There and Back Again

Beyond the Browser

So the mix keynote today was called “Beyond the Browser”, I have more notes then im putting here, but since I don’t have a good enough battery im stuck in the half paper half digital world :-(.

My main thoughts from the presentation are:

Smart Client Applications

WinFX/WPF stand alone applications are part of Microsoft’s plan to try to pull content that normally lives in a browser out as stand along windows applications. They are using features like vector and 3d graphics to be the pull for this. I think this is more of Microsoft still not getting the web. Why would anyone want to download/install and learn to use a new application to read a magazine online. Or more importanly I might be willing to do it for 1 magazine but I want too for 5.

On one hand Microsoft is pushing RSS which moves all our content into 1 central place where the user doesn’t even have to worry about polling. But on the other hand they are pushing for a custom application for each site. I think the centralized RSS approach everything in the browser will win, since thats what always has, but I could be wrong.

To me the exciting technology is Windows Presentation Framework, WPF (Wow thats a horrible name) which seems to be Microsofts competitor to flash. If they end up getting it running everything it might well kill flash, since:
It has real widgets
It has 3d
You can use a real programming language if you want
Its not any more proprietary then flash

Now i do think you’re going to see more normal client applications using RSS, and web services etc. But thats not the same thing as creating a custom application to view every website.

Office Add-ins

Nothing much exciting here. You can use web services in Excel which is handy, not only in consumer areas, but also in business applications.

In Office 12 there is also add-in support for Outlook. The example they showed in this was an Ebay add-in which created a my ebay folder in Outlook. This looks pretty neat, and im sure people who use ebay will find it useful. The problem of course with something like this is the same problem with toolbar add-in’s in IE. Its great if you use 1 or 2, but if every 3rd party app you install brings one along, the next thing you know you got 10 annoying extra folders in outlook, and now you have to figure out how to turn them off.

Vista Sidebar Gadgets

Vista ads a sidebar, it takes gadets. Think of dashboard only in a bar on the edge of the desktop. They look pretty good to me, nice place to put weather, or news, or even a music player. My only concern is lack of room unlike the dashboard, and how you see the items (there might be a hot key but no one talked about it). Of course there will also be tons of worthless gadgets, but i think this will be useful.

Mobile devices

Ultra Mobile devices look great. Its normal windows running a normal browser, with lots of power. In a 7inch screen lenn then 2lb form factor. I don’t know if i’ll ever use one, but I could see a doctor using Clearhealth on one.

There was also a lot of talk about the windows mobile stuff. I don’t really have an opinion on this, I just want a phone that actually works correctly and has an easy to use address book. I guess the tech choice here is Java/ME or microsoft’s .NET stuff, seems that the Java stuff might actually have an edge so it works with more phones, but I don’t really have a good idea (or care) about the market.

TV Connection Devices

This is pretty much Windows Media center and its extenders.

Extender wise the Xbox 360 seems to be the perfect match for media center. You put that next to the TV and can keep the PC in another room.
It even comes with a remote. Though the remote sucks, its the standard 30 button monster, but its not any worse then the majority of the rest of the consumer electronics industry.

A lot of time was spent showing custom Media Center applications, many exist today and they look really nice. Now the select Ui for them isn’t there. So there is a comedy central custom app that gives you a nice rich comedy central experience. But if your flipping through the channels and end up on comedy central there is nothing tieing the custom view to the tv channel its associated with.

Now the biggest problem with using media center as a dvr is digital cable. The version in vista has cable card support so things will be getting better. But cable card isn’t all that great yet since it doesn’t support pay per view etc. Hopefully the cable industry will get the next version out soon.

We also got a quick preview of some of hte new UI. Its the same style you get in the new media center. Lots of graphical browsing. I’m not quite sure why people would want to browse through 500 cd’s (or dvds) using there album covers, but i guess the thought process is, looking at a stack of CD’s was such a great process in real life lets replicate it on a computer. Obviously I don’t think it works at that well, but with just a remote as a browser i’m not sure there is a better approach. And it does look spiffy.