Steve Ballmer had an interesting post on The Huffington Post, timed to run with the buzz generated by his CES2010 keynote, that by most accounts fell somewhat flat. He focuses on the Natural User Interface or NUI, which includes touch, gesture, speech, handwriting, and vision.
I’m glad to see him mention handwriting, even in a list of NUI elements, but most of the article focuses on Project Natal, which is all about gesture based gaming to a large extent. Microsoft obviously sees this as the next pot of gold to pursue.
It’s fascinating and a bit perplexing to me that most of the trends in computing these days focus so heavily on consumption and entertainment. Sure there’s still work being done for those who need to actually work for a living, but those advances are either not sexy enough to drive the almighty consumer dollar (whether it be by purchase or through advertising) or perhaps we’ve reached an age where innovation in computing for business is slowing down to the point that makes it not worth talking about as much. Or maybe the marketeers know that we’d rather spend our dollars and our time numbing ourselves with entertainment than dealing with the reality of the work place.
I obviously wasn’t at CES2010 to catch Ballmer’s keynote, but I remember distinctly seeing him speak at a Microsoft MVP summit two years ago. If I’m not mistaken it was the first such MVP address since Bill Gates had stepped down. Something that left an impression upon me was Ballmer pulling out pieces of paper to read notes from and take notes on during his presentation. I wondered then, and wonder today why he never used a Tablet PC to do that. The reality of that moment is that Ballmer was surrounded with those Microsoft probably deems fanboys. If ever there was an opportunity for him to push NUI, or Tablet PCs, or any technology for that matter, there was the symbolic moment to do so. But at the time of that event, Search was the big thing on his mind.
Of course on my mind as he went on and on about Search and the innovations to come was how Microsoft already had a very clever way of searching locally using Ink, even Ink notes written as horribly as mine. That was and is called OneNote. But that’s another story. I wonder if Ballmer has ever tried searching Ink notes in OneNote? I’d give the CEO message about NUI a lot more credence if I knew he had.