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June 2, 2010

All Together Now

I think I have a fairly normal, modern life. I don’t have a landline telephone or a 9-to-5 schedule. I do have two mobile phones and a 100-minute-a-day commute. At work I have TweetDeck permanently open on one of my three work monitors (Outlook and Internet Explorer 8 are open on the other two). I also have two Twitter accounts, six Windows Live IDs and a Yahoo! account I haven’t checked since 2001.

And yet it’s still hard to schedule a date night (with someone with a vested interest in making it all work out) much less poker night with my friends. And since we don’t live in an alternate Life on Mars reality where everything moves at the speed of 1973, I bet pencils, paper calendars and in-person meetings don’t work so well for you either.

So, while we can’t do too much about your commute or your work-life balance, Microsoft does have a few things you might not know about that should help you pull everyone and everything together.

1. Hotmail: The new Hotmail has a wealth of features to make working together easier –even if you can’t meet up in person. There are more than 350 million active Hotmail users, sending more than 8 billion messages a day. And more than 200 million of these folks also use Windows Live Messenger. So, chances are, your social network is already on Hotmail.

Collaborating with Hotmail is about to go from easy to ridiculously easy with the launch of Office Web Apps (see below). If you send one of the 350 million Microsoft Office documents shared on Hotmail each month, the recipient will be able to view and edit the doc in the browser –even if they don’t have Microsoft Office on their computer. In my opinion, this is the coolest new feature since snap. Sharing pictures has also never been easier. You can automatically upload them to SkyDrive (which gives you 25GB of free space) and a link will be sent to the recipient or look at them as high resolution thumbnails right within your email.

2. SkyDrive: SkyDrive is probably the best Windows Live service you don’t know you have at your fingertips. It’s a virtual 25GB hard drive, and it’s yours free with a Windows Live ID. Upload anything you want and it’s safely stored. It’s great for group projects when you can’t actually meet in person.

Personal tip: I store the picture page of my passport on SkyDrive so if it’s ever lost a copy is just an internet connection away.

3. Office Web Apps: The technical preview (or beta) of Microsoft Office Web Apps is available now and the release version is coming soon. Office Web Apps are great for folks on a budget (and just about everyone in college). What’s not to love about a free, online version of Microsoft Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint? Pair them with Hotmail (see above) and Sky Drive and you have a complete virtual workspace.

4. Finally, whether you’re flying solo or wrestling with a group, no one should have to work in silence. While not as popular as Pandora, I’m partial to I think the online interface is slick and the downloadable scrobbler is cool. If you’re into electronic music, the Tiësto station returns particularly groovy results.

Hit me up anytime @winashbrown on Twitter.