Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Saturday, April 24, 2004

Michael Earls: This is the Microsoft that I remember, and I think it's the reason that Microsoft was so successful, they let the nerds run things.

I don't know how to react to that. My wife says I'm a wannabe nerd.

10:44:52 PM    comment 

I should have linked to Xbox Live's Tsunami release notes. Turns out they just did a major upgrade the other day.

What is Live? We'll go into that as I play around.

Jeff Sandquist should get a commission from the Xbox team, though. We all want to play golf with Jeff. Jeff told me yesterday that he's going to have to buy a second system to play golf with us cause his daughter has claimed possession of his Xbox.

I figure it's a lot cheaper than real Golf.

When WinHec comes around (first week of May) we should have a dinner at my house so you all can play with it.

Next on the geek list? A Windows Media Center. Then I'll have the complete Microsoft house. Scary, huh?

10:37:26 PM    comment 

Anyway, got my Xbox Live system setup and Jeff Julian is my first online friend. I sent him a voice mail. I'm online now, will look around to play some Links with folks.

The setup process was pretty easy, actually. The directions were clear, and no real snags (other than I wrote down my security key for my wireless wrong).

One thing, though. The router/wireless access point had very clear instructions that you MUST load the software before you connected the router.

I wish we wouldn't do that. So many people are used to just hooking things up without looking at the manual. Heck, people regularly get into cars and drive them without looking at a manual (be honest, ever rented a car? Ever looked at the manual? Actually I had to, couldn't figure out how to set something on a car stereo).

Anyway, things are rockin! Hope the weekend's going good for you.

10:32:03 PM    comment 

By the way, if other people want to reuse (or "reblog") my content, I give full permission as long as there's a link back to my blog, and clear credit given that I wrote the content.

Why? I appreciate when someone aggregates my blog, pulls out what's useful, posts it with other people's stuff, and/or does something else useful with it.

That adds value to my work here. Not everything I write is good.

I think it's part of being in the blogosphere. An attitude of sharing.

10:23:52 PM    comment 

Well, three people who don't like me using full quotes on a blog is three people too many, so I'm not going to keep doing my experimental aggregator blog. I'll work with Kunal to change the behavior of the posting mechanism. If we can get it to post only headlines, or headlines and 10% of the content, then we'll start it back up.

Why am I stopping? For a few reasons. 1) I don't think I'm on the right side of the law. 2) I believe that the producer of content should keep control of their content (it's why I argued voiciferously against SmartTags in IE) 3) My readers asked me to, and I listen to them. 4) My wife says that I shouldn't do it.

So, it was an interesting experiment, but like many experiments, it has failed. Next!

10:11:09 PM    comment 

Alright, I'm setup on Xbox Live. My name is "Scobleizer." It took about an hour and a half to get everything setup. Mostly to enter all the darn information into the Xbox that it needed.

Works great! Playing Links is fun. Now I see what Jeff Sandquist had a bunch of peeople playing in his "tournament."

Hey, maybe we should have a Channel9 Links event.

Anyway, if you're on Live, leave me a voice mail. I'll be on later tonight. Maryam wants to take me for a walk.

8:09:06 PM    comment 

Inluminent calls quoteblogs (like my experimental aggregator blog) theft.

I covered this already. I agree.

Soon I bet I'm going to have to stop doing it. Which is why I call it an "experimental" blog.

I can't do a link blog and have the same content. Why? Takes too much time. For those who don't know, I produce the aggregator blog by simply dragging and dropping items to a folder in Outlook. It posts them automagically.

I do not have control of what gets posted. It's all or nothing.

I disagree with Inluminent that readers are not getting sent to the original blogs. Keep in mind. Out of 5000 items a day I scan, I only publish 100 to 200. So, if someone posts four things to their blog a day, I only will drag and drop the best one.

I've gotten a lot of feedback that my aggregator blog is actually driving a lot of traffic back to blogs. Why? Because people want to subscribe to the blogs that are interesting and my aggregator blog is a good way to get a sense of what the author is like. It's like advertising for blogs.

But, if I get accused of stealing, lawyers are going to get involved, and when lawyers get involved, I need to stop doing what I'm doing.

Should I stop now?

