I’m typically one of those who is underwhelmed by what Microsoft offers. There isn’t really anything “sexy” about Windows, Office, SharePoint, etc. There are two recent products that I’ve seen that actually make me interested in what Microsoft is doing — in more than just the how-are-they-screwing-up-now kind of way.
The first is Surface. If you haven’t already heard of Surface you should spend more time in front of your computer and less time enjoying the summer weather (tongue firmly planted). Surface is a multi-touch unit that seems to be the first real commercial product in the collaborative touch-screen market. This is very similar to (if not a licensed version of) what Jeff Han has been working on.
Second is Photosynth. From the main Photosynth page, “Our software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and then displays the photos in a reconstructed three-dimensional space, showing you how each one relates to the next.” One of the engineers working on Photosynth, Blaise Aguera y Arcas — like Jeff Han — did a presentation at TED, which shows some of the power of Photosynth.
I’m a bit of a cynic, so I sit here and say Microsoft probably licensed the Surface technology from Jeff Han, and the technology behind Photosynth — Seadragon — was the product of an acquisition, and not internally developed. They don’t do the work, the license/acquire the work; that’s just Microsoft being Microsoft. You can’t deny that the products are pretty sweet, though.
My wife gave birth to our second son last week, so I was out of the office all week. I brought my laptop with me to the hospital so I would be able to dump photos from the camera if the memory card filled up. While in labor and getting settled into the room my wife noticed that one of the signs in the room made a statement about there being free wifi throughout the hospital — this hospital opened just over one year ago.
Yatzee! I was superexcited to have free wifi. It was great because I could upload photos to Flickr, and post to my personal blog from the hospital. It was really nice to be able to get the news out quickly to a geographically spread-out audience.
There were two hitches, though, one of which I was able to work around. Both hitches are related. Because of the security/firewall rules on the “guest” wifi network I was not able to connect to my corporate VPN — both good and bad that I couldn’t get much work done (mostly good) — and I couldn’t connect to IM. While I couldn’t get around the VPN issue, I was able to use Meebo to get IM working for me. I’ve used Meebo sparingly in the past — I prefer the “feel” of a desktop IM client — but found Meebo to be the perfect tool in the perfect situation.
If you have heard about Parallels for running a virtualized OS within Mac OS X (Intel) chances are you have heard about VMWare Fusion. Parallels has a feature called Coherence that pulls the virtualized applications out of the “boxed in” interface, and allows them to “mingle” with the OS X apps. VMWare obviously has picked up on this, taken a cue from Emeril, and kicked it up a huge notch with Unity. I can’t wait to try it out.