Microsoft Canada Annual Holiday Media Event


Microsoft reps were in the house at the Richmond Hotel last week to show off some holiday toys for kids both big and little.

Maybe the freshest single gadgets on show were the forthcoming wireless Blue Track mice, which will be available this November in both standard ($89.99) and “mini” ($69.99) sizes.   Mice aren’t normally something to get excited about, but Blue Track is set to enhance your ability to point and click in a big way.  That’s because, thanks to a newly developed blue LED mechanism, these mice will track accurately on virtually any surface.  I was able to demo a device on acrylic, marble, and granite work surfaces, and Microsoft claim that Blue Track will even handle carpet.  While both models include a compact, wireless USB-adapter, the AA-powered mini model, in particular, looks to be an ideal option for laptop users.   On this showing it definitely looks as though Blue Track is set to become the gold standard in mouse tech.

Also being demoed was Microsoft’s new line of Zunes, which come in five different models, ranging from 4GB ($129.99) to 120GB ($249.99).  While the players themselves remain among the few on the market that can legitimately challenge the iPod for aesthetic appeal and feature set (every Zune has built-in wifi and FM radio), it’s on the software side of things that Microsoft is really striving to think different-er than Apple.  Zune is really all about “the Social”, a slick network interface that combines the best of Last FM and Xbox Live.  As on XBL, users are identified by a “Zune tag” and a “Zune card”, which will help your friends stay up on what you’ve been listening to, and vice versa.  Zune cards can be synched directly to a Zune player, meaning users can stay current with their friends playlists on the go.  To top it all off, Zune users are also able to send entire songs directly to their friends Zunes over WiFi, which they can then sample in full for three plays.  If you’re looking for a holiday iPod alternative, Zune definitely has you covered.


In addition to the gadgets, I was also given a tour of the new OneNote app for Office.  Like mice, productivity software isn’t typically known to set pulses racing, but OneNote is certainly capable of some neat tricks.  For starters, it integrates freeform note-taking within a standard typed document, allowing you to draw diagrams and tables quickly, without having to rely on the sometimes clunky WordArt interface.  OneNote also supports drag-and-drop screen capping, allowing users to quickly copy portions of web pages whilst maintaining the original formatting. Cooler still, web-formatted text captured from the Internet remains fully searchable inside OneNote.  The same tech makes embedding photos and even audio files into your OneNote documents a snap.  Then there’s the live upload feature, which allows you to store your OneNote documents on a online server.  Perfect for collaborative projects, your friends and colleagues can access and even edit the same document directly from the web, without needing to keep track of multiple revisions via email.  Of course, Peace would never advocate cutting class, but clever use of OneNote could easily enable savvy groups of students to split a semester of lectures into bi- or even tri-weekly shifts.  Need I say more?

Julian C.


~ by consolecreatures on September 29, 2008.

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