Now there are many people out there who don't like Microsoft, for a variety of different reasons, which I'm not going to go into here - after all, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but, no matter how positive or negative your opinion is, there is no denying that Microsoft, as a company, has given a hell of alot to try to improve people's lives all over the world. In this case, I'm talking about the $2.5 billion that we, as employees, and as a company, have given to charities since 1983.
"The $2.5 billion total, equal to less than 1 percent of the company's sales during the past decade, includes software and other in-kind contributions, employee donations and company matching funds. The total does not include donations made through private foundations, such as the $30.1 billion Gates has endowed to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation"
I have a some friends, Steve Woonton, Mark Deakin & Steve Marsh to name but a few, who have taken time out of their personal lives to do something great for charity. Steve ran the London Marathon, and both Marshy and Deaks took part, and completed, the London to Brighton bikeride. I know this for a fact, because Marshy was walking funny for most of the week after. Anyway, my point, they tried to raise as much money, through friends and family, colleagues, and others, for charity, knowing full well, that whatever they would raise, Microsoft, as a company, would match it. This display of citizenship, and commitment to making people's lives better, not just through software, is what makes me proud to work where I do.
Sure, other companies may offer similar charitable donations, but $2.5 Billion? I don't think so. You may not like Microsoft, but you have to admit, we care.
Read the full details over in the Seattle Times. Read more about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Are you a Microsoft Partner, and if so, would you like to be kept in the know as to what our plans are for the next year? I thought so.
Well, the Virtual Partner Conference is a new concept that we've developed as a way to provide you, our partners, with the latest information on our plans in each business area. It is their chance to hear about the UK market perspective, our FY07 business plans, the opportunities that exist, and much more. We have a broad range of video presentations given by execs and managers from around the business, as well as external speakers. The conference is delivered in an interactive online format - giving you the opportunity to watch as much as you like!
The Virtual Partner Conference goes live on 26th September, and will then be updated quarterly to ensure that you always have the latest information on our plans! Cool hey!
What are some of the things you can expect?
One of the highlights, and I'm not trying to blow our own trumpets here (!), is the video that James and I made, entitled 'Vista in 10', which gives a whistle-stop tour of the business value of Vista. Added bonus - you get to hear the delightful tones of my northern accent, along with the joyful sounds of James 'Queen's English' Senior ;-) Joking aside, the content is pretty good, and if you just want a quick 10 minutes on what's cool in Vista, for businesses of every size, check it out. I will no doubt get a copy on this blog anyway, for non-partners to indulge in. The exact description for the video is:
"James and Matt take you on a 10 minute journey through the key business scenarios addressed by Windows Vista, including Finding and Using Information, Enabling a Mobile Workforce, Improving Security and Compliance, and Optimising your Desktop Infrastructure."
If you are not a Microsoft partner, there are a number of benefits to becoming one. For further information about any subject covered on the Partner site, please call the AskPartner Hotline on 0870 60 70 700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Go-do: Visit www.microsoft.com/uk/partnerconference from the 26th September to start building your own conference!
Are you an ISV? Would you like to be as happy as this fine chap? If you'd like to be so happy, that you could do the YMCA whilst simultaneously doing the Limbo, read on....
Vista's coming, don't you know. As an ISV (Independent Software Vendor), it represents a signifcant potential opportunity for you. Here at Microsoft, we want to help you take advantage of this opportunity and assist you in developing and delivering Windows Vista compatible software faster, more cost effectively, and with greater market segment impact than ever before.
Here are the things that you need to do to get ready for Windows Vista:
So, what are these logo's all about? Well, the first one, on the left, shows your customers that you are certified, increasing their confidence and satisfaction with your products. When you use this logo on your product packaging and promotions, customers will know at first glance that your software will provide the highest quality Windows Vista experience. Find out more information about the 'Certified for Windows Vista' logo.
What about the other logo, on the right? Well, this 'Works with Windows Vista' logo will help you communicate to your customers that your applications are supported and meet baseline standards of full functionality on Windows Vista. Good to know, me thinks! Find out more information about the 'Works with Windows Vista' logo.
Go-Do: Start testing your applications on Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1) and help ensure compatibility with the final major pre-release of Windows Vista. Windows Vista RC1 is now available to MSDN Subscribers and through the Customer Preview Program (CPP). Get Windows Vista RC1 and start testing today!
Rubbish title. I know. But, if you’d have driven the 6 hour journey (I know, it should be 3, but traffic was shocking!) from Reading to Manchester this weekend, just to see Manchester United be beaten, at home, by our resident French Premiership team, Arsenal, you’d have a rubbish title too!
