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I’m a PC, and I really dig these new ads by Microsoft. The context is global, the diversity is refreshing, and we’re just skimming the surface of the breadth of Microsoft users from around the globe – small business owners, superstars, entrepreneurs, educators, students, inventors, researchers, designers, architects, grandmothers, fishermen, writers, etc. They really capture the spirit of the global Microsoft community: Positive, engaged, international, cool, independent.

Bonus: I expect people will start making their own “I’m a PC” ads soon, which could be pretty cool.

Great “stereotype” wink at the start of each one. The best part isn’t that the ads are good and that they work for all the reasons mentioned above (and they do). No, the best part is the way they effectively kill Apple’s Mac vs. PC ads: The diversity of PC users is so overwhelming compared to the kid from the Mac ads that once you’ve watched them and go back to Apple’s campaign, the only stereotype left is the Mac guy. There’s a much bigger world out there, Apple, and it belongs to us PCs.

All is fair in love, war… and advertising. It’s about time we finally had our story told.

Hat tip to Steve Clayton.

(I sense a comment from Spike any moment now. 3… 2… 1…)

;D

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Those of us who have been using Vista pretty much since the start already knew this, but there has been so much bad publicity around it that it’s hard to separate myth from reality anymore. Well, Microsoft recently decided to try a little experiment to see if Vista haters and skeptics really, truly didn’t like Vista, or if they were just being dragged along by the anti-Vista bandwagon. (Thanks in great part to Apple’s brilliantly executed Mac vs. PC ad campaign.)

The experiment was simple: Invite a group of Vista skeptics to test drive a new OS code-named “mojave,” without telling them that mojave was actually… you guessed it: Vista.

As it turns out, over 90% of the testers (who thought Vista sucked before coming in for their mojave sneak peek) LOVED Mojave. You can check out their reactions when they are told that Mojave was in fact Vista.

Wow! Vista actually rocks! Who knew.  ;D

The blind test is nothing new in marketing circles, but what sets this apart from the old Coke vs. Pepsi blind test ad campaigns is that the question here isn’t one of preference. Coke isn’t better than Pepsi, and Pepsi isn’t better than Coke. People prefer one over the other because of their taste buds, mostly. As powerful an ad campaign as it may be, you might as well have folks do blind tests comparing Methodist and Presbyterian doctrine. Which do you LIKE better? Which do you PREFER? The “Mojave” experiment doesn’t address preference or taste: It addresses perception vs. reality. Vista had (and to some extent still has) a pretty poor image in the marketplace because very few . This is in part due to a) driver incompatibility issues early on in the OS’ release, b) the fact that many “legacy” PCs aren’t powerful enough to run the OS, and c) a very aggressive campaign to discredit microsoft by its longtime rival Apple.

Fact: The driver compatibility issue is pretty-much ancient history.

Fact: Computers are pretty cheap these days, so while some businesses may not want to allocate the funds to upgrade their hardware or consider virtualizing their PCs, consumers should be able to upgrade their laptops and home PCs to a Vista system without too much trouble.

Fact: The Mac vs. PC campaign may have been fresh and cool and based in truth a year ago, but it has now slipped into the realm of disinformation. In addition, many of the so-called “crapware” that bogs down new computers has nothing to do with Microsoft or Vista. (If your new Vista PC is loaded with stuff you don’t want, the system builder installed it on your machine, not Microsoft.) Sony recently released a crapware-free PC that actually allows users to enjoy a pure vista experience right out of the box, and it pretty much rocks.

Anyhoo. The Mojave experiment is clever, honest, simple and effective. It is what it is: A series of videos showing real people being blown away with how great Vista actually is, after having so brainwashed by 21 months of negative messaging.

Kudos to Microsoft for having taken this approach to bringing the reality of Vista forward with people like you and me rather than an expensive round of corporate messaging. Very clever. You can check it out for yourself here. Hat tip to Steve Clayton for the link. Other articles on the subject at Microsoft Sherpa here, here and here.

have a great Tuesday, everyone. 😉

 

Transparency: I manage US Microsoft distribution for SYNNEX, a global distributor of IT and Business processes. Though the job doesn’t skew my opinion of Vista one bit, it’s worth mentioning.

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Ever noticed how positive attitudes are infectious? You walk into a store, and everyone who works there is jazzed and happy to be there and energetic… and by the time you leave, you have completely adopted their mood?

