A Canuck In The Machine

Mark Relph - Senior Director - Startup and VC Team

January, 2007

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    Today We Open The Innovation Centre @ Waterloo!


    I am really excited today because I am heading down to Waterloo to open the first Microsoft Innovation Centre in Canada.  Our good friends at Infusion Angels teamed up with us on this one.  The Infusion Angels Innovation Centre is located in the very cool Accelerator Centre in the research park at the U of Waterloo.

    Why open this?  Simple:  1)  To help drive innovation in Canada  2) to give entrepreneurs a place to come and get support in developing their software ideas 3) to better connect with the Waterloo area.

    Canada needs to pick up the pace when it comes to IT sector innovations and what better place to drive some momentum than in the heart of Canada's hottest high-tech community?!

    I will be blogging from the event all day so stay tuned.

    For now - here is the official press release going out today.


    Microsoft Canada and Infusion Angels Open Innovation Centre in Waterloo, ON

    Waterloo, ON – Infusion Angels, a Toronto-based “angel” investment firm, and Microsoft Canada Co. have launched Canada’s first entrepreneur-focused Innovation Centre in Waterloo, ON. The Infusion Angels Innovation Centre (IAIC) aims to foster economic growth in Canada by providing students and entrepreneurs with the critical resources needed to take their ideas, concepts and solutions to market.

    The IAIC will be housed at the Waterloo Research & Technology Park Accelerator Centre, a not-for-profit corporation that provides facilities and support services to technology entrepreneurs looking to accelerate the commercialization of their innovative product or service.

    The IAIC will offer an advanced learning environment, providing students and local entrepreneurs with a variety of resources including open access to the latest technologies from Microsoft, Dell and Intel, and a comprehensive training curriculum on topics relating to technology, business and entrepreneurship.

    “As a University of Waterloo graduate and someone who founded a company made up predominantly of UW Alumni, I know that UW produces many of Canada’s brightest, most innovative and entrepreneurial minds,” said Alim Somani, Partner of Infusion Angels. “Through the IAIC we want to support those people and enable them to turn their ideas into prototypes and their prototypes into thriving Canadian businesses.”

    The IAIC offers Canadian entrepreneurs the opportunity to experiment first hand with next-generation Microsoft technologies. Entrepreneurs may book time through the center’s on-line reservation system or simply walk in to the Centre for a three hour exploration session. Visitors may work under the guidance of an onsite technical director or by leveraging official Microsoft training materials as their guide. Infusion Angels, Microsoft and other partners will staff the centre on a daily basis to assist users. (For reservations go to http://ic.infusionangels.com/Pages/Labs.aspx)

    Beyond tailored benefits to entrepreneurs, each Microsoft-sponsored Innovation Centre seeks to build the strength of the local software economy by bringing entrepreneurs, academics, and government together to tackle the shared goal of building a strong software economy that will foster innovation and lead to more prosperous communities and a more competitive nation.

    “The innovation centre concept is one Microsoft supports around the world, and one that we have worked hard to bring to Canada for some time,” said Mark Relph, Vice President of Developer & Platform Evangelism Group Microsoft Canada. “Microsoft is committed to initiatives that foster innovation and have a positive impact on the local software economy. What sets IAIC apart is that we’re combining the idea of technical innovation with the reality of launching new businesses.”

    The IAIC also offers an extensive curriculum including regular on-site training sessions spanning a number of different topics relating to technology and entrepreneurship. Session formats include:

    · Technology Briefings -- subject-matter experts deliver a high-level briefing about a specific technology or framework.

    · Crash Courses – technical trainers coach attendees through a series of hands-on, interactive labs on a particular technology.

    · Business Track Sessions -- experienced entrepreneurs provide the knowledge and soft skills, which are essential to succeeding as an entrepreneur in today’s marketplace. 

    · Webcasts -- online versions of Technology Briefings, where participants from around the world can join over the internet via Live Meeting. 

    All sessions are open to the public and are free of charge.

    Infusion angels will provide funding and incubation services for select entrepreneurs who have developed a sound concept and wish to take their businesses to the next level; in this way the IAIC hopes to help further position Canada as a global leader in the area of technical innovation and entrepreneurship.

    “This is something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time; to create a community, a gathering place for local entrepreneurs from the University of Waterloo”, said Gregory Brill, Partner of Infusion Angels, “I think I speak for both Infusion Angels and Microsoft when I say and I can’t wait to see the centre help local entrepreneurs thrive and grow businesses.”

    For more information regarding the Infusion Angels Innovation Centre, sponsored by Microsoft please visit: http://iaic.infusionangels.com

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    BillG on The Daily Show


    Bill did well on the Daily Show.... best line is when he answered Jon's question "What if I don't understand this?" with "Call me..."... worst part - Bill walking off before his queue at the end of the interview.

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    Photos From The Ice House


    Some photos, taken by my team today at the Ice House.

    IceHouse (22)

    IceHouse (17)

    IceHouse (16)

    IceHouse (8)

    IceHouse (15)

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    Windows Vista - The Coolest OS On The Planet - Literally.


     Before the holiday break we toured across the country talking to business people, IT Pros and Developers.  (See the blogs)

    Today is the first day of our "consumer" launch activities for Windows Vista.  It's a really exciting time for us here at Microsoft Canada.  Despite the nay-sayers I believe that consumers will find key new features (security, the user interface, search, digital media, Media Center) really compelling.  I for one cannot live without Media Center.

