More Displays, More Productivity

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2004-07-12 Print this article Print

Another cool demonstration shows Microsofts work on multiple display environments for desktop users. When I first heard about this, I was a bit skeptical, but Ive become a convert. The idea is for users to have a desktop that spreads across multiple screens (which Windows XP can do, and which the Macintosh has been able to do for years). Multiple screens would allow multitaskers to arrange applications to match the level of consciousness required for each at the time, without having to worry that something will be completely missed. I think the most useful application of this would be having the central large screen just for the application I am working on, while other apps run to the sides on their own screens. That way, e-mail and IM notifications would appear in my peripheral vision rather than intruding on the document or spreadsheet I was trying to concentrate on. CIW also has a cool telematics display, showing how GPS (Global Positioning System) and mapping technology will help commercial drivers. Some of this has recently become available through the MapPoint Location Server product.
The whole guided tour takes about an hour and includes demonstrations of technologies such as a user interface that employs the users gestures—big physical gestures—to control the computer. Not as interesting, to me anyway, as the multiple screens, but it could turn using a computer into modern dance. And did I mention that Tablet PCs seem to be the platform of choice for many of these demonstrations?
But the most interesting and simultaneously troubling thing at CIW was the demonstration of the desktop of tomorrow. With the caveat that this demonstration is Microsofts equivalent of the "concept cars" that automakers roll out, demonstrating ideas that may or may not appear someday in production models, I will continue. The first thing I noticed was how applications have vanished from the desktop of tomorrow. All of the functionality is there, but Word, Excel and the bunch are nowhere to be found. Perhaps this is the integrated functionality Microsoft has been touting lately. In some ways, the desktop reminded me of an integrated applications suite, like Microsoft Works, which I have long admired for its ability to let users get work done without having to fight the computer quite so much. If you think of the current Microsoft Office applications as engines, capable of providing, say, word processing or number crunching, to other applications, you will understand the integrated functionality concept. None of this bothers me, and I am a supporter of an integrated desktop, though this is related to the legal problems Microsoft has already faced for putting a browser and media player into the operating system. The other issue this raises is how customers pay for something that doesnt come in a box and expose individual applications. This suggests a software-as-a-service future, but Microsoft cautions this is just a demo, not a product roadmap. Next Page: The Office paperclip meets Big Brother.

One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for, where he writes a daily Blog ( and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is

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