Ever noticed that the opposite is also true: Walk into a business where everyone is negative or apathetic, and you find yourself feeling the same dread and negativity?

Sitting in Houston’s Toyota arena with thousands of the world’s most innovative Microsoft partners, I was reminded of the power that other people’s attitudes and moods have over our own – and remembered a post that Kathy Sierra shared many moons ago on her brilliant but now sadly defunct “Passionate Users” blog. It talked about happy vs. angry people, emotional contagion, and the role mirror neurons play in our involuntary tendency to be drawn into other people’s positive or negative attitudes. Very cool stuff, and particularly relevant to some of the discussions I have been involved with in the last few days with some of my international peers. I did some quick digging to find it so I could share it with you. Here are some of the highlights:

Mirror neurons and our innate tendency to pick up other people’s behaviors, good and bad.

There is now strong evidence to suggest that humans have the same type of “mirror neurons” found in monkeys. It’s what these neurons do that’s amazing–they activate in the same way when you’re watching someone else do something as they do when you’re doing it yourself! This mirroring process/capability is thought to be behind our ability to empathize, but you can imagine the role these neurons have played in keeping us alive as a species. We learn from watching others. We learn from imitating (mirroring) others. The potential problem, though, is that these neurons go happily about their business of imitating others without our conscious intention.

Think about that…

Although the neuroscientific findings are new, your sports coach and your parents didn’t need to know the cause to recognize the effects:

“Choose your role models carefully.”
“Watching Michael Jordan will help you get better.”
“You’re hanging out with the wrong crowd; they’re a bad influence.”
“Don’t watch people doing it wrong… watch the experts!”

We’ve all experienced it. How often have you found yourself sliding into the accent of those around you? Spend a month in England and even a California valley girl sounds different. Spend a week in Texas and even a native New Yorker starts slowing down his speech. How often have you found yourself laughing, dressing, skiing like your closest friend? Has someone ever observed that you and a close friend or significant other had similar mannerisms? When I was in junior high school, it was tough for people to tell my best friends and I apart on the phone–we all sounded so much alike that we could fool even our parents.

But the effect of our innate ability and need to imitate goes way past teenage phone tricks. Spend time with a nervous, anxious person and physiological monitoring would most likely show you mimicking the anxiety and nervousness, in ways that affect your brain and body in a concrete, measurable way. Find yourself in a room full of pissed off people and feel the smile slide right off your face. Listen to people complaining endlessly about work, and you’ll find yourself starting to do the same. How many of us have been horrified to suddenly realize that we’ve spent the last half-hour caught up in a gossip session–despite our strong aversion to gossip? The behavior of others we’re around is nearly irresistible.

Why choosing who you work, play and hang out with matters.

When we’re consciously aware and diligent, we can fight this. But the stress of maintaining that conscious struggle against an unconscious, ancient process is a non-stop stressful drain on our mental, emotional, and physical bandwidth. And no, I’m not suggesting that we can’t or should’nt spend time with people who are angry, negative, critical, depressed, gossiping, whatever. Some (including my sister and father) chose professions (nurse practitioner and cop, respectively) that demand it. And some (like my daughter) volunteer to help those who are suffering (in her case, the homeless). Some people don’t want to avoid their more hostile family members. But in those situations–where we choose to be with people who we do not want to mirror–we have to be extremely careful! Nurses, cops, mental health workers, EMTs, social workers, red cross volunteers, fire fighters, psychiatrists, oncologists, etc. are often at a higher risk (in some cases, WAY higher) for burnout, alcoholism, divorce, stress, or depression unless they take specific steps to avoid getting too sucked in to be effective.

So, when Robert says he wants to spend time hanging around “happy people” and keeping his distance from “deeply unhappy” people, he’s keeping his brain from making–over the long term–negative structural and chemical changes. Regarding the effect of mirror neurons and emotional contagion on personal performance, neurologist Richard Restak offers this advice:

“If you want to accomplish something that demands determination and endurance, try to surround yourself with people possessing these qualities. And try to limit the time you spend with people given to pessimism and expressions of futility. Unfortunately, negative emotions exert a more powerful effect in social situations than positive ones, thanks to the phenomena of emotional contagion.”

This sounds harsh, and it is, but it’s his recommendation based on the facts as the neuroscientists interpret them today. This is not new age self-help–it’s simply the way brains work.

Emotional Contagion explained.

