Archive for September 2009
I just received an email from Microsoft Billing telling me that my Hotmail Plus subscription had been renewed for the next 12 months. No issue with that, I’m an avid user of Hotmail Plus (only 14.99GBP a year) because it allows me to browse Windows Live without seeing any ads.
What struck me as strange though was the listing of benefits that Hotmail Plus provides:
- the ability to send larger attachments
- 10 Gigabytes of total Windows Live Hotmail account space
- exemption from the account expiration policy
- No third party advertising
Perhaps someone should tell whomever manages Hotmail Plus that regular Hotmail offers everyone ever-increasing storage space so their boast about 10GB of storage is a little bit shallow! Just a thought!
A quick post on Office Web Apps before I pop off on holiday for a week! You may have heard that Office Web Apps was released in Tech Preview form two days ago as announced in a post Office Web Apps Coming to Windows Live on the Office Web Apps blog. I’ve been taking a look and here are some early thoughts.
Firstly, you need to get accepted into the Tech Preview. Liveside have posted a workaround that seems to be getting most people in although I suspect the number of invites is finite so get in quick. The only thing I would add to what Liveside said is that, if you are not in the US, you should point your browser at http://skydrive.live.com/?mkt=en-us rather than just http://skydrive.live.com.
Upon getting in you’ll find the interface very familiar. I have been poking around at the Excel web app as opposed to Word or Powerpoint and so far it seems as though most of the basic functions are there. Missing features that I have discovered so far include:
- CTRL+<down arrow> doesn’t move you to the bottom of a set of data like it does in the desktop flavour of Excel
- There is no fill handle
One thing that I *really* like is the fact that there is no need to hit a ‘Save’ button, everything gets saved straightaway exactly as happens with OneNote 2007. I’ve long thought that the Save button is superfluous these days so its great to see it disappear.
The other great feature is that multiple people can edit a document simultaneously and any changes that one person makes appear instantly on the screens of the other editors. Give it a try yourself by simply opening the same document in two separate browser windows – it really is a fantastic feature.
These two simple changes are paradigm shifting. For years hitting the Save button and not being able to edit documents that other people are using have been staple annoyances in offices around the world, Office Web Apps (and indeed Office 2010) will change those activities forever.
If you want to make feature requests for Office Web Apps then head to https://mscuillume.smdisp.net/Collector/Survey.ashx?Name=aTechPreXL_Req_en&loginid=null. I have already submitted a couple of requests:
- I use CTRL+<down arrow> a lot in regular Excel to go to the end of set of data. It would be nice if it worked in Office Web Apps too.
- (This one is a bit geeky)
Now that Excel spreadsheets are online it would be great if we could use a URL to address a subsection of a spreadsheet.
For example, I have a (publicly available) document here: http://cid-550f681dad532637.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/Misc/20090919Demo.Xlsx that has some data in cell range B2:C5.
Wouldn’t it be great if I could access just that raw data by appending some extra parameters like this: http://cid-550f681dad532637.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Public/Misc/20090919Demo.Xlsx?range=B2:C5&format=csv and it returns me back the data in CSV format that I can view in the browser (formats could be raw XML, RSS, JSON etc…).
I do a lot of work that involves distributing data and I reckon this would be a great and simple way of doing exactly that in a way that is easily consumable by other applications.
I’m a big believer in the collaborative power of the web and I loath the sending of office docs via email because it just creates multiple copies of a document – collaboration goes out of the window as soon as it goes into an email. Sure, you can provide Sharepoint and Windows Live as ways of preventing this but that won’t stop it from happening.Hence, it would be nice if Office Web Apps prevented us from sending documents via email. My suggestion is that you provide an option for a doc to be viewable and editable in the web app *only*. In other words, let us specify that the document cannot be downloaded and cannot be opened in Excel.
What are your first impressions of Office Web Apps?
Back in July some quotes from MSN UK Executive Producer Peter Bale alluded to Microsoft providing a music streaming service. He said:
"Music is an important area for Microsoft. We are looking at launching a music streaming service imminently.
"It will be a similar principle to Spotify but we are still examining how the business model will work."
As is typical for hit-hungry online news sites various things were inferred from this that on first reading might be attributed to Mr Bale but which actually aren’t. Namely:
- It was to be ready in July (Mr Bale never said that was the case and indeed that turned out to be wrong)
- It will be offered through MSN (nothing that Mr Bale said suggested that was the case)
Never let the actual facts get in the way of a good headline eh? (Can you tell that I have a slight disdain for online journalism).
However, taken in context all of this is rather interesting given that Microsoft today launched a music streaming service under the guise of Zune:
Streaming Music, On Demand
Now as Zune Pass subscribers, not only can customers enjoy access to close to 6 million songs from the Zune Marketplace catalog for $14.99, the price of one CD a month, but they can also log into Zune.net and stream full albums and tracks through a computer’s browser.
I wonder if this is the service that Mr Bale was talking about. Will the Zune streaming service be offered through MSN given Mr Bale’s role in the company? Will this herald the introduction of the Zune service to the UK? (note that Mr Bale is head of MSN UK) Is this a portent to Zune devices being launched in the UK?
We can only hope!
