Microsoft Store introduces Video Chat with Store Reps

A few weeks back I was talking to a Microsoft Store rep over the phone and commented that I thought it was kind of silly that we’re all still using telephones to talk with companies that make products like Lync (soon to be Skype for Business) and Skype. I was in another call with a Google support person – and they also used the phone – instead of Hangouts.

I’ve been wondering when it’d become commonplace for people to interact with companies via video call and today we’ve moved another step in that direction.

While Amazon’s Kindle Fire has featured video support for a while via their 24/7 Mayday Video Support service, we see Microsoft joining in with a vendor called VideoDesk.

Here’s what it looks like…

Figure 1: The Teaser.

Figure 2: A quick demo showing what to expect.

 

Figure 3: The chat element minimized.

It looks like a similar service to LivePerson. I helped set up LivePerson at my employer, and later we moved to a less mature Cisco-based chat platform so it’s nice to see something like VideoDesk come along to fill that niche.

Microsoft had a FAQ that answers some questions about the service.

Ultimately I think the best user experience will come when I can use a Skype URI (click here to say “Hi” if you have Skype installed) on a website to join the chat queue for a call center (or is that chat-center?). Such functionality would be part of a Lync or Skype-For-Business offering, but currently this appears to be a long way off.

One way to integrate an older business with Skype (without maintaining a Skype account) is through Bing Ads call extensions. Skype users can click to call the business on their existing land-line. Seems like an interesting way to drum up call volume.

As for me, I just interact with businesses via Skype the old fashioned way – by asking the employees if they’re on Skype and if they’d be willing to answer questions about their products periodically. Occasionally the answer is yes – usually with smaller businesses and it’s been really convenient. The business owners seemed to think it worked well too.

Have you used Skype or another video calling service to contact a business? Or have you used video calling for customer service as a part of your business? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

AT&T Changes Policy to Increase Charges–Offers Nothing in Return

Thank you for choosing AT&T. A representative will be with you shortly.

You are now chatting with AT&T.

AT&T: Hello.

AT&T: How may I assist you today ?

Me: Hi. I was wondering why I’m suddenly being charged an equipment fee on my AT&T U-Verse Internet account.

Me: It is a *new* $2.00 charge per month – with tax on top of that.

AT&T: I would like to inform you that its the high speed equipment fee charged in every customer account as per the new price changes.

Me: Can I expect to be upgraded to the latest hardware?

Me: If I buy my own hardware, will AT&T remove this charge from my bill?

Me: Also, how long have I been a U-Verse customer?

AT&T: As you are a valuable customer to us. Please do not worry about the charges. Let me go ahead and adjust the charges for you.

AT&T: Its been almost four years.

AT&T: please bear with me while I adjust the charge in your account.

Me: Sure. 🙂

Me: I just looked it up and I can buy a used 3800HGV-B router on Amazon for $26. AT&T wishes to charge me $24/per year to rent one. Had this policy been in place for the past 4 years, I could have bought almost four of them. Does that sound like a fair deal for AT&T customers?

AT&T: I really apologize for this.

Me: It’s not your fault. 🙂

Me: It is Randal Stephenson’s fault. 🙂 I’d like to pass along a message to him that while I thank him for allowing my bill to be adjusted, I think it’s a crummy way to treat customers – especially the ones who don’t know enough to contact the company and refuse the new charges. 🙂

AT&T: I would like to provide you the number of our customer relation center. So, that they can provide you with the best offers available to lower your bill.The number is 877-999-1083.

AT&T: Their hours of operations are Monday till Friday 8:00 AM till 7:00 PM EST and 8:00 AM till 5:00 PM every Saturday.

Me: Thank you very much. I’m already paying more money than I would for higher speed on RoadRunner – maybe they can do something about that.

Me: So to recap, I only owe $55 on my bill again?

AT&T: Yes, they surely will.

AT&T: You only owe $45.14. As I have adjusted $12.00 for you.

Me: Will that kind of adjustment be automatic going forward or do I have to contact the Customer Relation Center?

AT&T: You need to contact customer relation center. so, that your bill can be lowered for a longer time.

Me: Thank you for your help, AT&T. Goodnight.

AT&T: Thank you for being the best part of AT&T. We appreciate your valuable time & business with continued loyalty.

AT&T: Your feedback will be appreciated after this chat. You will receive the survey once you disconnect the chat.  Please click the RED X button at the right hand side of the chat window.

AT&T: Good night.

3/3/2013 7:00p AT&T U-Verse Billing Chat

Deal to get $200 Windows upgrade for $40 Expiring on Thursday

When Windows 8 launched, Microsoft wanted to encourage people to upgrade early so they offered a great incentive to existing Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 users. As a result, an upgrade that would normally cost $200, costs $40 (or if you bought a Windows 7 PC on or after June 2, 2012, you can get it for $15 here).

They can go to this website and download the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant which examines your PC for compatibility, gives you a list of hardware and applications that may have compatibility issues (for most machines I’ve seen the fixes have involved re-installing the software after the upgrade) and it gives you a list that you can save.

The upgrade preserves your files, but you may need to re-install desktop applications like Office, Photoshop, etc.

The 2GB installer download took about 4 hours on a relative’s low-end RoadRunner Lite connection (1 Mbit/s), so factor available broadband speeds into your upgrade plans.

If you have a Microsoft Account (an old Hotmail or Xbox Live account for example) that will make the process go faster.