Steven Stosny, an expert on road rage, is quoted in Restak’s book:

“Anger and resentment are thet most contagious of emotions,” according to Stonsy. “If you are near a resentful or angry person, you are more prone to become resentful or angry yourself. If one driver engages in angry gestures and takes on the facial expressions of hostility, surrounding drivers will unconsciously imitate the behavior–resulting in an escalation of anger and resentment in all of the drivers. Added to this, the drivers are now more easily startled as a result of the outpouring of adrenaline accompanying their anger. The result is a temper tantrum that can easily escalate into road rage.”

From a paper on Memetics and Social Contagion,

“…social scientific research has largely confirmed the thesis that affect, attitudes, beliefs and behavior can indeed spread through populations as if they were somehow infectious. Simple exposure sometimes appears to be a sufficient condition for social transmission to occur. This is the social contagion thesis; that sociocultural phenomena can spread through, and leap between, populations more like outbreaks of measles or chicken pox than through a process of rational choice.”

Emotional contagion is considered one of the primary drivers of group/mob behavior, and the recent work on “mirror neurons” helps explain the underlying cause. But it’s not just about groups. From a Cambridge University Press book:

“When we are talking to someone who is depressed it may make us feel depressed, whereas if we talk to someone who is feeling self-confident and buoyant we are likely to feel good about ourselves. This phenomenon, known as emotional contagion, is identified here, and compelling evidence for its affect is offered from a variety of disciplines – social and developmental psychology, history, cross-cultural psychology, experimental psychology, and psychopathology.”

[For a business management perspective, see the Yale School of Management paper titled The Ripple Effect: Emotional Contagion In Groups]

Can any of us honestly say we haven’t experienced emotional contagion? Even if we ourselves haven’t felt our energy drain from being around a perpetually negative person, we’ve watched it happen to someone we care about. We’ve noticed a change in ourselves or our loved ones based on who we/they spend time with. We’ve all known at least one person who really did seem able to “light up the room with their smile,” or another who could “kill the mood” without saying a word. We’ve all found ourselves drawn to some people and not others, based on how we felt around them, in ways we weren’t able to articulate.

Happy People are better able to think logically

Neuroscience has made a long, intense study of the brain’s fear system–one of the oldest, most primitive parts of our brain. Anger and negativity usually stem from the anxiety and/or fear response in the brain, and one thing we know for sure–when the brain thinks its about to be eaten or smashed by a giant boulder, there’s no time to stop and think! In many ways, fear/anger and the ability to think rationally and logically are almost mutually exclusive. Those who stopped to weigh the pros and cons of a flight-or-fight decision were eaten, and didn’t pass on their afraid-yet-thoughtful genes.

Happines is associated most heavily with the left (i.e. logical) side of the brain, while anger is associated with the right (emotional, non-logical) side of the brain. From a Society for Neuroscience article on Bliss and the Brain:

“Furthermore, studies suggest that certain people’s ability to see life through rose-colored glasses links to a heightened left-sided brain function. A scrutiny of brain activity indicates that individuals with natural positive dispositions have trumped up activity in the left prefrontal cortex compared with their more negative counterparts. “

In other words, happy people are better able to think logically.

And apparently happier = healthier:

“Evidence suggests that the left-siders may better handle stressful events on a biological level. For example, studies show that they have a higher function of cells that help defend the body, known as natural killer cells, compared with individuals who have greater right side activity. Left-sided students who face a stressful exam have a smaller drop in their killer cells than right-siders. Other research indicates that generally left-siders may have lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.”

And while we’re dispelling the Happy=Vacuous myth, let’s look at a couple more misperceptions:

“Happy people aren’t critical.”
“Happy people don’t get angry.”
“Happy people are obedient.”
“Happy people can’t be a disruptive force for change.”

So can Happy and criticism live happily together?

One of the world’s leading experts in the art of happiness is the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Just about everyone who hears him speak is struck by how, well, happy he is. How he can describe–with laughter–some of the most traumatizing events of his past. Talk about perspective

But he is quite outspoken with his criticism of China. The thing is, he doesn’t believe that criticism requires anger, or that being happy means you can’t be a disruptive influence for good. On happiness, he has this to say:

“The fact that there is always a positive side to life is the one thing that gives me a lot of happiness. This world is not perfect. There are problems. But things like happiness and unhappiness are relative. Realizing this gives you hope.”

And among the “happy people”, there’s Mahatma Gandhi, a force for change that included non-violent but oh-most-definitely-disobedient behavior. A few of my favorite Gandhi quotes:

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.

