Inside Microsoft's Kinect, and... Microbe?


A couple of good stories on the radar today. Wired magazine has an in-depth feature on Microsoft's Kinect wireless-controllerless video game... uh... controller. The one where you jump around in front of the TV instead of sitting still and moving only your thumbs.

The story is worth a read, as is most any story in which the reporters get access to the actual people doing the work over in Redmond, rather than their group vice presidents and whatnot who get to take credit before jostling closer to the corner office. In this case, Alex Kipman, the Brazil-born project manager whose team developed Kinect (and naming it Project Natal after Kipman's hometown).

And speaking of the corner office, the New York Times' Bits blog reports on a recent meeting between Steve Ballmer and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen. The hint: Microsoft's going to try and buy Adobe, the maker of the Flash web animation software (with which Microsoft's own Silverlight is a competitor of sorts) as well as the Creative Suite graphic design product line (PhotoShop, Illustrator, Acrobat and so on). The goal: to compete with Apple in the mobile market. (Let's see: Windows Phone 7 is coming out, and has an uphill battle against iPhone's five-year head start. Apple famously won't let Flash on the iPhone, so... enemy of my enemy is my new BFF. What? Oh, there's also something about Google, as in "Google means never having to worry about another antitrust probe.")

The fiery posters over at (no love lost between them and either company) have already taken to calling the prospective merged company Microbe. Cute. But it'll be anything but "micro" if it comes to pass. Nor will the price tag, which has been rumored to be in the neighborhood of $20 billion.

I wonder if this has anything to do with Ballmer's "legacy" issue.


2016 Tech Impact Awards: Tech Impact Champion

2016 Tech Impact Awards: Tech Impact Champion

Congratulations, Ed Lazowska!

Ed Lazowska, Ph.D.
Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

When Ed Lazowska arrived in Seattle 39 years ago as an assistant professor, both the University of Washington and the region were very different places. In computer science, he was the newest of only 13 faculty members. The region’s tech industry largely consisted of Boeing, Fluke and Physio-Control. Microsoft at the time was still a dozen people in Albuquerque. 
Today, the UW’s Computer Science & Engineering Department rivals Stanford’s and Carnegie Mellon’s for attracting tech talent and major research — accomplishments that Lazowska helped bring about. As the university’s department chair, his effort to recruit leading data scientists included personally reaching out to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who provided $2 million from Amazon to endow two professorships and personally met with researchers. A decade after leading fundraising to build the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, he is doing so again to build a new CSE facility that will help double the center’s capacity.
“Our job,” Lazowksa asserts, “is to provide socioeconomic mobility for bright kids in this region.”
Driving opportunities through research remains his passion, as his own studies in high-performance computing, multicomputer processing and big data science have proved. An early technical adviser on the formation of Microsoft Research and a member of two national advisory committees on science and technology policy, he has promoted private and public investment in “engineering things that one day in the future will be used in game-changing products.”
Lazowska believes big data and cloud computing “lie at the heart of 21st century discovery.” He helped found and now leads the UW’s eScience Institute, a cross-campus partnership that helps scholars in fields such as astronomy, biology and sociology take advantage of data analytics to enhance their research. Given the region’s far-reaching cloud expertise, Lazowska says, “This is an area that Seattle has the potential to own.”
Lazowska’s other initiatives include promoting K-12 STEM education and gender diversity in the UW program. He champions the notion that all students should study computer science to cultivate the “computational thinking” skills needed for the new century.
Lazowska marvels at the region’s transformation into a place “with distinctive and innovative activities in the broadest range of areas.” With his trademark enthusiasm for the UW and the local tech sector, this celebrated educator, researcher, adviser and booster has played an important role in that transformation.
Previous Tech Impact Champions
Tech Impact Champions are chosen not only for their achievements in technology but also for championing the region’s broader tech sector. Past inductees in Seattle Business magazine’s Hall of Technology Champions, previously called Lifetime Achievement Award honorees, are:
  2012: John McAdams, former CEO, F5 Networks
  2013: Jeremy Jaech, cofounder, Aldus and Visio, and chair emeritus, the Technology Alliance
  2014: Steve Ballmer, former CEO, Microsoft
  2015: Tom Alberg, cofounder, Madrona Venture Group