November, 2009

  • Steve Clayton

    Black Friday at the Microsoft Store


    image image

    This whole Black Friday thing is a curiosity for us international folks but over in the US of A, the Microsoft Store has a number of special offers some of which are really quite impressive. See below

    • Free three-month subscription to Xbox LIVE when you buy an Xbox Elite Console—or get 30% off selected Xbox accessories.
    • Save $50 when you buy an Xbox Premium Console and Beatles Rock Band together—yeah, yeah, yeah!
    • Save 30% off most headsets for that gamer on your list.
    • Get an amazing deal on Office Home and Student—just $79.99. That’s a savings of almost $70! Or save almost $80 on Office Small Business Edition.
    • Free Lenovo S10 netbook when you buy a Lenovo T400 or X301 notebook, or A600 all-in-one desktop (first 50 customers).
    • Get $50 off an HP PhotoSmart printer.
    • Save $50 on any monitor when you buy any desktop or laptop in the store (netbooks not included).
    • Get 20% off selected laptop bags or sleeves when you buy selected laptops or netbooks.
    • Buy a Sony laptop (VGN-NW250F/S or VGN-FW520F/B) and get a 16 GB Zune HD at no additional cost (first 50 customers).
    • Buy an Xbox Elite Modern Warfare bundle console and get two games free: Assassins Creed 2 plus Dragon Age Origins.

  • Steve Clayton

    Bing Maps & user intent



    Bing Maps is getting better and better for me. I just did a quick search for Taplow as I’m planning to meet a pal there next week for a quick pint. On searching for Taplow it took me right there and without prompting showed me the nearest stations and their distances from the town centre. Does Google Maps do the same I wondered? I moseyed on over there and the answer is no…in fact it took me a few more clicks to get to Taplow. Ratchet up another win for Bing.

    top tip: you can get to Bing Maps by going to – in fact, even quicker you can type BingMaps and hit Ctrl and Enter on your keyboard and IE will add the www and .com for you


  • Steve Clayton

    Pleo is back



    Good to see me old mucker Pleo is back in action after a near death experience. Order online at 

    I was actually hoping he would disappear for a few years and become my pension fund as I have a pristine unit locked up under my staircase. I feed him regularly though so no need to call the RSPCA

  • Steve Clayton

    Azure helps Europe to manage environmental change



    Last week at PDC the European Environment Agency announced their latest iteration of their Eye On Earth portal. Their new service is called Air Watch and it provides information on air quality to more than 500 million people across Europe, bringing together both measured and modelled data alongside citizens’ observations on air quality.

    Eye On Earth was launched in May 2008 with WaterWatch presenting water-quality data on an interactive site powered by Bing Maps. Air Watch has has a new UI and shows both air and bathing water information. The whole thing is built on Windows Azure and SQL Azure.

  • Steve Clayton

    PDC 2009 review



    The dust has settled on the PDC 2009 and unlike previous events where I have tried to blog at the event, I decided this time around that it was just too hard to do and that a more considered review a few days after the event may work better. Here goes…

    I’m really only going to focus on the keynotes and a few sessions I found intriguing – I actually attended less sessions that I expected to but with good reason thanks to Channel 9. More on that below but first, here’s my views on Day 1 and a few other sessions. Hopefully I’ll get to review Day 2 as well as Sinofsky was on fine form.

    Day 1 was all about 3 Screens and a Cloud and Cloud computing. Ray presented with a typical Ray set of slides that were image heavy – it means you have to go listen to the webcast to get the context but it’s worth it. Ray laid out the new mantra that you’ll hear from Microsoft about our ability to delivery experiences across 3 screens (the PC, Mobile and TV). Experiences sounds a bit vague and marketing heavy but think of it as business services like email across those 3 screens in a connected way or even Twitter which is now on XBOX and hence your TV. What was more important though was the story for developers that they should target the browser and/or Silverlight across those 3 screens all from Visual Studio or Expression.

    Ray had 3 guests who were all a bit unexpected. Matt Mullenweg from Automattic isn’t exactly a household name but Wordpress talking about using MySQL and PHP on Azure was quite a big deal and a strong signal that the Microsoft cloud platform, in line with something Tim O’Reilly recently said, is a pretty open platform. Much more than people would expect and certainly more so that Google App Engine by comparison.

    Next up was Loic Le Meur, the European entrepreneur who hosts Le Web each year in Paris, and the man behind Twhirl and Seesmic. He was on stage to talk about his move from Adobe AIR to Windows and Silverlight. Their new Seesmic app for Windows is really quite impressive and will take advantage of things like the location services in Windows 7.

