First Look at Windows 8 Pro on a Desktop PC

I got my copy of Windows 8 today thanks to Amazon’s super fast 2-day shipping and I’ve just spent the last 2 hours upgrading my Windows 7 PC and playing with Windows 8. So far, I’ve been able to sort out my tiled Start menu, install a few apps and learn how to do some new things as well as re-learn how to do some old things.


Windows 8 packagingAll you get is a fancy little box that opens up to reveal two dvd discs, a welcome card and a product key card. The two discs are the 32-bit and 64-bit versions and they use the same product key. Like Windows 7, I’m pretty sure you can use this one product key to install one copy of each. We’ll find out later when I go to upgrade my Windows partition of my Macbook.

The key card obviously holds your Windows license and unlike Windows 7, you cannot install Windows 8 without it. Before, you could skip the product key and use Windows for 30 days. Now you can’t continue the install without it.

Per request, here are two more photos from the box contents:
Windows 8 Pro disc and product key cardWindows 8 Pro welcome card

Upgrade Process

Windows 8 upgradeThe upgrade process was fairly straight forward. I popped in the Windows 8 64-bit disc and it asked me what I wanted to do. I could have either upgraded the OS while leaving my apps, settings and files and change nothing or I could have started with a fresh install. I chose to keep everything.

It then prompted me with an alert of sorts telling me that I had three things that needed to be uninstalled because the software wasn’t compatible with Windows 8. One of the items was my Trend Micro Antivirus software which I didn’t care about too much because the new 2013 version works just fine. Another one of the items was surprisingly my motherboard’s USB 3.0 drivers. But I uninstalled it anyway just to make Windows happy and of course once the upgrade was complete and the computer restarted, there was a new USB 3.0 driver in place…this time Microsoft’s version.

So the whole process took place while I watched an episode of The Office on my Macbook which means, including the initial uninstalls (and subsequent restart), I was able to upgrade my Windows 7 PC to Windows 8 Pro in about 30 minutes. This timeframe may have been longer than most considering I had a great deal of programs, settings and files that Windows had to skate around to get working.

After the system came back up, I was prompted with an initial setup procedure that asked me some basic questions about how to configure my computer and a new feature that I actually really liked was whether I wanted to log into my computer using a local account or my Windows Live id. I’ll go over that in a bit.

Overall, the upgrade was painless and very simple. Even with a few roadblocks, everything went in smoothly and there was no loss of data or any programs except those that had to be removed before upgrading.

New Features

I don’t feel like getting into the new tile system that everyone is either praising or slamming, so let’s skip that and go right into the first few new things I noticed. As I mentioned before, one of the first new features was the ability to log into Windows with either a local user account or a Windows Live account. Using the latter allows you to retain your settings and app information when logging into another Windows 8 computer. This will do wonders for the IT department at your office if this feature turns into something that will replace roaming profiles!

Anyway, here are just a few others…

  • Media Center – Media Center is available as an add-on to Windows 8 Pro and it normally comes with the Windows 8 Pro Pack which is $69.99, but Microsoft is offering it for free until January 31, 2013 from the Windows website. I haven’t installed it yet because I am still waiting for my product key, but I’ll update this section when I do.
  • Windows Store

  • Windows Store – Just like you’d expect from Apple on your iPhone or Google Play on your Android, the Windows store provides you with a gateway to all the great Windows 8 apps. Imagine playing Angry Birds on your desktop with your mouse! I did last night and it was amazing. You can also replace simple tasks you used to complete on your internet browser with actual apps. For example, you can install apps for eBay, Wikipedia, Netflix and Hulu just to name a few. These new apps integrate better with your system rather than having to rely on a browser to work.
  • Solitaire – I just had to mention this!! As a Windows user since version 3.1 (before 95), I’ve very excited to see that Solitaire is once again in Windows 8. This time however, they have blown this thing up. First, you not only get 5 variations of the game, but it now links to your Xbox Live account so you can earn achievements and compete in daily challenges.
  • Charms – When you place your mouse in the upper right corner, these little icons pop out and allow you to search, share and configure settings. The cool thing about this is that the buttons are applicable to the app you have loaded. So clicking on settings when the desktop is up will give you access to the Control Panel and doing so in your favorite app would give you that app’s settings.

