It’s almost 2013, and the Web is inevitably loaded with articles about the way technology will improve our lives in the coming year or years. Up-and-coming technologies and events are, of course, important to learn about and look forward to. But the end of the year is also a good time to look back and examine what we’ve lost with technology. Following are a few highlights.
E-readers have changed the way we read books. The percentage of Americans now using e-readers is on the rise, and those using the devices are reading more books. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, by February of this year, 21 percent of Americans had read an e-book, and owners of e-readers read an average of eight books a year more than people without the devices. This number is likely to rise sharply in 2013.
What this means is that nearly a quarter of us seldom touch paper books anymore.
What this also means is that people like yours truly, forced to read a paper book during a long power outage several months ago, actually find ourselves doing stupid things like touching an unfamiliar word on paper and expecting its definition to pop up.
Personal, written communications are becoming relics of the past. Admit it: you’ve sent Christmas or birthday greetings via e-mail or text. While it’s cheaper and easier than sitting down with a pile of pretty cards and hand-writing greetings, then addressing and mailing them, placing a bunch of printed e-mails on your front hall table doesn’t quite have the same festive feeling – and reading a birthday greeting followed by the language “this e-mail has been checked to conform with Acme Corporation’s corporate e-mail policy” doesn’t have quite the same charm.
Digital communication and entertainment is changing our attention spans. The kinds of people who have the ability to read and assimilate a long newspaper or news magazine article are becoming rare. Thanks to the way most digital media is configured, we can jump from piece to piece and link to link with the same rapidity we surf television channels, absorbing only the information we want in tiny snippets and discarding the rest.
We’re appalled when confronted by the prospect of reading an entire textbook or handbook. Where are the highlights? Where are the bulleted lists? Where’s the two-minute video analysis? What do you mean the article is eight pages long?
The proliferation of digital news and analysis is making us more partisan. Once upon a time, we had to absorb a great deal of information before we harvested the information that was relevant to us. Think about it: only a few decades ago, we all got our news from evening television broadcasts or the newspaper. We all watched the same broadcasts (you had perhaps four choices) and read the same papers, so we were forced to read and absorb facts that we perhaps didn’t like, or information that wasn’t necessarily relevant to us.
This enabled us to gain a meaningful understanding the wider world around us, and it meant we gained a meaningful understanding of “the other side’s” point of view. Today, we can tailor our media outlets to our prejudices, read and hear only the opinions we like, and easily reject any information we don’t want to be exposed to. We can also look for news 24 hours per day, instead of during a one-hour period in the evening, which has led to news organizations to manufacture “news” to fill in the other 23 hours per day. (Do you really need to take up space in your brain regarding Lindsay Lohan’s latest bust, or what Grumpy Cat ate for lunch today?)
Our handwriting has gotten worse. When’s the last time you wrote more than a few words or sentences with a pen? If you’re like me, the only time you pick up a pen is to sign a check (itself becoming a rare event) or to scrawl a few items on a shopping list.
I once prided myself on my excellent handwriting: today, to say my handwriting looks like chicken scratch is an insult to chicken scratch. Pens actually feel alien in my hand.
We’re having trouble making eye contact with one another. Let’s face it: what we do today via digital media is less like real communication and more like exchanging pertinent information. It’s possible to maintain a professional or even personal relationship with someone without ever really interacting with that person. While we have embraced social media as a way of maintaining relationships we don’t have offline time for, exchanging recent photos of the kids isn’t really a replacement for a warm, intimate personal friendship.
That actually requires looking at one another, and listening to one another.
We have less tact and fewer social skills in arguing. Once upon a time, we did most of our arguing and discourse about controversial topics in person, which required skill in not alienating your discussion partner even if you disagreed with him or her. Now that most of us do our political or social issue on online message boards, most of which don’t even require us to use our real name, tact and discourse skill have fled the premises.