So, what does the title mean? What is the link? Clear, Confident, Connected? Man Utd’s midfield was certainly (easy to) Clear, definitely dis-Connected and Confidently poor. Vista 1 – 0 Manchester Utd. If only Man Utd could improve at the rate Vista is. I’m not bitter. ;-)
Anyway, enough of the moaning – Seriously, I’ve been sitting (not literally) on a few different articles which have been flying around recently, all about Vista, and the impact it will have on different areas of our society, in particular, business in the EU. They really are pretty interesting to read, and I hope to convey some of what I have found in this curiously-titled post.
The first of these articles, from MSNBC, talks about the security features in Vista, and in particular, the fact that the EU, yet again, are warning Microsoft that it may have to remove some of its security features from Windows Vista, effectively not shutting out rivals in this arena. I seem to recall this has happened before, with Windows Media Player, where rival companies, have brought it to the EU’s attention, Microsoft has been forced to act, bring out an adjusted product, in this case, XP minus the Media Player, and subsequently, no one bought it. While we do want to launch Vista in a fully lawful manner, complying with the EU in every way we need to, our customers have demanded a more secure operating environment, and that is what we are providing. Just because Vista has a wealth of security features built in, doesn’t mean a consumer’s choice is restricted. If an Enterprise has some kind of licence agreement with a major Anti-Virus provider, and they also wish to purchase Windows Vista across the organisation, do you think they are going to cancel their current agreement because of what Vista offers? I don’t think so. I still believe that they will stick with their original Anti-Virus offering, at least until their current agreement runs out – but anyway, in terms of security, Vista doesn’t come with Anti-Virus protection in the box; sure it has an excellent firewall included, but XP did after SP2, so it’s not a new concept we are bringing along here.
The result of the EU intervention? “Microsoft has threatened a delay in the launch of its next-generation Vista operating system in Europe because of the new standoff with EU regulators”. Surely this further delay, caused by the EU’s intervention, would result in a loss of revenue in the EU as a whole? For example, an IDC study, over on ZDNet has found that Vista could create up to 50,000 jobs in Europe. The delay would obviously impact this.
“In the six countries studied, more than 150,000 IT companies will produce, sell or distribute products or services running on Windows Vista in 2007 and will employ 400,000 people, IDC said. Another 650,000 will be employed in the IT departments of businesses that rely on Vista”
And it isn’t just about the jobs that Vista will bring. Obviously, revenue has to play a part, but how big a part?
"Moreover, for every Euro of revenue that Microsoft makes, companies within the IT ecosystem will, on average, make more than 13 Euros, IDC found. In the U.K., hardware companies are expected to see 7.24 Euros of revenue, software companies 3.64 Euros and services companies 2.74 Euros per Euro of Microsoft's Vista revenue, for a total of 13.62 Euros”
A delay would obviously impact this too. So, what about the flip-side; say Microsoft took the Windows Media Removal road, that they took with XP, creating and shipping a version of XP which had no Media Player. As soon as your sparkly new Vista PC hits the net, regardless of the ‘safe’ sites you may be visiting, sooner or later, with no protection at all installed, you are going to be in trouble. Is this a good thing? Would the EU prefer to ship the product minus a firewall, malware protection, anti-virus etc, and expect the average user to realise this (which eventually they would thanks to the warnings from the taskbar), surf the net or visit PC World and purchase, separately, all the different products to become secure, by which time, the PC could already be infected? I think, perhaps, the better idea would be to include them as standard in Vista, but somehow make the user aware that they are not restricted to the included protection, and that other protection providers out there, will work perfectly well with Vista, and provide the level of protection that they require, and if you want to, go and buy it.
“Windows Vista is not just a product of Microsoft. In the marketplace, it will be a constellation of solutions and services delivered by an entire ecosystem”
I think that David Mitchell from Ovum hits the nail on the head:
"There has been very little uptake of the version of Windows XP that excludes Media Player functionality. A version of Vista that removes security-related functionality has the potential to be an even greater turkey. Security is a major concern for the European market and needs to be addressed on multiple different fronts. If the EU is going to ask Microsoft to remove security-related functionality then it needs to be very precise in its request and very clear about why it is making it. It has the potential to cause a major market disruption, with no benefit whatsoever for the end-consumer. Appropriate and timely regulatory intervention may benefit the consumer, but only if that intervention reflects real consumer preferences in the market and recognises the overall market evolution that is underway."
This is discussed further over on CNet News where Microsoft again is seeking clarity on what the EU want, whilst firmly stating that Vista is on track to launch on time. I really hope it does – it is going to bring huge, positive changes in the new world of work.
