Windows Live Calendar, available within Live Hotmail, should also be available today to all users. Just sign into your Live ID account, then go to calendar.live.com, and you should be set. Adding events is easy, just double-click on a date, and you can set the basic details (or click to edit advanced options). You can create multiple calendars, with multiple options for sharing or setting co-owners of calendars. I’m enjoying playing around with it the last half hour, and it even sort of/almost works in Opera.
The news you need to know right now: Live.com email addresses are available right now. Not just Live.com, but Live.at, live.be, windowslive.com, live.co.uk and many more. Here is the whole list, courtesy LiveSide:
HONG KONG LIVE.HK
SOUTH AFRICA LIVE.CO.ZA
Microsoft finally delivered the first Windows Live Suite, a single installer that allows you to install a number of Windows Live programs as a single download that updates regularly. Go to this site and configure your 1.8 megabyte download, picking from these products:
Windows Live Mail – the ad-supported desktop email client that integrates well with Windows Live Hotmail, but lets you add any regular email account, plus RSS feeds, spell checking, PhotoMail and Windows Live Contacts. Replaces Outlook Express in Windows XP and Windows Mail in Windows Vista.
Windows Live Photo Gallery – software for managing, finding, sharing, tagging and editing photos. Replaces Windows Photo Gallery in Vista and is a completely new feature for XP.
Windows Live Writer – blog posting tool, supporting almost all popular blogging software. Considered one of the best products in its category.
Windows Live Messenger – instant messaging, compatible with Yahoo Messenger. By getting it as part of the Suite, you don’t have to worry as much about installing new versions.
Windows Live Sign-In assistant – required install, helps you sign in to Windows Live ID. When you visit a Windows Live ID site in your browser, the sign-in assistant can help out by displaying large buttons for various Live IDs and, in some cases, letting you just click on the account you want to sign in.
Windows Live OneCare Family Safety – parental control software, allows parents to monitor and restrict a child’s internet access
Windows Live Toolbar – Internet Explorer toolbar, very powerful toolbar for accessing Windows Live sites and services.
All the software included features newer updated versions. Live Messenger has some bugs fixed. Live Mail has a new List View for contacts, contacts import/export improvements, toolbar customization, Quick Views, improved Layout Dialog options, changing your sign in account, Photo E-Mail updates and Newsgroup updates.
Live Writer is hugely improved. The new version has video insertion (from Soapbox, including your own account, and other video websites), image uploading to Blogger/PicasaWeb, the ability to publish XHTML-style markup, 28 new languages, printing blog posts, justifying and aligning post text, and better image handling, including a fix for the blurry images problem, in addition to bug fixes and installation issues.
Live Photo Gallery gets improved color adjustment and cropping capabilities, image sharpening, shadow and highlight levels, image resizing, batch image resizing, a picture import tool that grabs pictures from your camera in a much better way than Vista or XP do, publishing photos to Windows Live Spaces and videos to MSN Soapbox. This is the first public beta of this software, also.
One complaint: The Suite is not yet available for 64-bit systems.
Curiously, the Suite offers to set your homepage to MSN.com, not Live.com, which probably indicates the change in strategy away from the personalized homepage.
What’s different? Well, for one thing, you don’t need Hotmail Plus. Any Windows Live Hotmail user can use it, and free Hotmail users get almost the same features as Plus users get without the Connector, as well as better interaction with Outlook’s interface (especially the Junk Mail filter). Plus users also get to synchronize the Outlook calendar with the Hotmail calendar, which is useful now and should become doubly useful when the full Windows Live Calendar is announced.
The program works a lot better at caching your Hotmail inbox than Outlook does, download messages silently in the background and syncing them as needed. It respects your connection and takes its time, but if you try to open a message that isn’t synced, it’ll download immediately. There’s a new toolbar that shows you the sync status (it’s been an hour, and 398 of 3532 messages have been downloaded).
I’d recommend this download in a second for any Live Hotmail and Outlook user. Whether you have Hotmail Plus or not, it’s a no-brainer. It’s available for Office 2003 and Office 2007, and requires validation.
Here’s the second video blog for InsideMicrosoft, fourth overall, and the last before my stiches came out (about two hours ago). Typing is still a pain, but expect new blog posts as the weekend dies down.