I will provide a follow-up on the features list when I’ve had more time to play around with everything in detail.

My Thoughts

Everyone who hates the “metro” look really needs to play with it. They need to configure it to their tastes and make a real go at it before knocking it. I remember when I originally played with the preview versions, I didn’t care for it too much, but now that I see everything connected and working seamlessly together it’s a whole new experience.

I’ll admit this will take some getting used to but for those of you out there that are scared your classic Windows is gone, I assure you it’s not. Tiles is just a new Start menu and just like anything new in life, takes a little getting used to. Is it for everybody? Of course not. But trust me when I say it sure does make things look cleaner and more organized.

I recommend Windows 8 Pro and can’t wait until I can get it installed on a touch device.

Windows 8 versus Windows 8 RT

I’m writing this mainly for a friend, but after looking into the subject, I figured my site could use a bit of information on the matter as well. Windows 8 releases tomorrow and as expected, it comes in multiple flavors depending on your specific needs. There are some key differences between them, so listen up!

Windows 8 EditionsFirst, let’s look at the list of Windows 8 editions:

  • Windows 8 – Available in 32 and 64 bit versions, Windows 8 is the most basic edition you can get. It features all of the most essential requirements a typical home user would need like live tiles, Windows Store, Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft account integration, the standard desktop, etc. Windows 8 is the direct replacement of Windows 7 Home Basic.
  • Windows 8 Pro – Windows 8 Pro also comes in both 32 and 64 bit versions and includes everything Windows 8 has, but it adds more business-like features such as Remote Desktop, Windows server domain compatibility, encrypted file system, Hyper-V, Virtual Hard Disk booting, Group Policy and BitLocker. Media Center can be added to Windows 8 Pro as a free add-on. Windows 8 Pro is a direct replacement of Windows 7 Pro and Ultimate editions.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise – This edition will be much harder to find as it’s only intended for high-end corporate networks that require more than what Pro can do. Enterprise includes everything that Pro has (minus Media Center capabilities) and adds features like Windows To Go, DirectAccess and BranchCache.
  • Windows 8 RT – Windows 8 RT will only be available on ARM devices such as tablets and other mobile devices. RT features touch-optimized apps such as Office 2013 RT which ships free with Widows 8 RT.

As you can see by this list, Windows RT is considered to be the mobile version of Windows 8. The most notable difference will be how you get apps. On a typical Windows PC, to get software, you can download it or install it from a disc or local network share. On a Windows RT device, the only way to get software is to buy it from the Windows Store. This is because Windows 8 RT only has a partial desktop.

Let’s compare this setup to Apple. Apple makes computers and tablets. On their computers, they offer a full operating system called OSX (current version is 10.8.2, codenamed Mountain Lion), while on their tablets, they offer a mobile operating system called iOS (current version is 6.0.1). There are many things that can’t be done in iOS as compared to OSX.

So, if you’re planning on getting the Microsoft Surface, consider your choice. If you’re looking to have to a direct copy of your Windows 8 desktop with all the same features and the ability to install software not from the Windows Store, you should wait until the next version of Surface comes out (hopefully soon). But take into consideration that while RT comes with a free version of Office 2013 RT, the regular version of Office 2013 will cost you.

My Thoughts

I hope I like Windows 8 after I upgrade my desktop tomorrow. If I do, then I might consider buying a Microsoft Surface with full blown Windows 8 in order to have a device that syncs everything with my desktop. On the other hand, if Windows 8 doesn’t do much for me in the way of syncing my life as it is, I might just stick with Android on a new Nexus device although I’m hearing about a program called BlueStacks that allows Android apps to run on Windows 8!! This month has so many new things coming out…the choices are endless!

Then again, there’s always the $8,000 touch-screen table that has a computer in it.

Pre-order Windows 8 from Amazon and get $30 store credit

As we all know, Windows 8 is set to be released on October 26th and Amazon has the best price so far. Of course they’re adding to this by offering a free $30 store credit that can be used on any item Amazon ships!! This does mean that you can’t order from Amazon customer’s stores, but who cares.

