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Office 2013 live tiles

Tech blog The Verge broke the news today …

..That Microsoft Office will be coming to Android and iOS devices in 2013. Looks to me like they missed the big picture here…

Office 2013 live tilesIf you read the article and you are an Android or iOS user then that is good news for you.

If you are a CIO of an organization that has invested heavily in either of these platforms for your road warriors then that’s an even bigger slice of good news pie.

The question being asked by some is,

“Isn’t Microsoft shooting Surface and Windows Phone 8 in the foot doing this?”

The fact is if you are something of a Luddite and stuck on the idea of emailing attachments then yes this probably seems so to you.

The reality is that as important as proprietary, front-end devices are to Redmond, by allowing Microsoft Office to work cross-platform they are solving a huge strategic battle.

Microsoft Office will in one fell sweep unite all front end productivity devices, regardless of platform with the same Productivity Suite.

There are two strategic advantages here: –

  1. COLLABORATION – this has been the buzzword for Office and Office-like productivity suites since they went online. Now picture working from your iPad from home while another team member offshore collaborates on the same document from their Galaxy Note or Asus Transformer and yet another team member pitches in with their input from a Surface or Windows 8 laptop.
  2. BACKEND – whether you are already in the Cloud or moving that way the key phrase in the Verge article was “Office 365” and this is as much about Microsoft Office in the Cloud and the backend as it is the Office UI and frontend features.


When push comes to shove it seems to me that an organization of any scale with all its devices collaborating via Office 365 will be well served to use the included Sharepoint and Exchange / Outlook. Looking further afield is this an entry-point for Microsoft to leverage Windows Azure to these same CIOs to better serve all these Office 365 users?

Personal Android / iOS users already have some access to Skydrive via an Apps Page that has 3rd Party Apps and the Official Apps can be found here.

Apps for Skydrive

 In a nutshell, does it look like Microsoft has cut the knees out from under Google Apps? If the price is right then this may harken the end of Open Office and its kin but also see the demise of Google Apps too.

If you are an Android or iOS user will you be investing in Microsoft Office for your Phone / Tablet?

 

I applied early on for a Beta invite of Microsoft Office365. Microsoft’s business offering for Office in the Cloud.

mos_33054_office365_white

About a month ago I finally received my invite and logged in. I was fascinated to see how Microsoft was going to compete with Google Apps and other Productivity Web Apps. It took me approximately 10 minutes to realize what a world-class winner Office365 was.

Those of you with a Windows Live account (the free version) have access to all the Live services including mail via Hotmail, storage in Skydrive and collaborative documentation/ productivity using Office Live. Office365 takes it up several notches for businesses of any scale.

What’s in the box?

Well, there’s no box but if there was it would be: –

Office365b_Home

Outlook / Exchange – with full functionality: Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Tasks …

Lync (download required from Office365 dashboard) – Pro MS Communicator.

Sharepoint – Site, Site Template, Tools and Central shared Document Storage.

Word, Excel, Powerpoint, One Note

Outlook Mobile Support (at present supported by US carriers only)

The Office365 Beta allows you to define 25 users/ licenses and to configure what permission level and applications they have access to use. Default login is https so security is predefined for the free domain domain.onmicrosoft.com or you can opt to use your existing domain. Should you opt for the first option this comes with 25Gb of storage.

All administration is done through the Admin Web Page and it couldn’t be easier or more intuitive to use than this.

In addition the Beta is free for 6 months, enough time for your business to decide you can’t live without Professional Office in the Cloud.

Office365 is going to be a game-changer on several levels but I’m watching to see how this is going to affect IT staffing. Installing new versions, service packs, patches or simply adding additional applications for a user is going to be scripted allowing a much leaner IT support staff.

Absent Friends

Noticeably absent from the Beta is Microsoft Access. Does this mean no Access anymore or is this going to remain a pure Client application? If not then are users going to have to upscale to Microsoft SQL Azure?

Access_Denied_365b

Competitive or Not?

A final word, right now I don’t have pricing for this but money issues aside if I had to choose between Office365 and Google Apps for my organization; having used prior versions of Office and Google Apps I would definitely be sticking with Office for many reasons.

In the convergent universe of digital and real worlds Microsoft has implemented a really nice technology known as Microsoft Tag.

Tag is defined in Wikipedia as,

"Microsoft Tag is an implementation of HCCB using 4 colors in a 5 x 10 grid."

Microsoft on the Tag Website dive a little deeper and describe it as,

"Microsoft Tag connects almost anything in the real world to information, entertainment, and interactive experiences on your mobile phone. Tags are a new kind of bar code that can be displayed anywhere."

