Monthly Archives: November 2009

Razorfone: a conceptual Windows 7 & WPF-powered multi-touch phone retail experience

If there’s one company that knows how to build great multi-touch experiences, it has to be Razorfish. Over the course of a year now, these guys have been showing off a bunch of groundbreaking interactive retail experiences built on top of multi-touch technologies, prominently but not limited to the Microsoft Surface.

Their latest work, dubbed Razorfone, is a conceptual retail experience for consumers looking to purchase mobile phones, but what makes this stand out from the rest is that it’s actually built on top of Windows 7’s multi-touch support and Windows Presentation Foundation. Although not the first time this combination has been used before but it’s certainly one of the best implementations I’ve seen so far.

Those familiar with multi-touch retail experiences might recall some similarities between this and the AT&T Surface application – especially in the side-by-side comparison demo, but before you call their lawyers, that’s because Razorfish was responsible for that too.

They ought to get these in the Microsoft Stores, minus the iPhone of course.

Internet Explorer 9, a free upgrade for the web

It shocks me as a devoted Firefox user to say this, but Internet Explorer 9 could very well leapfrog the competition in the race of next-generation of web browsers in 2010 thanks to a groundbreaking platform-wide implementation of a hardware-accelerated renderer that I think is quite literally “a free upgrade for the web”.

What makes IE9’s implementation of hardware-acceleration so compelling is that it has major real-world benefits and its completely transparent to both end-user and web developers. Using the new capabilities in Direct2D instead of GDI, IE9 is able to rendering all the visual elements of websites much faster and smoother using the powers of the graphics processing unit (GPU), instead of the CPU. One example of where this functionality really shines is in the Bing Maps demo where continuously panning the map is just as smooth as navigating a map in a 3D strategy game.

During a meeting with IE general manager Dean Hachamovitch, he explained that this feature hasn’t already been implemented (or publically demoed) in other mainstream browsers today is because by no means this is an easy feat to accomplish. At least one issue he pointed out was the fact that there may be other components inside a frame that handles its own rendering, like Adobe Flash for example.

Having already overcome the major implementation issues, Dean was able to confirm this feature does not actually introduce any incompatibility issues besides a subtle difference in the layout of text as fonts are rendered by the more advanced DirectWrite engine.

Essentially, this feature coupled with an already improved and continued investment in web standards and overall browser performance until it is released, IE9 is in great shape to become the browser with the best browsing experience in 2010 when one might expect it to ship as a standalone download.

I may very well make the switch back.

Ribbon Hero, coming to help you rock with the Ribbon

Ribbon Hero

In my casual scavenging of trademark applications at the USPTO, a new trademark filed this week has revealed an interesting new project from Microsoft that aims to help people familiarize themselves with the Ribbon user interface with a game inspired by the “Hero” franchise. No, I’m not kidding.

Trademark serial number 77872539 for “Ribbon Hero” is classified as a “computer software for training users to use business application software; and computer game software for use in computer user training”. In detail, it will…

providing online training in the nature of tutorials and “how to” demonstrations in the field of business application software; educational services, providing training and educational materials in the field of business application software; entertainment in the nature of competitions in the field of business application software user skills; and providing recognition and incentives by the way of awards and contests to demonstrate excellence in the field of business application software user skills.

After some more digging around, it turns out this is actually a project by the Office Labs folks whose privacy policy page reveals this will actually be a Facebook game with competitive scoring.

If you use the Ribbon Hero Facebook application, Microsoft stores your Facebook ID and the ID of your primary Facebook network. When you connect to Facebook, you can choose to share your scores with your friends. This will make your Facebook profile picture and overall score appear in your Facebook friends’ Ribbon Wars leaderboard. In addition, your overall score will be counted towards your primary Facebook network’s average score. Your Facebook friends will be able to click on your profile picture in Ribbon Hero, and then see how many points you have on each challenge.

Will this be a bigger hit than Guitar Hero 3 and Farmville? Only time will tell.

Live from Microsoft PDC09: Keynote 2

It’s day two of the three day Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2009 and keynoting today is Scott Guthrie, Kurt DelBene and Steven Sinofsky where the focus is said to be all things Silverlight, Internet Explorer, Windows and Office.

Join Ed Bott, Mary Jo Foley, Kip Kniskern, Paul Thurrott, Rafael Rivera, Tom Warren and I in our not-too-technical liveblog commentary below. You can also tune in the live video stream and recording after the event at the PDC website.

Disclosure: I am attending PDC09 as a guest of Microsoft Australia.

Live from Microsoft PDC09: Keynote 1

It’s the the first day of Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference 2009 is just getting underway and to kick things off is a keynote by Ray Ozzie – Chief Software Architect & Bob Muglia – President of Server and Tools. The focus of this keynote is believed to be the best thing since sliced bread, cloud computing.

Join Ed Bott, Mary Jo Foley, Kip Kniskern, Paul Thurrott, Rafael Rivera, Tom Warren and I in our always-quirky liveblog commentary below. You can also tune in the live video stream and recording after the event at the PDC website.

Disclosure: I am attending PDC09 as a guest of Microsoft Australia.

The new 2010 online portal enters beta


As the public Microsoft Office 2010 beta approaches, the Office online companion website set to take center stage on Microsoft’s recently acquired has also undergone a radical redesign.

In my opinion, the Office online site has long been under-appreciated by both novice and power-users alike for its vast library of additional content including but not limited to a great selection of high-resolution stock photographs, most likely due to its complexity and corporate-centric feel.

Although still in beta, the new site is already addressing such problems by prominently featuring “images” and “templates” content in a much cleaner and contemporary design.


In particular, the previously cumbersome image library now also features a much more streamlined interface with a handy hover download button. Furthermore, a surprising “Share your images” link in the sidebar indicates it might even be possible for users to contribute to the library with their own content. User-generated content in a productivity tool? Who would have thought!

In the meantime, keep an eye on the site as it’s also where you’ll find download links to the beta when it is rumored to be officially available next week.