Microsoft to create products that are safe, simple and social

Microsoft is switching gears with its consumer division and has changed its focus from a home technology provider to trying to improve the lives of its users with technology.

Sue Borden, senior marketing manager, entertainment & devices division, Microsoft Canada, said there have been a lot of dramatic changes in the past year and a person’s work time and life are blurring.

“Consumers have told us that their digital experiences need to fit into their lifestyle and entertainment needs. They also need to be connected and simple to use,” she said. Microsoft’s new mandate for the CE division in Canada is to create products for simple everyday users instead of tech savvy users. Microsoft already knows that the later group gets technology, Borden said.

“We also want to create technology that is safe,” Borden added. The Vista operating system builds on this safety premise by providing better quality for online tracking and monitoring of games, she said.

There is a trend in computing today where users are being more interactive than every before especially with entertainment products such as the Xbox console. Borden said that users play the game, play it online and chat with others in the community. Xbox live, for example, has a thriving community of more than seven million members to date. This group spends more than 2.3 billion hours with the Xbox console or 95 million days playing the unit.

“People are becoming content creators through social networking. We have more than 75 million Windows Live spaces and users upload more than eight million photos in a day to Windows Live spaces,” Borden said.

One of Microsoft’s brand new product categories is based on protecting digital content.

“It is back to Vista as the platform. We see it as an enabler and we wanted to make it as solid as possible and also to make it easier for partners to create solutions on it. It is about selling memories and services such as a photo lab,” Borden said.

Windows Home Server software, which is part of Vista, and OEMed on HP’s HP MediaSmart Server is one of those products.

HP’s HP MediaSmart Server is a home server with four hard drive bays and four ports of USB or Firewire. It is designed to be always on and quiet, said Barry Zeidenberg, group marketing manager, entertainment and devices for Microsoft Canada.

There are more home-based businesses cropping up and households also have more than one PC. The HP Home Server can handle 10 PCs and is excellent for small business, Zeidenberg said.

“In the home people do not back up PCs and you get islands of data,” he added. What Microsoft Home Server software allows is for simplified back ups automatically. “There is no button or switch on the network because it is always on,” Zeidenberg said.

This software enables users to retrieve data after a crash and can manage the overall health of the PCs by monitoring for viruses and spyware. Through a domain a user can access the home server anywhere in the world through a log in and password admin set up.

“This is great for a small business owner who is on the road,” Zeidenberg said.

Maurice Benatar, Windows Vista product manager at the company, said security threats are aimed at “low-hanging fruit”. “These are people who are living the digital lifestyle and they need to be protected.”

Vista Smart Security can set limits on Web sites and games, block certain Web sites or set Web levels for high use and for meta data, Benatar said.

It can also set time limits on a PC. Benatar said that these controls are aimed at children because Microsoft has found that 23 per cent of kids use a PC more than three hours a day.

PC owners can get an activity report where they can see what the children have been doing. It can also block or restrict MSN Internet Messenger and downloading.

“This is not about spying on kids. This creates a healthy discussion in the household and can help you define limits. It is a communications device,” Benatar said.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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