Part 2: More Confusion…

Yeah, yeah, yeah…so my timeliness is a bit lacking.  I mean well, trust me.  Ok, so on to Part 2, a follow-on to my original post which highlighted some of the basic differences between Apple and MS, as I see them.  This post is all about MS, and why they drive me nuts.  It all comes down to communication or, more appropriately, miscommunication: between MS and its consumer and, from an outsider’s perspective, between the different silos internal to the company itself.  Having no real knowledge of the internal workings of the company I can really only make judgments based upon the fruit, that which an end-user such as myself gathers from the base of the MS tree.  So, off we go on my fruit tour…please keep your hands and legs inside the ride at all times.

1.  Windows and My Media

On my Dell Laptop (running Win7 Beta), my HP Media Center (running Vista Home Premium) and my hodge-podge desktop (running Windows XP Media Center Edition) I have three Microsoft programs to play my music and videos (Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, and the Zune Software), and two that will show me my pictures (Media Center and Live Gallery).  Is the integration/consolidation any different between Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7?  Nope.  Now there’s progress…  So where do you buy your digital music?  iTunes, right?  Does your Mom know what iTunes is?  Probably.  Can you name another online music store that’s worth much of anything?  Did you know that you can buy music in the Zune marketplace…even if you don’t own a Zune?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  Why isn’t there one Microsoft music/video store/player?  Why don’t my Windows Mobile phones have the Zune media player built into them?  (Apparently we’re getting there.  But why so late?) Why doesn’t Zune record my TV…or why don’t they ditch the Zune moniker and make Windows Media Center the cross-platform media player, store, etc.?  (Oh, by the way, did you know that Windows Media Center can hook up to your TV and Cable and record your TV shows like Tivo or your Cable company’s DVR service…except for free?  Didn’t t hink so…  Why? because MS hasn’t done a good job of telling you about that.)

2.  Interoperability

Hotmail…ugh.  I like where Windows Live is going, but there’s such a disconnect between Hotmail (Live Mail), Outlook, Windows Mobile, Mesh, Skydrive, etc.  I get 5GB of storage on Hotmail.  I get 5GB of storage on Mesh.  I get 25GB of storage on Skydrive!  And all for free!  (Did you know that?  Never mind.)  Why isn’t Skydrive just part of Mesh?  Why doesn’t Microsoft just give me 35GB of MS Storage to be used across the board?  My 35GB of pictures and music could be accessible from my Hotmail account and I could attach Powerpoint presentations to my email that came straight from my Mesh account’s Live Desktop.  I could post a blog on my Microsoft Live Spaces Space and pull pictures from my 35GB drive.  And why isn’t Outlook’s functionality spread throughout Mesh, Windows Live Mail, etc?  Why do I have to use things like Remember the Milk and Evernote just to get the functionality out of my WinMo device that it should already have had right out of the box?

3.  Purchasing Points

Microsoft Points.  Zune points.  X-box points.  What?  How do I buy them?  Ok…I guess I can figure that out.  Doesn’t really make a ton of sense, but I can deal.  Ok, so now can I buy points for someone else?  I can’t?  Are you serious?  I have to go to a Circuit City or a Best Buy to buy them a gift card and mail it to them?  That’s just plain dumb.  Why can’t I just go onto the Zune Marketplace (or Media Center Marketplace, or Microsoft Jimmy’s Media Bazaar…whatever you want to call it) and buy you some MS points?  You could use them with your Xbox, Zune or whatever else you wanted to.  Nope…can’t do it.  (Dang…where are the stamps again?)

