Archive for April, 2007

30
Apr
07

Expression Blend 2 May Preview Available Now!

That’s right at the MIX 07 keynote today not only did we annouce the shipping of Expression Studio but also announced that you can download a preview of Expression Blend 2.

This new preview allows you to start building great media with Silverlight today!

You can get the download from here:

Expression Blend 2 May Preview Download

25
Apr
07

UX Summit

Yes it’s time for the second UX Summit at Microsoft. A few days in Vegas when all the UXes from within Microsoft around the world can share war stories, exchange notes, debate on what’s worked and what hasn’t over our first 10 months of engagement. I’m really looking forward to it.

There’s a great, and varied team working at Microsoft in this area at the moment and it’s important to grab opportunities like this to kick back and chew the fat to enable us to work more effectively as a virtual team.

Can’t wait… and then next week it’s on to MIX!

Don’t forget if you can’t make it to MIX or you wanted to atend but were just too late as it sold out about six weeks ago, you’ll be able to see the sessions online at http://www.visitmix.com

25
Apr
07

People you bump into to…

It always amazes me how many people you bump into while walking round London, often you get stopped by so many people you know it feels like you’re in a small country town of about 50 inhabitants rather than a city with many millions.

It seems Microsoft is a bit like London in this respect.

The other day while I was in the office. I was just leaving a meeting room and who do I almost crash into on the other side of the door – non-other than Pete Barr-Watson (who I’d not seen since Flash on the Beach back in December). I’d first met Pete back in the day when he was at Kerb and Flash was a mere animation tool.

Mmmm… but Pete was wearing an orange name badge which implied he was contractor? Curious!

Later on in the day I caught up with him and it turns out he’s just joined Microsoft and that it was actually his first day! Pete is now a Senior Business Development Manager responsible for driving Silverlight adoption.

This is just GREAT news.

The Expression and Silverlight teams have a buzz about them, much like the early days of Macromedia, and I think this enthusiasm is slowly starting to seep into the outside world and other areas of Microsoft 🙂 

I think being able to attract great people like Pete highlights that the teams are travelling down the right track.

25
Apr
07

Silverlight: A week on

At NAB last week Microsoft announced Silverlight, a cross platfrom, cross browser plug-in for enabling rich media and rich interactive applications. Previously during it’s Community Technology Preview (CTP) Silverlight was known as “WPF/e”.

Looking back to the announcement at NAB I think we really achieved two things. Firstly it stuck a stake in the ground and said – “yes this is real, it is being released, here’s the story so far and here’s an impressive list of partners already commited to the platform.” (MLB, CBS, Brightcove, Universal Music Group, Akamai, BuyDRM, Limelight, Rhozet, Skinkers, Synccast, Telestream, Sonic Solutions, Verisign/Kontiki, Avid/Pinnacle, Eyeblaster, AvenueA | Razorfish, AKQA, Frog, Schematic, and Blitz) and secondly it raises the bar for the quality of video people should expect to recieve via the web.

The broader Silverlight story is going to be shared at the MIX conference in Las Vegas next week (check out the keynote at www.visitmix.com). This splitting of the announcement worked well as it allowed us to concentrate on the video side of Silverlight at NAB, which is what you’d expect for a broadcasting conference 🙂

We focussed in on three areas: the fact that Silverlight provides the best quality video today via a browser (720p HD), the cost of deployment which is considerably lower than other video platforms, the superior tooling available for the windows media video eco-system, and finally when you read the notes carefully that Silverlight provides the usual Windows Media DRM protection if the content provider requests it. I guess that makes four areas 😉

Of course it goes without saying that this all this runs on both Windows and the Mac, Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox.