I think this is the best camera angle so far. I had to tape my camera to a lamp to get it, though. I need a tripod, bad.
Here’s my second video blog post since tearing up my hand, the first for InsideMicrosoft. The highlight is definitely the demo of the new New York buildings in Windows Live Maps 3D, so I think you are really going to enjoy it.
Although this was something that has been imminent for a month, had already happened in other countries, and everyone knew was coming today, it’s still great to note that Windows Live Hotmail has launched. After a long beta process, what was Kahuna, then Live Mail, and now Hotmail, has become Microsoft’s official web-based email software, marking a new generation for the world’s most used email service.
One thing that returns with the launch of Live Hotmail is the Outlook connector, which allows Outlook to connect with Hotmail accounts to use the desktop software with the webmail account. It’s enormously convenient, and something that had been taken away from free Hotmail users, and the return is a wonderful thing for everybody.
Also coming in the next few weeks: Windows Live Mail. Now, don’t freak out, it isn’t another name change (as of just a bunch of weeks ago, Live Hotmail was Live Mail), but rather a new name for the Live desktop email client. Since Live Mail became Live Hotmail, someone must have realized that Windows Live Mail Desktop didn’t need such a crappy name, and it is now called Windows Live Mail. Great move. It is the only free email client that will work with Live Hotmail accounts, and will replace Windows Vista Mail (which is fine, since it has much better features).
Also, all new Hotmail accounts will be on the Live Hotmail system, meaning there is no way to get an old Hotmail account anymore. No one on the old Hotmail is being forced over, and probably will not be for a long time, but new users get introduced to the wonderful new interface Live Hotmail brings.
The latest update to Windows Live Mail is slowly being pushed out to users of Microsoft’s advanced webmail service, and this release changes the branding to Windows Live Hotmail. If your inbox says Hotmail, you’ve got the upgrades, which include spell check and improved photo uploading in classic mode, a version picker between Classic and Full, more checkboxes, an improved safety bar, and the usual performance improvements.
While Iâ€™ve grown extremely tired of these ongoing brand changes within Windows Live that further adds to its branding confusion as a whole – I think this branding change for Windows Live Mail to Windows Live Hotmail is a smart move and I am glad Microsoft has chosen to do this.
Microsoft has a codename problem. Practically every software/hardware company on the planet uses codenames for products in development, but Microsoft codenames have become an obsession by themselves. Wikipedia has a 13-page article on Microsoft codenames. It does not have such an article on any other company. Mary Jo Foley did a popular month-long series on Microsoft codenames this past December.
Microsoft has a rich history of codenames, unique to it of any company in history. That legacy needs to end.
Occasionally, a company has a codename problem, with the codename causing brand confusion, especially when the codename is better than the product name. Nintendo faced this problem for half a year after it announced its codename: Revolution console would be named the Wii, a problem that only went away when the thing was a huge success.
Microsoft has this problem all the time. People are still referring to Windows codename: Longhorn today, even though the final name of Vista was announced 18 months ago, and that Vista is nearly a completely seperate project from Longhorn. Windows Mobile 6.0 is probably going to be called “Crossbow” for the next year or so. Many analysts and Microsoft employees have complained of products that have better codenames than final brand names. The next version of Windows is on its third codename, first BlackComb, then Vienna, now Windows 7.
And therein lies the beginning of a solution. Windows 7 is the first version of Windows Microsoft will develop under a non-word codename. Steven Sinofsky took over as head of Windows development last week, and his first action was to kill off “Vienna”, bringing the same conventions used by the Office team (Office 2007 was Office 12) to Windows.
It was a smart move, one that will hopefully prevent the media from obsessing over a codename and confusing the customers in the long run. Microsofties probably love choosing codenames, with their rich history at the company, but I think it’s an idea whose time has gone. Microsoft products need boring codenames that put the focus back on the product, codenames that are forgotten as soon as the product is given a real name.
My suggestion: Borrow from the car industry. The car industry has been using many car names that mean absolutely nothing, especially the luxury car industry. Cars hit the market with names like RL, 530i, 325Ci, LS 430, GS 300, 9-2x, STS, CTS-V, RX, E320, and SLK. It is one of the most bone-headed decisions by the industry, but it could work extremely well for software codenames.
