Mundie: Microsoft positioned to eliminate the ‘cacophony’ of modern computing

Craig Mundie. (Microsoft file photo)

At a small event in Redmond this morning, Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, is providing an update on the company’s long-term vision for the digital world, and the company’s role in it.

Mundie started by talking about the challenges introduced by evolution of computing beyond the personal computer, into an array of devices connected to online services.

With the rise of everywhere computing, things are getting more and more complex for end users, and one of the opportunities Microsoft sees over the next few years is to “eliminate the cacophony” and simplify the process of using multiple connected devices, Mundie said.

Because of its spending on research and development, Microsoft is “probably the only company that has spent enough money to be in the race” across pretty much every category related to computing and connected devices, he said.

Mundie cited the company’s work with Windows 8 for ARM-based mobile devices as an example, saying that Microsoft’s move into that field could “bring more regularity” and consistency to the landscape of machines using the ARM architecture.

In some ways the strategy reflects a return to Microsoft’s roots, as a provider of software and services for a wide array of machines.

Qi Lu and Craig Mundie at Microsoft today.

The first executive speaking during the briefing is Qi Lu, president of Microsoft’s Online Services Division, who says the company believes it’s poised to “not only be competitive, but have the capability to lead in the future of search.”

He talked about the potential for combining social, geographic and temporal data, combined with natural user interfaces, to better understand and match the needs of a user at any given moment or any particular places.

He said this future future vision of search will be a seamless part of future Microsoft devices and services. Bing on Xbox Live is an early example.

Demonstrating some of the concepts, Microsoft showed the behind-the-scenes dashboard for its new msnNOW site, which uses searches and social trends to shape its coverage.

Mundie also talked about privacy issues related to data collection. “If you’re going to use the data, then you have to give comfort to people about who will use it for what purpose, and (make sure they) have to have the ability control it.”

The solution to privacy concerns isn’t to keep companies from retaining user data, he said, saying that legislative efforts in that direction are misguided.  ”That’s the worst thing you can do in a world where old data informs future direction.”

Technology can solve the problem, he said, promising more details on his thinking later in the day.

I’ll have more from the event throughout the day.

  • Guest

    Blah blah blah. Less talk and more action, Craig.

    • Joe the coder

      But that’s Craig’s job. Minister of Talk and no action.  Can you point to an actual product that he has ever been in charge of?

      • Guest

        Do you make products in Research? Oh that’s right, you don’t, you research then hand off to product teams.

        • Joe the coder

          Really!  And what products have come out of MS Research.  (which was Rick Rashid for a very long time)

          • GeekGirl

            How about Microsoft Translator? That’s fully developed in research. Or how about the body part recognition system for Kinect or how about, about, about.

          • Guest

            Don’t know about Translator, but the Kinect thing that Mundie is now so happy to brag about as an example of MSR working was actually conceived and driven by the entertainment group, They got excited about the possibilities for PrimeSense’s technology, which Apple had already seen and passed on, and then drove it from there. MS licensed PS’s sensor and MSR ended up playing a key role in the body recognition software, but nothing about the process was standard or MSR led. Maybe that’s a method they should try and replicate because it has been a lot more effective than hoping some MSR propeller head will connect the dots between his research and a product groups need. But ideally you want information to flow quickly and frequently between both, which hasn’t been the case historically. To get that you need formal incentives. People will do what they get rewarded for. If product teams get incentives for using MSR and vice versa, they’ll do more of it. 

          • GeekGirl

            How about Microsoft Translator? That’s fully developed in research. Or how about the body part recognition system for Kinect or how about, about, about.

          • GeeCloud
          • Bryan Mistele

            Probably worth mentioning that INRIX spun out of Microsoft Research.

        • Joe the coder

          Really!  And what products have come out of MS Research.  (which was Rick Rashid for a very long time)

        • Guest

          Generally speaking, no. But research works differently depending on the company. Apple long ago did away with “pure” researchers and instead moved them directly into product groups. It has been extremely successful for them. That doesn’t mean it’s the ideal model for MS or would necessarily work there, obviously. But pretty clearly MS’s R&D model has not yielded results anywhere near as effective as Apple (e.g. $revenue and $profit generated for each $ spent on R&D).

          Also, one minor correction. I don’t believe MSR hands off anything to product teams by mandate. That occurs, but it’s mostly accidental or because a product group specifically requests MSR’s assistance with a particular problem. Maybe that’s one of the problems.

  • Guest

    Craig has been talking about how MS was going to pull way ahead for at least a dozen years now. Meanwhile MS’s relevance, market value, share of the technology pie, growth rate, etc., have all declined.

    Forget “less talk and more action”. Guys like Mundie have been promising but not delivering for a decade. They need a pink slip, not a pep talk. Get someone in there who won’t promise anything. Instead they’ll just deliver, like Apple and Google.