The IDC worldwide numbers for the fourth quarter came out last week and Apple came out with their numbers today. If you combine the Apple Mac and iPad units shipped you get this picture…

  Shipments Market Share
HP

17,955,000

18.1%

Apple

11,460,000

11.5%
Dell

11,140,000

11.2%
Acer

9,775,000

9.8%
Lenovo

9,551,000

9.6%
Toshiba

5,347,000

5.4%
Others

34,178,000

34.4%
Total

99,406,000

100.0%

If you take a look at the same numbers from my post last week for 3Q 2010 you’ll find Apple ranked 5th with a 8.6% market share – that’s a pretty nice jump for Apple!

Aside: For those interested in how I generated the numbers…subtract Mac shipment figures from ‘Others’ category and combine with iPad sales to generate the total Apple shipments. If there are any statistic gurus out there who want to correct me on the number crunching, please do so. While this is only a personal interest thing, I’d like it to be as accurate as possible.

With MacOS and iOS you have a somewhat bifurcated Apple story. So taking a look at it from an operating system standpoint and comparing to 3Q 2010…

  3Q Shipments 3Q Market Share 4Q Shipments 4Q Market Share
Windows

85,781,000

91.4%

87,946,000 88.5%
iOS

4,190,000

4.5% 7,330,000 7.4%
MacOS

3,890,000

4.1% 4,130,000 4.2%
Total

93,861,000

100.0%

99,406,000

100.0%

Interesting times, indeed…!



Categories:  | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 10:44:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

Every once in a while a journalist, blogger or analyst will publish an article that crawls under my skin. I've grown weary of hearing how much Microsoft is missing the mark. This commentary seems to have reached a fever pitch in regards to our showing at CES 2011.

Mary Jo Foley in CES: What Microsoft's Ballmer didn't say

“This isn’t a typical keynote write-up. Usually, covering a keynote, I write about what executives say or announce. At the kick-off Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011 keynote by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on January 5, the more interesting bits were what Ballmer didn’t say.”

Nick Eaton in Microsoft at CES: Not much new to talk about

“After juicy rumors gurgled online for days leading up to the event, Microsoft today gave techies little to chew on as they prepared for a weekend of gadgets and nerdery in Las Vegas.”

Jessica Mintz in Microsoft's answer to the iPad is still in pieces

“Instead of unveiling an elegant response to the iPad, Microsoft came to the tech industry's premier gadget show with a collection of exposed computer guts.”

I tweeted my gut response to the Mintz piece and my friend Ed Bott summed it up better than I ever could…

"Oh, man, that is one of the stupidest things I've read all week, in a week filled with stupid."

There seems to be a lack of objectivity at the moment for some reason. As best I can tell, these three articles (and many others not cited here) have some underlying foundations or assumptions which are questionable…

  • The real story is in the things Microsoft does not pick to highlight at the moment.
  • Anything less than a Microsoft branded competitor to anything Apple or Google announces or ships is considered failure.
  • The author lacks an understanding of how Microsoft has intentionally chosen to have a business relationship with partners.

So, how is Microsoft really doing?

I thought I would take a moment share my personal thoughts and key takeaways in response to the CES 2011 Microsoft keynote (video and transcript) taken in the order in which they were presented.

Living Room

Competitors

Microsoft XBox
Sony PlayStation
Nintendo Wii
Apple Apple TV
Set Top Boxes (Blu-ray / Cable / Satellite / TiVO / Google TV)

Facts

  • "...30 million Xbox LIVE members."
  • "...a new member joins Xbox LIVE every two seconds."
  • "Xbox 360 has been the No. 1 selling console every month for the last six months here in the United States."
  • "...sales for the Xbox 360 are now over 50 million units worldwide."
  • "In the first 60 days we sold over 8 million Kinect sensors worldwide."

Key Message

"Your Xbox is becoming the hub of your living room. It is your gaming system, but it's your movie, it's your TV experience, it's a TV show, and it's your sporting event. It's your social interaction all delivered directly to the biggest screen in the house."

My Commentary

Do some quick back-of-the-napkin math around the ecosystem for Microsoft alone (XBox Live memberships, games, consoles and peripherals like Kinect) and you'll quickly find this is a billion dollar plus business and growing. The XBox is becoming an entertainment console, more than just a gaming console, building on the strength of our partnerships with movies, TV, music and sports.

