Microsoft Predicts a Future That I Want

In 5-10 years, how will people get things done at work, at home, and on the go?

Watch Microsoft’s concept video to get a glimpse of the future of productivity. Watch how future technology will help people make better use of their time, focus their attention, and strengthen relationships while getting things done at work, home, and on the go. This video is a follow up to their excellent ‘vision’ video in 2009.

Learn and Earn with the Gift of Collaboration

Microsoft’s Mel Carson and all round good guy, has released an excellent Social Media White Paper this week.

Mel works within Microsoft’s Advertising Community Team, which has been engaging with online advertisers through social media since 2006. The document entitled, “Learn and Earn” tells the story of how the Advertising team embraced social media to connect with the advertising community. Well worth reading.

During my time at Microsoft, I modelled the MVP Award Program Facebook Fan Page on the Microsoft Advertising Fan Page! So thank you Mel and team for the inspiration!

Read the document in full below.

Learn and Earn – Social Media White Paper – Microsoft Advertising

Biz Stone Interviewed!


As Steve mentions on his blog, Microsoft’s Mel Carson was lucky enough to interview Twitter co-founder Biz Stone in Cannes last week.  Mel does a great job on the interview. Watch the video above to learn:

  • What is Biz’s favourite Twitter app?
  • How many registered apps use the Twitter API?
  • Why is Biz Stone in Cannes with lots of advertising people?

Software Plus Services Explained


Hat Tip to Steve.

This video is by far the best of explanation of Microsoft’s Software Plus Services strategy I have seen. A great job done by the guys at Microsoft and Common Craft!

A YouTube version is also available here.

CESFest 09


Microsoft has kindly invited me to CESFest 09 in London tonight. CESFest 09 will focus on Microsoft’s CES announcements and more specifically the Windows Live and Facebook announcements.  Sadly, due to other commitments, I am not able to attend.

However, Microsoft will be streaming the event via Ustream.TV.  Take a look at the video below

Stream videos at Ustream

If you missed Steve Ballmer present the CES Keynote, take a look at the video below

Blogging for Business!

Many friends and readers have been asking if I have hibernated for the winter? Well, not exactly. I am pleased to announce that I am currently working as a social media marketing specialist for my new client – Microsoft UK.  The role is a contract position, and I’m working to drive awareness of the Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) Award Program.

Take a look at the MVP blog here and the Twitter site here.

I will still continue to blog here on topics relating to Web 2.0 and personal branding. However, I hope to bring a fresh prospective of social media usage from the corporate world. 

Happy New Year!

“Feeling The Love” from Windows Live

Wow. I wasn’t expecting turning into a social network!

As ever, Joe Wilcox, provides some great commentary.

Somehow, Microsoft has pulled together disparate services so that they feel more like a closed network like Facebook. The social benefits are there, and many Facebook similarities, without much of the baggage. becoming a Web 2.0 Citizen

Now about Windows Live as the good Web 2.0 citizen: Remarkable, shocking. Beat me with a stick so I wake up from the dream. No surprise, for Windows Live client software, the choices are Windows and Windows. But on the Web, the services break away from their Windows chains. I found the Windows Live experience on a Mac running Safari to be about equal to Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 on a Vista PC. Get this: I used the service from my iPhone, too (Some features didn’t work, though). Windows Live Spaces still has vestiges of Windows legacy, but there’s a freshness everywhere else. Even home page customization features, which I was sure would be Mac incompatible, worked just fine. Please, wake up me up!

The best part of Live’s Web 2.0 citizenship: What Microsoft calls "Web Activities," which really is broad feed support. Pick a service. Twitter? WordPress? They’re there. Microsoft claims feeds from over 50 companies. I didn’t see that many. The larger list includes: Flickr, LinkedIn, Pandora and Photobucket. Tempering my excitement, I noticed that in the private beta Microsoft exposed many more Live services than those from third parties.


But Microsoft has observed—and its my observation, too—that "people use more than one social networking service to connect" to friends and family, Chris said. "We looked at that as a real opportunity for us to bring something [different] to market. We’re really not believers in the walled garden approach."

Microsoft hopes that the new features will expose people to its services. "Our starting point are people who use one of the services already," Chris told me on Monday. Microsoft is betting that as existing users use the services, they will expose features to friends or family. For example, Microsoft has enhanced e-mail capabilities around photo sharing. Every time someone sends out a photo, it publicises the tools, he said, "They’ll ask, ‘How did you do that?’"

