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Microsoft's Bill Buxton on design

In an interview with CNET, Microsoft researcher Bill Buxton talks about the dawn of better e-readers, the future of design and other topics.

LAS VEGAS--Last year, when Microsoft researcher Bill Buxton was looking for examples of good design work at Microsoft, he had to look to the edges of Redmond.

As examples of good product design. Buxton pointed to things like Microsoft Hardware's Arc Mouse. A year later, he said, he need look no further than core Microsoft products like the new Windows Phone software or the way that Windows, the Xbox, and phones are all working together.

Buxton said it's ever more important that devices play nice with one another given that more and more of them are trying to occupy the consumer's realm. For instance, he said, people will want to connect their phones to nearby displays and input devices. Such ad hoc connections, though, require a means of trust that just isn't present today.

"If I want my phone to connect to embedded large surface display or in an office, I need to be able to do it a way where I establish a sense of trust and security," Buxton said in an interview at Mix on Monday. "I have to be able to do it in a really smooth way."

The challenge, Buxton said, is that there are ever more devices that need to work together. As a model, Buxton points to the MIDI interface for connecting digital instruments to a computer.

"You took the risk out of purchasing from one company or another," Buxton said. "It probably grew the size of the music tech industry by a factor of 10. Everybody won."

Buxton, a pioneer in the area of multitouch, now works at Microsoft Research where he focuses on design issues.

One category he sees rapidly changing is the notion of an e-reader, which today means either a tablet with short battery life or an e-ink device that can't do video or color. Soon, he said, though, there will be thin reflective displays that display color, can refresh fast enough to play video, and yet don't suck a battery dry in a short period of time.