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Microsoft

Microsoft's Vision Of Future Workplaces 575

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft unveils their new office of the near future in a swanky center in Redmond. Inside this article you will find clear evidence of institutional navel gazing like never before and a staggering ignorance of current technology (much of this seems retreaded) not to mention actual business needs or wants. Want proof? How about: '"Surround sound is going to be increasingly important in future offices," says group marketing manager Tom Gruver in leading a tour of the new facility.' Right. More chestnuts inside."
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Microsoft's Vision Of Future Workplaces

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  • by -strix- ( 154910 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:21PM (#4340996)
    please tell me this office of the future comes complete with soundproof cubicles. Thats what everyone needs to hear their neighbors blasting their Abba CDs.
    • I would rather block out the "Star Wars themes" myself.

      You would think that they would start naming their technologies w/$'s after them instead of #'s.
      • by Repton ( 60818 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:59PM (#4341250) Homepage

        They didn't say "Star Wars themes", they said "Star Wars style effects".

        You know how computers in movies and on TV always make whizzy bleeping noises whenever they do anything? Well, Microsoft have recognised that computers in use tend to be quiet, and so are taking steps to rectify that.

        Presumably, their next step will be to change text output, so that text is displayed at a rate of a few characters per second, again accompanied by suitable sound-effects. Oh, and make it so that passwords can be guessed by a bright kid after a few tries...

        (oh, wait --- that last feature is already in place in many offices)

    • I'd just be happy if I didn't have to listen to the moron in the other aisle whistling to himself at odd moments. That is so much more distracting than mere Abba when you're trying to work out something in your head and get it into the code.

      OK, I'm done venting now.

    • I was thinking the exact same thing after I read the intro:

      Want proof? How about: '"Surround sound is going to be increasingly important in future offices," says group marketing manager Tom Gruver in leading a tour of the new facility.' Right. More chestnuts inside."

      At face value this does sound really dumb. But if someone could build a "wave cancellation" device that listens to the sounds coming into my cubicle...and then transmits that same sound 180 degrees out of phase towards me, thus turning my cubicle into my own private quiet space...I would be very very happy glad for it.
      • At face value this does sound really dumb. But if someone could build a "wave cancellation" device that listens to the sounds coming into my cubicle...and then transmits that same sound 180 degrees out of phase towards me, thus turning my cubicle into my own private quiet space...I would be very very happy glad for it.

        You mean so that you can't hear the fire alarm? Great idea!

        Build it yourself and you might just earn yourself an honourable mention in the Darwin awards [darwinawards.com]

    • Hell, I had surround sound at my old office years ago:

      "IAN!"
      "WHAT?"
      "I CAN'T CONNECT TO THE INTERNET!"
      "I KNOW, I'M WORKING ON IT!"
      "OKAY, GIVE ME A YELL WHEN YOU'RE DONE!"
      "WILL DO!"

      oh jeez. I got the stupid lameness filter. Yes, I know it's like yelling, that's the point!
    • by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Friday September 27, 2002 @01:01AM (#4342204)
      Seriously man. Sound systems at the office desk are a BIG no-no. First off, this means every moron will be playing his or her music, which may or may not suck. Secondly, Microsoft's "noises for everything" campain is annoying. Noises that do not pertain to me distract me.

      And what's the deal with the video / audio emails? I can guarantee you that they will not catch on. (anyone own a video phone?) Email is great because -we don't- have to listen or see each other. People like it because it is impersonal, you don't have to rush your thoughts, etc etc.

      And then there is the data transfer wireless mouse. Now there's something that I'll break or misplace. Whatever happened to networks? It's easier to drag and drop a file over to someone... why should I walk over to someone's office with my mouse? That's idiotic.

      It's like MS just doesn't "get it." Moreover, I don't mean to preach, but companies like Apple do (to some extent) "get it."

      I mean, why make wireless data mice. Why not work on zero-config wireless networking (like OS X supports now)? And why annoy the HELL out of coworkers with dolby 6.1 "you've got mail" sounds. Why not work on soft silent visual cues insead (ie OS X can do a subtle 'pulse' of a users display instead of using alert sounds)?

      The only thing I want from that artical is that monitor :) I'd be down to have my desktop look like Pre-Crime :)
      • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Friday September 27, 2002 @01:18AM (#4342247) Homepage Journal
        /rant

        And what the fuck is the go with the "click" sound in internet explorer? My mouse, it has plenty of audible and tactile feedback when a button is pressed. I don't need a "click" from my speakers when I click with my mouse. Not to mention the fact that even on my 1.7 GIGAHERTZ machine, the "Start Navigation" click is often a good half-second behind my real finger-on-the-button click.

        Fucking clicks from your speakers when you press a mouse button. If that isn't redundant fucking bloatware, than I don't know what is. What the fuck were they on when they thought that up?
        Fuck Microsoft. Fuck them with the rough end of a pineapple for shit like that.

        /end rant
  • Gates book, 'The Road Ahead' was disconnected from reality as well. MS was late to the Internet, and continues to exhibit a follow-the-leader style of reaction vs. action thinking. They don't get it and they never will.
    • by dmiller ( 581 ) <djm@mindro[ ]rg ['t.o' in gap]> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:11PM (#4341307) Homepage
      They don't have to get it - they have the resources and the drive to catch the horse *after* it has bolted. A prime example of this is IE, whose early versions were truely aweful but is now the best browser on the market (though Mozilla is real close, maybe even better*).