I checked around and here are some of your other choices:

Windows 8 from AmazonAmazon still offers the best deal given the extra $30 store credit as well as the pre-order price guarantee which protects you from over-paying. In other words, if you order it at today’s price and the price goes lower before it ships, you get the new price. The best part is that it can never go back up again.


Just like in the past, Microsoft feels the need to release multiple flavors of the same OS to market the various demographics that will use it, so this time around, we’re looking at four different versions.

  1. Windows 8 – This is the most basic version and is the equivalent of a home edition of Windows.
  2. Windows 8 Pro – The direct upgrade from Windows 7 Pro and Ultimate which includes additional features such as domain compatibility, remote desktop, Windows Media Center, etc.
  3. Windows 8 Enterprise – Mostly the same as Pro (without Media Center), but comes with added features that would only be useful for IT professionals running large network environments.
  4. Windows RT – This is the “mobile” version you’ll find on the lower end Surface tablets and other ARM-based devices.

A more detailed look at the different versions can be found at Wikipedia.

I’ve used the beta version of Windows 8 and I have to say, I really liked it. There’s some debate in the PC world whether Windows 8 will be a flop or not because of the new tile system they’re going with, but I can assure you that the tile system is more of a skin than anything else. In fact, if you prefer the standard desktop, you can bring that back with no issues.

Only time will tell how Windows 8 fairs in the marketplace and I plan to do a full write-up once I get my copy installed.

Apple and Microsoft Teaming Up Against Google?

Nortel logoWhether this is the reality or not, Google seems to think it’s happening. When bankrupt Nortel decided to sell its approximately 6,000 patents and patent applications covering a broad range of wired, wireless and digital communication technologies back in April, the plan was to offer a stalking horse deal to Google for a cash purchase price of $900 million. The intention with this was to place a starting value on the patents for inclusion in a public auction with Google in position to bid on the final package.

What happened was that bidding finally raised the price to $4.5 billion! These 6,000 patents seemingly cover the entire spectrum of mobile computing and telecommunications which would put any buyer at the helm of the technology industry. This “buyer” ended up being a consortium of tech companies that banded together in order to share the patents, thus eliminating possible costly licensing fees. This consortium is comprised of Microsoft, Apple, Ericsson, EMC, Sony and RIM. Originally, Google was invited by Microsoft to be a part of it as well, but Google declined.

Novell logoAdding into that mix, another set of tech patents, this time from Novell was cleared for sale to a slightly different group of companies: Microsoft, Oracle Inc., Apple and EMC Corp. This sale contained 882 patents. All of these patents were also made available to Google at some point in the last 2 months, but Google again declined to be a part of it.

As a result, Google is now claiming that Microsoft and Apple have teamed up together in an effort to bring down the Android market. The way this works is if Google is making phones that use technologies covered by any of the aforementioned patents, they would be subjected to licensing fees controlled by Microsoft, Apple and the rest of the bunch. Google claims that this would give their competitors an unfair advantage in the smartphone arena.

While this is very true, can Google really complain? Considering they had the chance to partake in these deals and the fact that Microsoft invited them to be part of the consortium, I can’t really say I side with Google on this! However, Google is already paying Microsoft licensing fees on Android phones for patents they own, so it’s very possible that Microsoft would use this as a way to bring down Android. In fact, Microsoft just recently asked Samsung to fork over $15 per Android phone they make—presumably due to the fact that Samsung also makes Windows Phone and Microsoft probably wishes they didn’t deal with Android.

It’s estimated that there are some 250,000 patents involved in making an average smartphone so it seems no matter who owns what patents, the only real losers in this case will be the customers. Afterall, we’re the ones having to pay upwards of $600 to own the latest tech gear. This price of course is not including any subsidized cost of buying a phone with a contract. One possibility for lowering prices would be the ownership of a majority of patents that go into making a smartphone. In a perfect world, there’d be no licensing fees and the phones could become dirt cheap.

