People-centred data

Microsoft's big slogan for the Dynamics software is 'people-centered software'. I caught the TV ad for it the other night: many different people in different countries all getting up in the morning, grabbing breakfast and heading out for the day and all doing it that little bit differently. In fact I looked at the ad and thought 'this is good; Microsoft should have advertising like this'.

But what I noticed on MapQuest this morning (checking out Leigh on Sea where my mum will probably move to) was what I think of as people-centered data. While the label that comes up when you hover the mouse is Zoom Level 3 the labels at the size of the zoom control show me that's actually the most detailed view I can get of this location as a place within a country, before I go down into region level. For the most detail at street level the icon is a person, for the least level at country view it's mountains (topographic data here I come). The icons get wider from top to bottom - a handy visual cue if I haven't spotted the plus and minus buttons - but it's the labels of Street, City, Region and Country that let me get information the way people think about it, not the way computers do. Like Today/Tomorrow/This Week/Next Week in Outlook 2007 or tags on a blog, it's data aggregated into a fuzzy structure rather than a strictly normalized data slice.

Convergence: Software serving

The opening keynote at Convergence (the Microsoft Business Solutions show in Dallas, for those confused by our road trip
from state to state) was - once the drumming stopped - all about how Office is the place where people live at work and how the Dynamics products will increasingly live there too. The Dynamics CRM toolbar in Outlook 2007 isn't a click away the way it might be if Office 2007 had the ribbon interface; I wonder if the ribbon interface makes sense for finding features you expect to have in a product (charts in Excel, animations in PowerPoint) and less sense for features you wouldn't expect (opportunity management and sales reports in with your email).

Outlook is where I live when I'm at my desk (on the move it's OneNote) and the more I can get to from Outlook the better. One of the disappointing moments for me at MIX 06 was when Tim O'Reilly suggested using Outlook at the basis of social networking and Bill Gates looked completely blank; Outlook houses the pieces of my social network and tools like SNARF are starting to expose the interconnections between them. When I look at a new networking site I don't want to recreate that network one contact at a time by hand. I want Outlook and the service I choose to collaborate, finding my connections, looking first for the people I'm most in contact with and pulling the most useful information from Outlook and the service from one to the other. And if it could use InfoCard to both prove who I am and who you are and to pull across my reputation from LiveJournal or Amazon or eBay or the FT so you know I'm *that* Mary on all those services...

Service plus software: another theme from the keynote, although I haven't yet seen a Microsoft Live service that's had be jumping up and down. Perhaps the demo I'm getting here at Convergence will fire me up ;)



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