• Steve Clayton

    Microsoft Live Search for finding Blogs and RSS Feeds

    • 3 Comments

    livesearch

    Some new features are quietly being added to Live Search around RSS, blogs etc. Amit has a pretty good round up of them. Check out http://search.live.com/feeds/ which has a beta of a Live Search for blogs similar to Google Blog Search.

    Link to Microsoft Live Search for finding Blogs and RSS Feeds at Digital Inspiration

  • Steve Clayton

    The promise of Natural User Interface - NUI

    • 0 Comments
    Get Microsoft Silverlight

     

    You’re familiar with GUI even if you don’t know it – it’s the type of user interface you use every day on your current class of PC (or Mac) – a Graphical User Interface. Over the last year or so, Microsoft and others have begun referring to NUI or Natural User Interface. This is where computers start to become, well, more natural with speech and visual gestures being the modes of interaction rather than mouse and keyboard. Todd Bishop has a post about this topic today and noted that Bill Gates recently talked of NUI as “the thing that people underestimate right now."

    Wikipedia defines NUI as “common parlance used by designers and developers of computer interfaces to refer to a user interface that is effectively invisible, or becomes invisible with successive learned interactions, to its users”. In that Wikipedia entry, Bill Buxton of Microsoft is mentioned and you’ll see him in the video above as he’s been at work on this stuff as far back as 1984. Project Natal and Surface from Microsoft are also mentioned in that entry alongside the amazing work of Jeff Han on multi-touch which he showed at TED in 2006. On a side note, it wasn’t a surprise to me to see that poleydee was an early contributor to this Wikipedia entry as I know he’s a big fan of Bill’s work.

    There is a lot of work going on at Microsoft around NUI and this video brings much of it together – from Windows 7 touch, Surface, Natal and the Office Envisioning videos. Until now, much of this seemed a bit far off – in the realm of Minority Report it seemed very “Hollywood”. However, inexpensive display technology is enabling any surface to become an interactive screen. Cameras and microphones can now be embedded in almost anything and the Wii and iPhone have shown that computers can understand simple gestures – with Natal that goes further with more advanced gestures and speech recognition. There is much talk of augmented reality at the moment and that adds another layer of exciting potential.

    Component prices are falling fast so we’ll start to see hardware catch up with the software work that has gone on to date. Microsoft Research, it we get things right has a big part to play here as for years we’ve invested in computer vision, machine learning, user interfaces and language processing – across the many labs we have but much of that here in the UK in our Cambridge lab which I’m personally pleased about. It’s been a long journey as this work goes back as early as 1991….finally we’re starting to see it bear fruit.

    We’re taking a platform approach to this and looking to others to innovate on top. The PDC began some of our quest to unleash  that innovation to some extent - the laptop giveaway encouraged these new types of NUI apps with a machine designed specifically to highlight the sensors in the unit and build completely new applications based on touch and more. The second video below shows you some of the apps that were in the laptop from the PDC – but these are just the tip of the iceberg – I can’t wait to see what developers do with all of this.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight


  • Steve Clayton

    Three Screens and a Cloud

    • 5 Comments

    image

    This is a phrase I think we’re going to hear more of from Microsoft over the coming months and years. In many ways it nicely captures the the end user vision for Microsoft.

    Ray Ozzie has used the phrase twice in as many weeks, first at the Technology Alliance luncheon in Seattle and then again yesterday in a fireside chat with JP Morgan. Yesterday he said

    “So, moving forward, again I believe that the world some number of years from now in terms of how we consume IT is really shifting from a machine-centric viewpoint to what we refer to as three screens and a cloud:  the phone, the PC, and the TV ultimately, and how we deliver value to them.”

    There were a tonne of other interesting things during the JP Morgan session including Microsoft's approach to cloud and five areas where Ray believes we have significant advantage in this transition relative to these other competitors. I’ll post on that some other time as I’d like to dwell on three screens and a cloud for a while.

    I think three screens and a cloud is really an evolution of what Ray said back in his last memo where he positioned the web (aka cloud) as the hub and a world of devices. In terms of the consumption of information we typically consume it via one of three devices – the phone, the PC and the TV (not sure what the radio folks would say). On the PC and mobile we’re making progress in connecting them to the cloud through services such as Live Mesh and MyPhone (which went in to public beta this week). Netbooks have sped up this process in many ways as a companion device to a larger PC you can get a great experience through sharing or synchronising your devices through the cloud. Clearly we have some very strong competitors in this space in the shape of Apple with their laptop range and MobileMe and of course the iPhone which is a remarkably well connected device with lots of great cloud applications from the App Store. Google is entering the game with their Android OS on both phone and small form factor PC’s.

