Thursday, April 03, 2014

My question to Satya Nadella at Build

While I cannot be in San Francisco at the Microsoft Build conference this week, I still managed to virtually attend and ask Satya a question in the keynote.

My question was 'what is the vision for Microsoft?', I mentioned that when I started working with Microsoft over 20 years ago the vision was the bold ambition to put a computer on every desk. I was hoping for an equally bold vision statement from the new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella.

Saya's answer was good, in that I believe it is true. Microsoft is targeted on becoming a significant player in the 'mobile and cloud first' world of technology. However I would say that Microsoft has in many ways already achieved this and is not reaching high enough with this vision. A company like Microsoft has the potential to deliver world changing technology. Technology that fundamentally can shift the way people interact.
Am I satisfied with Satya's answer?
Yes, to the extent that it indicates that Microsoft wants to position itself safely in the space where every large technology business wants to be. It is a low risk answer, which I am sure is considered well by the stock market and shareholders.
At the same time I really wish we could see a company like Microsoft take on the challenge of a far greater aspiration. Very few companies in the world have the ability to achieve the big high risk goals that the world needs in order to move forward and see as much change in the next 30 years as we have seen in the last 30 years. I hope Microsoft can shift it's thinking to pick a bigger goal in the next few years.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

MVP Award

I was excited this morning to receive an email notifying me that I had been re-awarded as a Kinect for Windows Microsoft MVP.
I love the fact that Microsoft appreciates the work that people like myself do to help others use and understand the technology.
I am looking forward to many more years of relationship building with Microsoft and developers around the world.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Second Gen Kinect for Windows

Fellow Kinect for Windows MVP,  Tom Kerkhove, has written up a really great blog post on the second generation Kinect for Windows device.
While a few of us have had access to this device and the development kit for a few months now, it is still a preproduction solution so things might change.
It is clearly a big step forward for the device and the capabilities of the new device will bring the reality of vision based technology into more peoples lives.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Face Tracking with Kinect for Windows

The Kinect for Windows development team in Redmond have just posted an excellent article on Face Tracking, along with a bunch of code samples for managed code developers.

MSDN has had an article on Face Tracking for a while now. The code is all native C++, which possibly makes it appear a bit harder than many developers would like.

Providing another managed code introduction can only be a good thing to help .NET developers get started with building a face tracking application with Kinect for Windows.

Just to be clear this is about face tracking and not face recognition.
Face tracking will enable an application to identify the direction a head is facing and match some facial expressions, such as happy (turned up mouth) or sad (lips turned downwards).

Read the article here
Mysteries of Kinect for Windows Face Tracking output explained

Monday, December 30, 2013

Leading Difficult Conversations

We all need to have conversations, every so often, that can make us feel uncomfortable. Yet without these conversations it is hard to maintain interactions with colleagues and business partners.
Learning how to have these difficult conversations is a skill.
A good friend, Lydia Kan, is leading a workshop in Brisbane, QLD in a couple of weeks to help you understand better how to approach these conversations.
If you have the time and are in Brisbane I recommend you attend Lydia's workshop.

Find out more and sign up here

Friday, December 20, 2013

Kinect for Windows expands its developer preview program

The new Kinect for Windows 2 device that I received as part of the alpha kit last month is a big step forward form the previous Kinect for Windows device. The resolution is far better and the opportunity for multiple user applications seems to be better. My favourite feature is the possibly the lest expected, the fact that the device has a standard thread for mounting on a tripod.
Kinect for Windows 2 device

The Kinect team is now expanding the availability of these device in the new year and accepting submissions from developers interested in trialling the new device.
The announcement is on the Kinect for Windows team blog here

If you are interested you will need to get your submission in before the end of January 2014.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tablet PC to Surface

If you know me then you know I have been a fan of the Tablet computing form factor for over 10 years. I started working with tablets in in 2001 and have built software for these devices for over 12 years.
I wrote a book to help developers to get started building software for the Tablet PC in 2002. It received a lot of attention in the little community of tablet PC enthusiasts that existed at the time and I ended up working with the Tablet PC team in Redmond for a few years.
This is the first convertible Tablet PC I owned, the Acer C100. It was a great little device and I wrote Getting Started with Tablet PC Development on this device. I also wrote most of eXtreme .NET using this Tablet.

Once I started working with the Tablet PC team at Microsoft I was able to get my hands on the Toshiba M200, pictured below. This was a amazing convertible table for its time and provided the main platform for my work with Tablet PCs for the first few months of my work.

I then discovered the joy of a pure slate tablet. The Sahara tablet from TabletKiosk that I next acquired was my primary mobile device for a couple of years. I still have it on my desk in my home office and it works great. It was a beautiful writing experience in a form factor that just made a lot of sense. The screen is approximately US letter (or A4) sized and applications such as OneNote are an absolute joy to use with the rich inking capability of the active stylus.

Then the hiatus began, In 2006 I got involved in other projects that required some different thinking, and while my heart was still longing for an amazing tablet experience, the hardware didn't keep up with what I needed to achieve on a tablet. My trusty Sahara kept going and I did get a Toshiba M400 that I used for a while. I found the combination of smartphone and laptop was doing enough for me. Smartphones had got smarter and acted as better mobile devices than a tablet and the laptop was my machine for getting 'real' work done.

Then in 2010 Apple unveiled the iPad, I saw the potential but was disappointed by the lack of stylus support.I still bought one and started filling in the gaps for some of the missing functionality I wanted.

The iPad is still really a companion device. It is not my full-time work device. Yet is is clearly possible for a tablet to be your full time work device. The new Sahara Tablet PC from TabletKiosk is an amazingly powerful PC, supporting touch and active stylus. This is more than powerful enough to do everything you can do on PC and work as a tablet. The screen is a decent size and it supports an external monitor for when you are at your desk.

I am sure you a now thinking about the new Surface product from Microsoft.
I bought the first generation Surface Pro device and found it painful to use, the screen is just a bit too small. I love the active stylus support but find that while Windows 8 has had the shell redesigned for touch I still need to spend a lot of time in Outlook, Excel and Word and these applications on the desktop are far from touch optimized. I am also not a fan of the keyboard.
In my opinion if a tablet requires a keyboard to make it useful it is not in fact a tablet at all, but some type of laptop.

Saying all that, I purchased a Surface 2 device earlier this week and have been using it for the last few days while attending meetings. It is light and much faster than the Surface RT. I also got a keyboard for the Surface 2, but I have thrown it away. I want a tablet, not a laptop. The keyboard experience is useless, and if I wanted to use a keyboard I would take a laptop to the meeting.

One of the main differences of using a tablet in a meeting vs. a laptop is the fact I can lay it down flat on the table. It then doesn't act as a physical barrier between me and my colleagues in the meeting. A slate laid down flat on the table will change the social dynamics of the meeting. It is clear to other people you are not hiding behind your screen but openly engaged in the meeting. This means I have not yet even used the kick stand on the Surface 2. I think it is possible I never will.

I will try to keep you updated with how I get on with the Surface 2. Right now I can see myself using it in certain circumstances and it will have a place in my work life for a while.