A few days ago, on the 28th of June, we were invited over at Microsoft’s Belux headquarters to come see and participate in a product demo for Vista and Office 2007. Nothing new, I hear you say. Indeed, a lot of features were already covered by the Dutch Developer Consultant in the EMEA .NET Platform Evangelism Group, Hans Verbeeck, on the Dev & IT Pro Days event I attended a few months ago. (read the articles here and here). However, since then a lot of updates have been released and recently the second beta has been made public for trial. Tom Mertens and David Boschmans sent out an email to some bloggers to invite them to come have a look at what Microsoft has been up to. They’ve set up a dozen of laptops we could play with to explore the environment of Vista and to see what’s new in Office 2007. A nice move from ‘the’ company.
After Tom’s introduction, David started the presentation. And here’s the twist. To demo just how good things are, David did the entire presentation on a Mac. You read it right. On a bloody Mac. And it didn’t crash or freeze. I was impressed. Not only because it’s not common for Microsoftees to be enthusiastic about Mac, but even more because it’s the ultimate example of compatibility. On a f*cking Mac! Damn. I’m still not over it.
David focused on the upgraded instant search feature, which can be customized for every search engine you like. Then he did a demo of the different options in the file viewer or whatever you call it. We all know about the thumbnail view, which up until now was the largest possible preview of images and various documents in folders (apart from the filmstrip view), but now they’ve added this live preview thing which is pretty great, I think. Yes, I know they already had that on a Mac and yadayada. But I don’t work on a Mac, and now I can have it too. Which is cool. Embrace and hug (or whatever Microsoft’s slogan is).
David also talked about IE7 but I didn’t find anything new there, as far as I can remember. Security is a big issue for Mac users, so Ine (a true Mac-lover) asked if using Vista would make her Mac a haven for viruses. The issue was countered pretty good by Jurgen Van Duvel, stating that IE7 was practically built from zero to what it is, with secured layers, sandbox and a virtual drive to isolate processes that want to write to or alter core Windows files. (I also covered it in the Vista review of the Dev Days). Personally I think all this virus shit is overrated. I’ve been virus-free for over three years. No trojans, no ad or malware. It can all be brought back to 2 issues: a decent scanner and safe surfing behavior. Seriously. If I look around me, to all the people that ask me to take a look at their PC (‘cuz that’s what friends do, right?) I see a lot of things that make me wonder. I have one golden rule for people: ‘if they offer you something you weren’t looking for, just click the red square with the ‘x’. Don’t click ‘Yes’, don’t click ‘No’, just close the offer. Then activate the popup blocker. Add to this rule: scan every 10 days, use AdAware every week. Clean your temp files and you’ll be good.
Here’s the most wonderful part of the evening:
Media Center running on a Mac, as if Vista alone wasn’t enough:
David ran in over-time, so Tom urged him to round it up. He showed some cool features in Powerpoint (the predefined image cropping, easily added effects and text-wrapping) and showed off the ‘blogging from within Word’ option. He also noted the built-in RSS reader for IE7 and the fact you could also read those feeds from within Outlook. OPML can be imported and exported. Which is nice.
Just before dinner, Patrick Viane, the guy with the dirty job at Microsoft, came to tell us some nice stories of things he had encountered. Patrick tracks mainly the bad guys, which means he sends out mystery shoppers to resellers to find out if they’re illegally selling Windows. He explained about the Genuine Advantage features and the logic behind the idea of validating your Windows version. In the BeLux (Belgium/Luxemburg) region, over 1.000.000 users validated their software within weeks after the release of the program. That’s a very good sign.
So far for the ‘official blabla’. It was time to have more beers and enjoy dinner. And what a dinner it was:
After dinner we were invited to play around with the cool Acer -which had a Media Center on it- and the Microsoftees helped us explore the laptops (and the Mac) with the Vista and Office 2007 experience on them. Seriously. Microsoft made a 180° turn in the approach towards bloggers and consumers. I had a great time, once again. Thanks guys!