Microsoft Kinect official pricing


Microsoft Kinect, the motion sensing, wii-beating, game changing Xbox 360 add on, now has official pricing.

US = $149.99
UK = £129.99

It’s good to have pricing but it does seem we’re getting the short end of the stick here in the UK. The current conversion rate puts it around £90, which would far more palatable. I don’t see why it is so much more over here…almost 50%!

When I pre-ordered my Kinect a couple of weeks ago, Game told me they expected it to be less than £100 as Microsoft wanted to “make it as accessible as possible”…that sounded plausible but alas, clearly isn’t the case :(

In my opinion the Kinect should be positioned as a way to attract new Xbox owners, but I can’t see £300 being seen as that attractive…especially when a Wii costs £119.99!

Will I still pick up my pre-order? To be honest, yes…but I’ll be expecting even more from it now!

Microsoft BPOS Wave 14: Client Support


BPOS, Microsoft’s Online Services offering, obviously plugs in to their Office suites but there are restrictions about which versions you can use. Currently Office 2003/2007 & 2010 are all supported but, once the new online release happens, that will change.

Based on current rules, partners are expecting Office 2003 support to end by early 2011 but, based on the MS Online Service post here, that may not be the case:

“We are currently investigating Office 2003 support and will publish a list of supported capabilities in the future”

which indicates at least some functionality will still be available to organizations running Office 2003. There are a HUGE number of reasons why upgrading to 2010 is a great idea, but that’s for another time :-)

The full list of supported products is:

Operating Systems:

  • Windows XP SP3 with RPC over HTTP patch
  • Windows Vista SP2
  • Windows 7
  • OS X 10.4 (Tiger)
  • 10.5 (Leopard)
  • 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
  • *Windows XP Home and Windows Media Center edition are supported but will not support federated identity.

    Office Client:

  • Office 2007 SP2 or Office 2010
  • Office 2008 for Mac & Entourage 2008 Web Services Edition
  • .NET 2.0 or later
  • Microsoft Communicator “14”
  • Mac Messenger 9
  • *Office client is not required for customers who choose browser-only access. Office Communicator ‘14’ will be generally available later this year.

    Browser:

  • Administration Center and My Company Portal
    • Internet Explorer 8 for Windows XP
    • Internet Explorer 7 or higher for Windows Vista and Windows 7
    • Firefox 3.x
    • Safari 4.x
  • Outlook Web App
    • Internet Explorer 7 or later
    • Firefox 3 or later
    • Safari 3 or later on Macintosh OS X 10.5
    • Chrome 3 or later
  • Outlook Web App Light
    • Internet Explorer 5.5 or later
    • Firefox 2 or later
    • Safari 3 or later
    • Opera
  • The news that Office 2003 won’t be killed off completely is good news, as it allows partners to position BPOS separately to Office upgrades…and allows customers to keep the costs apart!

    Microsoft BPOS: More new features


    Microsoft BPOS has, yet again, been something of a star of the Worldwide Partner Conference and a bunch of new features have been confirmed/announced. They are:

    Exchange Online:

  • Voice mail with Unified Messaging
  • Integrated archiving
  • Retention policies and legal hold
  • Transport rules
  • Multi-mailbox search
  • Conversation View
  • MailTips
  • Enhanced Web-based administration
  • Role-Based Access Control
  • Remote PowerShell
  • Free/busy between cloud and on-premises
  • Cross-premises management
  • Native migration tools

     

    Sharepoint Online:

     

  • Portal site templates
  • Extranet access
  • Anonymous Access
  • Multi-Lingual UI
  • Office 2010 integration
  • Tagging, Rating, Tag Cloud
  • Activity Feed, Social Networking, Note Board
  • Improved Wikis & Blogs
  • Content publishing
  • Navigation controls
  • Cross site-collection search
  • Phonetic search
  • People search
  • Visio Services
  • Excel Services
  • Sandboxed Solutions
  • Improved workflows
  • Improved SharePoint Designer 2010
  • Access Services
  • Better controls of FQDNs

     

    Office Communications Online:

     

  • P2P A/V across firewall
  • File transfer across firewall
  • Presence with pictures
  • Federation
  • IM with Windows Live

     

    Platform Updates:

     

  • Free/Busy co-existence
  • Single Sign On
  • Identity federation
  • Redesigned admin interface
  • More administration and access control

    There are some really awesome additions here, which will make BPOS hugely more attractive and credible to users in the mid-market segment. Some of the game changes are, in my opinion,:

    Exchange Online:

    • Transport Rules
    • Legal Hold
    • Unified Messaging
    • Remote Powershell

    Sharepoint Online:

    Extranet & Anonymous Access

    Cross Site Collection Search

    Visio, Access & Excel Services

    Office Communications Online:

    Federation.

