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Microsoft The Platform Both On And Offline

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    I don't like how the formatting is on my blog version of this post, besides I want to see what people at Microsoft and other users had to say about this.

    You have people today who are saying the desktop is dead, the web is the future. I do not agree with that. We are moving in a direction where everyone has a computer. I don’t feel like signing on to a computer just to edit word documents and manage some tables in excel. As much as I love seeing applications for the web this simply makes no sense to have every desktop app ported over to AJAX or Ruby on Rails!

    The web instead should be viewed as an enhancement of efficiency to the already growing amounts of information we have to deal with on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.

    Steve Ballmer keeps on saying that Microsoft won the desktop and now they will win the web. This is a very bold statement, and unless you have roadmaps, ideas, or some sort of fancy PowerPoint to back it up then I just have to sit back and ask how exactly are you trying to do what you just said? 

    He was right about one thing though, Windows has won the desktop. Software is King. We have an operating system, Windows XP SP2, which is great and easy to use. An office suite where all the apps talk to each other beautifully, there are a few more kinks that I would like to be seen worked out, but for the most part Office 2003 is a great solid product.

    There is one thing Microsoft has had forever but have failed to recognize it’s potential. Microsoft Passport. This is the link that I believe will bring Microsoft into the online revolution towards web based services and applications.

    First off, don’t tell me how many buddies I can have in MSN Messenger. I read something on memorandum today that said the number has been raised to 600. Don’t tell me that hotmail is only giving me 1 gigabyte or whatever the number is. I don’t like limits because it makes me think in abstract ways just to figure how to live inside the boundaries. Now I don’t have more than 100 buddies in AIM, I don’t use MSN, I will get back to that in a second; and I have about 850 Mb used up of my gmail, which I will get back to that as well. 

    Passport is the one thing that should tie together your operating system, your applications, and the web. With passport so many scenarios can be created that I think would prove useful. Let me run through a few of them, along with some new ideas that should be thought of for the near/post Vista release:

    • IE7 and the Windows Vista RSS APIs are synced, great. Now sync that up with my passport account and you are in business.
    • should use the passport to login and remember settings. Every time I log in, I see the RSS headlines that are on my Vista machine which is tied to my passport account. If I add a feed on it should show up when I get back home to my computer. If I delete a feed on my Vista machine it should be reflected in my account online next time I check out the site.
    • Robert Scoble pounded the offices of Microsoft declaring the strength of RSS, I am glad he got the point across that users should no longer have to go find their information, that their information should come to them. Now I beg of him or anyone else at Microsoft to pound the beat of synchronization and tagging.
    • Synchronization just makes sense. If I read an RSS feed in my hotmail (Kahuna you better integrate RSS reader functionality) or a feed on I don’t want to read it again when I open up IE7 or Outlook 2006; use passport to sync all this information up.

    Tagging is also bringing new user scenarios onto the scene:

    • Tagging is the new way to manage data that isn’t popularized by the masses yet, but it will take off and unleash at a hellish furry that no one will understand. Tagging everywhere, in all my application and in all my data. Apple users are just getting started with spotlight, MP3’s have them as ID3 tags, Windows users will get it in Vista, but it extends to so much more than the desktop.
    • Take Outlook 2006 for example, it will read RSS feeds, it should sync with Kahuna for free. I should be able to tag my feeds based on my criteria. Work feeds, school feeds, game feeds, and whatever other category name I fancy. Folders for RSS feeds were fine in the beginning, but it is becoming grossly inadequate as our subscriptions increase and sites are expanding their breath of knowledge to more than one category of information. Any tag I apply to any piece of data should be synced up with its equivalent web service.
    • MSN Messenger, tag my buddies, my girl friends, my guy friends, the guys on the football team, the guys on the bowling team, the one guy that uses Linux, you get the point. Folder hierarchies are great when I talk to a few people, but one day I might want to see just the users in the computer club, or on a lonely night just the users who are girls. I want to be able to organize my contact list by any shape or form I want to. Again if I add a contact in Outlook 2006 then it should sync with my passport which syncs with my Kahuna account and my MSN messenger account. “All my data everywhere” should be the new slogan and push for the company.