Users may create their own Tags using the  Tag Manager which can be accessed with the ubiquitous Microsoft Live Login. De facto this makes it an addition to the ever increasing list of Live Services.

The key here is how to access and process the data encoded in the Tag format: this is done using Tag Reader which can be found for your mobile here:

In essence this is the Redmond answer to QR Codes which were first created and used in Japan but now can be seen on product labels, utility bills etc.

Tag has also taken some of this market share what was the sole domain of the lowly bar code.

At present Microsoft Tag can encode the following data-types:-

  • URL
  • Free text
  • vCard
  • Dialer

G810

I had a crack at creating all of these, installing the Tag Reader on my Toshiba Portege G810 that runs Windows Mobile 6.1. Whilst appearing fuzzy to the 3 Mp camera when I displayed the tag on my laptop screen, the Tag Reader read, decoded and handled the data for each type as relevant e.g. opening the URL in the browser / adding the vCard to my Contacts or Dialing the number encoded in the Dialer.

All I had to do was run the application on my Mobile and get the Tag in the crosshairs (NB this application requires a data connection to function)

The tags a user creates can be password protected and even given a shelf-life. The variety of implementations listed on the Tag site are varied, creative and numerous e.g. Tags on a Movie Poster to trailers, locations of nearest Cinemas etc, vCard data as a Tag on a Business Card.

The big question is what’s next for this very cool, eminently usable technology?

POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE:

If a user can encode a URL in a Tag then why not use it as a device for Malware or Viruses via said URL. This is a similar problem to knowing which shortened URLs to click on or not: the nature of encoded data precludes the user knowing what they are going to get.

 

GOOD USAGE OR EXPANDING THE PLATFORM:

What would I like to see next?

  • A Tag toolbar for Internet Explorer or Accelerator that allows me to Tag encode data on the fly – if I click on Contact Info in the browser and right click to get the Tag Accelerator it should automatically recognize it as such and encode a vCard Tag on the fly, likewise for URLs and so on.

image

  • Integration with Office Applications. Office regularly imports data in a variety of formats into Access, Word and Excel e.g. CSV, XML, Outlook Contacts etc. If I have data in Tag format why shouldn’t Office include the feature of importing Tags I have created or captured with my Mobile either to my Client PC Office after a Sync or online to the Office 2010 Web Apps?

image

Finally, to those of you saying, "I don’t have Windows Mobile. I’m an iPhone / I’m a Blackberry / I’m an Android.." have no fear, Tag technology is available to you right now, subject to device compatibility (http://tag.microsoft.com/resources/mobile-support.aspx)

     
The times you need a printed resume these days seem to be fewer and further between. Everyone wants resumes in digital format RTF, DOC, DOCX or even PDF (some even have video resumes).
There was a job fair this week in Tel Aviv so of course I checked my resume and and off I went to print it up. On the way out of my house I stopped for a second and asked myself, which resume do I print, the English or Hebrew. Yes there are still tech companies in Israel that prefer Hebrew over English.
It occurred to me that this was a case of being able to have my cake, eat it and do something so elegantly simple that I could save paper and make a good impression too.
Picture this, I’m asked for my resume and I hand over the …. Hebrew copy; “Oh do you have this in English?” They ask, I hand it over and now they have to ensure the two loose pieces of paper stay together.
Now flashback to the question and imagine I give them two stapled sheets English and Hebrew; their first impression will be, “Oh no another two page resuem to wade thru”
First impressions do count, so I took my resume and made the Hebrew version a mirror image of the English in terms of layout and format and I printed it double-sided.
I know, forehead slappingly obvious and yet…. So I took it to the job fair, small in size but appreciated nonetheless. The response to my bilingual, double-sided resume was positive. One prospective employer has a long chat with me on the layout, format and the double-sided idea.
So, if you are looking for work and need to print your resume for someone in more than one language, feel free to use this idea. Remember, this falls under the idea from my previous blog, shared information is empowering. Good hunting.

I have been Twittering a lot recently about my Nokia cellular phone which needed repairing. I had my backup phone an iMate sp3i which my brother Jeremy, CEO of First Contact UK supplied me with in my time of need (Cheers Jeremy .. oh yes: First Contact they do so much more than this, Website design, content management, SEO, IT and IT ROI).

Finally, I had the time to take the Nokia for repair two days ago and for the nominal fee of 100-150 NIS (approximately $25) they told me it would be back fixed today.