     

    These new features bring Microsoft’s Online Services so much closer to feature parity with their existing on-premise brethren which is what I, and most people, have been waiting/asking/pleading/clamouring for. The number of times I’ve had a customer opportunity collapse due to BPOS missing a standard and relatively basic feature isn’t funny!

    This is a very positive move from Microsoft which will make the world of Online Services a much better place for Microsoft, it’s partners and our customers :-)

  • Microsoft BPOS July Service Update


    Microsoft’s BPOS updates usually bring great features and July 2010 is no different:

    Hosted Blackberry Admin Centre:

    While Microsoft have offered Blackberry hosting for a while, most of the admin features required you to raise a ticket with support. Now however you will be able to:

    • Add/Delete users from licences
    • Activate Devices
    • Perform Remote Wipes

    all through the portal. This makes Microsoft’s Blackberry offering much more attractive.

    You will also be able to increase your number of Blackberry licences via the portal, removing the need for paper orders. Decreasing now just requires a support request.

    Live Meeting LifeCycle:

    The Live Meeting client will now be supported for 18 months from release, and there are quarterly releases of the (free) client.

    There is also a new version of the Live Meeting Outlook Add-in which goes about:

    • Improving the ability for users to respond to access control prompts when sharing control for Application Sharing.
    • Retaining the scheduled meeting on the Office Live Meeting service when an attendee has been removed from an invitation created by the Outlook Add-in.
    • Displaying invitees’ tracked responses for recurring meeting series that were converted to Office Live Meeting via the Add-in.

    The Microsoft Online Services Blog is here:

    Service Update- July 2010 Release Availability, Features Announced

    Microsoft Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 SP1 available


    As expected, Microsoft have made the beta of the 1st Service Pack for Windows 7 & Server 2008 R2 available after the kick off of the Worldwide Partner Conference.

    You can grab the download here:

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/evalcenter/ff183870.aspx

    although it does say:

    This early release of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta is not available for home users. The SP1 Beta does not provide new end-user features, and installation is not supported by Microsoft.

    It’s currently available in English, French, German, Spanish & Japanese.

    Microsoft Windows Intune: Second Beta


    Microsoft Windows Intune is a new product aimed at managing pcs in a new way. My original post can be found here:

    Read Windows Intune

    The initial beta was restricted to the US, Canada, Mexico & Puerto Rico and 1000 participants. Microsoft have now opened that up to another 10,000 users in the following countries:

    image

    To be eligible you need to deploy it to at least 5 machines and start within 1 week.

    If you’re interested, go and sign up here:

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsintune/windowsintune-experience.aspx

    Pricing

    The pricing of Windows InTune has now been confirmed for the States and it is:

    $11 per user per month

    That gets you:

    • Cloud based Desktop Management service
    • Anti Virus and Anti-Spyware
    • Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Upgrades

    and, for an extra $1 per user per month, you can get the whole MDOP suite too. More MDOP info here:

    Read Microsoft MDOP

    Partner Features

    Many partners will be looking to InTune to provide them with a new way of generating revenue, through the ability to remotely manage their customers machines. This will reduce the need to travel thus saving money on hotels and petrol and increasing profit margins. Microsoft have quickly, and cleverly, added in a new feature aimed at making this as easy as possible…the “Multi – Account Console”:

    This will allow partners to quickly and easily see a top level view of all the customers they manage and, through filtering, spot those needing urgent assistance immediately.

    Feedback:

    There is already a lot of positive feedback on Windows InTune from the first beta, such as:

    “I save about 40% of the time I used to spend managing PC updates, thanks to Windows Intune. It frees me up to focus on developing more custom applications—and bring on more customers”

    “I think we could expand our customer base by at least 10-15 percent immediately”

    “It accelerates their (customers) decision to make the move (to Windows 7)”

    The Future:

    Early 2011 will see the general availability of Windows Intune in the countries listed in the 1st screenshot above. It will then move to more European & Latin countries as well as “select” Asian locations.

