Microsoft Store – Opening in November 2007

Can you believe it? Microsoft is finally opening stores across the U.S.. Similar in essence to the Apple Store and the Sony Style store.

Based on what I’ve read, Microsoft will be launching it’s flagship retail stores across 4 of the largest cities in the U.S. (NYC, L.A., Chicago, and Houston). If the stores are a success, they’ll consider expanding. Each store will be 20,000 square ft., locating in the main retail paradise of each city, and will have a hip/modern them (This is a tech company, what else would you expect?)

The store will be divided up into main sections, each with a specialized product in mind:

Windows Vista – Simply called just that, will contain many high-end/mid-range laptops all showing off Windows Vista. We’re not talking about your average Dell’s and HP’s here. You’ve got Sony Vaios, Samsung, LG, Dell XPS, HP new laptops (especially the HP TouchSmart PC), and all of the high-end beauty there is. And surprise, they’ll even have a couple of Macs there too, running Vista (not OS X). Then you’ll also see your array of touch-screen tablets. All of the most beautiful laptops will be displaying Vista there (which means no cheapos – definitely not).

Microsoft Office – A place to show off Office 2007. Separate gorgeous high-end computers running different Office programs. Tutorial books and DVD’s, guides to help ‘guide’ you, and anything to help introduce Office 2007. They’ll also be displaying Office 2004 for Macs.

Xbox Center + Windows Media Center – Mostly about the Xbox 360. You can try out Xbox 360 games on big-screen TV’s and big plump beanbags. You can browse through the shelves of Xbox 360 games, faceplates, controllers, Marketplace cards, and other Xbox goodies. They’ll even show demos of upcoming Xbox stuff (duh). They’ll also be showing off Windows Media Center. Same thing kind of, use a remote and flick through all the nice eye candy of WMC. I think they’re even offering free sodas the first time around to enjoy the experience. Pretty cool.

ZuneZone – A section about the Zune. They’ll display the Zunes (all of them), and allow people to touch them, and you know, do whatever and listen. This would also be a great chance for people to actually try the WiFi thing. Because in other stores, displaying the Zunes are really low-key. So Zune employees will be going around and showing how to share and whatnot. You’ll also find Zune accessories along shelves too.

Windows Mobile – Showing off all the nice ritzy mobile phones using Windows Mobile. Smallest section in the store right now. That’s pretty much it.

TechSupport – Similar to the Genius Bar in Apple Stores. These guys will help you with your Vista problem, Xbox failures, and all that. Microsoft says that all the employees are sure to be real courteous, funny, and of course helpful to the customer.

Other things: Microsoft Surface tables will be there too. Near the entrance. People can play and touch around with them. There will also be a few set-up to display the content of the Microsoft store, just to browse around a take a look see tour. And there will be a few ‘demo of the future’ like things. You know, with the Microsoft Home of The Future?

So that’s pretty much the Microsoft store. Although not everything you see there, can be bought. No, you can’t buy the computers or the TV’s. But Microsoft can help find a deal or service to help direct you to another retailer to buy that sexy laptop. Microsoft might even consider selling computers/cellphones they display there in the future, but for now, nope.

They will sell copies of Vista, Office 2007, Xbox 360’s, games, accessories, Zunes, marketplace cards, and pretty much anything that’s made by Microsoft only.

The stores will all have the nice hip/modern/airy theme that’s common in trendy stores out there. You know, like A&F, Apple, those stores with a ‘feel good lifestyle’ type of thing. The Microsoft stores will all be as high-end and trendy as possible. Bright LED lighting, IKEA furniture (desks and stools for people at computers), back-lit (logos), airy, plump beanbags, sounds, and people.

Your typical Apple store, except with Microsoft products.

Locations include:

NYC : 1600 Madison Ave.

Los Angeles : 136 S. Robertson Blvd

Chicago : 900 N. Michigan Ave.

Houston : 5085 Westheimer Rd. (Galleria Mall)

So here’s to hoping that these stores are a success, and that they’re not so darn boring. I’ll be visiting the one in the Houston. Good luck.

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NOT REAL – JUST A DREAM ARTICLE : I will occasionaly make up some realistic stories, and I’m hoping that some Microsoft employees are reading this blog, and maybe take some of my ideas.

