Windows Mobile and the Sky


Microsoft look set to announce WinMo 6.5 at the Mobile World Congress and also a number of new cloud services including SkyBox, SkyLine and SkyMarket (via Gizmodo).

These are all exciting additions to the Windows Mobile experience and I can’t wait to start using them on my WinMo 6.1 HTC Diamond…first up SkyBox.

SkyBox is an Over-The-Air (OTA) sync/backup service for your contacts, email, SMS, calendar and pictures…very handy :-) The rumour is that this will be available to non WinMo devices but I’m not sure if that will come off…good way to get some extra love though!

SkyLine seems to be a “Small Business” version of SkyBox with the inclusion of Exchange and SkyMarket is MS’s version of the iPhone AppStore. A Windows Mobile app store will be brilliant as it will really help users to enhance their mobile experience with 3rd party apps that make their days easier and/or more fun!

Microsoft have done a brilliant job of turning things around with Windows 7 so hopefully 6.5/7 and the Sky set of products can do the same for WinMo…

WinMo 6.5 Available to Run?


Both Gizmodo & Engadget are reporting that there are some homebrew-style builds that are “mostly” Windows Mobile 6.5 available for install now.

Heads over at XDA Developers have got it running on some old school HTC models such as the MDA 3 and Qtek 9090, but it doesn’t look like much cop to me. It doesn’t look like the screenshots in my other recent postand I’m inclined to believe it’s just WinMo 6.1 with a new skin really.

The Gizmodo article with links is here.

Windows Mobile 6.5 announcements?


The buzz is getting ever louder as the Mobile World Congress gets closer-will Microsoft unveil Windows Mobile 6.5?

After the pretty disappointing CES keynote, MS need to pull something big out of the bag now and a new version of WinMo would fit the bill for sure…especially with all the love the Palm Pre is getting.

Sources say that we’ll see the first WinMo 6.5 phones drop in Q3 2009-so not a million miles away. Although I’m excited to see WinMo 6.5, especially if the screenshots (below) and other news are accurate-but I think I’ll probably hold off upgrading my device until WInMo 7 hits.

Alleged Windows Mobile 6.5 screenshots

Alleged Windows Mobile 6.5 screenshots

Exchange 14


There’s been a small flurry of activity on a few MS focused blogs recently about Exchange 14 and, although I initially decided not to post about it, following a number of conversations I’ve had at work recently-I figured I would :-)

Exchange 14 is the next incarnation of Microsoft’s ever more popular email system (no 13 for superstitious MS) and it certainly seems to be yet another great leap forward, as 2007 was over 2003. Microsoft’s entrance into the world of Software+Services means that Exchange 14 has been designed with cloud services in mind, making it the most scalable to date. Already there are 3.5 million users on Microsoft’s Exchange Labs via the Live@Edu scheme-surely the biggest Exchange deployment ever?!

An interesting bit of info from the Exchange Team is:

“Ferris Research just did a survey of several enterprise customers, and they found that the cost of running Exchange 2007 was roughly half that of running Exchange 2003. E14 will bring that cost down by a similar margin yet again.”

A clear sign that Microsoft can, do and will continue to save customers money while still delivering awesome products!

I’m looking forward to all the Wave 14 products but I find it hardest to get excited about Exchange if I’m honest. That’s because, as an end user, as long as it gets my emails from place to place that’s all I notice…all the fancy stuff I see is part of Outlook and thus Office 14. That said, Exchange 2007 had some great new features around UC that really enriched the UX (User eXperience) so I’m hoping E14 will too!

Windows 7 Sleep Mode


The guys over @ Gizmodo have found an issue with Windows 7 beta going into sleep…it doesn’t like waking up again (note to self: Ask MS if Windows 7 is a student…)…

From the Giz article:

“I came home last night, I thought my previously healthy Windows 7 machine was dead. It was making a horrendous squeal and refused to reboot multiple times. Turns out it was asleep.”

Only after countless reboots, pulling the plug, booting and re-booting again did it come back to life-a worrying time I’m sure!

Things like this are to be expected in a beta and I’m sure Redmond will get it fixed before Windows 7 is released in it’s full glory, but it’s good to be aware of these things so people don’t freak out :-) I’ll echo Gizmodo and say it’s probably a good idea to disable sleep/hibernate/power save just in case…

Original article is here.

Bechtle @ the BETT Show


bechtledirectlogo

Bechtle are going to be at this year’s BETT show from 14th-17th of January down at the London Olympia, so please come and visit us if you’re there.

If you’re not familiar with BETT, it is “world’s largest educational technology event” and is used to “find products and suppliers, and discover the latest ways to use technology for teaching and learning”.

We’ll be on stand G116 and focusing on Greent IT so Virtualization (Hyper-V & VMWare), HP Blade Servers etc, installation & configuration services and some other areas too. Unfortunately I’m not going to be there so Software won’t be hugely represented although I’m sure Microsoft Unified Comms will be present in one way or another. If you do pop along to the stand, pick up your Bechtle branded bags  pens as well as free bottled water and make sure to tell them Rich sent you ;-)

I know they’re running some competitions too but I’m not 100% sure what the prizes are! I’m pretty sure there’s an iPod touch, something from DLink (an IP Camera I believe) and probably an HP Notebook up for grabs too-so it’s worth wandering over for the chance to win as well as hooking up with a great IT solutions provider…

If you have any BETT related questions and/or feedback, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll get them actioned internally.