    On the PC and mobile side there is very strong and admirable competition which should be good for the consumer as each of the companies forges ahead to try to leapfrog the other. The TV side is a much more cloudy picture if you’ll forgive the pun. It’s actually not the TV that is the battleground here – more so devices that use that large screen or screens in your home to make it another point of delivery/sync with the cloud. As I thought about this earlier today, it struck me that the expensive LCD panel I have in my own home is a pretty dumb device in reality – all the smart stuff comes from the boxes that are connected to it. In my case those boxes are a Windows Media Centre, an XBOX360 and a Sky HD box – all driven by software to light up the relatively dumb TV.

    Apple has Apple TV in this arena and as far as I know, it’s not somewhere Google plays at this point. As BusinessInsider noted today, this is an areas where Microsoft is strong and with announcements like the integration of Netflix streaming in to Media Centre we’re getting stronger. I’d personally like to see more of these content deals outside of the US but the reality is I actually want much more from my TV. If it’s to replace the PC as the screen I look at most there is going to have to be much smarter integration of web content than there is today.

    Coming back to the beginning then…I generally like this new terminology as a way to explain to consumers what this new era will look like and what part Microsoft will play. I’m not 100% sure that “cloud” will ever be a term that is instantly understandable for the average consumer but the philosophy is sound I think.

    Where I think Microsoft has real potential is to connect these worlds. There are some great examples of this now on the iPhone – the Sky+ app that allows me to quickly and easily remote record any program is a terrific example – but there are many more ways I want to see not only my information but also my preferences flow between these three screens based on where I am and what I’m doing. For example I want an application that knows the moment I put a calendar entry in to Outlook that clashes with my favourite TV program to know it should send a request to by Media Centre or Sky+ box to record. Similarly I want my TV to give me the option of seeing the Twitter feed from my friends to see what they’re thinking as we’re watching The Apprentice.

    There are many more scenarios like this so the three screens and a cloud mantra is as much a call to arms for our product teams as it is for setting a vision that consumers can understand. The era of the cloud is now upon us and the race is on to connect these 3 screens to it.



  • Steve Clayton

    Hidden tricks of Windows Phone 7

    • 1 Comments

     

    keybds

    I thought I’d found most of the tricks Windows Phone 7 has up it’s sleeve but no, this puppy has way more tricks up it’s sleeve. It’s one thing I love about the marketing…we’ve not had every feature explained to us in excruciating detail. The team behind it seem to know the delight and childlike glee of finding something you didn’t know was there…it reminds me of the days of Easter eggs.

    Head to pocket-lint.com for 72 tips and tricks…here are 3 of my favorites.

     

    38. Getting International dialing help
    Always travelling, always forgetting to add the 0044 to your calls back to the UK? Then go in to Settings, swipe to Applications, choose Phone and then set International assist to On. Turning it on will help automatically correct some of the common mistakes while dialing international or dialing while abroad.
    45. Finding the .co.uk shortcut on the touchscreen keyboard
    Load up the keyboard in Internet Explorer and to save you valuable seconds you get a .com button for websites. But what if you are going to a .co.uk? Well press and hold the .com button and up pops .co.uk, .org. and .edu.
    65. Shuffle tracks on an album
    This one is hidden within the player. Tap on the album cover and it reveals two controls, a repeat and a shuffle icon. It's like you've found a special secret
  • Steve Clayton

    What’s in my sack?

    • 1 Comments

    I was inspired by Hugh’s recent post on his portable studio, I got thinking about what I carry around every day – what are the tools of my trade? 

    My main use bag is the Rapha backpack from the legendary cycling company. The build quality of their stuff is second to none and this bag is no exception. The detailing is wonderful with little touches of their trademark pink here and there. The bag itself has a good selection of external and internal pockets including a laptop divider. It’s big enough to house my essentials while being small enough that I have to judiciously pick what I carry. Here’s today’s inventory

    • Lenovo X301 laptop + small power supply. Though I have a smaller laptop with my Vaio X, the Lenovo is the perfect combination of power to weight.
    • Zune HD 32
    • Bowers and Wilkins P5 headphones. Okay, they take up too much space but they’re to good to leave at home!
    • Leica D-LUX 4 – used for taking snaps around campus. More of which will be showing up on Next at Microsoft soon!
    • Micro USB cable – for sync and power of my Samsung Focus
    • Oakley Flak Jackets – I live in Seattle. I live in hope.
    • Numerous pens and markers
    • Cowshed lipbalm – did I mention I live in Seattle? “Stolen” from High Road House
    • Various memory sticks – 2x4gb, 1x16gb (rarely used) given the cloud syncs all my stuff.
    • Do Epic *** stickers – I just got a load more of these and friends keep asking me for them.
    • Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse – flat and perfect
    • Sony ICD-UX200 digital voice recorder. Slowly being made redundant by my Samsung Focus and OneNote

    That’s my daily load – all I need (and more really) to get my gig done. What’s your haul look like?



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