    Sharing your data, collaboration, it’s seen in the corporate world but why not bring it down to the end users:

    • Creating a word processor for net use sounds a little bit retarded, redundant, and useless. Now think of something that is out on the web now that can help with word processing. Comments in blogs! Imagine Office 2006, you open up Word 2006 and write up a file called “Biology Exam Review.doc” You want to show all your friends in your biology class (tagging the people in my contact list with any data I want to apply to it in outlook, kahuna, and msn rearing its head again, in this case find all my friends who are in my biology class) this document so they can talk to you about it and even add a few things. You send the invite for all of them to go online and check it out. The document gets put somewhere online, accessible to either those select few, or the world for that matter. You wake up in the morning, open up the same document for editing because you forgot to add something, now look what happens, a sidebar pops up and shows you that you have 8 or 9 friends who have left you feedback or wanted to change a certain portion of your document. You click on each individual user, and now in red, green, whatever color you want, their changes to the document are present. You can now add, edit, modify any, none, or all of the comments those people have left you. Integrating their ideas, and their content in your document. Collaboration made easy, most importantly free.
    • Shared calendars in Kahuna, can we please have it? I want to see what my friends are doing on this and that date, that information better be synced up with their copy of Outlook as well. I’m not talking corporate customers I am talking about you and me, everyday end users.

    Using passport as something beyond a tool to sync data:

    • Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Newegg: these are a few of the sites I shop online with. Wouldn’t it be convenient if I could “pay with passport?” Or how about this. I go out with my friend John, he makes a bet that I can’t get a girls phone number. I get it anyways and now he has to pay me. He says he will do it tomorrow. I wake up tomorrow, read my email, and see he has paid back the money from the bet using his passport.
    • Items I have purchased with my passport can be stored if I chose it so. I can check out other people who have purchased the same things I have, see their wish lists, shopping carts. The more I find my tastes and this complete strangers tastes in common I can chose to buy things they have purchased. Why do you think the first version of Napster was so popular? I could be downloading two or three albums I really like from you, thinking that you like the same type of music I check out your collection. I see a group I have never heard of, I download that song and I fall instantly in love! I can now go on Amazon or whatever site and purchase that CD, again with my passport. This concept is similar to how people behave in real life. Your friend buys 4 or 5 DVDs, you loved all of them and wonder what else he has, and you go over to his place and look at his bookshelf and ask him about what he likes and what he recommends. Bring that experience online.
    • Bookmarks and the social impact they have on society. Bookmarks should have tags just like the newly released Flock has. No one has 20-30 bookmarks anymore, people have hundreds. A simpler way of organizing them cough tags! cough should be put in place. Now my bookmarks should sync up with my MSN Spaces account, you may ask why and how? Using my passport! Now why would I want to do this? When I log on to MSN Spaces I want to click something that shows me users who have the same bookmarks as me, users on the top of a list have more in common with me, users further down have 80% of my bookmarks in common, some have 60% in common you get it. Now think of the ramifications, I can go to their MSN Spaces, look at their bookmarks, check out sites that they have found interesting, and hey if I think they have something cool to say on their blog I can subscribe to it, which in turn gets synced to my passport with tags I apply such as “blog, technology, mp3 players.” This gets synced on my vista machine and outlook 2006. Do you see the beauty in combing the best of the desktop with the best of the web all with the power of passport?
    • the project by Kevin Rose shows the power of user collaboration. Users submit news articles, users read the articles, and the more popular an article is the higher it reaches the top of the site. The site is just a really advanced piece of code, the users make the site! I can see who dugg the same article I found interesting and see how many articles we both found interesting. Great concept, it will only grow with time. If you could buy one company I would say buy them. AOL purchased weblogs, just buy digg. This has nothing to do with passport but that website shows off how powerful users are if you just give them the power of sharing and collaboration.
    Now earlier in this… manifesto about platforms I guess you would call it, I said I don’t use Hotmail, and I don’t use MSN Messenger. Hotmail first off has so many advertisements that it makes me want to get out of the site as soon as possible. It just isn’t appealing to the eye. The interface itself is also slow and just feels bulky. Gmail, looks simple, I don’t bother looking how much space I have free because they have that infinity +1 philosophy about email storage. Conversations, best feature in a web application period. I often find myself exchanging emails, having conversations that go back and forth across as much as 40 messages. Conversations holds it all in for me, makes it easy to read, and lets me show more content (more messages) on my screen. Staring email, which is like flagging email in Outlook is also a very nice feature. If it’s in hotmail I wouldn’t know because the interface sucks that hard. Make Kahuna special, if you can convince me to change from my gmail then you know you have done something right. I don’t do this whole brand recognition thing; I use the best products out on the market. Your operating system, best out there in my personal opinion, your web email, if you killed hotmail tomorrow I wouldn’t care.