My New Windows Phone

I’ve been using iPhone for over four years now and since everyone’s been egging me on to switch to an Android-based device, I decided to run the gamut of different devices out there firsthand to see which one I liked best. I tried Android 2.1 on a Sony Ericsson and while I wasn’t too impressed with the device itself, the OS was pretty clean. However, my first and only real complaint about Android was that it was too similar to iPhone and to be honest with you, I’m kind of bored of iOS.

Windows Phone 7

I’ve had some really bad experiences with Windows Mobile back in the day and I hated using it. It wasn’t so bad on the old PDAs we all used to carry around, but it needed help. First of all, Microsoft has always been attached to its Windows operating system and for good reason—besides Office, it’s really the only thing they have worth mentioning. The problem is that they have been so attached to it that they felt the need to basically put Windows on everything they could get their hands on. From PDAs to cell phones, stripped down thin-client desktops to point-of-sale cash machines. What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, Windows doesn’t look good or play right with every device. You don’t see Apple putting OS X on the iPhone do you?

Anyway, let’s get to the point. Microsoft has nailed it with Windows 7 in the PC world. They practically fixed everything that was wrong with Vista and added more features to make it really stand out against the competition which at this point is really only OS X and Microsoft’s own Windows XP. When I heard about the new Windows Phone, I didn’t really think much of it because I was already waist-deep into iPhone 4 and iOS. It wasn’t until I heard about the launch of Windows Phone 7 Mango (version 7.5) that I really started paying attention.

Android users have long complained about how simple the other operating systems are to use and how little customizing you can do to them, but those very reasons are why I loved iOS and now Windows Phone 7. Personally, I would never use my phone as my “haxor” device nor would I ever need to install a thousands apps that all do the same thing. To me, my phone is a phone. I use it to text, make calls, check email and from time to time, use the Internet and a play a game or two. Windows Phone not only does this, but it does it very well.

It’s sleek, it moves as fluid as the iPhone (something Android can’t seem to get down), it’s super fast and it’s intuitive. One quick comparison between Windows, Android and iOS is that Windows Phone 7 seems to integrate apps much better and it’ll get even better this fall with version 7.5. Android and iOS both require you to switch from app to app in order to complete a few related tasks. On Windows Phone for example if you want to see if your friend is on Facebook, Windows Live or just send an email or text, simply open the People tile and perform all these functions without ever leaving. You can also pin a specific contact right to the main menu for even easier access.

Rather than try to explain everything, I found a 2-part video showing off what Windows Phone 7 can do. Please note that the videos do not showcase what version 7.5 will be capable of.

Part 1:


Part 2:


My two cents

While it took me a little bit to really like this OS, it’s starting to grow on me super fast! Of course, there are always those little nuances that you have to get used to or find workarounds, but after that, it’s all good. A great example of this is on iPhone, if you start typing a text and then for whatever reason, you need to jump out and go into another app, your text message is right there when you come back. Windows Phone 7 doesn’t allow this. Once you leave, you’re basically starting over. However, this will likely be fixed in 7.5 due to the addition of multitasking. I don’t really feel like reviewing this phone just yet because 7.5 is going to add a whole lot of new features that will really bring this phone into a more legitimate comparison between iOS and Android. In the meantime, I highly recommend Windows Phone 7 to anyone looking for something different, exciting and cool. By the way, I use Windows Phone 7 on a Samsung Focus.

Microsoft Zune (Software) Review

As of this writing, the latest version is 4.7.1404.0.

For those of you who know me or have at least been following my blog for some time know very well that I’ve been an Apple user ever since purchasing my aluminum MacBook back in 2008. As a result, I’ve been using OS X, iTunes, iPhone, iPod and a slew of other Apple products for years. Right before the switch, I was working with Windows Vista and Windows Media Player 11 and 12 and some junkie MP3 player. I won’t go into how irritating this was because most of you know how bad Vista was and Media Player didn’t have much going for it either.