I’m not trying to trick anyone, I’m just trying to get some ideas into Microsoft about what they should do. Part of that being the name of this blog is "Microsoft and the Future – The Way it Should be". My blog is kind of a guide I’m hoping Microsoft will try. So please, if you read this whole article, don’t be angry. 

Windows Live QnA – What I like and how it my little wishlist

                                                 

Windows Live QnA is a community questions & answer site – hence the name QnA. It’s main rival being Yahoo! Answers.

QnA is similiar in a way to Y! Answers. On both sites, users can ask questions, answer questions, vote for the best answer, and just rummage through to find something interesting. Both sites allow users to get points and levels, but QnA is different. Here’s how it’s better:

  • Cleaner layout – Y! Answers is very cluttered, and has ads. On QnA, there’s nothing like that. You can find exactly what you need.
  • Bare bones – The site is really simple, go on there, ask a question, answer a question, or vote for a question. Not much else.
  • Tags instead of Categories – Grouping a bunch of similiar questions, instead of identifying a single question ot it’s own is what Y! Answers does. On QnA, tags help characterize each question so it’s unique, but can be similiar to other questions too. That way, it’s easier to search for.
  • Message Boards – So users can communicate about stuff going on at QnA
  • Questions will always get a best answer – Instead of leaving questions to be voted for best answer, by just the person or somebody lucky to hit it, (sometimes there’s no best answer for even a year) questions on QnA get solved in one week. The community votes, and a best answer is chose. 4 day for the question to be opened for answering, 3 days for the community to pick what’s best, and it’s done. On Y! Answer, it’s like 4 days (or more if chosen) for people to answer, and 2-3 days to pick best answers. Although if nobody picks a best answer, or there’s a tie, it stands out and waits until somebody is lucky enough to pick a final one. Which could mean months, or even 1 year, until somebody picks. Sad really.
  • No ads – No ads (graphical or text) making the page load up any slower. But since it’s still in beta, it might not always be that way.
  • Only lose points for innappropriate questions – On Y! Answers, you lose points for asking a question, or deleting an answer.

But unfortunately, QnA still needs a whole lot of work to do, to make it better. It’s still way behind on many things that Y! Answers offer. And there haven’t been that many updates since the added spell checker. Here’s what they should improve on:

  • Friends feature – If this is truly a community – where’s an option for my friends? I would like a dedicated section on my QnA profile for people I want to be friends with. It would be nice to be able to keep a section where I can keep tabs on my friends. Long overdue, we really need it QnA.
  • Status box on every page – I would like to know how my status is, without having to go to my profile. It should be on the very top of the left pane (the pane that has the words: Home, Ask, Questions, Browse Tags, etc.). I can see my avatar, points, level, and the most important things that are going on. And maybe the status box can flash a bit when someone answers one of my questions, or comments my answer, little stuff like that to indicate something has happened that I might want to notice. Please, we need one.
  • Extend QnA profile options – Your profile is really limited. You can’t really change it. I would love to see the option to add an "About Me" box to give my own brief description about myself. Please, no limited characters on text. I want to give myself a chance to explain myself. And like I said before, a Friends feature? Could we also have an option to make it private?
  • Options with your questions – Once you ask a question, you’re really limited with what you can do with it. How about the options to delete it, add official details without using a comment, add to my Live Space, Live homepage, etc. Please, let us personalize our questions a bit more.
  • Options with your answers – Could the text box you enter your answer with be better? Like instead of double spacing just to indicate a space between two groups of text, how about just do it like it looks that way. And could we have the option of editing or deleting our answers? Like if I want to fix a mistake I didn’t catch, I could fix it instead of commenting. And if I just don’t want my answer on there, I could delete it? We need that.
  • Toolbar tools when entering text – There should be a toolbar when you’re entering questions/answers. Basic tools like Bold, Italics, Underline, SpellCheck, Hyperlink. They should all be at the top of the box, so it’s very easy to use. Instead of entering codes and whatnot.
  • Search filter – A way to filter exactly what you’re searching for on QnA. ‘All’, ‘Open’, and ‘Voting’ aren’t enough. How about filter by amount of days, words-not-to-search, and other stuff.
  • Superstar ranking – Can QnA just simply tell me how I rank on QnA? I hate to dig around on the Superstars section looking for myself. Put it in my profile area please.
  • Options when question are in vote mode – Could I (the questioner) at least see how many votes have been recieved for each question? Or could my vote be worth at least 5 points, just to make sure, or I can’t I, the asker, be able to pick my best answer all on my own? Without depending on the community?
  • Fix the homepage – The homepage is fine as it is, but it is a bit bland. Could the tags section improve a bit, and look like regular tags where the more popular ones are bigger and can be spaced around each other? Plus the tags look exactly the same every day, like nobody searches or adds anything else. Kind of weird. And the QnA team blog area could show a big Live Spaces icon to indicate to users that, that’s the blogging area of the team? And how about a bit of a curvature on the corners. Just for class. Make it look more nicer is what I’m saying.

