Mix 06
  • Live in Vegas

Extend Your Reach

In the past, applications were at the center of the data acquisition experience. Users opened specific applications to do certain things: you cannot read Email without a specific client or access content on the web without a PC- or Mac-based browser.  Content was locked in applications, with few options for alternate access.

We realize users do not make a computer purchase for the operating system.  Users buy a system for the experience provided by the applications.  In short, applications allow users to manipulate data.  Whether playing a game, balancing a checkbook or reaching out to other people, the change in the data is the end result the user seeks.

In today's interconnected world, one of the most important factors in application, platform or device selection is the capability that allows a user to decide on their choice of experience when accessing their data.  Given the choice, users will select the way that is most meaningful to them in the context of their physical situation or location.  I call the desire to access data in these different contexts “Information Snacking”, and note that users want to stay connected to their data, even when a PC is not available.

Reach is all about putting the user at the center of the data acquisition experience; allowing them to select the means by which they can access their data whenever and wherever they choose.

Let's look at a news example.  Users want to know what's happening in their world, but it's not always practical to browse an entire web site like MSNBC or USA Today.  In a pinch, they can try site or web search (and these results are getting better and better), but how do they know what they seek unless they have a frame of reference?  Users benefit most and want the information that matters to them delivered in a consumable form, when they want it.

My last article (“The User Experience”) discussed how an improved user experience is an important component of the next Web.  I may sound like I'm backpedaling, but seriously, I'm not.  The experience still reigns, especially when we extend the reach of the experience by offering the user options to select their mode of delivery for their information snacking.  Similar to a complete product, in an ideal world, a complete user experience would offer:

  • rich client for heavy use.
  • thin, cross-platform client.
  • online Gadget for notification or to invoke thick or thin clients
  • reduced form factor for device access.
  • micro form factor for text-based access.
  • RSS Feed.

Yes, I stuck RSS Feed in there while you weren't looking.  While RSS is not necessarily a user experience component (open to discussion, of course), it is an enabling technology for information dissemination, and in the snacking context: the notification of events of interest to the user.

While at my desktop, a Gadget can notify me of something important in my world; it may be a new friend on a social network or suspicious activity in my credit card account.  Connecting via a browser on any machine, my Live.com home page will notify me; ditto on my devices, be they smaller form factor or text alerts.

With these options, users decide when, where and how to snack on their data, opting for greater or lesser experiences as circumstances allow or their personal preferences warrant.  This decision can be wholly up to the user.

We have sessions on Reach at Mix 06.  Check out “Using the RSS Platform on Windows” or “Extending Your Experience to the Office”.  Join the conversation.  Register now.

Tag: MIX06

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About micoat

Michael is a Microsoft Technical Evangelist on the Strategic Solutions team. He creates business solutions using technology and works with partners to implement them.