By comparison, Apple is a rounding error in this market with Apple TV. Sales have likely come through the magical and revolutionary price point of $99 to achieve sales of 1 million devices in 2010. It’s really too early to tell about Google TV but the initial reviews aren’t promising. Set top boxes are low powered, commodity items locked in to vertical market silos. I don’t hear much excitement about the non-gaming features of the PlayStation or Wii so they might be stagnating into the one trick ponies of gaming.

Rhetorical Questions

  • What does Apple have to offer consumers in the living room besides Apple TV, or what are they going to do to make Apple TV compelling and competitive?
  • There has been a long line of ‘make the TV smarter' initiatives from scores of companies over the years (including Microsoft). Is Google truly bringing anything new to this space with Google TV or is it an ‘also ran’?

Mobile

Competitors

Microsoft (Windows Phone 7) + Partners
Apple (iPhone)
Google (Android) + Partners

Facts

  • "We launched 9 phones across 60 mobile operators in 30 countries."
  • "...we'll finish the release that will make the Windows Phone available on the Sprint and Verizon networks in the first half of 2011."

Key Message

"We're proud of what the customers are saying about Windows Phone 7, and we're going to continue to invest in it aggressively in the future."

My Commentary

Journalists and analysts have continued to focus on how much market share we lost when the momentum for the smartphone market shifted from enterprise to consumer. That's old news...! It would be great to turn a corner and have a conversation about the future rather than rehashing the past.

Windows Phone 7 is a version 1 product for Microsoft. By comparison the iPhone v1 was 1 phone across 4 mobile operators in 6 countries. Apple is just now addressing non-AT&T networks here in the United States with the fourth generation iPhone. Microsoft announced on day one Windows Phone 7 will be available on Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. Net: I believe Microsoft has demonstrated a strong entry into this market. Watch out Apple -- we compete more effectively when coming from behind -- reference the rise of the XBox in the gaming console market. Note Microsoft is also bringing the success of social gaming in the living room to the mobile space with XBox Live -- an area where Apple currently has no comparable offering.

Rhetorical Questions

  • Can Apple or Google continue to hold their positions in mobile experience with competitive offerings from others and their respective partners given the relatively short refresh cycle (2 years) of opportunities for consumers to choose something different?
  • Will the Google model of OS customization by each handset maker hold up in the long term?

Personal Computer (Desktop, Laptop, Tablet)

Competitors

Microsoft (Windows) + Partners
Apple (Mac and iPad)
Google (Android / Chrome) + Partners

Facts

  • "Windows 7 PCs are the fastest selling PCs in history, selling over 7 copies a second, they now represent more than 20 percent of all the PCs connected to the Internet."
  • "We shipped a new release of Windows Live to over 500 million people around the world."

Key Messages

  • "Windows has always been, and will continue to be, about the breadth of hardware and software applications..."
  • "…define and deliver this next generation of devices to customers through the innovation of our partners."
  • "...Windows PCs will continue to adapt and evolve."

My Commentary

Quite frankly, I’m not sure Mr. Ballmer could have been any clearer about the business model for Microsoft in this space: Breadth, partners, adapt and evolve. Journalists need to understand this at a fundamental level when writing about product announcements and responses to the competitive landscape.

The only way for Apple to radically change the personal computer market and displace Microsoft + partners is for tablets to take significant market share from other form factors (desktop and laptop) in a very short period of time. If we include iPad sales when measuring market share Apple is still relatively low on the worldwide personal computer market share looking at the most recent numbers from Q3 2010. To get an idea of position I took Apple sales figures and combined them with IDC estimates…

Manufacturer Units Market Share
HP 15,766,000 16.8%
Acer 11,648,000 12.4%
Dell 11,136,000 11.9%
Lenovo 9,213,000 9.8%
Apple 8,080,000 8.6%
Asus 4,793,000 5.1%
Toshiba 4,659,000 5.0%
Others 28,566,000 30.4%
Total 93,861,000 100.0%

Without a doubt, the iPad has been a success for Apple. If you exclude iPad sales numbers for the quarter (4.19 million) they are somewhere below Toshiba in market share. That’s a nice jump of more than doubling their personal computer volume. It will be interesting to see what Q4 and beyond looks like but my prediction is Apple will begin to flatten out rather than skyrocket in taking market share if the price point for the iPad v2 stays consistent (i.e., $499+).