And then Windows 7 came out. I actually really liked it, but by this point, I was practically converted to an official Mac user and was known to my friends (for better or for worse) as a “fanboy”. I couldn’t help it—Apple just had it! The simplicity of everything really caught my eye the visuals just added to the chaos. But having been a Windows user since version 3.1, I couldn’t let go entirely and thanks to BootCamp, I was able to keep running Windows on my Mac. Now I’m bored of my iPhone and after testing some Android devices, I only have one other OS to test: Windows Phone. With that said, I wanted to get a feel of Microsoft’s new image. Step 1, download Zune.

Microsoft Zune Software

Although I haven’t used it yet, I love what I’m seeing in regards to the OS on the new Windows Phones. As a preparation for getting a new Windows Phone ready for my computer, I downloaded the latest Zune software and all I can say is, “WOW!”Zune screenshot

The Zune software just brings an element of style, cleanliness and integration that is not matched by any other music player, namely iTunes. I think the most striking feature of Zune is how one thing seems to flow right into the next. In other words, most computer software is used by navigating intuitive GUIs either by opening menus, clicking on windows or resizing frames, but with Zune, it’s almost like you’re navigating one big image. Even the standard Windows title and status bars are non-existent.

Zune Marketplace

Zune Marketplace
I think when it comes to comparing Zune to iTunes, the biggest concern is the music store. iTunes is known for its vast entertainment store, so how does the Zune Marketplace stack up?

Currently, iTunes has about 13 million song titles available for download while Zune only carries about 11 million. While iTunes holds the lead on this, you should understand that Apple had a huge head start in the music business and Zune has caught up really quick in the last few years! Another plus for Zune is that the currency used to buy music, movies, videos and other items is the Microsoft Points system, so if you’re an Xbox Live customer, everything is integrated.

Each song is about $0.98 cents with a lot of albums priced at only $10.00. If you want to see how far your Microsoft Points will travel, check out this Microsoft Points calculator. If you don’t care to click on that, then just know that one U.S. dollar gets you 80 points.

Zune Pass

Zune Pass is a subscription service that allows you to download any number of songs for play on up to 3 Windows computers and 3 other Zune devices for $14.99. This songs are only available while the subscription is active and they can’t be burned to an audio CD. Each song is in the WMA format with a bitrate of 192kbps and also carry the DRM protection scheme to prevent sharing. As part of this subscription, users are allowed to download 10 songs per month that they can keep forever even when the Zune Pass is cancelled. However, if you don’t use the 10 song credits each month, they will be lost!

This is an incredible feature and one that is worth the money by far! For such a small monthly fee, you have access to over 11 millions songs. Where else are you going to get service like that?

My two cents

I jumped off the Microsoft bandwagon back in 2008 and never looked back. To me, they seemed to be releasing products that were un-intuitive, missing key features, not fun to use and very problematic. Basically, Microsoft just wasn’t exciting anymore. Today, it’s a different story. Just like Apple has their trifecta—OS X, iPhone and iTunes, Microsoft has theirs—Windows 7, Windows Phone and Zune.

If you add on top of that the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, Microsoft is slowly coming ahead. I have to say with all honesty that I’m very impressed with how Microsoft has revamped their entertainment offerings. The real test begins when I get my Windows Phone for comparison to my iPhone 4/iTunes combo. Look out Apple, Microsoft might be taking me back.

Will Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) Cut It?

The simple answer to this question is YES. After taking a look at some of the new features that Microsoft is bringing to the table, I have a feeling that between Windows Phone 7.5 and iOS 5, Android is going to have a tough time finding a spot to fit in. It would be interesting if I’m right considering Microsoft hasn’t had the best start in the smartphone arena with the new Windows Phone operating system.

I have to say that with all the latest news surrounding the new Nokia N9 and the subsequent complaints about it being the first and last device to run Nokia’s MeeGo operating system, I was stuck with a decision I hate making. That decision is whether I should buy a new phone with a new OS or stick with the tried and true iPhone and its new iOS 5 coming out this fall. In the last 4 years, I’ve used nothing but iPhone and surrounded myself with friends that use iPhone too, so I’ll admit I’m a little behind when it comes to knowing about other options that are out there.

