Giving Up

Over the weekend I saw an Internet Explorer 9 commercial. It caught my attention mostly because of the surprise I experienced. It has been clear for some time to me that Microsoft has given up on dominating the browser market.

In 2003 Microsoft OWNED the browser market. They had driven Netscape into the ground and had, according to www.w3schools.com, close to 90% of the browser market. But that year a forerunner of Firefox, Mozilla began. And they began to get users.

By the end of 2005 Firefox has nabbed nearly a quarter of the browser market and IE had fallen below 70%, never to return. By the end of 2008 Firefox had more than 44% of the browser market, IE had fallen to 46% and an upstart, Google Chrome had appeared on the scene.

Fast forward to the spring of 2011 and an amazing thing happened. Chrome zoomed past IE, grabbing 25.6% of the market to IE’s steadily dwindling 24.3%. And shortly after that Chrome began biting into Firefox’s dominance to the point where, as of the end of August 2012, Chrome has 43.7%, Firefox 32.8% and IE a measly 16.2%.

Which brings me back to the commercial I saw. Why, I wonder, is Microsoft investing in advertising a browser that is shrinking in its share of the market? I was on an “off” channel not one of the main networks’ main channels. If you’ve given up the market already, why would you invest in advertising?

While I may never know Microsoft’s reasoning, I can draw the following conclusions for how not to grow my business:

  1. If I want to get or keep market share, work it at the top of your market. It is easier to stay on top than it is to claw my way back to the top.
  2. If I want to advertise on traditional media, advertise something that is growing / coming.  For Microsoft that could be the Windows Phone or Windows 8 – a piece of the market that is ripe for conquering.
  3. Be clear on what you need to accomplish with your marketing dollars. It is good to find your niche and then advertise intentionally in that market. It is not good to find the portion of your market that you’re losing and not likely to regain and to market there.

But the positive take away from Microsoft continuing to advertise IE 9 is to never give up. I speak with a lot of competitors that give up after a couple of tries at something. I have found that some of our best clients come through persistence – especially in following up with someone who has expressed interest but hasn’t responded yet. More often than not that persistence is met with “Thank you for not giving up. I was so busy I didn’t respond but now I’m finally getting caught up.”

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The Internet Comes Alive

Well really it is your computer that is getting livelier but it sounds better (scarier?) to say the Internet. I have asserted for years that my kids will be able to reminisce “remember when computers used to be 2D?” That time is quickly drawing near.

In the 70’s and 80’s we heard a lot about how technology built for NASA worked its way into our everyday lives. Now that model has changed – technology built for cutting edge games is working its way into our lives.  I thought it was kind of cool when ESPN set up cameras across the football field so they could give us views almost as though we were in the action – just like many of the video games my kids play.

But late last year Microsoft rolled out a new technology called Kinect that lets you be the game controller. That is pretty cool. Whether you’re driving, dancing or a variety of other activities, your movement is what controls what happens on screen. Seems pretty cool for game technology.

Now pause and think how that could affect your computing experience. If you’re creating a new design, instead of drawing with a mouse, wouldn’t it be cool to draw with your finger – not on the screen but on your desktop? If you’re an architect, wouldn’t it be cool to build a house or building with your hands and have it show up on screen? Med students could perform surgery, rocket scientists could build spacecraft, and the list of possible uses just goes on and on.

Some of the cool things that Tony Stark does in the Iron Man movie as he builds himself a new iron man suit might not be that far off. Add some Kinect-type technology to hologram technology, and you’ll be able to build your own Iron Man suit – well maybe we’re not quite there yet but these technologies are developing.

How does that affect you? You might be done with school but the technology will affect us all. Wouldn’t it be cool to flick your finger through your emails without holding on to a mouse or touching a keyboard? Kiss double-clicking goodbye and greet the finger tap? Be able to dictate (did I mention it also incorporates voice recognition?) a lengthy letter (or chapter of your book) and then edit with your hands instead of having to scroll and click with your mouse and type with your keyboard? The potential impact, on our everyday computing experience, is immense.

And surfing the internet? No more clicking links – just point at them. Marrying Kinect to the Internet could open up some amazing possibilities. Have you heard the stories about people in remote outposts getting sick? Now instead of needing a full time doctor, you could take the right tools and the doctor could operate in Antarctica while sitting in her office in Houston. And being able to operate a robot from afar? Well maybe the movie “Real Steel” is not that far off either but there are all kinds of potential uses.

Learn more about Kinect at the Microsoft Kinect website.

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Office 2010 Released

It’s out. It’s nice. If you’re using Office 2003 or earlier, it’s time to upgrade.

Office 2010 uses the same kind of ribbons that Office 2007 users have grown accustomed to. The new “ribbon” that you’ll find in Word 2010 is the one that 2007 should have had. It’s called file. The file ribbon gives you all the options and information about the particular file that you’re working on that you could possibly want to know.