There are some who will argue the tablet represents a whole new market segment. From my personal use of the iPad: It's not a laptop replacement...and in order for a tablet to be successful in the long term it must become a laptop replacement. The wild card here is the price of the iPad: Can (will) Apple get it low enough to appeal to the mainstream consumer so it’s an additive rather than replacement purchase?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe tablets will be important in the long term. It’s just very, very early in a never ending game.

Rhetorical Questions

  • Will the tablet factor become the dominant form of computing in the next few years?
  • If so, is the rise of the tablet in the mix of personal computers linear or exponential in growth? (Note: Exponential favors challenger, linear favors incumbent.)
  • Does the tablet play by a different set of refresh cycle rules in comparison to the other form factors of desktop and laptop?

One more thing...

Apple and Steve Jobs is rather famous for the ‘one more thing’ presentation style. The Microsoft CES 2011 keynote has it’s equivalent – usually peppered throughout rather than being at the end. This year was no different so it’s worth noting there were items mentioned in the keynote which are important from a consumer standpoint. These are areas where we are making progress or our competitors are either weaker or non-existent.

  • Office 2010, Office Web (Consumer), Office 365 (Corporate), Office on Windows Phone. (Although not mentioned in the keynote: Office for Mac.) This is a great example of where Microsoft has continued to ‘adapt and evolve’.
  • Bing – It continues to nibble (if ever so slightly) away at Google market share. Apple offers third party web search engines in all of its products as far as I can tell -- their closest match as a revenue generator being iAd.
  • Azure Services -- I guess we could theoretically count Mobile Me here if we really want to stretch the definition of a category. Google is making some inroads here but also has to compete with folks like Amazon Web Services.
  • Surface -- People make jokes about Surface as the typical Microsoft answer to iPad. It's cool to see us innovating here...and some of these things are directly applicable to things like tablets. Apple has touch with up to three fingers -- Microsoft is looking at stuff that makes interacting with devices an extension of your body and voice with natural user interface -- the first output of these investments are products like Kinect and Surface.

Summary

I’ve put together a simple table (alphabetical by company name) which helps us see the competitors for each area and their strategic bets. I believe it’s important to note the growing overlap – e.g., XBox Live present in the living room and mobile.

Company Living Room Mobile Personal Computer
Apple Apple TV iPhone Mac and iPad
Google Google TV Android + Partners Chrome / Android + Partners
Microsoft XBox Windows Phone 7 + Partners Windows + Partners

So, I’ll ask a final rhetorical question…

Who is currently best positioned to lead across all three areas over the long term?



Categories: Apple | AppleTV | CES | Home Theater | Microsoft | XBox 360 | iPad | Google | Comments [11] | # | Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 12:33:13 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

We created Veronicas Radio as a demo for one of the Windows Media Center Mix 06 talks to show off the flexibility of the new UI framework (Media Center Markup Language) we had in the works for Windows Vista. It was eventually cut from the talk because we created the Q sample application (a podcast client) which was much more feature rich.

Little historical fact: The experience is so named because Veronica Law, a Program Manager at the time with the Windows Media Center team requested we create a way to listen to a couple of internet radio stations -- so it was literally "Veronicas' radio" -- and the name stuck.

We made this application available for a short time to those who wanted to install using a command line interface (in other words, not very user friendly). Basically, it's a mash up of a couple of samples we would later publish in the Windows Media Center SDK -- specifically FunHelix.mcml and ObjectModelMediaCenterEnvironmentPlayMediaAudio.mcml in the Windows 7 version if you want to follow along.

A fan of Windows Media Center recently emailed me…

"I have Vista Media Center [upgraded from XP] and have recently been clearing out programs I no longer use. One I did use [and loved the look and style of] was Veronicas Radio.  However, it no longer works.  I think the website which was hosting the associated files was the The Media Center Sandbox pages but the page displayed in the .xml file no longer exists."