      Another example is DirectX - they kept plugging away at it. Now it has surpassed OpenGL in terms of functionality and is the place where new technologies appear first.

      Another example will be the Xbox. If Sony, et al are grinning now then they won't when XboxII comes out.

      Microsoft can afford to play follow the leader - they have the money and the bloody minded resove to catch up from the rear.

      * - haven't tried 1.1 or 1.2a yet
    • by hype7 ( 239530 ) <u3295110NO@SPAManu.edu.au> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @10:29PM (#4341673) Journal
      Gates book, 'The Road Ahead' was disconnected from reality as well. MS was late to the Internet, and continues to exhibit a follow-the-leader style of reaction vs. action thinking. They don't get it and they never will.


      That's what I find so fascinating about the whole MS thing - by and large, they're a bunch of highly effective morons. Obviously, there are some very intelligent coders in there (there'd have to be to get that mess known as windows to run on anything), but by and large their strategy is totally reactionary, and all they seem to know how to do is totally whack competitors. Nothing original or useful.

      Yet look at their position in the market. I find it incredible.

      -- james
    • ...to think of the GM Futurama from the 1940 and 1964 World's Fairs? (Take a look at this site [pbs.org] and this one [columbia.edu] for a little about their "future vision".) Or how about the movie "Metropolis" from Fritz Lang? At least Metropolis didn't try to predict the future -- just to be a work of art. MS's thing just strikes me as bald-faced marketing just like GM's Futurama was.

      In the 1960s, Ford said we'd be driving atomic-powered cars in 20 years. In the 1930s, just about everyone assumed we'd all have our private helicopter or airplane by 1980. (Imagine the air congestion and accidents with that...soccer moms flying their SUV-copters.) And we're still waiting on our Mr. Fusion powerplants...

      Yogi Berra said it best. "It's tough to make predictions. Especially about the future."

      Cheers,

      Ethelred [grantham.de]

  • by darkov2 ( 570389 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:21PM (#4341003)
    Has any one read 1984?
    • Quoth the article: Instant-messaging buddies are grouped to reflect their hierarchy in the company, or where they're logged in. E-mails, instant messages and Web pages can be grouped into "Info Clusters" and then e-mailed or quickly turned into a Web site.

      Nah, this is more like "Metropolis" or "Brave New World" -- where everyone knows their place in the Great Corporation, and the technology is there primarily to enforce that hierarchy (oh, good Ford!).

      Maybe MS should have been more honest and obvious and referred to the managers in the "widget factory" as Betas, with the bosses Alphas. And handed out lots of soma. Orgy-porgy...

      So much for the Internet flattening out society. Looks like MS wants it to be the tool for The Man to keep us peons where we belong.

      Cheers,

      Ethelred [grantham.de]

  • I like the monitor they show in the article. We're starting to have more people with multiple monitors at my work, and it does really help for programming tasks.

    This one they show is great, because of the shape and not having to have separate monitors. Very nice.
    • by asv108 ( 141455 )
      I can understand the advantage of dual displays for graphics tasks but what is the advantage of having dual displays for programming? Can't you just use virtual desktops and have a big monitor? My monitor [phataudio.org], the sony in the middle runs at 1600x1200. What would be the advantage of running 2 displays at 800x600 over running one big monitor at 1600x1200?
      • by Pfhreakaz0id ( 82141 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:46PM (#4341166)
        I thought the same thing, until I got my second flat panel at work. If you use an IDE, all your pallet's, toolbars, form design area, etc goes there and your second monitor is a bare window, just code. Even if you don't do IDE's, you can run the program in one window while stepping thru code/watching debug output in another... it's pretty sweet.
      • I used to do videogames programming, and I used not two, but THREE different displays.

        When debugging, I had the code on the main screen, the game on another one, where I could see if the drawing routines were behaving correctly and finally I had another (smaller) screen with the documentation. When you program something on MS Windows, you really need to have the docs handy. Yes, their APIs are awful and they usually change things around.

        OFFTOPIC: I once was assigned a digital video related project, and during the six months the project lasted, MS changed the name of the APIs we were using three times: ActiveMovie -> DirectMovie -> SomethingMovie, I can't remember. It drove me nuts!
    • The first part of this article reminded me remarkably of when I was a summer student at Apple. Almost all the developers had multiple monitors, usually one big one and one or more smaller ones on book shelves to one side or the other. Some people had sound effects turned on so windows closing and such made a noise. One of the hot things that got passed around was a little utility that allowed the mouse and keyboard to be shared across machines. The people in the next office over were using speech to control their computers, which was kind of annoying to listen to. There were a few videos being sent around in emails.

      So when did this all happen?

      1992.
  • More Chestnuts? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by benzapp ( 464105 )
    The article mentions few details. Yes, surround sound is a little bit ridiculous. But, the pen copy and paste from computer to computer is interesting. Biometrics for access control? That is already possible with Windows. What else is the big news? Microsoft has some great plans to revolutionize the office? This has been their grand dream since the released their wonderful product "office". Of course, we are all well aware how well that plan worked...

