From the 'Strange But (Possibly) True' Microsoft Files
Here at Microsoft Watch, especially in the lazy, hazy days of summer, we get lots of tips that are tough to corroborate. Folks are on vacation. E-mail falls through the cracks. Instant messages go unheeded.
Sometimes, you just feel a need to throw your tips out there and see what comes of them. This week is one of those times.
Here are a few of those "crazy but possibly (probably?) true" leads that have come across our desk in recent weeks. They're definitely food for thought. Just make sure to take them with a grain of salt.
The Next 'Express' Frontier: Windows Live?
The Microsoft Express family of tools is getting pretty darn interesting. There is Visual Studio Express, SQL Server Express and, as of this week, XNA Studio Express.
Check Out Microsoft' Express Tools Home Page
Read More on XNA Studio Express for Wannabe Game Developers
What other Microsoft products are "Expressable"? Good question. To us, it seems like Microsoft's outreach to non-professional programmers (a k a hobbyists, homebrewers, or what have you) has a lot of potential – for Microsoft and its newfound friends.
A little birdie told us that one area into which Microsoft might expand Express is Windows Live. It's no secret that Microsoft has been pushing the developer side of the Windows Live equation, as of late.
A Refresher: Microsoft Outlines Its Windows Live Developer Strategy
Speaking of Live, How Many Live Services Are There?
Wouldn't it make sense for Microsoft to come out with some kind of Windows Live Express toolkit, aimed at individuals who might be interested in playing around with the growing number of Windows Live programming? While some consumers are comfortable with creating mash-ups today, we're sure there are a lot more wanna-be-mashers out there, who'd feel more confident about extending Live services and building new ones if they had a simple set of tools and guidance for doing so.
We're slated to chat later this week with Dan Fernandez, lead product manager with Visual Studio Express, later this week, so we'll have a chance to ask. We'll keep you posted if/when anything more on Windows Live Express turns up.
Microsoft to Get Into the Healthcare Hardware Business
Microsoft is making no bones about the fact that it has designs on the healthcare market.
In September 2005, Microsoft hired Peter Neupert as its health czar. Neupert, who at one time was responsible for Microsoft's OS/2 strategy, served more recently as chairman of Drugstore.com. Currently, he is charged with building "Microsoft's efforts to partner with stakeholders in the health ecosystem to help people worldwide better deal with health issues."
In late July, Microsoft announced it was purchasing the Azyxxi patient-record-management software from a consortium of doctors. And sources say it's only a matter of time before the Redmondians unveil one or more Windows Live Healthcare services for consumers and businesses.
Why Did Microsoft Buy Healthcare Software?
Could Microsoft Beat Google to the Healthcare Punch?
But Microsoft seemingly has designs on other parts of the healthcare market, as well. According to a white paper we unearthed on the Microsoft Research Web site, Microsoft is investigating the market for equipment for wearable patient-monitoring systems. The system under investigation is known as "Healthgear," and consists of sensors connected wirelessly via Bluetooth to a cell phone, according to the paper.
Read All About the Healthgear Project Here
Could Microsoft pacemakers be next on the line-up? No blue-screen-of-death jokes, please!
Windows Vista Will RTM This Year
We know, we know: You're sick of Windows Vista date stories. We're equally sick of writing them!
But no one can deny the ongoing fascination – by everyone from beta testers to Vegas bookies -- around whether Microsoft will make its projected target and actually release Vista to manufacturing this fall, as Microsoft officials committed to doing in March.
July was a make-or-break month for Vista. As Barry Crume, director of the Microsoft Alliance with AMD told us recently, "July was a transition month. Some of the builds we saw wowed us, and some upset us."
So what's the verdict now? "We are very pleased," Crume told us in early August. "It does what you expect at boot time. It's starting to recognize Tier 2 devices. It works extremely well with the new Microsoft Office."
And this is from a guy whose group is getting daily builds.
We also had a chance to chat with testers who've been playing with some of the weekly, interim test builds which Microsoft has been issuing, as of late. There are definitely still some performance and compatibility problems, they say. But they also say they are seeing progress. And it sounds like Build 5520 is looking even better, from early feedback we're hearing.
Vista Build 5506: Coming Along Nicely
So is it time to pop the champagne corks? Is Microsoft definitely going to make an October release to manufacturing (RTM) and a January 2007 launch?
We hear a bunch of testers recently had a chance to ask that very question of Platforms and Services Co-President Jim Allchin. While Allchin still wouldn't say that without a doubt Vista is going to RTM in the next few months, he did sound bullish, our tipsters tell us.
Allchin told testers to expect some changes to the Classic user interface with Release Candidate (RC) 1, which Microsoft is expected to issue in the first half of September to more than two million testers. There could still be changes to the Windows Explorer in the RC1 timeframe, as well, Allchin is said to have said.
So when should testers plan their launch parties, Allchin was asked. "When should you plan to have them? There will be RTM, which we hope you'll celebrate with us which will be later this year. but then there will be consumer launch at the beginning of next year," was his (alleged) answer.
That's the latest G2 we've got. Make of it what you will.
Got a Microsoft product, strategy or personality you're just dying to read more about? Send your ideas, rants, raves, quibbles and other tidbits to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Don't worry, though: Confidentiality is guaranteed!)
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