    I’ve signed up to the beta and will hopefully have some post following up on that experience soon.

    The MS Blog post can be found here.

    Google App Inventor for Android


    Google App Inventor for Android could be one of the coolest things they, or anyone, has brought out.

    I’ve got a Google Android phone and I love some of the apps that are available for it. They make things so much easier/quicker/more enjoyable etc and are truly what a smart phone should be full of.

    I’ve also got ideas, lot of ideas. Ideas that involve Twitter, Blogs, GPS, football, music, places, t-shirts and more.

    What I don’t have is any knowledge of Java, other than an awareness that it exists! I’ve got some rudimentary VB skills and a bit of Javascript so I looked in Java but it appears to need much more time devoting to it than I can give it. That means all my app ideas have been languishing around and I thought they would forever more.

    Aber nicht.

    Mais Non.

    Pero No.

    Google’s App Inventor has the power to change all that!

    What is it?

    A WYSIWYG tool allowing you to create apps without ANY programming knowledge.

    How does it work?

    It uses “blocks” of pre-written code that cover most actions you could want in an app and lets you drag and drop them together.

    image

    image

     

    When I first saw this I assumed it would be very basic and that all the cool functionality would be missing but that’s not the case:

    “There are even blocks to talk to services like Twitter.”

    “App Inventor provides access to a GPS-location sensor”

    “You can even have the app read the incoming texts aloud to you”

    “use App Inventor to write Android apps that talk to your favourite web sites, such as Amazon and Twitter”

    These quotes from the Google App Inventor site show that it can be used to create some really cool, funky and innovative apps…and that is exciting!

    More Info:

    The App Inventor site is:

    http://appinventor.googlelabs.com/about/

    The sign up form (which requires a Gmail address) is:

    https://services.google.com/fb/forms/appinventorinterest/ 

    The tutorials are here:

    http://appinventor.googlelabs.com/learn/tutorials/index.html

    The User Group is here:

    http://groups.google.com/group/appinventor

     

    I’ve requested access to the beta and am really hoping I get allowed on…this could be really great for me and my phone, others who may want my sure to be awesome apps (joke!), the Android community as a whole and Google in general.

    Go sign up!

    Microsoft Product Activation: How to contact


    Microsoft Product Activation are the guys you need to contact for anything to do with licence keys.

    For instance say you’ve bought Project 2010 but want/need to downgrade to 2003 (for some reason!). You’ll only get 2010 & 2007 in VLSC so to get a 2003 licence key you’ll need to speak to Product Activation. For me at least it’s one of those numbers that I’ve used in the past but I can NEVER remember it and although I ALWAYS make a note of it each time I find it, I can NEVER find that either! So having just done it again I thought I’d do a quick post to make it easier for me, and everyone else to find :-)

    The UK number is:

    0800 018 8354

    and the complete list can be found at:

    http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/existing-customers/activation-centers.aspx

    ps: If downgrading 2 or more versions, you’ll also need to provide your own media.

    Microsoft BPOS & Messagelabs


    Can Exchange Online co-exist with Messagelabs or other 3rd party scanning tools?

    That is the question I have been investigating for the past week or so…and I have an answer…sort of…nearly.

    First things first, yes I know Exchange Online includes ForeFront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) and I also know that it is a very good product.

    However there are a number of situations where customers would like a2nd option too. This could be because they’re mid way through a contract, because they’d like a “safety net” or indeed because they just don’t like Forefront.

    I first looked into it last year and got a definite “Yes it can be done”; I used that as the basis for a customer conversation around 3rd party support. The customer then spoke with BPOS support around how to implement it…and they advised that it couldn’t be done! This was something of an issue and set me off on a quest to get a concrete answer, one way or the other.

    I posted a question up on the Technet Exchange Online Forum but didn’t get a response so after much confusion internally at Microsoft, conversations with business groups and technical support teams, the final answer was:

    “It isn’t supported but it should work”

    So this wasn’t as good as my original “yes” but a vast improvement over “No”, which is something.