Windows 7 is a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough. The media will still latch on the “7″ name, and if the product name stinks (Windows Grass), the “7″ name will be even harder to forget, confusing customers. All Microsoft codenames should follow a serial number designation, with Windows 7 being WGC, for W=Windows family, G=7, and C=client operating system. From there, programs for Windows 7 would be appended onto the WGC designation, and future versions would be variations on the name. The same thing would work for Word 14, which could be called OLW (O=Office family, L=14, W=word processor).
Microsoft needs to take the emphasis off codename (which inspires product teams to come up with cool, memorable names), and not release brand names until the name is 100% the final one. Calling it Windows Live Mail, then Windows Live Hotmail, only shows indecision, and they need to find something and stick with it.
Customers, especially those testing out beta products, need to know from the beginning that the product has no name. This could have been simple, if Windows Live Mail had been codenamed Live/mail/0[beta], and only announced its name as “Microsoft LM0 – Windows Live email” throughout the beta process.
The codename, as well as any preliminary product names, should be designed to send a message to the user, the media, and the development community that “This is not the final product name”. Confusion is bad for business, and Microsoft has enough communication problems as it is. Make the change, simplify things, and get back to the business of making great software.
Microsoft is about to announce that Windows Live Mail is being renamed Windows Live Hotmail. The reason I’ve been given is that it is an effort to end the brand confusion, that customer feedback showed so much loyalty and familiarity with the Hotmail brand name that they had to keep it. Microsoft says they want to keep the focus on the great new UI and all the new features, not on a new name or anything like that.
I think it’s a great idea. Hotmail is a hugely famous brand, a part of the internet’s history, but that isn’t the only reason I like the idea of keeping it. There have been a lot of complaints lately about the Windows Live branding, and associating the famous Hotmail brand with the Windows Live name, will clear up confusion, not just about email, but will help associate the entire platform with the old MSN platform, helping users make the link in their heads.
We also found that many users were extremely loyal to the Hotmail brand and perceived the beta as an upgrade to Hotmail. In fact, our most loyal users have been very happy with Hotmail for years and while they loved the improvements in the beta, some were a bit confused by name change.
As we prepare to launch the final version of our new web mail service, we recognize the importance of ensuring that our 260+ million existing customers come over to the new service smoothly and without confusion. By adopting the name â€œWindows Live Hotmailâ€, we believe weâ€™re bringing together the best of both worlds â€“ new and old. Weâ€™re able to offer the great new technology that Windows Live has to offer while also bringing the emotional connection many existing and loyal users have with Hotmail.
The Windows Live Mail team has dropped Milestone 9 (or M9), another step on the path to replacing Hotmail. Hopefully, Milestone 10 will be the last one before final release.
The most interesting change in this release is that Classic view is now the default view. The Classic view is the one designed for less compatible browsers, as well as easier to manage for users who are too used to the old Hotmail, and can’t stomach all the bells and whistles of Windows Live Mail. The Classic view will be the view shown to new users switching over to Hotmail so they don’t freak out at the new system, and have time before they decide to start using the advanced features.
I hate the idea of the new users losing out on the great features, but I’m guessing the user studies told them this was necessary.
Classic view has been enhanced, too, and is damn fast, faster in fact than Hotmail is. They’ve also added a bunch of interface changes, and full support for Firefox. Kandarp details all the features with screenshots, including the new Today page:
The new toolbar:
And some additional things you can do with contacts while composing email in classic view:
Kandarp reports that he received a voicemail in Windows Live Mail, and, instead of requiring you to download it as an attachment, Live Mail had a cool new Windows Media Player powered audio control. Google added a similar feature when they started accepting voicemail through Google Talk, powered by the Google Video player, and I could see this becoming a standard webmail feature. People just don’t like downloading attachments.
The only question I have: Can it (or will it in the future) be used to listen to all sorts of audio attachments? That would be very convenient.
I just tested it out by emailing my wife’s Windows Live Mail account a 4.5 megabyte MP3, and it worked perfectly, streaming the song faster that I could have downloaded it. God, I love the Windows Live Mail team. Perfectly implemented feature, and even Gmail doesn’t do it yet.
UPDATE: Whoops. As Pharod points out in the comments below, Gmail did add this functionality at some point. I’d noticed the voicemail player feature, which didn’t play audio attachments at the time, but it looks like they added it eventually.