But thanks in part to my brother showing me the “light” of how great Android is, I’ve started growing bored with my iPhone. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Apple products and my MacBook still reins at the top of the list when it comes to computers, but it’s time for a change. I’m tired of Apple being behind everyone else when it comes to the most basic features. As a result, I’ve been looking heavily into Android, but after reading articles touting Microsoft as a new contender in the market, I’m now turning my head toward Windows Phone 7.

Windows Phone 7.5

I used to own smartphones that ran Windows Mobile and I never had pleasant experiences with them so I gave up on Microsoft producing phone software. After seeing what Windows Phone 7 has brought to the table, I was slightly interested in seeing more and even considered using it at one point, but I was stuck in a contract with AT&T and iPhone 4.

Now is the time to explore my options and even though I love the Nokia N9, I don’t feel like using a phone where the operating system will eventually stop being supported. If in the future, the N9 or some other powerhouse Nokia device starts using Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango), I think we’ll have a winner. It would be even more interesting if this combo happens because it’ll be like coming full circle for me—I started with Nokia 10 years ago and my first smartphone was Windows-based. Let’s take a look at Windows Phone 7.5 Mango:


I think the best feature Mango has going for it (besides the 500-some features that Microsoft says will be included) is the fact that it’s built around people. Simply put, in comparison to every other device out there, Mango doesn’t require you to open one app, perform a task, then close it, open another app and perform a different task, etc., etc. For example, in the People tile, you can click on a name and see all of that person’s social updates like Facebook status, Twitter updates and more. You can then chat with that person right from the same screen, place a call or send an email. There’s no app-jumping here.

My two cents

From what I’ve seen in the above video and countless others on YouTube, I have to give Mango two thumbs up and I also have to say that this fall is going to be an exciting time with new phones coming out from all the usual suspects (but maybe not Apple), new operating system updates and Nokia positioning itself to make a huge comeback after their new deal with Microsoft to load their phones with Windows Phone 7. This might be the first time in 4 years that I decide the iPhone is not for me.

Check out everything that Windows Phone 7.5 has to offer.

Nokia N9 and MeeGo OS

Just one day after Nokia officially announced their new N9 phone, the naysayers are already coming out of the woodwork. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know much about Nokia in recent times because I’ve been focused on my own battlefront of iPhone vs Android phones, but after reading practically everything I could find about the N9 phone and Nokia in general, it was interesting to learn about what’s been going on.Nokia N9

First of all, the new N9 phone has just been announced, it has no release date, no pricing information and we’re not even sure which countries will be able to get the phone—Nokia’s website allows us to believe that the device will only hit 23 countries, not including the U.S., the U.K. or even India.

Second, in light of Nokia’s new partnership deal with Microsoft, some wonder why Nokia would build a new device using an operating system that appears to be on its deathbed.

Nokia’s MeeGo OS

Whether or not MeeGo is being used on any mass-market devices, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. In fact, MeeGo is still being used on many mobile devices including netbooks, in-car stereos and tablets. The design of the software lends itself to the mobile platform in that it doesn’t require grossly over-powered system specs and tons of bells and whistles just to make it work.

However, after a failed partnership between Nokia and Intel not more than a year ago, Nokia was left wondering whether to drop MeeGo and go with Microsoft’s Windows Phone or Google’s Android or perhaps branch out on its own. We all know that Nokia might be a great hardware maker, but can they do software too?

Unfortunately there’s no telling what they might be doing, but with yesterday’s announcement of the new N9 phone that contains MeeGo and the fact that we know Nokia is developing Windows phones, one might speculate that Nokia will be utilizing two different operating systems to give choice to its customers.

Nokia and Windows Phone

Nokia and Microsoft struck a deal last Thursday to develop new phones using the Windows Phone operating system and Nokia’s world-famous devices. This partnership “is good for the industry”, said Steve Balmer of Microsoft. In fact, the announcement was so good that Eric Schmidt from Google might be shaking in his boots after his failed attempt to get Nokia to run with Android.

Nokia Windows Phone

It’s estimated that Android is poised to become the leading mobile phone operating system by the end of 2011 with Windows slowly taking up the second spot by 2015 thanks to this new deal. I guess that puts iOS in third?!

