared friend, Jonas from Combell who is thinking about starting a blog platform. I hope that works out great for both of them. Clearly, Jonas has chosen the right person to handle this, so I’m pretty confident things will turn out to be very promising.
The Next session was the one that I liked best today, it was called: Office System: Introduction to the Programmable Customization Model for the 2007 Office System User Experience. Hans Verbeeck, a Developer Consultant in the EMEA .NET Platform Evangelism Group, really brought some good vibrations in the room. He is responsible for assisting the Visual Basic Developer Community in the move to Visual Basic .NET and focused on one of the benefits of the new UI. For the first time in many years, Microsoft has changed the user interface of the major Office products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access). The biggest progress here is that developers can customize and extend the UI, using a very declarative XML-driven model.
The session showed how you can build document-level and application-level UI customizations. This session described how the markup interacts with DLL-based code, and provides guidance for migrating existing solutions and developing new ones.
In this session Hans totally captured the audience with a presentation that ran like a train. Smooth, solid as a rock and super fast. He started with an evaluation of the Word interfaces starting from Word 1.0 (1989) with only 2 toolbars and running to the bloated Word 2003 version with 31 toolbars and 9 task panes. It has become obvious that the users have lost track of the meaning of all the options and that the need for a slimmed down version of the UI was urging. So Hans took us through the new Word interface, showing off the new features in detail, focussing on the groups (no more chunks, please) in the ribbon which can be edited, the mini-bar that semi-transparently pops up when you select text and the ribbon itself that changes contextually.
The mini-bar was originally called ‘the floaty’, but apparently a floaty is something that drifts around in a swimming pool, which really doesn’t need to be drifting around there. So it became mini-bar, because ‘floaty’ would make it seem a bit smelly.
When you insert a table, the contextual menu changes and shows some possibilities you can select to change the appearance. Hoovering the list instantly changes the source, displaying in real-time how the changes would look like if applied. Same goes for text editing options and styles. The instant previews are possibly the coolest thing a standard user could encounter. It would decrease the use of the ‘undo’ button with 80%, no doubt.
Here’s what the famous ribbon looks like
Another super fine feature is that the entire Office environment is XML based and the you can change a Word 12 document (for instance) to a .zip by simply changing the extension. The document then transforms into a compressed file which contains all the data, the styles etc in XML format. The document becomes very portable and transparent. You can easily tag the file, making future searches a lot less complicated and you can customly edit every piece of the code, adding or removing whatever you feel like. Rebuilding the document is done by changing the extension to .docx. The XML feature also allows you to create application ribbon extensions that load at runtime, in the entire Office environment (in every app, from Access to Word)
Hans also showed off the Excel 12 and ‘OMG’ the me-wantee feeling took over. You type in some data in the row like ‘client name’, ‘product name’, ‘price’ and ‘amount’. Then you enter a few clients and fill in the products. You select the cells and instantly turn them to a worthy table which you can then change with the same styled contextual menu with the real-time displayed possibilities. Another cool thing is that the complicated Excel formulas have become far more obvious. Adding a column for ‘totals’ for example can easily be done by right-clicking (I think) and then selecting the ‘insert formula’ thing (could be he used a shortcut, it happened too fast). The formula no longer is based on the ‘Cell X*Cell Y’ but can be replaced by the title of the column, in this case ‘price’*'amount’. That makes things very accessible to users that used to be frightened by the mathematical approach Excel used to have.
The new Word 2007 lets you save a file as .pdf, so you no longer need to rely on third-party software for that.
Another find thing is the transitional column header. In the previous versions of Excel, you always needed to freeze the title row so you could still see, when you were reading stuff below row 50, and still know what the hearders of the columns were. In Excel 12, as soon as you scroll down and the title row goes off-screen the cells outside the spreadsheet (A, B, C,…) will automatically display the name you’ve given to the title cells. Very nifty !
Next thing in the demo was Powerpoint, which became even more easy to use. The menu looks a lot like Word, and Hans played around a bit wih the IGC graphics. Very attractive, very customizable, Highly adorable.
Presentation up for download, .ppt (1.50MB)
Like I said, this presentation was the best I’ve seen, and Jan from u2u (the coder who showed the XML features on the spot) really impressed me with his knowledge and fastness. That guy is brilliant. Absolutely stunning, the way he juggled with the code!
Third session I attended was the Live Communications Server 2005 in Close Up, but FrÃ©dÃ©ric from Digipoint ( who arrived at slide number 7 or 8 ) and me ran out of that one because it was really boring and Ilse Van Criekinge from Azlan who presented it was just reading the slides and talked way too silent to actually grab our attention. The first ten minutes or so, she explained what instant messaging was and what you could do with it, needless to say I wasn’t really shocked nor impressed. After 20 slides we threw in the towel. Filed under boring.
