Inauguration Microsoft Innovation Center Mons/Belgium

Wednesday March 4th will stay a great day to remember, the inauguration of the Belgian Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) in Mons. A full house with packed auditorium and top level guests and speakers: Rudy Demotte Minister-President of Wallonia, Marie-Dominique Simonet Minister of Scientific Research and Elio Di Rupo minister of state and Mayor and mayor of Mons. On top op that some 500 guests all political and business leaders of the region passed by. 10 months after Steve Ballmer announced the plans the center is ready to start working.
The MIC is a joint initiative of public and private partners with Microsoft, the Walloon Government, and partners like Awex (export agency), Forem (employment agency), AWT (technology agency), LME (house of entrepreneurship), HP, VOO (cable company going for internet-tv) and Mobistar (mobile operator).

The goal of the MIC is threefold:

  • MIC wants to support the creation of new and innovative start-ups. In 3 years time our aim is to create 250 new jobs in 25 newly created companies.
  • Secondly, we want to stimulate innovative projects for which we have a test- and development platform ready for use.
  • And lastly we will host conferences and trainings in new technologies to make the picture complete.

In a couple of weeks you can find more info on the program here: www.mic-belgique.be

Especially in this uncertain economy it is of the utmost importance to keep investing in innovation and creativity. That’s probably what Darwin meant by: “Survivors are not the strongest or the smartest, but those that adapt the fastest.” That’s what the MIC is going to be about, helping companies to bridge that gap and be more innovative than others and adapt to the ever changing market.

Lots of press presence too, we even made the primetime evening news on 2 channels and all of the newspapers. No problem if you’ve missed it, here are the replays:

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RTBF (click to see the video)                                                         RTL TVi  (click to see video)

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Your chance to look into the future: 10 years away

Steven Elope, president of the Microsoft Business Division, talked last week about the future of technology in business at the yearly technology conference of the Wharton Business school (raking no3 after Harvard & Stanford). Full speach and video’s here, but pretty intersting video (short version) was posted separately. Showing you how the near future might look like using lots of technologies developed in Microsofts research.  

  http://images.video.msn.com/flash/soapbox1_1.swf

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Zooming into OneNote

I’m a pretty big fan and user of OneNote myself and have a Tablet PC with pen I use on a daily basis. For those that don’t know this hidden gem out of the Office family go here and get the 60-day trial version. In short OneNote is a note taking application that lets you organize your notes as you would have done in a paper notebook, but much better. You know how it works, you have that paper agenda or notebook you take to all meetings and customers, and after a while your life depends on it. What if that cup of coffee goes over it, or you forget to take it from the bag in seat in front of you on the plane. Indeed disaster as your brain is the only backup for your notes. Well OneNote is fixing that. It even has full text search, and for those that know me OneNote can index even most of my unreadable scribbles.
Canvas for OneNote now adds DeepZoom functionality to it, similar to what we’ve done in PowerPoint with PPTPlex, or Silverlight or PhotoSynth. Watch the video and you see the added value immediately.

   http://images.video.msn.com/flash/soapbox1_1.swf
Video: Canvas for OneNote Demo Video

If you’re not a OneNote user yet this should convince you.
Go to OfficeLabs for a download or more goodies or visit Michael Oldenburgs blog for tips and tricks.

TechFest 2009, where the R and D come together

TechFest

TechFest is an annual event that brings researchers from Microsoft Research’s labs around the world to Redmond to share their latest work with Microsoft product teams. Attendees experience some of the freshest, most innovative technologies emerging from Microsoft’s research efforts. The event provides a forum in which product teams and researchers can discuss the novel work occurring in the labs, thereby encouraging effective technology transfer into Microsoft products. Some of the coolest stuff for this year was:

  • PhotoSynth for Video that combines multiple video streams into one
  • Augmented reality a technology for adding visual data to a video display based on scene recognition instead of GPS
  • The future of cloud computing, or how the dividing line between what runs on your computer and what runs in the cloud will not be apparent to most users

Full TechFest info and links here (WARNING: only click the link if you are really in a geeky mood).

