What Do Scotsmen Keep in Their Sporran? Microsoft Tells!

09 June 2006

There are two questions perennially peculiar to Scotsmen. In addition to the first question, the second arouses nearly the same degree of interest: What do clansmen conceal within their sporran?

That question, which has taxed masterminds from Archimedes to Einstein, was finally answered at this week's World Association of Newspapers Congress in Moscow.

The answer was appropriately provided by Glasgow born and bred Bill Hill, Microsoft's leading typography expert, clad in green shirt and Hogarth tartan kilt. His audience, on tenterhooks, craned forward as Hill fished in his sporran and produced . . .

Right first time! A Palm Pilot.

In this textbook example of attention-grabbing, Hill used the PDA to demonstrate Times Reader, new Microsoft software that enables page-by page electronic newspaper reading on portable devices.

As the product's capabilities were demonstrated on a giant screen behind him, Hill noted that although people are increasingly looking to the internet for their daily news intake, "sustained reading on screen is still painful".

He continued: "On conventional newspaper websites, text is not automatically adjusted to fit screens of portable devices such as mobile phones and handheld computers.

Times Reader, however, auto-paginates an electronic newspaper like its print equivalent, displaying content in columns and formats to fit the size and layout of any screen, from a TV set to a cellphone.

It can store and search for up to seven days of content, allowing the reader access to breaking news as well as old stories. One function grays-out stories that have already been read. Users can also opt to see moving or still ads.

One curmudgeonly delegate, however, was unimpressed at efforts by Microsoft (and others) to make online newspapers more readable.

Growled Anton Nosik, founder of Russian web portals Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru: "In principal, everything is gimmicks. They are trying to justify their existence, but now what the world wants is instant news."

Data sourced from Moscow Times Online; additional content by WARC staff