In response I dusted off and modified the markup, updated some of the radio stations (including KIRO FM 97.3 to be able to listen to Seattle Sounders FC soccer games), deployed to my web server and created an installer. This applet works for both Windows Vista and Windows 7 and is a web application – the installer only registers the URL with Windows Media Center.

http://retrosight.com/samples/veronicasradio/windowsvista/Setup-en-us.msi

I also remembered a small applet we thought about shipping within the Extras Library for Windows 7 called Time + Date but ultimately cut due to time constraints. This was inspired by the memory of my parents calling a local telephone number (using a rotary phone no less) to get the current time and temperature.

The screen shot shows it running with the Sanskrit language selected in Windows and is another good example of a simple copy+paste from SDK samples (RulesChanged.mcml, TransformersDateTimeTransformer.mcml and ObjectModelMediaCenterBackgroundModes.mcml) to come up with something fairly useful. This applet works with only Windows 7 and like Veronicas Radio is a web application.

http://retrosight.com/samples/timeanddate/windows7/Setup-en-us.msi

In the process of getting these experiences out there I began to remember some of things we wanted to do like the 5.x releases of the SDK back in 2007. It has been nearly a year since I ended my involvement with Windows Media Center so thought it fitting to celebrate that wonderful product and platform by putting a small package of things together for developers which echoes some of those post shipping plans. It’s a sort of curtain call I’m referring to as the ‘Windows Media Center SDK for Windows 7 Addendum’ although it’s not officially from Microsoft.

http://retrosight.com/samples/windowsmediacentersdk/6/Addendum.zip

Included in the zip file is…

  • A couple of new and updated loose MCML samples (mostly to fix up the URLs to the defunct play.mediacentersandbox.com).
  • Source code for the Sample Explorer application you find in the Extras Library after installing the SDK as well as the desktop browsing tool. This is a good example of one approach for creating a testing / automation framework for your own application.
  • Source code for Animation Explorer and Preview Tool Launcher desktop tools. The Preview Tool actually has a pretty robust automation model itself and this source shows you how to take full advantage for your own authoring tools.
  • Templates and source code for the Visual Studio 2008 templates included with the SDK. Follow the instructions in Readme.txt for use with Visual Studio 2010.
  • Web Application Installer Template used to create the installers for the above applets. They are fully compatible with the InstallApplication Method in Windows 7 and can be used to craft installers for http://madeformediacenter.com/m4mc/.
  • You can dig into the readme for more details on these resources.

Enjoy…!



Categories: Media Center Markup Language | Media Center SDK Code Sample | Windows 7 | Windows Media Center | Windows Vista | Comments [1] | # | Posted on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 5:24:38 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

Two of my favorite teams here at Microsoft have teamed up to deliver an exciting new way to explore panoramic photos: Microsoft Research Image Composite Editor and Photosynth. You can now create stitched panoramas in Image Composite Editor (ICE) which can be uploaded to Photosynth to get ‘buttery smooth gigapixel panoramas’ (using Silverlight, my new team -- bonus).

The best part is it’s wickedly simple…

  1. Drag and drop your photos into Image Compositor Editor.
  2. Click the Publish to Photosynth button.

Click on the image below or here to be taken to a gallery of panoramas created with this new feature.

ImageCompositeEditorWithPublishToPhotosynth

Here is my result on the Photosynth site: http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=767dcbda-58fc-4577-9f1c-40a33fe997a0

For the photography buffs here are the details: Image taken near the Rim Village Visitors Center and historic Crater Lake Lodge this image is a composite panorama of 53 images. | Equipment Used: Canon 5D Mark II Camera | Canon EF 24-105mm Lens | Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod | Manfrotto 804RC2 Pan Tilt Head | Canon TC-80N3 Remote Shutter Release. Image Details: ISO = 100 | Aperture = f/18 | Exposure = 1/125 | Focal Length = 24mm.



Categories: 5D Mark II | Canon | Photography | Silverlight | Travel | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Friday, March 19, 2010 5:52:26 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

I’m comfortably settled in to my new office here in building 40 with the Silverlight team and spent my first morning installing Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate Beta 2, the Silverlight 4 Tools and watching a couple of videos from PDC to help with the deep dive ramp up. I enjoyed Microsoft Silverlight 4 Overview (I sit across the hall from Karen), Improving and Extending the Sandbox with Microsoft Silverlight 4 (Joe is my Grandmanager) and Building Line of Business Applications with Microsoft Silverlight 4 (by David Poll). This afternoon I’ve been playing with some of the new ‘stuff’ and thinking about what I might create as a first application (the new drag and drop capabilities, RichTextArea and HTML capabilities are very interesting).

