Windows Mobile site gets a new site design

It appears that the Windows Mobile site recently received a design fix-up.

                                                                 

I have to say, it’s MUCH better than the old site. The old site was horrendous to navigate, and appeared to not have been updated since pre-2003. Overall, it’s much better to go through, except for some things like:

  • There are ads – Ads that are completely NOT related to WinMo at all. A product site should NOT have ads at all, unless it has something to do with the products. I do not think that a "Visio Toolbox" ad, fits in at all on WinMo site. Isn’t there enough advertising in the world? A product site shouldn’t have that. It’s a bit of a distraction, and I don’t feel happy seeing Microsoft post some ads, on a product site. It’s just not right, and pretty unprofessional.
  • "Windows Mobile Catalog" is a weak attempt at a store – One of the best things about WinMo, is the freedom to make applications or software for WinMo (without the restrictions that another company takes). What’s missing though, is a central place (or store) to find & download apps for a WinMo phone. However, "Windows Mobile Catalog" is a very weak attempt in my opinion. First, it’s a pretty hard to find (hidden in a link on the "Meet Windows Mobile" page near the bottom). Second, you can’t buy or download directly from the site. Instead, 3rd party sites like Handango and MobiHand must do it, which is not as convenient. Third, most apps. (if not all) are NOT free. Forth, users cannot submit applications to the site. Fifth, each application page does not have handy features like (several) screenshots, videos, ratings, reviews, and other typical goodies. It’d also be nice if the store could be a part of WinMo, instead of a separate site, with an ugly mobile interface.
  • NO Test drive – Have you guys never heard of virtual emulation test drives? Like where you can sort of play with the actual WinMo UI, and explore how it works and all that, on a website? It’s like getting to experience the real WinMo, without a real phone.
  • Little focus on multimedia and internet – When it comes to electronic gadgets, what do typical consumers like? Two things : Multimedia and internet. On the site, there’s little focus on the multimedia side and the internet. Actually, in general, the multimedia and internet offerings on WinMo are rather pathetic. I think Microsoft knows this, right? PIE in general does a simple enough job, but it’s NOT enough. WMP 10 with a WMP 11 skins, is NOT enough. I’d like to see how the site can show that the browser and multimedia capabilities, are much better than that of other mobile browsers and other phones. Which I doubt is possible.
  • The site’s pretty good though. I hope other Microsoft sites get a fix-up. I don’t know how difficult it is to give a site a better look, but it seems to take Microsoft forever with all their product sites.

    Safari 3.0 review

    I’ve been using Safari 3.0 for awhile, and it’s actually pretty good. Better than I expected. I can’t help but remember the buggy catastrophe the first time Safari was available for Windows users, but the latest one isn’t that bad.

                                                                                                         

    I did has some issues the first time with downloading it. So I gave up for 3 weeks, and tried it again. It finally worked. So I’m going to point out what I like, and what I don’t like. Here’s what I like:

    • Simple and clean UI – I’ve commended IE7 for keeping a nice streamlined interface, but Safari is just as good. You have the menu bar, then the address and search bar with the back/forward-refresh-add buttons right under it, and then a bookmark bar. The bars fit in tightly with each other, to maximize website screen size. There’s also no bottom bar at the very bottom. Pretty good.
    • Extendable search/address box – Pretty handy. You can either stretch the search box to be bigger, or the address bar to be bigger.
    • SnapBack – There’s this neat orange button at the end of the address bar ( ). This button takes you back to the previous website, without having to rummage around the list of pages in the back button. Like say you’re on a cooking website, and a link takes you to Amazon.com. Well you search for some more stuff on Amazon, and realize you want to go back to the cooking site. Instead of scanning the last viewed pages on the back button, you can just press the handy orange SnapBack button. Pretty neat, eh?
    • Bookmarks Manager – One of my favorite features. Pressing on the bookmarks icon ( ), it takes you to a nice clean page, listing everything from items on the Bookmarks Bar, All Bookmarks, History, and RSS feeds. As well as imported IE favorites. It’s much easier to organize and manage saved items, and a nice RSS feeder. I love how there’s a slider bar to show how much of each feed you want to see, and you can select what timeframe you want to see the posts from.
    • History – You can search pages that you viewed, and deleting history is as easy as 2 clicks. On IE, the minimum is 4 clicks. You also can dynamically search through history, where as in IE, you have to click search, to actually search it (though it’s quick too).
    • Loading bar – The loading bar on Safari, is simply just the address bar. It shines blue from the left of the address bar, all the way towards the right of the bar as soon as it’s done loading. Another streamlined feature I like. Though the Origami Central browser (IE7 in Origami) does it that way too.
    • Window sizing is smoother – I notice that window resizing in Safari has a more smoother look, in comparison to IE7.
    • Better scrollbars – One characteristic about XP that I never liked was the ugly scrollbars. They’re so grayed out, that a person with quick eyes can have trouble pinpointing where the scroll bar is, when the slider bar is whitish-gray, and sometime the page is white or close to gray. It annoys the heck out of me, especially in IE7. I don’t much like Safari’s bright, glossy blue scroolbars that much better, but it’s definitely easier on the eyes.
    • Download Manager – what every modern browser should have. Though I personally don’t use it, since I’m not a heavy downloader.
    • Slim Bookmarks bar – Safari just simply gives the name of one of you bookmarks and that’s it. The bar doesn’t take up much space, as in comparison to IE8’s humongous favorites bar.
    • Less crashes – I’ll be honest. I use IE7 everyday, and I can probably expect at the minimum ONE crash per day. That’s just cruddy, and Safari has probably only crashed once or twice in the time I used it.
    • Better options menu – The options menu in IE7 is VERY cluttered. I don’t think I need to view most of them, and it’s horrendous to rummage through.
    • Appearance – Apple’s always known for making thing at least look better. Safari is no different. I love Safari’s font smoothing. Makes webpages look much better. I also love how when you highlight, the color is blue, rather than IE’s tradition of complete contrast highlighting. Blue is more easier on the eyes, and stands out pretty well.
    • Input box edges highlighted – When you type into any input box (whether to fill in your username & password, a comment, or whatever), the box’s edges are highlighted to it’s easy to draw your eyes to that portion of your screen. Nice touch. Safari is a great browser if your eyes are kinda poor.
    • Great webpage search box – It is hard to find, but it functions pretty well. Go to Edit > Find > Find… and there’s a nice webpage search box that shows up. Start typing in a few words, and the screen darkens and highlights possible matches. When it narrows it down to one, it highlights the text in bright yellow with the text in black. Very nice touch!

    What I don’t like :

    • Only 2 web search options – You can only search Google or Yahoo!. There’s no other official way to get Live, Ask, or any other custom search engine. That’s my main reason why I don’t use Safari as much, I want choices. I search a variety of search engines, and no other options is really sucky.
    • Bookmarks folder option is hidden – I didn’t notice that puny "+" button at the bottom of the Bookmarks Manager. Pretty sneaky
    • Hidden zooming options – I like how on other browser, it’s easy to find the page zoom controls, and make the page bigger or smaller. You have to go into the menu bar to to View, and select either bigger or smaller. Whatever.
    • No easy access to tabs – Despite Safari’s choice of keeping the browser’s interface super streamlined, I don’t like going through a bunch of menus to find a function I want. Maybe OS X users love to do that (OS X has a default system wide menu bar), but I hate it. I like to see my options all out in front of me, or at least some of the least used things hidden away for later. I have to go to File and New Tab to get a new tab. Same issue with finding the darn zoom controls.
    • No quick way to view all tabs or preview – I love how IE7 has QuickTabs to view all tabs at once with a mini-screenshot of all tabs, and Opera lets you hover over tabs to get a preview image. Safari has no such thing. It’s all text.
    • Lack of add-ons – Apple has no official place to find Safari add-ons (not surprising considering Apple’s stance on 3rd parties and developers). Too bad. That’s another downer.
    • Some sites don’t work well – Not a surprise, considering Safari is still new. Though Safari does support a lot of standards, I guess.
    • Backward buttons and not being consistent with Windows – Hey Apple, this isn’t OS X. OK? So please be consistent with the Windows UI for Safari. Like for instance when I try to close Safari with a couple of tabs being used, and Safari wants to check if I’m OK with this, the cancel button is first, and the close button is second. For a normal Windows user, the selection you’re most likely to pick first, actually comes first, and cancel or quit is the last option. I don’t know how many times I made this mistake with Safari.
    • Lack of skins – I’m no big fan of Safari’s default gray look. It’s just so cold. It’s suppose to have that brushed metal look like Safari for OS X, but it’s just all gray. Kinda ugly in a sense.

    Overall, Safari is nice. Much better than expected. Here’s some screenshots of interesting stuff:

     

      

          

            

    MSN Radio is dead, and Live Maps with slightly new search box

    So MSN Radio died. Here’s the message I got:

                                 

    Too bad. I actually preferred MSN Radio’s sleek black look, compared to Pandora’s "slightly different look". I loved listening to Pandora on MSN Radio. Pandora’s site has this really ugly Spartan look. When will they make a WMP 11 add-on? Oh well.

    Live Search Maps also got a slightly revamped search box to make it more consistent with the latest Live Search UI. Here it is:

                     

      Not too bad. The search box is bigger, so it’s more easier to type in words. Though I can’t help but feel the top portion is slightly larger than it was previously, which in turn means less map view.

    Personally, I think the big white space, between the search box area and the map view area, is a waste of space. It does display words relating to the search query, but I think the UI could shorten up a bit? Like this:

                        

    Do you think the Live Maps UI looks better this way? Being more compact, and giving a bigger map view would be great to me.

    25 Ways Microsoft can fix up their Windows Live/Live Search/MSN online divisions

    Boy is Windows Live+Live Search+MSN all messed up. Lots of users who still somewhat use any of these divisions all have lots of complaints. Despite some nice stuff coming from Windows Live and Live Search, there’s a whole lot missing and unfixed. I’m going to address all these main issues right here. So be prepared for a long read.

                                                              (a very crudely drawn and photographed WinLive logo)

    Here’s all the main problems I think that are wrong with the way Microsoft has it set-up. I’m going to identify the problem, explain it, and I will bold what solution I think is best. So her it goes:

    1. Kill off the very weak parts – On MSN, there’s a lot of weak properties that need to go. The worst performing ones I’d have to say are : City Guides (NOT helpful), Shopping (worst internet shopping site ever), and Tech & Gadgets (basically content straight from CNET, PC World, among others). They’re just a waste and need to die. Others just need to disappear.
    2. Combine the Windows Live, Live Search, and MSN divisions – A biggie. I think it’s just too redundant to have 3 separate divisions like this. Windows Live and Live Search confuse most people, because the "Live" term is in both and is confusing across Microsoft (ex: Xbox LIVE, Office Live, etc.). It’s just best to put these separated divisions all into one unified place. Again, they’ll need to drop the worst stuff, combine some of the best stuff, make one name, and keep an almost uniform look. I’ve drawn a few of my own screenshot renderings before, and if I can do it, why can’t Microsoft?
    3. New name brand for the combo – The best I can come up with would be: WinLive. Does it sound catchy? WinLive doesn’t sound too bad compared to Google it. Or maybe WinWeb, Live, or something completely made-up (like the way Zune was brought up). Just DO NOT : use the whole word Windows, be more than 2 syllables, sound so corporate (make a trademark if you want, but don’t hideously drop it in a logo), and be too easy to make fun of. I’d be certain that the name brand would be much better if done this way. I’m going to be using the term WinLive for the rest of this blog, to reference the new naming.
    4. Brand new look – Is it too much to ask to make a nice look? Personally, I like the look Live Search has right now, but the way MSN and Windows Live properties look (esp. MSN) is going nowhere. Try making something sleek. Something daring. Something you’d never expect a service+search engine+content combination to look like. Make it smooth and fluid to navigate and browse. All in all, just make it really nice and impressive looking to help make a statement that MS actually has something good. Oh, and no stupid marketing campaigns with dumb shots of smiling people with those goofy grins on their face staring at a computer screen. I want to see how the service/product works, how it would really benefit me, and what’s really unique about it.
    5. Brand new logo – The Windows Live Orb, the MSN butterfly thing, and the Live Search icon, need to be replace with something to represent them all. What I was thinking of was something that was somewhat familiar to the Windows OS logo, yet different, like how the Microsoft Office logo is like. As you can see from the crudely drawn (and photographed!) picture at the top, that’s what I had in mind. 4 pieces of the puzzle (search, services, communications, and software) all being a core experience of WinLive. At least if drawn expertly, would look much better than a Windows logo in a shiny orb.
    6. Rename properties – Even though MS has gone past their super long product naming habits in the past, the names of many of their internet properties are rather sucky. I’d suggest that; Windows Live Hotmail goes to WinLive E-mail (that way WinLive Mail can remain the desktop version), Live Messenger goes to WinLive IM, Windows Live Photo Gallery to WinLive PhotoFix, Windows Live Movie Maker to WinLive MovieFix. Etc. Just simplify it up some more, and avoid super long names. Naming is VERY important, and if it’s too long or just boring sounding, people are less inclined to go for it.
    7. Improve Search Algorithm – Maybe it’s time to realize that computer generated results aren’t always the best. Live Search isn’t awful (far better than Yahoo!) and the UI looks nice, but the results aren’t always the best nor will any other search engine always get it right. So how about doing something radical like letting users rank what results they like best, or adding a URL they think should be included, and ranking down or putting a cross out over links that people don’t like? Being human powered by a large number of users, it’d be hard to drop a "Google bomb" on it. Wikpedia has their own Wikia search, and it’s user-powered. From what I’ve seen, this could be the next big thing. I’ve done a few searches, and they’re pretty darn relevant (along with ad-less and no page flipping). User-powered search is something MS should consider. To make sure though, a few selected users could be chosen to fix up how the results on a certain query are, and everybody else can pick if the results were right or not. If 75%+ majority agree, then it’s settled. If not, it can get reworked. People in the know, can edit on the fly if something major happens like a new site, service, etc.
    8. Making more quality RIA (Rich Internet Applications) – Technically, MS does have some RIA from their online division. Such as: Live Writer, Photo Gallery, Mail, Live Mesh, and Messenger. But in a way, they’re really BORING. I find the UI to be very crude around the edges on Photo Gallery, and Live Messenger has a lot of uselessness bundled with it. I would love to see an application with an overview of status of all your WinLive service. Think of it was Microsoft Max+Windows Live Home. Something nice looking, functional, and a great part of the service. I also want a better PhotoFix, VideoFix, Virtual Earth (desktop), MS Office Lite, and whatever the Live Labs team can come up with. Things to keep in mind : Takes up as small HD space, Silverlight/WPF based, fast, consistent and neat UI theme with WinLive, and does a lot of functions well. Kudos if there’s no ads.
    9. Enhance mobile offerings – Make it easy to access settings on a mobile device. In a way that it works as well as the real desktop offering. It would also be great if MS actually made a better mobile OS and mobile internet browser to access WinLive.  So that it’s super easy to roam around WinLive on a relatively small screen. Instead of making "mobile versions" of a website, the browser should render pages as they actually are the best it can, and be able to zoom in and out smoothly to view the site. Practically all of WinLive should be available ready to use on a mobile device.
    10. Being platform friendly – It shouldn’t be a matter of whether you’re trying to sell a service, or selling your other product. It should just be focused on selling the service as well as possible on other platforms. Such as different browsers like Firefox, Safari, and Opera. Or even if it’s OS X and Linux. WinLive services should definitely be fully-optimized for any browser, and should at least work good enough on another OS.
    11. Pro/Plus/Premium accounts – What Microsoft needs, is a Pro account for all of WinLive services. Not just Hotmail. I could see Pro account containing at least : Hotmail Plus, 20GB SkyDrive storage, NO ads on any WinLive stuff, Full access to OneCare, etc. Maybe for roughly $65 a year? Or $10 a month? Just make WinLive Pro worth it. Without making free services feel sucky.
    12. ONE Team blog – What annoys me a lot is having to keep up with a bunch off other blogs related to Windows Live or Live Search. Sure, I have RSS feeds on some of them, but it’s really a lot of clutter. Some team blogs don’t update or rarely ever update their blog (if it’s on Live Spaces, there’s spam from not being maintained). Honestly, do users need to check up on every single teams’ blogs? One blog that’s well maintained to get some of the latest news from all of WinLive would be great. Employees can contribute whatever posts (as long as it’s useful) about their own team if they want. Just DON’T host it on Live Spaces. Better yet, make http://blog.live.com/ be the official place to get the latest news from the WinLive teams. Of course, employees can still post whatever they want to personally share on MSDN or whatever blogging site, but if all the teams could just post general important news (updates, fixes, new stuff, etc.) in one central location, that would be great.
    13. Better service overview site – Where do users get info. about a Windows Live service? Well there’s http://windowslive.com/ or http://get.live.com/ . Both of which are so cheesy and are just really general about what the service do. A WinLive overview site needs to give a nice detailed overview of what each service or product does. No corny "experience" vibe marketing messages or that kind of nonsense, especially describing what any common service does. It’d be best to differentiate how WinLive does it better or has an exclusive great features other services don’t have (if any). Nice screenshots, good professional video (without the experience marketing vibe, more product and less people with smiles, and full focus on neat stuff people might like), and maybe an emulator. Reviews wouldn’t hurt much either, and a big download button could help. As well as any add-ons or skins and betas, so people don’t need to bother searching for these. http://windowslive.com/ or http://winlive.com/ or whatever the new name is called would be a great site to host all the service/search overviews.
    14. Innovate, do something differentCatching up with other web companies is NOT going to help Microsoft at all. Ballmer or whoever needs to get that through their thick skull. If you want to succeed, then go above the bar. Focus on providing a service to a niche market that’s been relatively untapped. Change the way we commonly view a service and make it feel new and exciting (also known as revolutionizing). Give features that people request, and give them fast. This is a BIG problem Microsoft has trouble with, and it would great to see them focus on this.
    15. Add more services and search – I’d like to see WinLive delve into more services that I find missing from their offerings like : Chatrooms, Groups, browser-based IM, Polls, Personals, RSS reader, web-hosting, etc. More search verticals like Music (Zune Social?), Blog (Technorati?), Books and Academic (redone), and anything else of interest.
    16. ONE login ID – It seems like anytime you need to sign-in with your Live ID, you don’t always get the same page. There’s either Microsoft Passport Network or Windows Live ID. Why not just call them both the exact same thing? They ARE exactly the same thing right? Just with different names. Anything that’s not Windows Live, such as Xbox, Zune.net, MSN, and a few others use the old style Passport ID. What I don’t like about the Passport style is that you can’t store multiple login ID’s, and it looks cruddy. If MSDN could also utilize the Live ID login, then it would be much easier for people to toss in a nice comment. Having to manage just ONE simple login prompt, is much nicer than looking at a bazillion different ones.
    17. Community/Social Network site – I want to see a stronger community/social networking site from MS, than what Live Spaces is. I would love to see MS create a real nice site where users can post/share photos, blog posts, videos, lists, feeds, files to share, status message, personal widgets, contact info., and other things to on a personal page. As well as community aspects such as Networks, Groups/Forums, Chatrooms, Classifieds, Events (public ones in the area), Dating Personals, and maybe even Polls & Surveys. To sum it up, just create one SUPER community site. Give a nice design layout, ease of access to all community aspects, and easy customizability of users’ personal pages. Make it full of quality and design and not be excessively ad-filled like MySpace.
    18. Databases/Indexes – What’s the purpose of the Internet? To find information. A search engine is nice, but it’s only a tool to find the information. How about MS starts getting into the business of creating databases of information to share with the world? I’m hoping that each entry could have possibility of containing : detailed article, years in existence, pictures, videos, audio, specs & components, company/publisher/organization associated with, trivia/notes, statistics, data in a nice graphical display (charts, graphs, etc.), related tags, maps, amount of [insert whatever], dimensions, weight, any number/ID/classification associated with it (ex: ISBN, genus name, etc.), tables to explain differences with separate versions, timeline of major events associated with it, user ratings, reviews, related tags, related/official links, and anything else there could be associated with an entry. So think of this as somewhat like Wikipedia + official info. site + reviews & rating + multimedia all rolled into one. Though databases will be based on popular subjects such as cars, music, movies, books, organisms, computer & gadgets, companies, or anything like that. It’d be a great all-in-one place to get high level info. pertaining to the specific thing you’re looking for. Users have the option to edit the info., but the edit has to get cleared by a specialist running the site. It needs to get verified that it’s true and not fake to keep the relevancy and accuracy of the entries to be right. Again, I’m hoping the site is wonderful looking with a good focus on providing wonderful multimedia to accompany the entry. As well as well designed graphs and charts to give a good look at the data, and a timeline with point relating to major events associated with the entry. Think of it as a super encyclopedia database.
    19. Digital money account – MS should also get into making an electronic money service, or Microsoft’s own version of PayPal. Just more easier to pay stuff online (if accredited sites accept it) and good to use overseas, in real life checkout (using your WinMo phone?) and use it as real money. Almost like a universal digital credit card. Though hopefully it’s super secure.
    20. Microsoft Office Lite – WinLive would be a great place to make a free web & ad-based Office solution. It could be similar to Adobe Buzzword in where you can do both document making AND sharing with contacts who can view/edit/comment. So it’s like combining a web-based Office and Office Live Workspaces together. Though hopefully it has the neat UI richness Adobe Buzzword offers, but with more features and make it just as easy to share content with your friends who can view/edit/comment all in real time.
    21. Professional weblogs sites – Professional weblog sites are pretty popular these days. Sites ranging from tech stuff like Ars Technica, Techcrunch, and Lifehacker, to site of other topics like The Consumerist, Treehugger, Autoblog, and Yahoo! Shine among others are quite popular sources to get news with some pizzazz. Professional blogging sites are different from regular news sources in the sense that posts usually have more opinions from the editor, and maybe jokes and Photoshopped photos are thrown in for some humor. Most times professional blogs just like to retell what news sources say, or have their own personal coverage of an event or item they got their hands on. It’s more social than the typical news source, and it’s fun to read/reply to comments left, you can learn some extra tips, and it’s pretty nice. Microsoft should get into that and host some of their own special blogs on topics from food to shopping all the way to music and movies. There should be some good choice of topics, weekly exclusives, have good enough content and coverage to sift through daily, and as much media to accompany the post. It’d be great if Microsoft could specialize into niche topics like popular ongoing book series (ex: Hardy Boys, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew, etc.), law enforcement (tips for cops, rising topics in crime, etc.), geeky science stuff, comic world, medical, art, etc. Special things like tips, weekly podcasts, good video and picture coverage, rumors, previews, etc. Kinda like a magazine, except digital. MS shouldn’t make a technology/gadget blog at all though. Consider Microsoft is a company that makes technology and gadgets, it would be hard to avoid being biased no matter what editors you hire to cover tech & gadgets. Not to mention you wouldn’t want to tick Gawker Media and Weblogs, Inc., whose top 2 blogs are tech & gadgets oriented : Gizmodo and Engadget. Microsoft wouldn’t want to get negative reviews because they’re competing with two influential tech & gadget weblogs, right?
    22. Virtual 3D World – I’m not talking about Virtual Earth or Live Maps here. I’m talking about an open-ended virtual world where users can roam around, meet other people, and engage in virtual activities. Kinda like Second Life. This virtual world could also be accessible through Xbox consoles, and rival Sony’s upcoming Playstation Home. You can make a realistic 3D avatar and interact with online friends, go around and explore the virtually-created places, and do some activities around. You can own your own home and keep some virtual things in it. The service itself can be free, but there could be advertising somewhere or things like furniture, clothes, bigger homes, could cost a little real money. I’m hoping it’s as nice looking as possible with a simplified UI, and that the possibilities of virtual communities can be established very well. I’m thinking it could be called : Virtual World
    23. More faster and efficient – It always seems like it takes forever for an update to come. The Live Maps team seems to consistently update their service every so often, but the other teams are really slow. Especially Hotmail and Messenger, the top two most used out of Windows Live. Not to mention Spaces. How hard is it to add features users want? That’s what I never liked about Microsoft : They give one big new version (like a UI change, more features, etc.), but they don’t give minor updates during the time period until the next version, unless it’s a security issue. So it could be months or years until a new version comes with any features people want. If it’s not in this one, you’ll have to wait again for the next one. What a bore. I want updates and new features FAST. No need to wait until the next version to give that small update.
    24. Improve minor bits of the experience – Simple things like making sites/software easily keyboard accessible, pretty icons (not BORING icons), fast loading, visual-pleasing aesthetics, nice transitions, less bugs, more activity can be done on current page than on separate pages (less page loading), one login does all, fun stuff (like a completely random service, that’s not useful, but a mere little joke), and a bunch of other nifty things.
    25. NO half-baked projects – Don’t release half-baked projects as betas. Please don’t. Those should be considered alphas. What I mean by half-baked, is that there still tons of bugs, missing promised features, unstable, little team support, and all the signs that a project could fail instantly. There’s been betas like Windows Live for TV, Help Community, and Shopping, where there must have been at least a handful of beta testers (or guinea pigs) and I guess the time they took to volunteer and help with the projects meant nothing to Microsoft. They weren’t compensated, and any work they did is gone. Half-baked projects like that show how MS doesn’t know how to run services or software very well, and doesn’t boost confidence in their online offerings. It’d be better to make a solid version first, and then release it as beta.

    So that’s my super long list of ways that I think could help Microsoft’s online services, instead of the current soggy state it’s in now. Maybe those teams might stumble upon this post, and might do something about it. I can hope, right? Any comments? Just post them.

    Windows Live for TV and MSN WiFi Hotspots are dead

    Man, it seems like I post dying Microsoft properties every day. Well here’s two new ones for you : Windows Live for TV and MSN WiFi Hotspots. Both are dead. I didn’t think either would survive.

                 &    ARE DEAD

    Windows Live for TV looked like it had a sluggish UI and not many people use Spaces to warrant much use on Media Center. There was IMing and Contact Call capabilities but that’s about it. I did like the contact card thing though. Maybe one day, they could just make Live IM fro WMC. It’s already in Xbox 360.

    MSN WiFi Hotspots was ok. Like the name says, it’s a tool to help find WiFi places. It worked. But just like almost many MSN sites, it looked so boring. There were many extras, it only just showed WiFi hotspots (free or paid) on a Virtual Earth map. I don’t remember, but I think you could register a new WiFi place you discover. The service does conveniently redirect you to Jiwire, a much better WiFi-finding service, that has even better tools to help you find a WiFi place, worldwide data, and does a much better implementation of pinpointing these places on a Virtual Earth map. There seems to also be some ads along with the service. The site is much better looking and easy to use. This is what Microsoft should have done.

    It never made sense to drop WiFi Hotspots in the MSN division. A WiFi-finding service belongs on Windows Live, rather than MSN. And Microsoft never really promoted MSN WiFi Hotspots anyway. What a joke.

    Anyways, I hope to see more junk cleared away from Microsoft’s online division. It’s really an embarrassment to the company.

    If you look on Wikipedia, Windows Live WiFi Center actually seemed more like a solid service than what MSN WiFi ever was.

    MobileMe – Apple’s new online service solution ; why it’s neat and why it sucks

    I’d be surprised if you didn’t hear anything about Apple’s WWDC that occurred on Monday. The main news being that there’s a 3G iPhone and a service called MobileMe.

                                                                      

    MobileMe is Apple’s new online service. The way Apple describes it, MobileMe is suppose to help make it easy to access some of your stuff from your desktop (PC or Mac), from a web browser, and from your iPhone. It’s not ready yet, but it will be hosted on the me.com site. Based on the screenshots, MobileMe seems to be really pretty and simple.

             

    I must say, even  though this is Apple’s first attempt at online service, the screenshots really show more of a smooth interface and feel than what Windows Live has ever accomplished. I mean look at Windows Live. It’s a mess compared to MobileMe. Some services look completely different, others have quickly died, Live Search uses a different UI theme, MSN has it’s own jumble of properties, and a lot of confusion. Apple seems to have their service mostly right with the way MobileMe is set up.

    However, I must say that MobileMe is nothing but a blatant overpriced service, that you could already get from Windows Live, Google, and Yahoo! for FREE. Albeit, with advertising and some limitation, but it’s free and does exactly the same thing. Case in point:

    • StorageLive SkyDrive and AOL Xdrive does 5GB for free.
    • Mail – The interface looks VERY much like Yahoo! Mail’s web interface. (There is Quick Reply though, and it’s nice quick way to respond back to an e-mail with just a simple message thread)
    • Address Book – I already love the way Live Contacts is set-up (same way that Yahoo! copied it)
    • Calendar – Same as Google Calendar (though I must add it seems like a blast to use and has extra features)
    • Gallery – Can you say Flickr? Or even Live Spaces’s user photo section? (again, I must say that album set-up and viewing are very neat and simple)
    • iDisk – Sounds a lot like SkyDrive (which does both storage + share)

    So is $99 really that justifiable enough to pay for all this you can get for free? There’s no advertisements and the services are completely integrated, but Microsoft and Yahoo! (Google mobile is kinda meh) have already offered these services as well as access them on a mobile phone for free. Also, me.com sounds rather self-centric (which isn’t surprising considering Apple’s target audience).

    I say that MobileMe is a rip off. Also, if you’d note, the MobileMe logo has a rather very similar "me" as the one in the Windows ME logo.

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    Quite a coincidence, no? Too me, MobileMe is just a rip-off. Just a copycat of Microsoft Exchange. Might be great for just a regular loser (I mean user), but not as great as Microsoft Exchange. Maybe the "me" in the logo really stands for Microsoft Exchange. Heh.

    Also, take a look between MobileMe’s Gallery service compared with Windows Live for TV’s picture gallery:

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    What a copycat! Apple’s been really copying lately it seems.

    It’s just typical Apple gloss and shine with an overpriced fee. I also thought that .Mac at least sounded cooler than MobileMe.

    Here’s a link to the guided tour if you’re interested (need lousy Quicktime and it’s almost 10 minutes) : http://www.apple.com/mobileme/guidedtour/

    I will admit that Apple does a good job on describing their service in the video, compared to the crappy way MS does it with their Windows Live stuff. Plus the photos are way more appealing and fresh, and the person seems to actually speak well (no noticeable mess-ups). It’s really smooth.

    Also Apple’s Keynotes are always interesting to watch. Why? Because the presentation slides are rich with shiny graphics, to-the-point statements, and smooth demos. Microsoft keynotes are noticeably a bore. Microsoft could take notes on a more engaging keynote.

    Hopefully, this will get Microsoft, Yahoo!, and even Google scurrying to deliver better online services. Especially MS.

    Windows Live vs. Live Search vs. MSN

    If some of you didn’t already know, these are three separate divisions of Microsoft’s online service : Windows Live, Live Search, and MSN. Here’s the basic difference:

    Windows Live = Services ; Just services, and that’s it. Thing like e-mail, IM, file storage, community site, etc.

      Live Search = Search ; Just the search engine, and that it. Like Web, Image, News, Video, and other search.

     

    MSN = Content ; Such as articles and topics of interest

    Hopefully, that could help explain what each 3 divisions of Microsoft’s online division does. Personally, I hope to see the all combined one day into one successful internet destination and service. Hopefully, it won’t be sloppily done, but that’s just a dream. Anyways, that should explain the difference if you didn’t already get it.