Yesterday, or today depending on your time zone, Microsoft held a press conference in Hollywood. The whole thing had been very mysterious. The press were given extremely short notice to book their flights and get to the location in time, and nobody knew what all the fuss was about.
Now that we know what the announcement was, it’s not worth going through all the theories that journalists and bloggers were forming in an attempt to work out what the heck was going on. One thing was for sure, Microsoft managed showed it could keep a secrete as well as Apple does.
The device turned out to be a tablet – the Microsoft Surface – which is clearly capitalising on the brand name that Microsoft developed for its table-sized touch devices that it produces in conjunction with Samsung. I monitored the initial reactions of both the live blogs, and the bloggers I speak to on Twitter – and those reactions were unprecedented for a Microsoft device. Everybody wanted one.
Mind you, the reactions were qualified, there are still some unanswered questions about this device, and they mostly come down to cost. Microsoft didn’t really give us any useful information about that – all they said was that the price would be comparable with Ultra book devices – which makes it sound way too expensive.
And it’s money were Microsoft could still screw all of this up. Apple can get away with charging a premium, it’s loyal user base is conditioned into paying those prices – I don’t think there’s another company, including Microsoft, who can get away with that.
I think, with the Surface, Microsoft could have a run-away hit on its hands, but only if they can sell them by the shed load. Which really, Microsoft NEEDS to do because it is already taking a risk by putting Metro UI on its next major release of Windows, and it’s struggling to get Windows Phone 7 (which Metro UI also runs atop of) to some degree of decent market share.
There is understandable inertia in getting Metro UI adopted by consumers – especially as there are still productivity question marks over it, and the dual Metro/desktop nature of Windows 8. The argument over Metro is still far from settled.
Therefore, Microsoft need to get as many people as possible using Metro, and since they’ve gone to the trouble of designing and producing what seems to be a very sexy looking tablet, there couldn’t be better way.
I’ve been musing on what Microsoft is doing with Skype and Windows Phone 7 lately. If you hadn’t heard, since its acquisition of Skype, Microsoft has replaced the use of public super nodes with a farm of hosted Linux servers fulfilling the same purpose.
The way Skype used to work was that users could opt to be “super nodes”, which created a network layer that contained the IP addresses of users currently logged in and connected to that local super node. Whenever you, as a user, want to connect to another user, your Skype client will consult the network of super nodes, which in turn will locate the user and return the IP address back to your client. From then on, you and the person you wished to call could connect directly – in some cases super nodes would also route call traffic.
Thanks to Steve Litchfield, I’ve been able to test the HTC HD7, one of the earliest Windows Phone 7, erm, phones. I’ve already posted a photo gallery of HD7. Now, I want to talk about Microsoft’s new mobile operating system which will be adopted by Nokia as its primary platform, eventually replacing Symbian.
Read on for my opinions and first impressions of Windows Phone 7, with the “NoDo” 7.07 update
Windows Update is the classic update service that only offers updates for Windows. Microsoft Update extends this service to cover other Microsoft programmes including, but not limited to, Office, Exchange and SQL.
Okay this is due to a Google video I watched of a talk given by Merlin Mann, about “Inbox Zero (Google video)” (which I’ll show you at the end of this series), you can download the audio here (MP3 59Minutes 40MB). I’m not going to rehash the whole talk, but listening to this really changed the way I have looked at e-mail. (He talks a lot more about time management than I do).
In short, if your Inbox (work or home) is just a wall of messages that makes you weep as you roll the scroll wheel, then you are handling your e-mail in the wrong way. Also you can go the other way, and really spend way too much time organising and have a filing system that is way too heavy to live with. I have swung to both of these extremes in my time.
If you’re a lazy e-mail person, and you’ve got that wall of messages in your Inbox, then for the sake of liberating your time and energy you goal is to get that e-mail Inbox down to zero, yes that’s right, zero e-mail in your Inbox.
First off, there is so much e-mail you can just delete. Those mailing lists you’re on, those silly conversations you had that read more like text messages. You really don’t need to know what someone had for dinner last year, or what was the latest news on your favourite site last week. You just don’t need it.
What Merlin preaches is to learn to regularly process your e-mail rather then just checking it, and to then actually check your e-mail less.
“Don’t live in your e-mail.”
Give yourself little actions, “verbs”, for what needs to be done with an e-mail. You can watch/listen to the talk to see his actions, although here’s my current version. From my Inbox messages get the following treatment:
Immediate reply and file into my archive.
Delayed reply, gets put into my “Unreplied” folder.
Is required for reference in an ongoing task, gets filed in my “Projects” folder.
No action required, but information is needed for future, gets put into my archive.
Now the archive is a tricky one. Merlin Mann says that, to him, the archive is just one folder that everything goes into. When giving this talk to Google employees at their campus he said “C’mon you’re Google, you’ve got the frickin’ Gmail, just search”. My old way of archiving had an insane amount of folders and sub-folder levels. After initially listening to Merlin’s talk, I did reduce my folders, but I was still addicted to thinking in folders. Soon, I got down to only five folders and no sub-folders. Eventually, I realised that I was rarely wanting to pull anything from my archive. In which case, it became clear that using search was probably more worthwhile. Therefore, I finally gave up my folders and just dumped everything into one huge archive folder. If you are as addicted to using folders as I used to be, I hope this anecdote encourages you to change.
So boys and girls, this has been the story of how I became an e-mail ninja. I can now access my mail any place any where any time. I am not tied to (or at the mercy of) one specific e-mail service or computer Operating System, and I am not in dire straights if I am without an Internet connection for a while. Most importantly, I am no longer weighed down by year-old messages in my Inbox.