The argument for and against anger

But then there’s the argument that says “anger” is morally (and intellectually) superior to “happy”. The American Psychological Association has this to say on anger:

“People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor mistake.”

Of course it’s still a myth that “happy people” don’t get angry. Of course they do. Anger is often an appropriate response. But there’s a Grand Canyon between a happy-person-who-gets-angry and an unhappy-angry-person. So yes, we get angry. Happiness is not our only emotion, it is simply the outlook we have chosen to cultivate because it is usually the most effective, thoughtful, healthy, and productive.

And there’s this one we hear most often, especially in reference to comment moderation–“if you can’t say whatever the hell you want to express your anger, you can’t be authentic and honest.” While that may be true, here’s what the psychologists say:

“Psychologists now say that this is a dangerous myth. Some people use this theory as a license to hurt others. Research has found that “letting it rip” with anger actually escalates anger and aggression and does nothing to help you (or the person you’re angry with) resolve the situation.

It’s best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge.”

And finally, another Ghandi quote:

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

If the scientists are right, I might also add,

Be around the change you want to see in the world.

Strong organizations and communities are able to harness the power of emotional contagion to create engaging, productive and extremely effective collaborative ecosystems. The truly exceptional among them also manage to extend this collective positivity to their human/customer touchpoints (retail outlets, salespeople, CSRs, etc.). Obvious examples of this are Starbucks (except in airports), Mac Stores, and Whole Foods grocery outlets.

This week, a very large scale example of this (and the trigger for this post) was Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Houston, TX.

The complete opposite of this might be, say, the checkout at Walmart, Home Depot or Taco Bell, a prison ward, or an Vietnamese sweat shop.

Success breeds success. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. Professionalism breeds professionalism.

Likewise, mediocrity breeds mediocrity. Apathy breeds apathy. Negative attitudes breed negative attitudes.

Now you know. What you do with this knowledge is up to you. For me, the choice is pretty simple. Always has been.

Have a great Friday. 😉

photo credit: Christopher Wray McCann

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Just got back from Microsoft’s WPC in Houston, and I have one word to share with you (and one you might not normally associate with Microsoft): Inspiring.

Go ahead and buy into the whole Mac vs. PC propaganda if you must, but when you get to rub elbows with thousands of the world’s smartest, most engaged, most sophisticated IT professionals – some of whom are quite literally working to change the world using Microsoft based tools – and see how incredible the Microsoft partner community actually is, it completely changes the level of the Mac vs. PC conversation.

And I mean completely.

Not to mention the depth and breadth of products being developed, released, upgraded and optimized at lightning speed. Baffling.

No, I am not drinking any funny koolaid. If you are a long time reader of this blog, you know I’m not the type.

And just in case you were wondering, when I looked across the ocean of PC folks from around the world who were in Houston for the event this week, I didn’t see anyone who looked one bit like the PC guy in the Apple commercials. Not even close. As a matter of fact, most looked a hell of a lot trendier than the ads’ little coffee-shop dwelling Apple dude.

Nothing against Mac people (I dig Mac’s approach to design and completely understand the appeal) but in the real world, being a PC means you can actually change the world, not just entertain it – which is why I made the switch almost a decade ago.

And hate mail from Mac users can start flowing… now.  ;D

More posts about my experiences in Houston coming soon.

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Where am I going to be today, Tuesday and Wednesday? Houston, TX, that’s where!

(With about a gazillion other “PC” peeps, courtesy of Microsoft.)

Yep, it’s World-Wide Partner Conference time again (WWPC).

But first, I have to tackle a drive to Charlotte, NC, a shuttle ride from long term parking, get through check-in and security, a flight, a cab ride, and a hotel check-in. What could possibly go wrong? I can’t wait to find out.

🙂

Follow my updates here, on the Microsoft Sherpa Blog, and on twitter.

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I try to keep Microsoft Sherpa and The BrandBuilder separate, but this is for a good cause:

So many of you have inquired about our Chengdu office as a result of the earthquake and, as you know, we are very fortunate that all of our employees are safe and uninjured. But we also know and see in news, so many are not.

