Monthly Archives: December 2011

Designer envisions generative Microsoft brand

In contrast to the ever-so-slight tweak of angle on the Microsoft logo late last year, Daniel C. Young, a graphics designer at the Art Center College of Design has imagined what a much more radical Microsoft rebranding could look like.

Although the project appears to be entirely speculative. Unlike the recent HP rebranding exercise which was actually commissioned by HP but not executed upon, this is just Daniel playing with an idea, an interesting one at that – an logo and colors generated purely by algorithms.

Microsoft’s focus and leadership on natural user interfaces seems to be the main source of inspiration for his concept as he explain,

Generative logo and transmedia campaign for Microsoft Reimagined, a creative vision for Microsoft to lead innovation in natural user interface (NUI) computing through research and open collaboration with the art, science, and design communities. The identity system can generate infinite variations and unique color palettes for each of Microsoft’s product line.

Daniel’s portfolio contains a range of mockups demonstrating the applications of the concept in both print and digital. There’s even a nice website mockup of a Kinect information page. For a design concept, this is quite comprehensive and quality work.

No doubts there are many practical issues with this idea, notably it’s generative nature leads to a very ambiguous logo without the wordmark, but it’s worth admiring the effort to think outside the box. Due to the tangible and intangible costs of rebranding for modern corporations, it’s unlikely Microsoft will ever change as radical as this which makes it more fun to dream.

Robbie Bach on “Act II” after Microsoft

At an Microsoft Alumni Foundation event recently, former President of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division, Robbie Bach took to the stage to explain what he has been doing after leaving Microsoft at end of 2010.

Even though the story he tells of his path to discovering the meaning of giving through charity and philanthropy is respectfully important, he made short reflection on his 22 years at the company which included a fun and honest quip about the short-lived product that no one talks about now.

“There was that KIN thing that didn’t turn out so well”. Heh.

On a related note, at the same event Bill and Melinda Gates also spoke about their current philanthropic work with some interesting references back to their time at Microsoft. For example, “the last 1% (of polio) is kind of like that last 1% of bugs in a piece of software that proves to be non-linearly difficult“. Too true.

Microsoft’s private-cloud utopian future: hover chairs, jetboots and flower-caring robots

Compared to the more grounded Productivity Vision videos, these ads for Microsoft’s private cloud solutions are definitely a bit of a stretch in the Utopian sci-fi direction.

Ignoring the obvious consequences of the grandfather paradox implied in these scenarios, it scores perfectly on the checklist of a Utopia. White curvy buildings, check. Flying cars, check. No pollution, check. Synthetic jacket clothing, check. Bright blue aura indicating everything is good and right in the world, check. Oh and of course private cloud, check.

Bill Gates interviews in Australia

I’m both glad and worries Bill Gates still has some time to do interviews while he’s on Christmas holiday in Australia, but the weather in Sydney where he’s staying hasn’t been very Summer-like so I guess he’s just passing time.

In contrast to the Fairfax interview where he was asked whether he would return to Microsoft, here’s a 12-minute video of one he did with ABC’s 7.30 where he focused entirely on his philanthropic work, health issues, energy, carbon pricing (where Australia recently introduced law for this) and even global protests.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S: things that make me jealous and things that don’t

Once in a while I like to dip my toes in unfamiliar waters. Lots have changed since the last real Android device I played with, a HTC G1. It was the first Android phone more than two years ago. To see how Windows Phone’s competition is fairing today, I got my hands on one of the latest 2011 model Androids, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S.

This is the successor to the Xperia Arc from just 6 months ago. The “S” might stand for speed as the only notable differences is the 1.4ghz CPU, over the previous 1.0ghz. Since Androids seems to have a thirst for CPU cycles, this can only be a good thing.

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Analyzing Windows Store tidbits

Here’s just a few interesting and lesser-known tidbits about the Windows Store I found from various Microsoft documentation published today to coincide the announcement event held in San Francisco.

From the “Certification requirements for Windows apps“:

2.4 Your app must do more than open a website or mimic the behavior of a website
Your app must provide a reasonable snap state; it shouldn’t be cut off when snapped. Your app must also support touch, keyboard, and mouse input.

Good to hear websites in a browser control cannot be applications (this is a copy of the 2.10 requirement from Windows Phone). Interesting to see that the snap state, which is a compulsory 320px view, will be tested for layout issues. It also seems to imply keyboard and mouse input support will be compulsory.

3.2 Your app must not stop responding, end unexpectedly, or contain programming errors
Tip Review the Quality data from your Dashboard to become aware of any problems your app might have so that you can correct them quickly.

Looks like Windows Store apps will automatically collect and submit crash exception logs which developers can access through the Windows Store Dashboard. This feature that was recently introduced to Windows Phone Marketplace developers.

3.3 Your app must provide the same user experience on all processor types
If your app has a different user interface or functionality when it runs on different processor types, you must submit a separate app for each processor type and describe the differences in the Description of each app.

If for some reason the application targets or has limitations for different processor types (x86, x64, ARM), it must be clearly distinguished. Whilst this shouldn’t apply for Metro-style apps since WinRT is common across architectures, some desktop applications might run into this issue.

3.5 Your app must fully support touch interactions
Your customers must be able to access all of your app’s functionality using only touch interactions and gestures.

3.7 Your app must not use an interaction gesture in a way that is different from how Windows uses the gesture

These two criteria seem to enforce the touch-first mentality of Windows 8. The first implies every functionality of the application must be discoverable and usable through touch, whilst the second enforces a consistent gesturing system with the OS and other apps.

4.5 Your app must protect customers from unintentional large data transfers over metered networks

When operating over a metered network, your app must offer the customer the option of permitting these transfers without limit or limit audio and video transfers to the following data rates:

  • Video streams, which include download-only and two-way video-chat, must use an adaptive bit-rate technology and limit the transfer rate to no more than 256 Kbps.
  • Audio streams, which include voice over IP (VOIP), must limit the data rate to no more than 64KBps.

When the customer’s computer is connected to a metered network, your app must obtain permission from the customer or wait until it has access to an unrestricted network before it performs any synchronization, upload, or download that requires a total transfer larger than Windows.Networking.Connectivity.DataPlanStatus.MaxTransferSizeInMegabytes.

When the customer’s computer is operating outside of its home network or connected to a metered network while over the data limit, your app must obtain permission from the customer before it performs any data transfer that is larger than 1 megabyte.

This appears to be the most unique criteria of the Windows Store compared to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Not only must the application be conscious of low-bandwidth networks but there will be quantitative quotas to which it must self-enforce. Considering how pervasive internet services are in apps, this will apply to a lot of developers.

From the “App Developer Agreement“:

k. Removal for Release Candidate. On or before the date on which Windows 8 Release Candidate is released, Microsoft may (but is not obligated to) remove any or all apps and content from the pre-release Windows Store, as well as from any devices onto which they may previously have been downloaded or installed.

When comes the Windows 8 Release Candidate (my own guess, Q2-Q3 2012), the Windows Store will get a reset in the ramp-up to general availability.

h. Roaming. Your app must be licensed and technically enabled to support “roaming.” Roaming is a Windows 8 feature that enables users to use your app on up to 5 Windows 8 enabled devices at any one time, unless you identify your app as eligible for distribution by only named OEMs, or on only an ARM or X86 processor. In such case, the app must support roaming to the eligible OEM or processor specific machines. Only the most recently distributed version of your app will be roamed to consumers.

By putting an app on the Windows Store you automatically license each user to use the application up to 5 different Windows 8 devices, unless you have restrictions by OEM or processor types. More on this below.

From the “Windows Store Terms of Use“:

What are my rights for apps I get from the Windows Store? All apps made available through the Windows Store are licensed, not sold, to you. In most cases, that license includes the right to install and use your app on up to five Windows 8 Beta enabled devices simultaneously. If you attempt to install an app on more than five devices, it may be deactivated automatically from one of these devices, so that no more than five instances are activated at any one time.

If users exceed the 5 install limit, the app is automatically deauthorized from presumably the first computer in the list. I like the fact that users don’t have to trawl through where they’ve installed it and manually manage the authorization list.

For comparison, apps through the Apple Store can be installed on an unlimited number of devices.

What happens if I don’t want an app I already acquired? Because the Windows Store services begin immediately when you acquire an app, you do not have the right to cancel your purchase once you get the app. This means there is no withdrawal right or “cooling off” period for your use of the Windows Store, and all charges for apps are non-refundable, except as described in this section. Unless the law in your territory requires a “cooling off” period despite this agreement, you waive any right to a “cooling off” period. You may be entitled to a refund if you attempt to purchase an app from the Windows Store or make an in-app purchase processed by the Windows Store, but the app or purchased content fails to install on your device, or if you purchase an app that we later agree was erroneously described in the Windows Store product description page at the time of purchase.

It sounds like all purchases are final without much of a chance for refund unless you can prove the application fails to install on your device or the content does not match the description. Having said that it does note if local laws enforces a cooling off period, it might be permitted. Interesting to see how this would play out in practice.

In comparison, Apple’s store has a similar refund policy with the exception of Taiwan which has a 7-day cooling off period.