For example, as I type this blog entry in Word 2010, when I click the file tab, I have lots of nifty choices like Open, Save, Save as, and Print but the option that is highlighted is Info. Under Info I can Set Permissions (protect the document so that only those who should see it can), Prepare for Sharing (basically let’s me easily strip hidden information that other’s shouldn’t see but that is useful to have for an in house document) and work with different Versions of the document.

I can also see useful information such as how long I’ve been editing this document, add or view the Title and any Tags, see who the creator is, and lots of other information. It is also from the file tab that I can open recent or other documents and do many of the tasks from the old File menu.

As is usually the case, the biggest change comes with Outlook. As the way people communicate continues to change, Microsoft tries to make Outlook the tool to help you do this. Outlook now has its own ribbons (for some reason Outlook 2007 didn’t get the ribbon makeover).

The newest feature here is the Quick Steps box. Basically what this box does is let you create macros or rules on what do with certain messages. Once that rule is created, you can run it by clicking the appropriate button in the Quick Steps box. I’m still experimenting with this but this feature holds potential in helping to tame the email beast.

Access has some nice new features, one that we’re taking a very close look at right now is the Project template. What is nice is that Access is now really designed from the get go to be interactive. I opened the Project template and the first thing I had to do was create a user (myself) and then log in. Then I was off to the races creating and entering information on the project.

The downside is I wanted to watch the video which required SilverLight which I had already installed which Access didn’t recognize as being installed. Still a few issues, it would appear but all in all I like this latest version and could see moving some of our folks to it even before the first service pack.

Other tools that come with the complete version of Office 2010 include OneNote (great for taking quick notes or for having a notebook on a particular task or subject) and InfoPath – the tool for forms – now comes with a Designer part and a Filler part. For business users (those with lots of computers and users), there’s also a new program called SharePoint Workspace. I’m still investigating these but they look to be pretty nifty tools for improved work flow.

The full version “Professional” retails for around $500 but as a productivity tool is well worth it.

 

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Instant On Operating System

What an interesting week this has been. I helped a wonderful couple from my church transition from their old computer to a newer XP computer. It was interesting when they first called because I asked them what operating system was installed. “Thelma” as I’ll call her, replied that she wasn’t sure.  I asked her to click on the start button but she couldn’t find that either. When I arrived, I turned on the computer and it was on almost instantly. Have you got it figure out yet? This was a 486 computer running DOS and Windows 3.11.

The thing that stunned me was how quickly it was ready to go. Even my faster computers will take 45 seconds or longer to boot up. This one was ready in less than 10. But of course it was Windows 3.11 so there wasn’t alot that could be done on it – although I did notice that it had an AOL icon so theoretically they could have gone online.

Why write about this now? Well our friends at Google are trying to take us back to the days of instant on with their new Google Chrome-OS.  They have had Google Chrome – the browser – out for awhile and it works pretty well (though I still prefer Firefox). Their next step is to have an entire operating system that boots quickly and basically just connects to the web from which you can access everything you need. Afterall, with Google Docs and all the other Google apps, what else do you need?

I have to admit it would be nice to have an instant on system that meets 21st Centry expectations of performance and usability because it was nifty to see how quicky that old computer fired up.

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Outlook Follow Up

A couple of months ago I wrote about the overwhelming feeling I had every day when my inbox was over-stuffed. I was pushing 2000 messages just in my inbox – and I was doing a lot of filing of messages then. Well I am happy to report that I have stuck with the program. Back then I whittled my inbox down to 6 messages.

Right now my inbox is bloated up to 38 messages. 15 of those will be removed as soon as I take care of the small tasks associated with them. Now don’t get me wrong. Other than spam, I don’t throw anything away. I’ve got emails dating back to 1999. But instead of letting them fill up my inbox, I regularly file the messages away to where they belong.

Even if there is a “to do” associated with an email, I can flag it or categorize it and then file it. With Outlook 2007’s powerful search tools, the flag or category let’s me know I need to follow up with it. And it feels so good to turn off a due flag on an email and watch the “For Follow Up” search category go down by one.

So if you are sinking in your inbox, set aside the time to clean it out. Once its clean, be ruthless. Make sure you come back to it each day or each week and whittle it down. Do I need this email? Does this email represent a to-do for me? Where can I file this email? Does it belong to a specific category? All of these questions can help you figure out where to put the email.

One final confession: I have learned to delete messages as well.  Yes, I had to face it – some emails, like a single word “yes” in reply to a question I asked, might not be worth keeping.ikoni

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Stay Organized and Stay Productive

We’ve been giving and receiving Outlook training this week and it hit me how important it is to stay focused with productivity tools of which Outlook continues to be one of our most important. In an office environment, using Outlook as the front end to an exchange server gives lots of opportunities for sharing schedules, assigning tasks, sharing calendars, and storing emails in public folders so that others in the company can easily access the same information.

Outlook 2007 is a powerful tool whether in a business environment with Exchange server or as a standalone program. The search component in particular is powerful. I have on my Outlook Favorites the search folders Unread Mail and For Followup. You can also add particular category searches that help you to stay connected and keep moving forward. The To-Do bar on the right side of the screen is a handy tool that you can expand or hide to meet your needs but when expanded shows your upcoming schedule and flagged emails.