Presentation up for download, .ppt (8.31MB !?)
So we waited for the Atlas presentation, Microsoft’s ASP.net 2.0 take on Java & AJaX. Impressive. Good stuff and very powerful. I did, however, expected a take that would be more implementable for regular web designers the way Java and AJaX are. Instead we got to see a drag and drop show for Visual Studio 2005. The results were quite fine-tuned and there’s a lot of potential in this standard-to-be. We just didn’t get to see it. It was like we only saw the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps the strenght of the product is within the fact it is so easy to understand and so easy to implement. Maybe we were waiting for the wrong thing. Maybe you don’t have to hard-code it. Maybe it’s so easy to use we kind of missed the point because we were expecting a difficult solution?
Atlas is a package of new Web development technologies that integrates an extensive set of client script libraries with the rich, server-based development platform of ASP.NET 2.0. Atlas enables you to develop Web applications that can update data on a Web page by making direct calls to a Web server â€” without needing to round trip the page. With Atlas, you can take advantage of the best of ASP.NET and server-side code while doing much of the work in the browser, enabling a richer user experience.
ASP.NET Atlas will make it dramatically easier to develop richer web experiences because there’s a higher developer productivity, because its great ease of authoring and maintenance and its seamless programming model integration. Atlas works everywhere. That’s exactly what we were shown, illustrated with the Live Local maps and the interactive toy car sightseeing map and Visual Earth I blogged about recently. This is something to keep an eye on. Atlas is going to be very big. No. It’s going to be huge !
Presentation up for download, .ppt (1.48MB)
At this time, Luc Van Braekel arrived at the scene. Of course, important people almost always show up ridiculously late to make a noticed entrance. The guy at the wardrobe thought Luc was joking when he offered his jacket for safekeeping, since the event only lasted for another hour and a half. Luc actually had to go ‘complain’ at the Microsoft people to ask them if they could ask the guy to please put away his jacket. To thank the man, Luc took his picture which he clearly did not like. I think if the dude had a knife or a pair of scissors he would have cut the jacket to shreds and pieces.
So, the threesome we were now went back to the main room to attend the ending keynote by Rob Creemers, a Dutch trendwatcher. The show was awesome. His presentation was called “The Networked Society”, and it was incredibly fast-paced. It was stuffed with quotes, press headers, pictures and videos and blasted through 50 years of communication, IT and development within the hour (and a bit). I was blown away by the amount of data he fed the audience and captured by his enthusiasm. Luc has written a good review of the entire keynote if you’re interested in another good article.
To see all the presentations of the entire day, check here on the event website. They’ve already listed the sessions that will be organized tomorrow (in a few hours, that is)
Here are some pictures I took during the day:
A few weeks ago, I was at Microsoft’s Belux headquarters, and I’ve written they had this very cool chocolate XBox 360 on display in their entrance hall. Kris Hoet, the guy we met back then, has sent me some really nice pictures of it. This is so cool ! Thanks Kris ! You Rock !
The pictures were taken by some colleagues of Kris. Kudos to them. The chocolate XBox 360 was made especially for the X05 annual event in Amsterdam, October last year.
More pictures at Marketing Thoughts
Microsoft has developed a Skype-style free internet voice service for mobile phones that City analysts believe could wipe billions off the market value of operators such as Vodafone.
The service is included in a mobile version of Microsoft Office Communicator due to be released this year. It will take the form of a voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) application that allows Office users to make free voice calls over wi-fi enabled phones running Windows Mobile software. It uses the internet as a virtual phone network as well as accessing e-mail, PowerPoint and other Office applications.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer dropped his bombshell at the mobile operatorsâ€™ annual 3GSM show in Barcelona last week. The significance of his remarks was missed because of his effusive and eccentric delivery.
This is so typically Microsoft. Once again, they’re not the first player in the market, but they’ll come up with some crazy all-in tool that wipes out many small players, possibly to then take on the major free VoIP services. I can’t wait to test this out. Definitely to be continued !
Sponsors and ads
|GoDaddy.com promo! $6.95 .COM code: BNC695|
- April 2013 (4)
- August 2009 (1)
- July 2009 (1)
- November 2007 (71)
- October 2007 (124)
- September 2007 (97)
- August 2007 (128)
- July 2007 (99)
- June 2007 (124)
- May 2007 (107)
- April 2007 (82)
- March 2007 (57)
- Games For Windows
- Open Source
- Windows Media
- Windows Mobile