Microsoft is highlighting its latest advances in collaboration technologies at its Center for Information Work (CIW) — a four-year-old, 3,500-square-foot technology laboratory. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant uses the facility to develop futuristic technologies and demonstrate to its customers, partners and the industry at large what’s next in productivity and other software applications.
The latest tool, Microsoft Roundtable, a collaboration and communication device, has moved from the prototype stage to a product group for commercialization and further development. It includes a 360-degree camera for multiple location video conferencing.
Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group is scheduled to bring the technology to market in 2007, according to the company.
Office of the Future
Microsoft’s activities at CIW support the company’s somewhat amorphous Office of the Future concept.
“To help our customers boost their individual and corporate productivity, we must continually increase our understanding of the demands facing information workers today as well as the trends shaping the new world of work,” explains Tom Gruver, group product manager for the CIW at Microsoft.
The concept addresses four areas:
- Enhancing individual productivity with smart technologies that are easy and fun to use — or as Microsoft describes them, technologies “that shield users from information fatigue, support rich presence awareness, unify various modes of communication, make information universally available across different applications and devices, and make information easier to find and share”;
- Spotting trends in business intelligence;
- Enabling collaboration with software that makes distributed meetings easy and inexpensive;
- Optimizing workflows through software that automatically route approvals, alerts and exceptions in such areas as business intelligence updates, compliance standards, documentation, and reporting and security requirements.
Watching for Web 2.0
Of course, Microsoft has been modeling such “what if” technology for years, Joe Wilcox, senior research analyst for JupiterResearch, pointed out. “Think of it as the software version of a model car — the company rolls out the car to illustrate what could be the future,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Lately, though, these product displays have taken on a more urgent tone as Microsoft watches Google’s Web 2.0-approach to computing become ever more popular.
“That vision of the future is not necessarily favorable to the desktop software that Microsoft sells today,” Wilcox said.
Put into this context, Microsoft’s next generation approach to collaboration — just to name the example au jour — becomes even more important to Redmond, as well as to its customers and partners.