While the designer features in Visual Studio are nice I’m feeling relatively comfortable writing and reading the raw XAML and wiring up events so I’m just going to stick with that approach for a while to learn the nuances of the markup. I’m actually surprised I like hand editing this much -- but I guess all of those years writing Media Center Markup Language (MCML) has me conditioned to doing so!

My focus on the Silverlight team will be media – a fairly broad subject but one I really, really enjoy and is quite deep. It’s now time to begin meeting Silverlight developers so I can understand what you folks would like to see in the platform – leave a comment with your feedback and tell me what you’d like to see in the future, especially if it is in the media realm.



Categories: Career | Silverlight | Comments [3] | # | Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 4:48:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

Last week I took an hour to evaluate the Ask A Question page design over at http://superuser.com. Jeff and the community provided some valuable feedback in the comments on that post as well as this meta discussion. A single hour isn't really enough to do a good job looking at an end to end user experience so I decided to take this weeks Coding Friday to examine the feedback and look more closely at the overall user flow to see if we can improve things to keep the proposed redesign largely intact.

The Related Questions feature is probably one of the most important for this page -- it helps users find answers AND helps to prevent duplicate questions from being asked. In response to my suggestion we move this to the right side bar Jeff responded...

"I don't think we can get away with removing the "How to Ask" entirely -- you assume mightily about the competence of our audiences :) And if we can't get rid of that, that means the sidebar is now unavailable for the related questions."

I agree with Jeff the 'How to Ask' section is important to the audience -- and I think I've got an idea which helps put it front and center while at the same time respecting returning users and preserving the Related Questions side bar.

But before we go there, let's take a look at the overall user progression and note some of the outstanding issues.

SuperUserRedesignPart2CurrentProgression

  1. User navigates to the Ask Question Page.
  2. When user leaves the Title field the Related Questions appear.
  3. User types their question text.
  4. User selects a Related Question.
  5. User selects OK and is navigated to the related question page.
  6. User presses the Back button in their browser to return to their question.
  7. User leaves the Title field.

There are four issues we need to resolve with this user experience…

  1. Whether the user has visited this page once or hundreds of times the 'How to Ask' and 'How to Format' sections are present.
  2. Related Questions between Title and question text pushes the preview below the fold.*
  3. User gets a dialog box and is navigated away from their question when they select a Related Question.
  4. When I return to my question the Related Questions section has disappeared until such time I leave the Title field.

*Note: Even though Jeff thinks the fold is largely irrelevant it is important to consider for the task he originally lamented: Keeping users from posting incorrectly formatted questions. Being able to see the live preview as I type will generally aid in this area -- therefore we should strive to keep the preview above the fold if possible.

And here are some suggestions to address the 4 issues identified above with the end to end user experience.

  • Make 'How to Ask' a dialog which is presented the first X time(s) a user enters this page, where X is 1 to 5.

SuperUserRedesignPart201InitialPageLoad

  • Revise 'How to Format' in the right column with a bounding box to separate from the balance of the page.

SuperUserRedesignPart202InitialAfterHowToDismissed

  • Replace 'How to Format' with the Related Questions when the user leaves the Title field.

SuperUserRedesignPart203AfterTitleCreated

  • Open any Related Question in a new window, preserving my question and Related Questions at all times.



  • Categories:  | Comments [0] | # | Posted on Monday, November 2, 2009 7:41:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)   

    Update: Jeff posted this to the SuperUser.com meta discussion to get feedback – check it out here: http://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/27204/alternative-ask-page-layout.

    I simply love reading Jeff Atwoods codinghorror.com – consistently good. They are having usability issues with the Ask A Question form over at superuser.com and Jeff’s post on the subject has resulted in an astonishing 270+ comment thus far – lots of opinions about what to do with individual pieces and parts to make it better. Unfortunately, none provide much of an all encompassing view of what could be done to make the form better and solve problems. So took my Coding Friday to do a cognitive walkthrough (something us Program Managers do quite often) and see if I could come up with 10 usability suggestions for the superuser.com development team. Spending just a couple of hours doing this for your user experience can reap big usability rewards.

    Of course, since the audience are ninja developers I’ve chosen to make my list zero based.

    Feedback welcome!