As a result, we have created the SYNNEX Earthquake Relief Fund (SERF) along with Give2Asia in San Francisco, CA. SYNNEX has launched a webpage on the Give2Asia website so that you, your family and your friends may access at www.give2asia.org/synnex for online donations. SYNNEX will be reviewing a list of projects and organizations that are recognized for their extending recovery help to the survivors of the earthquake in Chengdu and its surrounding areas. There will be much to do to help the families that will have been displaced in the next several months and we want to be certain that the much needed monies are provided directly to those organizations that are there and are recognized as first line providers. Also attached (below) is a brief document called “How to Give” that provides information on all the contribution methods that you and others may use to donate to SERF:

how-to-give_synnex

Thanks. 🙂

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Fort Lauderdale, here I come!

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While the whole world is sporting ubiquitous iPods (dare I call them “the uniform?”), the more intrepid among us have adopted Zune as our media player of choice. (Case in point, OC’s Bear has a pretty kickass Zune of his that has been the secret envy of his colleagues for almost a year now.)

I myself have indulged in the luxury of the Generation-2 80G Zune (dubbed StealthZuneZero in case you’re ever within range of my wireless). My Zune has become not only my personal music library (an increasingly respectable one at that), but also a convenient home for my photographic portfolio. Great for traveling, driving around town, and generally feeling cool and hip and all… but the lack of a convenient way to use my Zune to watch video was starting to become a nagging issue with me.

I mean… here I am, on flight after flight to Seattle or San Francisco or LA, and every time, an aisle neighbor pulls out an ipod and watches some kind of movie or TV show on it while I am stuck listening to music. (I could have been watching videos this whole time, but the process of converting DVDs to portable format was too daunting for an OCD pup like me to even consider tackling.

Sigh.

Well, those days are over. The Social has finally caught up with the rest of the world. From Cnet news.com:

A year and a half after debuting its first Zune, Microsoft is finally offering some content that makes use of that big color screen.

The software maker is releasing an update Tuesday to its Zune service that adds a video store with about 800 TV show episodes from NBC Universal, MTV, and a couple of other producers. For the moment, though, the store is far smaller than the TV options from iTunes or even from Microsoft’s own Xbox Live Marketplace and offers no feature films.

“We feel it is more important and–customers tell us–to focus on short programming first,” said Julio Estrada, general manager of Microsoft’s Zune Social unit.

Read the entire article here.

Microsoft still has some ways to go before I am 100% happy with what is arguably a very convoluted and limited video uploading situation, but this announcement makes me happy. Very happy… because it means it won’t be long now before this little speedbump is way, waaaaaay behind us.

The wife and kids (also Zunauts) will be excited to hear about this as well to be sure.

“Think Different” is cool and all, but go ahead and BE different: Get yourself a Zune.

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As you may or may not know, Microsoft’s very awesome Surface technology launches this month in at&t stores in select US cities.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Surface is just a click away. (And yes, the post there involves wookies, droids and a certain Dejarik version of Microsoft Surface.)

Transparent Blogging: I normally wouldn’t direct you, my faithful readers, to one of my other “corporate” blogs, but I already wrote the post on SYNNEX’s Microsoft Sherpa blog and didn’t feel like re-posting it here. Let it be known that I do manage Microsoft distribution in the US for SYNNEX. SYNNEX does not, however, sell Microsoft Surface technology.