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Brussels Girlgeek dinner in Antwerp (10/3)

clip_image002As an extension of the TechDays early March in Antwerp we’ve decided to support a Girl Geek Dinner event on March 10th 2009. In case you’re girly and geeky check out the post on the coming event: http://www.brusselsgirlgeekdinner.be/?p=252 (note: Registration will open on Feb 19th). Theme for this gathering is mobility, Girl Geek Dinner founder Sarah Blow will be over from London for a session on mobile development, and Lynn Langit (over from California) will speak as well.

Don’t think about this as a girls Nerds gathering, feedback I get from Girly Geeks is that it’s pretty fun :-). So if you consider yourself a Belgian girls geek: save the date an register through the link above. I will not be there as I hate it to be called "a sacoche" :-)

 

Microsoft Innovation Center Belgium opens March 4th

Earlier this week we officially launched the Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) project together with Walloon Minister of economy Jean-Claude Marcourt and announced March 4th 2009 as the opening date and start of operations. The MIC in Mons will be part of a worldwide extensive network of Innovation centers that aim at developing and stimulating the local IT economy and employment,  and impact relationship with local governments, SMBs and start-ups. The 2 focus axes of the Belgian MIC will be innovative technology on one side and e-health from a business perspective. The MIC is a public private collaboration (ASBL/VZW) created by l’Agence wallonne à l’exportation (AWEX), La Maison de l’Entreprise, Le Forem, L’agence Wallonne des Télécommunications (AWT), Microsoft and the Walloon Government. The initial investment to create the MIC and operate it for the first 3 years is being done 50/50 by Microsoft and the government.
The details are in the press and at our partners:
Awt

http://www.awt.be/web/res/index.aspx?page=res,fr,foc,100,085 

Le Soir

http://www.lesoir.be/regions/hainaut/le-microsoft-innovation-2009-01-21-683577.shtml
http://www.lesoir.be/regions/hainaut/mons-deux-pme-hainuyeres-2009-01-21-683608.shtml

La Province

http://www.laprovince.be/regions/mons/2009-01-20/mons-centre-microsoft-actif-4-mars-678168.shtml

La Libre

http://www.lalibre.be/economie/actualite/article/476203/hp-rejoint-microsoft-au-sein-du-mic.html

Sinterklaas brought a nice present this year

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Sinterklaas only visits children like us that have been good for the whole year, and thats probably why he brought us the largest box ever delivered to the office. And it contained … a Microsoft Surface table.
I must say I was a bit suspicious, especially after my own Mapple post yesterday: “But it’s glowing, that confirms that it’s off” . But after playing with it this afternoon I can confirm the Microsoft Surface is much more than a big heavy gadget, and not only due to its size but due to the business impact it can have. It is a major advancement that moves beyond the traditional user interface to a more natural way of interacting with information. Surface computing is going to change the way customers can engage with their end users and help enhance customer experience, increase customer loyalty, improve brand perception, attract new customers, help grow revenue and reduce cost of service. So even in times where customers want to get most out of an investment Surface and similar solutions that use multi touch and gestures can be a breakthrough proposal. That’s also one of the things we’ll see broadly introduced by Windows 7 and being supported by more and more hardware like the HP Touchsmart.
So from now on the office looks a bit like the Rio in Las Vegas (at least we have the table):

Building the cloud

One of my non-technical fans provided feedback that some more cloud background could be useful. And again pictures say more than a 1000 words, videos more than a book. The first video is an animation of how Microsoft is building its cloud computing infrastructure; the second video is on the environmental impact.

But it’s glowing, that confirms that it’s off

  

Hilarious, just hilarious. Not only making fun of the Mapple brand, but a great warning for all those parents that allow their children to spend a horrendous amount of money on gadgets and games, and that’s not only Mapple stuff.
You need to be fast to watch the video, as it seems to be disappearing from the web as I type. 3 other copies where just deleted from the web.

Also confirms The Simpsons are for adults and not for children, however mine still like them a lot.

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Dreaming about the cloud

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We had David Chappell over in Belgium earlier this week to meet Architects from customers and partners talking about cloud computing. Bit of a funny picture with this post: both David and I seem to be dreaming away about the cloud.
However this proved to be one of the most interesting days of the year and time well spend.
David is not a Microsoft employee and that means he’s not scared sharing his personal opinion about what Microsoft is doing. Whether it be good or bad.