    This is a pointless article.
    • Re:More Chestnuts? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mr Z ( 6791 )

      The copy/paste from computer-to-computer in the manner discussed (just keep dragging, your mouse ends up on the other desktop) would be nice, as long as the mouse was suitably accelerated. I'd hate to drag my arm across half my desk to get the pointer off the edge of that gigantic monitor onto my laptop's desktop. There also needs to be position sensors on the laptop/desk so that my laptop's desktop and computer's desktop "connect" at a point that corresponds to their actual relative physical positions.

      Either that or a fixed "wormhole" that mousing into pops you over to the other desktop. And tell me again why that's much more efficient than (or even much different than) showing the laptop's HD in a window on my desktop's monitor?

      --Joe
    • Re:More Chestnuts? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @10:38PM (#4341711) Homepage Journal
      > ... the pen copy and paste from computer to computer is interesting.

      Hmmm ... What they describe requires the computers to be next to each other. With my X-windows screen I regularly use a mouse and copy-and-paste to transfer stuff between apps on computers hundreds or thousands of miles apart. I've been doing that for 15 years or so, and it doesn't seem like anything special.

  • Bill Gates wrote in a January companywide memo, "When we face a choice between adding features and resolving security issues, we need to choose security."

    I would of guessed the opposite from Microsoft.

  • Gruver says... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Compact Dick ( 518888 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:25PM (#4341026) Homepage
    "The lines between home and office are blurring,"

    And that, my dear friends, is what will decide its success. Ever-increasing workloads and unreasonable expectations of "productivity" from cost-cutting employers mean there's a good chance the above statement will come true, even if the rest [of the vision] doesn't.
    • Re:Gruver says... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jweb ( 520801 )
      Which is exactly the reason why I DON'T want a company issued cell phone or pager. I can understand having one for certain cases (a new system about to go live, the occasional on-call week, etc). But my general feeling is that I get my work done while I'm at work, and once I leave the office I leave my work at the office.
  • "At one desk, users can move a wireless mouse's pointer from the screen of one computer to the screen of a laptop, with no wire or wireless connection between the computers themselves. That allows copying or moving material between the computers, a task that would otherwise be more difficult."

    Hahahahah! The idea that it would be really hard to copy info between 2 computers unless you can drag from one desktop to another! Even in Windows you can just open 2 explorer windows if you REALLY REALLY HAVE TO use drag 'n' drop to copy files.

    Stuff like the quote from the article is like some myopic future gazing from ancient SF, where they "solved" problems of the future using an extended version of the current method- i.e. The way people in the future will save space with books is that they will keep all their books in a warehouse many miles from their house and be able to teleport the volume they require from the warehouse when they want to read it...

    graspee


    • The idea that it would be really hard to copy info between 2 computers unless you can drag from one desktop to another!

      Believe it or not, this is a feature I would use. Right now, copying a file between two computers involves: 1. launch an ftp server, 2. copy the file to ftproot, 3. run my script which automatically logs into said server, 4 type "get ". It's not super-inconvenient, but definitely not as easy as a laser pointer drag and drop.

      -a
    • The "one mouse, multiple computers" trick has been around since at least 1992, when Jorg Brown and Eric Hayes whipped it up for MacHack [tidbits.com] (search for "NetMouse"). It was a fantastic hack - it really did make life easier when working with multiple computers. I don't think it let you drag + drop files between desktops (hey, it was 1992!), but it's certainly a logical evolution.

      Sure there are other ways to move files around (hey, use Zmodem if you want!) but in general, easier is better.

  • Clueless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Safety Cap ( 253500 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:26PM (#4341032) Homepage Journal
    Do they not work for real up in Redmond?
    e-mailed voice mail will be just a popular as...voice mail
    If they take that to mean that voicemail isn't popular, so the emailed version also won't be, they are correct.

    Your choice, Mr. Anderson:

    1. Receive your message via some old Gleep rattling on about the weather, his latest aches and pains, finally getting to the point 13 minutes into the message..., or
    2. Skimming the email until you get to the part that matters, reading it quickly and then hitting a ^D to send it to hell.
    Well, Mr. Anderson, which is it? Listen to 5 messages an hour (if you're lucky), or processing 30 emails in the same amount of time? Where do you want to go today, Mr. Anderson?

    My name is Neo!

    THUD.

    • by Synn ( 6288 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:36PM (#4341099)
      Won't it be great to open an email in your office that says,

      "HARD TEEN ANAL SEX WITH ANIMALS!

      CUM GET YOUR HARD TEEN ANAL SEX WITH ANIMALS!"

      Won't spam be fun then.
    • Re:Clueless (Score:5, Informative)

      by targo ( 409974 ) <targo_t@hotmai3.14l.com minus pi> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:37PM (#4341104) Homepage
      This is exactly the point why e-mailed voice mail is much better. I used to hate voice mail until we got a "unified" system, evcerything's coming in as e-mail. Voice mail comes as .wav attachments, open in your favorite player, skip the uninteresting parts and get to the point. Extremely convenient, there is no way I would ever want to use the old style voice mail again. Just because Microsoft is thinking about it or you don't understand how it works, doesn't mean it's a bad idea.
    • Re:Clueless (Score:4, Funny)

      by ender81b ( 520454 ) <billd AT inebraska DOT com> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:47PM (#4341168) Homepage Journal
      Also, let us not forget about ... spam. Yes, my firneds gigabytes and gigabytes of hard-core voice-mailed, full screen video man-on-dog pr0n invading your email inbox sucking up all sorts of bandwith. Of course, if that where to happen maybe, just maybe, somebody would do something about the damm spammers.
    • Yeah yeah I didn't read the article, however current IP Phones have technology that connects your Voice mail up to your GroupWare client. Cisco demoed it at our company. So browsing your voice mail is just a matter of looking over email. Instead of a text message, the system will give you an attachment (.wav file) that you can play in a media player of some sort.