That’s the best I can think of. Hopefully the QnA team is really working hard on updates, and will make the community proud. If you have something you want to add to my wishlist, go ahead and comment. I might even add it to my wishlist. Thanks for reading.

Digg users are so stupid

                                                                 

Digg is a great site. Digg is a site where you can submit news you think is interesting, and other users can comment about the story on Digg’s pages, and find other news that users have posted. It’s also great in terms of Web 2.0. Very easy to use, good clean layout, looks nice, and it’s a cohesive experience.

But the one thing that is wrong, is the users. Unfortunately, Digg attracts lots of users. Technology, sports, movies, videos, common interest, lots of stuff. But on the tech side, there’s a big majority of open-source/Linux/Apple fanboys. And a very small minority of Microsoft-lovers/average-techies/smarties.

So most stories that land on the page, with a tech headline, are usually pro-Linux, pro-Apple type things. There’s a very rare chance that a pro-Microsoft story gets on there. Most stories on the Microsoft section are about bad stuff, and only get hit like once or few times a day, while the Apple section is rambling with new ones every 5 hours, and the same with the Linux area.

Take a look at today’s Microsoft section.

That’s ok, that there are supporters of 2 other groups taking on sides, but it’s the practice of commenting that gets to me.

If I say anything good about Microsoft, I get buried. The more buries there are, the more your comment looks bad. The more people digg your comment, the more better it looks. If my comment mentions that Microsoft is ok, it also gets buried. If I say Microsoft is evil, I get dugg. Stupid, isn’t it?

I’m betting they don’t even read it. They’ll probaly just scan to see if it says anything good about Microsoft, and they quickly bury it. What dummies.

I can see why so many people don’t like Microsoft, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft lovers can’t get respect. Most Microsoft lover are pretty open-minded and don’t always stick to one side if there’s a good reason. But nope, you get little respect on Digg. It’s not even worth trying to say how Microsoft is not so bad.

The recent news of Digg using Microsoft’s adCenter brought out lots of cries. Not as much as the HD-DVD fiasco, but still. "What’s wrong with Google?" "I’m better there will be less Linux stories" "No more Apple news I guess" "Hell must have froze over" "I guess Digg is going down the pipes" – All of it saying Microsoft is not worth it.

Whatever. Be stupid. Microsoft is only providing ads. They’re not going to take over the whole site and change it to Windows Live Digg or anything. Microsoft understands it’s hitting on a special website here. Altering the whole thing would give Microsoft a worse reputation. They are so not stupid to do that, I hope.

So I guess my post is just a rant. Whatever. But some times we just have to rant.

Agressive Marketing and Ads – Windows Live and MSN

Microsoft is really jumping into the ad platform. Not my particular favorite (who likes ads?), Microsoft’s been doing a pretty good job with it. With news of Microsoft taking over for Digg’s ads, Microsoft seems real serious about it’s ad platform. Similiar to the deal a year ago with Microsoft and its ad deal for Facebook. This is real good news. Like I’ve said before, Microsoft has to target popular site, and try to make deals to put their ads on there. If anything, it would really help push adCenter (whose site is so lame!). That’s the key.

Microsoft should try hitting news sites next. Get their ads on there, and push to have their Live Search algorithm index the sites news for users. Same with other popular sites – Get ad/site-algorithm deals. If Microsoft can do that, then they’ll really be moving forwards.

You’ve seen the "Try Live Search" ads right?

