Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, words and deeds

Archive for September 2007

MSN and Live converging

with 2 comments

Remember the branding mess when Live and MSN were seperated out and a big invisible barrier was built between the two? Well it seems things are reverting back to something more like the way they were. I just spotted a new option on the header on all my Live pages:

image

That comes a few days after the remodeled MSN UK homepage which Chris Overd talked about here.

Berkowitz is obviously having an effect but this coming together of the Live and MSN brands only goes to show what a mess they made of it in the first place.

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

September 30, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Windows Live

Some Hotmail/Skydrive ideas

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I’ve been pondering some improvements that I’d like to see to Hotmail. Namely:

  1. I’d like the ability to attach files that exist in my skydrive. Taking the idea further, instead of attaching it to the email, let me have the option to instead insert a link to the file on skydrive instead.
  2. Skydrive has a great drag-and-drop feature that allows people to drag files into the browser window and upload them. I’d love to see the same feature available that would enable us to attach files within hotmail.

I’ve suggested these at http://feedback.live.com. Here’s hoping something turns up.

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

September 27, 2007 at 11:53 pm

Posted in SkyDrive

Zune 2.0 predictions

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Technology-future-gazing is a fun thing to do. Let’s face it, you can never actually be proved wrong can you? You can just say "Well they haven’t built it yet!"

There’s been a lot of noise lately about an updated version of Zune and given that I have v1 I thought I’d give some predictions for v2 which I expect to be out before the end of the year. Zune v1 was clearly just an attempt to get SOMETHING into the market -exemplified by the fact that it is only on sale in the USA- v2 will need to be groundbreaking to combat the fantastic new iPods. Given that there has been no new Zune release for a year now expectations for v2 are rightfully very high and its going to have to be something special to not disappoint.

So here goes:

  • You’ll be able to sync via wifi
  • It’ll contain a clock which will enable…
  • …a calendar that syncs with Windows Live Calendar if it ever gets off the ground
  • The Zune software on your computer (which has been universally panned) will receive a major overhaul
  • There will be a mechanism for syncing soapbox videos straight to your Zune
  • Same with photos from your Live Space.
  • There will be more channels from which to purchase songs. Zune kiosks (i.e. vending machines) could appear soon.
  • Loading podcasts onto it will be supported
  • You’ll be able to browse the web over wifi. There may even be an email client.
  • It will be more compact but the screen size will stay the same
  • You will be able to publish your playlists to (e.g.) your Live Space or Facebook. Perhaps even publish your "most played songs".
  • There will be some sort of crossover with XBox. Perhaps there’ll be the ability to stream media between the two.
  • Zune will be a media player extender, just like XBox is.
  • Zune software will run on an XBox, thus you won’t need a PC in order to sync.
  • Perhaps not in v2 but at some point there will be a GPS receiver in it.
  • Again not in v2 but you’d hope that at some point the FM radio receiver would be supplemented with a satellite radio receiver.

Remember, Microsoft primarily build platforms so you should expect that before long people will be able to develop applications that run on a Zune. They really could steal a march in this area because so far (correct me if I’m wrong) Apple haven’t taken the iPod in this direction.

I think the really really big message about Zune 2.0 will be something to do with XBox. In exactly the same way that Satya Nadella says that the Live Search folks are hoping to win over MSN users first, the Zune folks will be hoping to win over the XBox ones.

Also, no matter what Steve Ballmer says, they’re going to have to bring out a Zune Phone at some point. This guy certainly thinks they are going to. And there’s an apparent quote here from someone high up in the Zune team that says they will do.

 

If even 25% of these predictions come true I’d be amazed :)

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

September 25, 2007 at 6:38 am

Posted in Zune

Online word list is a prime target for SaaS

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You may have guessed that I use a fair few Microsoft products and many of them such as Word, Live Writer, Hotmail, Windows Live Mail all contain spell checking features. It annoys me no end that there is a separate custom word list for each of them because I have to add words that aren’t in the dictionary (like ‘centre’ or ‘labour’ – and yes those ARE the correct spellings) into every custom word list. Worse, I use several machines so I need to maintain different custom word lists for Word, Windows Live Mail and Live Writer on each machine. Even when using only two machines I now have (count them) 7 disparate custom word lists.

How much better would it be if I had just one custom word list that lived in the cloud and was synced to all of these tools? In the grand scheme of things its not exactly difficult to do, is it? After all if they can get syncronisation of offline email accounts working then syncing a list of words isn’t particularly taxing is it?

Furthermore, it would be a great example of Ray Ozzie’s software-and-a-service vision that would make it very simple for the layperson to understand.

Here’s hoping this appears in Office 14 if not before.

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

September 25, 2007 at 5:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Microsoft virtual world?

with 4 comments

As I write I’m sitting on a flight between Houston and Pheonix (I love Live Writer) and I’ve been reading US Airways’ in-flight magazine (a very very good in-flight magazine judging by the standards of others that I have read by the way) which has an article on virtual worlds such as Second Life. The article is called "My avatar, My self" and is authored by Daniel Tynan.

Here’s a few quotes from the article that got my attention:

  • "Linden Labs’ Second Life [has] eight million plus subscribers."
  • "Sony plans to launch Home, a virtual universe for Playstation 3 owners."
  • "And let’s not forget World of Warcraft whose 8.5million members pay $15 a month."  (Phew, that’s $1.53billion* a year. I didn’t know someone was making so much cash off of it.)
  • "Gartner predicts that by 2011 four out of five netizens will do at least some of their shopping, working and playing online in three dimensions."

As regular readers will no doubt have realised by now I have a natural inclination to wonder what the big players like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will do in this space. Given the numbers above I would be staggered if they are not hatching some sort of master plan for embroiling themselves in virtual worlds; they can’t afford not to. If what Gartner predicts is true there’s some serious advertising revenue to be made in virtual worlds and its much much bigger than the current social networking craze.

