Tuesday, October 18, 2005

All Gussied Up For What?

A quick update on Microsoft Max. I realize this is a pre-release product. Probably it is meant to show what is possible with the WinFX runtime. It has an elegant and pretty interface. But I'm still trying to figure out what the heck to use it for!

So I can create slideshows (with apparently no choice of transitions) and then share them with people. But only on the condition that they have installed MS-Max as well. Is this not a very very closed system in the midst of what is becoming a very very open internet? I thought Microsoft was grasping this concept with their embrace of RSS, blogging and company transparency.

I know there are lots of programs and systems that can achieve the same thing. I myself currently use flickr to show off my photos. Anybody running Flash can view a fairly elegant online slide show with a few clicks. But even well before this, I used a freeware program called IrfanView. This little gem was a Swiss Army Knife when it came to image manipulation especially when dealing with batches of images. One thing it also did was create slideshows in either .exe form or .scr form for use as a screensaver. Nevermind Microsoft's own PhotoStory 3. Now there's a program that should get the WinFX treatment and enhanced online sharing capabilities. It is a vastly more compelling product (although granted it only generates .wmv files I think..)

The one thing it does do that I can appreciate is the "mantle" view of a collection of photos. This is where it takes your photos and arranges them with white borders and stands them up on a nice reflective surface (see the image at the top of this blog post). However, there are at least four major things wrong with even this feature: 1. You can't pick which photos or how many photos it will use in the 'mantle' shot. 2. The program sometimes crops off the top or sides of photos without warning when creating the 'mantle' versions, 3. There are visible gaps between the white borders and the photos themselves, and 4. There is no direct way to capture these 'mantle' shots to create a wallpaper or single image. The way I did it was to create a slideshow and hit the PrtScn key to create a screenshot, then crop and resize it for use as wallpaper. Why even bother releasing a product that's missing these kinds of key features for the only compelling component of the entire package! Grrrr.

A month ago I thought it strange that I hadn't heard much about Microsoft Max. Now it doesn't surprise me a bit. I can even understand (although not agree with) Microsoft trying to keep everyone locked into their platform, but you won't do it without a compelling product. This, in my opinion is one of the least compelling I've seen in a while.