    This is yet another issue that will be resolved with the arrival of Wave 14:

    An update to FOPE, scheduled for release at the same time as BPOS wave 14, will include new connector functionality that will enable this scenario.

    So within the next 6 months we’ll have full support for 3rd party mail scanning tools, which will be one less thing to worry about :-)

    Office 2010 Activation


    Microsoft Office 2010 purchased through Volume Licensing now needs activating in the same way as Windows. Previously this only applied to Office through the OEM & FPP channels. This is a new introduction with 2010 and is surprising some people.

    There are the same options to activate as with Windows, which are:

    • KMS (Key Management Service)
    • MAK (Multiple Activation Key)
    • MAK Proxy

    KMS:

    KMS uses a host computer to establish an activation service on your local company network. With a KMS host you can activate thousands of computers at the same time when they regularly connect to the company network. If you use a KMS host to activate Windows, you can use the same host to activate Office 2010.

    MAK:

    With MAK, each computer activates Office 2010 with the Microsoft hosted activation servers over the Internet or by phone. MAK is recommended when you have fewer than 50 computers to activate, and for computers that are not regularly connected to the company network.

    Planning activation:

    KMS:

    A single internal server authenticated with Microsoft and in turn, the organization’s devices authenticate to that machine.

    KMS activation through firewall

    A KMS “Client Key” is installed inside every Volume Licensing copy of Office 2010, which means that no action is required by the end user and that a product key doesn’t need to be entered for the clients. All an administrator needs to do is activate the 1 KMS host reducing the amount of time spent on this task.

    The KMS service does NOT require a dedicated server and can happily sit on a machine already in production. The Operating System requirements are:

    Windows Server 2003

    Windows Server 2008 R2

    Windows 7 purchased through Volume Licensing <—This means OEM & FPP/retail won’t work

    Devices are required to “re-authenticate” every 180 days.

    Technet article is here:

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/ff603508.aspx

    MAK:

    MAK activation at each desktop occurs directly with Microsoft, rather than via an internal server.

    MAK independent activation via Internet

    If machines are unable to connect to the internet, MAK activation can be via telephone too.

    This method works well for smaller organizations and also sub-sets of larger organizations, such as mobile divisions who are away from the corporate network a lot.

    MAK gives you a number of activations equal to the number of licences purchased.

    Technet article is here:

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/ff603511.aspx

    MAK Proxy:

    MAK Proxy activation uses VAMT (Volume Activation Management Tool) 2.0. Using this method, one designated machine collects activation info from multiple other machines and then sends a single centralized request for activation to Microsoft. Only the VAMT device connects to Microsoft’s servers, reducing bandwidth usage.

    MAK Info:

    MAK activation does NOT require periodic re-activation however it will be needed if significant changes are made such as replacing the hard drive or re-installing Windows. This will reduce the number of available activations, so if you:

    Have 100 licences

    Install on 90 machines

    Re-install Windows and re-authenticate Office on 10

    You will have 10 machines on which you cannot activate Office.

    In this case, you would need to contact Microsoft to increase the number of available activations.

    However if you use MAK Proxy, you can save the Confirmation ID given via VAMT and simply re-apply that to re-activate machines without reducing the number of activations available.

    VAMT 2.0:

    Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT) 2.0 is a managed MMC plug-in. VAMT uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to configure managed systems. A convenient command line interface (CLI) allows automated, scheduled VAMT tasks without UI interaction.
    Using the VAMT console, administrators can perform many activation-related tasks on remote computers:

    • Manage product keys obtained from the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) or other sources including retail and Microsoft subscription programs such as MSDN, TechNet and partner programs — and product activations using those keys.
    • Activate remote systems using Key Management Service (KMS), Multiple Activation Key (MAK) or retail activation methods.
    • Perform disconnected proxy activation and reactivation of systems without each system having to connect with Microsoft activation services individually.
    • Assist with license compliance by enabling IT administrators to monitor system license state, including whether systems are licensed and running genuine Windows or Office.

    You can download it here:

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=ec7156d2-2864-49ee-bfcb-777b898ad582&displaylang=en

    Troubleshooting

    The Technet Troubleshooting page can be found here:

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/ee624355.aspx

    which will hopefully cover off any issues you may be having.