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Working intimately with Microsoft, this is a topic dear to my heart. (I may be shedding a bit of a tear right now.)
The Blue Monster was designed as a conversation starter. To paraphrase the ongoing dialogue between Steve and I:
For too long, Microsoft has allowed other people- the media, the competition and their detractors, especially- to tell their story on their behalf, instead of doing a better job of it themselves.
We firmly believe that Microsoft must start articulating their story better- what they do, why they do it, and why it matters- if they’re to remain happy and prosperous long-term.
If they can do this, well, we don’t expect people in their millions to magically start loving Microsoft overnight, but perhaps it might get people- including the people who work there- to start thinking differently. Small moves.
Here’s more:
The headline works on a lot of different levels:
Microsoft telling its potential customers to change the world or go home.
Microsoft telling its employees to change the world or go home.
Microsoft employees telling their colleagues to change the world or go home.
Everybody else telling Microsoft to change the world or go home.
Everyone else telling their colleagues to change the world or go home.
And so forth.
Microsoft has seventy thousand-odd employees, a huge percentage them very determined to change the world, and often suceeding. And millions of customers with the same idea.
Basically, Microsoft is in the world-changing business. If they ever lose that, they might as well all go home.
I chose the monster image simply because I always thought there is something wonderfully demonic about wanting to change the world. It can be a force for the good, of course, if used wisely.
It’s certainly a very loaded part of the human condition, but I suppose that’s what makes it compelling.
And Dave Armano chimes in with this interesting bit of insight on the value of being “infected”:
“Everyone at Mix 08 who worked for Microsoft and handed me either a “Blue Monster” business card or had the sticker, seemed different. It was hard to put a finger on, but although they were believers in Microsoft, they also seemed to believe in an external vision that challenged Microsoft to make a meaningful impact in the world.
It’s a non corporate honest opinion, and some at Microsoft embrace it publicly.
What’s to be learned? Blue Monster shows us that no matter how big or small the company that the world is a bigger place. And external influences can become internal influences. And it teaches us that if we are interested in the evolution of corporate culture, that symbols are important. If we don’t find our own—someone will find them for us.”
10 additional lessons to take from this:
1. Even giants can be underdogs.
2. Startups and hungry small companies don’t have a monopoly on passion: Even corporate behemoths have deeply passionate people helping turn the wheel.
3. We all need icons and banners to rally behind. If one isn’t provided, one will be created.
4. Passion is an all-or-nothing equation. If you can’t be passionate about what you do, you’re wasting your time just working for a paycheck. Even outside of work, if you can’t be passionate about something, – anything – you’re wasting your life.
5. It’s good to have a motto. Or a purpose. Or a mission.
6. Sometimes, the best ideas come from a perfect synergy of inside sentiment and outside interpretation.
7. Less words say more.
8. If monsters are conceptually cool, good monsters are even better.
10. Anything corporate-related that is worthy of being printed on a T-shirt, business card or bumper sticker is by default a culture-affecting design.
Some of you may sneer at the very notion of something like this having anything to do with the almighty Microsoft, but there is a lot more to the software giant than meets the eye. Working with these folks on a daily basis, I have a pretty clear view of what the product teams are working on, and it is nothing short of astounding. Microsoft is going to change the way we work and change the way we live for the better. If we let them. (And we should.) Looking at it from where I stand – having seen what these guys are working on – the blue monster’s words make perfect sense.
Personally, I dig it.
Transparency clause: I manage SYNNEX’s Microsoft distribution business in the US, so it is entirely possible that I might be a tad bit biased when it comes to the Redmond giant. That being said, this post probably wasn’t the least bit impacted by this bias – aside from the excitement I genuinely feel about the products and applications Microsoft’s product teams are working on, particularly in the fields of collaboration tools, unified communications, intelligent devices and intelligent environments.
Have a great Wednesday, everyone.

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If you haven’t seen this yet, you need to.

Yes, I mean right now.

Granted, once you get past the pretty surface “screen” and look at both the size of the “box” that lurks underneath and the pricetag, Microsoft’s new Surface is a little cumbersome and expensive but that is normal for a completely new product of this type. Give the technology a few years to penetrate the market, and two things will happen: 1) prices will eventually drop to more reasonable pricepoints (very much like plasma TVs and flat screen monitors) and 2) the technology will get smaller, more portable and more flexible when it comes to integrating it into our everyday lives. I can’t wait for these aps to start working with tablet PCs. That will be pretty incredible.

Is it too soon to add the mouse and keyboard to the endangered species list? Eh… Watch the demo and I’ll let you guys draw your own conclusions. In twenty years, I think we’ll look back at the way computers used to look in 2007 and we’ll laugh at how bulky and cable-reliant they were. (I’m sure 8-tracks were all the rage once too.)
Note: Don’t get so caught up in the demos that you miss out on the site’s other features. (Go to the bottom of the page and click on “Origins” to get a recap – complete with napkin sketches – of how this product came to be and where it is going. You can also see who is already adopting this technology, where you can demo it for yourselves, and you can meet all the members of the development team via photos, bios, etc.) The site is as simple and easy to navigate as it is well designed, and uses just enough flash to not get on my nerves. (Website designers and product development teams out there, don’t feel bad about taking notes.)
BTW, I saw an industrial environment version of Surface demonstrated live in Redmond earlier this month, and I was left drooling and speechless (yes, both at the same time) for a good five minutes. Not only could you scan, modify, highlight, cut-and-paste, send, share and manage documents like images, graphs, tables and text with your fingertips, it responded to speech, worked as a hands-free video conferencing station, could double as media center and triple as a design workstation, and seemed so intuitive that a chimp could figure out how to use it in under five minutes. Pure genius. I could be wrong, but I think the folks at Microsoft finally gained access to Area 51.
Have a great Friday, everyone. 😉
PS: Don’t try to leave a comment via the permalink. Instead, go to the main page and click the comment tab at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I manage SYNNEX’s Microsoft distribution business in the US and that I therefore have close ties with Microsoft. Althoughthis is unlikely to affect my opinion of Microsoft products or the way I approach topics dealing with Microsoft on this blog, it is worth noting nonetheless.