      Along with the voice message I believe it comes with a summary like who's it from and so on. The additional information is kind of like a caller ID for messages that you can choose when you want to list them, and as a bonus you could even store them easily for later, great way for blackmail...
    • How about speaker-independant voice to text translation so you can read your voice mails? That would be pretty cool, wouldn't it?

    • by madenosine ( 199677 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:59PM (#4341248)
      1.) E-mail will become voice oriented

      2.) Soon, the voice file will not be in a seperate file; one will only have to click on the e-mail to hear it

      3.) Microsoft will see that people are tired of sending e-voice#-mail with delays between them, so they create a technology to allow them to connect and talk to each other instantly

      4.) Microsoft realizes that it can create a product for e-voice#-mail which is much smaller, so it does

      5.) Microsoft discovers a way for e-voice#mail to be exchanged over regular POTS wires

      6.) Microsoft releases the their latest innovation...the telephone

      The telephone: the next stage of computing
      • Soo BPOD? (Score:3, Funny)

        by mekkab ( 133181 )
        Blue Phone of death?

        "booo-beee-BEEEEE! WE're sorry! This phone has caused a core dump and will now be shut down. Good bye!"

        bloody fookin' 'ell.
    • One solution is to limit the lenght of message that can be recorded. If they can't say it in 15-30 seconds, it shouldn't be voice mail. They can leave a phone number or send e-mail.

      People are also missing the corporate angle to the voicemail/e-mail thing. It will most likely be streamed to you from a central messaging server so bandwidth utilization will be spread more evenly.

      POP3 it won't be.
  • by PD ( 9577 ) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:28PM (#4341043) Homepage Journal
    "Surround sound is going to be increasingly important in future offices," says group marketing manager Tom Gruver in leading a tour of the new facility.

    And I'm sure they are going to need much larger dumpsters to hold all the bullshit coming out of Tom Gruver's cube.

    If there's anything that I ask of people in the offices next to mine, it's that they keep their stereos down below setting '11'. Yessir, that's the number one thing to bitch about in offices in the 21st century.

    I wish Mr. Gruver had said something a little more insightful, such as the "number one thing in offices is a door with a lock". But that doesn't make many headlines.
    • Actually, I think surround sound would be useful if it was attached to some kind of high tech conference phone. Even the best DSP-assisted conference room speaker phones I've seen suck compared to real life interactive conversations.

      If somebody could put together enough microphones, CPU power, bandwidth and surround speakers to teleport a totally lifelike sound field between two conference rooms, that would be awesome. I can imagine a system good enough to break out of the mold of one speaker owning the whole conference call at a time; a really cool system would support the hushed side conversations that happen in real meetings.

  • view C# on D# (Score:2, Insightful)

    "All e-mail from every account, and all voice mail, faxes and instant messages, are displayed in one corner of a semicircular 6-foot screen that wraps around in front of the user. The screen technology is called D# ("D Sharp")."

    D# ? Someone please tell me this is a parody and not real life.

    graspee
  • The vision of the distant future as discussed here is:
    1. Big screens (well duh!)
    2. Better sound (impractical in the office environment).
    3. attaching .wavs to email (amazing, who would have ever thought).
    4. Attaching mpg's to email (ditto)
    5. Videophones (what a novel idea! -NOT)
    6. Videoconferencing (ditto).

    Surely there *must* be some more new ideas floating round than that - for instance, what about better tools to manage the flood of email people now receive?

  • Three things (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Platinum Dragon ( 34829 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:29PM (#4341054) Journal
    1) That wraparound screen actually looks pretty cool and potentially useful. I find myself glancing back and forth slightly across my large screen, so something like this could help with limited screen real estate. Not everyone's comfortable with X-style multiple desktops. My one worry is that this monitor would be MS-only (insert quote about GM requiring GM wheels here...)

    2) Surround sound being an important part of an office? If your office is a production studio, maybe - but if your office is a studio, chances are you know more about what you need than a bunch of marketing hacks from MS.

    I kind of hope this was a joke that the article didn't quite make clear.

    3) The lack of a focus on security - on the one hand, MS might not want to overhype something they've been horribly deficient with in the past. On the other hand, it sounds like even the visitors noticed a lack of focus on secure computing, and I'd be a bit concerned about a company that promotes style over substance as the "office of the near future".
    • I'd be a bit concerned about a company that promotes style over substance as the "office of the near future".

      Hello.. this is Microsoft. I would be more concerned if they started promoting substance at all. Have you used Windows FisherPrice recently? =)
    • 2) Surround sound being an important part of an office? If your office is a production studio, maybe - but if your office is a studio, chances are you know more about what you need than a bunch of marketing hacks from MS.

      Surround sound makes sense to MSFT employees because most of us [including wet behind the ears college hires like me] have their own office. I love being able to listen to my obnoxious [triplesix.com] hip [nolimitrecords.com] hop [cashmoney-records.com] music [down-south.com] without having to worry about an office mate like I did at internships in the past. However I often find myself wishing for speakers better than the stock, cheap PC speakers than came with my Dell. Surround sound would be way fucking cool.