It’s easy to call your opponent a moron when he or she doesn’t know who you are, and about 70 percent of discussion on message boards winds up evolving into pointless ad-hominem attacks, broken only by the occasional trolling individual (another unfortunate by-product of online communications).
It has led to a rise in bullying, particularly among the young. Thirty years ago, a kid wanting to call another kid “four eyes” on the playground had to have the spine to do it in person, which put him or her at risk of getting caught and required the bully to see the fallout of their actions: hurt feelings, tears, anger and on-the-spot retaliation.
Today, the media through which bullying occurs is so far separated from the real, human relationship that it’s almost an abstract cruelty. People are able to vent their anger and antagonism toward another human being in a way that is completely removed from reality. Facebook page hacking, bullying via text and starting online rumors seem more like an abstract activity or cathartic hobby rather than what it is: hurting or even destroying another living, breathing human being.
While technology may be allowing us to cope with a fast-paced world more easily, and while it may be improving our lives in many areas, it hasn’t all been good. This holiday season, take the time to sit down with a friend or family member and have a real conversation. Read a newspaper in its entirety. Try having a civil discussion with someone on the opposite side of your political beliefs.
And remember: communicating to someone that you like them should require a bit more effort than clicking a “like” button.
If I like you and you like me, and you like what I like and I like what you like, then I want to know about it. You follow? Call it peer pressure, call it follow the leader, call it the ultimate marketing tool…whatever you call it, it’s the power of the relationships, the influence, that is driving friends and fans to click.
Authors: Barry O'Sullivan
It seems like every five years a major shift takes place and is debated at the collaboration industry’s premier conference: VoiceCon. Now called Enterprise Connect, this year’s conference got underway yesterday in Orlando, FL.
In 2001, the great debate was around the convergence of voice and data, as industry leaders...
Authors: Kirk Gregersen
Microsoft News Center posted a piece yesterday featuring research from The World Wildlife Fund that calls out the benefit that increased telecommuting and virtual meetings could have on the environment.
With today being Earth Day, I wanted to take a few minutes to write about the various options that companies and workers...
Authors: Dean Howarth
This week I'd like to talk about LA Fitness and its Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 (now called Lync Server 2010 with the latest release) solution. As LA Fitness has continued to open sports clubs all over the US and Canada, it ended up with many different communications solutions that didn't always work well...
It’s a pretty big day for the Office Communications team here at Microsoft. I’m excited to share that we’ve met a major milestone and are making the release candidate of our ‘wave 14’ communications products available for anyone to download. In addition, there has been much speculation on what the new name for the release would be, so I get to officially announce that here too – the new name is Microsoft Lync.
Let me provide a little more detail on both the release candidate and the new name than you’ll hear in the press release.
First the new name. For those of you who have followed the Office Communications business over the past several releases, you’ll know that this is an important milestone in a journey that started more than five years ago with a vision to transform communications with software. This vision, set out by leaders like Bill Gates, Jeff Raikes and Gurdeep Singh Pall, included bringing together various and “siloed” real-time communications systems and creating new ways for people to connect with each other. Lync 2010 is the release that delivers on this vision by unifying enterprise voice, instant messaging and web, audio and video conference – all within the same user experience and back-end infrastructure, as well connecting people in new ways through things like integrated expect search and interactive contact cards throughout Office.
As we watched Lync 2010 develop into reality, we wanted a new name that reflected the major product transformation. In that sense, Lync – a combination of “link” and “sync” – is about connecting people in new ways, anytime, anywhere. Beyond simplifying and shortening the current branding, customer research found that the name Lync appeals to end users and IT pros, even more than descriptive options like Communicator. If you’ve ever worked on a branding process, you know how personal it can be. Everyone involved has their favorite name (and of course none of them are the same!). So we were pleased that most people in research and internally gravitated toward Lync. We hope you like the name as much as we do.
