May 10, 2006 12:01 AM PDT

Microsoft updates its office of the future

Metadata and more visuals.

Therein lies the future of information technology as seen through the eyes of the Center for Information Work (CIW), the concept office on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus.

"The newly expanded CIW is our companywide think tank for cultivating that knowledge and applying it to the next generation of software-based productivity tools," Microsoft CIW group product manager Tom Gruver told CNET News.com.

CIW future tech

Future software will automatically search and harness metadata--identifying information tagged to items like appointments or Word documents--to automatically identify, organize and orchestrate common-sense relationships. These "pattern recognitions" are then automatically acted on to anticipate the needs of the "information worker."

"Information worker" is the term CIW uses to describe individuals who use computers to access or distribute information as part of their job.

"Content created on the subject, useful search results, relevant contacts, documents from other applications and information connected to whatever you are working on is all proactively provided to you," said Gruver. "This includes a lot better visualization of data--3D modeling--connected to real live data at the back end."

"From a single-screen view, users can see a calendar and e-mails, phone calls and instant messages. The application creates a rolling time line of events based on your actions." he said.

Correspondence is organized by priorities set by the company and the personal user. They are also set dynamically based on the user's actions.

It's as if everyone in the future will have the equivalent of an on-the-ball girl Friday to help stay organized and on schedule.

With more and more information being offered at workers' fingertips, and more people collaborating across enterprises, more visual space is necessary. To address this, CIW features several possibilities.

CIW workstations feature two or three conjoined flat screens that work in conjunction with one another. One example is the StraTech, a curved, sprawling glass monitor split into three parts by two beveled seams.

DigiDesk is a draftsman-style podium that is layered with one giant touch screen, in addition to having a large, upright monitor.

RoundTable enables 360-degree views for multiple venues to participate in videoconferencing. CIW first experimented with the system, due in 2007, as RingCam in 2003.

In the past, CIW emphasized use of integration among multiple devices. That experiment continues, as RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are attached to business travel accessories like PDAs and Tablet PCs.

Microsoft sees Tablet PCs as a possible tool for biometric logins--authentications employing things like fingerprints, retinal scans and handwriting--in place of usernames and passwords. CIW contends that multiple biometrics could automatically apply as a means of controlling information access based on the priority settings attached to the user, as that user moves through multiple servers, platforms and even enterprises.

Previously, CIW dealt with a fictitious widget-manufacturing company and illustrated multiplatform operations within one enterprise. CIW's new scenario is a pharmaceutical company that interacts with many "beyond the firewall" components, such as research labs; government agencies requiring compliance; manufacturing; distribution; pharmacies; doctors; and patients buying their finished drug.

This new scenario allows CIW to test the use of software applications not just across platforms and servers, but also across enterprises. It's also designed to experiment with compliance issues, something regularly dealt with by many industries going through development and testing.

The CIW fictional office space spans 3,500-square feet and anticipates hosting 10,000 visitors this year. Executives from Fortune 2000 companies, as well as dignitaries and journalists, have toured or interacted with the space since its birth in 2002.

Through immersion, visitors use the technology under guidance from CIW staff. Executives who visit the facility can engage in interactive role-playing to evaluate new CIW applications and provide Microsoft with feedback on improving technology.

See more CNET content tagged:
enterprise, RFID, tablet PC, Microsoft Update, tablet

9 comments

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MS updates their center with Mac's
Glad they finally got smart and use Mac's.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Really? And how so?
Could you be more specific? I'm curious.
Posted by (54 comments )
Link Flag
Forget the future, what about now?
Microsoft's FUTURE products are always amazing. But what they finally deliver, if the product shows up at all, is usually something much much less.

The world was promised Vista (aka Longhorn, aka whatever) years ago. And what do they plan to delivery next year? The OS they promised with WinFS and all the other goodies?

Nope. Looks like we're getting a service pack.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
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get Mac
forget vista, OS X is much better than the vaporware vista if they ever release it.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Link Flag
You are correct
Usually all the new OS are merely fixing the flubs in the ones they put out before they were made to work well. AKA poor quality and non-secure. Then they take the finally working older OS off the market to force you to buy the new system on a newer computer. I am sick of business as usual after years of complaints from people who have a PC and actually USE it for something other than chatting in online chat rooms and email.
I so graphics and desk top publishing and get fed up with Error We Are Shutting Down Now when
two PC made graphic programs can not be opened on the desk top together. Multitasking? HA !
Posted by pjdw (33 comments )
Link Flag
The New Office - A Pain For Me I Will Bet
I anticipate that this new office will take me more time and decrease my own production. Why?
I think in defferent ways than most people and
I have have developed my own system of filing my work on my computer.
IF this cookie cutter office program files my work in a way someone else does, that does not know my system, it will take me HOURS to find the work and I may never fully learn how to do it their way.
Anyone who thinks and learned differently in school will understand, whether they have ADHD, functional autism or dyslexia or other form of
learning difference. We are NOT all cut from the same mold.
I certainly HOPE they have a way to shut off this automatic filing system. Of not I will may as well invest in a MAC product. At least they do not change their product every 18 months to force their customer to buy more and more and more to stay up to date!

Just sign me Getting Fed Up With Keeping Up With the Gates's
Posted by pjdw (33 comments )
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Nothing New .. Apps are basically the same..
Ok so they come out with new features.

Who really knows all the features in excel? We might find one relly neat one and use it all the time. But not the hundreds that are there.

If they want to innovate incllude some dictation software in there or something...

KM
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
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