Microsoft Center Gives a Peek Into the Future

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-09-25 Print this article Print

Microsoft's Center for Information Work lets visitors get a peak at productivity technologies of the future.

Microsoft Corp. Thursday will open, on its Redmond campus, the Center for Information Work (CIW), which houses prototypes of potential productivity technologies of the future.

Microsoft, working with center partners Sony Electronics Inc., Intel Corp. and Acer Inc., is running numerous prototypes of software and systems that could hit the market within five years. Prototype technologies from Microsoft Research currently at the Center include BroadBench, a display with a screen 44-inches wide by 11-inches high. (See BroadBench in action.)

This display would probably cost around $10,000 today, but the price would be a lot lower if hundreds of thousands of them were built, said Gary Starkweather, an architect for Microsoft Research and the developer of BroadBench.

"There has been enormous enthusiasm for the product from people like operations managers who want to put a whole lot of servers or functional modules on the screen so they can have an operator watch whats going on with their network," he said.

The goal with BroadBench is also to provide workers with simultaneous access to multiple applications across the screen, which they could individually customize and set up to better manage the flow of information on their desktops.

"The number one piece of feedback we have from research of information workers today is that they need help managing the overload of information and tasks. The idea is to allow every piece of information you need across all your various accounts and devices, to converge into one area.

"All this information comes across a timeline with one central rules bucket, even though its coming from multiple accounts. Whatever is important to you in your business comes as real, live data thats attached to the back-end," Thomas Gruver, group marketing manager for the center, told eWEEK on a recent tour of the site.

One room in the new center boasts a host of different hardware configurations from two- and three-multi-monitors to complete systems working with the upcoming Tablet PC, discreet systems and phones working with PCs.

But Gruver said the idea is not getting Microsoft into the hardware business, but rather allowing it to write user interfaces that take advantage of different configurations.

In another room is a large boardroom table with a large screen and a new device known as the RingCam (see image), an omnidirectional video camera that can record a 360-degree view of a room. It is voice-activated and, Microsoft hopes, will one day significantly affect how professionals participate in and archive meetings while away from the office.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel