Cool Stuff at MS Research

The old saw about the “winner” being the one who dies with the most toys is a lie.  After yesterday and today, I’m convinced that the “winner” is the one who dies with the coolest toys.


I attended TechFest this week. TechFest is Microsoft Research’s annual dog-and-pony show; 22 lectures spread over two days, 88 booths filled with demos, many of them doubled up, and quite a bit of hobnobbing (complete with more then enough examples of typical software geek hygiene).  I almost had a chance to introduce myself to Robert Scoble as we were leaving a lecture together on Wednesday, but Robert headed off so quickly he was gone before I got the chance.


While I can’t give you any details, you can still read about quite a bit of what we saw (sans the demos, of course) by browsing through the Microsoft Research website (linked above).  For example, if you’re interested in studying the phenomenon of blogging, the Social Computing Group has a project that you might want to keep your eye on.


Since I work in Mac BU, I always find that this sort of thing brings mixed emotions.  I get to see a lot of very cool ideas and potential products, but I also know that if I’m going to see any of them on the Mac there’s a lot of work we in Mac BU have to do to make it happen.  A really neat Outlook plug-in, for example (and, no, I can’t describe what it does), will require some extra work before we get the same functionality into Entourage.


Other projects, particularly those addressing programmer productivity and software development tools, are not likely to ever find their way into my daily work routine. These are the lectures and demos I tend to avoid the most, because my inevitable reaction is one of wild-eyed envy.


On the other hand, there were a number of new ideas that you are rather likely to find incorporated into upcoming Mac BU products—very neat ideas.  I can’t tell you precisely which, but you can brows the Microsoft Research web site and make a few educated guesses if you’d like.  I’d start with the list of projects sorted by general topic.


Oh, and of course, I got my complimentary USB-powered, laptop keyboard light, which, given the backlit keys on my PowerBook G4, is totally superfluous.





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