MSN Soapbox – a turn for the worst

I remember several months ago, I thought Soapbox was amazing. Compared to YouTube, it was awesome. Much better looking UI, easy interface, fast, quick, high quality videos, lots of tools, and it was awesome.

But with the new update, it’s awful.

                                                                        

The whole site has gone from "Soapbox on MSN Video" to "MSN Video – Soapbox". Now it’s just awful.

I gave tons of feedback to the Soapbox team, but it seems they’ve done little to fix it.

There’s still the matter of the darn copyright laws, text character limits, branding on video descriptions and the commenting system.

None of that seems to have been fixed, except maybe the copyright law, kind of.

So here’s how MSN Soapbox has turned for the worst, since I’ve last remembered it:

  1. MSN Video content being dominate over Soapbox user content – Ok, I can understand the migration to one video site, but throwing MSN content over user content is overboard. When you enter to MSN Video, you see a bunch of MSN content. It’s not a bad thing, but I remembered Soapbox was suppose to be a user-oriented place. Not MSN’s to say. If a video finished, and you didn’t add anything to put in the playlist next, a MSN content video comes on. How annoying! Who says I want to see one? I would have searched for it on my own, thank you. The Soapbox user section is still there though, but inconveniently at the end. So please, merge user videos, and content videos as the same thing. Like the NBC section, could have it’s own user name called "MSN-NBC content", like YouTube with major content.
  2. Floating ads – I know Microsoft needs a source of money to run the site and servers, but floating ads? That is very intrusive and annoying. It’s as similar as to a pop-up ad. It’s that annoying to me. I don’t even mind the ads, but if they’re going all over the site, then I’m not happy. What’s wrong with a banner ad at the top, or even text ad? Sigh. The old MSN Soapbox had no ads at all.
  3. Quality of video degraded – I remember how I was really ecstatic about how compared to YouTube videos, Soapbox did a better job with the original quality. I even made a comparison video between the two, and you could really tell. Well, now it seems to be gone. The quality is just as bad as YouTube’s, or even worse. I don’t understand why they did that. I mean, MSN Soapbox could have sold itself on better quality, but they just downgraded on that. The point in the market, is to differentiate yourself from your competitors, not offer the exact same quality, or even go below that. My last few videos are pretty pixelated, compared to the originals.
  4. Search is cluttered – Now search is really cluttered. Not only do you have Soapbox user videos, but now you also have a separate section for MSN Video content, and web results. How ridiculous is that? First of all, MSN Video content, should just be a channel in itself, or like it’s own user’s video, instead of something far from different than user videos. So those two should be together as one, not anything different. As for the web results, this is a video site in itself, why would MSN Video want to show results from other sites? That’s not the best way to promote your own site. There’s already a Video search, in Live Search. No need to add confusion. So merge MSN content results with user videos, and ditch the outside video search.
  5. Toolbox with MSN Video (not consistent) – Ok, I think it’s ridiculous how users have full access to the whole toolbox for user videos, but not for MSN content videos. I really loved the toolbox when it was just MSN Soapbox, but there’s reduced functionality for MSN content. Is there anything wrong with putting along several tools like "IM video", "Add a comment", "Embed video", "add to Favorites" or even rate the video? No, I don’t think so. If a video is that bad, it deserves a bad rating. If it’s good, it will get a great rating. And for commenting, is it seriously a crime for users to do that? Users can’t comment on MSN content? How mean. Allow for the whole toolbox to be available on all videos.
  6. Video description/comments/tag box under the video – It’s still the same, and it’s still bad. I would love it, if MSN Video would remove the LARGE "Soapbox on MSN Video" label right on top of the video’s description, comments, and tags. As anybody would notice, this is MSN Video and Soapbox. It says so at the top of the page. So do I need to be reminded about that? It takes up room, where a larger title can be placed, or more longer descriptions. About the comments – it needs work. Writing a comment in an itsy-bitsy space is not appealing. How about a big virtual Flash windows, that pops open, right on the site when you want to make a comment or view many comments? Like the floating ads do. That way there’s more room to type, and read comments. Plus, it would also be wonderful to have a toolbar to make our comments much more nicer. I would love that. As for tags – only 5 tags per video? That’s not nice. I want at least 10 or more tags per video. No restrictions.
  7. Ugly player – I didn’t talk about this before, but it is kind of ugly. Simple, yes. But pretty, no. It was definitely better than the old one, in pre-beta. But these days, it’s all about looks and style, as much as it works. How about a player similar to Brightcove. Or with the familiar nice look of WMP 11, without it being WMP 11. The Brightcove player is the best out there, and offers tons of functionality right in the player. It’s Flash, and does a ton of things. It just works. Why can’t the Soapbox player be as simple, elegant, and functional as that?
  8. Uploading is a pain – Compared to YouTube, Soapbox now uploads slower, and takes at least 3X longer to get processed. I would know. At least before the latest update, it uploaded speedy fast. I’m guessing the long processing is to check for the dumb copyright content. Character limits are still a pain compared to YouTube. Categories is still dumb. I mean, who looks for videos by a certain category anymore? Tags are what helps filter out things that you do want, not a cluster of similar stuff. Man is uploading a pain. At least you can upload multiple videos, but it makes it somewhat slower. Make video uploading/processing faster, allow little or no restrictions on text character limits, and ditch the old-fashioned category system.
  9. User profile is limited – My profile is a mess. You can’t give a description of yourself. My profile picture doesn’t even show up. What a mess. Thanks MSN. Make it easier for users to personalize their profile on MSN Video.