          

                                                          

You know, the really cheesy ugly "Try Live Search" ads. The really ugly, ads with a not so responsive feedback, typing text and enter doesn’t launch the ad (manually click the spyglass), and where it really doesn’t show why people should really try Windows Live Search. Basically, I think their a failure and an embarassment to Windows Live. Even the Ask.com "Algorithm" ads are much more classier. Well that’s going to change.

Microsoft will be pushing towards a new brand of WindowsLive/MSN ads around late 07′ and early 08′. These ads will address Live Search much better, and be able to work better. One of the main things it will do, is actually explain why Live Search is better. Not just mention the brand and a picture. Like I could see one of the web ads showing "Why use Live Search?" – and there’s a quick screenshot showing text entered into the search box, and Instant Answers coming to the rescue (Instant Answers is a main pull BTW).

Another ad compares Windows Live search results page, to Yahoo!’s. And in this case, Live Search looks much nicer and the layout is cleaner, the ad would highlight.

Another does a screenshot of Live Image Search to Google Image Search. Shows the hover and endless scroll UI, and the handy scratchpad feature. Compared to Google’s ‘boring’ images.

The "Why is Live Search better?" ads will definitely improve with situations like these. Showing head-on why people should use Live Search. Not a bunch of Windows Live brands floating about, funky search images, and a horrible ad search box. Real nice ads.

There will also be screenshot comparison ads on TV channels, and a view movie preview ads, like the one’s in Canada.

Microsoft is also launching and underground viral ad against Google. Have you seen the "Google Master Plan" video? You know the one about what Google really has the power to do with our private data it digs?

Well Microsoft is planning on capitalizing on this one. Microsoft is planning on partnering with the video’s site and launch a series of viral campaigns all over the TV, web, and in movie theaters previews.

The ads will all be about the same topic – Can you really trust Google with your private data? Just for the sake of ads? And the fact that there could be more implementations that Google can use it for? These ads are meant to scare people into thinking that Google is not the quick search engine you really thought it was. Ok, maybe no scare, but at least make the public have doubts on whether or not Google can be trusted with their data. The ads will really make sure that it gets the message loud and clear to the public.

Of course, Microsoft will have to make sure that it doesn’t offend Google too much with them, or Google could really throw lawsuits or whatever about lies and no proof and yada yada. I’m guessing Microsoft will add at least a warning of some kind, on the ads, that these allegations about Google could be, and might not be true. But that there is strong indication from many sources about this. And Microsoft can list the sources on their "Can you trust Google" ads.

Also going along side the "Can you trust Google" ads, is another type called "A Day Without Google" ads. Can you imagine a day of not using Google as your search engine? As your e-mail account? As your free services provider? Windows Live/MSN challenges you to go for a day without using Google, trying Live Search the whole time instead. And they will extend this further by saying, a day is real short, and most people don’t spend their day completely searching, so how about a week without Google? Or even a whole month (that might be taking it too far)? The ad will be all about trying other search engines (namely Windows Live) instead of Google. Just to find the potential that you might not have tried in other search engines. And Microsoft will also be willing to add Yahoo! and Ask.com to the list (anything to avoid Google) to try against Google.

"A Day Without Google" might provide prizes if you actually do, do that, with a special monitor to check what search you use. But that would be a bit extreme and kinda desperate on Microsoft’s part. Just a challenge, and you can sign-up to try it and show your dedication to at least following it. And at the end, you can answer a nice Flash survey about what you thought, and what you’ll pick in the end. If you’re doing a week at least. Microsoft has plans to register/buy these URL’s to help with their ad campaign: adaywithoutgoogle.com, aweekwithoutgoogle.com, canyoutrustgoogle.com

These are very clever marketing campaigns, and it’s about time that Microsoft starts making their ad platform better. I hope these ads start coming soon, because I would love to take a gander at what Microsoft can do with them.