    Finally we heard from Vivek Kundra via satellite link who talked about the potential for the cloud to bring in a new era of innovation. It was a little US centric for my liking but hey ho, if that’s what it takes to drag the world to the cloud, so be it. I disagreed with a number of my colleagues who scoffed at his demo being on an iPhone – another sign of interop if you ask me.

    [update] Jeremy reminded me of the cool Be A Martian site from NASA and of course the Eye on The Earth site from the EEA which I subsequently blogged about.

    The best part of Ray’s talk for me was the new Dallas service which I think holds huge potential to take public data sets and expose them on the web for great mashups. I recently blogged about the Scottish Government using Silverlight and the cloud to put public data on the web. That’s precisely the type of stuff that Dallas could be used for, to liberate public data and help the owners make money from it. Lots of potential for public sector for sure but also commercial organisations like Dun and Bradstreet.

    A few other nuggets – you’ll hear more about Windows Live and Windows Phone next spring. I’m sure you can guess where.

    Bob Muglia picked up the reigns from Ray and dived deeper in to the server and tools offerings from Microsoft. Some fun demos from Don Box for sure but the real meat of Bob’s talk was perhaps a little too subtle – Microsoft is now in the Infrastructure as a Service business (IaaS), the Platform as a Service business (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). No other player is really working across all three of these spaces – Amazon is in IaaS and dabbling in PaaS. Salesforce is in SaaS and PaaS, Google is in SaaS and PaaS.

    Bob also talked very briefly about the notion of Moving, Enhancing or Transforming via the cloud. To move, the VM role capability in Azure allows you to take apps to the cloud quickly albeit not taking full advantage of the elasticity of the cloud. Transform is the idea of extending an application in to the cloud, perhaps by combining SQL Server with SQL Azure. Finally, transforming is the idea of creating a completely new application on Azure that takes full advantage of the scale of the cloud and capabilities like SQL Azure, App Fabric, Python, Java, MySQL and more. Bob summarised it all as the cloud application model that the world is quickly moving to.

    Bob also talked about project Sydney which enables a cloud based app to have a direct, secure connection back to a local data center. For companies who want to build a cloud app that takes advantage of the scale of the public cloud but lets them keep their data local it’s a great solution. I can already image companies who would want to do this to deal with the peaks and troughs of the web – a great way to get web scale when you need it with local data.

    Bob closed out by talking about the synchronicity of our server products and our cloud products. He showed a great slide that had Windows Server alongside Windows Azure, SQL Server alongside SQL Azure. Atop are our SaaS offering such as Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. At the bottom of the slide was a nugget of info too – as Network World noted, Muglia talked briefly about System Center "Cloud" – in the keynote saying it would sit below the virtual machine layer and work across the cloud and on-premises infrastructure.

    So that was Day 1 – there was much more to it than that but those were the key points for me. As I followed the coverage I read a great post from Joe Wile

    Joe Wilcox has a good list of topics from PDC but on Azure I think he was wrong. He said

    It seemed as if Microsoft had pulled a Windows Longhorn, dumping features and shifting strategies before reaching the destination. Azure, which won't launch until Jan. 1, 2010, now looks less like a cloud OS and more like an up-and-coming Amazon Web Services. Chasing Amazon is not a winning strategy, even with all the leverage Microsoft commands from existing PC desktop and server software.


    Really? What did we pull from Azure? We added stuff, not removed stuff. Specifically VM roles, Dallas, Sydney and more. In fact Azure went from being a PaaS offering to IaaS, PaaS and DaaS so I don’t understand Joe’s assessment. We may be chasing Amazon in terms of customer adoption but in terms of capability, there is no comparison.


    So where did I spent the rest of my time at PDC? Well I went to a number of other Azure sessions but I also stumbled across the Channel 9 live suite where they had great live interviews with Ray Ozziie, Bob Muglia, Guthrie and other luminaries. It was a great place that was surprisingly quiet but a great place to get some great insights and watch people like Ray and Bob deal with questions on the fly. Very different styles at play there. Bob is energetic and I sense a bit of a geek at heart whilst whilst Ray almost defines cerebral. Fun to watch and great to see my pal Jeff Sandqist taking Channel 9 onwards and upwards.


    One other session I wanted to mention was Gary Flake who showed us Pivot. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Pivot is one of those things you have to play with to understand. One thing really struck me though….the ability for Dallas and Pivot to work together. Huge, huge potential there.

    Okay, that’s about the longest post I’ve done here all year so I’m gonna stop and noodle on Day 2 keynotes.

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