Why not settle for the iMate? Several reasons, I do like it and Windows Mobile really does rock but it is an older phone with little support, limited functionality and a few hang-ups (no working speakerphone, no Hebrew font support and compared to the Nokia contacts well, it doesn’t stack-up; the Nokia allows me to personalize each contact to a greater level). However, the Nokia doesn’t use ActiveSync but Nokia’s own program thus Outlook may be supported to sync but not directly whereas the iMate with Windows Mobile on it obviously does.

Anyhow, this morning I trotted merrily to my cellular provider to get my repaired Nokia back. A sincerely sad customer support rep informed me that the on/off button was broken (tell me what I didn’t know) rendering the phone irreparable and for a small (but larger fee) I could purchase an identical Nokia and finish my contract happily.

As you can imagine I was torn between annoyance at the provider for failing to fix a wear and tear issue and at Nokia for making what should be a simple problem unfixable. Obviously I have no intention no matter how much I liked the phone of having the same issue occur in another several months so I declined her offer.

Perhaps a brief email to Nokia regarding this might help but I doubt it.

Oh well, one more reason to hold out for the when the G-Phone becomes available in Israel.

Technorati Tags: ,,Consumer dissatisfaction,,,,,

It is a definite sign of intelligence when you find other smart people who have the same idea as you but it’s also a sign that you need a stronger coffee blend in the morning if you have the idea five minutes after them.

My resume has been a challenge to me on several levels; as my job hunt progressed in the past I have had positive responses to the design and layout even though I broke one of the cardinal rules that all the people in the know, blogs and books tell you: it was a two page document.

I didn’t see how to pare down the level of detail to one page and still maintain confidence that I was showing my full skill set to prospective employees. In my moments of doubt I wondered if maybe I was simply overwhelming them with detail and not presenting a polished personal brand.

I have been the one recruiting in the past so I tried to get my head around being the recruiter who needs to understand the terminology and can grasp my brand in a short glance yet have a resume that still stands out from the pack.

I have a rule of thumb for productive brainstorming to solve any problem: –

Use a pencil and pad and do the brainstorm away from the computer.

I decided to sketch a “map” of how the resume should look. I used to be a cartographer at one time so maps of any kind always appeal.

Whilst doing this I wondered what was missing from my resume and how the resume fitted into all the information on the Internet about me. I wanted it all to jell into a cohesive picture that did represent my personal brand. My attempt at creating a business card for networking events helped me realize I wanted my LinkedIn, Blog and Twitter addresses in there; (I also wanted my Facebook link but since I feel that I use Facebook for my Social Networking more than Business I have left it out until I can revamp my profile there sufficiently) I also added a head-shot photograph to the personal information section.

I was (surprise, surprise) having a cup of coffee when it occurred to me that this was evolving into a Web 2.0 Resume; something was missing and still trying to reduce the document down to one page my Management and Technical Skills sections leaped out as important but in need of reducing in size drastically.

Today I took a metaphorical meat-cleaver to some of the details having realized that the ultimate Web 2.0 component needed adding: a Tag Cloud based on my technical and management skills and experience. 

The act of ensuring the tags I felt were the most important and thus prominent in the cloud made me look long and hard at my skill set which in turn helped me refine how I describe myself.

What is left for me to do?

    1. Translate to Hebrew: this I am going to post online and add a link to the English version for the more and more infrequent occurrence that someone in hi-tech requires the resume in Hebrew.
    2. Revamp my Facebook profile and add the link.
    3. Create a ready to go PDF copy of English and Hebrew resumes.

The resume is down to one page and I am hammering out the formatting so that I can insert the tag cloud as a vertical sidebar in both the Word doc and PDF alike.

In away the process of doing this has been more about self-awareness and interview preparation than just redefining my resume. Now I just need to get some good hits and sit down in the interview calmly and confidently knowing that I am the best person for the job. Wish me luck.

When you aren’t working most of your time is spent thinking about looking for work, looking for work and doing the odd job around the house that your spouse or you have put off doing because of lack of time.

However, there are a number of things I had wanted to do over the last 6 months to a year that I never got to while I was working because of job pressures and scheduling issues. I stumbled on Jeff Pulver’s blog during the last year and became an avid follower. His networking breakfasts seemed like a great idea but I just never got off the dime I guess.

I decided to use my time to do more than just email resumes I was going to implement a more proactive plan to find a new job based on some of the articles of Penelope Trunk; her blog and book have been a guiding light to me in my recent job search and I recommend what she has to say to anyone even thinking of seeking new employment.