    Note: Click on the images to see 100% screenshot.

    SuperUserAskAQuestionFormAnalysisBefore

    0

    Issue: We have redundant titles in the 'Ask Question' non-actionable button and the 'Ask a Question' page title).

    Solution: Get rid of the page title and let the non-actionable button tell the user their location. Use a better color for a non-actionable button -- in this case I grayed out the button -- literally.

    1

    Issue: Jeff says "What we're doing with the trilogy is not exactly rocket surgery. At its core, we run Q&A websites. And the most basic operation of any Q&A website is … asking a question. Something any two year old child knows how to do." and then proceeds to tell the end user exactly how to ask a question. Like great comedy, your user experience shouldn't talk down to your audience.

    Solution: Unless your audience is, in fact, under the age of two, delete altogether and use the space more wisely.

    2

    Issue: The Related Questions (which are really potential answers) and the search box navigates me forward (potentially destroying my work) and results in a dialog box (at least the first time I try to navigate away). The Related Questions experience pushes my question text further down past the fold.

    Solution: The title is actually a search (and is quite a brilliant feature). Delete search from the header, move Related Questions to the right navigation, persist them and let more of them appear as my question text gets longer. Clicking on any of them opens a new window (or an in-page preview). This way I can see if it answers my question or is related (bonus: I can get the Url to embed in my question).

    3

    Issue: The preview is likely to be beneath the fold assuming screen resolution of 1024 x 768 – which is still more common than you might think.

    Solution: Moving the Related Questions over to the right navigation helped as did removing the page title. Moving the label for the Title input field gains us a few more pixels. The more the end user can see the preview the better chance they will have to get things right.

    4

    Issue: Offline writing then copy and paste doesn't work. This is likely where the author of this question started (I did for the purposes of this post).

    Solution: Replace Markdown with a more elegant solution which understands CRLF. Even better, implement a true WYSIWYG editor if possible and avoid the disassociated (and unfriendly) separate preview window altogether. Realizing this may be harder in practice I've left the core editing experience alone recognizing superuser.com (and its peer sites) might have special requirements which necessitate this editor. (Interesing idea: What if I could use Windows Live Writer or something like it to post questions?)

    5

    Issue: Input box for notification which doesn't tell me what to enter -- I can assume email address.

    Solution: You know what they say about assume. Clean it up and be explicit. Use the actual text box space to tell the user what they need to enter -- automatically replacing when they start typing. Same thing with tags, by the way.

    6

    Issue: The 'Ask Your Question' button wording is too complex. If I were to localize the interface (using German because it usually results in the longest strings) 'Ask Your Question' becomes 'Stellen Sie Ihre Frage'. Plus, I have a greyed out button style for an actionable button which seems counterintuitive given all of the other actionable buttons are the color teal.

    Solution: Change to the standard seen around the world: "Submit" (which in German is "Senden") and make the button a standard color (teal) to fit with the rest of the actionable buttons at superuser.com.

    7

    Issue: Hyperlink Hell. Do we really need About and FAQ at the top and the bottom? Not including things I’ve already deleted with suggestions zero through six I count 24 text based hyperlinks on the page.

    Solution: Don't have the same link in two different places. If it's important, put it at the top. If it's not important put it at the bottom. If it’s truly not important, don’t have it. Better yet, put all links either at the top or the bottom -- if bottom, you can get some additional user workspace at the top. Realizing this may not be possible I’ve pretty much left all hyperlinks in place below. Think seriously about what hyperlinks you really need – could your user be better served with putting a bunch of them on the About page, for example.

    8

    Issue: Font hell + visual clutter. We have a combination of fonts (Arial, Consolas, Trebuchet MS at least) at a good number of varying sizes and weights. Plus we have boxes (look at Related Questions and the Markdown editor) which have dissimilar styles and don't line up. Some boxes don’t have borders. Some boxes are solid colors with reversed out text. The net effect is the overall design can't seem to make up its mind.

    Solution: Stick religiously to a defined style. All input boxes should look the same. All section headers should look the same. All hyperlinks should look the same. Make things line up. Logically group items. You can never have too much polish, polish, polish.

    9

    Issue: The formatting reference can't make up its mind on how much information to give and for almost every user will be either too much or not enough. Making the information bigger, bolder (or neon pink) can’t solve this problem.