Here’s what I recommend:

  1. In case anything goes really wrong, always backup your files before an operating system upgrade.
  2. To be extra sure, I recommend downloading the SkyDrive desktop app here and transferring any files you’d like to back-up on the cloud. SkyDrive offers 7GB of storage. Other offerings from competitors offer 5GB if you prefer using them.
  3. Install the Windows 8 Pro upgrade via the official Upgrade to Windows 8 website.
  4. Protect your user files with the new File History feature of Windows 8.
  5. Add Windows Media Center to Windows 8 Pro – this is a limited time offer that also expires on Thursday.
  6. After the Windows Store app tile has time to update (it should show 15 or so updates for built-in apps) click on it and in the upper-right-hand corner click the update link, then at the bottom of the page click to install all of them.
  7. Finally, Microsoft is migrating Windows Live Messenger users to Skype and shutting down the old Windows Live Messenger service on March 15th, 2013. I recommend downloading the Skype app from the Windows Store, and also the Skype desktop app. When you sign-in on the desktop app you’ll be given the chance to link your Microsoft accounts, and even connect so you can IM all of your friends on Facebook. This explains what happens when you merge your Skype and Microsoft accounts. I recommend it because for most people it helps simplify by getting all of their IM contacts in one well-organized place.

Remember, you can always get back to the old Windows 7 look and feel by holding-down the start button on your keyboard (the Windows flag logo) and pressing the letter “d” key at the same time.

I hope this helped. With this you should be able to save about $160 per PC – but only if you act before 1/31/2013.

Update: c|net posted a list of links to related articles. I’m including them here in case anyone would like to do some further reading:

Get your cheap Windows 8 upgrade now

Win 8 Pro upgrade jumps from $40 to $200 come February 1

Cheap Windows 8 upgrade may require your Windows 7 key

How to upgrade to Windows 8

Upgrading to Windows 8: What you need to know (FAQ)

Check your PC for Windows 8 readiness with upgrade assistant

Libertarians take note: Microsoft Listens to Feedback

While taking part in the public preview of Windows 8, I noticed that the default news app only included traditional statist news sources, so I put my 2¢ in and recommended the inclusion of the award-winning Reason Magazine.  It seems that Microsoft listened.

As you can see below, Reason is now a “Source” in the political news section (accessible by right-clicking in the app – or swiping from the top or bottom edges and clicking Sources).

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Clicking on the source brings up the most recent Reason articles, and this page can be pinned to the Start menu for easy access.

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Clicking the links opens the page in the news viewer, and from there it can be emailed to friends or opened in a browser for sharing to social networks.  Here’s hoping for improvement, but it’s nice to be on the menu. Especially when the menu will be seen by so many people.

A Fine Example of a “Copyright Troll”

Over lunch today I happened upon the following article by Rafael Rivera (and here’s Rafael Rivera’s profile on on Google+).

The Rise & Fall of a Windows Phone Marketplace Scammer

Here are my takeaways:

  1. Mr. Rivera for some reason felt compelled to defend Nintendo’s intellectual property when they apparently weren’t even interested in such a minor case.
  2. The fact that Mr. Rivera was able to obtain the copyright to Mr. Hartger’s works so easily (and presumably for free) indicates that if Mr. Dudley had the same idea, he would have been immune to Mr. Rivera’s approach. (And how much “stealing” is really going on when the author gives away copyright to any old person who asks?)
  3. Does Mr. Rivera’s collusion with Mr. Hartger represent an “unholy alliance”? I mean, Hartger facilitates the “theft”* of ROM’s by distributing the emulator that Mr. Dudley allegedly stole – so how does this measurably protect Nintendo’s copyrights?

You are my hero Rafael Rivera. You defended the powerless Nintendo corporation against some hack. Now Nintendo will make millions as Windows Phone users, noting the lack of Nintendo emulator software for the device in the Windows Phone Marketplace, go out and buy Nintendo products.

Personally, I think this story only illustrates how easy it is for a sociopath on a mission to abuse DMCA takedown notices.

I’d only really heard good things about Mr. Rivera before this. Seems at the very least that he’s a statist with some serious issues determining priorities in life.

*Note: I have a hard time accepting that creating a copy of an idea or object at your own expense constitutes theft. The ROMs were not “taken” since neither Nintendo or their customers were deprived of their use.

Windows Phone Apps I Recommend

Microsoft did a really great job of integrating the features I use most right into the core phone OS, so honestly, I spend most of my time using built-in Windows Phone functionality – but sometimes I have a need to get off the reservation. Here are some Windows Phone apps I recommend checking out (and you can download them to your phone from the links provided)…

4th & Mayor (Foursquare Client)
Amazon Kindle (I read free classics with expired copyright)
Avego Driver (neat idea, needs more users locally for it to work though)
BandWidth (checks your bandwidth)
Constitution (don’t leave home without it)
FlightAware (See that plane in the sky? Wonder where it’s from and where it’s going?)
GasBuddy (allows you to check and log real-time gas price data so you know a good deal when you see it)
Glympse (shares your real-time location with friends for a set amount of time)
GoPayment (allows you to accept credit cards for a 4% fee)
HealthVault (mobile app that ties into MS HealthVault services)
Love Clean Streets (See a problem? Take a photo and describe it, they’ll find out what authorities are responsible for correcting it)
Netflix
Planning Poker (A tool for Scrum estimation meetings)
SkyDrive (25 GB of cloud storage)
SkyMap Free (To figure out what that star is…)
TouchDevelop (An experiment in scripting by touch UI)
Visual Studio Achievements (Get achievements for working in Visual Studio)
The Weather Channel
WPCentral (Great source for Windows Phone news)
Your Shape (Tracks your progress in Your Shape, Fitness Evolved for Xbox Kinect)
YouTube Pro (Allows viewing of HD YouTube videos with a Metro UI)