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Mix kicks off with Buxton touting design

Microsoft begins its Web design conference in un-Microsoft fashion, with researcher Bill Buxton talking about design.

Bill Buxton addresses a crowd of Web designers and developers at the Mix 09 conference in Las Vegas. Ina Fried/CNET

LAS VEGAS--To kick off its Mix conference, Microsoft went deep into its bench to find a speaker that could connect with the crowd of Web developers.

Rather than start with a product pitch, Microsoft began the event with a speech from Bill Buxton, a computing pioneer who these days focuses on design for Microsoft research.

Buxton's chat had a very un-Microsoft feel, as he ran back and forth on stage, gesturing wildly and speaking passionately about the need to create better experiences. Buxton encouraged the crowd not to get hung up on programming tools at first, but just sketch their ideas on paper.

"These things are far to important to take seriously," he said. "We need to be able to play."

That's not to say that Buxton wasn't there to tout Microsoft and its products. Indeed, Buxton talked about the growth of design within Microsoft, noting that the company has added user experience staff at twice the rate it is hiring technical people and now has about 800 designers and user experience researchers.

"We're walking the walk," Buxton said.

The product pitch is set to begin shortly, with Scott Guthrie expected to announce the beta of Silverlight 3, pieces of which started showing up on Microsoft's developer site earlier on Wednesday.