Sleeping Better With Seattle

A few years ago I changed my email provider over to Gmail. Adios to Hotmail, and that was also adios to pretty much every Microsoft product bar Windows. The Seattle giant has long had a bad press, and a lot of it was deserved. Vista being just the latest in a long line of sub standard releases and PR nightmares.

But. Times change. Players move backwards, some move forwards, others sideways whilst a few hedge their bets and stand still, hoping nothing will change. In my opinion Microsoft is one of those moving forwards. With big purposeful strides. It’s still somehow ‘not cool’ to throw too much praise Redmond’s way. But I’m not too concerned with cool, so I’m going to risk my reputation, what there is of it!. Cool isn’t that important, really. Functionality? Yes. Value? Yes. Aesthetic appeal? Yes. Cool? Meh…

I’ve blogged before about bits and pieces of software that Microsoft has been putting out, and how good I think it is. Their ICE panorama maker in particular. There’s also Photo Story 3 which is an excellent slide show maker. Pro Photo Tools is another powerful app. As is PhotoSynth. I haven’t tried AutoCollage yet, but it looks good and I’ll give it a go soon. Virtual Earth is uber cool, and their maps in general have come on in leaps and bounds. And these are all free.

And lately Windows Live packages have been updated, with a large range of more free software. Photo Gallery works well, better than Picasa, and integrates nicely with Flickr. Live Writer is the best blogging platform. And yesterday I tried out Live Mail Desktop, which impressed me so much I today set as my default mail and feed client. Sky Drive gives you 25gb of free space (Google, are you paying attention?)and they bring all these tools together, with a rather useful profile page.

What’s more these tools are all being glued together, to integrate, work together and make life easier. Their 10% investment in Facebook is coming to fruition with integration there too. Their co-operation with Yahoo is benefitting me. And there’s so much more. I’m having great fun playing with a lot of their new products and seeing how they work for me. They won’t all be useful for me, and there is still a little work to do. Of course. And then there is Windows 7 on the horizon, which is receiving some pretty rave reviews. Especially for the new Windows Media Player which apparently has caught up with their Media Center solution, already widely regarded as the best in its field.

I might, just might, even change back to a hotmail address, although Live Mail does work with my Gmail account perfectly. So what’s up? Have you looked at Microsoft lately? I think it’s possibly worth your time doing so.

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