Microsoft's Mad Scientists
Well, they're not really
mad, in neither the crazy nor the angry sense.
There are some fairly fascinating projects underway within Microsoft Research,
though. This week, many members of Microsoft's research team from around the
globe have gathered in Redmond for its annual geek-fest of epic proportions,
One of the most out-there presentations was the WorldWide
Telescope (WWT). This is like a planetarium in a PC, so to speak -- your
own personal Star Trek. With the WWT, you can zip around the cosmos, even visiting
(By the way: This telescope is an extension of a project originated by Jim
Gray, the esteemed Microsoft researcher who was lost
at sea just over a year ago. You can find out more about Gray and his projects
family, friends and colleagues, as well as the IEEE Computer Society, ACM and
UC Berkeley are planning a full-day tribute to Gray in May -- more information
on that can be found here.)
There were some other practical, more down-to-Earth applications displayed,
as well. One group of researchers was working on a plug-in
for IE that would let you save search results and share notes across different
locations. Sounds like there might be a little Groove built into that one.
Another researcher, who was local to Redmond, showed off a system of sensors
that he said would be useful for monitoring the heating and cooling systems
for large datacenters.
If you were heading up Microsoft Research, what projects would you choose?
What would you want your teams to accomplish? What do you think their priorities
should be -- looking into the stars or more practical tools? Let me know at
Test Live, Win Prizes
You, too, can win an Xbox, a Zune, or that most coveted of things from Microsoft:
a huge bag of cash. Microsoft is driving interest in testing its Office Live
Workspace with a huge
sweepstakes for all registered beta testers in the U.S.
The grand prize is $100,000. The less-than-grand prizes include hundreds of
Xbox 360s, BlackJack mobile phones, Zunes, travel vouchers, software, hardware
and coffee gift cards. While earlier beta programs for Office Live were limited,
anyone can sign up now. Only U.S. residents can participate in the sweepstakes,
Microsoft will be watching closely to see what testers think of some of the
new features, such as the activity panel (a dashboard that gives you a view
of active workspaces), offline document sharing, e-mail and RSS feed updates.
As cool as Office Live sounds, it still doesn't have full integration and compatibility
with desktop Office. That will likely be its key to the kingdom.
Microsoft is also targeting smaller customers -- 5,000 seats or less -- with
some of its Web-based server products. Companies like some of the smaller divisions
of Coca-Cola and Blockbuster have started testing online
editions of Exchange and SharePoint Server. The amount of users using the
Web-based version could account for a multibillion-dollar business within the
next five years, according to Microsoft executives and industry analysts.
Are you using any Web-based tools? Any plans to do so? Which ones and why?
Log on and let me know at email@example.com.
The online service wars aren't just about new tools and potential acquisitions.
Facebook just scooped
up a senior executive from Google.
Facebook's new chief operating officer is Sheryl Sandberg, who had served as
Google's vice president of global online sales and operations for the past six
years. Sandberg will leave Google on March 24 for her new post at Facebook.
She faces the delicate charge of boosting Facebook's commercial appeal and financial
success without alienating devotees of its fun and funky demeanor.
In published reports about her impending move, Sandberg said she couldn't resist
the chance to help beef-up Facebook and thereby help shape and direct the social
networking craze. This infusion of Sandberg's experience and enthusiasm comes
at a good time for Facebook, as its audience has tripled to 66 million users
in the last year alone. It's now the second-largest social network site, behind
MySpace.com, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
Do you use any of the social networking sites? Does your company let your users
log on to these sites? I don't have a Facebook or a MySpace page, but I do have
firstname.lastname@example.org where you can let
me know what you think.
New Yahoo Content Tool
More proof that operations don't simply grind to a halt when you're in Microsoft's
cross hairs: Earlier this week, Yahoo announced a mobile
content management tool to help mobile users keep their data squared away.
The new tool, called onePlace, uses Web browser-like bookmarks to organize
and connect to online content. With this new tool, you'll be able to assemble
links for related content, like stock prices, Super Bowl scores and ex-girlfriends.
Yahoo plans to roll out the new onePlace service along with its mobile phone
service on eConnect in the second quarter of this year.
How much do you use mobile devices? How do you manage content? There's a flood
of information coming at us from all angles -- what's your strategy for keeping
track of it all? Send me your thoughts at email@example.com.
Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.