    MSN Messenger, the one freaking thing I hate most about Microsoft. What in gods name were you thinking when you designed this interface? Was your test group a couple of 14 year olds special needs children? Robert Scoble had a Channel 9 video up showing off office communicator 2005, there is nothing more I can say then give me, give me, give me. I can IM all my friends on different networks, the interface is clean, all the advanced functionality is easy to find if I would ever even want to use it, and it integrates nicely with the rest of the office suite as well as desktop. Add tagging to all my buddies, concentrate on a simple elegant interface primarily for text, let me be able to log, and search my previous conversations, let me send SMS messages with it and I will use it.

    You signed a deal with Yahoo, good for you guys, but you need AOL’s Instant Messenger to make this all work. Take it from someone in a university, we all use gmail, we all use AIM. The old people use yahoo mail, and ICQ. The web 2.0 conference just ended, I have read lots of coverage on the teen panel. They seem to be demonstrating the same things I am telling you about:

    • Let me share my music collection with people; let me use my instant message client for instant message! Voice over UP, yea it’s cool for about 5 minutes, video… let's not get into that. It’s bad enough people out age get all worked up about how they look in public, now they have to maintain their beauty incase god forbid someone wants to initiate a video chat.
    Just to wrap this up, embrace the web, use passport as the glue that brings the web and the desktop together. Let me be synced across any machine I use that is connected to the internet. Let me tag my data with any form of metadata I want. You can think of 1000 ways on how a user might organize their data, but a user knows best how they want to see their data presented to them. Kahuna better be blood freaking amaze to get me to switch from gmail, and msn messenger has to grow up a lot, as well as be able to socialize with all the other networks out there.

    As for whom I am, just a 19 year old end user embracing technology to make my life easier, more manageable, and to feed the unquenchable urge I have for information. These are just my ideas and points on technology, I hope all of them get adopted, and if not I hope Microsoft at least gets some shock and awe as to new ways of thinking about applications and how people use them.

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    They did try this at one point - it was called Hailstorm. At one point you could buy through Amazon and eBay AFAIK. However it did not really take off. It was too expensive, people didn't trust Microsoft - one centralised database with many Windows users password, credit card numbers etc.

    While a single sign on for everything has obvious benefits, it is not good to have all you information kept it one single place. Firstly it gives too much power to the one holding the information (promotes a monopoly) and also it is a very attractive target for hackers.

    If something like this is really going to take off, it needs to be built on open standards. No company should have complete control and have patents/IP holding back the standard (i.e. wait for it to get wide adoptation and then sue, like with the recent XML 'patent'). As long as the systems can communicate with each other, there will be less problems. So you could store your information with Yahoo, Google, eBay etc.

    The logistics involved with this would probably mean it will never happen. Even with multiple providers you would end up having a few companies containing all you details. Not as bad as a monopoly, but still not good. I personally would rather be inconvenienced by multiple logins than give details to a few megacorps.

    The Liberty Alliance is a kind of open standard alternative to Hailstorm, which could be more successful than it was.

    What I want is Microsoft to support more open standards. iCalendar is a good example - I should be able to choose where I store my calendar - with a provider, or on my website. You then interface with that. Just upload a file, and point your application at it. Sadly, they don't seem very open to that (open standards) and would rather have control (look at OpenDocument as an example as well). If even if all the competition support a standard, doesn't mean Microsoft will - especially with dominant market share. I suppose it is because if they did, the market share would diminish. Users would be far better off (increased competition, cheaper products), but not Microsoft.

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    You should look into Infocard and the Identity Blog.  Kim Cameron, author of the Identity Blog, was interviewed for Channel9 about his Identity paper.

    Plus, just to let you know, is making use of Passport today.  You can login anywhere and your saved gadgets appear.

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    Thanks, I'll check that video out.

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