You are likely familiar with many of the mainstream superheroes like Batman, Superman and the Green Lantern. Maybe you are more of a Marvel person and follow Spiderman, Ironman and the X-Men. Though not everyone has a favorite superhero, I’d venture so far to say that every one has thoroughly enjoyed at least one super hero in their life.
Beyond supernatural super heroes, some seemingly average people ascend to this level of heroic status among the community and are rewarded by the internet for their deeds. Certain sites like Buzzfeed or Upworthy, just to name a couple, often post inspirational stories, usually compiled as captioned photo lists or movies of “feel good” material. Sometimes these short articles or blogs are political but every so often one makes a trip through social media and has just the right substance to cause a person to crack a sincere smile.
Technology enables us to share these moments with the rest of the world in mere moments after the event occurs. In certain events, recording technology has enabled us to solve crime by capturing events or transmitting video (and possibly audio) information to a security professional in real time. Of course, not all of these situations are necessarily negative – this video of a police officer playing catch with a kid in an apartment complex.
End to end video
Some of us can remember when communicating over distance using real time video was pure science fiction. For example, when the ARPANET was first introduced to the world, transmitting the vibrant web pages we see today was just as much of a fantasy. The technology that assisted in the creation of the hardware we use in our machines today only existed in concept with the minds of some early engineers like Leonard Kleinrock, who many credit as one of the inventors of the internet.
Advancements in hardware arrive in installments. Every so often, a plateau is reached. Creativity and ingenuity throttle down for a couple years, so it seems, but this isn’t exactly the case. Newer, more powerful hardware takes a while for programmers and developers to figure out how to properly harness and maximize the capabilities of the hardware through software.
Eventually, the capabilities of software peak. Applications are reliant on the operating system where they are installed. As such, the development of OSes throughout time has enabled applications to better utilize the hardware. For example, when Microsoft added the kernel layer to the XP OS, this greatly expanded the reliability of such computer systems. This then caused a spike in the development of USB, other external devices as well as on-board peripherals. Applications that rely heavily on a specific device or set of devices (e.g. Skype uses a webcam, microphone and speakers) became a staple for the everyday users and business users alike. And so the cycle of peaks and valleys for hardware and software continued.
Outlook isn’t so bad
Some applications have been key ingredient in computing for many years, spanning decades (or more!) as essential for users of all walks. Various incarnations of some applications resurface every year with a facelift and a few new tricks. For most people, the Microsoft Office Suite is probably the most recognizable set of applications as it has a lengthy run as the preferred way to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. As a matter of fact, the word PowerPoint has practically become synonymous with presentation!
The Microsoft Outlook application is what has been used on a wide scale for users to access and read emails from a company Microsoft Exchange Server. This application is perhaps one of the most disliked components of the Office suite as most have experienced some sort of problem. Most have had issues sending or receiving emails at some point – these problems can stem from multiple sources but may soon be a thing of the past or at least, a much smaller part of the future.
Outlook has been viewed as a bad guy but the new version in Office 2013 is quite different and frankly, much better. Rather than relying on a company Exchange server, you can host your email with Microsoft and access your email through the web application. Actually, all the applications are now hosted, plus some helpful new features have been added to the suite.
Office 365 and Lync
A great debate is floating around the internet where people argue the superiority of either Google or Microsoft. Then, there are those who recognize both platforms are very similar or even equal. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that the new version of Office 365 is the most substantial overhaul to the suite since its first incarnation.
The fact that traditional Office applications are available as virtual applications through a browser makes them incredibly accessible as you can imagine. The traditional applications for the Office Suite are all available by simply logging into Microsoft’s site and using Office on Demand. There are several third-party applications that further integrate with Microsoft’s applications as well as stand-alone apps that increase the power of the suite which is the icing on the cake.
The newest hero: Microsoft Lync
One of the most useful applications Microsoft added to the new Office version is Lync. If Office were the Marvel Avengers, this application is like the Wolverine when he was added to the team in 2005. To call the application ‘heroic’ isn’t too far-fetched.
All those people you’ve accumulated in your Outlook contact list are available in Lync, more or less. Until this point, businesses using Office had to rely on either emails via Outlook to transmit messages or a third party Unified Communications (UC) application. Lync not only integrates with Microsoft applications but also ropes in some other features that make the application an extremely powerful tool.
Besides instant messaging and video calling – both great features – you have a full set of collaboration software which can be immensely helpful when working on an involved project. You can take polls, share your screen and interact almost as if you have a whiteboard directly in front of meeting participants.
Those who have adopted messaging into the workplace recognize that this is a very useful tool to have. I personally don’t know how I ever completed my projects on time before UC applications became mainstream! Not to mention, the presence awareness is incredibly useful as Lync makes it very clear as to who is ready to chat and who wants to be left alone. Kind of like iMessage or Facebook Messenger, you will know when someone is ignoring you or being inattentive.
The fact that you can access GoToMeeting from Citrix within Lync is a true testament that Microsoft really “gets it” at this point. The more open and customizable a platform, the broader your user base becomes. Microsoft isn’t exactly an open source company, but this shows a big step in the right direction.
Physical meetings are a tactic that never completely leave the business scene. However, for quick collaboration, a UC application like Lync is the way to go. For more information, take a look at our in-depth Lync articles.