Microsoft is expected to unveil a new logo today. Over the past 26 years, the Microsoft logo has undergone roughly eight redesigns, but they’ve never deviated from the four-paned window. When the company introduced its new, simplified logo this spring, they positioned it as a radical departure from tradition—new font, new imagery, new color. In reality, says Kim, “the new logo is radical, but does not shed the past.” Furthermore, what works on a Microsoft Office box doesn’t necessarily work for the brand’s rapidly expanding line of products, like XBox and Surface. “Microsoft is showing a progressive vision that was missing in the company for years,” says Kim, and their logo should reflect that progressivity. By clinging to the past, Microsoft is projecting a muddled picture of its new direction.
The New York Police Department and Microsoft have devised a terrorism detection system that will also generate profit for the city.
Although DAS is officially being touted as an anti-terrorism solution, it will also give the NYPD access to technologies that—depending on the individual’s perspectives—veer on science fiction or Big Brother to combat street crime. The City of New York and Microsoft will be licensing DAS out to other cities; according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s government will take a 30% cut of any profits. “Citizens do not like higher taxes, so we will (find other revenue outlets),” said Bloomberg. Bloomberg continued that “I hope Microsoft sells a lot of copies of this system, because 30% of the profits will go to us.”
Windows 8, the most radical redesign of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, is often said to be schizophrenic. On the one hand, the user interface that first greets users is beautiful: a fun, playful grid of colorful tiles, based on Microsoft’s well-received Metro design language, that offers access to apps and content. On the other hand, hidden beneath this Metro-enhanced surface is the same desktop-based UI we’ve known for decades, still riddled with taskbars, toolbars, and drop-down menus.
Today, Microsoft unveiled a preview of its latest version of Office, and like Windows 8, the newest iterations of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are just as split-minded. With roughly one billion users worldwide, Microsoft faced the same issues designing Office as it did Windows: How do you re-imagine a ubiquitous piece of software without alienating your global user base? While Microsoft designed this latest release for mobile, engineering the experience for touch-screen devices, and infusing elements of Metro’s design language into the program, Office 15 still feels slightly dated—bogged down by decades of legacy.
Before Microsoft unveiled the Surface tablet last week in Los Angeles, it unveiled the mouse. More specifically, the 1983 Microsoft Mouse, which CEO Steve Ballmer hailed as an example of the company’s 30-year history in hardware.
That sentiment—that Microsoft is both a software and hardware company—is one the company stressed several months ago in March, when a group of top engineers and designers showed off a different mouse, the Microsoft Arc Touch, a sleek device that can be physically snapped from a flat to folded position. At the Soho House in New York, in front of a small audience of select journalists, members of Microsoft’s Windows 8, Phone, and Xbox teams discussed all aspects of design at Microsoft. But in retrospect, it’s that Arc Touch mouse that not only offered some hint that Microsoft might be interested in playing a larger role outside software, but also gave insight into much of the inspiration behind how the Surface hardware was designed.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled a suite of Microsoft Surface products, including a signature tablet. The 9.3 mm Microsoft Surface tablet, powered by Windows 8, is a hair thinner than the 9.4 mm iPad 3, and its 10.6-inch display has a full inch on the iPad’s. The Surface’s two standout features are a full-sized, multitouch keyboard with trackpad that also doubles as the device’s case, and a built-in kickstand for hands-free use. It also includes a magnetized stylus that uses digital ink and a full-sized USB 2 port.
“Many of these people have been on our radar for years," says Chayes of the new hires. "We’ve been trying to find people who do computational social science. There are very few people in the world who do this research, but it’s an area that’s really taking off.”
The more polarized we become, the stronger we feel a sense of belonging, and the more assured we are of our place in space. Imagine going to a football game and vacillating about which team you support. Chances are the real fans of both teams would shun you. “You’re either with us or against us”—a very useful phrase for momentum building and crowd growing.
This had to happen: Just three years after Radiohead used pro-level laser LIDAR scanners to craft a 3-D music video unlike any you’d seen before, an enterprising hacker has tweaked a Microsoft Kinect to produce a startlingly similar video.
Echo Lake’s single Young Silence is due for release soon—on Valentine’s Day, actually—but it’s already had its music video premier on Vimeo. The video was crafted by Dan Nixon, a Brighton, U.K,-based filmmaker. Nixon also writes and runs a small indie record label, but it’s his fillmmaking and computer skills we’re celebrating here.
On December 14th of last year Nixon and colleague Dom Jones shot Echo Lake performing their song using a Microsoft Kinect as a camera. Then Nixon “spent the next seven weeks (mostly after work)” transforming the digital footage by hand using “custom applications developed in Cinder” and publicly available Kinect hacking files.
It’s impressive. But what you should take away from this is that an enterprising hacker used a $50 piece of gaming hardware and hacker-community code (plus seven weeks of spare-time) to produce a music video that is hugely reminiscent of Radiohead’s ground-breaking video for House of Cards back in 2008. That video relied on all sorts of complex and expensive tech to produce—including laser LIDAR scanners that act like light-based radar systems.
See the “making of” video here, and then marvel at how quickly technology has leaped in just a couple of years. And then ponder what a runaway success Microsoft has, partly accidentally, on its hands.