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Opinions: How Microsoft Made A Cloud Believer Out of Me

Written on:May 15, 2011
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by Travis Pope, Zune MVP

For three years I’ve listened to tech luminary Paul Thurrott on his Windows Weekly Podcast tell us about the future of computing and cloud integration. I laughed at his repeated attempts to convince the wider geek public that anything stored on your hard drive was how the cavemen would do it. I scoffed at his repeated attempts to explain his complicated network of Google Calendars and desktop clients that pulled them to his computer. One day, in January I stopped laughing.

I remember being in my home office preparing to fly out to Seattle the first time I saw Windows Phone. It was Microsoft’s briefing at Mobile World Congress, and all I could stop thinking about was how smooth it looked. I resigned myself to the fact that I’d be picking one up late, but that was fine, I’d have time to learn about the operating system and its ecosystem. During my period of learning more about Windows Phone I happened to be watching Windows Weekly as Paul leans over to the camera and says, “You know, if you really want to use this thing, you really need a Live ID”. By this time I’d already been using Live as my link between Xbox and Zune but had decided to stay with Yahoo as my defacto email address and Gmail as my priority inbox. I connected with my Live ID and forwarded Gmail and Yahoo to it on Paul’s suggestion. Step one of my assimilation was complete, but I again wasn’t a cloud computing kind of guy.

I also wasn’t a calendar kind of guy, my policy had been simple: when it doubt write it down. One day while looking for an email I stumbled into Live Calendar. It’s ease of use, and ability to sync back to my desktop and my newly purchased Windows Phone were all the incentive I needed to get all of my appointments organized. On Paul’s advice I also decided to link my Live ID to various accounts from other websites including Flickr, Last.FM, and more importantly Facebook. Live Contacts and Live Photos were a godsend. Take a picture; let it upload to Live SkyDrive, then auto delete. Know someone you need to call but don’t have their number? Well you’re friends with them on Facebook, check your contacts and just like magic it’s already there.

I think the biggest revelation for me was Office. Now rarely if ever do I use Outlook, in fact because of using Live Mail my eyes find Outlook’s UI to be a bloated mess. If I want to work on an article I right click the Hotmail icon on my taskbar and select ‘Home’ then ‘Office’. From there it’s available to be edited on another computer, downloaded to my local copy of Microsoft Word for offline use and now available to edit on my Windows Phone by sending a quick email.

I’ll be up front with you. I’m not a programmer or a person who likes the bleeding edge of whatever tech trend is usually being talked about on computing blogs. I don’t enjoy having technology bite me in the rear. Back in the day I was the one making fun of both Windows Live and cloud computing. I thought the idea of having all of my essential information synced through some web service and not stored on my hard drive was some sort of fairy tale land. Now if you’ll excuse me; I’m off to go check my Live Calendar for my next appointment. I’m hoping no one notices that I’m now a total hypocrite.

Travis Pope (@harlemS) started ZuneSpring, became a Zune MVP, and recently renamed his blog to EnConnected, where he posts on Zune and beyond, and is our go-to guy on all things Zune.  We want to thank him for stopping by with this guest post!

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