From Far East to Northwest

Terra Cotta Warrios - Xi'an, China I made it back home after dropping off the grid for about 10 days traveling around China and Korea for work. The business side of the trip was very productive. I kept a dense agenda meeting with colleagues from the three main regions (Japan, China, Korea) in addition to press, customer and partner briefings while in Seoul. The leisure portions were few and far between. After working 12-16 hour days, I generally would return to my room to work an additional 2-4 hours to sync up with my team back in Redmond. There was a lot going on last week with the launch of Expression Studio 2 which we have been gearing up for since MIX.

I found a few hours on a few days to do some sightseeing, take some pictures and get a glimpse of the Chinese and Korean cultures. In fact, I achieved the tourism objectives I set at the outset of the trip. I have added pictures I took of the Terra Cotta Army in Xi’an, the Shanghai skyline, and the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The Great Wall of China - Beijing, China As an added bonus to you, my faithful readers, I also recorded some video during my trip using a handy Flip Ultra that I bought from Amazon right before the trip. I’m now a big fan of the Flip. You just can’t beat its combination of price, convenience and video quality. I’ll post some videos from the trip once I’ve finished editing. Stay tuned…

Tiananmen Square - Beijing, China Some unplanned but immensely enjoyable experiences include biking along the Xi’an city wall, dancing until the wee hours of the night in a Sanlitun club, and in Tiananmen Square taking pictures with Chinese couples (and their children) who clearly hadn’t seen a Black American person up close before. The White coworkers I was traveling with had a ball with that last one, walking around telling the locals I’m a famous basketball player. Thankfully, English literacy is relatively low throughout most of China.

Though I’m suffering from some serious jet lag and recovering from the long days, it’s great to be back home. There is so much to catch up on and so much I’ve already missed (a birth and death in the family, for example) making the trip to Asia even more surreal than the countries, their histories and their people. TB left for Chicago early this morning to meet our newest niece, Abria Lynn, born to her twin sister and her husband on Cinqo de Mayo. While being home alone is, generally, no fun, I’ve been around people non-stop for ten days. The peace and quiet is sure to be therapeutic. Speaking of being therapeutic, the Chinese foot Shanghai Skyline massages are amazing. For only $16, you can get a 90 minute foot, leg, back and neck massage at a high-end establishment. I had two in ten days. I fell asleep both times. If you’re ever in Beijing or Xi’an, ask your concierge or tour guide for the nearest “Massage & Spa” franchise—you won’t be disappointed.

So, what about Seoul? It definitely ranks in the top 3 of places outside the States I would like to live—Cape Town, South Africa is still #1. Seoul is a new New York done right. The city uses technology in ways that blow away a techno-gadget geek like me. For example, their automobile GPS/navigation units provide real-time traffic avoidance and display broadcast TV on 7” widescreens…for free…no monthly charges! The units even warn the driver of nearby police cameras to avoid speeding and parking tickets. Yes, the police department scans the streets for parking violations using cameras mounted throughout the city. I must admit, it was eerie knowing our actions were being monitored at all times—there are cameras everywhere in Seoul.

I also had lunch in the touristy Itaewon district home to many American stalwarts including McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Outback Steakhouse, Cold Stone Creamery, etc. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Korean DMZ but I did eat kimchi and partake in an authentic Korean barbecue, as planned. I stayed in the posh Park Hyatt while in Seoul. The service and rooms both eclipse the Tokyo Park Hyatt (reference) in terms of ridiculous opulence. Below is a panorama view of the city I shot from my 22nd floor suite—the highest floor for guest rooms. (Maybe Park Hyatt will hire me to shoot panoramas from all its hotels.)

Seoul Park Hyatt - View from Room 2207 - Seoul, Korea

By the way, I kept running while on the road and have surpassed the halfway mark of the “108 miles in 12 weeks” goal set back on March 29.

My First Trip to China and Korea

Flag_of_the_Peoples_Republic_of_China Tomorrow afternoon I board a non-stop flight from Seattle to Seoul, South Korea, on Asiana Airlines. After the 12 hour flight and a 90 minute layover in South Korea’s Incheon airport, I depart on a Korean Air flight to Beijing, China for the first leg of my business trip. I’ll be in China for about a week participating in an Asia strategy summit alternating between Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. This is my first time visiting China and mainland Asia and my travel buddy, TB, isn’t coming with me—TB is also short for travel buddy, he he.

I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for my first trip to a Communist nation but everyone I know who has been to China says it’s an amazing place. The only negative I’ve heard so far is the poor air quality in Beijing. I must have a good time since just getting there is such a pain. For example, acquiring a business visa for China is no easy or inexpensive endeavor. The final tab was close to $300 for a one-year, multiple-entry visa and required two visits to the federal building in downtown Seattle and overnight shipment of my passport to the Chinese embassy in Los Angeles. I also had to have our assistant sign a cover letter to the embassy promising I wouldn’t become a financial burden on their government, I would have the means to care for myself during my entire time in China and my employer would guarantee my return to the U.S. The cover letter also had to provide the names, addresses and phone numbers of the people in China responsible for me during my stay. Crazy.

I plan to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors while in Xi’an, do a day trip to the Great Wall of China (of course) and check out Tiananmen Square while in Beijing.