LiveSide has info on Windows Live Mail Plus, the paid upgrade to Windows Live Mail in Holland that will likely be offered eventually in the US. For $20 a year, users get a four gigabyte hard drive, 20-megabyte file attachments, no ads (including in the Desktop software and Live Spaces), access to your account in Microsoft Office Outlook, and no disabling of the account due to inactivity. The four gig is a decent jump over Gmail’s current 2.8 GB, but may not be enough higher than Live Mail’s own two gig limit to temp users (though Outlook Access is worth twenty bucks for me).
Microsoft has increased the storage space in Hotmail to one gigabyte, bringing it in line with what Yahoo Mail offers. Gmail currently offers 2,785 gigabytes, a number that literally increases every day. This is the third time Microsoft has increased the storage for Hotmail recently, first to 25 megabytes, then 250 megabytes, then now.
One question: Why not wait for the wide release of Windows Live Mail to do a major storage increase? The obvious answer: Live Mail won’t be going wide for a while, and Microsoft got sick of waiting (and pressure from users). Live Mail, while a great webmail client with an amazing interface, is still not ready for prime time, a typical Microsoft project too ambitious for the real world. Just like with Longhorn, they decided to do something revolutionary, and are discovering that it takes a long time to do that sort of thing.
Microsoft is officially releasing Windows Live, having Windows Live Search replace MSN Search (exactly 22 months after it originally released MSN Search). Live Search and Live.com leave beta, and Live Search becomes the new destination for users searching from the MSN homepage. The changeover hasn’t completed, but it is underway right now.
The millions of users who use MSN are going to eventually run a search. When they do, they will find something different enough from what they are used to on Google that they might decide to take a look around. They might discover Live Search’s neverending search results. They might discover Live’s Image Search, with its expanding thumbnails, resizing slider, scratchpad and great preview mode (and a really cool new “Related People” mode that is damn near perfect!). They might discover Windows Live Local, with its great map dragging, easy pushpins, saved and shareable locations, overhead and 3/4 views.
They might discover a whole bunch of other great Live services, like Spaces, QnA and Expo, or try the new Live Mail. They might download and install some great software, like Live Mail Desktop, Live Messenger, or OneCare. Or they might not.
It’s a lot to hope for, certainly, and it would be great for Microsoft if it all worked out. If there’s a chance to have a slam dunk, this is it. Windows Live is a ton of great technology, at exactly the right time, while none of its rivals are taking as many chances. MSN has a lot of users who don’t know what Web 2.0 is, and they might discover AJAX for the very first time when they hit that search box. If they love it, it will be Microsoft that introduces them to Web 2.0, and Windows Live Search that replaces their Google.
Will it pull off? We’ll see if the market share starts inching up by the end of the year.
Image search results pages also includes a slider to let the user determine the layout of the page and a pulldown to limit to specific sizes of images. Each image also includes a link to a â€œscratchpadâ€ where you can store images. The AJAX drag and drop to the scratchpad is nice.
Search page changes
First, the page is much faster. The search box is wider and we’re including messaging for key new features. You’ll also notice that the Jewel (the drop down in the upper left hand corner) is now available on this page.
Direct URLs to personalized page and search
This has been a popular request by many users. Now you can type beta.search.live.com (soon search.live.com) and go directly to the search page. Similiarly you can type my.live.com and home.live.com and go directly to the personalized page.
live.com is now accessible including screen reader mode which can be enabled via the ‘Options’ dialog.
The release also is part of the Redmond software company’s push to offer a number of free, Web-based services under its new “Live” brand name. The approach has been aimed at helping the company establish a fresh, separate Internet brand for those services, but it also has confused some users more familiar with the company’s traditional MSN Internet branding strategy.
“In general, I don’t think a lot of consumers outside of computer enthusiasts … are aware of Windows Live or know what it is,” said Matt Rosoff, independent researcher with Directions on Microsoft.
Microsoft plans to use Live Search on its MSN portal, and it also planning to promote Live Search later this fall. But Rosoff said the company needs to do more — whether it’s a massive marketing push or some sort of broader tie-in with other products — to tell uses what Live is, and persuade them to switch from Google and others.