    So - to commemorate the big day, Microsoft Canada is launching something very special (and very Canadian) - the Microsoft Digital Ice House.  How appropriate that the weather here has turned icy cold just for the occasion, eh? 

    So, giant house made of ice + Freezing cold weather + awesome new features = one cool OS.  :-) 

    Here is the marketing text on the whole thing:


    Chill out (really) at the Microsoft® Digital Ice House

    At our 1800 square foot ice house you'll experience two hot products - Windows Vista™ and the 2007 Microsoft® Office system - in a cool setting complete with ice-sculpted furniture and appliances. Brrrrr ing your friends, and see how your house can be as cool as ours.

    Tour our ice house to:

    • See live demos of Windows Vista and the 2007 Office system
    • Ask the experts. Product experts will answer your questions about Windows Vista and the 2007 Office system

    Where Is the Ice House?

    The Microsoft Digital Ice House is at Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto, on the South-East corner of Yonge and Dundas streets, across from the Eaton Centre.

    When Can I Visit?

    The Microsoft Digital Ice House is open Tuesday, January 30 - Saturday, February 3, 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.


    So, hopefully if you are in the area you can come down and visit.  Lots of folks from my team (including myself) will be down at the Ice House at some point this week.  We will also be blogging from the event and we will have some video and pictures to share on the various Community Blogs.

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    HD Photo Format News In The Wild



    The photographer in me finds this news on Microsoft's emerging HD Photo format.  It's an uphill battle to replace JPEG and there are others, like Adobe in this space.  Personally, I am interested in seeing a new standard to drive the concept of a "digital negative".

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    Sonos - My Latest Addition To The Home Network


    The latest addition to our home network and the media system in particular is the Sonos Digital Music System.  (www.sonos.com)

    The system is absolutely amazing.  It is a high-end piece of equipment and is somewhat more expensive than other systems like the Slim Devices gear, but you absolutely get what you pay for.


    The Sonos is made up of 2 components.  The "Zone Players" that not only output the audio to speakers or line-out, but also handle creating a mesh network and zones in your house.  You can have up to 32 zones.

    The second part are the controllers, which are wireless (on 802.11).  The controllers let you select and play music.  They also let you decide what music plays in which zone.


    Here is my top 5 reasons the Sonos rocks:

    1. The Remote.  It rocks.  It's friendly for all users and it's easy.  Even a non-geek will love it.
    2. Zones.  Zones without home wiring.  'nuff said.
    3. Proper "party mode" / synchronized playback across all zones
    4. Windows Media Connect integration - simple integration with you music library.
    5. It works with MS based subscription services like URGE and ZUNE.

    Check them out - www.sonos.com

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    A Word From Our IT Department


    Rodney interviewed Chris from Microsoft Canada's IT Department on the latest IT Pro Podcast.  Chris has been at Microsoft Canada for a decade and I bet he has some great war stories to share.  :-)

    Check it out.

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    It's Official - We Are Looking For A User Experience Advisor To Join The Team


    Check out John's blog post.

    "I’m looking for a User Experience Advisor to represent Microsoft in Canada.  This role is really important to us, as we realize that the notion of “User Experience” lies at the center of Microsoft’s continued long term success as a platform company.  As such, I’m not taking this position lightly.  I am looking for someone with great industry experience to ensure we are sharing the right vision, going in the right direction and helping build market credibility.    In this role, it’s your mission to engage with the broad community of designers, Web Agencies and other influential users to drive excitement around design related technologies for both the standards-web and Windows platform.  You will be our senior representative to the designer/user experience community sharing stories, highlighting solutions and unlocking the potential of the platform allowing our customers to build rich, immersive, compelling end-user experiences that stand-out and differentiate them in the industry."

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    Game Camp Waterloo


    The Community Crew with the help of our former super star co-op Mark headed down to Waterloo for the latest stop on the Game Camp Tour.  They recorded this great video with one of the students.

    Video: Game Camp Waterloo 2007 - Neville Samuell
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    User Experience / Design and Innovation On The Web


    A little known fact about me is that early in my Microsoft career I spent a great deal of time working in our Internet Customer Unit helping grow the adoption of Internet Explorer, IIS and later in my career I worked with some of the eCommerce and Dot-Com pioneers of Canada (such as Chapters.ca, Futureshop.com and my friend Rick Segal).

    Microsoft has had tremendous impact on the development of the web in the past decade.  Our platform has unlocked tremendous potential and with the launch of several key technologies this year (including Vista, .NET 3.0, WPF, etc) we are hoping to help drive innovation on the web even further. 

    My team is on point for driving this innovation on behlaf of Microsoft Canada.  One of the core areas of innovation we will see as the Web evolves is in the area of User Experience and application design.  This is in some ways a new area for our team to focus on and a major undertaking to say the least.  WPF and Expression alone represent a major changes in our toolset for the UX / Designer audience. 

    Earlier in the year we let you know that we were looking to hire a UX Advisor.  We were looking to hire in an "intern" style role, but my Director Of The Community Team, John Oxley, has challenged me in his post on our UX blog to invest more deeply in this area. 

    I completely agree with him and we are now searching for 2 people to join the team.  The first will be a seasoned veteran in UX and design.  The second will be our UX Advisor Intern role.

    All the details will be on the Canadian UX blog.

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    Heli-Boarding Photos From The Holiday Break



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