Category Archives: Microsoft

Windows Marketplace for Mobile preview

Windows Marketplace for MobileThanks to Long Zheng you can view a promo of the coming Windows Marketplace for Mobile experience. It looks pretty good actually, although the guy doing the voice over did sound a tad cheesy. (The screenshot on the right is taken from the video on Long’s site.)

The selection process, rating system, easy download and general look’n’feel are all good… just like they should be when you’re playing catchup to another vendor who shipped months ago. Oh well, at least they are trying.

And speaking of trying, it sound like they are listening to feedback. They’re now allowing free upgrades for the lifecycle of the application. They’re also offering a money-back guarantee on any apps you download. A nice touch in my opinion.

Back on March 14 over on my personal blog I lamented the ‘charge the developer’ mentality that seemed to be pervading this initiative, and I agree with Long’s thoughts along those lines also. So I’m happy to see improvements from the Mobile team.

Here’s the comments from the PressPass announcement:

In addition, people will be able to return an application after purchase within 24 hours for a full refund. Microsoft also announced today that developers will now be able to deliver updates to their applications for free* throughout the application lifecycle.

Another interesting note form the press piece is how many companies have signed on to be a part of the program, including Facebook, EA Mobile, Netflix and MySpace (who we covered separately earlier today).

Windows Live for Mobile

And on April 2 the Windows Live for Mobile suite will be available for free download. Here’s the details:

Microsoft also announced that Windows Live for Mobile will be available for free download this week for customers in 25 languages. Windows Live for Mobile is the company’s mobile suite of Internet services designed specifically to take advantage of the Windows Mobile platform. It includes mobile versions of Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Contacts, Windows Live Spaces, Microsoft Live Search and enhanced photo upload capabilities. Customers who have Windows Mobile 6.x phones can visit on April 2 to download the suite.

Things are certainly starting to get exciting (for a change) in the Windows Mobile space. Please, let it continue.

TomTom and Microsoft are friends again

Microsoft and TomTom settle This is good news, although probably not for the lawyers involved who may have been getting ready for a long running case. Microsoft and TomTom (who make the in-car navigation devices that we all seem to be needing these days) have come to a resolution over the patent infringement cases raised recently.

Reading the Microsoft PressPass post you come away with the distinct impression that TomTom were in the wrong and Microsoft have helped them see the error of their ways. But that’s the spin I guess. Who’s to know what the full intricacies were, I’m just glad to see that Microsoft can put its attention back on making stuff better, as opposed to stopping other people use their stuff.

Here’s part of what the Microsoft IP lawyer said:

We were able to work with TomTom to develop a patent agreement that addresses their needs and ours in a pragmatic way. When addressing IP infringement issues, there are two possible paths: securing patent coverage or not using the technology at issue. Through this agreement, TomTom is choosing a combination of both paths to meet the unique needs of its business, and we are glad to help them do so.

MySpace and Silverlight

MySpace Silverlight SDKThere’s no doubt that Silverlight is powering ahead in many circles. As Ars Technica reported earlier, the latest development along those lines has Silverlight and MySpace working together. MySpace is now allowing developers to host Silverlight applications on the MySpace Open Platform.

From the MySpace Developer Platform Wiki:

Using Silverlight and the MySpace Open Platform, Developers can rapidly create and deliver sophisticated MySpace applications that provide streaming video, graphics and audio to a variety of platforms and devices.

The MySpace Silverlight SDK is available here.

Windows Mobile

But the Microsoft love doesn’t end there. Later this summer (whatever that means) MySpace will be releasing a Windows Mobile app for managing MySpace details, including Profile Management and Messaging friends.

These are good developments for both Microsoft and MySpace. MySpace is starting to lose traction in the social networking arena, and have a few more interesting integrations such as these can’t hurt. Microsoft also stands to benefit of course. Whilst having a Mobile app might not seem the biggest achievement (after all there’s an iPhone app for just everything these days), the penetration of Silverlight into yet another area is good to see.

Personally I think Silverlight is going to be unstoppable and will dominate the browser in a few short years. Windows Mobile on the other hand has a very shaky future. At least Microsoft are hiring more talent to boost the platform.

Microsoft still hiring

Careers at MicrosoftI don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing a lot of requests for developers lately. Seems as though despite what the media might be reporting, there are a lot of companies still hiring.

Case in point: Microsoft. Although they had to initiate some layoffs earlier this year, that hasn’t stopped them hiring in important areas. As The Standard reports, there are currently 466 job openings in Seattle alone. Interestingly there were numerous roles in Windows Mobile (34 by my count) and Live Search (31). This is good news since those two areas are particularly weak in the Microsoft stable.

Some roles however have been around for a while, like this one for a Programming Writer dating back to March last year.