With the 2010 release, we will use Lync as the ‘family’ brand and within each of our communications products:
|Product||2010 Release||2007 Release|
|Family||Microsoft Lync||Microsoft Office Communications|
|The server||Microsoft Lync Server 2010||Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2|
|The client||Microsoft Lync 2010||Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2|
|The service||Microsoft Lync Online||Microsoft Office Communications Online|
|The web client||Microsoft Lync Web App||Microsoft Office Communicator Web Access|
Now about the release candidate. With nearly 20,000 people inside Microsoft and more than 100 enterprise customers already using the Lync 2010 beta, the R&D team is on track to deliver the product to market before the end of the year. I’ve been using Lync 2010 for about six months now, both in conjunction with a beta IP phone from Polycom, as well as via my laptop on its own (primarily when I’m traveling or at home).
Some of the new ways of communicating that I’ve grown attached to over the last six months include:
Switching between my head-set and laptop or speakerphone, in the middle of a call with device switching.
Selecting multiple people in my contact list and initiating a group call. If I need to add someone else, I can ‘drag’ their name from the list to the call.
Leaving the office and taking my call with me on my mobile phone.
Having Lync test my network connection before I start a video call or meeting.
Going from IM, to voice, to video to app sharing, all within the same client experience.
The R&D team has gathered and incorporated tons of great feedback in the release candidate, including many suggestions from previous releases (check out the new dial-pad in Lync 2010 as just one example). After testing, we essentially freeze the code, and make this near final cut of the software – i.e., the release candidate – available for broader use. As of today, you can download it here, as well as get more information on the release here.
We hope that many of you will take a look and like Lync 2010 as much as the early beta testers have.
In this post I’d like to bring your attention to an amazing solution developed by our partner ICT Wortell in the Netherlands. The solution, called ikpraat.nl (“I Talk” in English), is a secure, virtual communications environment on the Internet developed for people with mental limitations. The application, built on Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft Office Communications Server, provides a simple UI that enables users to initiate email, instant message or video chatting in five easy steps. Many of us take these types of communications for granted, but they have not always been within everyone’s ability to use. In the video, we meet Roseanne, who now uses Office Communications Server to stay in touch with her brother. Having access to daily communication with loved ones is making a huge difference in these user’s lives.
Wortell, Microsoft Netherlands, and healthcare facility deHartekampgroep collaborated on the development of this communications solution. Using Microsoft SharePoint Server, they created a simplified, customizable user interface that makes it easier for people at different developmental levels to access the capabilities of Office Communications Server and Exchange Server.
I particularly like this story because it shows how relevant technology can be for improving people’s lives. So many opportunities exist to help people become less isolated in both their personal and professional lives through these technologies. When Wortell took advantage of the easy integration of Office Communications Server with other Microsoft software products, they created a solution that filled a gap and redesigned communications processes to make a huge impact on people’s lives. Creating these types of solutions provides a terrific opportunity for partners to develop deeper relationships with their existing customers and expand their customer base.
Product Manager, Office Communications Group
We are announcing today that Polycom has signed a multi-year agreement with Microsoft, becoming one of our strategic partners to offer integrated solutions in the Unified Communications space. Our goal is to deliver products to help our customers improve productivity, overcome communications challenges, and adjust their structure to the current economic environment, supporting things like: mobile workers, telepresence, and globally distributed teams. Both companies are committed to developing standards-based solutions that are interoperable and that protect customer investments and choices.
As we approach the launch of Microsoft Communications Server “14”, we are excited to deliver on this milestone. The benefits of our integrated solution are already being seen by our early adopter customers and partners. Many have been testing the new Polycom IP phones and conferencing phones that will be available at launch. Their feedback has been very positive. For the long-term, this relationship will bring a roadmap of new technologies centered around 3 pillars:
New and next-generation Polycom CX series endpoints optimized for Microsoft UC, featuring Polycom’s market-leading HD video and voice technologies
New, innovative room-based video systems designed specifically for enabling direct integration with Microsoft Communications Server “14”
Additional interoperable solutions between Polycom’s existing and future video conferencing solutions
To help our channel partners, Polycom and Microsoft will provide joint go-to-market components that include an integrated solution selling message , combined sales and marketing support, and joint marketing campaigns, as well as training and technical resources.