      Of course, this all assumes having your own office. Cubicles or other shared spaces may not be as conducive for surround sound music listening as ones own office but I wouldn't just dismiss it out of hand as you have.

      Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are mine and do not reflect the opinions, thoughts, strategies or plans of my employer.
      • MS' Sense of Space (Score:5, Insightful)

        by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Friday September 27, 2002 @12:30AM (#4342128)


        Surround sound makes sense to MSFT employees because most of us [including wet behind the ears college hires like me] have their own office.

        ...

        Of course, this all assumes having your own office. Cubicles or other shared spaces may not be as conducive for surround sound music listening as ones own office but I wouldn't just dismiss it out of hand as you have.


        Thanks for the insight... it sounds like a very nice environment you have. However, this simply underscores the problem.

        It has been my experience, reflected by the popularity of cultural icons like Office Space and Dilbert, that organizations (both corporate and US Government) tend not to have such a wealth of workspace. The average employee does not get their own office space. They're lucky if they get their own cube. Furthermore, management seems eager to explore ways to further share a shared workspace - witness the interest in "hoteling".

        This leads to two points. First, sound is more a disruptive entity than enhancement of this shared space. Secondly, a business is not likely to invest in the extra money for a good set of surround sound speakers to further that disruption.

        Scoffing at Microsoft's claims that surround sound will be an important part of the office is not simply dismissing the point out of hand. It is recognizing the current environment. And it might further question whether Microsoft's visionaries are too removed from the reality of that current environment.
    • It would be fabulous not to have to waste the space taken up by monitor borders in my current multimonitor setup :)

      I'm pretty sure that such a thing wouldn't be MS only- it looks like a curved triple size flat panel, and probably just appears to the OS as a single 3840x1024 screen or whatever.
    • That wraparound screen actually looks pretty cool and potentially useful.

      Sure. And generations of researchers and engineers before Microsoft have discovered that. Sun had an even nicer concept, where your desktop surface itself also was a screen. Every few years, this becomes a "hot idea", and then it cools down again when people look at what it costs to deliver it.

      This will, of course, happen sooner or later. But it's the display hardware wizards, not the folks in Redmond that will do it. Who gets the credit is, as usual, a different question.

    • Re:Three things (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dublin ( 31215 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @11:25PM (#4341894) Homepage
      1) That wraparound screen actually looks pretty cool and potentially useful. I find myself glancing back and forth slightly across my large screen, so something like this could help with limited screen real estate. Not everyone's comfortable with X-style multiple desktops. My one worry is that this monitor would be MS-only

      It is cool. It's also a blatant ripoff of the work Bruce Tognazzini did at Sun: In his "Starfire" movie [asktog.com] (in which we are shown exactly why Bruce should not attempt a career as director) one of the core ideas is the Starfire desktop, a 6-foot wide vertical arc that also sweeps down onto the physical "desktop". While the film is flat, the thinking that went into the world it portrays is excellent, and has stood the test of time quite well.

      Not only is the idea presented there, but there are some clever demonstrations of possible features of such tchnology, for instance: The desktop portion of the display incorporates phototransistors as the 4th element of each pixel. The entire screen is touch sensitive, allowing one to "scan" a document by simply placing it face down on the display and rubbing it with your knuckles. The image then visibly flips to "un-mirror" itself and is OCRed into usable form. Cool. Another neat idea is that of merging touchscreen gestures with the giant Starfire display - for instance, a duplicate of a graphics object in Ashlar Vellum for Starfire is created by touching it with thumb and finger joined, then spreading them apart, creating a selected copy of the object.

      The MS center sounds interesting, but it looks to be a simple rip-off of the ideas that Sun first expressed in the Starfire film. (That said, I think Sun wasn't quite ready to deal with a vision so bold, either. One of the interesting things about the film is the implied e-business connectedness that underlies the system. In some ways, it is very much like what we have today with Google and large scale information repository sites.)

      This vision still needs to happen. Here's hoping it will...
    • by SgtChaireBourne ( 457691 ) on Friday September 27, 2002 @03:24AM (#4342534) Homepage
      Lack of vision about security and other things probably means they've given up and gone over to pure delaying tactics.

      Like their recent press release for their next generation of vaporware, this looks like a delaying tactic to give the illusion that the company is going somewhere. From that view, at best it can delay an audit until the company can get a world level monopoly (and thus positive cash flow) through DRM. At worst it can postpone the date when the company flatlines, but postpone long enough for major share holders to offload.

      DRM is their last hope. It won't help them out of their security and design problems, but it will let them keep dominion of the desktop and keep using that as a hammer. Otherwise, OS X did an end run around them for the desktop. In general, MS products cannot compete on technical merits, especially security, or price. Even Balmer and Allchin now admit it publicly. And it looks like Microsoft is not likely to catch up, either.

      Having been found guilty of illegally maintaining a monopoly, MS will no longer be able to rely on purely on existing marketshare either. In fact many key applications types (spreadsheets, wordprocessing, fincancial software) are starting to appear on faster, cheaper, more secure, more easily maintained platforms. Quite a few execs and VPs have been hopping off recently. Bill himself stepped down as CEO the first year Microsoft posted a major loss.