Flag_of_South_Korea After about 10 days in China, I’ll return to Seoul from Shanghai on Korean Air, arriving at Kimpo airport in about 2 hours. I’m not sure what I’ll do in Korea except try some authentic kimchi and Korean barbecue. Following two days of customer and partner visits in Seoul, I return to Seattle with memories to cherish and jet lag to suffer.

My running will continue during the trip and I will take pictures as possibly shoot some video if things go as planned with my packing. You may recall, I only do carry-on regardless of climate, trip duration or weight. If I can’t carry it with me on the plane, I can’t take it on the trip.

TB told me to bring her back something nice. I told her I’d bring her a couple bags of rice with the recent retail and wholesale shortages and all.

MIX 08 is a Wrap

Microsoft MIX: The Next Web Now It has been an eventful and, by all accounts, successful week for Team Microsoft here in Las Vegas.

The UX Summit went more smoothly than the previous three—several participants commented my involvement helped considerably. MIX was an amazing experience for customers, partners, trade press, industry analysts and employees alike. We stepped up and delivered a compelling story that has resulted in some very favorable reporting on top tech news sites and blogs.

My team pulled off the Expression 2 MIX communications plan, which we have been working on since January with our internal PR team and our agency account executives at Waggener Edstrom. You would be amazed how much work goes into a press release, press kit, and an executive blog post (penned by yours truly). I am especially proud of that last item since Soma is a newly-minted Senior Vice President at Microsoft and he keeps a tight rein on what gets published on his blog.

The following list of articles include quotes attributed to me from a subset of press interviews and analyst briefings at MIX:

All in all, I could not feel more pleased with the results of this week. It is onward and upward from here as we head into fiscal year 2009 planning, the MIX Essentials events happening around the world, Tech-Ed US and PDC this fall.

Playing to Wynn

I have a few minutes to check in before my next activity. I was up at 5 AM yesterday and didn’t turn in until 2 AM today. This is going to be a long week. The UX Summit went from 8 AM to 6:30 PM and we dined as a group in the private dining room of the upscale Daniel Boulud restaurant inside the Wynn hotel. There were 50 of us and, as co-host, I made the rounds throughout the evening and was in the last group to leave. The four-course dinner didn’t wrap up until 11 PM(!) but the evening still didn’t end.

A smaller group of us walked back to the Venetian and watched a colleague play roulette for about 30 minutes. We then went to the V Bar (also in the Venetian) and talked over drinks. I finally called it a night and headed to my room just after 1 AM to prepare for Day 2.

Day 1 of the Summit was great based on attendee participation and feedback. My presentation went smoothly and I successfully rolled out the marketing strategy for the duration of the fiscal year and ahead into FY2009. We started on time, ended on time and kept everyone engaged, which is an accomplishment for such a long day holed up in a hotel conference room.

Today I was up at 6 AM and we just wrapped up again at 6:30 PM. I am double-booked for dinner tonight with the Summit attendees dinner and an invitation-only event with key partners & press from Japan. (You may recall they love me over in Tokyo after Remix last fall…Keith-san Ichiban is back!)

Day 2 of the Summit was another long haul but it’s done and the event was a resounding success. Tomorrow is the big event, MIX, and I have a day/evening full of press briefings and press events following the 3-hour keynote. I’d better get some sleep. Perhaps after watching the presidential primary coverage while the results from Ohio and Texas are analyzed.

MIXing it up in Las Vegas

Microsoft MIX LogoWow, have things been busy!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know it is that time of the year again. The 3rd annual Microsoft MIX conference kicks off this week (Wednesday) at the same location, the Venetian in Las Vegas. I arrived in Vegas just before 11 PM tonight in preparation for the User Experience (UX) Summit I am co-hosting on Monday and Tuesday prior to MIX. This week is going to be packed. As with previous events, there are some major announcements planned for MIX and lots to discuss with our fellow UX Summit attendees.

This is the fourth UX Summit which, twice a year, brings together roughly 60 Microsoft employees from around the world to plan strategy and tactics for advancing Microsoft’s platform and tools products for the Web, Windows and devices. Attendees include Microsoft Expression product managers, designer audience marketing managers and user experience evangelists for the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, India, Korea, Japan, China, etc. I have been involved with MIX since the inaugural show (ahh, the early days) and I have participated in every UX Summit (including the one last fall in Madrid). However, this is my first time officially co-hosting the event with one of my colleagues in the Developer & Platform Evangelism group. It is one of the new duties I have since completing a massive re-org within my parent organization which began before Thanksgiving and was officially rolled out in mid-January.

My friends and family always ask exactly what it is I do at Microsoft. It is now actually quite simple to articulate: I lead the team of product managers for Microsoft’s designer audience and tools. Our responsibilities include inbound/outbound marketing of Microsoft Expression Studio, a suite of tools for professional designers, and designer audience marketing. If you are a designer or developer using or considering Microsoft products to create Web or Windows applications, chances are high you have already come across our work. If not, click here or here or here to visit the marketing and community sites created and managed by my team. We have been very busy, indeed.

I will capture this week’s activities on my blog as time permits. I need to get some sleep since we’ll be going from 7 AM to ~11 PM tomorrow. I won’t be getting much sleep between now and when I return to Seattle on Friday. The good news is TB is coming down on Wednesday night so we can celebrate her birthday together in Vegas.