Archive for August 2009
[Warning. This post gets a bit technical.]
I had a conversation today with a colleague (let’s call him John) about various online email providers and the services that they offer around that. He told me that his wife uses Hotmail for her email because she likes Windows Live for Windows Mobile – the client that can be installed on Windows phones to enable push email and email sync with Hotmail.
John however prefers to use Google Apps (which incorporates Gmail) because it enables him to use his own email domain (e.g. email@example.com) rather than a Google-provided address like firstname.lastname@example.org.
He had one complaint about Google Apps though – there was no mobile client as good as Windows Live for Windows Mobile. However, the fact that he can use his own domain (johnsdomain.com) keeps him on Google Apps.
Its a competitor to Google Apps because it allows you to use your domain (mine is jamie-thomson.net) in conjunction with Hotmail which also means you get to use the goodness of Windows Live for Windows Mobile, Outlook (via Outlook Connector) and Windows Live Mail for email plus the plethora of other Windows Live products and services. All for free.
John was pretty taken aback at this. He didn’t know that Windows Live Admin Center existed and upon taking a brief look he seemed very interested in migrating off of Google Apps. He’s going to take a closer look and then make a decision.
What I found most interesting though is that John asked the same question that I’ve been asking for the past couple of years, “Why don’t Microsoft talk about Admin Center?”. It really is a fantastic service (and recently got improved – more on that in a later blog post) but nobody out there knows about it and meanwhile Google Apps is hoovering up customers while Microsoft do nothing about it. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
I just got the following email from Expedia:
Taking away Live ID sign-in? Congratulations Expedia, you just lost took away the one thing that makes me use your site so now you’ve lost a customer!
Earlier this year I wrote a blog entry entitled Building a Twitter clone where I speculated how a developer might build a service to rival Twitter using Live Messenger statuses. In fact, the use of Live Messenger statuses to build a Twitter compete is something that I have pondered way back in September 2007 when I wrote Microsoft Presence. A rival to Twitter?
The more I think about it this subject then the more I’m managing to convince myself that Windows Live wave 4 will include some sort of Twitter compete when it get released, hopefully later this year. Twitter has proved the value of aggregating public status comments and it wouldn’t be too much of a leap for Microsoft to build a very similar service using Windows Live statuses. There’s gold in those tweets and harnessed properly there could be gold in Windows Live statuses too.
I await with baited breath.
Up until fairly recently I was sceptical about the virtues of digital note-taking apps such as Microsoft Office Onenote. “A digital notebook? Pah, text editors work just fine ta very much!” used to be my refrain. Then I got turned onto Evernote (which I’ve blogged about before: Evernote – Your memory downloaded) and I started to realise that digital note-taking apps might have some legs. My initial interest in Evernote subsided however when I realised its key failing; that to all intents and purposes it is a web-only application save for some niche photo uploading abilities using mobile clients (I stand to be corrected on these points – I haven’t looked at Evernote for a few months).
That’s when I first took a good look at Onenote and realised just what a cool application it was. Here was an Office app that freed you from all those annoying nuances of Word that you have had to learn to live with. Onenote won’t unceremoniously rearrange all your pictures and scroll unannounced between page breaks like Word is wont to do – you put something on the Onenote surface and it stays there. The Notebook->Section->Page organisational hierarchy took a little bit of getting used to but once you’re familiar with it you realise the ease of which you can use it to navigate through your notes. Couple that with the ability to search through all your notes from one place (including text within pictures) and Onenote is one damn fine little application.
Another of my burdgeoning interests is the relevancy of syncing abilities in today’s applications (as evidenced in another recent blog: Sync is the word). Imagine then how glad I was to learn from David Rasmussen’s blog OneNote 2010 – What’s New For You that Onenote 2010 is to get the following new features:
- Sync to Cloud (Windows Live): Your notebooks sync and are available anywhere from any machine. Of course this is in addition to all the existing ways you can sync notebooks (file shares, SharePoint, USB drives etc.)
- OneNote Web App: You can access and edit your entire notebook from a browser. Even on a machine that doesn’t have OneNote installed.
- OneNote Mobile: A more complete OneNote version for Windows Mobile phones. Syncs whole notebooks. Syncs directly to the cloud. No need to tether your device. Richer editing support.
Wow. Sync your notebooks to Windows Live and make them publicly available – that is a killer offering. Couple that with another new feature (also from David Rasmussen’s blog):
- Wiki linking: you can easily create a link to an existing page or to a new page for a topic. You can do this by just typing the Wiki link syntax (e.g. just type [[The Page Title I Want]] ), or use our new page search experience from within the link dialog. This enables you to easily create Wiki like notebooks with lots of cross links across pages.
and Onenote/Windows Live has an opportunity to become the de facto wiki tool on the web. Free, no installation, no hosting, auto-merging and syncing using an offline (paid for) client – that’s a wiki offering that is going to be hard to beat.
