Archive for the ‘Microsoft’ Category

“dagen@ifi” – Or “the day at IFI”

October 27, 2006

Yesterday, October 26th, I spent most of the day at the deportment of informatics (IFI) at the University of Oslo, which is where I’m studying for my master’s degree. Every year, the student organizations at IFI organize a day full of events, pizza, games, fun and stands where potential employers can be introduce themselves to the students.

From 12:00 to 18:00 there are lectures on various subjects, and I was so happy with the lectures this year that I decided to write about them here. If you’re a student at the department, you should definitely regret not coming this year!

At 12:15, Accenture opened this year’s lectures with a talk on RFID, which they implemented a trial of at the student festival in Trondheim (UKA) last year. It was used to pay in the bars at the festival, which lasts for a week. This seems to make the subject especially interesting for IT students (beer + technology can’t be anything but good, right? At least if you like beer). I have heard plenty about that RFID implementation before, but the lecture still included some new tidbits, and the delivery (by two relatively high-ranking Accenture people) was fresh and sprinkled with some good jokes.

Objectware continued at 13:15. The title of their lecture was “Modern software engineering”, and the two presenters went through a huge array of cutting-edge software engineering technologies. Maven, Hibernate, WebWork, Spring… and about 10 more. I know most of these, but I think the lecture was a bit bewildering for those who had no prior experience. Still, I think the lecture was a good high-level introduction to the tools software engineers use today, and more importantly, we learned a lot about Objectware’s attitudes towards these tools.

A very brief demo of unit testing was also included. Unfortunately, not enough context was provided to make this demo useful for those who could have benefited from it. More explainations next time, please – or leave the demo out altogether.

Microsoft sent one of their top R&D evangelists in Norway to talk about Windows Vista. He made a good impression, gave a nice overview of operating systems history, and did a good job with fending off the mandatory anti-Microsoft fanboys in the attendance. There was plenty of questions for him to answer, and he easily spent more than his alotted time, but I don’t think that bothered anyone. Some of the topics touched upon were Vista’s lineage, its kernel (mostly unchanged since the old NT kernel of 88-89, if I understood him correctly), the system monitoring tools bundled with Vista (lets you know when the disk drive approaches failure, detects bad memory sticks), Supercache, the technology that learns your program useage patterns and preloads programs into memory so that they start faster, drivers, and much more.

At 15:15, Opera’s product manager for Symbian gave an overview of Opera, the company’s technology, talked about web standards and introduced us to the ACID2 test (which made for a nice demo, where Firefox2, IE7 and Opera9 were compared). The number of platforms were Opera has a commercial presence was emphasised – 16. That is quite a lot. The Nintendo Wii was mentioned; apparently they are working hard to make Opera for Wii as good as possible. The console is launching in the US in about three weeks; the European launch isn’t before December 8th. I’ll get one on launch day and surf the web from the couch. Overall, it was a good talk, with a very amusing widget thrown in…

After four hours of lectures, I decided to have a break, so I missed out on the Geographical Information Systems talk by Geodata.

At 17:15, Norwegian consulting company Bekk had the final lecture of the day, interestingly titled “Agile development in anger”. To be honest, I can’t really recall the angry part returning anywhere in the presentation – not that I missed it. Bekk is a proponent of agile development, and shared their experiences and work methods from a real-world six month project where agile development was used. The lecture was stuffed with good advice that any software developer would find useful, and I reckon this was the best talk of the day. The developer giving the talk had good presentation skills, too. I certainly think Bekk made a good impression on graduate students looking for work.

At six o’clock, everyone ate free pizza, and then I had to go home to finish a report. That means I missed out on the stand-up show, live concert, gaming and partying. Still, even though I only experienced half of it, I think this year’s “dagen@IFI” was really great, and a marked improvement from last year. Well done. Hopefully even more students and employers will show up next year.

The dagen@ifi website can be located at http://dagen.ifi.uio.no.

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The shortest path from you to your friends… on your cell phone, too: Microsoft using social networks to capture the mobile platform

May 8, 2006

I’m not usually in the business of making grand predictions, and I’m not about to make one now. However, something interesting just happened.

1) A younger sibling of one of my friends stated “Win a phone at hello.no!” in her comment field in MSN Messenger. I think she’s 15.

2) The main advert at hello.no shows a Qtek 8300 smartphone – with the MSN logo on the display.

So, what’s the big deal?

Well. Back in the good old days, when I was less than 20 years old and we still used ICQ and IRC (a lot more than we do now), I vividly remember seeing a commercial at the cinema. It was quite brief, and stated: “MSN Messenger. The shortest path from you to your friends!” (loosly translated from Norwegian; “MSN Messenger – den korteste veien mellom deg og vennene dine!”).

We all know what happened. You won’t find many people below the age of 20 who aren’t using Microsoft’s MSN Messenger for instant messaging today.

The Qtek phone above is debuting at a quite attractive price point – 299 NOK (~ 45$), with a total cost including the subscription of about 440$. The fact that it can run MSN Messenger means that a lot of teens will want one. And, obviously, the fact that it runs MSN Messenger means that the operating system on the phone is Windows Mobile.

From now on, young people who like to stay in touch with their friends and send lots of SMSes have a new option – a phone which lets them save money on SMSes while having access to a lot of cool MSN features, like smileys and presence information.

If given the choice between a phone able to run Messenger and one that can’t, most teens will have no problem choosing. This will be a big problem for Nokia, Sony Ericsson and other vendors peddling phones with non-Windows OSes. In the long term, it could give Microsoft a decisive advantage on the cell phone platform – similar to the situation we now have in the desktop market.

The fact that services like instant messaging are now moving from the desktop to the mobile market gives MS a opportunity to turn their monopoly in one market into a monopoly in another. There’s no point in an instant messaging service on your phone if you can’t synchronize it with the one you’re using at your computer, and so a phone with Windows Mobile will be the only realistic option for someone who wants IM on their phone. It’s quite ridiculous. If I was Symbian / Nokia / Sony Ericsson, I would:

  • Fund the development of good MSN Messenger client alternatives for my phone operating system of choice
  • Push the telecoms authorities to recognize the MSN Messenger as a service so important that Microsoft cannot be permitted to own the protocol – it must be made public. This makes it a lot easier to create a competetive MSN network client.

This would remove most of Microsoft’s unfair advantage, I think. But I doubt it will happen soon enough to stop Microsoft from benefitting hugely from the monopoly in instant messaging that they enjoy (which they in turn achieved as a result of the monopoly on the desktop in general). However, it would at least mean that other vendors have a better chance at competing with Microsoft in the long term, both on the desktop and mobile platform.

PS: The situation in instant messaging is of course mirrored in other fields, like media players (Windows Media Player vs other players), web browsers (Internet Explorer vs others), office suites (MS Office vs OpenOffice) etcetera. But I’ll save the big picture for a later post.