UPDATE! I’ve just seen the following quote from Terry Farrell, Senior Project Manager for Zune (emphasis is mine):
“The bigger story,” Farrell contended, “is about how it (the Zune) is helping us build a new entertainment brand for Microsoft. Among the core pieces of this brand are the Zune HD, MSN and Windows Media Center. The idea is to provide a set of unifying services — the same video service/same catalog — across all of these devices.
So, it seems as though MSN is absolutely part of the bigger picture. I’m becoming more and more convinced that Zune streaming is the service that Peter Bale was talking about!
UPDATE 2: More intriguing still. The aforementioned Peter Bale has just posted the following on Twitter in reply to this blog entry:
The winners in the inaugural Clubhouse Choice awards were recently announced by the Community Manager for Windows, Marcus Schmidt, in a post on the community clubhouse space Announcing the Clubhouse Choice Award Winners:
We’ve tallied up the votes from the recent Clubhouse Choice Awards, and…(insert drum-roll here)…the winners are:
As you can see I was honoured and humbled to be awarded the Clubhouse All-star award; honoured because I will forever be known as the inaugural winner of this award and humbled because this was voted for by the only people that matter – people who use Windows Live products and services day-in and day-out all over the world. Just being nominated for the award was a real thrill for me but to actually win thanks to voting from my peers – words can’t really express how I feel about that. Its extremely gratifying and, as I said before, a really quite humbling experience.
My prizes turned up in the post this week and I really was quite taken aback at what I received. Here’s the run down:
- A commemorative award that I can put on my sideboard
- A laptop bag
- $25 in Amazon vouchers
- A Nikon Coolpix S220 compact digital camera
- A Flip Ultra HD video camera
Here’s a photo of them all together:
“Taken aback” doesn’t really do justice to the feeling I got when I unwrapped my prizes. This is an amazing set of gifts which I never even dreamed of receiving and I am truly grateful to Marcus and his colleagues at Microsoft both for providing such great gifts and in in doing so exhibiting their commitment to this great community of Windows, & Windows Live users that just keeps growing and growing and growing. I’m proud to be a part of it and, once again, thank you thank you thank you to Marcus, to Microsoft and most of all to those of you that voted me the Clubhouse Choice All-star 2009.
Last but not least I’d like to offer my congratulations to my fellow awardees and commiserations to those that were nominated but were pipped at the post; I’m sure the awards will be back next year bigger and better than before so get your authoring hats on, start your blogging engines, and maybe you’ll be the proud owner of the title of Clubhouse Choice All-Star 2010.
Thank you all once again.
Windows Live man-about-town Angus Logan wants your help. There are some submissions put forward for the forthcoming South-by-Southwest (SXSW) tech get-together that may warrant your attention, particularly if you’re a regular user of Windows Live features like Hotmail and the What’s New feed.
Web Mail – Is There Room Left to Innovate? (Web Mail)
Web mail has been around the block, and everybody’s got it. Its role may be narrowing to the place you manage online bills, shopping, travel, and photos with mom, with conversations migrating to social networks and IM, but companies are still pounding the digital pavement for new users. If web mail isn’t going anywhere, where does it go from here?
Social Network Interop (Open Standards)
Portable contacts, life streaming and various ‘Connect’ offerings have begun to break down the silos and walled gardens that are social networks. Come hear a panel of experts discuss some of the technologies, design issues and future direction of this trend.
It may be worth your while voting as these subjects will directly influence the direction that Windows Live (and other online social bodies) may go in the next few years. My pick out of the three would be the third one – social interop will play a huge part in our online lives in the second decade of this century!
The Bing team are thinking about introducing a new feature called “Bing and Ping” which would allow you to share search results on Facebook and Twitter. Here’s the blurb:
We at the Bing team are firm believers in the idea that the only thing better than searching with Bing is sharing what you’ve found with your friends. That’s why we’ve been working on a potential new feature for Bing that does just that in a couple of clicks, which we call Bing & Ping.
Let’s break this down with an example: say you use Bing’s Instant Answers feature to check the score of the game, and you notice that your buddy’s favorite team has just been beaten pretty handily. Say you want to “delicately” remind him of their less-than-stellar moves with the ball. Bing & Ping lets you share this NFL instant answer through various places, like Facebook, Twitter, or even email in as few as two clicks. Reminding someone that their team has no defense has never been easier (in spite of the screenshot below, we of course aren’t talking about our beloved Seahawks).
It’s not just limited to sports, either. Share a neighborhood plumber recommendation with a friend though email, tweet local movie times, or post a flight status with your Facebook pals while you’re trying to bum a ride from the airport.
If you’re interested in previewing this feature, be sure to become a fan of our Facebook page. We’ll be sending a special invitation to our fans to preview Bing and Ping. Check it out and let us know what you think, if you like it and how we can make it better
Sounds like a nice feature but my first reaction to this was… ”What about Windows Live?” and judging by the ensuing comments on their blog post I’m not the only one. Why shouldn’t we have the ability to add to our shared favourites or even send an IM to one of our friends (assuming we were logged in to Messenger)? If you agree that that would be a nice feature then head over to the blog post and add your weight to the debate.