So once again, that’s Bechtle @ Bett on stand G116 ;-)

Office for Sales: New Office 14 Product


It seems there will be a new component of Office 14, Office for Sales.

Mary Jo Foley has some info from Alpha Testers that shows: 

  • It’s an end-to-end CRM product that will incorporate both software and services components
  • The product is based on and hooked inextricably into SharePoint Server
  • Developers will be able to customize the system to integrate with third-party products, like Siebel CRM
  • Features include the ability to store customer information in Outlook; maintenance of a centralized Sales Center SharePoint site; the creation of sales communities; and support for “sales interaction management” (SIM)

It seems that Sharepoint Server 14 will offer offline support and this will be available with Office for Sales too.

To me, as a Microsoft reseller, this is pretty exciting. It’s going to give a lot of companies a real reason to upgrade to Office 14, which to be honest I feel was missing somewhat from Office 2007. It should also allow resellers that don’t work in the Dynamics/CRM arena to offer CRM services and support to their customers. The fact that it is tightly hooked in to Sharepoint should also help drive further adoption of that technology.

I think this should turn out to be another great move from MS, which will help their partners and customers become more successful, as well as showing that Redmond is still innovating and pushing forwards. I’m looking forward to Office 14 more all the time and this certainly helps ;-)

My impressions of Windows 7


I’ve now got the Windows 7 beta installed on my desktop PC at home and so far, everything seems fine!

It took me a while to choose between installing it in a Virtual Machine, dual booting with Vista or just putting it on top-and eventually I decided to go with the latter. I did try and do an upgrade but Windows 7 refused to “upgrade a staged build to a non-staged build” so I went with the full (custom) install. I assume this is to protect people from accidentally installing an unstable OS on their machines?

I have to say it took quite a long time to get through the installation process. After about 1 hour, I went to bed and picked it up in the morning. When I returned, I had to select my country of use (with keyboard layout etc), set a machine name and choose a password etc and bing-install done; the almost zero-touch approach to the install was greatly appreciated :-) Once I was in, my first concern was internet connectivity and sure enough-there were “no wireless connections available”.

A few of the people at work who I’d spoken to were pretty sure that drivers would be my downfall with this installation and I was worried that this would be where it all fell over. However, the problem was solved nice and easily- I simply downloaded the newest Vista drivers from the Netgear site, ran the installer, rebooted the machine and I was online :-)

I haven’t had much of a chance to play around with it yet (hopefully that will change tonight) but so far the only issue I’ve noticed is a somewhat regular “Assertion Error” in Windows Explorer. Doesn’t seem to be much to worry about though-I just “Ignore Once” and it seems to be ok.

As I get a chance to use Windows 7 more, I’ll keep updating this post with any great new finds, problems, quirks and probably some screen shots too!

*Update 1* So far it’s definitely IE 8 that is the shakiest part of the beta, it’s having a lot of “assertion errors” and now it’s just crashed out and is sending what appears to be a BIG chunk of info back to MS.

 However my big issue is with the patch to fix the MP3 deleting issue-I just can’t install it! If I try to run it, Windows tells me it’s “not applicable to my computer” and stops the installation so the big question is “where does this leave me”? Was it built in to the build I downloaded or perhaps Windows has downloaded the patch itself and just isn’t lisiting it? If either of those are the case then it’s happy days and I’m good to go…but if that isn’t the case, I stand to kacker a load of MP3′s :-( I’ve got them backed up but still it’s a hassle and I worry that some got missed from the backup too.

Well I’ve just started importing all the music into WMP 12 so we’ll see what happens re: the MP3′s. I’m sure they’re all backed up and the vast majority of my music is .wma anyway so (fingers crossed) it’ll be ok.

*Update 2* It seems that everything’s ok with my mp3′s so I can only assume that the MP3 patch is pre-loaded in the build I downloaded…it’d be nice to have some confirmation from Windows though!

The best thing so far is that all my M4a files are in WMP 12 and playing fine-that certainly makes things easier :-)

IE8 is still being buggy-crashing out when it tries to block access to potentially dodgy sites which is doubly annoying. I’ve also noticed that maximizing a window shows a fetching BRIGHT pink background…who chose that Microsoft?!

*Update 3* I’m getting “assertion errors” from most parts of Windows 7-Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer are the biggest offenders, but Windows Media Player is trying to join in as well; although it seems that the WMP errors were triggered by my selecting a new wallpaper to be scheduled. They didn’t cause WMP to crash out or anything-it simply paused playback until I acted on the prompt (ignore once, always or never) and then the track picked up where it left off, so no biggy.

I don’t want to only pick out the buggy parts as these are to be expected in a beta so over to the good bits :-)

Scheduling the changing of wallpapers is a brilliant addition although I know a lot of people don’t see the point of it. I’ve got a crazy amount if images on my machine-family photos, downloaded wallpapers of various kinds etc and I like to have one of them as my desktop wallpaper, but I do tend to get bored after a while. That then involves trawling through all the images and choosing a new one, which can be a surprisingly time consuming task-so having Windows do it for me is great.