5:19:56 PM    comment 

So, to relax my brain, I went and bought a few new things for my Xbox:

1) Microsoft Wireless Base Station MN-700. It is a 802.11g wireless access point/router and 4-port Ethernet switch. XBox Live needs to be connected to the Internet with the fastest connection possible, and 802.11g is much faster than my older 802.11b wireless router (which I'm giving to my brother-in-law). This will go upstairs in my home office which is where my cable modem comes into the house.

2) Microsoft Xbox Wireless Adapter MN-740. This adds my Xbox to my wireless network. This goes downstairs where my entertainment system goes.

3) XBox Live Starter Kit. This gets loaded on my Xbox. Comes with a headset (you can talk with other gamers using your voice, and now you can leave voice messages too!) and a subscription card, and MechAssault.

4) I got Links 2004, so that I can play with Jeff Sandquist and others online.

So, it's 4:10 p.m. here. I'll start hooking it up and see how long it takes and report back my experiences.

4:10:22 PM    comment 

One thing I've noticed about Microsoft. We come up with boring names for products. Yesterday I gave Peter Loforte, an exec on the Tablet PC team, heck for the naming of the latest Tablet PC software: Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005.

Can you imagine Starbucks coming up with a name for its latest coffee drink like that? "The Tastes Like Last Year's Coffee, But Is Sweeter, And Is This Year's Version."

Compare the official Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, 2005's name to the code-name for the same product: Lone Star.

Lone Star is so much cooler. And doesn't try to communicate marketing information in the name. All of our code names are cooler than our product names. Whidbey, Longhorn, etc.

Let's go over to Nike. Do they try to name their shoes something like "Mike Jordan's technology, updated for 2005." No, they come up with wacky names like "Air Huarache" or "Zoom Generation" or "Shox."

Why does this matter? Because of word of mouth. Because of how our brains remember things. Be honest. Without looking at my previous posts or up above, tell me what the official name for the next version of the Tablet PC software is. Did you get it right? I didn't. I had to look it up on Web.

Now, without looking up again, tell me the name of a Nike Shoe. Get it right? I bet more of you did.

But, in defense of the Tablet Team naming is hard. Could I come up with a better name for the Tablet PC? No, I couldn't.

Can you?

3:54:41 PM    comment 

Yesterday with the Tablet PC team Peter Loforte mentioned the Tablet PC Post site. I see that it's not easy to find on Google, so wanted to point to it again. This site tracks all the software that's specifically developed for the Tablet PC. Done by Lora Heiny. Really great resource.

3:36:10 PM    comment 

Yesterday was just an incredible day for me. Have you ever had a Slurpee? Know how it feels if you drink it too fast? My son, when he was two or so, did just that and blurted out "hot cold hot cold." Brain freeze.

Well, my brain feels just like that today. I was interviewing people far smarter than myself. And struggling to keep up.

Yesterday morning started out with Wade Cunningham in the cafeteria of building 4. He's the guy who invented the Wiki. He told me he's learned about 100 computer languages from SmallTalk to Visual Basic to Perl. He likes denigrating himself "I'll forever be known for writing 1000 lines of Perl code."

During that interview, James Newkirk came over to our table. He's one of the guys who wrote the latest version of Nunit, a unit-testing framework for .NET. Wade interviewed James and did a better job than I did, so I just shut up and let the camera roll.

Then I trudged over to building 117 to meet Neil Enns. Neil's a lead program manager on Mobile Devices. He's been on that team for six years or so. His team's software is on the latest SmartPhones and PocketPCs. We talked about SmartPhones and working at Microsoft and other things including what it's like to compete with Nokia (Microsoft is the little guy in the cell phone market).

Then over to building 32 to see the Tablet PC team. Where I spent four hours with the team.

Today, my brain hurts. So, what will I do? I just bought XBox Live. Gotta set it up. Hey Jeff Sandquist, are you up for one of those virtual games of golf? I need to give my brain a rest.

3:19:27 PM    comment 

The Tablet PC team has a challenge: build a successful new platform faster than Windows or the Macintosh built theirs.

Let's look back. When did the industry really know the Macintosh was a success? I'd say about 1988 or 89. The Mac first came out in 1984. When did the industry really know that Windows was a success? 1992/93. Windows first came out in 1985.

The Tablet PC was first released in late 2002 and yesterday the Tablet PC team invited Channel9 over to see how things are going from the inside.

