Tonight sees the opening ceremony for the Winter Games in Vancouver. Like the rest of the country our Microsoft Canada team is excited the Games are coming to our home, and we’ll be cheering on our Canadian athletes for the next two weeks. I’m lucky enough to be in Vancouver for the Games, and was at the last Winter Games in Turin (don’t ask about the Canadian men’s hockey team!). I’ve seen some changes even in four short years. The Winter Games are steeped in tradition, but technology has helped create a modern-day event that can now be watched anytime, anywhere, on any device. At Microsoft Canada, we’ve been doing our part to help make it easy for Canadians to follow the Winter Games whether they are in Vancouver or following the action from elsewhere.
For people visiting the competition sites, Microsoft technology – including Bing and Windows Azure– is helping make the journey a bit easier. Many of these apps were developed by the team at the Microsoft Canada Development Center just outside Vancouver:
MoBuddy: Connects users with friends and other visitors to plan and share experiences through mobile social networking sites, including Facebook.
Vancouver Parking: For those who are willing to fight traffic, this app helps find Vancouver parking spots, identify time restrictions, parking duration and costs. It even knows which spots won’t be available for the Olympics.
MapWay: Finds Vancouver city facilities and Olympic events and helps create customized maps that combine data from city authorities with your own.
Or Watching at Home?
For Canadian’s following the action from home, our MSN site in Canada will have great coverage. Thanks to a partnership with the Olympic Consortium (a joint venture between CTV and Rogers) extensive editorial and video features will be available to Canadians on MSN.ca. The site will take advantage of the latest Silverlight technology and some customized Internet Explorer 8 Web slices and shortcuts . You’ll see Instant Answers and Streetside on Bing, and if you’re looking for on-demand television programming (such as Canada’s hockey games), you can view it on Xbox LIVE, the Dashboard and within Zune Video Marketplace. And we’ll be sharing our favorite moments and more hints and tips via Twitter.
While we are all really excited about the Games coming to Canada a few of our employees are involved in really special ways. One of our engineering teams is on the ground in Vancouver working around the clock to support the organizers and help them deliver an outstanding event.
My favorite story is about Ben Hindle, a Microsoft colleague in the Project Natal team. Ben had the honor to carry the Olympic torch in its journey in Canada last month. The reason? Ben and his twin brother Matt competed for Canada in the Olympic bobsled event at the 1998 Nagano Games in Japan. The story gets much more interesting so I won’t ruin the ending for you.
And Ben’s not the only Microsoft employee with deep connections to the Winter Games. My colleague Danny Lang will be following the competition very closely. Danny’s based at our Redmond HQ in Washington State where he works in the Startup Business Group. Danny’s 16 year old daughter Yina Moe-Lange is competing for their native Denmark in slalom and giant slalom.
If you’re not in Canada Microsoft also makes it very easy for you to stay in touch with the Games. We’ll have a blog post about that up shortly.
Here’s to a great Winter Games.
President, Microsoft Canada.