I strongly share Davids view that with cloud computing we’re introducing one of the big platform changes or rather additions a customer can choose from. He compares it to adding an extra platform just as what happened when we complemented Mainframes with Mini-computers, with servers, with PC’s and with mobile devices. Cloud will not take over from any of the platforms in our livetime but will give customers an additional choice for implementing IT.

Davids white paper is available here

How do you see the future?

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It’s pretty difficult to predict the future. Who has predicted the economical downturn we’re in today? Only a handful. So I’m not going to start with it. It is however much easier to use the pressure that companies are under to look at how IT can help to give back to the business and help saving money. Not by just cutting some IT budget, but by using existing budgets to get more out of IT. We clearly see a number of domains where IT can help optimizing business environments, save some money, and positively impact productivity.

So if you look at the IT glass being half-full instead of half empty you will see that Nicholas Carr was wrong and that IT does matter. Have a look at www.microsoft.be/economie or http://www.microsoft.com/nz/economy/ (for English speakers) and find out how IT can help you getting the glass back full.

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Barca was Belgian again (at least for 2 weeks)

The title sounds more arrogant than I wanted to make it sound, but the truth is the truth :-).
Last 2 weeks was the yearly EMEA TechEd conference in Barcelona with 1 week of in-depth knowledge transfer for ITPro’s (IT infrastructure oriented people) and 1 week of developers goodness. I’ve made it a habit if spending 48h in Barcelona during the weeks to touch base with the Microsoft friendly crowd that frequents the conference. Why? It’s these 400 Belgians that eat and breath the stuff we’re putting in the market (their bosses pay for it), but these are the real heroes that add their brains and make it a solution. So it was very enriching again in getting feedback from the real world. And next to that, Barcelona is a nice city to spend some time on good food and ditto wine ;-)
And yes you read that correct 400 Belgians made the investment in traveling to the conference ad learn, learn, learn …

What makes it even more Belgian is that the conference is being organized by 2 Belgian people too: Hans Verbeeck is the overall business Owner and Ann Van De Voorde the event manager, and both did a great job in delivering a spotless conference experience.

speaker idolAnd more Belgian twinkles: Kurt Claeys (consultant / trainer at Ordina) has won this years Speaker Idol at TechEd Developers. He’s the 3rd Belgian that wins this speaking contest: a few years ago Bart De Smet (now working for Microsoft in Redmond) won and last year Ilse Van Criekinghe got the IT Pro trophy. When you think “Speakers Idol” think about the event you might know from your favorite commercial channel, same intensity, same nasty judges, same high level of performance in the finals. I’m sure the big Belgian crowd that was there to supporter for Kurt has helped influencing the judges picking him as no 1. Way to go, and part of the price is that you’ll see Kurt as speaker on next year’s conference that makes the move to hip Berlin.

OpenID slowly becoming the defacto single ID standard

One of the less spectacular announcements of last week, but not less important was the commitment from Windows Live ID to support the OpeID digital identity framework. That means that you soon will be able to use your Windows Live ID account to sign in to any OpenID Web site.

Details on the announcement on the Windows Live ID team blog.

The commitment of +400 million Live ID’s is seen as a huge support for OpenID. And that was not all, 2 days after Microsoft also Google announced they will support OpenID.

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Embedded and Robotics academic tour (Leuven 17/11)

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Are you a student or academic interested in learning how to build the embedded systems and robots of the future? Then why not attend the Microsoft Windows Embedded European Tour which is now visiting university campuses across Europe. You’ll hear from experts from Microsoft as well as local industry partners and gain an insight into one of the fastest growing technology markets.

The event is open to students and faculty members of Belgian educational institutions. Participation in the event is free of charge. Registration is mandatory (since the number of seats is limited).