Like the guys at eWeek say, “Vista delay in Europe will hurt Partners, Consumers...Microsoft and European Community regulators need to find common ground when it comes to Windows Vista, and do it soon, industry watchers are saying”
In an update to a recent post, Microsoft has released more information about this sexy piece of kit. Feel free to have a play with the cool flash demo below, before reading on!
For those of you interested in an overview of the product, you can find that information here, whereas, for those of you interested in even more of the features, check out the list below, which I've taken directly from this page. On the overview page, you will find a number of different views of the keyboard, for those of you who want to see it from every angle!
To me, this looks really cool, and the different fuctions that the keyboard provides, yeah, they may not all be new, like buttons to open certain programs etc, but the way it will integrate with Vista will ensure an excellent user experience, and building on the button functionality, is the backlighting, intelligent power usage, USB ports, and bluetooth technology mean it really is an excellent keyboard, empowering the user to get more done, with less effort.
Features to expect? Well, how about the following:
Rechargeable Mouse and Keyboard - First ever rechargeable backlit keyboard and mouse solution. Microsoft’s exclusive charging hub allows you to recharge both the mouse and keyboard in one easy-to-use place.
4 USB Ports - Integrated USB ports in the charging station give you the flexibility to download images from your digital camera or plug in your thumb drive or other USB device - right from your desktop.
Wireless Freedom - Give yourself room to move - wireless mouse and keyboard products let you work without worrying about tangled wires.
Battery Status Indicator - You'll know when power is low when the batter status indicator senses battery life is running out.
2.4 GHz Bluetooth® Technology - Connect wirelessly right out of the box with First Connect Technology for up to 30 feet with virtually no interference.
4-Way Mouse Scrolling - Scroll four ways for greater efficiency and comfort with Tilt Wheel Technology.
High Definition Laser Technology - Microsoft® High Definition Laser Mouse products are more precise, more responsive, and deliver smoother tracking.
Instant Viewer - Too many open items on your desktop? Click the scroll wheel button to instantly display your open windows, then point and click to select.
Magnifier - Point and click to enlarge and edit detail using the Magnifier.
Brushed Aluminum - The sleek, symmetrical design features an authentic brushed aluminum that feels as good as it looks.
Windows® Start Button - Press to launch your Start menu and search your PC or the Web if you have Windows Vista installed.
Ultra-thin Comfort Curve Design - Place your hands naturally and work comfortably using the distinctive and ergonomist-approved Comfort Curve design with quiet touch keys.
Navigation Pad - Command your PC from your lap or the comfort of your sofa with the integrated cursor control.
Windows® Live Call Button - Just press this button to access your Windows Live Messenger buddy list; then select an Online Contact and start a video conversation.
Compact Industrial Design - This sleek design reduces clutter on your desk, fits on your lap and complements your flat screen monitor.
Windows Gadgets Button - One-touch access to gadgets such as weather information, news updates, traffic maps and slide shows of online photo albums.
Media Center Start Button - One touch access to Windows Media Center.
Ultra-thin Keyboard - Experience true comfort with the ultra-thin Comfort Curve keyboard plus quiet touch keys.
Intelligent Backlighting - Backlighting comes on automatically when you approach the keyboard and turns off when you’re away - and backlit keys only glow when the lights are low, saving valuable battery life.
Media Controls - Media Controls allow you to easily navigate to next track, previous track, play, pause and volume control.
"My Favorites" Hot Keys - Access the folders, files, and Web pages you use most with one-touch “My Favorites” Keys.
Intelligent Power System - Adjust battery life depending on performance needs.
10 – Optimised for Mobile Hardware
In at Number 10, is a feature that won’t really apply to those desktop users out there, but for those notebook users among us, and more specifically, those with swanky Tablet PC’s, Vista is the OS to Enable a Mobile Workforce.
But why, you may ask? Well let me tell you about the cool ways that Vista enables me to work effectively and optimise the use of my Tablet PC. First up, the handwriting recognition is hot. Take a look at this screenshot.
You can see my Tablet PC Input Panel, (which floats around the screen, and docks, off-screen, on my command), and that I can write some pretty illegible text, using my stylus, and Vista picks it up and gives me the result in text. This is before I use the built in tool in Vista to train the system to my handwriting. Accurate recognition, right from the start. Pretty cool I think! If Vista doesn’t recognise the word, it provides you with its best effort, which, you can click on with stylus, and either select the correct word from a choice of close matches, or edit the word you entered to make sure it is correct. I mentioned earlier, that there is a tool in Vista, which is used to train the system to recognise your handwriting. Well, you don’t technically have to go through this training. After a certain time of using the Tablet PC Input Panel to write, Vista pops up a message asking if you would like it to learn-as-you-go, meaning that as you write, Vista will learn your style.