Those a 9 big faults I find with MSN Soapbox today.

I’m not trying to be mean to you guys, but you’ve got to understand from any user’s perspective, that MSN Soapbox just isn’t completely fit to be a #1 video-sharing site, or even a site to bother visiting.

MSN Soapbox has/had potential, but they really have to work on the ideas I suggest to get it going. It’s like the perfect solution to a better video-sharing site, but it has to make it worth it.

So please, Soapbox team, consider these ideas, and make them a reality. There’s many things I love about Soapbox, but cons overweight the pros. So fix the site up, and you’ll get lovers.

New Zune 2.0 software?

Here’s some speculation to what users have been expecting the new software update to the Zune 2.0 to be. With a new Zune product, I’m quite sure Microsoft will release a top performing hit with the Zune 2.0. After all, with the v1 Zune being a somewhat flop, Microsoft probably outdid itself to release a product that can outdo that Zune.

                                                                    

So here’s something I think we can expect:

  • Transition from old Zune software to WMP 11 – Zune software is the most buggy program there is. WMP 11 is the best. Now the new update transfers all that info. from your old Zune software to WMP 11. Now WMP 11 is your place for syncing and managing your Zune software stuff. This also makes Zune a PlayForSure device. While you can get to any other online store like Napster, eMusic, etc., Zune Marketplace is the preferred destination to get your content. Zune Marketplace itself is suppose to be so good, that you would rather go there. But if you want, then go ahead with any other online store.
  • New WMP 11 – Not necessarily WMP 12, but a new update. The new modified version will have much more codec support, speedier navigation, enhanced visualizations scheme, better DVD playback performance, enhanced ripping/burning, and who knows what more.
  • URGE to become Zune Marketplace – Since Microsoft runs both, and URGE and Zune Marketplace are essentially the same, it makes sense for Microsoft to drop one or the other. In this case, URGE will be dropped in support for Zune Marketplace. Each already has essentially the same thing, so it’s no big deal. It’s just the matter of convincing current URGE users to become Zune Marketplace users.
  • Improved Zune Marketplace – Zune Marketplace has signed up with more major content providers. Now you can find music, videos, TV shows, movies, audiobooks, Zune backgrounds, and several other exclusives all on Zune Marketplace. However, there’s no games yet. Now it’s finally catching up to the iTunes store.
  • DRM free tracks – Finally, Zune is offering DRM free tracks. They can be played on any device. Not much detail, but they should have a relatively nice quality, and should be any more than $1.50.
  • New interface – Not the blucky old navigation on the old one. The new one does away with that all. Expect a lot of black background and white text. Seems to be the style these days. Zune Marketplace is suppose to move much smoother, and a better way of navigating to find what you want. There’s also new layout styles for media, such as lists, lists + cover art, tile, carousel, and space. Of course, the layouts will look 10X better than ever. Overall, it’s more aesthetically pleasing than you’ll find in most stores.
  • Support for Pandora radio – Now you can get Pandora radio on your Zune. Cool, right? You can use Pandora radio while on WMP 11, and you can even do it on your device. Pandora on the device, looks for some WiFi (about time it’s useful) and if it finds a connection, you get Pandora content tracks on your device. If you really like a new song you discover, you can bookmark it, and maybe you’ll be interested in buying it on Zune Marketplace. Good idea, right? Sounded cool to me. All of what you do with Pandora gets saved onto WMP 11.
  • Better synchronization – Syncing with the Zune can still be a hassle sometimes. New synchronization promises to be much faster, more syncing than stopping, and it just works as quick as that. I’ve had videos not syncing, because Zune could support big files like that, or who knows what, but it was a pain. The new sync is suppose to just work.

