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Microsoft hires user interface guru

Bill Buxton, whose roots are in music and computing, will work with Microsoft Research to improve product design.

Microsoft Research has hired Bill Buxton, a designer known for his work in human-machine interfaces.

Buxton will work as a senior researcher for the software giant and focus on product design, particularly for so-called ubiquitous computing applications.

The growing number of handheld devices and embedded processors in cars and other items poses new design challenges, Buxton said Monday. For example, in the near future, a person's watch, cell phone, car and shop window could all exchange information.

"In the best of worlds, this society of devices starts to complement one other and in their collective selves, let's say, reduce the overall complexity that confronts you and me," Buxton said.

Rick Rashid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research, said in a statement that Buxton will supplement the company's research expertise in man-machine product design.

"His pioneering work in human-computer interaction, computer graphics and technology consulting will not only enhance ongoing projects at our Microsoft Research labs, but also inspire exciting, new ideas," Rashid said.

In his post, Buxton intends to draw on his experience working with creative professionals such as designers, filmmakers and musicians.

Buxton in the past has been critical of software companies' failure to integrate appropriate design processes into products. However, he said that Microsoft is hiring more designers, which is encouraging.

"My sense is that Microsoft is in transition from an engineering-led company to...a design-led company," he said. "There are more designers at Microsoft on any single team as there were, not too long ago, in the entire company. It's a wonderful change."