I spent the last two days at the Microsoft campus in Bellevue? Redmond? for the first Live @ Edu World conference. Live @ Edu is Microsoft’s offer of free mail services for students, no ads, no fees, and yes to college rebranding.
Although some of the Microsoft presenters were a bit shaky, by the time Brad Goldstein started talking in real detail about the new Admin Panel, things got interesting. In particular, there’s now two offerings:
* college rebranded Live Mail / Hotmail
* college rebranded Exchange Labs -
(basically hosted next-gen Exchange, with 10 GB mail boxes!)
The Exchange Labs part is interesting for a few reasons.
First, the Labs part means that it’s a newer, edgier flavor of Exchange than is available for on site installations. Stuff the Exchange team is playing with, but – big but here – stable. Mkay?
Second, the Exchange Devs are adminning the hosting. Oh, it’s supposedly hosted out of the same data centers as Live Mail is, but when you call support on it you’re talking straight to the devs. That means your feature requests go right to those who can code them. Nifty.
Third, I heard from more than one attendee the rumor that Live Mail was going to be phased out in favor of the OWA/Exchange Labs action. I don’t see that being a particularly believable path, as Live Mail is pretty entrenched. Remember what happened when the Live services first came out, and Microsoft attempted to drop ‘Hotmail’ in favor of just Windows Live Mail?
A couple other things worth noting. Angus Logan, a general manager of the Live developer platform, announced rather scatteredly that the APIs for Live were opening up. Meaning that at some point we’ll be able to program a shell extension for Skydrive? Please? Bueller?
There was also a little room where three members of an unnamed team were asking what we’d like to see in a Learning Management Software, or LMS. They denied that Microsoft was entering the space, but it was all coy smiles.
I enjoyed the presentation by UW & Penn U about how they implemented the mail system. Penn U‘s Chris Mustazza did a good presentation and was interesting to talk to before & afterwards, as well. I also chatted with Jen Gay from Drexel – she’s as interested as I am in doing something useful with Skydrive & Office Live Workspaces, the hosted Sharepoint service on Live now.
One last bit. They had a Surface table there. I got to spend about 30 minutes alone playing with it. While it was fun, I came away from it with the distinct impression that it’s a solution searching for a problem. Navigation is pretty intuitive, like the iPhone. Touch gestures, etc. But it’s definitely jerkier than the iPhone. Let me repeat that a different way, using the quote feature -
An in-development touch-interface product the size of a coffee table doesn’t work as smooth as the touch-interface iPhone that shipped almost two years ago.
– Ralph Hogaboom, on Microsoft’s Surface Table Computer
Don’t get me wrong, it’s neat tech. But I almost forgot about it as soon as I left it. The only thing I got from it was bragging rights for touching one.