"Why are we searching at all?" That's the question posed by Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop at an event attended by TechRadar today. "Why is all the relevant material not presented to me if I write an email to my boss? It should all be there in front of you."
Elop was speaking at a Microsoft event in Amsterdam, where the launch of Office 2010 was marked by a look at how the way we work will change – and the role of the cloud and Project Natal-style gesture interfaces.
"The search engines will be searching forever, it's how we interact with [the results] that will change," stated Elop before joking: "I know all of you are using Bing, you might occasionally stumble over our competitors' product, we understand that."
Elop was speaking after we were shown a typically glossy Microsoft video (Silverlight required) which featured various workers using gestures to interact with different screens and communication devices as well as a video conferencing wall where children from different parts of the world drew pictures and words, translated in real time.
There was also a newspaper where the reader was able to swipe between stories, as well as drag an image onto the newspaper from a message received on a wall display.
"Everything you see in the video is something we're working on... it's not a Hollywood video," promised Elop. "We believe it will happen over the next 10 years. I often get challenged about that newspaper, but we already have flexible displays you can roll up.
"The gentleman [in the video] moving his hands to control his workspace using gestures... this will rapidly evolve." Elop cited Project Natal as evidence of this. "If you put your hands up you can steer the car," he said of Natal. "Why not just do this instead of fumbling with a remote control [in a presentation]."
Different ways of communicating
"[We're] bringing things together in a far more seamless way. [What's happening] with video conferencing is interesting... we saw language and cultural translation. There's so much we can do to enhance the connections between people."
The video also showed a man and woman in a meeting room at an airport, using a Microsoft Surface-style table. "They synchronised with a surface and all their communication history was there in front of them."
Elop suggested that one of the key trends over the next few years will be the "millennial generation" entering the workplace and how social networking and other ways of communication will have to be taken seriously. "They are used to new ways of interacting. [My son] communicates via Facebook, Twitter and text messaging. As he enters the workplace, somehow some common ground will have to be found."
"The arrival of a generation of workers who expect to communicate in a different way – it's a significant trend.
"We spend a lot of time thinking about the new ways of working. The world really is changing. The trend that is the most significant, the most disruptive, is the advent of cloud computing. I'd like to compare it to the arrival of GUI, or the internet arriving through the browser... all of a sudden we're seeing customers en masse [adopting] cloud computing.
"Virtualisation technologies have enabled companies like Microsoft to build hugely scalable data centres. Because of the massive scale we can do things [cheaper] – so what we're seeing is the very largest of customers... realising they can save 10-40 per cent by having Microsoft do [things for them]."
"I've just gone through a furtive experience at Microsoft, the launch of Office 2010 and Sharepoint 2010," concluded Elop. "The launch of these products is staggeringly realised. "We absolutely have to gauge... whether we're hitting the mark or not. We've near half a billion people using our software every day.
"8.6 million people had taken the time to download the new products in beta. That's three times as many people as did the same with Office 2007."
"70 per cent of Microsoft engineers are working on something to do with the cloud," added Elop, saying it would rise to 90 per cent in a couple of years. "We're all in," he said.
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