Well that’s about it. 8 new things that we can expect about the Zune. Or should expect the Zune to follow.

I bet if Microsoft followed this path, it would be so much better for users. Honestly. I don’t see how my expectations, would fall short of anyone else’s expectations.

So if the Zune goes this path, it will be so much better than losing with the old Zune software.

I’ll be gone for awhile again

I won’t be writing any blog posts for the next few days. I’ve got tons of work to catch up with. Even as I write.

As much as I want to blog, I have work. Which means limited internet time (for fun). I’m working on being better time management, and doing things better.

So please excuse my absence for the next few days. Life has been more difficult for me lately.

What Windows Vista Ultimate should have been

While Vista sales are still relatively going well, not many people appear satisfied with Vista Ultimate.

                                                                          

Mainly because for $400, people don’t really see why they should get Ultimate above Home Premium.

Here’s 2 main promises of Vista Ultimate that makes it better than Home Premium:

  1. Combines all the features of Home Premium & Enterprise edition
  2. Vista Ultimate Extras

As for #1, I guess that can be said true.

As for #2, that has been a letdown for many.

It’s been half a year already, since Vista has been released, and yet there’s still no official UE.

                                                                      

UE was suppose to have:

  • DreamScene – a video desktop background utility
  • BitLocker & EFS enhancements – More security enhancements for Vista
  • Hold ‘Em Poker Game – a version of Texas Hold ‘Em for Vista
  • MUI Language Packs – 20 language packs you can display Windows in
  • GroupShot – photo tool for taking best parts of several similar picture, and combining them

If you ask me, those should have been installed into Vista (inc. Home Premium) by default. Not some silly Extras package just for Ultimate.

Especially the BitLocker/EFS enhancements and MUI Language Packs – those ought to be in the system already.

GroupShot should be part of Windows Photo Gallery already.

Ultimate Extras is rather silly if you ask me. I would say you’re kind of a fool to actually want that, and that Microsoft is a fool for packing it like that.

So Ultimate Extras has seemed to fail. It’s up to Microsoft to release it before the year ends, or they’ll have more unsatisfied customers to deal with.

That’s what happens when you make promises, and don’t keep them. People lose respect for you, and move on to somebody else.

Microsoft should have been sure it would come out instantly, before making such false promises.

$400 is also ridiculously too expensive for a system.

Unfortunately, Vista Ultimate is a failure.

So here’s what Vista Ultimate should have been:

Vista Ultimate should have everything possible on Windows Vista (fits with #1). Vista Ultimate should have come with Ultimate Extras.

Vista Ultimate would have also came with a free version of Office 07′ Ultimate.

Vista Ultimate would have Windows Live apps. bundled with it (OS X does it, so why not Windows?).

Vista Ultimate should have been at the most, $300. Although preferably $250 would have been the best retail price.