Another productivity tool that I use in conjunction with Outlook is Jott. I’ve written about Jott previously but it is a great time saver if you’re out and about a lot. I can call Jott to send myself emails, ask for reminders that will come to my phone and email, or send an email to anyone in my address book. Yes, from my phone. So when I’m driving down the road and remember that I need to confirm an appointment via email, I can call (using my hands free bluetooth device of course) and tell Jott to send an email to Ted, letting him know that I’ll be at the breakfast meeting on Friday and Ted will get the email.

Between Outlook, Exchange and Jott, I manage to stay organized and on top of my schedule and keep my productivity high.

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Taming the Inbox: Managing Volumes of Email

I’ve done it! I’ve taken a huge step towards taming my inbox. For years it has had no fewer than 300 messages in it and when busy-ness hits, it regularly balloons to over 1500 messages.

Until now. What is the secret to taming your email? you may ask. The answer is so simple (once you know the answer it always seems simple): Right now, as I write, I have 13 emails in my inbox. Each of them is something that will be dealt with within the next business day and then filed away.

When there were 300+ emails in there, it was so easy to let it balloon up to 400 or 600 or more. With 0 to 20 in there, its very easy to identify what needs to be done, do it and then file it. The biggest thing that worked for me was opening a Word document so that when I started through the laborious process of whittling down 1100 emails to 5, I could jot a note about something that needed to be done.

So, it worked like this: file, file, file, delete, file, delete, delete, oh, I need to call Frank about this one. Hmm should I quit working on filing which isn’t fun or should I call Frank? This time I mastered the urge to bail and made a note to call Frank in the Word Document. Then back to file, delete, file, file, delete, delete, delete.

It took six to eight hours to do this but I finished over the weekend and this has been one of the most productive weeks I’ve ever had and its only Thursday!

So if you are stuck in email purgatory, set aside the time, ignore every distraction, and file, categorize and make notes until you’re down to 0. Right now I’ve got 9 items in my inbox, the oldest of which dates back to 5:20 PM on Tuesday. Ohh, that feels good

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Computer Virus Check Up

Is your computer protected? It seems like we go for long stretches of months with very few virus problems. Then we get a bunch of folks coming to us asking for help getting rid of viruses. And the question we are frequently asked is: But how did I get infected?

In our experience there are three main methods a computer gets infected:

  1. Anti-Virus Program expires. If your virus subscription has expired, your computer is not protected. Yes, it is that simple. If you tell your doctor you don’t need a flu shot because you got one last year, he’ll tell you that was for last year’s flu, not this years’. The same applies to antivirus programs. If it has expired, you are protected for last week’s or last month’s viruses but not today’s.
  2. Willfully downloading a virus. This may happen unwittingly but it still happens all the time. Kids are the main victims of this method. They want to download a “cool” program from a web site but the cool program includes a virus that lets hackers take over your computer. This can circumvent the best antivirus program in much the same way all the vitamins in the world can’t protect you from colds if you’ve got kids.
  3. Too much protection. We are seeing more of this kind of problem. You start off with, for example, Norton Antivirus. Then when you go to renew online they’ve got a super-duper new program that  has a firewall and  anti-phishing, and all the bells and whistles you can imagine for just a few more dollars than the anti-virus program. Then as soon as you have it installed it starts asking you questions you don’t know the answer to. You restart your computer and suddenly it is going so slow you can hardly do anything. In frustration you turn off the antivirus program and suddenly everything speeds up so you leave it off and get infected.

We recommend just running an antivirus program without any extra bells or whistles. Most folks with high speed internet (commercial or residential) have some kind of firewall with their modem or router nowadays so you can separate the functions and let your computer just have the antivirus component.

Keep your antivirus UP TO DATE. If it is more than one month out of date, you could be in trouble.

And finally, run complete scans on your computer on a regular basis.

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Microsoft is so Cool

I get quite a kick out of the viral nature of the Internet. One of the things I always tell people is to double-check before they hit send in their email. Well, someone pulled a fast one on someone with this hilarious video about Microsoft Vista and Service Pack 1.

It’s not clear whether Microsoft really intended this video for internal use or whether they “leaked” the video to YouTube to create a buzz about . . . well I guess about Microsoft. Its funny and its cheezy but it also gets the word out to people that Vista Service Pack 1 is out. If it is Microsoft poking fun at themselves, its very well done.

 

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Vista Gets Moving

It’s out! Vista Service Pack 1 has been released. My notebook downloaded and installed it last night from the Windows Update. Since ancient history (at least dating back to Windows 2000) Microsoft users have learned to wait for the first Service Pack to come out before adopting or considering adopting the new OS. Well the time has come.

According to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, the service pack will (amongst other things):

  • Increase Vista’s stability
  • Make zipping and unzipping faster
  • Make Remote Desktop work faster and better

I’ve been running Vista on my Vista-ready Gateway laptop (duo-core processor) for many months and the thing that has bothered me the most has been how slow it responds. I’m looking forward to seeing if it will be more responsive with the service pack

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