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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Get your Facebook events on Outlook and your Mobile Device

Let’s face it, Facebook has become a hub of daily activity for a large number of people, including me. This is specially true for university where birthdays and socials are organised over Facebook and if you’re anywhere as obsessed as me about having an organised calendar, you would have noticed the lack of a true solution to have that information automatically imported in your calendar and more importantly mobile device. This is because most mobile phone sync solutions only allow you to sync one calendar to your phone and while you may be able get an internet calendar running in Outlook you can’t update it on your device. I tried copying event information from internet calendar to local calendar but that would mean doing it periodically and it beats the purpose.

Fortunately, there is a, tricky but working, solution to that problem. In this scenario I’m going to use Outlook, Google Calendar and a Nokia E90.

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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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