> Keep It Simple Microsoft

Keep It Simple Microsoft

Posted on Sunday, December 5, 2010 | No Comments

Microsoft always seem to amaze me when I least expect it.

I purchased Windows 7 as soon as it was released and I’ve been using it ever since, what I didn’t realise at the time though was, despite reading about it many times, that it has features built into it that allows streaming of media across the Internet.

For those not in the know, I’ve recently purchased my first house and its quite some distance to my folk’s house (over 30 miles to be exact). So, when I’m visiting or staying over at the folk’s house, I found that not having access to my music, TV recordings and movies was quite a pain. Finding the options to allow me to stream this media, securely across the Internet was exactly what I wanted to find.

When I found the options I wanted, I was able to set the whole thing up in around 10 minutes. Amazingly simple, but something which then had my thinking, if its so easy to set up and its such a great feature, then why aren’t Microsoft pushing this information down users throats and boasting about what a great benefit this is to those users on the move. It’s a major feature, yet no one really knows about it.

Sure Microsoft have been running some TV advertising on Windows 7 which highlights this feature, but in my opinion it still doesn’t really demonstrate how simple and effective streaming media can be achieved. If I were Microsoft I’d be looking for ways to show off just how powerful Windows 7 really is, especially for non-technical users.

Which brings me onto my next subject nicely; cloud based services.

There is little doubt in my mind that computing is moving to “The Cloud” and Microsoft’s push to create a full cloud based infrastructure is in my opinion a very smart move, especially as they will need to gear up against Google and other computing giants in this next era of computing.

Microsoft already have a number of ‘online properties’, including Hotmail, their Live brands, Bing, etc., but for me the four things that grab my attention the most are, in no particular order; Bing, SkyDrive, Mesh and Azure.

I’ve used SkyDrive for quite sometime; it’s brilliantly simple and allows drag and drop of files from the desktop directly into a storage space accessed anywhere in the world via a browser. It’s secure too, locked up behind your Windows Live ID. People have talked for a long time about the possibility of Google releasing a fantasy product called “GDrive”, to do exactly what SkyDrive does, it’s never happened. Yet not many people are aware of the possibilities SkyDrive actually offers, they are too busy with Facebook and not backing up their files it seems. Microsoft give you 25GB worth of space within your own private SkyDrive and any files or folders stored there can be shared with who ever you want them to be shared with – no FTP required.

Mesh is a direct relation to SkyDrive, only with some intelligence built in. It allows you to select a folder on your desktop and sync any files within that folder directly with an online storage space of 5GB, and then it allows you to sync that 5GB somewhere else (a second PC for example, or your mobile phone or both). Update a file in any of these locations and it updates the file everywhere. After installing the application and logging in with your Windows Live ID, its incredibly easy to set up and operate – simplicity is the key again to this Microsoft service, yet, again, it’s a product that is known very little outside of people who are Microsoft-application aware. I’m totally in love with this product right now, especially as I jump around from multiple PCs and laptops. Knowing my important documents are also securely backed up is an absolute bonus!

Azure is all about the future of Windows; it’s your PC and applications all from within the cloud. Right now the whole thing is geared towards being sold into Enterprise business, but my betting is that as soon as it becomes financially viable and when users mindsets have shifted fully towards the cloud and Windows as the full-fat version we currently know it is finally takes its last few breaths, Azure is there ready to take over. My Microsoft Hero – Mark Russinovich has recently joined the Azure team and that demonstrates to me that Microsoft is deadly serious about making it work. Understanding the full details is a little tricky for the non-techie right now and Azure is still really in its early stages – but its certainly one technology to watch for the future.

As the world has changed from fixed positioned PCs, to laptops, to smart phones and to tablets and other mobile devices; online services are poised to be the most important properties in software. Google realised this a long time ago with ‘Search’ as a product and the aims of its search engine is to find you exactly what you need to know and ship the user off to those websites that have the answer. Bing almost takes the opposite approach; brings ‘Search’ as a product to the user, but also aims to provide the answer from within the site itself using the online services of others. To me a genius approach as its goes a long way towards being a single online application verse a plethora of ‘mobile apps’ that users are currently downloading and installing onto their smart phones. Being a single app in a multi-application world is a stroke of genius, especially when working from a smart phone. Simplicity is key.

All of these items are very real and are available right now; the problem is that only a small percentage of users know about them and its possible that an even smaller percentage of those are actively using these services. It’s my belief that if they did know about this software, Facebook popularity would decrease over night in favour of Windows Live services; Messenger does chat better than Facebook, SkyDrive does photos better than Facebook and does online document storage and collaboration – something that Facebook doesn’t even do, Bing beats Google and a multitude of ‘mobile apps’, Windows Media Centre and streaming is already available and positioned to beat Google and Apple TV, Windows 7 is already an awesome desktop platform to bring all of these items together and its only a matter of time before Windows Phone 7 is also mixed in with these services.

What’s stopping all of this happening then? Two things; people have started to forget about Microsoft; Apple have completely taken centre stage with mobile and media with iTunes. Secondly, and to resolve the first problem, Microsoft need to find a way to get some of that spotlight back and show off its wares in the right way; parading simplicity as “thee” way to modern computing and that their services already do what others are desperately trying to build and achieve right now.

Microsoft always seem to amaze me when I least expect it, lets see if they can amaze me one more time by getting this done.

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