(via Steven Bink)

Outlook 2007 SP2 Improvements

Outlook 2007

There’s a huge batch of performance improvements coming in Office 2007 SP2, especially for Outlook users. This Microsoft Outlook Support article details the enhancements.

Gains in general performance, storage algorithms and user interface are top of the list. As are a ton of bug fixes. Even just focussing on the startup process has seen dividends. Here’s a comment from the team:

Our approach to optimizing the startup process is fairly straight-forward. We analyzed all the tasks Outlook queues and improved the boot time by removing a few operations that were considered unnecessary, and by better orchestrating the execution of the necessary tasks.

One of the key items I noticed was the improved shutdown performance. Life can be frustrating when you are running for a meeting and need to shutdown. Waiting a few minutes (yes a few minutes feels like an eternity when you are in a rush) for Outlook to disappear from Task Manager so you can shutdown Windows can be a hassle. This fix alone will be reason to apply the update.

The improvements are coming SP2 later this year, although you can request to download just these Outlook updates via the support site.

All-in-all this looks very positive.

Thanks to SBTUG news for the link.

Windows 7 RC and Release rumours

Windows 7 Release CandidateArs Technica reported on the ‘accidental’ TechNet page detailing the Windows 7 RC release coming. The page (since taken down) details how the Release Candidate will be available in May 2009 (and not expire until June 2010).

This adds further weight to a July release of Windows 7, noted back in February on the Windows 7 Center site.

I’ve been using the 7000 build since January and just love it. I can’t wait for the RC.

Windows Marketplace for Mobile

I was a little disappointed to read Microsoft’s Developer Strategy for the Next Generation of Windows Phones.

Windows Mobile Development Unveiled last week, this PressPass piece indicates that Microsoft will be sharing 70% of sales revenue with developers for any Windows Mobile 6.5 applications sold through Windows Marketplace for Mobile. (Note: 70% is the same as Apple shares on their AppStore)

Put another way, Microsoft is charging you 30% of your sale, for giving you the opportunity to make your app available via Marketplace for Mobile. This seems high to me. Of course, having access to a huge international market is fantastic (and well worth the 30% commission I’m sure), and the promised feedback to developers on whether their apps meet certification requirements is extremely valuable.

But in a catch-up strategy (which Microsoft is definitely in), and with established channels such as Handango already in play (although to be fair they charge a whopping 40%), I was hoping for something spectacular from Microsoft.

Microsoft may still have significant market share in the mobile space, but it is eroding, and thus the success of endeavours like Marketplace for Mobile is vital for the platform. Microsoft needs to be attracting amazing mobile developers and encouraging the development of amazing mobile apps.

Ideally we’d be seeing Microsoft offering 95% share, with weekly competitions, awards for exceptional apps (as judged by their certification committee), special promotions of quality apps, etc.

Obviously there is significant infrastructure (and thus costs) required to facilitate the Mobile Marketplace, but extracting this from developers is not the way to proceed.

No, in this catch-up-to-the-iPhone-App-Store climate, Microsoft needs to view Mobile Marketplace as a marketing expense, not a monetization strategy.


Aside: In some ways this reminds me of the mistake Microsoft made with the early versions of its developer tools for Office (VSTO).  Initial versions required special ISV partnerships, followed by versions charged at a hefty license fee. Not until recent years has VSTO become part of the Visual Studio install, and even now it still has some hurdles, since it is only included in the Professional Version and above. IMO, putting the VSTO tooling in the Express versions is long overdue, but that’s a topic for another post…

Photosynth and Location

Photosynth Map Explore

Perhaps you missed this little gem: Photosynth Map Explore.

I hope not, because I think it represents an interesting insight into the future of location.

A little while back I was underwhelmed with Photosynth, but I did look forward to improvements with location being tied in. Photosynth Map Explore is the answer. It’s early days, but the potential here is huge. I love it.

I was, and still am, looking forward to every photo being geo-tagged and angle coded. But here’s the obvious tipping point I missed. At some point we’ll get to a point where we have enough geo-tagged photos that we’ll be able to go in reverse. We’ll be able to upload an older photo, and with technology like Photosynth, be able to reverse calculate where it was taken.

You can see where I’m heading right? With enough photos catalogued in a site like the Photosynth Map Explore site, we’ll be able to slot in a photo and have it tell us where the photo was taken.

And the beautiful thing… every new photo that gets reverse located, adds further to the overall database, and makes the coverage even better.

The possibilities are endless. We haven’t even discussed the overlaying of timestamp data on the coverage. You’ll be able to reverse not only a location, but perhaps even the time it was taken (as landmarks, seasons and other characteristics change). And then the obvious step is to be able to do this for any frame in a video.

I’m actually pretty excited about this. And intrigued. Just as Google Maps and Live Maps has brought national security considerations into the conversation (and with just satelite imagery), imagine how potentially disruptive technology like this could be. 

Find out more about Photosynth here.

(For a good overview read the LiveSide post.)