My early reaction is surprisingly positive, and I can’t say that the two earlier Live waves impressed me. Microsoft had the right concepts, but marginally executed on them. Wave 3 feels different and may follow the old axiom that Microsoft gets things right on the third version. The private beta was very fast—surprisingly so. Response was quicker than running desktop applications in Windows. That said, public Windows Live Wave 3 release will be the test. Can Microsoft data centers handle the load?

Download the full Live 3 Reviewers guide from here

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Ray Ozzie’s PDC2008 Keynote Word Cloud


Ray Ozzie’s Word Cloud from Microsoft’s PDC 2008. I’ve also added his keynote transcript below. A very interesting read and gives us a glimpse at where today’s computing is headed.

Today, we’re in the early days of a transformation towards services across the industry, a change that’s being catalyzed by a confluence of factors, by cheap computing and cheap storage, by the increasing ubiquity of high bandwidth connectivity to the Internet, by an explosion in PC innovation from the high-end desktop to the low-end netbook, by an explosion in device innovation, Media Players, Smart Phones, net-connected devices of all shapes and sizes.

At PDC this week you’ll hear our take, Microsoft’s take on this revolution that’s happening in our industry’s software foundation, and how there’s new value to be had for users, for developers, for businesses, by deeply and genuinely combining the best of software with the best aspects of services.

Today and tomorrow morning, you’re going to hear us map out our all up software plus services strategy end-to-end. You’re going to see how this strategy is coming to life in our platforms, in our apps and in our tools. You’re going to see some great demos. You’ll get software to take home with you, and you’ll get activation codes for our new services.

So, I’ll be with you here for the next couple of days. Tomorrow, I’ll be up here and we’ll talk about the front-end of our computing experiences. We’ll focus on the innovations in our client OS and on tools and runtimes and services that enable a new generation of apps that span the PC, the phone, and the Web.

But today we’ll be focusing on our back-end innovation, platforms, infrastructure, and solutions that span from on-premises servers to services in the cloud to datacenters in the cloud.

Back-End Innovation: Platforms, Infrastructure and Solutions

You know, over the past couple of weeks I’ve ready some pretty provocative pieces online taking the position that this cloud thing might be, in fact, vastly overblown. Some say: What’s the big deal and What’s the difference between the cloud and how we’re now treating computing as a virtualized utility in most major enterprises.

And in a sense these concepts have been around for what seems like forever. The notion of utility computing was pioneered in the ’60s by service bureaus like TimeShare and Geistgo.

Virtualization was also pioneered in that same era by IBM and its VM370 took virtualization very, very broadly into the enterprise datacenter.

Today, that same virtualization technology is making a very, very strong comeback, driven by our trend toward consolidation of our PC-based servers. With racks of machines now hosting any number of Virtual Servers, computing is looking more and more like an economical shared utility, serving our enterprise users, apps and solutions.

But today, even in the best of our virtualized enterprise datacenters, most of our enterprise computing architectures have been designed for the purpose of serving and delivering inwardly facing solutions. That is, most of our systems and networks have been specifically built to target solutions for our employees, in some cases for our partners, hundreds or thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of concurrent users; desktops, datacenters, and the networks between them all scoped out, audited, controllable and controlled by an IT organization skilled in managing the enterprise as the scope of deployment.

But more and more the reach and scope that’s required of our systems has been greatly expanding. Almost every business, every organization, every school, every government is experiencing the externalization of IT, the way IT needs to engage with individuals and customers coming in from all across the Web.

These days, there’s a minimum expectation that customers have of all of our Web sites delivering product information, customer support, direct fulfillment from the Web.

But the bar is being raised as far richer forms of customer interaction are evolving very, very rapidly. Once on our Web sites, customers increasingly expect to interact with one another through community rating and ranking, through forms with reputation, through wikis and through blogs.

Companies are coming to realize that regardless of their industry, the Web has become a key demand generation mechanism, the first place customers look, every organization’s front door.

Now more than ever, the richness, reach and effectiveness of all aspects of a company’s Web presence has become critical to the overall health of the business.

And company’s IT systems now have to deal with far more outside users, their customers, than the users that they serve within their own four walls.

As a result, one of the things that’s begun to happen over the course of the past few years is that the previously separate roles of software development and operations have become incredibly enmeshed and intertwined. IT pros and developers are now finding themselves with the need to work closely together and to jointly team and jointly learn how to design and build and operate systems that support millions or tens of millions of customers or potential customers spread across the globe, clicking through ads, doing transactions, talking with the company, and talking with each other.

For some customers’ Web-facing systems the demand that they see on their Web sites might be seen in peaks and valleys. It might shoot up during the holidays or new product introductions or during product recalls or when good things or bad things are going on in the blogosphere.

