One look at the future of computing from Microsoft, circa 2018-2023

Here’s a link to Microsoft’s video of what the future could look like 5-10 years from now.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could pick up a can of screen paint at the home improvement store just as we have chalk board paint today?

What’s interesting to me: you don’t see a beige box or traditional personal computer (save the ones with the traditional phone-format and tablet), nor a logo or set of tiled windows. (I did spot one Windows logo on the tablet in the video.)

Mark Wilson offers his own interesting thought (not that I agree) in his post over on Fast Company that this one vision of the future is trapped in a box

“Microsoft, this video is not the future… Even Apple, the company that owes most of its success to these magic, touchable rectangles, is already moving on from the paradigm [his ref to his post about Apple’s reported forthcoming iWatch], easing the consumer into a world where hardware enables naturalistic gestures that keep us in tune with our surroundings.”

Hmmm… seems that the points raised in the video place even more emphasis on how ubiquitous hardware that melts into the background. The computer – no, the technology of the future – emerges from table tops, and responds back to you in a familiar voice enables natural gestures of showing, sharing, as well as asking and responding verbally. Who’s to say what it looks like outside the home and how you take it with you? Likely the subject of more interesting clips to come from the looking glass. It’s interesting to see how much has come to fruition since this look way back in 2009, and even 2011.

I can imagine that some prior art may be referenced Harry Potter by the good folks at Hogwarts, in the living paintings that seem to virtually span beyond the edge of the frame. 😉

Additional reading: Microsoft’s View of the Future Workplace is Brilliant, Here’s Why – Forbes

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Bill Gross: Twenty Amazing Facts Learned at the 2012 World Economic Forum in Davos

Bill GrossBill Gross is founder of the technology incubator Idealab and more companies than I can count (he says “100 companies in last 30 years” so perhaps I can count that high). Mr. Gross tweeted “while on [his] quest for learning in life and at conferences.” (Follow him on Twitter as well as on his blog at 

So, a tip of the hat to you, sir: for me, the cost to attend WEF virtually and digest everything on the Davos stream in real time in my PJ’s: $0 (priceless 😉

With his coverage and that of the other quarter of attendees on Twitter, I was able to keep up in real time (which explains why I was cranky and tired this week) and almost felt as though I were in Davos. I appreciated the openess and how many people tweeted, published blog posts from the event, and the access the press had to attendees, with sessions live online in real-time (

But, sadly, without the incredible Swiss hospitality, food and snow. And the Occupy protesters!

So, from his tweets, here are Bill’s “Twenty Amazing Facts Learned at WEF 2012”

  1. There are only 52 companies on Earth worth more than Apple’s $97.6B hoard ofcash.
  2. Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 & their board buried it b/c it looked too disruptive
  3. iTunes alone generated 50% more revenues than ALL of #Yahoo last year
  4. From Angela Merkel – “there are 23 million companies in the EU & there are 23 million jobless.”
  5. There were ~2,600 attendees & more than 5,000 Army members guarding #Davos – more than 2/attendee!
  6. There are 371,000 babies born each day. There are 377,900 iPhones sold each day.
  7. Annual growth in China 9%, India 8%, Africa 5.5%, Europe 0%.
  8. Over next several years world will need amount of food = to all produced in last 10,000 years!
  9. 89 percent of young people want a job that helps to change the world for the better.
  10. In a hyper connected world average is over as we all knew it – we are now competing with the whole planet.
  11. Spanish unemployment surges to 22.8%. Under 24 years old – 51.4%. Staggering.
  12. 1 in every 2 people in India is under 25 years old (and they want their piece of the pie).
  13. Because of corruption, U.S. investment in India went down from $24B in 2010 to $11B last year.
  14. The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in 1 and a half years in the 4th quarter of 2011.
  15. a: The poorest 2 billion people spend 40-60% of income on food & 15-20% on energy.  And 15 b: Each year of secondary school increases a girl’s future wages up to 20 percent.
  16. 47% of time spent using smartphones is spent on= Facebook.
  17. Apple’s cash reserve is enough to pay off the total public debt of 8 countries in the EU.
  18. New era of volatity – the S&P Index moved > 2% more than 60 days in 2011. In 2005 – Zero.
  19. Avg cost of attending Davos: Food ($2k) + Hotel ($3k) + Flights ($6k) + Transfers ($9k) + EntryFee ($20k) = $40,000
  20. On Hacking, the Intellectual Attacks come from China & the Financial Attacks come from Russia.

WRT number 19: $9K in transfers?!?


Tags: WEF, Davos, conferences, World Economic Forum, 2012.