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The view from Microsoft’s new digs in Bellevue, WA (yeah, that’s Seattle across the water).

Sorry about the lack of posts this past week. I was traveling and attending meetings and whatnot.

Just to give you a quick recap, here are some of the cool things I saw and did while in Seattle:

1) I took a tour of Microsoft’s concept House of The Future. (Think: “Open the Pod Bay door, Hal” meets Minority Report, but in a very, VERY good way.)

2) I participated in a pretty kickass simulation in Microsoft’s “Information Worker Of The Future” concept office. (Think: CTU meets Minority Report meets your office, only in a very, VERY, VERY good way.) Wow. To see where software is going and how well it will integrate with every task it touches was IMPRESSIVE. (Yes, I am a geek.)

3) I accidentally had dinner at the best French Restaurant in the US (and I know what I’m talking about). I won’t tell you what it’s called, however. You’ll have to guess or find it yourselves. Let me just say this: It’s almost on the water, the operators are French (not Canadian), it isn’t far from the original Starbucks store,and they have cassoulet on their menu. Nuff said.

4) I had a latte (3 raw sugars, thank you) at the very first Starbucks. (It wasn’t the first time, but I always make it a point to go there when I visit Seattle now.)

5) I stopped by the Athenian restaurant for a very necessary oyster shooter. (Again, a pilgrimage.)

6) I bought some incredible hand-made stuff from Raven’s Nest – great place to go Xmas shopping for the people on your list who either a) like esoteric stuff, b) already have everything, or c) both. (I mean come on: Who hasn’t dreamed of having a genuine hand-carved cedar orca/eagle totem in their office?)

7) I played pool on the 24th floor of Microsoft’s new digs in Bellevue – which, by the way, has such a monumental view of Seattle that I had a tough time dragging myself back into meetings. The above photo is only about 1/20th of the whole panorama and doesn’t even do that little portion justice. Interesting note: Some of my coworkers may now believe that I am some kind of pool shark after watching me accidentally play two perfect games in a row.

8) I drove a PT Cruiser all over town for three days (convertible and vanilla-colored) and didn’t get laughed at once. Interesting note: You can fit 3 people and 4 very large suitcases in that thing. You will use up every available square millimeter, but it can be done.)


9) I flew across the US twice without a single delay, without a single problem, and without a single frown or hint of attitude from any flight attendants. Delta/Song/Alaska Airlines once again – without blowing me away or anything – did an awesome job through and through. Even the TSA teams in their terminals were friendly and courteous. Thumbs up.

10) I ate a bad raw scallop. Or raw oyster… or raw something. I survived, but let’s just say salmonella, e-coli and their buddies put up a pretty decent fight for a couple of hours. Bleh.

Anyhoo. It’s good to be back.

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I am flying to Seattle/Redmond today for three days of meetings, lunches, dinners and more meetings about all things Microsoft, which means I am probably going to be way too busy to blog until Thursday or so.

I’ll be back with tons of stories and experiences to share and review with you, I’m sure.

Have a great few days, and try not to miss me too much. I know it’ll be tough… but hang in there. I’ll be back before you know it.

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Fellow fans of the Zune rejoice: You can now get yourself a 30GB limited edition pink Zune, and fight breast cancer at the same time. Per Gizmodo:

Unlike some other charitable music-player-selling schemes that only donate a measly 5% of their proceeds to charity, when you buy a 30GB Zune from Warriors in Pink, 100% of the purchase price goes to Susan G. Komen For the Cure, thanks to the generosity of Ford and Microsoft.

100%. Every red cent.

Okay, it isn’t a Zune 2 (they aren’t available yet), but it looks pretty badass (if you’re into that whole pink West Coast tribal rock & roll sort of thing). The imminent release of Zune 2 has prompted some pretty tasty upgrades to the Zune, so you won’t feel like you’re getting last year’s hardware either.

Not to mention that you’ll be different from the rest of the sheep sporting their boring “even my grandma has one now” iPods.

The pink 30GB Zune is $250 ($50 more than retail for a 30GB Zune), but it’s for a worthy cause.

Indeed.