And so today, at great expense many companies tend to add ample spare capacity for each of the apps for which traffic must scale, more floor space, more hardware, more power, more cooling, more experts on networks, more operations personnel.

And a company’s Web-facing challenges can go much further than that if the systems are housed in a single location and you have a variety of failures such as cable cuts, earthquakes, power shortages; you know, any of these things could cause critical continuity issues that could end up being huge for the business.

The answer, of course, is to have more than one datacenter, which helps with load balancing and redundancy. But doing this is extremely tough. It requires a good deal of human expertise in loosely coupled systems design, in data replication architectures, in networking architectures and more.

And having just two datacenters, while challenging, may not be enough. Far away customers experience network latency issues that can impact the experience or the effectiveness or the user satisfaction with the Web site.

So, to serve these global customers you may need to locate at least datacenters around the world, and this may mean dealing with a whole host of issues related to your data or the communications between the users on your Web sites that’s going on outside the borders: political issues, tax issues, a variety of issues related to sovereignty and so on.

And so reflecting back on the question I asked earlier for developers or IT professionals, is this cloud thing really any different than the things that we’ve known in the past, the answer is absolutely and resoundingly yes. Things are materially different when building systems designed to serve the world of the Web as compared with the systems designed to serve those living within a company’s own four walls.

And there’s a very significant reason why it might be beneficial to have access to a shared infrastructure designed explicitly to serve the world of the Web, one having plenty of excess capacity, providing kind of an overdraft protection for your Web site, one built and operated by someone having the IT expertise, the networking and security expertise, all kinds of expertise necessary for a service that spans the globe.

High-Scale Internet Services Infrastructure: A New Tier in Computing Architecture

A few years ago, as it happens, we at Microsoft embarked upon a detailed examination of our own Web-facing systems, systems serving hundreds of millions of customers worldwide using MSN, systems delivering updates to hundreds of millions of Windows users worldwide, systems that are visited by Office users every time they press the help key, systems such as MSDN serving millions of developers, you, worldwide, and many, many more systems.

Each one of these systems had grown organically on its own, but for all of them together across all of them we built up a tremendous amount of common expertise, expertise in understanding how and to what degree we should be investing in datacenters and networks in different places around the world, given geopolitical issues and environmental issues and a variety of other issues; expertise in anticipating how many physical machines our various services would actually need and where and when to deploy those machines, and how to cope with service interdependencies across datacenters and so on; expertise in understanding how to efficiently deploy software to these machines and how to measure, tune, and manage a broad and diverse portfolio of services; expertise in keeping the OS and apps up to date across these thousands of machines; expertise in understanding how to prepare for an cope with holiday peaks of demand, especially with products like Xbox Live and Zune.

All in all over the years we’ve accumulated lots and lots of high scale services’ expertise, but all that knowledge, technology and skill, tremendous and expensive as that asset is, wasn’t packaged in a form that could be leveraged by outside developers or in a form that could benefit our enterprise customers. It certainly wasn’t packaged in a form that might be helpful to you.

Also at any industry level we’d come to believe that the externalization of IT in extending all our enterprise systems to a world of users across the Web, that this high scale Internet services infrastructure is nothing less than a new tier in our industry’s computing architecture.

The first tier, of course, is our experience tier, the PC on your desk or the phone in your pocket. The scale of this first tier of computing is one, and it’s all about you.

The second tier is the enterprise tier, the back-end systems hosting our business infrastructure and our business solutions, and the scale of this tier is roughly the size of the enterprise, and to serve this tier is really the design center of today’s server architectures and systems management architectures and most major enterprise datacenters.

The third tier is this Web tier, externally facing systems serving your customers, your prospects, potentially everyone in the world. The scale of this third tier is the size of the Web, and this tier requires computation, storage, networking, and a broad set of high level services designed explicitly for scale with what appears to be infinite capacity, available on-demand, anywhere across the globe.

And so a few years ago, some of our best and brightest, Dave Cutler, Amitabh Srivastava, and an amazing founding team, embarked upon a mission to utilize our systems expertise to create an offering in this new Web tier, a platform for cloud computing to be used by Microsoft’s own developers, by Web developers, and enterprise developers alike.

Some months after we began to plan this new effort, Amazon launched a service called EC2, and I’d like to tip my hat to Jeff Bezos and Amazon for their innovation and for the fact that across the industry all of us are going to be standing on their shoulders as they’ve established some base level design patterns, architectural models and business models that we’ll all learn from and grow.

