Microsoft Browser Choice screen rant

I know this is old news, but it still annoys me. Just for those who have not heard, this useful summary of the legal background to Browser Choice (rather than the technical details) describes the decision:

In December, the European Commission and Microsoft arrived at a resolution of a number of long-standing competition law issues. Microsoft made a legally binding commitment that PC manufacturers and users will continue to be able to install any browser on Windows, to make any browser the default browser, and to turn access to Internet Explorer on or off. In addition, Microsoft agreed to use Windows Update to provide a browser choice screen to Windows users in Europe who are running Internet Explorer as their default browser.

So, when I install shiny new Windows 7 machines for my clients with a perfectly serviceable browser (IE8) with some great security features such as protected mode, I make sure the Windows Update has brought everything up to date and BAM! An icon appears on their desktop and prompts them to choose what browser they want.

So I choose IE, delete the icon and everyone is happy.

This is a complete waste of everyone’s time and money. The users who want an alternative still go and download the browser of their choice. Most don’t bother. Making a bad choice from the popup screen and deciding a while later you want to switch, or revert to IE is just a waste of people’s time, and in business this time will cost money. Across Europe this hidden cost will be huge.

Read more of my rant about the Browser Choice screen»

Microsoft second shot exam offer back again for 2008

It seems that Microsoft have listened to the community and brought back their Second Shot offer much earlier than most people expected. Previously this seemed to run only once each year (albeit for several months at a time), and the last one only closed for taking exams the first time round at the end of May and the retakes by the end of June. Re-opening this in August 2008 and leaving it open right through to June 2009 seems to indicate that this will effectively become a permanent fixture, but you can’t just roll your retakes forward forever, you will have to use the second chance within the year-long programme, which seems perfectly fair.

The same launch page is being used as last time, although until today this was not live for the new offer and still showed the old information.

Microsoft Second Shot Exam Offer 2008

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Microsoft lost appeal to the European Courts over anti-competitive practices

The verdict is finally here. The appeal has been lost, all that Microsoft got out of it is the requirement to have an independent monitor to check it was keeping in line with the court’s rulings. The original verdict of the European Commission in 2004 was appealed to the European Court of First Instance. In the court’s statement about the appeal case, they said:

The Court of First Instance essentially upholds the Commission’s decision finding that Microsoft abused its dominant position…The Court criticises, in particular, the obligation imposed on Microsoft to allow the monitoring trustee, independently of the Commission, access to its information, documents, premises and employees and also to the source code of its relevant products.

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Sorting out the complexity of Microsoft Volume Licensing

Vijay started a thread on his iQubed blog to which I replied at length, so he split out my comments as a post in their own right. The debate was around whether MS volume licensing programmes are too complex, and take up too much of a business’ time and energy, as well as making it harder for their suppliers and consulting partners to be sure they are giving the best advice. The question posed was “Who Understands Microsoft Licensing?

Fundamentally, one size simply does not fit all. The particular firewall configuration you create for one client will not be suitable for another with different needs.

Does the manufacturer’s configuration manual tell you which options to choose? Probably not, it tells you how to change the setting, which options do what, but it is down to your experience to match the need to a solution and then implement it.

Generally speaking the licensing programmes themselves are reasonably easy to choose between, if the right questions can be asked and answered. The extra benefits which come with some of the programmes are often not the main reason to choose them, but perhaps these are too often allowed to cloud the issue. I’ve tried to discuss the questions below without getting bogged down in the details of exactly which programme offers what, partly since that will change over time and partly because introducing Microsoft’s own terminology is the fastest way to lose people in this minefield.

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Microsoft Exams free second chance offer

Soon you will be able to get a free second shot to pass a Microsoft exam. They have run this kind of offer before and it always seems really popular.

Basically, you register for the deal with Microsoft, which gets you a voucher number. You then use this voucher number when you register and pay for your exam on the Prometric site as usual. If you fail the exam when you take it you can re-register to take the same exam again in a fixed timeframe.

The offer should be available from September 15th until January 31st, though whether that end-date is for the first try or your second attempt is not clear yet.

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Get touchy feely with your digital media

Microsoft’s new Surface platform looks set to be the Next Big Thing for interactive experiences. The same level of “wow” factor as when touch screens finally got reliable ten years ago or so and started appearing in all sorts of kiosk type environments. It remains to be seen whether this will be as intuitive to use as we would like, or will require a steep learning curve as with any other new GUI.

This seems very similar to this multi-touch screen with gesture-based control from Perceptive Pixel (a bit like the ones seen in the film Minority Report, albeit with a physical screen and 2d images, no gloves, and no Cruise).

And this intelligent white board for motion modelling based on engineering sketches just blows away any of the current crop of over-priced boards being installed in schools up and down the country.

Update: a much longer presentation with more background explanation from Mark Bolger, MS Director of Marketing for Surface computing can be found here:

…and another MS Surface marketing exercise published through Popular Mechanics

Update2: A further demo and talk by Jeff Han (founder of Perceptive Pixel) from Feb 2006 (just sit through a short advert first):