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Typography on the Microsoft Campus  

One of the great things about working for Microsoft was the sheer breadth of the company means there are lots of cool and interesting things going on that you can peek into even if it’s not your area. With a few exceptions your Microsoft badge gets you into the whole campus (some of the Xbox studios and the executive floor are exceptions).

As many people know I have a bit of a passion for typography and the Microsoft typography team are a very nice bunch of people happy to humor a crazy enthusiast.

Before I left I paid one final visit to the typography team to snap some cool pics. Here they are, admittedly a couple of years late, with some additional typography-related snaps from elsewhere on campus.

Microsoft Typography

Gabriola rendered in 4 level (2bpp) greyscale using 1x1x1 LEGO pieces.

Microsoft, Linotype and Hermann Zapf collaborated on Palatino Linotype and these beautiful posters commemorate the occasion.

The old Windows Start button in its pixelated glory alongside the Blue-themed XP replacement presumably rendered in photoshop.

Poster showing an italic single-story a aliased and then rendered with ClearType.

Lots of lower-case ‘e’ glyphs from various fonts on display in one of the Windows UI buildings.

Simon Daniels on the typography team has his surname in steel cut in Segoe.

The Mac Quadra that Vince Connare used to create the polarizing Comic Sans.


Microsoft’s XNA has had a bit of a bumpy journey but it does have a very cool logo with some subtle typography.

In our own Shark Tank scrum area we used the time-honored tradition of sticky notes to create pixels for our own sign. Subpixels were added later.

Our content management system’s sister team had their own sticky note sign too.


Even the product fair can’t resist some blocky 8-bit inspired fonts.

Somebody made their own pretty Microsoft logo. Don’t recall where this was…

The counter behind the Microsoft company store is an explosion of typefaces.

Some more

Check out Guerilla pixels via John Berry too.

You can see the full set including a few more shots, Sonic the Hedgehog and Lara Croft at Microsoft Campus on Flickr.


Microsoft opens Office binary file format specifications  

Microsoft have released the binary file format specifications to their Office suite (the XML ones are already published) under their Open Specification Promise.

I am not a lawyer but as far as I understand this means you are free to implement the standards with a promise that Microsoft will not use any patents under its control that are required to implement the specification against you.

Hopefully Apple will now address Keynote’s PowerPoint support bug so exported PPT’s works with Office 2007.

Now that the .NET Framework 3.5 source is available (for reference) and Scott Guthrie (now VP) announcing the MVC framework will be user-buildable and patchable (not redistributable) and include project templates for a number of open-source testing frameworks the future is looking very rosy.


What being open means to Apple & Microsoft  


Former Apple engineer Jens Alfke believes Apple’s external image has been polished until featureless. The restrictive staff blogging policies, the veil of secrecy around future plans and a carefully orchestrated three-person spokes-team of Jobs, Schiller and Ive lead to a very impersonal closed business.

It certainly wasn’t always this way. The original Mac team appeared in Rolling Stone magazine with credit in about boxes, a practice that was continued at NeXT but abolished by Mac OS X Beta. Jobs makes regular comparisons between engineers and artists and touted individual thinking in the Think Different campaign and artists like recognition with signatures on art and credits on film.

Conversely Apple’s Mac OS X operating system is built on open software and standards. The kernel is derived from open elements bundled up as Darwin which Apple provides back along with compilers, debug tools, programming language, command line tools, Bonjour, device driver kit and a bunch of drivers. All are open.

The web rendering technology in Safari (WebKit based on KHTML) is also open and changes rolled back to the communities often reveal unannounced insights into Apple’s plans (e.g. Safari for Windows).

And yet how many engineers write or talk about Apple? Do you know the names of any product managers? Could you find any out with Google? (LinkedIn doesn’t count ;-)

These aren’t academic questions, what if you have a great idea for a feature you’d like to see added? How can you discuss how a product could evolve to fit your needs? What about a simple bug report or advanced access to technology? (The answers are “send it to and don’t hold your breath”, “you can’t” and “join the developer program”)

Heaven forbid you do actually find out what their plans might be – you could find yourself talking to their lawyers like the ill-fated ThinkSecret site that featured rumors, speculation and the occasional insider info.


Jens makes a passing mention to Microsoft’s relaxed blogging policies.

Microsoft is a company that rarely provides the source, never ships or builds upon existing free software and yet not only discusses plans and roadmaps but actively solicits feedback in the design process through conferences, user groups, forums, mailing lists and even on-site review teams. Employees such as Scott Guthrie and Brad Abrams have become quite well known within .NET communities often being the first to break announcements and provide quick feedback through their blogs.

The centre of this effort is engineering thanks to sites like Channel 9 providing regular interviews, Microsoft Research providing experiments to play with and CodePlex hosting open projects.

But they aren’t the only ones reaching out.

Microsoft’s HR & recruiting team and individuals are also putting up interesting insights and thoughts on how the company operates and head of the Xbox Live! is so active in this area that the name Major Nelson is known to any serious 360 owner.

Being open

How strange that Apple embraces open technologies yet keeps communication closed and Microsoft’s technologies are still quite closed yet communication is very much open.

What does it mean to be open and where will each company’s approach lead them?


Returned from Redmond  

It’s been an overwhelming few days listening and interacting with bright people from the .NET community and within Microsoft itself (wish I could say more but I can’t). Here are just a few of those names, I wish I knew them all but I was so busy listening to what they had to say I often forgot to ask for a card:

And from the Microsoft side of the fence

Congratulations go out to Rob Conery who is now getting paid by Microsoft to work on SubSonic!

How cool is that!