An Office on Every Surface

TR: What today is Microsoft’s vision of the future office?

Mundie: We will continue to see desktop computing. In fact, one of the things that I have predicted is that there will be a successor to the desktop, and I think it’s the room. There will be what I call a fixed computing environment, and it should evolve in quite dramatic ways to become a much richer and immersive experience.

We will see a lot more displays in the office, and they will be built into surfaces horizontally and also be on the walls or in the walls. I think that a kind of completely continuous model, where you are using speech, gesture, and touch in a more integrated way, will become more commonplace.

– via instapaper.com

My problem with a future like this is that it prescribes an environment where computers are given more precedence and control of our environment than we are.

No matter what desktop people use, no one really has control over their computers. No matter how well or how poorly designed, they control the way we work. People are still uncomfortable with computers, and we use them in unhealthy ways. We use them for 8 hours a day while sitting down at a desk for extended periods of time, which is killing us. Given this there could be no worse outcome than a full-room, immersive computing experience.

I don’t believe the solution and a better future will be found in “wall screens”, surfaces, or gesture controls. Like PCs, those technologies will have their place, but those uses will be particular enough to be rare.

Instead, the future will use smaller computers. Environments will be designed around people rather than machines, and mobility will be a primary consideration rather than a secondary one.

After solving the problems of media, files, and user interfaces, etc… People having control over their computing will be the next big accomplishment.

When it comes to statements about how tablets aren’t suitable for creating and collaborating, in my perspective that is more of a cognizant barrier than a real limitation of the medium. Much like how people say digital books could never replace paper books.

I think they can, and I think a lot of people just can’t imagine it.

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