First off, the team gave me amazing access. I interviewed people across the team. From the execs, to the marketing/PR team, to the developer who wrote the driver for the digitizers. About the only people I didn't meet was Bert Keely, the architect/visionary, and Bill Gates (who has been pushing for pen-based computing at Microsoft for years).

One thing, the entire team is reading the questions submitted over on Channel9. (I found out why: Peter Loforte, general manager of the Tablet PC team, reads all the Tablet sites regularly, including TabletPCBuzz, and that site linked to the list). Answers will come. I really got on Arin Goldberg for not blogging more. He, and others, say they'll be blogging more in the future.

Thanks Arin for inviting me over and getting me all those great interviews and thanks to the community from Christopher Coulter to Lora Heiny to Spencer and Peter over on Tablet PC Buzz, to MVPs like Terri for asking great questions and supporting the Tablet PC team so much over the past year (several people on the team mentioned the community and enthusiast support that they have gotten have motivated them to work even harder on getting great stuff out).

So, back to the question: what is the state of the Tablet PC today?

Well, they gave me a tour of the new Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 yesterday. I asked Peter "who the heck came up with that stupid name?"

He answered that the name itself was trying to show the platform's strength. "It's Windows XP," he said. "That means that all your software will run on it."

"Even Adobe Photoshop or Napster?" I asked. "Yes." He also showed me the seven Tablet PCs that he carries around with him, most of which have a keyboard built in. "There's a common misperception that the Tablet PC is not a full-fledged notebook," he said. "It is."

Then he continued, it's the Tablet PC edition because it's designed to take advantage of the active digitizer, ink recoginition technology, and pen-input and gesturing technology. Translation: you can write on the screen and it'll recognize your handwriting and you can use the Pen to do everything on screen that you'd use a mouse for.

Then he explained they decided to go with "2005" because it'll come out this summer and will be the version Tablets will ship with all through 2005.

One thing everyone on the team mentioned to me was "it's a free upgrade for existing Tablet PC users." And, wow, what an upgrade. We've talked about this before, but you really need to get a demo of the new handwriting recognition and correction experience.

The 2005 edition will come included with Windows XP Service Pack 2. So, not only will you get all the new Tablet PC inking features, but you'll get all the security and all the new wireless features as well. All for free. Well, that's if you already have a Tablet PC.

Anyway, we'll have more on Channel9 in a few weeks after I edit the video up into weblog-sized chunks. Hopefully the demo that Peter gave me comes out (he showed off the new upgrade as well as Ambient Design's ArtRage which is just a fantastic drawing program -- it's free as well right now!).

Other things we talked about? Retail sales haven't been a strong point of the team. They demoed to me a new retail stand that'll start showing up in Best Buy and other retailers soon. The stand lets retailers display the strengths of the Tablet PC while keeping the Tablet and the pens from getting ripped off.

Developer support? A new .NET-focused SDK is coming. And lots of other stuff. We'll talk more about that on Channel9 when I get the videos done.

Community support? More information, more events where you can meet the Tablet PC team, and other things are coming.

New hardware? This is one area where the team wasn't able to talk (they have signed NDAs with the hardware OEMs, see, even Microsoft has to sign NDAs) but they assured me that there's a wave of new stuff coming, plus they were showing off some of the coolest new Tablet PCs like those from Motion and Toshiba and Acer. The second-generation hardware definitely is better than the first generation that I'm typing on right now.

Innovations? I'll save that stuff for Channel9, but this is the first time I've gotten to speak to the developers who are working on the inner guts of the product. Even found out all the technical reasons why the pen sometimes doesn't align properly with where the cursor is on the screen. It's an intense technical problem. For instance, did you know that the hard drive's magnet can mess with the alignment of the screen? One engineer developed a whole system to correct for that. He also explained to me how the pen and digitizer work, and that even the glass that protects the LCD and the digitizer can create errors that he had to correct for.

When you get full access to a team like this, you really see how hard it is to build a successful platform (it takes total excellence on every piece, from partnerships with OEMs and ISVs, to engineering, testing, management, evangelism and marketing). If any piece messes up, success won't be attained. Makes me appreciate even more the teams who've done it in the past.

Anyway, I'll let you know when the interviews are up and I appreciate my Tablet PC even more now.

2:47:42 PM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
Are you with the press?
Last updated:
5/11/2005; 12:50:51 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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