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Microsoft sees screens everywhere in futuristic video

The software giant offers its notion of the future in a video that shows workers collaborating on a variety of devices, while using voice and gestures to create and manipulate files.

Say what you will about Microsoft's execution in developing cool products and services consumers want, where rivals such as Apple and Google have stolen a beat or three on the software giant. One thing Microsoft doesn't lack is the ability to create a clever glimpse into the possibilities for future technology.

Microsoft just released a video this morning laying out its notion about how technology for information workers, and even geeked-out families, might look five or ten years from now. It's a fascinating vision with screens projecting all sorts of data--everything from presentations to upcoming appointments--on folding tablet computers, car windows, and even credit-card sized screens that can be stashed easily.

The 6-minute, 17-second video begins with a woman on a business trip to Johannesburg. The airport announcements come in a foreign language to her. But her glasses have a feature that translates so she can understand. A building, where she'll have a meeting the next day, is highlighted on the car window as she passes by. And she uses her phone to check into her hotel, which transmits a digital key to the device.

A woman checks the location of an upcoming meeting in a new video looking at the future of productivity from Microsoft. Microsoft; Screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

Later, workers collaborate on a project, each manipulating a presentation remotely. They're doing so during a video conference in which their images are projected in three-dimensional forms. And rather than using a mouse and keyboard to create and manipulate files, workers use voice commands and gestures.

"We create these videos to help tell the story we see unfolding in technology, and how it will impact our lives in the future," Microsoft Office Division President Kurt DelBene writes in a blog post. "The video shows our vision for a future where technology extends and highlights our productive capabilities."

DelBene notes that much of the technology in the video exists today, even if it's in a nascent form. Certainly, speech recognition has taken huge leaps in recent years, particularly on mobile devices where users can find directions and dictate text message by voice. Real-time collaboration, too, has made strides, both in the workplace and in consumer applications such as Microsoft-owned Skype, Apple's Facetime, and Google+. Even screen technology has evolved, offering displays on far more than just PC screens.

Microsoft has many pieces of the puzzle to put the technological vision in place. But so, too, do rivals such as Apple and Google, among others. And those competitors have often beat Microsoft and grabbed share of key markets--Apple with tablets and Google with search. So while the vision is clever, Microsoft is not alone in pursuing it.