It's coming up on WWDC time, which means that it's time to start wishing for cool new stuff from Apple. What do I want?
iPhone games. Yes, I saw the demos at the SDK announcement. Now I want ship dates, preferably ones of the form "xx June 2008". Icing on the cake would be a couple available for free via Software Update.
Ultra-ultra portable laptop. The MacBook Air is nifty enough, but not so nifty that I dumped my MacBook Pro. For its size and battery life, it's still not enough for me to move. Now I look at the eeePC with its 7-inch screen and 8 GB hard drive and think that it's the coolest thing on the market right now. I'd love to see Apple do some awesome things in this area of hardware. I don't care how thin an ultraportable is. If you're going to expect me to still have a second machine (which, at least for my office use, means that I'm going to have to purchase a new desktop too, since my MBP is my primary machine), then I want my ultraportable to really be ultraportable: really lightweight, really tiny. The MBA doesn't meet that yet.
Mac Pro Mini. I've been whinging about this for years, isn't it time for Apple to give in and stop my incessant whinging? I love the iMac for specific purposes (and I'd consider getting one for my primary work machine if the previous wishlist item were to come to fruition), but not for all of them. And I love the Mac Mini (I've got one at home and one in the office), but it’s a pretty limited beast too. I don't need a Mac Pro for most of what I do (no matter how much I’ve been trying to convince my new manager that I need one plus a pair of 30-inch displays). So I want something in the middle, a headless iMac. Or, you know, you could just call it a Mac.
Laptop docks. I've currently got four cables running out of my laptop: power, USB hub, Ethernet, DVI. Oh, and I've got a USB dongle hanging off the side of my monitor too. It's a hassle to have to unplug everything when I leave my office and plug it all back in. I really do want a dock. At least once per week, one of my cables from my newly-unplugged MBP falls behind my desk, and I get to crawl around back there to thread it back up to where it belongs. Its really annoying. I would care about this less if I could have the aforementioned real ultra-ultra portable laptop and a new desktop, of course.
Tipsy preview. We haven't heard a codename for the version of OS X after Leopard, so I've made the executive decision to name it after my own cat. I know that Leopard hasn't been out for that long, but let's start hearing some early thoughts about what's coming down the pipe. With such a great namesake, the next version can't help but rock.
Whinging about the iPhone earbuds got me thinking about some other iPhone improvements I'd love to see ...
Apps should be able to write to the home screen. When I'm listening to music, I like that turning my iPhone back on means that I get to see what song is playing at that time. It's a nice little touch. I'd love for other apps to be able to put info there. For example, I really like the Maps app (which I keep on typing as "Mapps", natch). It finds my current location, I tell it where I'm going, and let it route me (and hope that no-one notices when it tells me to do an illegal manoeuvre, as it did when I was in Columbus a few weeks ago). If I turn off my iPhone while it's in the Maps app, or if the iPhone powers down on its own, I'd love for the place that I left off to be what's visible on my home screen. I'm often returning to Maps to see whether it's time to turn yet, this would save me a couple of swipes while I'm driving in an unfamiliar location.
Along those lines, I'd like to be able to customise the home screen. Yes, I know, I can put my own picture there (which is currently a picture of my cat). I;d love to be able to customise that behaviour better. For example, I'd love to be able to have the calendar view what's visible there all the time. That would save me a few swipes on my iPhone, since I'm often using it to figure out where I'm supposed to be going next.
ObDisclaimer: I haven't looked at the beta SDK, so I have no idea whether this is possible. The beta SDK is still under NDA, so please don’t comment/email with any details about it. :)
I mentioned in an earlier post that we're hiring a UX designer. The job requisition should be available on the Microsoft careers website soon; in the interim, I'll post it here. If this sounds like something that you're interested in, email me with your resume and portfolio. And if you're not a designer but are interested in working for MacBU in another capacity (developer, testers, program manager), we've got a few openings listed on the aforementioned MS career website.
The Microsoft Mac Business Unit is looking for a User Experience Designer. This is a unique opportunity to drive User Experience Design for our market-leading Macintosh products, including the powerful Office for Macintosh productivity suite and Microsoft Messenger for Mac. Come help us build great experiences for the passionate Mac audience, have impact on the way millions of Mac users around the world work, and be a part of the largest dedicated Macintosh development team outside of Apple.
As User Experience Designer, you will design and prototype product experiences and you will drive your work through the software development process, working as part of a multi-disciplinary product development team of User Experience Research, Product Planning, Program Management, Development and Test.
Work products may include:
About MacBU: MacBU is a highly independent team at Microsoft; we build and maintain end-to-end ownership of Office for Mac, driving essential productivity experiences on the Mac platform that are used by millions of people. We offer the feel of a small, independent business with a strong team culture of innovation, creativity, and having fun.
Continuing my tour of Bay Area MUGs, I'll be giving a demo of Office 2008 at Silicon Valley MUG on Monday, 16 June 2008. Their webpage doesn't list me yet, but I just got email from them confirming my demo.
The Silicon Valley MUG is one of the niftiest MUGs to present at, since their meetings are right on Apple campus. Visiting Apple campus is always a good feeling, and it's even better when I'm there to talk about my apps. :)
SVMUG meetings are open to the public, so you can come and see my splendid demo skills, and ask questions of a real live MacBU employee in the flesh. Just please don't ask pivot table questions -- I have to admit, I have been entirely unsuccessful in wrapping my head around that concept, and I feel immensely guilty about it.
If you're in the Bay, want to see an Office demo, but Monday the 16th isn't good for you, I'm also showing off my demo skills at the Stanford MUG on Monday, 02 June 2008. Their location is the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre, which isn't all that shabby of a location either!