    Solution: As noted above having a better WYSIWYG editor can solve most of these problems. Giving the user a better chance to see the preview (getting it above the fold) will also help. Given the constraints of this editor it's best to either (a) embed the full formatting reference in this page (at the bottom) for extremely convenient reference or have exactly one link to the formatting reference (as I've done here) – note: should be a new window or in a preview pane so I don’t have to leave my work. Having a preview + confirmation page which appears when the user clicks the Submit asking them 'Do you like the formatting of post' can also help them double check their work and perhaps prompt them to clean things up.

    Here are the results if you follow the suggestions above…

    SuperUserAskAQuestionFormAnalysisAfter



    Categories:  | Comments [3] | # | Posted on Saturday, October 24, 2009 2:39:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

    I finished up fixing the last few bugs for PowerPlaylist 2 for Windows Media Center in Windows 7 and posted the installer and source to http://www.codeplex.com/powerplaylist. PowerPlaylist adds a start menu strip with up to five tiles to Windows Media Center in Windows 7. Each tile represents an audio, slideshow and / or visualization combination which will start when the tile is selected and is highly customizable by the consumer resulting in a highly personalized Windows Media Center experience.

    PowerPlaylist2

    Also included is the PowerPlaylist Editor which makes it really easy to modify the start menu strip name and individual tiles.

    PowerPlaylist2Editor

    Enjoy…!



    Categories: Extras | Windows 7 | Windows Media Center | Comments [4] | # | Posted on Thursday, October 15, 2009 6:14:52 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

    Yes.

    Here’s why…

    • Windows Media Center always shipped that way. Even in the Windows XP Media Center Edition days when it was shipped ‘out of band’ every year it was still as a feature of Windows. Changing to a different development model is harder than most people think and brings more risk than might be necessary. Staying on this path allowed the Windows Media Center team to focus on shipping the next great set of features.
    • The distribution model is a big win both for customers (it’s right there) and the Windows Media Center team (it’s right there). There is the hurdle of hardware (think tuners and remote controls) but shipping standalone raises the hurdle higher. Hurdles, generally speaking, are bad for adoption and user friendliness.
    • I think the community would agree there are awareness problems with Windows Media Center – those would be compounded (multiplied) in a standalone application. Once the consumer becomes aware they can immediately begin using.
    • The engineering task to build as a standalone product could very easily double (perhaps even triple). Windows Media Center relies on a lot of technology built by other teams throughout Microsoft and the Windows organization (three that easily come to mind: Windows Media Player, .NET Framework, Home Group). Generally speaking, you naturally get the ‘latest, greatest stuff’ when you ship simultaneously.
    • Windows Media Center isn’t really all that unique when you think about it – more of an alternative user interface on features already present in Windows. Why force consumers to download / acquire something else?
    • The business model works out this way. Standalone would automatically mean much fewer resources which in turns means much fewer features. Some would argue that might be a good thing – feel free to leave a comment with an opinion. I think the key takeaway here is the resources might force you to cut features beyond what most of the market would consider ‘must have’ and make the overall value proposition much less.

    I’d be interested in your opinion: Do you think it was the correct decision to keep Windows Media Center as a feature of Windows rather than a standalone application?



    Categories: Windows 7 | Windows Media Center | Comments [9] | # | Posted on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 3:58:02 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   

    Edit: I've locked the thread from further comments. The conversation got out of control with such negativity that it ceased to be helpful to those involved or the community.

    Niall Ginsbourg posted this the other day…

    “…unless you’re after some pretty specific (and less than useful) changes offered in the Win7 incarnation of this SDK – my best advice to developers would be to completely give this SDK a miss – and instead revert back to Vista Media Center SDK /along with Vista Dev platform (if you do plan on persisting with Media Center development).”

    Bad advice. I mean really, really bad.

    Windows 7 is generally accepted by the industry as a whole to be much better than Windows Vista. By the time all is said and done it will sell loads more copies and be much more prevalent than Windows Vista. The Windows Media Center platform has quite a few improvements for Media Center Markup Language (MCML) and the Managed Code Object Model which gives you the most seamless and elegant chance to have a great experience.



    Categories: Software Development Kit | Windows 7 | Windows Media Center | Comments [10] | # | Posted on Saturday, August 22, 2009 1:48:39 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)   
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