And that’s how Vista Ultimate should have been. All of Microsoft’s finest in one package.

But nope, Microsoft was sloppy, and as a result, Vista Ultimate didn’t run on people’s expectations.

Doesn’t Microsoft ever learn? I wonder who runs this department.

MSN Dial-Up, MSN Direct, MSN TV to die – MSN Premium revised

News is out : MSN Dial-Up, MSN Direct, and MSN TV are going to end their services. By January 20th, support for all 3 MSN services will end.                          

Due to lack of demand for MSN 9 Dial-Up, MSN Direct, MSN TV have to die.

It’s not like they were good anyways.

MSN Dial-Up =====================================

Dial-Up is dead. Nobody has time to wait a couple of minutes for a page to load up. It’s either no internet, or DSL/Cable. But definitely not dial-up : You’ll regret it. Also, MSN Dial-Up is very intrusive, and too tightly tied around ‘the old MSN’. It’s like Microsoft hasn’t touched it since years ago. In modern day, MSN Dial-Up fails. So that’s adios to MSN 9 Dial-Up. 

MSN Direct ======================================

This never took off like Microsoft imagined. Microsoft was imaging this as a way towards the future. You’re wristwatch could display a bunch of neat info., right on your arm. Problem is, wristwatches are losing functionality to cell phones. Cell phones can tell time, and do a whole multitude of tasks than the boring old wristwatch. (to tell you the truth, I still wear a wristwatch, for style, but I definitely see no need for a MSN Direct kind of service at all). The Spot watches received channels of info from MSN services, through a digital FM radio based technology. However, they are rather unappealing, and it only displays in black and white monochrome. And most of these ‘channels’ are just small basic things a quik web search could do. There were also GPS unit devices, and even a coffee maker, but those too really don’t need a MSN Direct service. So it died. – Mainly due to the ongoing invention of the cell phone.

MSN TV =========================================

MSN TV was a big waste. Browsing the internet from your TV? Are you kidding? They invented computers for a reason. Browsing from the TV is such a pain. Even the Wii Opera browser isn’t as interesting as a real internet browser. These days, people need PC’s. MSN TV was meant to be a solution to having to buy a PC for internet. But you might as well buy a computer if you need the internet – it’s what they’re made for.

================================================================

So they all are going to die, because of the fact that nobody needs them anymore. I’m glad they’re gone. They were just a waste.

MSN Premium is going to get a fix-up. There’s been complaints about how customers are being charged around $10 a month for relatively low-end features available for free on other sites. In other words, it appears worthless.

Most of what is revised, is just simply the transition from old MSN services, to new Windows Live services. The price, not surprisingly will be raised to $14.99 a month. But it does contain some neat stuff, that’s worth the price.

Some fixes (and switches) include:

  • Windows Live Hotmail Plus – Finally. Now Windows Live Hotmail Plus is offered for free with it. Currently, MSN Premium customers had to stay with the old MSN Hotmail, not the new Windows Live Hotmail. They haven’t got much goodness out of that. Considering that Hotmail Plus is around $20, and the new MSN Premium is around $15, they’re really getting a bang for their buck.
  • Windows Live OneCare – As long as you stay subscribed to MSN Premium, you’ll also get access to Windows Live OneCare for free. This will replace MSN Premium’s so called protection (McAfee, Spy Sweeper, petty stuff etc.) which OneCare and Live Hotmail already do.
  • Windows Live Family Safety – replaces the old MSN Parental Controls
  • Windows Live Photo Gallery – replaces the old Microsoft Digital Image Standard software and other photo-fixing software
  • No need for MSN Explorer – MSN explorer is dead. I used it before, and I saw no reason to switch from IE7. It’s just a regular web browser, but MSN-ified. And that’s not something any person would want, unless they’re really dull.
  • Windows Live Suite – a free offer given when first installed

Otherwise than that, some of the other services (if any more) will remain the same. If it hasn’t already been succeed by a Windows Live offering.

Microsoft is also considering getting rid of the MSN Premium name, and just becoming Windows Live Premium all together. The MSN services are just really old, never got updated, and now Windows Live is taking over. So it makes more sense for it to discontinue the old MSN Premium name.

Microsoft is also in talks with AT&T to provide partnered internet services with AT&T and replacing Yahoo!. As soon as Yahoo!’s contract with AT&T is finished (in 08′), AT&T could either switch over to do Windows Live services, or renew their contract with Y! again.

The possible partnership with AT&T and Windows Live, won’t kill with AT&T splashes all over Windows Live sites, like Y!’s was. Unlike that messy thing, AT&T and Windows Live will remain as separate identities, with just AT&T redirecting you to Windows Live services.

In other words, you won’t see AT&T take over the look of your e-mail, or what you do and stuff. It just takes/offers you Windows Live services, as part of their member. That’s it.

This is a pretty big deal. AT&T and Microsoft are both big-shot companies in their line of business, and a partnership will raise eyebrows. Microsoft does share AT&T’s Charles Noski on their Board of Directors. So it wouldn’t surprise me if AT&T would except a deal from Microsoft.

All of this comes from MSN/Windows Live consolidating their services/products, and making it much more easier to go through than to have multiple services/products that do a bad job. This is good news, as obviously they’re now getting on the ball. It’s not clear when the new MSN Premium will be launched out, but it’s expected around the end of this year. As for the other old MSN services, customers will get a notification to start planning ahead, and support will end on January 30, 2008.

UPDATE : Seems as if Microsoft didn’t go though with their plans. I guess these MSN services are still here. Though this is my pure opinion : These services have got to go. There’s other free services (even from Windows Live) that outdo what these MSN services do, and it might not be long before Microsoft takes this part of MSN down. Despite some of the few people I’ve seen have appreciation for this.

Is Microsoft really a monopoly anymore?

That’s the question that came when Microsoft lost the EU appeal.

                                                    

                                                           (picture from Engadget article)

Is Microsoft really a monopolistic tyrant as today?

The EU claims that Microsoft has decreased competition and innovation, making sure it stays the dominant player, by making their software lock in people like that.

Is that really true?

Here’s what I think about Microsoft and monopolies:

I consider Microsoft to be a monopoly – back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. That’s when Microsoft being a monopoly was. Their stuff seemed pretty lame back then, it seemed that Microsoft just wanted you to be locked in, and all that. Microsoft was also growing lazy and not innovating at all.

But these days, Microsoft is a pretty nice company. Not a monopoly.

These days, people have alternatives from Microsoft.

If you don’t like Windows, get OS X or Linux.

Don’t like IE? Get Firefox or Opera.

Don’t like Microsoft Office? Get OpenOffice or iWork.

There is alternatives – so Microsoft isn’t really a monopoly, or own the whole market on one thing. Making it unfair and stuff.

Then people say that a monopoly isn’t so bad, it’s just how a big company uses that power. So what has Microsoft done that’s really unfair? That’s hurt consumers and all that? I can’t really think of a thing that has effected me at all, coming from Microsoft.

If you think Microsoft is a monopoly, then you should consider Apple and Google also.

Apple is by far, more of a monopoly in themselves, than Microsoft is. With Windows, you have tons of things you can do with it. With Apple, OS X comes only on Macs, OS X is practically compatible with mostly-only Apple software, iPod & iTunes, you’re practically locked into Apple’s system.

With Google – they practically own the web search market. If you want a toolbar, or a new computer, or even your ISP, Google comes attacking in, trying to be your search mate. And there’s been allegations as whether if Google is using your private data for more than just ads.

Of course, the EU is going to start getting on Apple’s and Google’s case later.

But it all seems ridiculous.

If a company is using their power to really hurt the whole market, and threaten that nothing can come out, then that’s when it’s time to step in.

As for now, I’m thinking that the EU’s fines are just to pay for their water bills.

Windows TV (Center)? Spring 08′?

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This by no means, is not a real genuine article. This is just a made-up article I do for fun every now and then. Now, if Microsoft DID do these types of things, well let’s just say the whole world would be a lot more interesting…

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Windows TV (Center) coming out in Spring 08′?

What exactly is Windows TV (Center)?

According to this blog, Windows TV (Center) is suppose to be a big competitor against Apple TV. You know, digital media receivers.

"Windows TV (Center) is meant to give the Apple TV a run for a money. It will outdo what the Apple TV currently does, by operating the same things Apple TV can do right now, plus extra features that Apple TV doesn’t have. It will have an amazing look, easy-to-use, and just a great way to enjoy your digital media – words often expressed with Apple products…" – Blog source.

So is Microsoft really going to pull something out on the Apple TV? I hope so. Apple TV looks lame from what I’ve heard.

Windows TV (Center) seems to still be working on the name issue. After all, does "Windows TV" really sound that appealing to you? Apple TV doesn’t sound any better, but how would you feel the name of Windows TV? Other possible names include: Windows TV, Windows TV Center, Windows Entertainment, Windows TV, and a variety of Windows-related words. So Microsoft can make things more unified instead of too many name branch-offs like in the past.

There’s sketchy details, but it appears that Windows TV will look sort of similar to this:

                                                    OR THIS

You know, sort of similar to that hockey-puck form-factor. Except it won’t be as really pasty white and yucky looking like the  Sony Vaio VGX-TP1.

It’s a pretty much all-in-one unit. The round-based unit includes:

  • Disc tray – the top opens up like a lid. CD’s, DVD’s, and possibly HD-DVD’s or BluRay’s can be put in.
  • Remote – slide out remote from the front end of the unit. It’s not confirmed, but there could be a touchscreen, simple-like controls, Vista Sideshow capable, and all that. A bit excessive, but neat.
  • 80 or 140 GB versions
  • Components include: HDMI input/output at 1080x, 7.1 surround sound support, 2 USB output/input ports, Gigabit ethernet, and not much else is known on technical aspects with numerous ports
  • Back-lit Windows logo – It’s the 21st century, of course.
  • No overheating – Microsoft has promised that there would be no excessive overheating. They placed some new technology that takes care of that.
  • The units dimensions are around less than 1 sq. ft for each dimension

Features Include:

  • Synchronization with Windows Media Center (main TV interface)
  • Synchronization with Windows Media Player
  • IPTV – enabled
  • HD-DVR
  • Live Desktop Video (30 fps or higher?)
  • TV and radio tuner
  • WiFi
  • many codec/format supports (not just Microsoft long-standing proprietary ones)

That’s just some of the ‘known’ features. There could be a whole lot more. Also a ton more that I wouldn’t understand.

Set-up is as easy as 1-2-3, as it usually is. It’s practically plug and play almost.

The front end of the whole experience is Windows Media Center of course. Windows Fiji should be released in the same time frame, and include the new updated version of Windows Media Center, which should explain as to why this product is waiting to be released in Spring 08′. Of course, Windows Media Center is easy to use, and many consumer will like that.

Content can be bought directly from Zune Marketplace (on WMP 11 now) straight from the TV. It’s very easy to do. Since Microsoft has made deals with many media outlets, there’s a large variety of TV content going around on ZuneM. There’s also a large selection of HD choices. You can buy games, karaoke songs (now songs come with lyrics for an extra 10 cents), and a bunch of other Zune Marketplace content can be bought right from the TV and played on the TV.

Photo and Videos play well of course.

So let me sum it all up : Windows TV Center will be one of the end-all approach to anything for your digital entertainment. It’s basically what Apple TV should have been. Except, now it has all those extra features.

There hasn’t a been a named price yet, but some people are predicting that the 80 GB version will be $199.00, and the 140 GB version will be $270.00.

This announcement is to go along with other big announcements, of Microsoft releasing big time products/services to show that their going to forge deep into the digital entertainment dept.

I really hope Microsoft has something up their sleeves, and this isn’t another case of the Zune v1, vs. 5Gen iPod. I’d hate to see that happen again.