09:30 –09:35 Welcome and IntroductionJan Potemans
09:35 –10:15 Opening Keynote: Dave Baker;  Windows-Based Connected Devices in the Real World
10:15 –10:30 Company overview: EZOSChristophe Peerens
10:30 –10:45 Coffee break
10:45 –11:00 Microsoft’s Commitment to Academia; Jan Potemans
11:00 –12:00 “Small is Beautiful” Building Solutions with the .NET Micro Framework   ;Dave Baker
12:00 –13:00 The Ongoing Democratization of Robotics Development Martin Calsyn
13:00 –14:00 Lunch  +  Partner Expo

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For details, please contact :Jan Potemans
Academic Program Manager
Microsoft Belgium/Luxembourg
jan.potemans at microsoft.com

When the model becomes the application

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(The funny video on the right (although a bit too long) explains in common language what this post is about.)

“Oslo” is the code name for a set of modeling technologies currently under development. Model based development is not new and has been used over the past 20 years in a variety of environments, really old readers will remember IEF that generated code based on business specifications and also in the ‘80ties IBM with AD/Cycle. You might also remember Microsoft Repository from the 90ties which was a pre-.NET effort and lots of other tools over the past 30 years.
Modeling is used across a wide range of domains and makes it easier for people to write things down in ways that make sense for the problem domain they are working. And then make those models available to platform components during program execution. It also enables developers to write applications at a higher level of abstraction than with other development methods. With distributed environments within and cross firewall gaining traction model based development is going to help a lot in simplifying team development but even more maintaining existing applications and changing the business processes when the original developers have moved on. I love Azure and cloud computing, but it’s clear that by expanding the traditional boarders of SOA from the company in the cloud you’ll need some more overview to keep track of what’s happening.

Oslo consists of three components, which will surface in the Visual Studio family of products:

  • A visual design tool (code-named “Quadrant”)  to design business processes and applications with well-understood, flowchart-like graphics
  • A modeling language (code-named “M”) for extending system provided models like WCF or WF or create your own models
  • A repository (SQL based) containing the models

Models stored in the Oslo repository are available to “Quadrant” and any other tool or application that has the appropriate permissions.  But also applications can examine, use and manipulate the models that they are made up from themselves during runtime. Sounds a bit complex in my words, but you can read a nice expert white paper (again from David Chappell).

Community Technology Previews are available since yesterday and more information is available in the new “Oslo” Developer Center at http://msdn.microsoft.com/oslo or http://www.modelsremixed.com for a high-level overview. Some good blogs "Oslo" Modeling Language Team Blog ; Steve Martin (Prod Man); Martin Fowler

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Office and Windows without walls

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Yesterday we heard Ray Ozzie announcing Azure (see prior post) with a focus on the cloud computing part. Today’s the announcements at PDC where about the client and the Live Services that complement it. We’ve come a long way in scaling and implementing services over the past couple of years allowing websites to consume services like Identity management with Live ID, Windows live messenger and presence information or Geospatial information. The missing link however is syncing information, devices and services together and consume them easily from whatever application. That’s exactly what the Live Framework is offering, a set of tools and SDK allowing developers to build their own synchronization like the one used in Live Mesh. Great stuff to demo and show how you can make a change through one device (e.g. phone) and see that change being replicated to another device (e.g. PC or app in a browser).

The most impressive announcement and demo for me however was how we’re extending the Office client applications into the cloud and offer light weight versions of them through the browser (IE, Firefox, Safari).  These web applications will enable people to view, edit and collaborate on Office documents from their PC’s, phones and browsers. The richness of the Office apps in the browser is just amazing, the ribbon is there, documents are 100% rendered as you have them through the full Office suite (thanks to Open XML format being used). Even the document editing or spreadsheet manipulation is super rich. All comparable to the quality of Outlook Web Access we already have today. This richness is obtained by using Silverlight for visualization and user experience. Office Web Applications will be available for free as advertising supported services through Office Live, AND through subscriptions as part of existing licensing for businesses. Launch will be as part of the next release of Office (14) with an earlier private preview. Details + some nice screenshots in the presspass site.
I First saw Office Web Applications being demoed in July when I was over at an internal conference and I’m still as excited about them as I was back then.