When I saw that there was going to be another networking breakfast this week I signed up and arranged with my wife how we were going to deal with our morning schedule.

Then I thought to myself, “I’m going to need business cards at least, this is not the sort of shindig to hand out printed resumes..” I looked at several ways of getting my resume into people’s hands there but all seemed to complex:

  • Printed – besides the sheer volume of paper to carry it felt inappropriate.
  • Wireless transfer from my phone – I saved as Word and PDF on my phone and thought great I can use Bluetooth or IR to send the files; but what if the recipient doesn’t have a Smart Phone?
  • Email/ MMS from my Smart Phone – “Ummm excuse me can I have all 200+ email addresses of everyone attending to send them my resume?” Okay, Right.

So one visit to Office Depot later I downloaded, modified and edited a Word Template and remembered to add my Linked In, Blog Address and Email to the card but managed to forget my Twitter name.

The cards are basic white, double sided and adhesive backed so you print the card, peel it from the backing and fold the sticky backing onto itself to make the card. It worked better than expected and produced nice results.

It all got me thinking, why not use magnetic ink to encode any data onto a Business Card and then have the ink create a basic circuit-board so that on receiving the card the recipient can connect it to the computer and download the embedded data; in my case my resume.

Well I have no idea if this is even feasible but perhaps it is and can be done at a reasonable price.

Ah yes, Microsoft Outlook. With all that processing and management muscle one might think you could run a small country with it. Let me ask you though, do you use Tasks?

Do you allocate them to yourself via Outlook, do you use them to allocate work to your team members at work or to send a shopping list to your significant other? Tasks are great and you can Categorize them and Deadline them. Some of us tend just to use the Calendar appointments though.

Now think a minute, how many of you use Microsoft Project? Do you get misty eyed at thought of intricate project planning and Gantt charts. I use Project because I have to at work; we all do. Ask yourself this though in all of the Microsoft Live revolution involving collaboration why is Project the most high maintenance?

Once you have invested hours on balancing the Gantt and distributing the workload and time per task, resource allocation etc you save your MPP file and ….. then what?

You discover that your organization never invested in Project Server so the collaborative options, the true beauty and strength of Project are disabled and you perform an act straight out of the 1990’s you email the whole MPP file to every person who has a task and your boss. The Exchange Mail server groans under the collective weight of multiple attachments ricochetting back and forth with each miniscule change by each addressee … hyperlinked, server based documentation anyone?

Somewhere between needing a full-blown Project Server and attaching that MPP file Outlook needs a scalable, Enterprise/ Business version that allows Outlook Tasks to be part of the Gantt tree structure and link one task to another.

Shared View is this scalable Live product to Sharepoint server, so when can we expect to see the Project product team join the 21st century and leverage a scalble solution using Outlook/ Exchange as their Client – Application/ Web Server architecture?

Last post I raved about the winning features, design and functionality of Microsoft Shared View. Now don’t get me wrong it’s amazing, I’m still using it and my on-the-PC version of Office 2003 in concert.

However, since then I logged into my scarcely used account on Buzzword, now Acrobat.com and remembered why I liked it and why I didn’t.

Buzzword is Adobe’s online Word Processor and so much more. When I was in the throes of job hunting I imported a copy of my resume and discovered that at that time there was no save as PDF option; now resolved – you can just about save to every major format including PDF. Furthermore, the GUI and interface is nothing short of gorgeous; in a beveled black. Adobe have gone to lengths to ensure that the Macromedia acquisition is not for nothing so of course there are implementations of Flash technology there.

For the font junkies out there a plethora of non-Office fonts are just waiting to be tried but, I have not checked if they are True type or not yet.

The user may share documents and create online meetings to discuss these much akin to the Shared View paradigm.

This is competes nicely with Office/ Shared View and Google Apps but, my resume was laboriously slow in loading and why does Acrobat.com insist on loading a Microsoft Scripting Component to work?

So, will I be using this beautifully designed, elegant offering from Adobe? Yes, but if you are reading this at Adobe, remember the P-word … performance!

Several weeks ago I made the leap and made the update to Office 2003. The update was seamless but as a prior user of Office 2003 there was one feature I was determined to keep. Microsoft Photo Editor.

Every other application in the Office suite is markedly improved yet Photo Editor which allows multiple images to be opened and is child’s play to use as a basic editor is replaced with the Office Picture Manager.

