Today represents a very important day for our country – the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. Over the next 2 weeks, we are going to be witness to some incredible athleticism and stories with the world united through sport.
I can remember vividly watching previous Olympic Games in front of the television, marveling at the sheer talent and determination of the Olympic athletes in their quest for not only Olympic medals, but also personal bests and the pride of representing their country. The television networks did a very good job at covering all of the activity in a way that allowed you to maximize the Olympic experience from your living room.
That being said, there are limitations associated with watching such a grand event on the television. The sheer number of concurrent events means that you can’t always watch an event that you wish to see; the television network will carry events that give them the “best bang for the buck” (hey, they paid big money for the rights to broadcast the content so it only makes sense that high priority events take precedence over other events). While, for the most part, this isn’t a huge issue, it does limit how you experience the Games in general.
With the advent of rich media on the internet, we have an opportunity to truly shape how large events such as the Olympics will be viewed moving forward. The fact that the internet is, by nature, interactive means that we have the ability to cater the viewing experience for an event to almost whatever you want it to be.
In 2008, Microsoft partnered with NBC in the United States to stream the Beijing Olympics via Silverlight, our rich online experience platform. The results of this endeavour were beyond successful. For example, in the 2 weeks of the 2008 Olympics, the Silverlight-powered NBCOlympics.com site experienced:
With the success from this event, Microsoft has partnered with CTV and its affiliates to provide the same immersive experience for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver that US-based visitors to NBCOlympics.com had for the Beijing Olympics (and, for the record, NBC has also renewed the partnership with Microsoft for these Olympic Games as well).
When the games officially open on the evening of Friday, February 12, 2010, Canadians will be able to watch the Olympics from their computer through Silverlight. This experience will allow Canadians full access to every event, both live and on-demand in High Definition with interactive features that will allow the user to select info on the athletes competing, multiple camera angles and the like.
To access this interactive multimedia portal, simply go to CTVOlympics.ca (for English content) or RDSOlympiques.ca (for French content).
In addition to the online video and immersive experience through these two portals, Microsoft has also partnered with CTV on a number of other 2010 Vancouver Olympic fronts. For example:
With the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Microsoft, along with CTV, has provided a new world of interactivity for a truly immersive multimedia experience. I think it’s fair to say that as we see more of these types of opportunities, we will be seeing a change in how we experience multimedia events both at home and abroad.
Yesterday was a pretty big day for Microsoft and one that I had been anticipating for a long while. At the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, we finally unveiled to the world what our next generation of Windows Phones will look and act like – we introduced the Windows Phone 7 Series mobile operating system (watch the announcement here). This introduction represents a truly radical change in Microsoft’s mobile strategy and already it has been garnering very positive feedback from the public (read Engadget’s review here; my initial search on the Twitter tag #wp7s is extremely positive as well). You can expect smart devices featuring Windows Phone 7 Series in time for the 2010 Holiday season.
Over the past months (and even years!), Microsoft’s mobile strategy has been questioned and blasted as being yesterday’s news, with very little to bring to the table in today’s highly competitive mobility market. In complete honesty, I really can’t disagree with a lot of the criticism. While I am enjoying Windows Mobile 6.5 on my Samsung Omnia Pro II (the device is the best I’ve had in all the smart phones I’ve owned), the experience simply does not rival other mobile OS competitors in the space (notably the iPhone and Android, but also RIM’s Blackberry OS which has very strong traction in North America).
The mobility space is undeniably the “new battleground” in computing. True, the desktop and laptop computer space continually has iterations of improvement both in software and hardware but the industry has largely become commoditized. The truth of the matter is that consumers, businesses, software vendors, developers and designers are all looking to the smart device market as the new frontier of computing and a focus for building useful, new and innovative software experiences. Without a doubt, the market for smart device software has become white-hot.
Microsoft’s Strategy with Windows Phone 7 Series: The User Experience Comes First
Microsoft believes that a user’s affinity with a given mobile platform is with the experience it provides. That is to say, the platform allows the user to be the most productive and delighted when using the device. While the hardware devices themselves are a large part of this experience (nobody wants a clunky-looking smart device), I would argue it isn’t the main reason people are intrigued and itching to get into the industry. It’s the ability to create powerful user experiences through software that are driving this fervor in the mobile space. The hardware in of itself can shift the paradigm (see: iPhone) if the features of the handset have compelling functionality (such as the accelerometer and multi-touch), it’s the software that ultimately drives the experience and differentiates one mobility platform from another. With this in mind, the Windows Phone 7 Series product team spent much of their time and focus making the experience as user-centric as possible, thereby making the user the most important part of the experience (see a video on this here – please note that you may be required to sign in to view it; the sign-up is free, however).
To get a feel for what the Windows Phone 7 Series experience is like, check out the following video:
Building Compelling User Experiences for Windows Phone 7 Series: Designers and Developers are First-Class Citizens in this Process
One thing Microsoft understands is its partner community. You hear it coming from almost anyone who works at Microsoft: we are successful only when our partners are successful. As such, we are working hard to make sure that you, as a designer or developer, can build the best smart device experiences on our platform with minimal effort and minimum barrier to entry.
Microsoft will be providing several compelling technologies to build great applications for Windows Phone 7 Series, many of which will use or build on skillsets designers and developers may already have. While as of right now, details on how to develop applications for Windows Phone 7 Series are a little light, more application development details will be forthcoming at our MIX10 event March15th through 17th (if you register before February 21st you can save $200 off of the registration fee). You can expect many more details throughout the coming months and in particular at MIX10 where several breakout sessions have been dedicated to the design and development of applications for Windows Phone 7 Series.
As a Windows Phone 7 Series specialist from Microsoft Canada, I will be at this event, so if you have questions or want to book some time with me at the event, let me know! I can be reached at paul<dot>laberge<at>microsoft<dot>com or via my Twitter handle, @plaberge.
While I don’t have much information to share with you on the application design and development process yet, rest assured it is coming and once we have publicized that information I will be very happy to go through it with you in more detail.
So, What’s in the Box?
I’ve listed some of the most interesting features that will be included in Windows Phone 7 Series below. While this is obviously not an exhaustive list, this should be enough to get you thinking about what the platform can do:
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list but it does provide a list of features that might be compelling to software developers and designers.
Are you a website designer or developer either as a profession or even as a hobby? If you are, then you may want to attend a free webcast coming up on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 2PM ET (11AM PT) where we overview the features of Expression Web 3, Microsoft’s latest website design tool.
To sign up for this free webcast, click here and use the following sign-up code: 10BC45
This overview session will highlight some of the great features of Expression Web. By the end of this session, you will:
If you’ve never heard of Expression Web, then this webcast will likely surprise you as this a fully professional tool to help you build visually appealing, dynamic and standards-adhering websites. And to answer your question, no, this is not FrontPage vNext. FrontPage (thankfully!) is dead, never to come back.
To give you an example of what is possible with the tool, Morten Rand-Hendriksen has built some great sites built using Expression Web 3 which warrant highlighting: