Finally Yahoo bings along with Microsoft

A lot has already been written about the Yahoo - Microsoft deal and you don't have to bing a lot to get boat  loads of information on the deal. I don't need to discuss it here. All what interested me was the fact that the deal is for 10 years.... and that is a really, really, really long time. It's actually almost as long as Googles existence and definitely longer than Microsoft's experience in search. In such a long period I of course expect boat loads of innovations.

I like to imagine how search will look like in about 10 years, but that is almost impossible. The objectives that I has a user have and that the search providing companies have are pretty different. The innovations can go into all kind of directions.

1. My goal is not to search for stuff, my goal is to find stuff. Unfortunately I currently need search for that, but it could very easily be that in 10 years time I've other ways to find stuff. Already to day it's often easier to ask the community on Twitter a question and often you get an instant reply. May be search will be crowd sourced instead of just indexing the web.

2. Search providing companies want to sell advertisements and make heaps of money on them. Today providing very targeted advertisements next to search results is a very effective way of doing this. However people are getting smarter, change their behavior and the advertisements will become less valuable in the future. The search providing companies will provide innovative ways to bring targeted  advertisements to me.

It's very likely that with a little more targeted competition for Google there will also be more innovation in search. It will be interesting to see where it's going and weather the innovation will be used to make me find stuff or overload me with add.

Let me know if you have an idea where search will be going.

Plaxo, You Disappoint me!

Last week I suddenly received a notification from Plaxo that their Microsoft Outlook synchronization becomes a Premium feature for EUR 42.95 per year. I was surprised, because it's not very common to suddenly charge for features and the price is significant. This requires me to evaluate other options.

Years ago, long before Plaxo tried to become an aggregator, I became a member of Plaxo. I liked the online address book and calender that could easily be synchronized between different services. It quickly became the hub between my business Exchange infrastructure and private Mac/Google infrastructure. It  all worked flawlessly and I'm sad about the changes.

Soon I need to start paying, a good moment to evaluate the value of the service. I've realized that over time the value of a synchronized address book and calender has become less and less. My iPhone now natively supports my business Exchange and the only thing left is the availability of my calender on my Mac. However since a while now Mac OS-X synchronizes the address book with Google and soon with the release of Snow Leopard also Exchange will be natively supported. This significantly reduces the need to synchronize calenders and address book.

I haven't yet evaluated any alternatives in detail, but I do know that the Plaxo value is NOT worth EUR 42.95 per year. I most likely will cancel my Plaxo membership, because the original reason for joining will be removed. All new features added since I joined haven't excited me at all. FriendFeed is a much better aggregator and LinkedIn is a better way to manage my business network.

Plaxo, I'm sorry... You have disappointed me!

What I expect from Office 2010

Now the initial dust on Microsoft Office 2010 has settled it's a good moment to share what are my expectations. I'm very excited, because it will be a major step forwards for Microsoft Office and enable so many new ways of working. Since Microsoft hardly shares any real information I might be completely off with my expectations, but we will see in, I guess, about a year.

1. I'm only really interested in the Office Web Client. The desktop version has had it's time, it's too big, takes too much time to install and I need a license for every single machine I use. The Web Client fits with my mobile style of working.

2. The web client needs to be fast and work in any browser. This seems to be obvious, but in practice Microsoft still needs to do a lot of work to make all their web properties work correctly on browsers other than Internet Explorer. If the performance of Live Spaces and SkyDrive are an indication to go by, then Microsoft still has some work to do. At least there is good hope, because Bing is good and hopefully a permanent step forwards in the right direction.

3. The web is about embedding, widgets, and mash ups. I expect the Office Web client to come with the capabilities to embed Office documents for viewing, or even better editing, in any website I manage. This would for instance allow 'SlideShare' kind of embed able presentations in enterprise systems.

4. The web is about sharing and collaboration. I expect the Office Web components to really excel in the abilities to share and jointly work on documents and presentations with others. The key reason for using Google Apps today, the collaborative features. This without any doubt of course also includes a full web enabled communicator and/or messenger client.

5. The web is about open API's. I expect the Office Web to come with an API that allows me to manipulate my documents in the cloud.

I can't wait to get more detailed information and get hands on experience.

A Road Trip Experience

Last weekend I spend a few days with my relatives in Finland. Since it's a large and fairly remote country a car is a necessity and I requires a rental car. I used to be a loyal Avis customer for many years, but a few years ago they started to under deliver on the cars advertised. When I rent a Volkswagen or similar I don't want to get a Skoda, Kia or anything alike.

The last few years I use a car rental broker that gives me better deals and allows me to experience more rental companies and different cars. Sofar I've had the best experiences with Hertz and Europcar when it comes to over deliver on the car promise. However both have also nasty habits with additional fees for extra drivers and deposits.

This trip I got a Volkswagen Golf SW that had plenty of room for my carry-on trolley. To my surprise it was a Diesel and by far the most fuel efficient car I've ever driven on similar trips. The Engine was powerful enough to deal with the hills and the occasional passing of slower vehicles. The 6 hour drive went very smooth and probably one of the most relaxed I ever did. However, boring as hell...

Due to the complex travel schedules my girlfriend came from another destination and also had a rental car. She arrived about half an hour later than me and in typical women style mentioned: My car is the same color as yours. I asked which car is it and she replied a Ford Fiesta. How is it? Good, if feels quick and steady on the road. I know what this means coming from her, because she has pretty high standards.

The frivolous Fiesta was a luxury model standing on a nice set of alloy wheels and was just fun to look at. When entering it was like a computer game, welcome to the future. The technical specifications of the car weren't even that spectacular, but it was definitely fun and invited to this (video). I would trade the Golf immediately for the Fiesta, deal with high fuel bills, have a less smooth drive, but have heaps of fun.

May be this is why I don't have a family, I don't want to get banned into the boring people movers.

Ready.Set.7. - Exact and Windows 7

About a month ago I was in Redmond and had a great experience in the Microsoft Studios. Today the video launched and you can find it embedded below. If the video doesn't show up you can also find it here.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Microsoft could have done better with the Ribbon

It took me 3 years, but I finally figured out that the Microsoft Office Ribbon isn't that great after all. I know there have been many discussions around the usability of the ribbon, but I always managed to do my work and didn't take the discussions too serious. There are always pros and cons for every change and I just accepted the progress.

Recently I learned something that changed my mind and now with the launch of Microsoft Office 2010 and the Ribbon popping up everywhere I was inspired to share this with you. First a disclaimer, I mainly use PowerPoint, because for Word and Excel I prefer Google Apps, but this doesn't really affect my opinion. It has nothing to do with the product or the usability but it has to do with screen real estate.

We are all becoming mobile workers and the number of laptops and netbooks is increasing, while desktop sales is slowing down. Today all laptops have wide screen ratio screens, meaning that height versus width ration is changing. In my own behavior I notice that I don't run applications full screen anymore, because lines become to long to read. Many websites fix their width at around 990 pixels, all meaning that we have available real estate in width, but not in height. I've also noticed that people working on desktops more and more start to rotate their screens by 90. I noticed that there is a need for more vertical screen space. This for me is absolutely true and I do anything to optimize this. In Firefox choose small icons, I love Chrome because of the efficient tab layout and I miss the Safari 4 Beta tabs on top. The Ribbon is an absolute nightmare when it comes to optimizing the usable vertical screen space.

How come it took me so long to figure this out? It was only recently that I picked a cheap copy of Microsoft Office for the Mac at the Microsoft company store during an EBC visit. I always was very religious about no Microsoft stuff on my Mac, but I PowerPoint too much... and my Mac is a too nice machine. Immediately after installation I loved it, the usability is so much better than the Windows version. It's clear that it very well written for the Mac. The key difference is the nice toolbox that expands to the sidebar. This leaves much more effective vertical screen space for my great presentation.

I'm now a little disappointed that we will start to find the ribbon everywhere, while Microsoft has the capabilities to create much better alternatives.

Dipity - Social Timeline

A few times before I write about my life stream and visualization of a timeline with LifeBlob. Today I played around a bit with Dipity and you see the result below.

It really like how this visualization in a timeline looks like, and as least as cool is the map visualization.

Go and have a look for yourself... Enjoy

Google Chrome OS - I can't wait

I'm excited about todays news that it's finally true that Google is developing and operating system. I'll give you here the main reasons of my excitement

1. In my 'SkyDrive, I love and hate it' post I wrote about my goal to live in a completely web based world. This is just so much more convenient, because you know all your information is stored in 1 location, accessible from everywhere. I'm convinced that Google will tightly integrate the desktop with the web and Google Apps. I really hope that Microsoft now takes the opportunity to tightly integrate SkyDrive in the Windows Explorer.

2. In October 2008, about a year for the launch of Windows 7 I wrote: Windows 7 - I can't wait. The reason for the excitement was the promise of improved boot times, better performance and overall better responsiveness. Today I know that Windows 7 has made good steps forward, soon I will even be shown in an endorsement video, however it's still not fast enough. This announcement will force Microsoft to further improve on performance.

3. On Windows my default browser is Google Chrome, for the simple reason that it's very fast. Not only the JavaScript engine is fast, but especially the browser startup time is by far the fastest of all browsers. In our fast connected world we want to have information available quickly. It's all about performance.

4. Competition is good. This is not the atomic bomb on Microsoft or Apple as some are writing, but it will force these companies to innovate beyond the small incremental improvements we have seen in recent years.

5. I love the CrunchPad concept. For years I already would like to have a table that boots directly into the browser and removes all the other overhead. The simplicity of things creates extreme value.

So, let the games begin!

Unified Communications for Everyone

I'm a big fan of Unified Communications, because it helps to bridge generations and gives a human touch to machines. Communication is directed towards people and not numbers.

My love for Unified Communications resulted also into a significant research investment into integration possibilities of the Microsoft implementation of Unified Communications into the Exact Product portfolio. You can see some of the results in this video. The research work has paid off and currently presence based on Microsoft Office Communication Serve is implemented into Exact Synergy Enterprise. You can read more about this on the Exact Product Blog. Note: Exact enthousiasts, make sure to follow the Exact Product blog for new and exciting product information, news and tips.

However one of the concerns when working on these solutions is always the complexity of the infrastructure for the customers. At Exact we create great solutions for Small and Medium Businesses that usually are too small for complex and expensive IT infrastructures. We do have a responsibility to our prospects and customers to provide solutions that create significant value without excessively complex IT infrastructures.

In the 'True Value of Software as a Service' I wrote that Software as a Service is the driver of commoditization of IT. With the Microsoft Business Productivity Suite this has become reality, it brings Unified Communication as a Service towards organizations of all sizes without having to worry about complex infrastructures. Of course we are still in the infancy phase with limited functionality, but it's very likely only a matter of time until full fledged Unified Communications will be offered as a Service. Others will start to offer this too, creating advanced commodity services at affordable prices. This is good news for many organizations that do see the value but are worried about the complexity and costs.

Image credit: Julian Bleecker

Another Business Trip

I just returned from a short business trip to Munich. Both the trip and the flight was short, but long enough to finish 'The Inmates are Running the Asylum' that I started on my previous trip. It was a nice read, the issues that Alan Cooper addresses are real and still very actual today. The software industry is slowly starting to mature and it's a useful read when you want to look into further professionalizing the different disciplines in your software development organization. However the book is a bit dated and I personally don't like the 'Get a point across by extreme exaggeration' style of writing.

The trip also reminded me that it's again time for an update on how I'm doing with my New Years resolutions. Well I haven't done great, but I definitely have done better then the previous quarter. I'm not more fit, but I do exercise more, so there is a start. I've been eating healthier and slept more.. spend more time with my girlfriend but still work a lot.... However with so many people loosing their jobs I should be happy that I can work, so it's not really an issue. I will keep you updated on any further progress.

Image credit: Claire Louise

Due to Heat Wave this Blog shows limited activity!

Here in the Netherlands we are currently having a very hot period in the summer. Since this doesn't happen very often and usually doesn't last more than a few days the office buildings aren't equipped very well to deal with the heat.

This is for me personally not very easy to deal with, because I'm just not very heat resistant. I'm constantly asking my self when I catch fire. This basically means that the day time at the office is wasted and not productive at all. I go out for long lunches, or figure out other useless things to do. This wouldn't be much of a problem, because I can't sleep due to the heat anyway and the night is good quiet time to catch up on work. However laziness for doing grocery shopping and tempting outdoors dinners with plenty of beer to cool down really suck the last bit of energy out of me. I'm adapting to the heat, but it's hard and really envy the people who enjoy the heat, stickiness and manage to function.

For this reason I'm not really able to write something useful here. I do regret this, because I do want my blog to be my home base. My reduced activities on Twitter and other communities are also effected, but are less of an issue for my regular readers. But not to be worried, I will resume posting as soon as the weather changes, what very likely here in the Netherlands will be soon.