As you correct mistakes, it will learn your style. Sure, Tablet PC Input was in Windows XP, but there is no way it was as intuitive and accurate from the start. The other cool thing about the Tablet Input panel is that it is context sensitive, so, if I’m typing in a web page, like below, you can see that the Tablet PC Input Panel presents me with commonly used inputs for that situation, so things like http:// and .com.
The same applies in outlook, so, remember when you are typing an email address that you have previously used in the past? Well, when you begin to write in the email address boxes, using the Tablet PC Input Panel, above the panel appears the previous addresses, which change in real-time depending on the letters you are writing with the stylus.
Any box you can normally write text into - this applies to. You can see the little icon pop up, indicating that you can write with the stylus, into this box, and by clicking this icon, your Tablet PC Input Panel is there, ready to go.
Now the final cool thing that I love about the Tablet PC functionality in Vista, is the Pen Flicks, which make tasks like navigation, a doddle. I can use my pen to navigate websites, flicking up to move the page down, or flicking the pen down, to move the page up, or to the side, in order to go forward or back between web pages. The coolest thing about Pen Flicks, is that it is incredibly customisable. Check out the image below:
On that image, you can see, you can set the different directional flicks to different commands, so a diagonal down flick can result in a Save, Open, Delete or any one of the commands in the list! Once you get used to the settings you have created, tasks become a whole lot quicker.
It’s features like this that make using a Tablet PC so much easier and more efficient, and make me more productive on the move. This is just one of the key values of Vista; Enabling a Mobile Workforce, and Vista does this by the bucketload.
You can read more about the Tablet PC functionality in Windows Vista, by heading over to this Windows Vista Community Article.
Tune in soon, for my Number 9 (I’m a poet, but don’t know it.... ;-) )
Not only does Windows Vista make PC's look cool on the inside, with its swanky Glass effects as part of the Aero interface, but, for the last 7 months, Microsoft has offered computer manufacturers guidelines on colour, shape and other design elements for the actual hardware PCs that will run Windows Vista.
Microsoft's internal-hardware group already has announced a wireless, backlit keyboard to complement Vista and is expected to introduce more new mice and keyboards at an event later this week.
This article, over on Seattle Times: Business & Technology, states "By far most [Windows] sales are attached to new PCs, so Microsoft has a vested interest in ensuring that the entire PC package is compelling enough to draw in users," said Steve Kleynhans, vice president of Gartner's Client Platforms Group. "If the operating system looks good, but the PC looks bland and uninteresting ... consumers won't be as interested in buying a new machine or Vista""
It's clear to see from this comment, how important the look of the hardware has become. Take my home desktop PC for example - it is literally a boring white box, but now, if I were to buy a new desktop case, I could include neon lights, see-through casing and multi-coloured wiring, all powered by a light-emitting power supply, giving my bedroom the 'Blackpool Illuminations' look that I have always desired ;-)
Cool looking hardware is something many people are passionate about. I love spinning round my Tablet PC into tablet mode when I'm working on the train (It's guaranteed to get a look!) but in terms of styling hardware, the Mac has had it sewn up for a while now. "Apple Computer has shown that if you control the software and you control the hardware, you can make the two fit harmoniously into a beautiful, elegant package," said Don Norman, a former Apple executive who now consults with Microsoft and wrote the 2004 book "Emotional Design: Why We Love (or hate) Everyday Things."
According to Joshua Maruska, a senior industrial designer with Seattle-based Teague, "compelling design is a challenge in the PC industry"..."High-end editions of Vista include the "Aero" user interface, including a "glass" effect designed to make the system feel lighter and help users focus on content, rather than the interface surrounding it. Aero, an acronym for "authentic, energetic, reflective and open, " is something designers try to keep in mind as they create Vista PCs"
Hewlett-Packard is another hardware manufacturer keen to get involved; "HP is devoting considerable resources to integrate hardware and software," Sam Lucente, HP's vice president of design, said. However, the design of market leader Dell's latest line was not directly influenced by the Microsoft guidelines. "We do plan to incorporate Microsoft's new buttons onto our keyboard when Vista becomes available," Marco Peña, a Dell spokesman, said. "That is about the closest you will get to a direct connection between Microsoft's [industrial design] toolkit and Dell design."
Some of the cool hardware I have seen around on my travels, manages to combine sexy looks and styling, with excellent performance. An example of this includes, and I'll admit, this is a personal favourite of mine, is the Acer Ferrari series, and in particular, the new Ferrari 5000. Not only does it look good....