The single thing that annoys me the most about my iPhone isn't how often Safari crashes or the slowness of EDGE. No, the thing that really drives me batty is the earbuds. I'm really hating the earbuds.
I'm not a big fan of Bluetooth headsets. It's has nothing to do with the technology, it has everything to do with me. I'm bad about remembering to keep my headset charged. I'm bad about remembering where my headset is located. I'm bad about keeping my headset paired with my phone. All of these together mean that headsets are virtually unusable, and unused, by me. I've tried it before, many times, and it just never works out.
I'm not willing to walk around all day with a headset attached to my ear. I get enough Borg jokes because I work for Microsoft, I can't imagine adding to that with a piece of glowing electronics sticking out of my ear constantly. I don't make calls on my phone often enough to justify keeping the thing in my ear all the time. While I do end up making a number of calls on my phone, it's sporadic. It's pretty common for my phone to only be used for calling every other day or so, but then that call is an hour or two. So no constantly-in-ear headset for me.
Instead, I rely on the iPhone's earbuds. I generally know where my earbuds are (why I've never been able to extend this kind of knowledge to a headset is beyond me). I find the earbuds pretty uncomfortable for extended use (90 minutes is pretty much the max that I can take it).
The thing that really gets me about the earbuds is that they're constantly tangled. I've tried all sorts of cute little tricks to somehow make them be not tangled. Nothing has worked. Every time I pull out my earbuds to connect them to my iPhone, I've got to spend a couple of minutes untangling them. I'm pretty convinced that there's some kind of technology there that makes them knot onto themselves. I hope that Apple is licensing that technology to the military, it seems like something that they'd find useful.
Please, Apple, please find a way to make the earbuds work better. I'll accept their current level of discomfort, but I'd really love it if you guys could make them not tangle all the time. I really don't care what you do, I just want to not have to spend four minutes untangling my earbuds every single freakin' time I want to use them.
The much-maligned Clippy has decided to take his career in his own hands. He's been quiet for years, trying to ignore all of the vitriol spewed in his direction by people who never understood his artistic talent. He realised that it was a bad career move to try to move into an Office setting, he really wasn't cut out for all that stuff. So he went underground (so far underground that he's been accused of doing horrible things to the kid found in the Word source code).
He has now come out of his self-imposed exile. He took a significant role in a new music video from the group The Bird and the Bee, their song titled 'Again and Again'. He's seen off to the side of the screen for most of the first couple of minutes of the song, dancing his little heart out. He worked hard to get into shape for his big debut, and he absolutely rocked it. Some watchers have claimed that he steals the show.
What's next for Clippy? I hear he's shopping around for an agent ...
It's Release Tuesday here at Microsoft, and we've got a couple of things coming out of MacBU today:
I'm not versed enough in the dirty details to talk about VBA at any length, so I'll instead point you over to Schwieb's blog: Saying hello (again) to Visual Basic. He's got more details, and he's also asking questions of you, dear VBA users, about what parts of the VBA experience are the most important. Have your voice heard and tell us what's useful (and while you're responding to him, don't forget my post a couple of weeks ago about features vs scenarios -- give lots of details as to what would impact you the most).
Office 2008 has been treating us very well so far. Since our launch in January, we've sold nearly three times as many copies as we sold of Office 2004 after its launch. We've had a lot of incoming data about Office 2008 through the Office forums, the feedback submitted through the apps, the Customer Experience Improvement Program, and the Microsoft Error Reporting Protocol (MERP - because we loves us some acronyms). Through all of this feedback, we identified the highest-impact issues to fix, which include:
Not to just point to Schwieb again, but he wrote a great post about Office 2008 SP1 too.
In our press release, our fearless leader notes that we're expanding our staff. We've got several positions open right now, and more coming in the next few months. If you think you might be interested in joining our team, you can check out the Microsoft Careers website. All of our positions are listed under "Mac Office". I just searched and saw that there were 10, across development, test, and program management. We're going to have some more user experience positions open (both research and design); drop me an email if you're interested in learning more.
(Edited at 11:10am PDT to add a couple of links and to fix a formatting issue.)
On Monday, 02 July 2008, I'll be at the Stanford MUG meeting in Palo Alto, California (although their website doesn't show it yet). Come by to learn more about Office 2008, watch me give a demo, ask lots of questions, and hope that you're successful in the traditional MUG raffle at the end. I'll have some Office 2008 goodies with me, including copies of Office 2008. The meeting starts at 6:30pm with the usual MUG Q&A, then some short presentations about shareware and other goodies. My presentation should start at 8pm. I'll talk for about an hour, and spend a half-hour or so on questions.
SMUG meetings are open only to paid members, but you're allowed to attend your first meeting for free. More info is on the website linked above.
Grand Theft Auto IV hasn't left my Xbox 360 since it came out, and so I've learned about some of the achievements (warning: link contains game spoilers) that are available there. (Not me playing it, I should point out.) During a meeting today, the idea was floated for having game-style achievements in Office.
Thanks to the joy of Twitter, I've been sharing my ideas for such achievements in my twitter stream. Here are some ideas for unlocking achievements in our apps:
Okay, so the Office achievements probably aren't as exciting as some of the GTA4 ones. Got any ideas of your own? Share 'em in the comments ...
Stephanie Krieger, a Word expert and one of the people who has given our big booth presentations at Macworld Expo, is going to provide some Office 2008 podcasts in June. The first one is about compatibility, the other is about making your documents look great. If you haven't seen one of her Office booth presentations, this woman can make your documents sing. She's got a great eye for design (in fact, you can thank her for many of the templates that you see in Office 2008), and she is a sorceress when it comes to working with our tools like SmartArt. I have to admit that I always try to watch one of her booth presentations because she's so great at making documents look fantastic. I'll definitely be downloading these podcasts when they're released!