More Personal Computing?

This post is a bit (or maybe a lot) higher level than most of the things that I’ve published on this site but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately so I figured I’d share…

I’ve done a few public talks recently where I’ve started with a theme of ‘Windows at 30’. Windows 1.0 was out there in 1985 and we’re here 30 years later and I’m typing this on a device running Windows 8.1 and we’re heading towards Windows 10.

As part of that, I’ve been using a short clip of our CEO, Satya, talking about the unique value of Windows. I stole it from the talk that he delivered at the ‘Windows 10: The Next Chapter’ event back in January.

That clip is here. It’s short;

and I really like this clip.

One of the themes in there is around Microsoft’s mission to empower everyone to do more, to achieve more.

Coming back to my ‘Windows at 30’ idea, for me I don’t see this as a new mission. I think that journey began in 1985 with Windows 1.0 and across the following 30 years I would argue that Windows has been central in democratising computing. Windows made the computer personal and Microsoft delivered on that vision to put a PC on every desk and in every home.

That said, I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft wasn’t the major player when it came to putting a computer into every pocket/handbag which might have been the next step on that journey but, 30 years later, that’s the personal computing landscape into which Windows 10 will launch.

There’s many strands to Windows 10 including a lot that aren’t visible to someone like me out in the UK but one of the ones that Satya mentions in the video about is the idea of ‘more personal computing’.

I think this is a really interesting idea – how does computing get more personal?

I think it links in to the idea of providing the right experience on the right device at the right time. People sometimes talk about ‘contextual computing’ and I’ve tried to write something on that idea in the past but I think it goes beyond what I said in that post.

I’ve been struggling to come up with a ‘catchy’ way of putting it but it’s something along the lines of;

               User’s Context + App + Device + Cloud Intelligence => The Right Experience              

and I think that there’s a lot hidden inside of that “User’s context” part of this. It might mean;

  • their location
  • their calendar
  • their history of interaction with the app
  • etc.

and, naturally, that can only be shared with an app under a trusted system that keeps the user in control at all times. Without trust here, there’s never going to be a great experience for a user.

In terms of the device, there’s a lot that can be ‘learned’ from a device. Even simple things like;

  • is the device a ‘mobile’ device? does it have a gyro? is it ‘on the move’?
  • is the user currently using the keyboard?
  • etc.

can be used as part of input into what sort of experience the user is looking for. Typically, I find that I want a different experience when I run (e.g.) a mapping application on my phone than when I run it on my PC sitting at a desk. The device can help the app figure that out.

In terms of these computing devices being personal, I think it’s fair to say that they’ve grown to become some of the most personal possessions that we own.

We’re glued to them.

We trip over each other as we stagger down the street checking Facebook. Our devices wake us up in the morning and provide that first hit of news and email.

How can they get any more personal? How do we get to the productivity that this type of contextual computing brings with it?

I think, for me, a key part of it is around driving more natural interaction with the device and Windows 10 is doing a lot in this area across touch, speech, gestures, pen & ink and is even leaping off a reality that’s augmented by holograms and navigated by gaze.

Taking just one of those areas – I’ve often shown off the capabilities that Windows has around pen & ink and I’ve generally showed the amazing Fresh Paint application as a way of demonstrating it.

and in the past week another equally amazing example has appeared with StaffPad;

and these are both brilliant examples to me around how productivity is improved by giving a particular user (whether an artist or a musician) the right experience from the right app on the right device at the right time.

That’s just two examples of where pen can be brought into play and those examples are quite big in scope in that they are entire applications.

A further example of ‘more personal’ for me is the one that was shown for the first time the other week – ‘Windows Hello’.

Logging in and unlocking devices is something that I do many times a day and I always find it odd that I have to keep telling my device who I am. Why doesn’t it know?

I really like the idea that a Windows 10 device can log you in (with appropriate hardware) based on biometrics and including facial recognition – the device knows who I am and the login technology gets out of my way;

As an aside, that video goes beyond ‘Windows Hello’ as it also talks about ‘Passport’ which I think will be an equally valuable addition.

I’m hoping when some of the details of these technologies get unveiled (maybe at //build later in the month?) there’ll be a lot more to dig into. In the meantime, this theme of ‘more personal’ lines up well for me…