The quality of the video is simply stunning. One of the demos from NAB uses the trailer for the upcoming Fantastic 4 movie, you can view the trailer here: http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox/fantasticfourriseofthesilversurfer/hd/ . It contains all of the major culprits for tripping up your video codecs, smoke, fire, reflective surfaces, huge variances across the frame from dark to light, fast moving action scenes etc – everything you’d need to really test your system – and it played back flawlessly, both within the browser chrome and full screen. Video has never looked so good 🙂

Not everyone will have the bandwidth needed to recieve HD video via the browser so how to deal with multiple bit rates, files sizes and video versions raises it’s head and that’s one of the areas where having great tooling comes into play. The Expression Suite includes Expression Media Encoder and Sean Alexander has a good post covering 10 typical questions asked about the product: http://www.seanalexander.com/2007/04/19/Top10QuestionsAboutExpressionMediaEncoder.aspx and while we’re considering the encoding of video it’s worth remembering that not only can WMV be encoded up to 15x faster using one of the available hardware accelerators such as the Tarari Accelerator board but this can easily be spread across a server farm.

Buried amongst the annoucements was news of a new media pack due for release for IIS7 which will allow bit rate throttling as well as active streaming (more on this in another post) and the latest version of Windows Server (Codename “Longhorn”) which has up to 2x the scalability in regards streaming when compared to Windows Server 2003, which is roughly 3x over the competition. Even the actual cost of streaming is lower to at around 50% of the total cost of other solutions.

So at first glance was seemed like a simple name change announcement provided quite a lot of meat on the video bone.

04
Apr
07

Bootcamp 1.2 and Vista

So I upgraded a couple of days ago and thought I’d leave it a couple of days beofre I posted to see what issues if any there were. I’m happy to report everything seems good 🙂

So I finally got round to upgrading my Firmware on my MacBook Pro – you need to do that for this version of BootCamp to run and I’m pleased to say this has removed one of the final niggles I had running Vista on my Mac. Sleep and Hibernate. There was an battle going on between the hardware sleep of the MacBook Pro when you close the lid and software sleep/hibernate of Vista – sleep was pretty much useless in earlier releases as you’d nearer always come back to a machine that was red hot and would take several attempts to coax the machine into waking the display again – that has now been resolved.

In terms of drivers – I like having the keyboard backlighting and auto dimming of the screen when ambiant light changes so again I’ve disabled the Apple keyboard drivers and installed the latest release of Input Remapper.

For instructions of how to disable the keyboard drivers in BootCamp 1.2 check out this forum post: http://forum.insanelymac.com/index.php?showtopic=46869

To get the latest Input Remapper install and for a full feature list see Eriks site: http://www.olofsson.info/index.html?inputremapper.html

In terms of getting the drivers there is a handy new option in this release. When you run BootCamp under OSX go to the Utility menu and you can save the driver install package to your desktop. I then put this on a USB key – much quicker than burning a CD 🙂

All in all – this release works like a charm. Bluetooth, Wireless, Apple Remote, Back lighting etc all work as advertised.

As Mark said a few days ago on his blog – this release of BootCamp has made me a happy man – and for me it was worth upgrading just to get rock solid sleep and hibernate 🙂

03
Apr
07

Expression Web and Expression Blend available on MSDN premium

Yes it’s true – you asked – we listened. I’m constantly saying to people tplease feedback to us about feature requests, direction of the products, workflow issues, things you like/dislike etc, we do listen and happily this shows it.

 You can read the full post over on our ukagency blog.

03
Apr
07

Busy, busy, busy…

The title says it all, it’s been a busy time over here as we start lay down some of the foundations for the next couple of years.

In the last two months I’ve met with 10 agencies, we’ve run our first week long accelerator course for Microsoft presentation technologies (WPF, WPFe, Gadgets etc),  I’ve presented at 7 events, held one seminar, met 3 journalists, trained two companies in Blend (one developer led, one designer led) and helped scope the user experience on two separate projects!

Like I said busy, busy, busy!

The level of interest with the community in the UK has been much greater than I expected at this early stage and it seems that people are intregued by what we are bringing to the table.

There are going to be some great things emerging from Microsoft over the next few months and I can’t wait to share them 🙂