And then last but not least the first public display of Windows 7, next release of the client OS. In this release Windows and Windows Live are coming together to create a strong “Windows without walls” experience. The first pre-beta code was made available on the spot to PDC attendees. The highlights of this release are:

  • Extend Windows client with more Software + Services features (Photo gallery, mail, video editing, … integrated through Office Live)
  • Work the way you want
  • Deliver fundamental performance, reliability, and security features
  • Make everyday tasks faster and easier by streamline and simplifying the tasks you do most often
  • Make new things possible like interacting with your PC though multi-touch gestures (if you have one of these screens)

Next to that this conference day contained lots of info for developers that want to early adopt all this goodness, with practical info and even some hands-on labs. The rest of the week will be mostly parallel sessions so I leave it in the hands of the Belgian Bloggers on-site to provide you with the latest news.

Gill Cleeren

Katrien De Graeve (MS)

Grégory Renard

Pieter Gheysens

Kurt Claeys

Azure, powering the Software + Services platform

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Today we’ve announced the future of the Software + Services platform called Azure. Azure is the cloud platform that sits at the base of what we’re offering for doing cloud computing. The Azure Services Platform is built on the Windows Azure operating system that provides service hosting and management, scalable storage and a development environment for the Azure Services Platform. The different components of the Azure Platform include:

  • SQL Services for relational data storage and querying
  • .NET Services for service-connectivity, workflow, and messaging
  • Live Services for data exchange and communication cross platforms
  • SharePoint Services providing extensibility for SharePoint Server
  • Dynamics CRM Services providing extensibility for Dynamics CRM

David Chappel has written a nice white paper Introducing the Azure Services Platform explaining in detail what this means from a platform point of view. Nice catch, we have David in Belgium on December 1st for a select audience of Architects, partners and Academics.

My perception on today’s announcement is that we finally see an extension to the client-server and Service Oriented Architectures as they developed over the past 15 years. A model where the customer can choose whether he runs his applications on-premise, hosted at a local partner, or in the cloud.

Those at PDC will immediately get access to the Community Technology Preview and can start playing around with the platform starting today, and as we have 45 Belgians attending you might see some local activities in the coming months and at the Belgian TechDays next spring.

Stay tuned as tomorrow we will be announcing how the client fits in all this excitement.

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First CloudCamp on the continent on 30/10

The Brussels CloudCamp is expected to be a Barcamp-style event with ad-hoc discussions on cloud computing subjects. Will be interesting to see how all the different players dig their trenches on their side of the cloud. The goal is that after a couple of meetings we grow some common ground and get cloud computing cross the chasm and inside the tornado (read Geoffrey Moore’s “old book on technology adoption lifecycle). During the event the attendees can exchange ideas, knowledge and information in a creative and supporting environment, advancing the current state of cloud computing and related technologies.
I will be presenting the Microsoft Software + Services story after we make the announcements on PDC just the days before. Will be exciting as this is the first public outing in Belgium after briefing some partners under NDA.Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

The future is P!NK full of Brainpower and Entertainment

It’s been a great week down in Atlanta. A lot of excitement and I’ll start with the entertaining and fun bit that closed the official part: a concert with P!NK. Indeed we had the pleasure to experience a show with this great entertainer. What a fun, great songs and a treat to the eye, both the show and Miss P!NK that is. All her great songs, yes including the nasty ones, and some newer work. The crowd, including or pretty large delegation of Belgians had a super time. P!NK rocks and I finally understand where the ! in her name comes from.

And then the content of the conference itself, not less impressing than P!NK but as most of the exiting news was under non-disclosure I can’t tell to much about it. I can however inspire you to get the full announcement of how the next generation will look like at PDC (professional developers conference) in Oktober.
This conference targetting both customer and partners strategic employees will go deep on the Software + Services paradigm and explain all about how we’re going to do cloud computing including the great examples.
We’ve heared about a number of Belgians already registered that want to hear the news and get educated first hand.
PDC isn’t a yearly conference but has an irregular scheme and only runs when there is big news about future directions. And the future for sure looks PINK. The next generation platform, tools and developer environments will be announced there. If you’re interested in where IT’s going this is the place to be.
Ray Ozzie will be one of the keynote speakers and after experiencing him last week with one of his strongest speaches ever I’m looking forward at his session on PDC. The rest of the content also sooks pretty exiting, have a look here for the first details on agenda.

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