  • by Halo- ( 175936 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:29PM (#4341056)
    "...workers e-mail each other spoken messages, or videos of themselves delivering messages"

    Here I am in this next scene, walking to Sue's office delivering her the memo on a Post-It, written in crayon. The Digital "Rights" Management system intergrated at great expense into everyhting from the coffee maker to my car dashboard is fsck'ed up again and the entire office is broken.
  • Magic Mice? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xean ( 443223 )
    • At one desk, users can move a wireless mouse's pointer from the screen of one computer to the screen of a laptop, with no wire or wireless connection between the computers themselves. That allows copying or moving material between the computers, a task that would otherwise be more difficult.
    Does anybody else have difficulties with this particular idea? Since when did the ability to move a mouse pointer mean you could copy and paste?
  • "At one desk, users can move a wireless mouse's pointer from the screen of one computer to the screen of a laptop, with no wire or wireless connection between the computers themselves."

    I am doing that right now...

    win2vnc [hubbe.net]

  • "There is an emphasis here on security, but that doesn't mean we can't be visionary," Gruver explains.

    If by 'visionary' they mean 3d sound, video emails and hierarchical buddies I'd rather have them concentrate on security.
  • network mouse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zatz ( 37585 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:35PM (#4341089) Homepage
    At one desk, users can move a wireless mouse's pointer from the screen of one computer to the screen of a laptop, with no wire or wireless connection between the computers themselves. That allows copying or moving material between the computers, a task that would otherwise be more difficult.

    Yes, that normally is difficult if there is "no connection between the computers". So is the mouse also a base station for wireless ethernet?!?
  • Here's ZDNet's article. It has a different picture with it. You can find it here [com.com].
  • ...of course, you'll need surround sound in a M$ shop in order to determine from where you're getting infected with Sircam...

    oh. that'd be everywhere, then...

  • Best quote: (Score:5, Funny)

    by listen ( 20464 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:40PM (#4341126)
    workers e-mail each other spoken messages, or videos of themselves delivering messages, rather than simply writing e-mails or leaving voice mails.

    simplifying:
    workers e-mail each other...videos of themselves delivering messages... rather than simply writing e-mails..

    What? They email each other videos of themselves delivering messages? Is this some dystopian big brother style post office, where you have to keep your supervisor informed about all your work via email? Or is it instead an ultra paranoid method of document authentication?

    We must be told!

    PS. Yeah, yeah, I know that they meant saying the message into a webcam or whatever, but the above is how I read it first time...
  • Here [microsoft.com].
  • Thank GOD Windoze Media Protector v9 Beta includes support for 5.1 audio. Better install it now. What's this? I need to be online and get licences? Well... ok then, better just do it since my boss will require me to in the oh so very near future.

    The article... well... isn't. It's an ADD. Take a look at every "article" on MSN. Wake up and watch the Matrix, people, MSN is one big banner add. LOOK AT IT! So is this article. One big add. Puppets pushing Media Player 9 and all the other "extra" features in MSN that you ahve to pay for.

  • here [eweek.com]

    /me wonders if http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&q=microsoft&btnG =Google+Search [google.com] is the next slashdot (w/o karma)
  • by MavEtJu ( 241979 ) <slashdot@@@mavetju...org> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:45PM (#4341154) Homepage
    At one desk, users can move a wireless mouse's pointer from the screen of one computer to the screen of a laptop.

    Imagine going mad at somebody and throwing your mouse at him. It will take weeks before you have found your cursor back!

    Euh... I have a mouse-cursor on the screen but I don't know who it belongs to..."
    Please, stop playing around. Get away from that start-menu!
    Don't! DON'T. Don't run winipcfg! I will hate you for the rest of your life!
    *** irc-user has quit (Ping timeout)
  • "One concept not addressed is the bugs, unnecessary or hidden features and overly complicated products Microsoft has already introduced into the market."

    Yeah, I tend to call the stuff Microsoft has already introduced into the market bugs too.
  • Truly the most disturbing part of this is the implication that in the office of the future Microsoft will have extended their oh-so-clever-I-want-to-puke C# naming convention to the D# display. After getting a slew of MS products named ActiveSomething, and then suffering through the Product Year scheme started by Windows 95 and subsequently embraced by software companies outside of Redmond and continuing today (Unreal Tournament 2003 anyone?), we can now look forward to seeing such great products as E#, F#, G#....
  • Over the next 10 years, this fancy new Information Technology is going to be a great separator of good, capable companies (who will prosper in it), and those who just buy it because of Microsoft's cool commercials on page 2 of "Business Week" and on CNN.

    Not many people are properly wired for this InfoTech stuff. A _very_ senior guy at the company I work for emailed me last week because I dropped the "Open Directory Project" into a conversation down the pub. The guy in question knows all about Google, yet he still emailed me with the precise words "What was that URL you told me the other day for 'The Open Directory Project'?".

    In a way it's all happening now with Intranets, Extranets and CRM etc. Companies that are created by, or led by people that "get IT" - and have the business genes to go with it - are going to have no problem in this exciting new landscape where new "technology" comes along every 24 hours.

    I can't wait :)
  • What up with all the MS articles lately.

    Did MS buy /.?
  • Where I used to work some of the more nerdy types devoted their lunch hours to Doom death matches over the network. (For a while I wondered what the "AHHH SHIT!" from a few qubes away was all about). I can just imagine what goes on at M$ during lunch hour (or after hours for that matter). And I can almost see Bill getting a face full of BFG2000.
  • Well, the article isn't very in depth.

