Microsoft rocks an ad about nothing

When I first read about the new Microsoft ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, I was really skeptical.  The match-up seemed strange; Bill Gates has pretty much stepped down from Microsoft and a Mac was always perched atop Jerry's desk in "Seinfeld."  But after watching the first ad several times, I think it’s incredibly successful (and hilarious).  Unfortunately, I seem to have the minority opinion (more on that later).

this entry continues

Microsoft Week Round-up

Ok, Microsoft Week ran a little long.  Here's a roundup of all the recent Microsoft related entries:

  1. Zune for Windows Mobile
  2. Microsoft, Zune, and hardware partners
  3. Zune Finally Installed!
  4. Zune Software Installer Needs Improvement
  5. Bill and Steve: The Historic Interview
  6. Microsoft Should Do More Hardware
  7. Microsoft SyncToy, best damn Backup app for home users I've ever used
  8. Microsoft Gets on their Multi-Touch Love with Surface
  9. Windows Home Servers

Zune for Windows Mobile


The iPhone is set for release on June 29th, and it will probably enjoy a huge amount of press attention.  If Microsoft is working on a version of the Zune player software for Windows Mobile, they should try to release it on the same day or the day before.  If done well, Zune for Windows Mobile would give anyone with a Windows Mobile smart phone or PDA a great media player experience.  And if available as a free download, it would be a great way for Microsoft to ingratiate itself with Windows Mobile smart phone users, especially those who might consider buying a iPhone.  By releasing the download with the iPhone launch, Microsoft could potentially piggyback on the iPhone's press and enjoy a great deal of coverage.  Stories on the iPhone could easily mention: "Apple iPhone is on sale today for $499.  But if you already have a phone that runs Windows Mobile, Microsoft has a free download of its Zune music player for you."

Microsoft, Zune, and hardware partners

Even with all my installation problems, I'd still argue that after iPod/iTunes, the Zune and Zune Software has made the greatest contribution to the digital audio player landscape.  While Zunes may not be flying off the shelf now, Microsoft is known for slow and steady improvement, and I wouldn't be surprised if within a few years the Zune is healthy competition for the iPod.  As I discussed in my entry about Microsoft's strategy, Microsoft likes to create platforms but let hardware companies sell the actual devices.  With the Zune, Microsoft wisely made the player, software and online store itself, in a uncharacteristically Apple-like move.  However Microsoft could eventually do something Apple never would: let other hardware companies make devices that are compatible with the Zune platform. When and if the Zune establishes itself in the market and in the hearts of consumers, Microsoft should seriously consider allowing other hardware companies make Zune compatible devices.

this entry continues

Zune Finally Installed!


Woohoo, I was finally able to install the Zune Software! I've played around with the app just a tad, and so far I like it a lot more than I thought I would. It's clean, snappy and attractive. Read for a short rundown of the installation problems, and some quick ideas of how the installer might be able to avoid this problem in the future.

this entry continues

Zune Software Installer Needs Improvement


I was in the middle of writing an entry about the Zune, when it occurred to me that the iPod attracts so much attention, it seems hardly anyone realized that the real competition isn't the iPod, it's iTunes.  After all, without iTunes the iPod is just sleek paperweight.  I thought if anyone wouldn't overlook the importance of making a great music jukebox and music store, it would be Microsoft with all it's emphasis on software.  So I began downloading the Zune software to check out how it compared to iTunes.  The first thing the installer does is check for updates.  Huh?  I just downloaded it, how could there be updates?  Somehow though, there are, and it has to download them.  This on top of the time I spent downloading the installer.  Finally it finishes with the updates, and I get this lovely "Installation Error" message above.  Wow.  There's a link on the screen so I click it which instructs me to dive into Windows Event Viewer to try to figure out what happened.  Double Wow.  This is where the average person would just give up.  I've been using Windows since forever, installed countless applications, and this is the first time I've had to look in Windows Event Viewer to troubleshoot an installation.  Also I've used every version of iTunes since version 4, and I've never had any installation problems.  Now, I don't own a Zune, I just wanted to try out the program, which you'd think would be something Microsoft would want to encourage.  But this experience has been totally disappointing and frustrating.  I even found myself getting annoyed at the language on the help page:

Use the information in the Date and Time columns to locate the events that were logged for MsiInstaller during the time that you could not complete the Zune software installation.

Are you kidding me?  When "I" could not complete the installation?!  It's the Zune installer that couldn't complete the installation, and somehow I'm getting blamed.  The copy should read more like "during the time when the Zune software installation failed."  Microsoft really needs to work on Zune software installation experience and try to keep from blaming users for their software problems in help documentation.  I'm going to work on installing it again tomorrow, even though it really doesn't deserve another chance.

Bill and Steve: The Historic Interview

Check out the historic interview of Bill Gates and Steve Job from the "All Things Digital" conference, courtesy of I was shocked at the number of times I laughed out loud while watching these interviews. Both Bill and Steve came out huge winners in this interview.

Microsoft Should Do More Hardware

Microsoft should ship more hardware! There I said it. I’m not saying Microsoft should become an all out hardware company, but its made great such contributions with the XBOX, Zune and now Surface that I wish they would do more products top-to-bottom. Microsoft’s typical strategy is to create software platforms, but the actual products are sold by hardware companies. This has a lot of advantages for Microsoft, and it creates opportunity for the hardware companies, which is good for the industry as a whole. But the strategy also has some downsides especially in the early stages of a new device or market.

this entry continues

Microsoft SyncToy, best damn Backup app for home users I've ever used


This is sort of another "You Should Do That" style post.  If you use Windows and are looking for a great back-up solution, you should try Microsoft SyncToy.  Before I got SyncToy backing up my work, photos and music was such a chore I just didn't bother.  But since SyncToy it's actually fun.  The interface is simple and even fun to use, and it provides a lot of functionality without being overcomplicated or confusing.  To understand why I love it so much, please read on, but if you're the "I'll believe it when I see it" type just go download it.