A Nokia device with the Windows Phone OS is probably just what both companies need. I’ve used the Windows Phone OS a few times and I have to say it’s not bad, but the choice of phones is not all that great. I still have bad memories of all the Verizon and Sprint phones using Windows Mobile! Only time will tell how this marriage plays out, but from what we’ve seen so far, things aren’t looking to shabby.

My two cents

There’s no doubt that the N9 is coming out with MeeGo and there’s also no doubt that Nokia is making devices with Windows Phone on them, but what does this mean? Some people are assuming that MeeGo is dead (or dying) and that the N9 will do nothing in terms of sales. This could also explain why Nokia hasn’t jumped back into the U.S. market yet. Others, like me, are thinking that Nokia will stick with both systems—possibly using MeeGo as an alternative to place into budget devices or phones not geared for a U.S. launch. Personally, I’m not leaning toward the “budget” theory because the N9 is estimated to cost about $700.

There’s no doubt that I’ll keep a close eye on these developments because I haven’t been this excited about a new phone since the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4. Let’s hope that the way of the future is that phones and operating systems will be made and in the end, users can pick and choose which combinations they like best. This thought may not be too far from reality considering that phones are starting to turn into little computers.

Whatever happened to Microsoft Bob?

An email was sent to me today with a link going over the top 10 failures of Microsoft and one of my favorites on the list came in at number 2: Microsoft Bob. I remember wanting to own this program because I thought for some reason, it would make life easier. Let’s see why…

Back in 1995, Windows 95 was released as a follow-up to the ever-so-popular Windows 3.1. If you remember correctly, there wasn’t much in the way of operating systems before Windows and without it (let’s be honest), there wouldn’t be much of computer world today. What’s interesting is that Windows 95 was supposed to be the crown jewel of the industry—making computing far easier than it had even been and with a bit of flash too. So why then must Microsoft create another piece of software on top of Windows that’s supposed to make things easier??

Introducing Microsoft Bob

Bob was a house. A virtual house that contained a virtual dog and many different rooms of varying design and function. This is how it worked:

  • You logged into Windows 95 – After realizing it was much too difficult to perform any tasks, you opened Bob.
  • Bob launches – You’re presented with a door that allows you to sign in.
  • You choose a room – Based on what tasks you want to do, you pick a room that has what you want inside.
  • Open an app – Click on the applicable icon to open the app you want to use.
  • Follow instructions – Now you get hand-walked through every single step of doing even the most mundane tasks.

For the best instructional walkthrough, you must watch this video:


I think what’s most disturbing about how Bob worked was just how much more difficult things seemed to get after using him. This is pure irony considering Bob was supposed to simplify things. Bill gates was even quoted as saying Bob was ahead of his time. I’m sure at that time, this seemed far-fetched, but if you really think about it, software interfaces have become more GUI-based and things are becoming much easier to do on computers than ever before.

$0.45 per email?!

As I was learning more about Bob, I found out that when he came out, the Internet was just starting to take off so Bob included an email app that would allow you to send up to 15 emails per month that were each limited to 5,000 characters. Beyond that, you would have to pay $0.45 per email sent! These emails were sent over the MCIMail service, which was essentially a dial-up email account.

Can you imagine having to pay to send emails? What a bargain—a stamp to mail a real letter cost $0.32 and an email cost $0.45. I guess things have really changed for the better. Now you can buy a stamp for $0.44 and send as many emails as you want for free. I wish we could still charge spammers though.

Using Microsoft Tags on your business cards

Back in April, I wrote an article about using digital barcodes on your business cards, but today, Microsoft just took their service out of beta mode and I decided there was a lot more to be said on the subject, so here’s a new post just for Microsoft Tag.

First of all, if you haven’t seen my other article, go check it out now. Otherwise, here’s a small breakdown of what it was all about. I was talking about new ways to distribute information while still using an old standard: business cards. Generally, when you meet someone and/or acquire a new business contact, 9 times out of 10, they’ll hand you a business card.