4. Mapping and Modeling

  Photosynth. Microsoft ICEMapCruncher.  Virtual Earth.  Live Maps.  Man, what a great opportunity to totally blow Google and Apple out of the water.  Check out all of the cool stuff you can do with each of these FREE programs.  Amazing, amazing stuff.  I use each of them extensively at work (I’m a Facilities Manager at a K-12 school and I’ve been doing a lot of campus modeling, mapping, etc, lately) and if I weren’t already bald I would have pulled my hair out long ago.  Why don’t these programs interface? Why do I have to hack my way through things to get them to display the stuff I want them to?  Live Maps is better than Google Maps, in its functionality…not its ease of use.  Virtual Earth is incredible, once you get into the SDK and start messing around with things.  Google Earth, however, is fun…and easy to use.  I can create custom map layers in MapCruncher that will kinda display how I want them to in Live Maps…sorta.  I can sorta get a Live Maps collection to display on a custom webpage…sorta.  Could a Live Maps/VE programmer get it to work?  Absolutely!  That’s not the point…remember with me what Apple does well?  Oh yeah…  My Mom could make a movie and post it to her own website if she wanted to.

I could keep going here… Synctoy, Microsoft Pro Photo, Microsoft HD View, Office Live, Office Accounting just to name a few.  All great…all free.  So many incredible products that if they weren’t built in silos and could just interact I wouldn’t have to constantly hack my way through things…outputting a file from one program…inputting it into another…uploading it to one website…emailing it to another.  Until they figure out how to have all things “Microsoft” look, feel, and talk similar I fear the wonderful products they make will only be enjoyed by those with the know-how and patience to work with them.  And really, what choice do I have?  I love the fact that I can build a computer out of a stack of components and load it up with a bunch of free software put out by Microsoft and the thousands and thousands of software developers out there, and mount it to my motorcycle’s gas tank.  (I even considered a Mac Mini, by the way, but there would have been too many software limitations).  But I think I’m probably in the minority here.  Most people, should they have the money to buy shiny and white, are just going to borrow a line from Billy Joel and tell Microsoft to “Keep it to yourself, it’s my iLife.”

***UPDATE***  So, I saw something about Windows MyPhone a few days back and have been playing around with it since…and I gotta say, this is yet another shining example of Microsoft’s apparent silo development strategy. The concept is a good one…it allows you to mirror files (photos, documents, text messages, contacts, tasks and calendar items) that are located on your phone to a website for archiving, viewing, editing and general safe keeping should you drop your phone in the toilet or let your kid play with it…in the toilet.  So, why do I have a problem with this?  A few reas ons.  1.  I can already do a good portion of this with Windows Live Mesh.  2.  They’re giving me an abysmal 200MB of storage.  3.  Let me take a breath and crack my knuckles…this is the most frustrating part.  Do a quick search on the following and see what you get:  “Windows Mobile OTA sync”.  The results will show you a couple of things…it will show you that Windows Mobile users have long been clamoring for an ability to sync their contacts, tasks and calendars with Outlook and/or Windows Live over the air (OTA, meaning mobile sync whilst one is out and about and not connected to their home computers).  And it will also show you that because of Microsoft’s unwillingness/inability to provide that capability there is a giganto mass of third-party, cumbersome, partial and/or not-free solutions out there to do this for you.  It shows that MS has too long thought of their WinMo devices as tools of the corporate world while ignoring the large (and growing) group of users who purchased a Windows Mobile device to run their own personal lives or small businesses.  “People don’t need OTA sync capabilities because their companies already have Microsoft Exchange Servers and their phones will sync with them.”  Dumb.  So, my excitement at MyPhone’s ability to sync my contacts, calendar items and tasks over the air quickly turned to frustration at MS for not simply completing the obvious loop and having those same aforementioned tasks, calendar items and contacts sync straight into Windows Live Mail and/or Office Live.  ArrgggHHGGGHhhgh!!!!  It can’t be that hard!  Seriously!  If MyPhone did nothing besides sync my calendar, tasks and contacts to my Live Account it would be a total victory.  It doesn’t.

Ok, so that’s off my chest.  Nothing left to do but leave you with yet another piece of inspiring MS ad space I saw on the MyPhone site:

Who makes this phone?  Where can I get one?  Wait…do all Windows Mobile 6.1 devices have 5.0MP cameras built into them?  I’ll have to hurry out to a Microsoft Store and buy one…oh, wait…never mind.

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