December 19, 2005 10:08 AM PST

Microsoft hires user interface guru

Microsoft Research has hired Bill Buxton, a designer known for his work in human-machine interfaces.

Buxton will work as a senior researcher for the software giant and focus on product design, particularly for so-called ubiquitous computing applications.

The growing number of handheld devices and embedded processors in cars and other items poses new design challenges, Buxton said Monday. For example, in the near future, a person's watch, cell phone, car and shop window could all exchange information.

"In the best of worlds, this society of devices starts to complement one other and in their collective selves, let's say, reduce the overall complexity that confronts you and me," Buxton said.

Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, said in a statement that Buxton will supplement the company's research expertise in man-machine product design.

"His pioneering work in human-computer interaction, computer graphics and technology consulting will not only enhance ongoing projects at our Microsoft Research labs, but also inspire exciting, new ideas," Rashid said.

In his post, Buxton intends to draw on his experience working with creative professionals such as designers, filmmakers and musicians.

Buxton in the past has been critical of software companies' failure to integrate appropriate design processes into products. However, he said that Microsoft is hiring more designers, which is encouraging.

"My sense is that Microsoft is in transition from an engineering-led company to...a design-led company," he said. "There are more designers at Microsoft on any single team as there were, not too long ago, in the entire company. It's a wonderful change."

14 comments

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A Design Company?
"My sense is that Microsoft is in transition from an engineering-led company to...a design-led company,"

Well that's nice, but unfortunately not true. Best of Luck!
Posted by djnoahc (1 comment )
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lol
that's good.

I agree, and when was the last time they came out with a product they didnt' completely rip someone else off for? Xbox? Xbox 360. hrmmmmm. Oh wait, the 260 was made by a couple of DESIGN COMPANIES, not MS on a whole...
Posted by (461 comments )
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An evil convicted design company?
Still bad.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
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A Design Company...
Well...on the same page CNET reports that Microsoft will be adopting a web STANDARD initiatited by the Mozilla people for the design of the RSS logo...

Why not just have Mozilla design your OS too?
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
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Buxton quote
I remember clearly (a number of years ago) hearing Bill mutter under his breath while wandering the halls of Alias; "I hate computers -- I [expletive deleted] HATE computers -- but I especially hate Windows computers!"

Bill was always great to work with -- I hope Microsoft treats him well, and I wish him the best.
Posted by iameline (5 comments )
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huh?
What is so great about windows? I also switched, but from pc to
mac, and I think macs are much better. And I also think it's a trend
right now.... Strange, isn't it? Maybe you had a 10-year old os 7
machine?
Posted by bead (3 comments )
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No more windows vs. macs posts
Why does almost every story on cnet about windows or ms turn into a debate between windows and mac users? Its getting old really. I think people should resond to the story. Congratulations if you use a mac, why do you need to tell everybody? Anybody else agree?
Posted by stealt403 (48 comments )
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Design isn't what MS needs
MS should be investing in employees that specialize in security, not design. I thought this quote was pretty funny:

"My sense is that Microsoft is in transition from an engineering-led company to...a design-led company."

The designers wouldn't have anything to design if the engineers didn't make it first. I would choose utility and function any day over something that "looks pretty."
Posted by stealt403 (48 comments )
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To be safe, or not to be
I think MS- has done remarkable things with the Intel compatible personal computer; Windows is by now one of the easiest platforms to work with. But then again the interface has not improved over the years.
I think there are two challenges before Microsoft, one and foremost important is safe and secure computing, the other one is interface, to me the only mayor change of interface was when MS- introduced Windows 95. Hiring Bill Buxton will boost Microsoft presence in the general computing scene with an innovative personal computing interface making it even easier to find and do things, and not over killing the interface with excessive information which is what Windows XP does worse.
Posted by frank bruce (92 comments )
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Understanding the value of design
I think to truly understand what this is about you must understand what design is - those that think design is simply making something "look pretty" are missing the larger meaning and value of design. Every product is designed...and enormous value is derived from design. Information architecture, information design and branding are all design. I would also argue that products are more often designed before they are engineered. To be successful it's not enough to simply function.
Posted by nerofutura (1 comment )
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