    However, some of the described features made me grimace...they are the sort of thing that is almost GUARANTEED to be a security hazard and loaded with bugs.

    Video email...sounds good til you realize that means that spammers will be sending 50meg files of porno videos. (porn good...bandwidth wasted because the spammers sent the same video 20 times...bad)

    I just flinched when it talked about being able to send spreadsheets to a contact's cell phone or pda. Somehow this doesn't seem like a very safe or reliable method of distributing confidential financial information... (because of the tremendous complexity of the software that would be required to accomplish this means it is likely to have many security bugs)

    Surround sound...star wars theme to copy files...lol I bet it even has a subwoofer. Unless you are the only one in the office I don't even need to address the problem here....

    The wrap around screen might actually be useful, but it looks like it distorts the image. Pro developers have used multiple monitors for years now.

    Finally, the mouse "automagically" moving from screen to screen...sharing network drives is shaky and buggy enough without this extra layer of complexity added in...
  • The one thing that is dead on is the importance of more immediately visible screen area! Financial companies have used multimonitor for quite a while, with the need for analysis of a great deal of dynamic data being paramount to their work.

    Virtual desktops are of dubious use, and are more a matter of personal habit- the point of more desktop space is greater visibility, and multimonitor delivers this.

    Matrox has always been aware of this need, and has served it well for years. Recently, nVidia has started to catch up, with all new Geforce chips being equipped with multimonitor capability- what facilities the actual OEM's card has is another matter, but the chip at least can handle it, encouraging more manufacturers to make multimonitor parts without having to take a risk on buying lots of multimonitor specific GPUs- so this sort of thing is bound to arrive in an office near you.

    With CRTs getting cheaper and cheaper, multimonitor is within everyone's reach without breaking the bank. When flat panels come into their own, we'll get even more capability.

    The one change I made to my PC setup that made my computer use more productive was to get a larger monitor. The next best thing I did was to add a second one. Online documentation is no longer a joke- it now lives on monitor 2. Now, every workstation I own has at least 2 screens.

    If you've never done multimonitor before, go dig out an old PCI card (unless it's a Matrox card, you'll need to set it to init before your AGP card in the bios) and a random spare monitor, set them up on your machine, and try it. Both Windows and Linux support multimonitor very well (I've used the binary nvidia drivers under linux, and have had a great deal of success with dualhead on one card, and the recent win2k drivers have resolved their old problem with single card multimonitor.)
  • Such as the ability to attach hand-drawn sketches or vector diagrams to instant messaging?

    Multiple people editing concurrently one multimedia document?

    Multiple keyboards for one machine, for extreme programming / pair programming, for example?

    Desks that are actually the right height?

    Wireless monitors & monitor stations? (let's not get into security with that, though!)

    Signed and encrypted documents, changes, and messages? What about that whole DRM thing? Left and right hand at MS marketing not talking? (they are pretty big)

    These are things I want and would pay money for.
  • Really.. think about it.
    Who *wants* to have work follow them everywhere they go? Get up.. there's the boss on the computer waiting for you to get out of bed. Try to escape? Nuh uh.. the toaster has a few voicemails waiting for you before breakfast..
    Run out the door to the car.. that's ok.. everything was forwarded to your dashmail while you were unplugging the toaster since you didn't verify it was read before it was unplugged. All this time your cell phone is going off because someone thinks their current thoughts are more important than yours. Meanwhile you're probably being tracked by marketing droids to see if they can sell you a product that will somehow get you out of bed, dressed and to your corporate shackles quicker, after all it's not you that matters.. it's the almighty dollar.. which you are making for someone else and the marketing people want some too. you're just a simple consumer after all aren't you?

    Cell phones, pagers, voicemail.. bah I say. If you want to get ahold of me it's your job to track me down not my job to have every available tracking device at your disposal.

    Thanks, but no thanks.. you can keep your integrated office far away from me.
  • by Joel Ironstone ( 161342 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:09PM (#4341294)
    In the event of a colloquy, it picks the most vociferous participants.

    Imagine what that would do to slashdot. Getting moderating up for larger and larger fonts?
  • No, the future is Digital Pants ... a so called, Smarty Pants.

    DIGITAL PANTS ACTIVATE

    For those who don't get it. [mp3s.com]
  • so disappointing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jdbo ( 35629 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:11PM (#4341309)
    no that there weren't a few interesting things mentioned in the article.

    - being able to move the mouse pointer between computers (assuming these are separate computers, not just multiple monitors); I assume this indicates some sort of network-transpart clipboard (and that the user is signed onto both computers). cool, that.

    - the larger, semi-circle screen - mostly for the cool wraparound aspect (semi-inevitable considering increasingly thin monitors and e-paper (somewhere) down the line, though).

    Otherwise, it sounds like they're just hashing out more variations of video/audio conferencing - whoop-de-whoo.

    There seems to be a problem of understanding the _purpose_ of business communication, vs. just the _forms_ of communication. Video and audio voicemail are high-bandwidth, low content, and do little to guide the sender towards composing a coherent message. When using text, OTOH, we are often forced to skip the details and focus on the meat of what we intend to say.

    However, neither of these formats truly _aids_ us in the actual composition of our thoughts - one can easily compose a syntactically perfect text message with zero content - and this is even easier in audio/video formats.