Another small but excellent addition is the ability to re-arrange running programmes on the taskbar. I like to have my applications open in a certain order but every now and then one will crash out and I have to re-open it at the end of the taskbar. That really throws me and I’m sure I waste a fair bit of time just trying to find the right app on the taskbar, but not anymore! This is the feature that consistenly peaks peoples interest during conversations and I’m definitely a big fan of it.

Libraries:

Libraries looked like an interesting feature from what I’d seen PDC’ers sayng and they sure are great :-) Libraries help bring together files of the same type, even if they’re in disparate locations. I’m a terrible On-PC filer (as my co-workers can attest) as I’m always creating new folders to save things to and then filling those full of sub-folders and so on; plus when I “tidy up” I tend to just dump all those files into another newly created file…so this makes things a lot easier for me & anyone who needs to find something on my machine when I’m not around!

My Music library brings together all the “iTunes”, “Newly ripped (Nov 07), “Newly purchased May 08″ etc folders into one central location so I can see all the media of that type in one place. I say “one type” but it has collected MP3′s, WMA’s and M4A’s without an issue…and has done the same for the 1000′s of pictures too, all in the Pictures library.

It’s things like this that really show that MS thought about who will be using this OS and how they will be using it. They make using Windows a more enjoyable, intuitive and fun experience, which I believe, is what it’s all about.

*Update 4* A couple of things here. I’ve just discovered that the Desktop Gadgets aren’t being particularly friendly, it refused to let me have the Calendar gadget while the clock worked fine which annoyed me a bit. I then turned off the Clock gadget and went back to a clear, uncluttered desktop and jumped back into Windows Media Player (WMP). I’d been singing the praises of WMP12 earlier for it’s speed and smooth functionality but now it seemed sluggish and worse than WMP 11-which sucked. It was stupidly slow at refreshing album art when changing views and would often hang when scrolling through the library-in my eyes 2 of the 3 basics it needs to be good at (the 3rd being playing the music). At this point I brought up Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) to see if I could see any reason for this and lo and behold I could…Sidebar.exe (from the Desktop Gadgets) was taking up 80% (yes eighty percent) of my CPU, even after I’d disabled the gadgets!!! I ended the Process Tree and straight away WMP was back to it’s new, snappy self-whoo hoo :-)

So this is a cautionary tale about the Gadgets and also a round about way of say “WMP 12 rocks!”…is anyone else having probs with the sidebar?

Anti-Virus:

This is an important topic as no-one wants to get their machine full of viruses and malware-but what works with a beta OS? Well, Microsoft have got a list of approved partners here and includes Symantec, Kaspersky and AVG so I decided to go with AVG V8. Admittedly that too is a beta (as are the other products) but the next time I went to open IE8…BLUE SCREEN…Noooooooooooo! I tried a few times but always got a wonderful BSOD so I had no choice but to un-install it which amusingly also made it blue screen :-) Since I took AVG off everything seems to be working again so that certainly seems to be the cause.

This leaves me with something of a dilemma. Do I try the other vendors and risk going through this rigmarole again or do I just leave it at risk catching something from the internet? What would you do?

*Update 5* I’ve just spotted that when you right click the Recycle Bin icon, there is no longer the option to “delete”; this is another example of Microsoft making a small change that makes things easier for everyone. I know quite a few people who’ve deleted the icon instead of emptying the bin; then there’s usually a panic and not everyone knows how to get the icon back; now there’s no more worries about it :-)

Microsoft Windows Mobile updates


Microsoft disappointed a lot of people by not announcing/previewing WinMo 6.5/7 @ CES 2009, but they’ve told The NY Times that an announcement will be made, at next month’s (Feb ’09) Mobile World Congress.

Todd Peters, the vice president of marketing for the Windows Mobile division said “I’d rather have fewer devices and be more focused” to “get better integration” between the OS and the hardware.

There are currently around 140 devices that run Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS and it is this that makes it hard for WinMo to get a good rep these days. Apple have it much easier as they develop their OS just for the iPhone and that’s it whereas MS have to make sure the can run on the least capable hardware.

I only buy WinMo devices partly because I find them familiar but also because WinMo is full of great features that help me get things done quickly and easily-both for work and at home. I hope the coming announcements will show what Microsoft can do in the mobile world…

Wireless Charging with Powermats


This is something pretty cool that’s appeared at CES, Powermats from Powermat.

There are 5 different mats available for charging iPods, iPhones, Blackberry’s, handheld consoles, laptops etc-all WITHOUT WIRES! That’s right, only the Powermat requires a wired power source -it then charges the devices placed upon it via magnetic induction:

powermat_01

The Powermats will also allow you to stream video from a mobile device to a tv. They should be available later this year but no word on price yet.

These look pretty cool to me and I think very useful. It will make charging devices literally as simple as putting them down…no more hunting for chargers or worse-broken chargers, no running out of sockets etc just nice, easy charging :-)