Gaming is serious business at GAMES12

Aah to be young and in the middle of a bossfight again!


Step into GAMES12 and you would be forgiven for believing you’re in a world far more magical than one Walt Disney himself could ever create – well at least so if you had the slightest interest in video games. The largest video game festival in the region was held on the weekend gone by at DFC in Dubai, and has attracted crowds from all over the GCC. Jointly organized by Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation Division, Red Entertainment Distribution, and Pluto Games (collectively called Gaming Alliance Middle East – GAME. Geddit?) is in its 5th year running and has quickly become the highlight event for the gaming community.

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Yes, Microsoft DOES have a Speed Problem

Scoble asks if Microsoft has a Speed problem. Examples of Microsoft Maps, Spaces and Hotmail are brought in. I couldn’t agree more. While the three products listed above have alternatives which match if not exceed the feature list provided by Microsoft, there are quite a few Microsoft solutions which still dominate in their relative section.

I’m talking about Microsoft Outlook. Even without Exchange it is a powerful and feature-laden piece of software which has no complete alternative. The same is the case for Microsoft Office. Sure there’s Open Office, Zoho and Google Docs but it’s only Word 2007 that gives me a built in reference manager for when I’m writing my essays. Most people may disagree with me but I believe Windows Media Player 11 is excellent as a media player.

All these have something common in them apart from the fact they’re developed by Microsoft. They are all bloated pieces of software. Add a couple of Gigs and browsing through Artists becomes a pain in WMP. having a huge .PST file in outlook slows it down to a crawl and Office in general can takes ages to start.

Microsoft really does need to start making leaner software. Scoble says if you can’t make them fast, I just don’t want to have any part” ; and this is echoed by a lot of users too. Speed has always been of a lot of importance. But a lot more attention is paid to it right now especially since users see a lack of peformance improvement despite multifold increase in hardware.

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WordPress to get some competition with Microsoft’s Oxite

Microsoft’s Mix Online today announced a blogging platform named Oxite. Unlike Microsoft but I’ll live. However what stands out most is that the platform is ‘open source’ and ‘standards compliant’.  This right here could be a game changer.

Most people point out that WordPress already has a huge community around it developing themes and plugins but let’s not forget Microsoft also has an evangelist following of its developers. You may be quick to dismiss the product and say it won’t beat WordPress, and you’re right. However competition doesn’t necessarily mean have the highest market share, it means fight for existing market share. IE is still the browser market leader but does that make Firefox and Opera less competitive? I didn’t think so.

Ed Bott says “This one is worth watching.” and he’s right.

Have a look at the features here.

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In the futile search of an Outlook alternative..

I’ve been using Outlook for about two years now. It has done an excellent job at sorting my life out, whether it’s been keeping up with my calendar appointments, making sure my contact details stay upto date or I always have a copy of my current task list. In addition every mobile phone manufacturer supports synchronisation out of the box so setup seems to be relatively painless.

It’s only after the end of the honeymoon do you realise Outlook’s shortcomings. Like most software built by Microsoft, it’s highly functional. But the functionality comes at the cost of bloat. While most people get used to the sluggish nature, you really realise the difference when you try an alternate solution such as Thunderbird for email. Outlook crawls to its knees when using IMAP, presumably because Microsoft wants to push Exchange usage. However this is inexcusable when a relatively newer software like Thunderbird is lightning fast. Scrolling through contacts, adding calendar appointments do seem to have a considerable lag. All of this on a fairly decent machine (2GHz, 2GB Ram).

It’s a shame Outlook has had no real competition in terms of an alternative that would offer the entire PIM solution. Calendar and Contacts are only basic in Thunderbird when compared to that of Outlook. In addition there is no solution for synchronisation between Nokia and Thunderbird. Such a shame considering Nokia is the world’s largest consumer mobile phone manufacturer.

It’s almost a year since Thunderbird branched out as a seperate company and we’ve seen just two alpha releases of Thunderbird 3, which isn’t exactly impressive as their roadmap suggests we should’ve seen a beta release by Q3 and it’s only two weeks ago that a second alpha was released. However all this is secondary as Thunderbird has miles to cover in order to be a true alternative to Outlook. And until that day arrives, Outlook is king and will continue to rest on it’s laurels for a long time. And like all Microsoft’s products, innovation will only start when some real competition starts to kick in.

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Vista’s weakest link: Apple

Microsoft has had ‘mixed’ success with Windows Vista. I say mixed because even though the newest operating system in the Windows family is the best so far, the company has fallen well short of reaching its target. The ‘credit’ for a large part of this can be given to Apple’s marketing team whose relentless bashing through the Windows v/s Mac ads have been tremendously successful in instilling fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of the average consumer. Websites like PCWorld with their less than neutral coverage of Windows Vista haven’t made things any better. I’m in Mumbai at the moment and I happened to speak to a cousin of mine – whose geekometer clocks just a tad bit higher than the average consumer – and we got talking about Windows Vista and XP. He told me he didn’t really like Vista and preferred XP as an operating system. I asked him why this was the case and he told me he had “heard from someone” that Vista had a lot of problems. I immediately questioned him on whether he had used the OS himself before making the judgement to which he defensively reacted he had, however for less than a day. He had seen a demo machine somewhere and spent a while tinkering with it. His biggest complaint was that he didn’t quite understand it. I told him him to come speak to me when he had given Vista a real chance.

I’ve personally been using Windows Vista since RTM and the number of crashes I’ve had since are less than the number of fingers on my hands, literally. While some early adopters may have been plagued with instability issues – mainly caused because of immature drivers – I have been considerably luckier. And with the arrival of the first Service Pack the system has become as solid as a rock. I keep my laptop on for days altogether and the uptime counter only stops increasing when I restart the machine myself to complete an installation or something of that sort. Add to that many of the simple improvements in user experience – breadcrumb navigation and search to name a few – and you have a brilliant operating system on its hands.

Microsoft has made attempts to lift Vista’s image with the Mojave Experiment which is part of the 300 million dollar budget it has allocated to promotion and advertisement. In my opinion this move is long overdue especially if it has to compete with a company whose strongest asset is its brilliant marketing and PR team. Should Microsoft be able to formulate a marketing strategy / campaign that does indeed cleanup the undeserved Vista mess, it can most certainly see itself winning back the market share it may have lost.

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