Image credit: Save Social Energy
I was invited by the Microsoft Singapore team to attend a rather interesting discussion dubbed “Save Social Energy” at The Screening Room last Tuesday (Sep 21, 2010). It was basically a showcase of a new campaign they were rolling out, but what piqued my interest was that it set itself out to be a “movement” of sorts, to maximise our productivity, and streamline our online interactions.
Lofty ideals, much less from Microsoft, I thought to myself. Still, they were polite, and generally excited when they first got in touch with me, so I thought, what the hell, I should just give it a whirl, and see what new things were in store. Also, I’m still slightly fascinated with being on this side of the engagement. In essence, the night was really a platform to showcase a suite of new productivity and connectivity tools from Microsoft.
I’ll be honest, the people who put the show together were really passionate people, very candid in the time we spent together, and the discussions we had. But marketing shtick is marketing shtick, and try as I might, I don’t really buy into this “movement” idea. I personally like the idea of streamlining my online productivity, and I practice it myself as best as I can, but i don’t think I’m about to take up arms and start signing petitions to create less email clutter. The best way, I believe, is to demonstrate, educate, and not add to the clutter of the Net.
So let’s cut the bullshit, and get to what really matters.
During the demonstration, Microsoft really did deliver a great suite of productivity tools!
I’ve switched to Apple for about 2.5 years for personal use, and I’ve been using Google’s suite of tools for most of my collaborative work needs, and honestly? If I wasn’t so entrenched or set in my ways of running my life, I’d switch camps very willingly, or learn to use this suite of tools if I was new to them. As I mentioned on Twitter, I don’t recognise Microsoft anymore, which is to say, they’ve made vast improvements to the following tools:
1. Messenger (IM)
2. Hotmail (email)
3. Photo Gallery (Photos)
4. Windows Movie Maker (Videos)
Overall, they’re part of a new suite of tools (Windows Live Essentials Beta) that are currently in beta, and will work on your Windows 7 and Vista platforms
What’s new in Messenger:
From what I’ve seen, it’s a Instant Messenger client on steroids. I’ve been using Adium for the past 2.5 years and the old Windows Messenger for most part of my PC-based adventures, and it sufficed. But if there’s a reason to switch, it would be that you can run all your social activities like Facebook or Twitter with the desktop client. The new Messenger will basically incorporate a social stream into the client, so you have full access to all your most used communications needs.
What’s new in Mail:
Fine. I don’t use many folders any more, granted that Gmail changed how we organised emails. Well, I think Microsoft did a good job streamlining the more traditional style of email, and integrated useful functions to perhaps be the most relevant web-based email for people who don’t like Gmail. Here are some features:
1. Option for threaded conversations
2. Sweeping. This allows you to mass select emails from the same address, without needing to physically select them yourself. Useful for deleting newsletters but maintaining your subscriptions
3. SkyDrive. It’s like Yousendit, but integrated to your Hotmail. When it detects your attachments are large, Hotmail will ask if you want to use SkyDrive, attach your large attachments to the cloud, and automatically create a download link for in your email body. Pretty nifty if you asked me.
What’s new in Photo Gallery
Photo Gallery looks much leaner, and adds some sweet editing functions for basic editing. Cropping, colours, exposure settings, etc, they’re all there. You cannot work in layers, ala professional software, but there is some spanking facial recognition going on, that helps organise your photos based on identifying the people in the picture, tagging them automatically after that, and choosing the best shot from three successive (yet different) shots! The editor in me will still nitpick, but my dinosaur of a dad who just bought a laptop with Windows 7 will be pretty thrilled.
What’s new in Windows Movie Maker
As someone who’s edited on professional software before, the old WMM and me were bitter enemies. I found some solace in iMovie, and even learned to like it, and produce quick videos on the fly if I didn’t need to agonise over the small details. The new WMM-beta takes a page from this book, and adds some nifty tricks too. Taking a cue from automatic montage making software, the new WMM can grab a bunch of pictures and videos, sort them chronologically, and trim down each clip to fit the size of your music track. Yes, it’s like microwaving a TV dinner, in that while it’s fast, it may not taste that good, but it doesn’t taste that bad either. If you’re using a Windows 7 platform, do yourself a favour and start making better videos.
Overall, I think Microsoft is taking a step in the right direction. From their engagement, without needing to hardsell, to their quiet development of new tools for a new generation of Windows Users, and incorporating ubiquitous social tools, it’s a good ecosystem of producing, consuming and sharing. Theoretically, it’s supposed to help ideas flourish, trim the fat off what the user deems as unimportant, so that overall, lives are enriched. Considering that Windows is still the most used OS, it makes sense that they start having their online presence felt in a more subtle way, by enabling people to do what they do online, using their products.
As a recap, if you want to take part in conversations with Microsoft about how social interaction on the Net can be improved, be sure to check out Save Social Energy, and join in the discussions.