In the context of Microsoft with somewhat different and definitely broader objectives, Amitabh, Dave and their team have been working for a few years now on our own platform for computing in the cloud. It’s designed to be the foundation, the bedrock underneath all of Microsoft’s service offerings for consumers and business alike, and it’s designed to be ultimately the foundation for yours as well.

Announcing Windows Azure

And so I’d like to announce a new service in the cloud, Windows Azure. (Cheers, applause.) Windows Azure is a new Windows offering at the Web tier of computing. This represents a significant extension to our family of Windows computing platforms from Windows Vista and Windows Mobile at the experience tier, Windows Server at the enterprise tier, and now Windows Azure being our Web tier offering, what you might think of as Windows in the cloud.

Windows Azure is our lowest level foundation for building and deploying a high scale service, providing core capabilities such as virtualized computation, scalable storage in the form of blogs, tables and streams, and perhaps most importantly an automated service management system, a fabric controller that handles provisioning, geo-distribution, and the entire lifecycle of a cloud-based service.

You can think of Windows Azure as a new service-based operating environment specifically targeted for this new cloud design point, striking the best possible balance between two seemingly opposing goals.

First, we felt it was critical for Windows developers to be able to utilize existing skills and existing code, for the most part writing code and developing software that leverages things that you might already know. Most of you, of course, would expect to be able to use your existing tools and runtimes like Visual Studio and .NET Framework, and, of course, you can.

But in developing for something that we would brand Windows, you’d also expect a fundamentally open environment for your innovation. You’d expect a world of tools, languages, frameworks, and runtimes, some from us, some from you, some from commercial developers, and some from a vibrant community on the Web. And so being Windows, that’s the type of familiar and developer friendly environment that we intend to foster and grow.

But at the same time, even with that familiarity, even in trying to create a familiar environment for developers, we need to help developers recognize that this cloud design point is something fundamentally new, and that there are ways that Windows Azure needs to be different than the kind of server environment that you might be used to.

Whether Windows, UNIX, Linux or the Mac, most of today’s systems and most of today’s apps are deeply, deeply rooted in a scale-up past, but the systems that we’re building right now for cloud-based computing are setting the stage for the next 50 years of systems, both outside and inside the enterprise.

And so we really need to begin laying the groundwork with new patterns and practices, new types of storage, model-based deployment, new ways of binding an app to the system, app model and app patterns designed fundamentally from the outset for a world of parallel computing and for a world of horizontal scale.

Today, here at PDC, for those of you in this audience, Windows Azure comes to life. As I said before, and as you’ll hear about more in a few minutes, Windows Azure is not software that you run on your own servers but rather it’s a service that’s running on a vast number of machines housed in Microsoft’s own datacenters first in the U.S. and soon worldwide. It’s being released today as a Community Technology Preview with the initial features being only a fraction of where you’ll see from our roadmap that it will be going.

Like any of our other high scale Internet services, Windows Azure’s development and operational processes were designed from the outset for iteration and rapid improvement, incorporating your feedback and getting better and better in a very, very dynamic way.

As you’ll see today, we’re betting on Azure ourselves, and as the system scales out, we’ll be bringing more and more of our own key apps and key services onto Windows Azure because it will be our highest scale, highest availability, most economical, and most environmentally sensitive way of hosting services in the cloud.

The Azure Services Platform

A few of those key services, when taken together with Windows Azure itself, constitute a much larger Azure Services Platform. These higher level developer services, which you can mix and match ala carte, provide functions that as Windows developers you’ll find quite valuable and familiar and useful.

Some of you may recall hearing about SQL Server Data Services, SSDS, an effort that we introduced earlier this year at our MIX conference. We’re planning to bring even more of the power of SQL Server to the cloud, including SQL Reporting Services and SQL Data Analysis Services; and as such, this offering is now called simply SQL Services, our database services in the cloud.

Our .NET services subsystem is a concrete implementation of some of the things that many of you are probably already familiar with that exist within the .NET Framework, such as workflow services, authorization services and identity federation services.

The Live services subsystem, which you’ll hear about tomorrow, provides an incredibly powerful bridge that extends Azure services outward to any given user’s PCs, phones, or devices through synchronized storage and synchronized apps.

SQL Services, .NET services, and Live services, just like Windows Azure, are all being included as a part of the Azure services platform CTP being made available to you right here at PDC.

As you are well aware, Dynamics CRM and SharePoint are two of our most capable and most extensible platforms for business content, collaboration, and rapid solutions. And later this morning, you’ll hear about how these two platforms also fill a very important role in the overall Azure Services Platform”.