Microsoft SyncToy 1.4

this entry continues

Microsoft Week!


Given that the last two entries are about Microsoft, I've decided to do a bunch more. Admittedly, I can be pretty rough on Microsoft at times. But I assure you, it's out of love. For all my Apple coverage and admiration, my primary computer runs Windows XP and despite being almost 4 years old, it still runs like a champ (knock wood). Also, I know brilliant people work at Microsoft, and I sometimes find it frustrating when they seem to miss the obvious.

Microsoft Gets on their Multi-Touch Love with Surface


Microsoft has just announced their new product Surface.  Surface is 30" multi-touch display on the surface of a table which can not only react to multiple fingers (and users), gestures, but even devices placed on the surface.  There's a  great video where the user places a wifi digital camera on the table and the photos appear to spill out of the camera.  The user then places a cell phone on the table and begins dragging photos onto the phone.  The demonstration videos are really incredibly impressive, and the technology holds incredible promise.  However, these devices are going to cost between $5,000 and $10,000 and are currently only being marketed for places like hotel lobbies and in-store displays.  The other significant downside is that, like the Microsoft TouchLight and Perceptive Pixel Displays, Surface uses cameras and rear projection to sense finger contact and display the image.  That means the space under the table top is used for the display components, not your legs.  This makes Surface look more like a conventional CRT TV turned on it's back than a table.  As always this is really great research from Microsoft that will help bring this new interface mainstream.  But until these multi-touch displays can be built around an LCD or even Plasma display, don't expect the technology to spread too quickly.  Also, given that Apple has lots of multi-touch related patents filed, I wouldn't at all be surprised if Apple releases a multi-touch LCD display or tablet computer at some point this year.

Microsoft Surface
Microsoft Surface: Behind-the-Scenes First Look (

Windows Home Servers


Microsoft recently announced a new platform called Windows Home Server.  This will enable a new breed of NAS devices (home servers, you might call them) to collect and store music, movies, photos in one place from all the computers on the network.  That means families will have an easier time consolidating photos and music into one source.  Windows Home Server can even enable users to access their content securely over the web (wow, I didn't realize what a security nightmare this is going to be until I just wrote it).  The devices will also be able to preform automated backups, something most people should do, but don't.  Currently there are no devices available using Windows Home Server, the image above is a concept product by Carbon Design that will never be released (more pics here).  I'm personally really psyched about these devices, I use Microsoft's SyncToy to backup my PC and absolutely love it.  Also if these devices can consolidate my and my girlfriends music library into one source I'd be happy dude.  However, this is Microsoft we're talking about, so I'm just a tad skeptical...

this entry continues

Hotmail Cruelty


Recently a coworker asked me to help her send an e-mail attachment to her daughter using Microsoft Hotmail.  After we sent the message I said, "There now you should also have the attachment in your 'Sent Mail' folder."  But when we looked, the sent mail folder was empty.  It turns out Hotmail does not automatically save sent messages.  Instead there's a checkbox in the compose message screen to "Copy Message in Sent Folder."   Worst of all there is no account setting to "Always save my messages to Sent Folder," instead the user must click the checkbox each time.   How could they be so cruel?

I could tear into them more, but honestly, this just makes me sad.  At least it looks like Microsoft will make it easy for Hotmail users to migrate to their new e-mail service, "Windows Live Mail," which does automatically save sent mail.  Ok, maybe just a little more tearing...

this entry continues

More Touchscreen Research: Microsoft TouchLight

Microsoft has their own multipoint touchscreen reseach research prototype, the TouchLight. Now don't get too attached to the name, before you know it they'll re-name it "Microsoft Windows Powered Smart Touch Screen Professional Edition". Anyways, the TouchLight uses multiple cameras to dertimine hand and touch location. By tracking hand movement they plan to be able to detect 3D gestures to control the image on the screen. The TouchLight is also able to digitally capture documents that are pressed against the screen by snapping a picture of it with one of the cameras. Microsoft has partnered with a company called EON and is saying we'll see this by the end of the year. Ok, sure! Still a neat prototype, and further evidence that in the future all screens will be touchscreens...

TouchLight Video ( via
TouchLight Demo with Andy Wilson (
Microsoft's TouchLight makes 3D hands-on (CNET Videos)
EON Touchlight Video (

Hey do you remember "Microsoft Mira?" No. What about "She Spies?"


Before there were even rumors of an Apple tablet, Microsoft had already unveiled their ill-fated Mira concept. Microsoft, in a stunning branding move, renamed the friendly sounding "Mira" to "Windows Powered Smart Display," good one guys. Anyways, a Windows Powered Smart display is a tablet display that wirelessly connects to a host Windows PC, allowing the user to access the computer from anywhere in the house, up to about 100 feet away. The idea seemed good enough, as ideally the Smart Display would be cheaper than a laptop, offer many of the same functionality without having to upkeep another computer. However, the execution was so abysmal that it never stood a chance.

Read on for more about why Mira failed.

this entry continues
Powered by
Movable Type 3.2