    A spreadsheet and a database are useful in that they assist use in ordering large amounts of quanitative data; unfortunately, we have few tools that assist us in bridging the gap between quantiative data and qualitative data, in other words, making our intent clear while exposing the reasoning behind it.

    Step-by-step-"Wizards" are a (mostly) futile stab in the general direction of this, tending to assume a very rigid result (as well as presuming that we know the final format of the ends result from the start!); what we need instead are tools that allow us to begin very broadly, and then assist us in narrowing our concepts down until we have a clear set of assumptions, observations, related analysis, and conclusions.

    Yes, there are many _people_ who are good at this, and there are processes for _teaching_ people to be good at this, but we don't (yet) have automated tools that are good with helping people accomplish this.

    And until someone manages to construct the fundemental versions of those tools, we'll have to deal with new versions of tools that make it easier to transfer nonsense back-and-forth, vs. actually developing, refining, and communicating ideas. Anything less than this is just another improved method to pretend that we're in the same room with someone who's not.

    Or, God forbid, another variation on Powerpoint (shudder).
  • Actually, having surround sound in an "office of the future" will be extremely important. I think the problem a lot of people have when thinking about something like this is they are thinking surround sound coming out of their computer speakers. But that is not the only place audio will be important in the "office of the future".

    What will be great about these proposed offices is teleconferencing and immersive environments. And that is where surround sound (i.e. directional sound) will be incredibly important. If you are teleconferencing with several people, who will be spread out across a wall or several walls, you need audio to help you figure out who is talking. Without it, things will both feel weird and strain your brain. Think watching a movie with left and right channels reversed and both speakers on one side of your head instead of in front.

    The same thing goes for video, BTW. You want eye contact to be there, so when you are talking to person A, you better be looking into person A's camera view.

    Access Grid [anl.gov] nodes encourage stereo sound and camera placement in-line with eye contact. Cool concept images and actual working prototypes of an "office of the future" can be seen at the UNC Office of the Future [unc.edu] research site.
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:17PM (#4341341) Journal
    • Surround sound is an importent part of the workplace, because surround sound advertising embedded in the operating system that must be watched in order to continue to use the system is making Microsoft millions. Thanks to Palladium, there's no way around this.
    • You try to copy a snippet from a webpage by simply moving a mouse pointer from your desktop to your laptop, but you don't have permission to copy the snippet from the webpage, and the copy action fails due to DRM.
    • A worker tries to email his boss a clip of the broadcast news story about their company, but the embedded watermark blocks him from doing so.
    • An email is forward to the CEO's car dash. The CEO's car 'blue screens', and literally crashes, killing the CEO, because for all the Microsoft rhetoric, they are still interested in neither security, nor correctness.
    • Two of the six feet of the screen are dedicated to advertising.
    Sarcastic? Yes. Overstated? Yes. Am I any more guilty of twisting things then Microsoft in this article? No.

    It's amazing how hard Microsoft's actual actions are working to block as much of this as possible and ruin it in every way, even as they talk this stuff up.
  • Home-office? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maxwell'sSilverLART ( 596756 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:23PM (#4341367) Homepage
    The lines between home and office are blurring.

    My ass. They can try to blur them all they want, but it will be a cold day in hell before my office is in my home. When I go home, I want to get away from work. My employer gets fully a third of my weekday existence as it is (8 hours of 24), plus occasional weekend work when things get tight. I don't want to go home, only to do more work. That's my time for family, friends, or just plain sitting on my couch in my boxers drinking a beer.

    We've been way to permissive in allowing our employers to demand increasing amounts of our time, particularly those of us on salary, who don't get overtime pay. We need to grow a backbone, stand up, and declare, in one voice, "NO MORE!" If we fail to do so, we will all be changing our job descriptions to "wage slave," because that's what we'll be.

  • MS vs. Engelbart (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Friday September 27, 2002 @06:49AM (#4342914) Homepage Journal
    I think about the ideas Douglas C. Engelbar [google.com] did, vs. the Microsoft "vision of the future".

    Consider: Douglas Engelbart didn't just come up with wizzier ways to do the same old crap ("Look, this thing AUTOMATICALLY puts the memo in the pneumatic tube FOR YOU!"), he looked at technologies that didn't exist yet and asked "And how could this be used to be more productive".

    Ever since seeing that video I have been asking "And where is that sort of demo TODAY?" "What would a demo that is as far in advance of today's state of the art look like?"

    It would take ENORMOUS resources to pull off such a demo. It would take an organization that has plenty of R&D money to be able to do that kind of research.

    Microsoft could do it - they have the people, they have the money. What they don't have is the vision .

    My apologies to the various Microsoft employees that read Slashdot, but I assert that MS does not have the vision to create a demo on the scale of the Englebart demo. Englebart's vision was "How can we improve our ability to work on complicated projects", Microsoft's vision is "How do we gain even more monopolies and make even more money". MS employees, this is not a slam against you - it is an indictment of the very top level of management at Microsoft.

    And mind you, Microsoft is not alone in this - most companies today are as myopic as a mole in this. They have no motivation to really improve the world, they improve the world only as a side effect of trying to "maximize shareholder value". But the companies that REALLY take off are not the ones trying to artificially inflate their stock price, but rather those companies who's products truly revolutionize the world.

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