In order to run a virtual world there are a few infrastructural pieces that are fundamental; a network of data centres capable of serving masses of data and an authentication mechanism spring to mind. The 3 players I just mentioned all have these. They also have a number of other things going for them – mainly an established user base. Microsoft’s Live ID user base dwarves that of Second Life and World of Warcraft; Google, well, you don’t need me to estimate how big their user base is; Yahoo too have an enviable user base.

Being a self-proclaimed Microsoft-ophile I find myself imagining many many other ways that Microsoft could leverage a virtual world. They want to be integral to your home, your work life and your wallet so if we’re all going to be interacting in virtual worlds in the future then they need to be there.

  • There’s an obvious synergy with XBox Live and it sounds like Sony have beaten them to the punch there. Walking through a virtual world and bumping into Master Chief’s avatar is a compelling thought for gamers I’m sure.
  • They need a sales channel to combat Apple’s success with their branded high-street stores
  • They need a mass-viral mechanism for getting Windows Live in front of people
  • They already have a vehicle for delivering some/all of this in Live Messenger and if they make it easy to drop into a virtual world from Live Messenger then they could quickly surpass Second Life’s numbers.
  • Virtual Earth is an obvious platform on which to build their own virtual (note the lower case ‘v’) world
  • They could make it easy for Office Live customers to conduct business in the virtual world
  • It would give them an environment in which to run all those webcasts that they conduct so many of
  • Much of Microsoft’s success comes from their embracing of developers and a virtual world would provide another platform for developers to play with. Think of Facebook’s success and you see what I’m on about here.
  • I speculate they might even be able to leverage Silverlight to build a virtual world that can run in a web browser – as far as I know you need to install software in order to use Second Life and World of Warcraft

So…"Microsoft Live World" or perhaps even a real "Virtual Earth" that we can walk around in just like Second Life. You heard it hear first. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft, Google or Yahoo make a serious bid for Linden labs or one of their competitors in the not too distant future.

Dave Winer suggests that 2007 has been the year of social networks. I wonder what will be the year of virtual worlds? One other thought to leave you with; the rise of social networks and virtual worlds is moving operating systems closer and closer to being merely commodities and that adds more credence to my theory that Windows will one day be free.

-Jamie

*That’s a UK billion by the way. i.e. 1 000 000 000

Written by Jamiet

September 24, 2007 at 1:43 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Does sharpen help or hinder?

with 3 comments

I’ve been noticing of late that some of the pictures I publish to this blog via Windows Live Writer (WLW) don’t look particularly great. Here’s one such example: http://jamiethomson.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!550F681DAD532637!1740.entry

Scott noticed as well and he contacted me about it earlier so I decided to investigate a bit further. There are 4 pictures below that are all of the same screenshot i.e. The results from the Windows Vista Live Search gadget when searching for "Billie Swamp Safari" which I visited yesterday. Two of the pictures were copied and pasted from mspaint.exe into WLW, the other two were saved from mspaint.exe and inserted using WLW’s ‘Insert Picture’ feature. Also, two of them had WLW’s ‘Sharpening’ effect applied to them, the other two did not. That gives four permutations overall. The four pictures are shown below:

  1. (Top left) Copy-paste from mspaint.exe No sharpening applied.
  2. (Top right) Copy-paste from mspaint.exe. Sharpening applied.
  3. (Bottom left) Insert picture from hard drive. No sharpening applied.
  4. (Bottom right) Insert picture from hard drive. Sharpening applied.

[Note that depending on how you view this blog entry the pictures may not appear as I described above. Hence I’ve applied watermarks to make it obvious.]

image image

billieswamp_searchresultsbillieswamp_searchresults

I’m no imagery expert so I’ll ask you instead, which do you think is the best? Tell me in the comments and we’ll see which comes out with the most votes.

By the way, on the blog entry linked to at the top of this one I also used WLW’s ‘Color Pop’ effect so maybe I’ll investigate the effects of that another day. It was also published from WLW beta 2 whereas this one is from WLW beta 3.

-Jamie

Written by Jamiet

September 23, 2007 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Astoria and Web3S converge

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Three weeks ago I wrote this blog entry that raised a question mark over why Microsoft were coming out with two seemingly contradictory RESTful APIs (Astoria and Live Data) for exposing data. I linked to this forum posting where Federico Raggi from Microsoft stated that rather than being contradictory they were actually complementary. I questioned if that was actually the case and asked for clarification on this point.

Well since then a few things have come to light. Firstly that I was wrong to refer to Live Data as a RESTful API. Yaron Goland corrected me by stating that Web3S is the technology (which has come out of the Live Data team) that I should probably be comparing to Astoria. Actually it turned out that that would be wrong as well because I was wrong to mention the two in the same breath. Astoria is a toolkit for exposing data, Web3S is a data access protocol that can be used for exposing data.

Confused? I was a little so I was thankful to the god of Astoria (namely Pablo Castro) for posting a blog entry entitled "Astoria Design: payload formats". In this entry Pablo explains how an Astoria data service will expose data in a number of different formats, one of which will be Web3S. The Astoria and Live Data teams (i.e. those headed by Pablo and Yaron respectively) were clear from the start that their technologies were complementary and they were dead right. Clearly Web3S is a basket into which Microsoft will be placing lots of their eggs and it will be interesting to see whether this will prove beneficial or whether Yaron’s decsion to not leverage the more industry-standard protocol APP will harm them.

Either way, its good to see that two completely separate teams within Microsoft are in sync with each other and are building complementary products. I wonder if the European Commission will decide that that is against the law as well?

-Jamie

cross-posted to here

Written by Jamiet

September 20, 2007 at 10:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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