Check out the Warriors In Pink site. You can even enter to win the ultimate pink Zune accessory: a special one-of-a-kind pink-flavored Ford Mustang. Wowza.

As to the real question of the day: Am I man enough to drive a pink Mustang?

Pray we never have to find out.

Have a great weekend, everyone. 😉

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Okay, yes, I get most of my tech news from G4’s Attack of the Show, Gizmodo, and ZDNet’s All About Microsoft blog these days. Sue me.

Anyway, Gizmodo and AAM both kind of broke the story of Zune 2’s launch this week (at least to me), and I have to say that I am pretty excited about it.

Why?

Because I just scored a free Zune (1) last week and I absolutely love the little rascal (including the fact that it isn’t an iPod)… It goes everywhere with me. In the car, on bike rides, into grocery stores… We’re best buddies. But I am tired of having to explain to everyone and their brother what a Zune is.

“What’s a Zune?”

It’s a really cool portable media player. Here, look.

“Huh?”

*sigh* It’s Microsoft’s version of iPod, only a gazillion times better.

“Ohhhhhh. How come I’ve never heard of it?”

Um… yeah. Somehow, the first Zune release apparently hit a whole lot of dead air.

Most people I run into have never even heard of Zune… and that makes me angry in the same way I get angry when I meet someone who has never seen a Star Wars or James Bond movie… Except I’m not actually annoyed with people who have never heard of Zune. Unlike the other two groups, it isn’t their fault.

With the release of Zune 2, I am hoping that Microsoft will finally make the big splash on the pmp scene that its player deserves. With an embattled Apple busy dealing with iPhone’s bricking issues, fat from iPod’s complete oversaturation of a market ripe for something new to embrace, and the Holiday season right around the corner, Microsoft’s timing couldn’t be better. Let’s hope they hit the ground running and get some traction this time.

Seriously, folks, Zune is a killer player, and you really owe it to yourselves to check it out when it starts hitting stores next month. You can watch movies on this thing, store unbelievable amounts of music, carry around your entire photo library…It’s a pretty sweet tool/toy. It even has a tasty wireless feature that allows you to share songs with friends and fellow Zuners.


Update: From Gizmodo, of course –

The new features in all models, which were leaked early, are wireless syncing with your computer automatically when you’re in Wi-Fi range—something users have been clamoring for since even before the first Zune—as well as videos in the Zune Marketplace and new music, some of which are DRM-free. The Zune Pad is actually touch sensitive, much like the iPod’s Click Wheel.

Zune Marketplace now has music videos, but no movies. Three million songs total. The 80GB Zune also has a large, 3.2-inch screen, but only comes in black. It’s also smaller and thinner than the original Zune. The flash-based Zunes, on the other hand, come in pink, green, black and red, and are the smallest of all. [CNET]

The sharing feature is being expanded so you can send music AND “other media” to other Zunes. The shared songs have no expiration date and can be shared again with other people, but the same 3 play limitation is still there.

Zune’s also getting a Zune Social social-networking site. You don’t even have to own a Zune to join. You can have Zune Cards to “reflect your musical preferences”, based on the music you listen to on your Zune player. The card can have custom pictures and backgrounds. Displays your currently played song. You can also browse other people’s cards and sample the standard 30-seconds of the song to see if you like it. There’s also going to be community-generated charts to see what’s popular right now in the Zune community.

The Zune’s got a re-worked navigation button and is no longer has brown as a color. Darn, we liked the brown. [NYT]

Yep, brown was the yummy one. I’m holding on to my 30gb for sure now.

Zune’s also getting a feature to automatically import recorded content from Windows Media Center as well, meaning you can take your TV shows to go just by syncing up with your computer.

The 30GB Zune actually isn’t being eliminated, and will be offered at $199. Amazon already has it for $165-$185 now. It’s going to get Wireless Sync, the upgraded Zune to Zune transfer, and the recorded TV content to go. It’s most likely got the same codec support as the 80GB.

This makes me pretty happy, as you may well imagine.

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Gamers of the world, get ready to have your buying power wooed like never before: According to Gamespy, in its first 24 hours (and in the US alone), X360’s Halo 3 netted over $170M for Microsoft. (Thanks, Bungie.)

Yes, netted. $170 million dollars.

In 24 hours.

Pow.

Per GameSpy, “this trounces big blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man 3 and novels like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

You don’t say.

Now let’s hope NBC won’t get the rights to the TV show.

Read the article here.

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