Mike Torres notes that they’ve added back all the MSN Search smart answers, so none of the cool features are lost in the changeover. Also:
One thing that no one is talking about (at least not yet) is the pretty significant update to the mobile search experience. There’s a new user interface, support for instant answers like Encarta and finance, some new scopes like news and maps, lots of changes to local search (bigger maps!) and more. You can check it out from your phone at http://mobile.live.com/search. The team is blogging here: http://itsallmobile.spaces.live.com.
Live is Microsoftâ€™s key play for the future and new company leader Ray Ozzie has been a vocal advocate of Live in particular and web based software as a service in general. Live.com places new emphasis on customization, RSS, blogs, video and other areas of emerging interest. Start.com was to fulfill a similar function, but when Start lost steam last fall the team posted to their blog calling for engineers interested in working on Live.com.
The company says that MSN attracts 465 million unique users worldwide per month. Itâ€™s long been believed that the MSN brand was being fazed out and would be replaced by Live.com as the intended home page and search engine for Microsoftâ€™s huge user base. You could say that Live.com has a much more contemporary feel to it than MSN – or you could say that itâ€™s a weak attempt to mimic Googleâ€™s sparse interface that ends up looking unfriendly and awkward. Todayâ€™s announcement also underlines the strangeness that Microsoftâ€™s new YouTube competitor is being launched under the MSN brand.
Looks like Microsoft is going the very dangerous route of embedding links Windows Live services in Windows Vista. Mary Jo Foley has heard from some Vista testers that the next private build, 5506, will contain links in the Welcome Screen to Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live OneCare, Windows Live Toolbar and Windows Live Mail Desktop, as well as including Windows Live Messenger in the Start Menu.
Wow, I guess Microsoft figured it had finished most of the old antitrust lawsuits, so why not give Google a chance? Sergey Brin and Larry Page can rest easy that, even if their companies loses to Microsoft, they can probably pull in at least half a billion in a lawsuit.
But seriously, Microsoft needs to tread carefully. Bundling software in the operating system has been hurting them badly for years (and is arguably the single mistake the company made that is responsible for its current stagnation) and almost split up the company. I know Microsoft wants so badly to beat Google, but they are already doing a good job of developing services, so just be careful how you promote them.
In the case of Live Messenger, this is really unnecessary. Live Messenger is the successor to MSN Messenger, the number one worldwide IM client. Microsoft doesn’t need to push this as much as it needs to push everyone to upgrade.
As for Live Mail Desktop, it is a superset of Windows Mail, the mail client in Windows Vista. Instead of taking any chances, why not embed most of the Live Mail Desktop features in Windows Mail? Better yet, why not have the account setup dialog in Windows Mail say “Need to use Mail with a Hotmail/Live Mail account? Click here to download an updated version called Windows Live Mail Desktop”?
Finally, for Windows OneCare: I’ve said this before; Vista should annoy users who don’t have antivirus. Every time the computer boots, and every day at 12 noon, the OS should fill the entire screen with a warning against the dangers of not having antivirus. Merely by expanding the market, Microsoft will make a ton of money, especially with its low-priced offering.
Brandon LeBlanc posts that the beta of Windows Live Mail Desktop has been refreshed, with better sign-in, faster mail sync, Windows Live Contacts management, and Newsgroups and RSS reading. I’m running the beta know, and not only does it look better (screenshot here), but it runs really fast, making webmail feel as fast as local mail. The Windows Live Contacts UI looks pretty good, the interface is perfect for widescreens, and the speed of the program makes me feel almost bad for using Outlook. All told, there is a lot to like here, and it is a huge step up from Outlook Express or Vista’s Windows Mail.
One cool feature: When you add a contact, if that contact has an Windows Live Space, their RSS feed is added to your subscriptions. Sign up at ideas.live.com.
Microsoft has added to the latest beta of Windows Live Mail Desktop a feature called Active Search, which adds contextual advertising alongside email messages. The feature, powered by Kanoodle ads, analyzes the content of emails and displays relevant advertising on the right-hand side of the program. It also contains a search box, allowing users to run an internet search from within the software (and that features ads by Microsoft AdCenter). Users can turn off the Active Search pane, but will then be presented with the old, untargeted banner ads.
Danny Sullivan points out that when Google started doing this two years ago, there was an uproar and legislation. Either no one cares, or we’ve gotten used to the idea since then. I’ll probably be keeping Active Search on, since my experience with Gmail’s ads is that they are sometimes useful, but, more importantly, they are real easy to ignore.
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.
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.