Picture Manager is divided into three primary panes: –

    • Left pane: this is a classic explorer tree with view of folder structure.
    • Center pane: the user may see single images, a thumbnail of each image in the selected folder or single picture view.
    • Right pane: this is the Office 2003 goodness – the drop down menu containing primary functionality

The crop feature is undeniably nice in Picture Manager but the lack of paned view or a standard Microsoft -> Window drop down menu was a little exasperating.

I used Photo Editor as my external editor in IrfanView (probably the best free image editor available) and opening multiple images from IrfanView in this manner would open one instance of Photo Editor with multiple images inside.

Picture Manager however opens a new instance of itself each time IrfanView sends an image to it as the external editor – irritating and an excessive use of screen real estate on the system bar.

So I decided no matter what, Photo Editor was going to stay. I searched for the PhotoEditor.EXE and copied it and its sub-folders to a new location prior to the upgrade to Office 2003. Unsurprisingly (Microsoft makes robust applications after all) it ran and is now co-existing nicely with Office 2003 on my PC. Of course, I am sure that if Picture Manager had feelings they would be hurt by all this – this is why when you offer an improved version you don’t drop major features.

Technorati Tags: ,Killer Apps,,,,,Practical Technologies,

For a while now I have been an ardent user of the Microsoft Beta downloads and Microsoft Research downloads sites.
Microsoft has a variety of software available there and several months ago (if not longer) I downloaded and installed a Beta version of Shared View; now it is out of Beta.
Shared View integrates with your Office suite and I can attest that this works from Office XP and upwards (I haven’t tried older versions) so now the real question; what does it do?
Shared View is for those of us who want to meet without meeting and have the option of reviewing documentation together. It is a simple and elegant application that seems to incur minimal resource usage on a PC or to one’s Internet connection (subject to number of users and size of handouts).
Firstly, you are going to need a Windows Live ID (aka a Microsoft Passport). You can either Share an Office Document via the add-on toolbar to each Office application or open a session via the Shared View application. Then you simply send an invite to the current session or schedule a meeting via Outlook and paste the invite to whomever you wish to meet (the function to do this is either copy the invite or paste directly into an email but since I use my calendar in Outlook to schedule meetings I hope this feature is integrated more fully in the next version).
The layout is simple: a silver horizontal toolbar at the top of your screen with drop-downs to indicate participants, handouts (documents for review), share (the option to allow Remote sharing of any open Windows or your whole Desktop) and a Messaging free text area.
Convergence has always been a pathway to creating killer apps but here Microsoft seems to have scored a bulls-eye.
The integration of Remote Desktop technology, Messenger and a scaled down local Sharepoint all of which integrates smoothly into Office (even to the extent of using Tracked Changes) makes for a worthy integrated solution for those of us who don’t wish to send out several copies of one document and then have to remember what everyone said during the meeting over the phone and merge these documents back together; particularly when no two people have Track Changes setup the same way.
Just for the absence of these several copies to merge each being sent back to my email I am smiling each time I use Shared View.
Frankly, Shared View is rapidly becoming my online meeting dashboard when actual work has to be done. Now Microsoft just needs to integrate VOIP and speech to text and away we go.

Continuing in the Geographical / Mapping / Locational Services vein …

Of all the features in Microsoft Outlook the one that has been consistently under-implemented since Outlook 2000 is the Map Address feature for Outlook Contacts:

Outlook-Contact 

The Map Address button found on the Contacts Toolbar contact-map has never fulfilled its potential throughout each iteration/ version of Outlook. What does the button do? It takes the address data and locates it in Live Maps (once upon a time this was done via Expedia Maps). However, once the data is displayed in the user’s browser Window, then what?

The user has no real way of embedding the map into the Contact; at best you can manually paste the hyperlink from the browser into the Contact.

Furthermore, for the most part, this feature is not supported outside the United States. Microsoft is an International corporation and Outlook is used the world round. Windows Live Maps supposedly has full-World coverage so why not enable the user to: –

  1. Locate any address in the World.
  2. Have the option to save from the Live Map back to the Contact a copy of the map using the Map Cruncher Add-on to decide which layers are relevant.

In an ideal world, much the same way as Internet Explorer 7 allows the user to add Search services and select a default this feature should allow the user to add and select a default Geo-search service of their choice (Live Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Google Maps to name a few).

There is a way to alter this but it requires a deep knowledge of the Windows Registry to understand where this is defined. This is not something I recommend playing with unless you have in-depth knowledge of Outlook, the registry & how to roll-back should you make a mistake.

Until Microsoft fixes this, the Map Address feature will languish unfulfilled.

Technorati Tags: ,,,Map Contact Address