After the Microsoft Keynote @ CES

I have to say that the CES Keynote delivered by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was a bit of a let down in my opinion. I was expecting some major announcements about Windows Mobile, Zune and perhaps Xbox as well as the obvious Windows 7 beta release info…but other that Win 7 we got none of that :-(

The Windows 7 private beta was downloadable from today (from the MSDN/Technet sites if you have access) and the public beta will be available from Friday 09/01/09, just as expected. The public beta will be found here and will be a 2.7GB ISO file :-) This is a big announcement as it was such an open secret, it doesn’t really have any surprise/shock value…more just a sense of “finally”!…

Other than that, they announced Songsmith, a project that has come through from Microsoft Research which “generates musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice. Just choose a musical style, sing into your PC’s microphone, and Songsmith will create backing music for you; and some Xbox/Netflix related news.

Other things were confirmed such as the deals with Dell & Verizon around Live Search, but nothing particularly earth shattering…or was there?!

However, one thing that does looks very interesting and could, if developed and marketed right, become quite a big part of peoples lives is Microsoft Tag. This is Redmond’s foray into the world of social 2d tagging to “tranform physical media (print advertising, billboards,product packages, information signs, in-store merchandising, or even video images)—into live links for accessing information and entertainment online.”

You download a small app for your mobile device and then you can start accessing these tags by photographing them with the camera on your device. There are some great examples of when this would be used on the Tag site such as allowing tracking analytics of ads in print media or using the tags on film posters to create a viral buzz as well as cinemas offering showing times etc.

The technology these tags is brand new, built from the ground up by the ever more famous MS Research Labs to best utilise the oftem limited camera tech on phones. The High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs) as they are known “employs different symbol shapes in geometric patterns and multiple colors to provide more information in less space”. An example:


The Microsoft Tag mobile tagging system offers many advances and advantages:

  • Designed from the beginning to work with the limited capabilities of a typical camera phone.
  • Much smaller than other formats. Typical packaging application starts at 5/8 x 5/8”.
  • Optimized for both print and video display.
  • Enhanced Reed-Solomon error correction means Tags can still be read even if partially damaged.
  • On many phones can decode using a direct real-time camera video stream, you don’t even have to “click” to read the code.
  • Handles long URLs and allows for content to be dynamically changed.
  • Tags are saved for later viewing and can be forwarded to someone else (no need to scan it again).

I’ve just downloaded the mobile app as a .CAB file from the Tag site here, and it works really well. There’s a tag on the screen that you can “snap” and it takes you straight through to another MS site relating to Tag; I will say that you need to put your phone quite close to the screen for it to work-just so you know :-)

Microsoft BPOS-A first hand look

Today I was finally able to set up our test account for Microsoft BPOS and it was definitely worth the wait. I’ve not been playing around with it for long but already I’m highly impressed with the amount of features and how easy it is to use. All the most common options you will need, such as create site, add user, increase storage are contained in easy access menus and are pretty much exactly where you’d expect them to be :-)

Within 5 minutes I’d added users to the system, created a new Sharepoint Site Collection and then added said users to the Sharepoint site…and I’m no Sharepoint Administrator! I then proceeded to add multiple documents to the Sharepoint site which was easy and very quick-just as quick as an on-premise solution as far as I can tell.

There are some things missing such as Excel Services, forms etc as well as the ability to run custom code, so it won’t fit everyone-but on the whole it covers what people need very well.

Moving on to Exchange, I’ve just signed in to OWA and without having to do any configuration either as a user or admin (other than setting the size of the mailbox), I’m up and running and firing emails off all over the show :-) 

For business that want to run BPOS alongside their existing on-premise installations, it is very simple synchronize your Active Directory (AD) and/or Exchange Global Address Lists as well as migrating existing mailboxes across to Microsoft Exchange Online. These are all done via wizards and having seem them demonstrated at TVP, they’re pretty simple to use.

I’m very impressed with the user interface and the general “flow” of the entire BPOS suite site, from the perspective of both an admin and a user. My gallery of screenshots can be found here.


I want to thank Hugh Mcleod and Steve Clayton for this great S+S diagram!