SpotMe or SpyMe?

At the Creativity World Forum this week, all attendees were given SpotMe devices: The All-In-One Participant Communication Tool (I got that last bit of their website obviously).

“Spotme combines social networking via a searchable photo database, messaging, people radar, unique “Spotting” function and electronic business card exchange, with audience response, Q&A sessions, messaging, lead retrieval, attendance tracking, electronic feedback forms (and more) to create the only all-in-one communication service for events of all sorts – from 200 to 5000 participants.“

And here’s a video of the gizmo:

Hey and I like gizmos so I was very curious about this after I found out the CWF would make use of it. And truth to be told, it has some interesting features, and first thing after I checked into the conference and retrieved my SpotMe device, I started toying with it and started looking in the contactlist for people to ‘spot’, people I wanted to meet. It didn’t take long for the first alert that someone I wanted to meet was in my neighborhood… according to the device, as I couldn’t find that person. Nor could I the next time that happened.

But you can also send each other messages, something I soon found out was not actually real time as it would ‘queue’ the message for you so worthless to say “come and see me by the stairs on the left” if that message would only be sent maybe 10, 15 minutes later. You just don’t know.

There’s also some practical issues. SpotMe has a nicely designed interface, but pretty much everybody assumes it’s a touch interface and it’s not. I’ve also seen plenty of people (especially in the beginning) that have no idea there’s a keypad underneath the screen. And lastly, I’m not so sure about the ‘rubbing devices’ idea for sharing business cards, nor ‘shake it’ idea to send live feedback about what’s on right now.

I also started wondering about privacy. You exchange business cards electronically with the people you meet using SpotMe, which they are supposed to send after the event. Sounds good to me, but what else would they track. I’m not sure if they do (although the description above implies they do at least to some extend) but the technology would allow to track a lot. It allows them to see where you have been all day? Plenary room, reception area, expo, … for how long, who’s been around you, who you wanted to meet and who you’ve actually met, … A whole bunch of data comes out. Some quite harmless, but probably not all. Very curious about that.

Last but not least, why didn’t it offer internet access? Or even better, why a different device anyway? I know it uses RFID, but isn’t there any way we can solve this same problem using our cell phones in some way? For me the SpotMe device became a large digital program, something that a lot of conferences today already offer as a mobile webpage.

Overall, I’m glad I could check it out, I do believe it helps solving a problem but I’m not convinced it’s doing that the right way yet and I would wish to find out more about the privacy questions. Fact is that CWF was great on content but I wasn’t able to do good networking (other than with people I already knew) and SpotMe didn’t change any of that.

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All new Windows Live

Last week we announced the all new Windows Live, updating some existing services and adding new ones. Windows Live is basically split up in 2 free rich web services (such as Hotmail, Skydrive, …) and also free downloadable software called Windows Live Essentials. The software has been in public beta for some weeks now, but last week we announced the full story including the web services part. To be totally clear, the web services will be rolled out soon, but here’s what they’ll look like.

Together with the folks from CommonCraft they made a little movie – in the known style – to explain it all a bit more.

winlivefilm

What it all means? It’s almost there, it looks good and I can finally talk about it :) I’ve been using the full set of services and clients for a while now I find it the best release (this on is called ‘wave 3’ internally) so far. Checking on the blogs after the announcement shows that most bloggers, reviewers, … seem to agree. So that’s even better. Hope you will all like it too, here are some quotes:

”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.” Joe Wilcox (Microsoft Watch)

“Microsoft’s software plus services strategy has clearly infiltrated Live.com as well as their approach with Office. Live.com users can now access a variety of online services like mail, calendar, photos, online storage, etc., as well as downloaded services that include a mail client, instant messaging, Movie Maker, Photo Gallery, the Toolbar and other services. And now it’s also one big social network. The result is an impressive personal productivity suite that makes me almost wish I wasn’t solely a Mac user.” Michael Arrington (Techcrunch)

“This is Big. Overall, these new services represent a major upgrade to the online part of the Windows Live suite. Microsoft is clearly trying to challenge both Yahoo and Google with its new photo application, while the new profiles and groups tie all the Live services together into a very sophisticated social network.” Frederic Lardinois (ReadWriteWeb)

I hope you all take some time to check out what’s available already and check all of it once it’s out there. With the renewed services, more integrated approach, 25G of free storage, social network partner integration, … I really think it’s worth it.

It’s TIME to change

Yesterday at the SIME conference in Stockholm I was part of a keynote session around the topic: “It’s TIME to change”. The whole theme of SIME is based around change and the DNA of change and in case of our session they had someone from the Telecom, Internet (me), Media and Entertainment sector to talk about this (hence the ‘TIME’). I’ve uploaded my presentation to Slideshare but because it doesn’t really say much on the slides, I’ll outline my talk a bit.

