Microsofts Office of the Future Gets a Makeover

The Center for Information Work is designed to show how individual productivity can be enhanced using software and tools developed at Microsoft.

REDMOND, Wash.—Microsoft in May unveiled the third update to its Center for Information Work, a prototype facility dedicated to exploring how future software developments could empower information workers going forward.

More than 25,000 people have visited the CIW since it was first opened in 2002, with an additional 10,000 visitors expected in the coming year, said CIW group product manager Tom Gruver at a recent media tour of the facility.

The last high-profile guest to tour the CIW was Chinese President Hu Jintao during his April visit to the Microsoft campus here, Gruver said, noting that Microsoft will continue to update scenarios in the CIW to reflect new software-based productivity concepts and feedback from customers.

"With the CIW we want to show how individual productivity can be enhanced and how we are working on building the right tools to enable this. It is all about great access to data, a lot of business intelligence, and team collaboration resulting in better team outcomes," he said.

Those who tour the 3,500-square-foot CIW get a glimpse of some of the experimental technologies that Microsoft envisions will reach the market in the next five to seven years, including seamless synchronization across a new generation of devices.

/zimages/1/134907.jpg

Also on display is the use of natural interfaces such as gesture recognition, voice, pen and ink, and smart work surfaces; as well as pattern-recognition capabilities that will enable the software to deduce the users activity from context clues and automatically configure the interface and information environment with tools and content appropriate to that activity.

/zimages/1/28571.gifPeter Coffee says gesture recognition is not yet ready for prime time. Click here to read more.

Those who take the tour play the part of employees in a fictitious company, Trey Pharmaceuticals, and are tasked with taking a potential new drug all the way through the FDA approval process to manufacturing using these software-based productivity tools of the future.

This involves individual and collaborative work to resolve scheduling issues, compliance tasks, supply chain partnerships and other business process challenges.

Trey Pharmaceutical "employees" are exposed to a number of potential future innovations, including security innovations to increase the reliability of authentication and simplify the process for users along with biometric characteristics like fingerprints, voice print, retinal scan, handwriting or typing patterns to authenticate users.

Next Page: In the future.