Downsides of business cards

  • Cumbersome – I know what you’re thinking…how can these little cards be cumbersome? Well, lets say you go to a trade show and score about 100 of these little cards. Do you know what a stack of 100 business cards looks like?!
  • Stagnant – Once your card is printed, there’s no turning back. If your number changes, you have to reprint new cards. This may not be so much of an issue because cards are cheap, but what about all those people in the past that have taken your card? If you don’t have their contact info, you’re screwed.
  • Dime-a-dozen – This means that everyone has them and generally speaking, you don’t stick out very much. How can you hand a business card to someone and have them remember who you are?
  • Information overload – I’ve seen cards that have so much text on them and 5 different phone numbers that I don’t even know where to begin! Also, have you ever had to sit at your computer and input all that information by hand? How about for 100 cards? Yes, you could purchase a business card scanner, but it’s still a time consuming process.

What is a Microsoft Tag?

Microsoft has introduced a new barcode format that uses a multi-colored series of triangles to represent data. Essentially it works the same way as other data-enabled barcodes that can store all characters (instead of just numbers). You have most likely seen these barcodes on shipping boxes from FedEx or UPS.

Microsoft has set up a site specifically for those wishing to create their own tags at You can create any number of tags using these tag types:

  • URL – This tag type will only contain a URL to your website, so when someone scans it on a mobile device such as iPhone, they will automatically be sent to your website. (The tag to the right is a URL tag for this site. Try it!)
  • Free Text – This type allows you to simply create a tag that contains random text. You can use this type if you want to encode some kind of message for your visitors to see. An idea could be a special offer that you’re giving away. Allowing your customers to scan it will create interactivity.
  • vCard – This will probably be the type you’ll use most as it allows you to save all of your contact information in the vCard format. You can even import already existing vCards!
  • Dialer – The one works similar to the URL type, but instead, it just stores your phone number. Any smartphone that can automatically read phone numbers as such will start an automatic call to the number.

Always up-to-date

The most important item to mention is that once you create a new tag type, it’s already been encoded based on a unique registration number. What this means is that as long as you don’t delete the tag, you can always log into your Tag account and update, change or delete information and the tag image never changes!!

In theory, you can create a business card with nothing on it except your Microsoft Tag and your business card will never get outdated. You could even put a line of text on the card that says “Scan here for updated contact info”

How can I scan these?

All you need to do is get the mobile software for your phone! The easiest way to do this is grab your phone and go to this address:

Of course, not every device is supported, but here’s a current list of supported operating systems and phones at the time of this writing:

  • Android
  • Blackberry
  • iPhone
  • J2ME (Beta)
  • Java 2 Micro Edition (Beta)
  • PalmOS
  • Symbian S60
  • Symbian S60 1st Edition
  • Symbian S60 2nd Edition
  • Symbian S60 3rd Edition
  • Symbian S60 5th Edition
  • Windows Mobile
  • Windows Phone

Final thoughts

This is the ultimate convergence of technology and a proven standard! I remember back with people thought the business card would be replaced by mini cdrom business cards, but imagine handing a disc to someone and then expecting them to have access to a computer at all times to be able to read the contents? This new technology doesn’t have to replace the old…it simply adds to it.

Another possible advantage is that in some cases, you’ll find that you don’t even have to give out your card! Just let someone scan it, get your information and give it right back to you. You don’t even have to put these tags on business cards. Put them on flyers, posters, email signatures, websites, message boards, etc. Here’s one I just thought of: use it as your avatar throughout the Internet!

In the end, what really matters is how you’re being remembered. Right now, not a lot of people are using this technology, so you have the opportunity to stand out above the crowd.

UPDATE: November 18th, 2010

I hadn’t been on the Microsoft site since creating my first tag, but when I decided to finally get my new business cards printed, I went back and discovered some great news. Microsoft now allows you to create tags in black and white! This was such a relief for me because I really didn’t like the fact that they were in color before. I mean no matter what your business cards look like, how will pastel colors ever fit in?!

Anyway, I created my first business cards that can be seen over on my article about putting barcodes on business cards and I think they really turned out well! Both the Microsoft tag and the QR barcode are fully readable by mobile scanners and work just as intended.