Day two of the Mix event proved a bit more of a roller-coaster than yesterday. At times the presentations were great; one though was so truly awful, I struggled to stay awake. Then we got to the “Sneak Peaks” hour at the end and the conference ended on a really good high.
Todd Landstad, another American Microsoft person shipped over for the Mix event did an OK presentation entitled “Designing Interactions for Mobile Computing”. He had an impressive collection of UMPCs for us to all gawk at and he demonstrated both Windows Sideshow (a definite “solution looking for a problem” in my view) and some quite clever stuff of using various gestures and handwriting recognition to navigate around Live Earth using just the pen on a tablet PC.
The other presentation during day two was on the “design track” (rather than the “developer track that I tended to stick to). It had the glorious title of “Silverlight, WPF, Expression design projects – where do we get started?”. It didn’t just fail to live up to a great title though; it was crap; I can think of no better way of describing it. Presented by Paul Dawson and Robby Ingebretsen, it basically consisted of Paul doing a “Website Marketing for four year olds” talk then handing over to Robby who waffled on about XAML ownership within a design/ development team and the need for a “director” role to fulfil this ownership. It was so bad, I made use of the WiFi connection and caught up on work emails whilst they droned on. If this was an example of the quality of the “design track”, then I’m glad I stayed clear the rest of the time.
Then the final hour arrived: the Sneak Peaks. After the less-than-exciting keynote, my expectations were low for this. I was pleasantly surprised therefore at the quality of the presentations. There was some guff, such as a Halo 3 video (Halo 3 looks as boring as every other first person shooter) and a demo of seadragon (which I’d seen before as the full-blown app presented at this year’s TED talks rather than this less impressive Silverlight version). However there were two things that caught my attention. The first was a very brief sneak preview of Impression:Web 2 that revealed it is going to support PHP. The other was a “computer science problem” presented by Simon Peyton Jones. He works for Microsoft Research Ltd in Cambridge and he is a living version of the eccentric professor stereotype. He did a talk on transaction memory and absolutely stole the show (which is no mean feat considering half the audience were “arty” designers!)
On a final note, I took the risk yesterday of sitting down in front of a very clever lady, Luisa Calvo, who was drawing caricatures at the evening social event. The results can be seen on the right. I don’t see the likeness myself, but it was a fun end to the day.