Inside Microsoft’s vision for the future of Windows, Office, and work

Every few years, Microsoft creates a video that looks at the future of productivity. Typically, this involves giant screens, many sensors, super thin tablets and other software and hardware that will transform the way we use computers in the future. Microsoft, instead of a video of vision of the future for 2019, opened the doors of its Forecast Center in this week, inviting several journalists to know the latest vision of Microsoft's future.

Microsoft hosts some of its prototypes within an area of ​​7,000 squares. Foot laboratory on the company's campus in Redmond, Washington. Inside, there are giant screens for collaboration, meeting rooms with devices that automatically recognize participants and touch desks that suggest how we might be working in the next decade. All this hardware is based on touch, voice and even augmented reality, with software that reimagines how Windows and Office work today.

"The world we work in is undergoing really dramatic changes at a really fast pace," says Anton Andrews, who runs Microsoft's visualization team.


inside microsofts vision for the future of windows office and work

. The huge amount of data available to us can make it difficult for everyone to keep up, and requires companies like Microsoft to take a more fundamental for the future of productivity. While in the past Microsoft may have tried to modernize Windows, Office and its other software and services, the company is increasingly looking to the network and the open source community to address these broader technological challenges.

It is fundamental for this vision Microsoft calls the Fluid Framework. It is a way to accelerate collaborative work on the web by dividing document structures into modular components. Andrews described the elements of this as if they were Lego blocks, which allows Microsoft to divide the data so you can easily move them from one experience to another. "For us it's just content," says Andrews. "The Fluid Framework simply allows us to play with all these bits."

Andrews guided me through several demonstrations this week, all related to the idea of ​​improving collaborative work on documents, meetings and everything else. A demonstration involved what Microsoft sees as a "Surface Hub wall", and combines projection technology with 100-point Surface Hub sensors to transform walls into intelligent surfaces that support touch, stylus, and even input voice. Like the Surface Hub 2, the idea is that companies could transform whole walls into meeting spaces.

The demonstration revealed how Windows and Office work today. I did not use a traditional keyboard or mouse. In fact, none of the demonstrations I saw did it. This Surface Hub wall included a prototype interface on how Windows could become a portal to launch new forms of collaborative work. Imagine a home screen with all your information, recent documents and data in the form of news. Microsoft is doing similar things for the Surface Hub 2 software that will appear next year, which will allow Windows to be lighter and to rely more and more on the web.

I saw these ideas appear in all the prototype scenarios within the Microsoft Envisioning Center. Andrews accompanied me through another demonstration that included a meeting of several people, a common experience in any office. I work remotely at The Verge so I experience the headaches of knowing the technology first-hand. Whether it's connectivity issues, strange microphone problems or just the basics of not seeing everyone in a video call, meetings can be frustrating and leave remote employees feeling out of the conversation.

Microsoft hopes to solve this with a combination of sensors and cameras that can better track what happens in a video call. At the center of this future meeting was a prototype of hardware that could recognize up to nine participants in the meeting and use artificial intelligence to capture the subtle body language that a remote participant might miss. There is also a live transcription service, Cortana integration to help organize the meeting and augmented reality to tag each participant so they never forget someone's name.

Part of the demonstration is that a meeting participant refers to a document and automatically flows to the transcript source of the meeting. Microsoft's Graph platform, which connects multiple services and devices, knows what that document is and can feed it to an AI like Cortana. That's where Cortana is heading: being a digital assistant that helps office workers organize their day with conversational interactions.

Microsoft revealed earlier this week that it will allow developers to access hardware kits for developers that will allow some of this future Encuentro de trabajo to come to life. It seems likely that we will finally see Microsoft hardware that aims to replace the Polycom phones that are normally found in business meeting rooms with devices that are full of sensors to allow much better meetings in the future.

The final demonstration that Microsoft's immediate future was insinuated into one that involved desktops that doubled as giant touch screens. We've seen that Microsoft has already started to push people in this direction with devices like Surface Studio, but the company's future vision work involves full desktops and workspaces dominated by huge touch-screen computers. While the other concepts focused mainly on meeting scenarios, this prototype is where workers could collaborate on multiple documents and combine data in Microsoft's new Fluid Framework.


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Documents in modular components, Microsoft plans to allow almost everything to be combined with each other by drag and drop. The work of several people could be linked in a single document, and then Microsoft imagines that it uses AI to understand the images and the text and combine everything in a single style. This vision is clearly far away, but it gives some clues about where the company plans to take its Fluid Framework.

"The underlying architecture can handle any type of data," explains Mike Morton, Fluid program manager. Framework in Microsoft. "We have not shown audio or video … but I will say that there is absolutely the underlying technology to back that up." That could mean a scenario in which you place a video link transmitted live in a document, and it is automatically transcribed.

Microsoft also plans to make sure that its Fluid Framework is open, so that the community can contribute and help the company develop it over time. It's still early, but Microsoft has been working on this since 2016 in the form of a prototype, and turned it into a larger engineering effort about 12 months ago. Microsoft has been focusing much of its efforts to focus on the web, and CEO Satya Nadella has been pushing the company to go faster to the web and even adopt Chromium for its Edge browser.

"Satya has been an advocate for our investments in the web since he was CEO," says Morton. "Satya has been so phenomenally progressive and, naturally, people can always resist the change, but Satya is very good at encouraging [change] the management."


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Microsoft's challenge now is to make this future come alive before its competitors. in a way that is not a big change for people who are used to Office and Windows. We've seen the company push too fast with Windows 8 in the past, and Microsoft is now considering adapting Windows to different modes for different hardware. That implies a lighter version of Windows, known as Windows Lite, which removes much of the complexity of Windows in favor of a more basic user interface and perhaps even a greater focus on the web.

Microsoft did not talk about Windows Lite this week in Build, leaving the big Windows ads for functions more focused on developers like Windows Terminal or the Linux kernel that reach Windows 10. We've already seen that Windows has become more basic In devices such as HoloLens 2 or Surface Hub 2. and if Microsoft wants to fulfill the vision described in these demonstrations, then the notion of Windows will change and adapt a lot during the next decade.

It seems that Microsoft will open more and more Windows open source parts and Let the community improve it. We've seen that with the Windows and PowerToys calculator recently, and it seems to be an approach that will continue for the foreseeable future. Microsoft is redesigning its future to be much more open internally, and with technologies like Fluid Framework, it seems ready to fulfill the vision of the future that it has been dreaming for years.

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