If you’d like to learn more about how Polycom is working with Microsoft, please check out the video interview with Gurdeep Singh Pall (Microsoft Corporate VP, Unified Communications) and Andy Miller (Polycom CEO) on our Virtual Press Room Video Gallery: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/2010office/videoGallery.aspx.
You can also read the official press release on the Polycom website: http://www.polycom.com/company/news_room/press_releases/2010/20100809.html
Senior Marketing Manager
Microsoft Communications Server
I participated in the Exchange and SharePoint Online Services Live Chat on Tuesday, Feb 23rd. This event was a first for me. It added a new level of “interrupt-driven” to the usual IM and e-mail traffic that we deal with every day. It’s hard to provide deep technical information in an IM chat format, but I think we were able to ans...
Over the last several weeks, I've been proud to highlight why customers of all sizes, geographies and industries have picked Microsoft over Google Apps. Some have left Google after realizing 'it's more pony than horse', others gave it a test drive and found out quickly it was 'more showroom than track ready'. (Sorry, I couldn't resist) . Despite the hype machines running overtime at the GooglePlex in Mountain View, customers are voting with their feet to pick Microsoft.
This is why I am excited to highlight two more customers who have decided to share their reasons why Microsoft has become their trusted software vendor. As always, if you want more customer examples or content that outlines how our solutions differ to Google, you can always visit this website.
Leaving Google. Why Even Free Google Apps Wasn't Worth It
Jared Morgan from Bradshaw and Weil in Paducah, KY has written a guest post over on the MS Online blog about their experience leaving Google Apps Standard Edition for MS Online. Standard edition is a free offering from Google that is limited to 50 users. They see the tremendous value in BPOS to now pay for the suite of services. Jared shares why as a small business the cloud offers a cost effective way to remain agile while gaining access to technology previously out of reach due to cost and on site company support. My favorite part about Jared's post is his singling out of SharePoint Online as a key benefit of the BPOS Suite, "What I thought I was getting as a simple throw-in with BPOS, SharePoint Online has turned out to be as valuable as Exchange Online, if not more so."
SharePoint is the fastest growing product in the history of Microsoft. It's received numerous accolades from industry analysts including top placement in all related Gartner Magic Quadrants. Imagine being a small business with under 50 employees and having access to such a product via the cloud? It's no surprise why SharePoint is a winner for Bradshaw and Weil and 'Why Microsoft' is an affirmative statement and not question at all.
Future Proofing Your Business - Cloud on Your Terms with Microsoft
On the Exchange Blog, David Aird, Head of IT for MITIE, a strategic outsourcing and asset management company, shares his insights into why they selected Exchange over Google Apps. He explains how Microsoft provides flexibility they need and how Google is an ultimatum full of hidden costs. We are the only company in the industry that allows you to run your solutions on prem, in the cloud, hosted with a partner or a hybrid. That means that companies like Bradshaw and Weil who are 'All In' can embrace the cloud immediately and for companies like MITIE, they can still run the systems themselves but by being on Microsoft, they have a product that is 'future proofed' because it allows them an 'on ramp' to go to the cloud on their terms.
"We looked at Google. They were competitively priced but with only three years in the productivity space, they lacked maturity and seemed like a risky investment… Ultimately, we choose Exchange 2007 for its manageability, reliability and enterprise class support. Despite all the recent focus on the cloud, we're not quite ready to move our data outside of our immediate control. When we do, we'll do it on our terms rather than being forced into a fit that's not right for our business." (see post for full transcript. I pulled from two paragraphs)
Stay tuned for more customer stories in the coming weeks as we continue to highlight 'Why Microsoft'.