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Cloud Computing – Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts…

When you combine the ever-growing power of devices and the increasing ubiquity of the Web, you come up with a sum that is greater than its parts. Software + Services is that greater sum. It all adds up to a commitment from Microsoft to deliver ever more compelling opportunities and solutions to consumer and business costumers—and to our partners.”

Yesterday, Microsoft announced its “Cloud Computing” offering – Windows Azure.  Azure is essentially a framework, which will allow developers to build a variety of applications which will be hosted live on the Internet. This brings a fundamental shift in today’s computing. Traditionally, software applications were stored on private ‘local’ servers. However, managing servers is a costly business. Even though hardware costs may have come down in recent years. Physical space, storage, licensing, administration and backup costs take up the lion’s share of supporting a modern day computing environment.

Microsoft and other vendors, such as Amazon, Google and believe consumers and businesses will want to store far more of their data on the servers in its “cloud” of giant data centres around the world, so that it can be accessed anytime, any place and from any device.

Microsoft’s offerings are somewhat different to its competitors, in that Microsoft believes that accessing your data in the cloud requires more than just using a web browser. A hybrid model of using “Software + Services”.  Essentially, this means that you still use some kind of desktop client to manipulate the data stored up in the cloud.

This proposition of cloud computing sounds attractive to businesses for a number of a reasons:

  1. The cost of Internet network bandwidth has significantly reduced, whilst at the same time penetration of broadband has significantly increased worldwide. This means you can access the Internet almost anywhere on earth.
  2. Outsourcing your hardware infrastructure saves businesses serious fixed costs, both in physical space and in hardware. Essentially, you can expense the running costs of your infrastructure. Previously, infrastructure costs were typically attributed to capital expenditure. Cloud Computing will make Finance Directors the world over very happy. Depreciation? What stinking depreciation?

However, there are some big issues to consider too:

  1. Single point of failure. If the cloud hardware goes down, you lose your apps and data.
  2. How secure is the hosting?  Are your apps and data files safe from sabotage and espionage?
  3. Cultural concerns. For some businesses, it is going to be very hard in “letting go”. Businesses have  looked after and managed their data for years. Are CEO’s willing to let  their precious data be managed outside of their own data centres, despite the significant cost savings?

In response to point 3. I think that the concern is easing. Many business already outsource many of their services.  Outsourcing the hardware is a natural progression of that process

But, what about the rest of us? Well, for consumers, there is the prospect of a future where much, if not all of our data and many of our applications could be stored online “in the cloud”. Think about this for a moment. Imagine a world, where our data follows us everywhere. Smaller computer, limited applications, data synced across all of our Internet aware devices?

Over the past decade, the world we live in has been transformed by the Web.  It connects us to nearly everything we do—be it social or economic.  It holds the potential to make the real world smaller, more relevant, more digestible and more personal.  At the same time, the PC has grown phenomenally  in power with rich applications unimaginable just a few years ago.  What were documents and spreadsheets then are now digital photos, videos, music and movies.  And as we edit, organise and store media, the PC has quietly moved from our desks to our laps to our mobile phones and entertainment centres—taking the Web with it each step of the way”.

Microsoft’s Software + Services model is perhaps the logical step in the evolution of computing.  It represents an industry shift toward a design approach that is neither exclusively software-centric nor browser-centric.  By combining the best aspects of software with the best aspects of cloud-based services, Microsoft hope to deliver more compelling solutions for consumers, developers and businesses.  Microsoft envisions a world where rich, highly functional and elegant experiences extend from the PC, to the Web, to the devices we use every day.

“When you combine the ever-growing power of devices and the increasing ubiquity of the Web, you come up with a sum that is greater than its parts.”

Personally, I’m very excited about this computing shift. I’m *almost* ready to put my data in the cloud.

More information can be found at Microsoft’s Azure site and in this technical white paper. Azure’s terms of service can be found here.

Rory Cellan-Jones interviews Steve Ballmer

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones does a through job of interviewing Ballmer in London yesterday. Ballmer is very frank with his answers to the failed Yahoo bid and how the company is still playing catch up in the search and advertising business.  Ballmer, sounds like he enjoys a good challenge and a fight.  Personally, I think it’s a good thing for the borg. Despite, the public perception, the borg does and is capable of innovating. Through tough times of competition, those who innovate succeed, which is great for the industry and ultimately the consumers and businesses. Microsoft have concentrated their efforts in recent years on the Enterprise, somewhat at the expense of the consumer market.

However, having heard Ballmer speak yesterday, my views on his leadership have changed.  He is an amazing, passionate  and a strong leader with a sound business plan for the future. The question is, whether there is a silver lining in the ‘cloud’ for Microsoft, only time will tell.