Microsoft: What’s in Store?

May 31st, 2011

I stopped into the brand-new Microsoft Store in Atlanta on opening day last Friday. On the whole, it’s something that needs to be done for the sake of unifying hardware with Windows, but I wasn’t totally sold on the execution.

What could have been better

Remind you of anything?

Boy, were they trying hard. Even down to individual elements, design inspiration from Apple was very obvious. Pricetags next to each machine looked very similar to the inclined plane-esque placards that used to grace the Apple Store (before the iPads), and the screens wrapping around the wall were probably the exact same dimensions as their upstairs counterpart. I could go on about the similarities – everywhere you look, the physical design screams Cupertino.

The music inside was also a little too loud; I couldn’t hear much outside of the blasting of Ke$ha. Hopefully that was just a little first-day overzealousness, but that extended past the decor. The employees were really aggressive in approaching people; walking in felt like being in a gauntlet of being asked how I’m doing, if I needed any help, or if I knew that “this computer is touchscreen!”. At the Apple Store, the employees are bombarded by the customers, but at the Microsoft Store, the customers are bombarded by the employees.

What they got right

Even if the idea was far from original, there’s an interesting twist on the wraparound wall displays: they’re actual screens, not just sheets advertising products. Information about different products is rotating marquee-style, and even cooler, Xboxes are connected in certain areas and can be played on the screens.

Two Microsoft Surfaces were also sitting out - if nothing else, this is the one element that makes the store unique. Most of the people that’ll come in from foot traffic will likely have never seen a Surface before, so at least for a while, it’ll be a good way to generate buzz.

Big picture

Over time, the idea of the store will come to settle with people, and if you’re genuinely looking to buy a PC, it’s one of the better environments for buying a PC that I’ve seen. I doubt it’ll convert many Mac users, but it’s a great option for the existing base of Windows fans who are itching to buy a new machine.

TweetDeck Acquisition

May 3rd, 2011

Ah, yes, another blog post about TweetDeck.

As of yesterday, Twitter’s rumored to go through with a $40-50 million acquisition of TweetDeck.

While this makes sense considering Twitter’s position on having more control over their third-party ecosystem, it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll handle the extreme split in user experience between TweetDeck and Twitter for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. As an idealistic user, I hope they’ll split the two clients into “Twitter for Mac” and “Twitter Pro for Mac”, although it’ll still be pretty disjointed – Twitter for Mac is only for one platform, and TweetDeck runs on both Windows and OS X. Not to mention how Twitter’ll feel about the dependency of Adobe AIR.

The rumor‘s also been thrown around that Twitter made the acquisition simply to shut down TweetDeck. If that ended up going through, that’d show a complete disregard for users, not to mention all the brands that have TweetDeck firmly integrated into their marketing processes. And that’s a pretty hefty purchase for the sole purpose of exercising dictator-like control. Is strict control of the platform really worth upwards of $50M?

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t take a crack at developing the next big Twitter client right now.

TweetDeck iOS App

April 28th, 2011

A couple days ago, TweetDeck dropped a completely revamped version of their iOS app.

Most of the interface elements make perfect sense, but take a little time getting used to. Pinching columns out for an overhead view works great, but it’s not intuitively obvious. It’d be great to see some kind of overlay when first signing in that shows an example of the gesture. It’s the same problem that plagues Twitter for Mac and Twitter for iPad. They have some awesome three-finger gestures that work brilliantly, but they’re tucked away far too deep.

The inverted scrollbar is a little strange at first; most apps use the center of the bar to indicate your position, but TweetDeck uses the bottom of the bar to show where you are. And when you scroll up, the bar shortens instead of moving. Again, once you get used to it, it’s a great experience. I love the way that column headers are represented when viewing, though – the shadow of the notification light when viewing unread tweets looks really slick.

Performance is also vastly improved – even on my iPhone 3G, scrolling is smooth, and the app locks into your swipe between columns much better. No one enjoys highlighting a tweet when you’re intending to switch columns.

Aside from a few quirks, this app is much more polished than the previous iteration. Hit up the download!