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Mundie: The desktop of the future is a room

While mobile devices will be important, the desktop isn't going away. Eventually your whole office will be a desktop PC, Microsoft's top strategy officer tells financial analysts.

Craig Mundie
Microsoft Chief Research & Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, demonstrates natural user interface technologies during Thursday's Financial Analyst Meeting in Redmond.
Robert Sorbo/Microsoft

REDMOND, Wash.--While gesture recognition, such as that seen in Project Natal can help gaming, Microsoft's Craig Mundie showed how it will also transform the office.

In a demo, Microsoft's top research and strategy officer showed how the desktop computer of the future will use an entire office as both display and input device, with voice and gestures augmenting a number of touch screens.


"The real question is what killer apps (will mark the) new era and what will be the user interface that people use to get at them," Mundie said, speaking at Microsoft's financial analyst meeting here.

His demo included hologram-like video conferencing, a virtual digital assistant, and multiple surface computers along with voice, touch, and gesture recognition. The desk was a multitouch surface computer, and the office's walls were also a display that could easily switch from being a virtual window and collection of digital photos to being a corkboard of sticky notes to various workspaces.

In one case, Mundie also used Natal-like depth cameras to put himself in the middle of an architectural demo, essentially putting himself inside a building that was not yet built. His talk followed entertainment chief Robbie Bach demoing the gaming potential of Natal, playing a breakout-like game called Riccochet, where one uses their body to push, block, and kick balls at various bricks. Microsoft showed Natal at the E3 trade show earlier this year but hasn't said when the Xbox 360 add-on will be commercially available.

"I'm not playing the Riccochet game, but I am using these technologies," Mundie said. "This is our dream, but it is really not that far away. We see a pretty direct path to make this happen. We have all of the technologies to make this happen in our research labs."

In an interview earlier this month, Bill Gates told CNET News that Microsoft plans to use Natal far beyond the Xbox, including with Windows.

The demo was similar in some respects, but more advanced in others, than the one shown by Office chief Stephen Elop earlier this year.