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Sunday
Jun132010

New and Notable - 13th June 2010

I'm not planning to do this on a schedule (the last time was on the 18th May), but what I do plan to do is batch up interesting bits of news and things that I've found and do a roundup post. There's been a lot of news in the last week with Microsoft and Apple both hosting big conferences, so these are a few things and links that you might find interesting from TechEd North America and WWDC and the week before, and my views on them...

Office Web Apps go live on Skydrive

You can now sign in to office.live.com with your Live ID and upload/create/edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files. This has instantly made me a former user of Google Docs and Evernote. The biggest win in my mind here is OneNote, where you can create a notebook in the cloud, add/edit note in your browser and open the notebook from the full OneNote client on any number of PCs where it will sync up for you. I'd been using Evernote to do that, but OneNote is just a better app, and you can share your online notebook with others and collaborate. The same is true of Excel spreadsheets in the web app (although you can't collaborate on those via the desktop application yet).

Editing capabilities are limited in the Office Web Apps, but they're still, in my opinion, better than the Google equivalents. Whether you wo with the Office Web Apps, or stick with Google Docs, the battle for this space has been joined, and that can only be a good thing.

Apple announces iPhone 4

There's no way you didn't already know that, right? I was following the WWDC keynote live on live.gdgt.com and thinking "this is a device I would like to own", although that often happens with Apple keynotes and it isn't until the days and weeks afterwards that you hear the flip-side of the story. It's fair to say though that this launch didn't go as planned, with attendees flooding the room with wifi and creating enough interference to cause an embarrassing failure of Steve Jobs' demos:

Anyone who has ever done a live demo of anything has probably suffered a demo failure similar to this, so Steve has my sympathy.

As well as the new phone, which Gizmodo had famously reported on (but failed to actually work out the highlights of the new hardware, like the lovely high definition screen), the operating system gained a new name, iOS, which was a name previously owned by Citrix (along with iPhone as it happens).

One of the new features of iPhone4 is FaceTime, which is video chat using the new front-facing camera. Quite apart from the fact that they made out like they invented this whole concept, it is a bit half-baked right now. It only works over wi-fi and not the mobile network, and it only works between iPhone4 devices. I can understand the network issue - the mobile networks would struggle. What I don't understand is why it doesn't even let you to chat with users of Apple's own iChat service. I expect a new version of iChat will allow this, but it's strange that it wasn't available at the time of this announcement. Incidentally, I'm not a fan of the name FaceTime - I don't know whether it sits better with folk in the States, but it may have been better to get iChat working with it and call it that.

There were some other good announcements, like PDF support in iBooks, the availability of Safari 5, Bing as an optional search provider in iOS and Safari 5, and of course reference to the fact that 2 million iPads were sold in the first 60 days. MacOS was conspicuous by its absence.

Apple had other cause to celebrate as their market cap surpassed Microsoft's at the end of May. I wonder if that now makes them the evil empire?

Microsoft TechEd North America in New Orleans

Microsoft's keynote at TechEd, mostly presented by Bob Muglia, wasn't without its own share of the demo gremlins. During a demo of the impressive Communications Server "14" (which has been variously called Office Communications Server and Live Communications Server in previous incarnations). When the remote demo-er was annotating a plan of the TechEd venue, the annotations appeared to the audience long before the underlying floor plan. Not a big deal, but I bet it worked perfectly in rehearsals.

Main themes appeared to be: Windows Azure and SQL Azure, Communications Server "14", Windows Phone 7, Bing updates for devlopers, Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 (beta available before the end of July), Windows Server AppFabric, Exchange 2010 SP1.

The Exchange 2010 SP1 stuff was probably the most interesting to me, especially the fact that the native archiving feature has been enhanced, so you can store an archive on any mailbox database (rather than just on the same database as the actual mailbox in the RTM version - I don't need to point out how useless that was, but it was so useless that it's worth re-iterating!).

365 sessions recorded in New Orleans are now available on-demand.

Communications Server PowerShell blog launches

Tied in to the coverage of the product at TechEd, the Communication Server folks at Microsoft launched a blog specifically to cover the use of PowerShell with the forthcoming version. The support is really extensive, and for those who have used PowerShell with Exchange, it will appear pretty familiar (and that's a good thing, especially in this case). They've sensibly realised that a lot of people may get their first exposure to PowerShell with Communications Server "14" and so they've provided not only a reference for CS PowerShell, but also a reference for getting started with PowerShell 2.0. Nice work.

Dell launch into the smartphone market with the Streak

I've been looking forward to the Streak device since it was first announced (and referred to as the Dell Mini 5). It's running Android, which I like a lot, and it's got a gorgeous big screen, being not just a smartphone, but a 5 inch tablet - lovely for web browsing. I even had one in my posession briefly earlier this week until I learned that the only models available at the moment are locked to O2's network. It now looks like I'll have to wait until they're available direct from Dell.co.uk later in the month. Until then, I'll continue hoping for the Android 2.1 update for the HTC Hero!

Google copies Bing

Google surprised and angered a lot of people by putting a full page image on the background of their search page. Personally I didn't think they did it as nicely as Bing does (the text on top of the image wasn't as readable; Bing uses slightly opaque text boxes to improve contrast), but they were quick to point out in an update to this blog post that they just made this temporary change for a day to show people that they now have the option to add their own background to the page. Normal service is now resumed.

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Reader Comments (3)

What happens in the real world when you're hurrying down the sidewalk in NYC, or some other metro area with 600 wireless devices/base stations around you, and you've gotta access critical information--right now. This is just the type of situation you bought the device for, right?

If Steve Jobs had trouble getting 600 paying customers to turn off all of their wifi equipment, imagine what an issue it would be for us little folk. Just one more reason I'm not in love with wireless. Wireless does have it's place, but it does not belong everywhere.

Can I really invest a lot of money in a device that might work--depending on lots of factors ourside my control? We are entirely too "wireless happy!" If everybody buys one, the nature the technology itself will bring it's own demise.

June 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawn Weikle, CNE

Hi great blog. How does Google get away with just copying evrything. I'd be steaming if i was Bing....

June 14, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrob

Dawn,

I think the problem is that the people who designed the wifi technology just didn't expect people to be carrying a access points with them and having such a high concentration of base stations wasn't ever considered. I don't know if you'd experience quite as high a concentration normally, even in NYC. Although having said that, if they don't ever release the iPhone on a network other than AT&T, everyone may buy an iPhone 4 and a MiFi to use it on another network! ;-)

Rob,

All these companies end up copying each other to a certain extent. I liked the response from Microsoft Europe on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MSEurope/status/15838998934

Glad to hear you like the blog. :-)

June 14, 2010 | Registered Commenterjonoble

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