Windows 7 – What I want and think

                                                             

Windows 7. That hangs as a big mystery in the air right now. I like many other people have not too much of a clue of what will be in it, but we can at least hope. Here are something that I would want it to have:

  • New UI – something real new and revolutionary. Or at least new. Revolutionary would be a nice second though. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s suppose to be some pie chart UI. Not sure how that would work, but sound interesting if possible. I saw a interesting video and post on Long Zheng’s site where there was this demo video, with this futuristic UI that could fit real well in Windows 7. Too close to Windows 7 that it seems real.
  • Integrated Anti-Virus – I know Microsoft and the stupid anti-trust laws that would come if Symantec and McAfee complained about this, but it’s just computer protection. Sounds stupid that it has to be separate. I’m quite sure as long as a user can install a different AV if wanted to, Microsoft’s own Live OneCare would be nice to bundle with the OS. Makes sense to me.
  • Supporting X64 – I’m not into chips and processors and all that, but another big complaint is lack of X64 support and compatibility. They’re left right behind. Windows 7 should really bring out X64 versions. I’m assuming it’s better, because it’s a bigger number than 32. I’m guessing the industry is moving that way, and so should version of Windows. No doubt about it.
  • New features – For years, Microsoft has been called a ‘copycat’ for having similar features to Apple’s OS X. It might be true, I guess, but I think Microsoft tried enhancing what’s already existed, and making them better in their own way. They could have maybe copied the concept, but added some new functionality, or done it in a different way. Well, it’s about time that Windows jumps ahead of its competition. I don’t see why Windows can’t have the words ‘innovative’ and ‘awesome’ to it. I mean, come on? There’s good designers/developers/whoevers working at Apple. Can’t we expect something good from the taskforce on the Windows team? I want something new, feature-rich, and just something that would make many users say "I love it and I want it". If Microsoft can do that, they’ve really got something.
  • WinFS? – With Ballmer saying it’s not killed, could we get this in Windows 7? I saw demos and pictures of it, and it looked real interesting. I’m not sure if I could use it myself, but it sure looked interesting. So how about finishing it up faster and placing this in Windows 7? Please? That would really make more people go back to Windows again.

Now I’m not sure what’s beyond all that, but I just hope as long as they have a good UI, easy-to-use, works with little problems, and is really amazing, then I’m all for Windows 7. What I don’t want to see about Windows 7:

  • Delays/Long time- No delays please! Don’t take a big vacation and forget your next version of Windows. Vista took a bit too long to come out 5 years. So please, no delays and do not take years and years to release it. Consumers don’t have patience. Please get it here by 2010.
  • Too expensive – $400 for a retail copy of Vista Ultimate? That is way too expensive. No OS should cost more than $250. At least Windows Vista Home Premium is only at retail (as of now) $239. That’s been a big complainer of Windows Vista. OS X Tiger is just $130. That’s really made some Apple fanboys gleeful about. I can’t argue with that. The highest price for Windows 7 shouldn’t exceed $250. That’s just the plain rules.
  • Too many versions – One of the big laughs about Windows Vista was the so many multiple versions coming out. I see where Microsoft tries to bend towards a wide market, but that just doesn’t work out. Vista Home Basic is a complete dud. Not sure about the business versions. There should only be two versions of Windows 7 : One for Home users, One for Business users. That simple. Home User could contain all the works, like Vista Ultimate, and Business user could contain all the works needed for businesses. Is it that hard?
  • Too resource intensive – Vista got complaints over this, especially with PC users who use cheap PC’s and dumb specs. Hopefully Windows 7 won’t kill computer trying to run on it. Could they try to make it as lightweight as possible? If they could, that would be sweet. (On a side note, I think if you’re using a high-end/mid-range PC, Vista’s working slow/unresponsive won’t be a problem for you)
  • Too underwhelmingWindows 7 better have a good reason why I would want to update my last version of Windows to this one. Vista’s great and all, but overall, it still seems like XP with better updates, security, and a few new features. But nothing that has me too excited.

So if Microsoft can do Windows 7 can stick to these guidelines, then Windows 7 might be a real hit. If not, well more people are going to start switching to OS X and Linux. Good luck.

Toyota’s 2008 Highlander ad – Good example of Web 2.0 and good design

I was flicking across the MSN site today, when I saw this Toyota ad in the upper right of the page. Generally, I’m not interested in auto ads (or any ads at all), but it stood out real different. The ad look real welcoming, and I liked it. The ad on the MSN page offered a 360 view and a hover-over-color change to the vehicle in the picture. Nice touch.

                                                               

I clicked on it, and up came a neat site. All Flash and beautiful Web 2.0-like. It was very intuitive, beautilful, simple, and a pretty good experience. I liked it.