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More thoughts on The Microsoft Garage Science Fair

A shout out to Steve Clayton’s post last week, looking at "What’s hot at Microsoft’s Science Fair?" as he covered The Microsoft Garage Science Fair

"It’s fair time at Microsoft – Tech Fest is on the horizon and our Product Fair follows a little later in the year. I’ll be following (and blogging) about each of them and giving you some insight in to what goes down at these events.

"Today was Science Fair at The Commons and I was one of the judges so I got an extensive tour of what’s on offer (and a white lab coat) and then toured again with Josh Lowensohn of CNET who has just posted his views on the event. Science Fair is run by the folks behind The Garage at Microsoft  which I covered in a recent post. In a nutshell, it’s hobbyist development inside Microsoft.

"So what did we see at Science Fair today that I can tell you about?"

Well, there was lot’s that I can’t comment on from the Fair, but I was happy to see Steve’s coverage, specifically with references to the .NET Gadgeteer from the folks over in MSR. Essentially it’s what I envision to be the next iteration of the popular Lego Mindstorms that my kids use today, only enabled with  .NET Micro Framework, allowing you to program in C# and use the tools in Visual Studio. I agree with Steve in that one of the most interesting things was how the team had integrated one of their devices with the cloud services in Azure

I enjoyed getting to see the details on The Microsoft Biology Initiative (MBI), an effort in MSR to bring new technology and tools to the area of bioinformatics and biology. MBF provides an extension to the .NET Framework to Genomics research, with connections to web services such as NCBI BLAST.

A few other projects of interest:

"IM-an-Expert", as noted in Ryen’s papers, a system that takes in questions via IM and routes them automatically to nominated "experts" for an answer.

The Microsoft All-In-One Code Framework provides sample code in C++, C#, and VB.NET to demonstrate frequently-asked, tested or used coding scenarios based on the feedback we get in the MSDN forums. Follow the All-in-One Code blog posts here from Jialiang Ge and the team for free code samples form the Microsoft Community team.

Last, I’m a fan of Microsoft Office Labs’ Ribbon Hero, the game for Office 2007 and Office 2010 suite to help you learn how to use all of the features and functionality that you might not know exists in the applications in the suite. My favourite this time around was learning how to do a dop cap at the beginning of a paragraph without invoking the "font" menu command.  You can read more about Ribbon Hero in this post on ZDNet by Christopher Dawson, noting it as a "brilliant training tool from Office Labs." I couldn’t agree more…

"If all this sounds a bit dorky, it is. But the countless people who wile away the hours on WOW, Dungeons and Dragons, and Farmville (all arguably dorky in their own way) will buy into this in a heartbeat. Better yet, Microsoft has actually done their research on the way people learn in the context of gaming and included real thought to the pedagogy of applications training: short, relevant tasks, immediate feedback and reinforcement, and enough difficulty to be challenging with enough supports to be successful. It even adapts the difficulty of the challenges to the speed with which a user completes them.

"And to answer my question about the value proposition of Office 2010 versus Office 2007, the truly diabolical folks at Microsoft have included several challenges highlighting the new features in 2010. Users of 2007 can see these challenges and a brief description of the new feature, but can’t complete the challenge until they download the 2010 beta (and later, pay for a downloaded upgrade). Office Labs is, of course, tracking these downloads to determine both the effectiveness of the teaser challenges and how compelling the new features are for end users."

Additional links of interest:


Tags: articles, what I read, blogs, Microsoft, The Garage, Office 2010, innovation.

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Andy Grove: On Innovation, Manufacturing


MP900321177[1]This week I discussed with associates at work how Andy Grove is right: if lose manufacturing capability & understanding and you break the chain of experience & innovation (as posted here on BusinessWeek).  The article from Grove hit quite a chord with people in business, particularly tech. So much is gleaned from the act of building that if you fail to understand the value of manufacturing – something that people think is only as important as the monetary value – that without it you miss much of the innovation process.

Take one such inventor prior to the adoption of off-shore production: the incandescent light bulb. This invention had a history dating back to 1850, when Joseph Swan started his work building a light bulb. Thomas Edison started his work in the late 1870’s building on the work Swan had started in his effort to bring electric light to the UK. (Not to mention the fierce competition between Edison and George Westinghouse on the light bulb.)

Edison and his staff of scientists were tinkerers: what would have happened had he off-shored the manufacturing of the first imperfect but somewhat practical light bulb designs? Would Edison and Westinghouse have come up with the refinements needed to perfect the invention? 

Probably not. 

When a product is seen as a commodity, do we lose sight that many of these so called commodities provide the building blocks for new products that can spring new fields of products? Grove is right in that when we lose manufacturing capability and understanding, we break the chain of experience.

Just a thought for a Friday afternoon. Now I’m off to dig out the Legos and ErectorSet for my boys, in addition to their Kodu skills.

Tags: Thomas Edison, Andy Grove, innovation.

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