Whenever I go out and talk to Microsoft Partners, I try to keep the demo'ing (not sure that's a word) to a maximum, and the slides, to a minimum, as I really feel that more can be gained by seeing a product in action, rather than reading about it on a slide. I normally start my demo's with a quick chat around how Vista enables users to not only find information (a-la Windows XP and Desktop Search), but use information quickly and efficiently (not a-la XP and Desktop Search :-p). This leads nicely into a discussion around the start menu, and how Vista removes the need to 'hunt and peck' for applications, so instead of having either lots of shortcuts on the desktop, or taking an age to find programs by clicking randomly, I can now just type what I'm looking for in the Start Menu search box:
Let's be honest, its not the easiest thing in the world to find something that is deeply buried like Disk Defragmenter, but in Vista, that just isn't an issue anymore.
So, finding programs and launching them is therefore incredibly easy, and thus a great deal quicker to perform, meaning you can spend more time using the applications, as oppose to finding them.
But this isn't the only way Vista works to make things easier, and quicker for the user. As you use Vista, you'll notice that certain programs that you use regularly will open a hell of alot quicker than they ever did on XP. When I show this demo, launching Word, PowerPoint, Media Player and so on, people see it, and immediately question the power of my machine. Fair enough, the specification of the machine will have an impact, but a technology called SuperFetch is where all the magic comes from.
Now, when i use this term in a demo, I can see the glazed look on their faces, as they are secretly thinking that that is something you would say to a dog before you throw the ball about a mile away, but no, it is a technology in Vista, and it works. Nuff said.
Well, not quite nuff said. As found here, over on Information Week, you could almost call SuperFetch the 'Mystic Meg' of Windows Vista, due to the fact that it predicts what you are going to do on your system. Spooky hey!
According to the article: "As part of a long term set of projects, we want to teach the computer to learn from users to make the machine more proactive," says Eric Horvitz, a principal researcher with Microsoft's R&D as well as the president-elect of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. "We want to use the system's idle time to make things punchier."
Having spoken to some Partners about this, it really does work. Programs like Word, Outlook, and Media Player, for me, open incredibly quickly now, and it's thanks to SuperFetch. SuperFetch is however, limited: "According to Horvitz, SuperFetch can accurately predict up to the next three applications that the user is likely to launch at any given time" but still, 3 is better than none right?
So, the future seems bright for this particular area of Vista, with researchers particularly keen to extend SuperFetch-like predicting to actions within individual applications. "In Outlook, when users read a message, they're likely to go forward [to the next] or back or open the message. The broader notion is that there are patterns within application usage we can take advantage of. We can predict what people are probably going to click on next."
Don't say i never give you any useful information! :-)
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Awesome technology - I tried it last night here in Nashville, thanks to Nick.