But it is spec'd up to the max! The Ferrari 5005WLMi has an AMD Turion™ 64 X2 Mobile Technology TL-60 (2.0 GHz, 2 x 512 KB L2 cache) processor, a 15.4" WSXGA+ high-brightness (200 nit) Acer CrystalBrite™ TFT LCD with 1680 x 1050 pixel resolution (16ms), an ATI Mobility™ Radeon® X1600 with up to 512 MB HyperMemory™ (256 MB of dedicated GDDR3 VRAM; 256 MB of shared system memory), (deep breath...) a huge 160GB SATA HDD, a 2GB of DDR2 667 MHz memory (up to 4GB), 1X HD DVD-ROM drive, a 5-in-1 card reader, Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ solution, Bluetooth® 2.0+EDR, 1.3MP Acer OrbiCam™, and an Acer Bluetooth® VoIP phone!
You better be reading this Santa!! (Or Steve ;-) )
Anyway, enough of me - You can read Benjamin J. Romano's full article, entitled "Microsoft wants PC package to appeal to the eye" over at the Seattle Times: Business & Technology page.
Back in June, it was announced that Microsoft would no longer be including the ability to save to PDF from within the 2007 Microsoft Office System, which was a shame, because many users out there, as Steve Marsh mentions, would find it incredibly useful.
Well, it's time to rejoice, as it's back, as a free download, and it is available now. According to the download webpage, "This download allows you to export and save to the PDF and XPS formats in eight 2007 Microsoft Office programs. It also allows you to send as e-mail attachment in the PDF and XPS formats in a subset of these programs. Specific features vary by program"
It works with the following programs:
And for all those interested....here it is:
For more information on the 2007 Microsoft Office System, head on over and see Steve Marsh, or the Office Rocker!
Final Action: Download the 2007 Microsoft Office Add-in: Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS
With billions of dollars of R&D coming to market this year in the shape of Exchange, Vista and Office we have a major focus on helping our UK partners get ready for "EVO" wave. This is a big team effort from the UK partner team and you will see lots of activity over the coming months both online and with regional events. Two points to highlight are:
Exchange Ignite Training
This training will be 2 day classroom course. The 2 days will be primarily hands-on-lab oriented technical drill-downs into Exchange Server 2007 and the new Office System 2007. The training is intended to provide early technical information on this exciting new version of Exchange Server and the new Office System. The course provides details on the architecture, installation, and configuration of Exchange Server 2007. Additionally, the course provides information on security, compliance, archiving and remote client access as well as the better together story with the new Office System 2007. This costs £200 + VAT for Gold, Certified and SBSC Partners & £300 + VAT for Registered Partners. Get registered soon as we expect high demand. The link above provides more detail if you need it.
Windows Vista for Developers Course
Vista is going to be an awesome platform for developing applications on. If you haven't seen it, check out the BBC demo from Mix.06 to see a glimpse of what is possible. You can learn much more from this course though which is a two-day course with Hands-On Labs will take you through the process of building on the Windows Vista platform. The course will focus on growing service opportunities and new features of the Windows Vista operating system. Again, more details on the link above but lightweight coders like myself need not apply - this is the real deal :) The part subsidized costs for this course are £200 + VAT for Gold, Certified and SBSC Partners & £300 + VAT for Registered Partners.
This is the first in a wave of readiness activities you will see from our team both online and offline. Watch this space!
Cheers to Steve for this information.
Now this is cool. Off topic, but cool. Have you seen this keyboard? Now to be honest, my keyboard at home must have cost me about £5 (approx $9), so as you can imagine, I was purely interested in something that worked, however, seeing this beauty, my feelings towards just choosing 'something that worked' is about to change. Check this video out, below, courtesy of YouTube.
This keyboard, made me sit up and think, cool. One problem I always associate with having a wireless keyboard, is changing the battery. This keyboard is rechargeable. Another problem; going too far away from the wireless receiver. How does 30 feet fit with you? I wouldn't be able to see my monitor from 30 feet away! And we've all been in a situation where we need to see the keyboard in the dark...ok...maybe just me, but, this keyboard is not only backlit, but is ambiently (Not sure that is a word!) backlit, meaning it is smart enough to know the level of lighting in the room, and will adjust accordingly. It even knows when you have left the room! Coolio!
Icing on the cake? It comes in a sexy metal finish, and, as with all things cool, its designed to work with Windows Vista. You can't get much better than that. James has unwillingly agreed to buy me one for Christmas. Cheers James :)
Action - Watch the flash video, in all its full size glory!