If you’re interested in knowing more about what Onenote can do then go and read I Heart OneNote – 15 top Onenote tips by Chris Pratley.
I have but one future wish for Onenote – I want the ability to view all of my notebooks together at once using Plex on Touchwall:
Windows 7 RTM has arrived and I’ve spent much of this weekend installing it, poking and prodding it, and generally taking it for a spin. My opinion? Well, I never realised how bad Vista was until now – Windows 7 is a pleasure. Its nippy, its uncluttered and it looks great.
My first public comment about it was on Twitter yesterday morning: #windows7 sleep –> login screen –> desktop in 12 seconds. Is this *really* windows?
This thing is quick. Really quick. Boot, opening apps, opening IE tabs…its all pretty instantaneous and its indicative of how Vista conditioned us to accept bad performance as the norm. One thing – it labours a bit if I have Zune software open but that’s more a problem with the app itself rather than the O/S.
As I said it is uncluttered and looks great and I had no wish to spoil that by filling the desktop full of worthless shortcuts so I’ve kept it almost as barren as after a fresh install save for some Mesh folders and a couple of gadgets:
Taskbar has gone vertical rather than horizontal following advice from Tim Sneath and so far I’m liking it. The background image is part of the Windows 7 Architecture Aero theme and changes periodically.
The installer wouldn’t run on Windows 7 because it didn’t recognise the O/S. Windows 7’s Vista Compatibility Mode to the rescue then which enables you to fool an installer into thinking its running on Vista:
With the software installed my printer/scanner is working normally.
No doubt about it, jump lists rock. I particularly like the Explorer jump list which allows you to pin specific folders to it and the Virtual PC jump list which automatically gives you shortcuts to your virtual machines.
Powershell built-in. Consumers won’t care but to IT geeks like me this is a big big plus!
Thirsting for more…
This wouldn’t be a blog post authored by Jamiet if there weren’t a list of improvements that I would like to see in the future so here goes:
- I have now taken to launching programs by pressing the windows key () and then a number pertaining to a program’s position on the taskbar. Its a sweet little time saver but could be improved by showing a little tooltip over each taskbar icon whenever I press so that I know which number to press. Office 2010 (and 2007 as well I believe) does this when you press the ALT key and its incredibly useful:
- Taking the previous idea a little further, why not popup a menu of every option available to me when I hold down . I’m sure most people don’t know about the goodness of shortcuts like:
- +[left arrow]/[right arrow]
- +[up arrow]
- +[down arrow]
- Shift++[left arrow]/[right arrow]
- I’m missing Vista’s globe icon that you see in the systray when you have an internet connection – bring that back please (if there’s a way to do it in Windows 7 or there’s an alternative that I’m missing please let me know).
- It would be nice if IE8 web slices could co-exist as Windows Sidebar gadgets. I asked for this one a long time ago however (when the first beta of IE8 came out) and have not seen it materialise so I don’t envisage it happening any time in the near future either.
- I haven’t yet found a way of accessing the jumplists without resorting to using the mouse. OK, that’s not quite true – jumplists are available on the start menu as well (which I can get to without using the mouse) but that isn’t as easy as using +<digit> to launch an app. Perhaps Shift++<digit> could be used?
and I admit I certainly didn’t know about a lot of them before writing this blog post so a better way of telling the user about them is definitely required. Try them out for yourself right now (some are Windows 7 only) and see what they do or read about them where I read about (most of) them at Keyboard shortcuts – Windows Vista Help.
Windows 7 is simply a massive leap forward from Vista and I didn’t realise quite how bad Vista was until this weekend. Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments.
Avid Windows Live watchers like myself will no doubt have read Kip Kniskern’s blog post from earlier today Two new Windows Live services coming soon: Documents and Devices. Kip included some screenshots that just about confirm what I’ve suspected all along (read my post from January: Some thoughts about the convergence of Windows Live, Office Live and Mesh), that Windows Live, Office Live and Live Mesh are being combined into a single combined service.
I’ve been taking a closer look at the screenshots that Kip published and the one below caught my eye in particular:
Clearly “Devices” is meant to be a reincarnation of the same functionality that currently resides at http://www.mesh.com so its fair to assume that that site is going to disappear (that would explain why its hardly changed in the past 12 months). I wonder then if the brand name “Mesh” is going to disappear also – its a word that Ray Ozzie seems particularly keen on churning out in his infrequent speaking appearances but it seems that Mesh as a product and as a brand might well be going for good.
What is also intriguing to me is the following line that you can see in that screenshot:
Add your PC with Windows Live Sync which comes with Windows Live Essentials
That makes me think that the current Windows Live Sync and Mesh clients are to get merged into one and, again, the “Mesh” moniker will be dropped.
All of this makes complete sense of course. As cool and as useful as Mesh clearly is it has never progressed beyond a beta so it makes sense that its features get embroidered into an existing mature product suite with which there is a lot of overlap. I’m now more and more excited about the upcoming Windows Live Wave 4 – I can’t wait to get my grubby mitts on it!