Longhorn to Get a Social-Networking Infusion

Microsoft has moved 10 of its social-computing experts from Microsoft Research to its Windows user interface team. Will the "Aero" interface be more interactive as a result?

Social-networking technologies, including blogs, Wikis, and RSS, are likely to play a key part in the Longhorn "Aero" interface, based on a recent reorganization at Microsoft Corp.

In late April, the Redmond, Wash., software developer quietly reassigned Lili Cheng, group manager of Microsoft Researchs social-computing group, to the Windows Shell interface team.

"Im moving with a bunch of people—about 10—from my research team," confirmed Cheng, whose new title will be Director of Windows User Experience and Research.


Cheng will be charged with managing the design, user research and user assistance teams within the existing Windows user experience unit. Cheng said that she and her team will "be working on Longhorn and beyond."

Microsoft has been holding the details of Longhorns user interface close to the vest, planning to show off its next-generation Windows interface at the Professional Developers Conference in September.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here for a preview of Longhorns graphics technology.

At the recent Windows Hardware Engineering Conference, aka WinHEC, Microsoft distributed to attendees an alpha build of Longhorn. But that build included little of the Aero interface. And the demos of Longhorn that Microsoft showed off at WinHEC gave little away in terms of specifics Microsoft is planning around the new Longhorn interface.

(Microsoft officials did say at WinHEC that Microsoft had officially axed the "Sidebar" from the Longhorn interface. Sidebar was a moveable task pane that was part of the early Longhorn Aero prototypes that Microsoft showed off in 2002. While there is a chance that Sidebar could resurface, Microsoft seems to be leaning away from the pane concept.)

Cheng and team will be heavily focused on "strategic prototyping and tools," she said. Among these new tools is a Microsoft-Research-developed technology code-named Tesla, a desktop search tool that enables users to browse data using a tagging classification system.

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