We each had about 15 minutes to talk so I decided not to show videos or anything, but added a slide with a whole bunch of links at the end of the presentation for more info (and credits of course).

There were 2 big elements I wanted to talk about at SIME. I know not everyone thinks about Microsoft right away when thinking about change and innovation so first I wanted to talk a little bit about how I do believe we have changed what we do and how we do that over the last years. Second I wanted to talk about the elements that I think are part of this DNA of change, specifically for digital/online.

I had to start with the Blue Monster on this one (given the topic of change) as an introduction to a few examples of how we are trying to innovate in several areas: WorldWide Telescope, Live Maps 3D, Surface computing, Boku, Photosynth, Deepzoom as used for Hard Rock Memorabilia, SenseWeb, HIV vaccination research, … For Photosynth for instance, looking at Blaise’s talk at TED, it became clear this isn’t just a new way to stitch photo’s but that there are some ideas being researched on how this might change surfing the web in general. Pretty cool stuff, you have to see that video from TED if you haven’t done so already, seriously!

But just like JP replied to Hugh, the world wants Microsoft to change as well (slide 10) and also there I think there are fundamental changes going on the last few years. The latest Silverlight toolkit is open source. I don’t remember exactly where I read this but Microsoft submitted two licenses to the Open Source Initiative in 2004. Now there are 500 and there are at least 80,000 Open Source apps that run on Windows. Another change (slide 12) is a new focus on experience and not just features – or not just about what’s in the box, but also how you take it out of it and use it ;) Think about the Zune, Live Mesh, the new Windows Live, new Xbox Live Dashboard, Office 2007, Windows7, etc.

I often use the analogy of Microsoft being this huge ship on which a whole bunch of people are working hard to make it turn, but as happens with boats of that size it takes time before you see it happen. Therefore Robert Scoble’s quote after the Azure launch was even more interesting to see for me (slide 14).

sime
Photo by http://flickr.com/photos/mathys/

So okay, talk about change in general now. First of all I think it’s important to be aware of what is going on, referring to Patrick McDevitt’s (TeleAtlas) superb talk at Web2.0 in Berlin where he talked about ‘”Detecting change in a changing world” using both research as community input to do so. Check out his talk. This is not only true for maps though. As a business you need to find ways to understand which changes are relevant to you and which aren’t. Using both research and the wisdom of the crowd is valuable for all of us. Trust (slide 16) your consumers. In an age when consumers started to trust strangers, it’s all to bad seeing some companies don’t even trust their own customers.

Another element of change, which I find very important is hackability. Make things hackable (slide 18), give people pieces to copy, to re-create, … and they might change your product, service, marketing campaign, … into something you might not have imagined. In a way the initial IBM PC is a very good example of that. You could by a white label PC, change the parts of it, build your own – and make it look like pretty much anything if you want. Same for advertising – It’s not what advertising does to the consumer, it’s what the consumer does to advertising (sorry for not remembering who said this first).

But while you change, don’t forget to keep focus on the outcome, your end goal (slide 19). Dopplr for instance is extremely good at that, pretty much everything they add to the service, adds value to the service. Not sure if could say the same for Technorati or Bloglines. Focus more on the experience (slide 20), something we might have learned the hard way but it is more important than ever. Why would people care about unboxing if it wasn’t important.

Digital also enables much easier to engage and interact in realtime (slide 21) – thanks Ag8! Take advantage of that, find out in realtime what people think, how they use things, where they are, … whatever adds value for you and your customers. Change the way you talk to your customers, or better talk with your customers. Too bad I couldn’t show the Bring The Love Back video (slide 22), SIME was after all in a movie theatre.

Think about context (slide 23)! And how you have to change the content based on the channel you’re using (rather than for the medium that is used to deliver it). Tom and David at Ag8 are bringing a strong message that is linked to this around metamedia instead of crossmedia. Be sure to check that out as well.

Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine ;) (slide 25). Which aspects about the DNA of change in this digital world do you think I forgot, I’m interested to get your opinion about that. I tried to put in as much as possible within the 15 minutes I got but would love to discuss further.

Windows Azure

Today at PDC 2008 Microsoft announced it’s new Cloud OS named Windows Azure which is all over Techmeme by now. I’ll be doing a write up of the whole event when I’m back but thought you should check that out already. Another significant announcement is that Windows Live ID is becoming an OpenID provider. With currently over 460 million active LiveID users, that is a pretty huge step.

Think Way Outside The Box

Web2.0 Expo Berlin

I’ve just left Berlin where I attended O’Reilly’s Web2.0 Expo. I quite enjoyed the event, but I must admit (especially on the first day) the networking was what made it good, more so than the content. I missed a general theme, a story that tied up all the presentations together, something that became painfully clear during the keynotes on Wednesday. First two VC’s (Martin and Saul both did a great job) then opensource hardware (Arduino), Drupal.org redesign, Nabaztag,… what’s the link? Why are these presentation wrapped into one keynote? Having this experience right after a cancelled session (speaker didn’t turn up) and right before a talk that was basically a product pitch in disguise you can understand having mixed feelings of the conference. What made the day was connecting with people like Ronna Porter, Luis Suarez and others as well as meeting some old friends again. I did enjoy Stowe Boyd’s talk on ‘Better Media Plumbing for the Social Web’ and Lee Bryant’s presentation – note to self: check out Russell Davies’ “patina”.

Stowe

The second day was better though. It started with some good keynotes: John Lilly from Mozilla did a really good job, the same for Luis Suarez on his experiment around giving up work email (9 months already!) but also Patrick McDevitt from TeleAtlas gave an interesting talk about updating maps in collaboration from the community. After the break I went to see JP Rangaswami who also gave a great presentation around the next level of “unified communications”. I had run into Tom Raftery and JP the night before when I went out for dinner with Andie Nordgren and became a fan right away :) The day ended with a panel discussion around ‘gender issues in web2.0 careers’ by Suw Charman-Anderson, Stephanie Booth, Janet Parkinson and Lloyd Davies and a presentation from Nate Elliott (Forrester) who presented a brand new research they’ve done around ‘The Future of Influence’. Very good to end the day especially knowing it was ‘only’ a replacement for yet another cancelled session, I will do a separate post about that presentation later.

Overall I think there’s still a decent amount of improvements that I think the Expo needs to think of for next year, but it was definitely worth going for me. Next week I’ll be at PDC (Los Angeles) which is one of our own events that I’m really looking forward to, then we’re in Stockholm for SIME (feat. Hans Rosling, Joi Ito, Dave Sifry, …). After that it’s time for the Creativity World Forum in Antwerp (feat. John Cleese, Chris Anderson, Steve Wozniak, Dan Heath, …) and early December we’re off to LeWeb in Paris which features way more people than you can imagine :). Let me know in case you’re around at one of these events.

FYI – all Web2.0 Expo presentations can be found here. I haven’t seen a link for video (yet).

Upgrading

“If you upgrade your version of Windows and an application breaks, it’s Microsoft’s fault. If you upgrade your version of OS X and your application breaks, it’s the ISV’s fault. If you upgrade your version of Linux and your application breaks, well, that’s your own damn fault.”

Found on the Linux Hater’s Blog.

Zune 3.0

Ever since I started using the 30G first generation Zune (yes that brown one) I’ve become quite fond of both the device and the software. And now you’ll probably say ‘sure, you work for Microsoft so that explains…’ etc. but I actually bought an iPod first (yes I already worked here). I’ve never been much of a fan of the navigation on the device, let alone of iTunes. Huge catalogue and all but I just don’t like it.

zunecard

Yesterday the Zune team released the 3rd generation of the Zune and I updated both my 1ste generation 30G Zune as well as the 2nd edition 8G Zune, which is the one I use most. And I got to say, seriously. I think the Zune software is worth installing even if you don’t have a Zune. The visualization is very nice, and especially (which is new in this release) how you can go into the MixView which shows similar artists (similar music or influenced by, …) and other Zune users that listened to this music. A nice mixture between recommendations from the music engine underneath as well as the social… hence the ‘Welcome to the social’ slogan for the Zune. Here’s what Wired had to say about MixView’s recommendation engine:

“Microsoft showed us a sneak preview of the Zune 3.0 software it plans to release on Sept. 16 with the latest generation of Zune devices, and what we saw made iTunes’ simple Genius feature look like a blast from digital music’s past. While iTunes serves up a text list of recommended songs within your library and from the iTunes store, adding to the more basic recommendations its MiniStore feature used to make, Zune reinvented the recommendation concept by collapsing artists, albums and fans into the same recommendation engine, more accurately mirroring the way people think about music.”

There’s just one thing missing though and that is  access to the Zune Marketplace. Since I live in Europe the only way for me to benefit from the all-you-can-eat monthly charge of $14.99 is to get a US credit card unfortunately. The new MixView makes me want that even more, since you obviously want to buy the music you’re discovering right away. So bring the Zune to Europe guys!

Photosynth: it’s here!

I can’t count the number of times I’ve written about Photosynth anymore, but trust me when I say the number of times I wanted to say even more is even bigger. I remember how the first reactions (the oohs and aahs) were quickly followed by questions about the computing power that would be needed to create synths your own. Well, we’ve been having access (I work for Microsoft) to the tool that allows you to create your own Synths for a while and yes your personal computer will do just fine. And since yesterday, you can all give it a try for yourself (only on Windows for the moment though).

Synther

Explore the nicest Synths right here or start creating your own right away. Here’s how to do it. Read more about this fascinating technology on the Photosynth blog, or read some of the reviews that are popping up: Mossberg, Scoble, Webware, O’Reilly Radar, …