I was also a big fan of the eyecandy and the Web 2.0-esque of how it was. Web 2.0 things like:

  • curved edges around boxes
  • hover technology – translucent box comes up with text over picture, words/text glisten when you hover, little hover sounds when you go over things, colors change on vehicles, text bubbles pop up, etc.
  • Flash
  • clear/big words. Nice font.
  • easy to naviagate
  • tags – or tag-like blocks of text over certain areas to indicate something
  • icons – rich immersive icons (on the tags) that animate a little when you hover over the tags
  • immersive-ness – 360 views, drag interface, hover, etc.
  • nice futuristic soundtrack – not that Web 2.0, but it’s a nice touch

All of those are example of rich Web 2.0 techonology. Or at least great design. I loved it. It was something nice to play around, learn, and just plain cool. If you want to see the site, here’s the URL I picked up. Take a look. It’s pretty nice. Here a simple gallery below:

               

             

Nice picture, eh? Well I like the site, and it’s definitely something that I think is better than existing car-model-interactive-info. sites.

Office 14 – What’s to be expected

                                                                              

Here’s what I expect (in your average-joe-kind-of-way) should be in Office 14, a.k.a. the next version of Microsoft Office after the 2007 one. They’re just thoughts, not things that I’ve heard, exactly taken from, or anything. Just thoughts. So here’s what I think:

  • Web version – It’s very convenient for many people, who might be using a different/borrowed computer. Just sign-in, and you have access to your own Word. There could be a free ad supported web version, with maybe some reduced functionality. A one-time visit version, for people who rarely use it, just pay a quick small fee (like $1 or $2) and use it, without ads. Then there could be a subscription-based one. One for a person who is always-on-the-go, and doesn’t bring his or her own computer along. So there should be 3 ways to use it on the web, all offering a range from free-ad supported, to a subscription service.
  • Working with the Web – Yet another thing to do with our beloved Internet. A web version, like I said before, of Microsoft Office would be neat. How about putting PowerPoint presentation right on the web too? If you’re in a hurry, and you want to present something that’s on your computer way back home, just sign-in and your Office files show up. You can also do a PowerPoint presentation right on the web browser, or extend it onto fullscreen. Thumbstacks already does this, and it’s quite handy. Couldn’t Office do something like this? Or reading Word documents directly into your browser? Not just a PDF version, but really reading it in your browser. It would be really cool.
  •  More Fluent UI – One of my favorite things about Office 2007 is the Fluent/Ribbon UI. It’s neat, organized, things are easy to find, I love it. It just works real well. I would love to see it in more Office apps. Not sure how it would work, but it would be cooler if they do it right. In fact, why can’t the Fluent UI be spread throughout all of Microsoft’s apps? Again, I’m not sure how it could work any more than it does now, but if they do it right, it would be awesome. Especially the next version of Encarta. I’ve drawn sketches of it, and I could really see Encarta getting the UI update. Anyways, improve on the Fluent UI across other apps. Could you also add a search feature into each program? It could be a separate tab on each app., or built-in to the app. at the top, but it would be handy.
  • Better package options – I’m not talking about the price here, but what’s bundled together. Like Office Home and Student, Office Enterprise, Office Ultimate, and so-on. There’s like 7 different packages in Office 2007 alone. Microsoft has a tendency to have too many packaging options lately (a.k.a. Vista). It’s kind of annoying having to pick. How about just 3? : Office Basic, Office Enterprise, and Office Ultimate? Better than pushing all 7 options. Office Basic will include just the core apps., like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, Outlook, and OneNote. Office Enterprise would have all the business stuff, all the regular apps., and those servers/other business things. And then Office Ultimate, containing pretty much everything, all in one package. Much better if you ask me.
  • Seamless and as perfect as possible – Hopefully Office 14 will be as seamless and easy-to-use as possible. Easy to upgrade, easy to install, things just work with no bugs. All that stuff. Of course, nothing is ever perfect, and things get perfected, but hopefully when it comes out, it’s just foolproof.

Well, that’s what I expect Office 14 to be like. Or should be. There’s other things to be expected too, but at least it should cover my 5 main wishes that Office 14 will have.

You can read the Office 14 FAQ (all the things you need to know about Office 14) from Paul Thurrott right here.