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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.

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