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As with everything else, Microsoft is still pursuing a strategy to embed all communications into the desktop PC. This will be their undoing. PC-based communications management is errant as a go-to-market strategy, doing ANYTHING on the PC (especially with Windows and presumably Outlook) is fraught with stupid problems, and also doesn’t particularly accommodate the advent of mobile computing (the vast majority of which is non-connected).

Event notification of any sort has to, by nature of the requirements for ubiquity and interoperability, live within the network.

At the core of this, though, are some absolutely brilliant ideas for notification and presence management. Services like Wildfire and Portico have summarily failed because they require the user to program information on a daily or hourly basis.

People shouldn’t have to spend the same amount of time entering the information necessary to avert getting bothered by events at the wrong time, if it’s equivalent to or greater than the time occupied by being interrupted at the wrong time or with the wrong events..

Sounds like MS’s developers get it, but marketing is still killing themselves trying to tie everything to the PC. That’s SO 1990s.


>LAB RAT: Microsoft is calling you
>By Phil Harvey
>, June 01, 2000
>Driving down a California street, Eric Horvitz’s cell phone
>began beeping. His office in Redmond, Washington, was
>calling with an urgent message. But it wasn’t a person on
>the line; it was his PC.
>In an instant, Mr. Horvitz read the message appearing on his
>phone, then responded by calling his office. Mr. Horvitz, a
>group manager in Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)’s lab’s Adaptive
>Systems & Interaction Group, was paged by his PC while en
>route to Stanford University for a day of meetings. Although
>he was hundreds of miles from his PC, he received urgent
>email messages thanks to experimental new Microsoft software
>called Priorities.
>The technology, currently being tested by many Microsoft
>employees, allows PCs to “read” email, filter messages based
>on certain priorities, and then forward important messages
>to recipients. The company won’t say when or even if it will
>sell the software, but a glimpse at Priorities shows how
>Microsoft is thinking about its future.
>It’s important to understand Microsoft’s strategy in the
>Internet age, especially in light of forthcoming information
>about Microsoft’s Next-Generation Windows Services and the
>continuing saga of the firm’s antitrust trial. Priorities is
>a good example of the direction they are heading,
>demonstrating how Microsoft hopes to continue to tie
>consumers to Windows, even as they increasingly do more
>computing away from PCs.
>Most email programs today have ways of creating rules or
>filters that tell the program what to do when certain kinds
>of messages are received. This is a useful function, but
>it’s only the beginning of what’s possible with a technology
>such as Priorities.
>Mr. Horvitz says Priorities is part of a larger concern at
>Microsoft Research to develop Attentional User Interfaces
>(AUIs). The philosophy behind AUIs is that human attention
>is the most valuable and scarce commodity in humanÐcomputer
>interaction, he says.
>Priorities is designed to practice “courteous computing,”
>the ability to consider certain criteria before bothering a
>recipient with an urgent message. Based on parameters set by
>the user and the program’s ability to “learn” based on a
>user’s habits, Priorities weighs the urgency of each message
>sent against the probability that a user will be paying
>attention to a noise from a PC, phone, or pager.
>Without getting into the mind-bending mathematics involved,
>here’s roughly how Priorities is supposed to work.
>First, the program assigns each incoming email message a
>score based on how urgent the message seems. For instance, a
>message that was sent to a whole group of people about a
>dinner date in three weeks isn’t as urgent as a note sent
>only to you, from your boss, containing language such as,
>”as soon as you can… or you’re fired.”
>Once an urgency score is assigned, Priorities considers the
>state of the user. Has the keyboard been touched or the
>mouse been moved lately? Is the user in the middle of
>working on a document now, or in the process of scanning
>information and shifting between documents rather quickly?
>Is the user playing Solitaire? Is the user downloading some
>Britney Spears photo over a 28.8 Kbps modem? These are the
>kinds of questions Priorities must weigh.
>But it doesn’t stop there. Priorities is integrated with
>Exchange Server, Microsoft’s email server, and Outlook 2000,
>the company’s email, calendar, and contact management
>program. This level of integration allows Priorities to get
>a sense of a user’s location, based on other information
>those programs contain about his or her schedule.
>In Mr. Horvitz’s case, his computer not only saw that he was
>traveling, but it also noticed that his first set of
>meetings hadn’t yet begun. Therefore, it “reasoned” that the
>best way to reach him would be to send a text message to his
>cell phone, which it did.
>I’m told the version of Priorities working at Microsoft even
>has an understanding of Microsoft’s corporate pecking order,
>so you can bet that messages from Mr. Gates and Mr. Ballmer
>will be assigned top priority.
>The direction of Microsoft’s technology here is important,
>considering the kinds of services the company has in store
>as part of its Next-Generation Windows Services program.
>Later this month, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates is expected
>to unveil specific details of the strategy at Microsoft’s
>Forum 2000 conference.
>The Priorities program may or may not be a part of
>Microsoft’s upcoming announcements, but it’s a clear sign of
>where Microsoft is heading in the Internet age. Although Mr.
>Gates gave a short public demonstration of Priorities at the
>Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association Wireless in
>February, Microsoft has yet to show what extent it will
>apply the technology.
>For me, living in a world where I’m blasted by more than a
>hundred email messages a day from publicists and
>junk-mailers, this type of application would be a godsend.
>The Priorities software is just one piece of the larger
>puzzle that Microsoft Research has been working for many
>months. Extrapolate what’s possible with Priorities and
>you’ll see implications for an information notification
>platform. Such a platform would provide a world where all
>sorts of information sources can talk to all sorts of
>devices. Specialized filters such as those found in
>Priorities may reside in the Net’s infrastructure to keep
>information relevant depending on device and importance.
>It remains to be seen how Microsoft will go about
>implementing such a far-reaching platform. It’s safe to
>assume the platform will take shape in the same ways as the
>operating systems in servers and desktop PCs, stitched
>together with common communications protocols and
>technology. Microsoft’s intent seems to be to give all of
>its operating systems the ability to monitor multiple
>sources of information and make decisions about how and when
>to notify and deliver information to users.
>This kind of innovation is intended to make life easier on
>consumers and tougher on competitors. Contrary to popular
>belief, the Internet age may be the time consumers are more
>dependent on Windows (and its related services) than they’ve
>ever been before.
>Splitting Microsoft into two companies — as the Justice
>Department and 17 of the 19 states are demanding — won’t
>change this eventual fate one bit. Perhaps a better option
>for Microsoft competitors would be to give several companies
>access to intellectual property within Windows.
>I’m going to send Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson an email
>suggesting this. Of course, whether he gets this urgent
>message in time is another matter altogether.

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