REDMOND, WASH., Feb. 1, 2005 — As the growth in popularity and power of search engines continues to skyrocket, Microsoft recognizes that in addition to faster, simpler and more organized ways to search, consumers students in particular need precise and credible information. In fact, nine out of 10 children between age 5 and 17 in the U.S. use computers, and even higher numbers of online teenagers use the Internet for school-related work (National Education Technology Plan, 2005). While the Internet has transformed the process of research by making information readily available, MSN Search aims to help consumers find precisely what they are looking for in less time by including the trusted content of Microsoft Encarta Premium.
Craig Bartholomew , general manager of the Education Products Group at Microsoft, leads the team responsible for creating Microsofts best-selling line of consumer products for general learning and school learning, such as the Encarta Reference Library. In addition, Bartholomew is responsible across Microsoft for the companys future product development strategy for education. As reference content from Encarta becomes widely available through the new MSN Search, Bartholomew spoke with PressPass about the companys vision for the future of Encarta.
PressPass: Why did Microsoft enter the education and reference category?
Bartholomew: We take for granted that we can get to information rapidly on a PC, but that was our vision more than 15 years ago. Since the 1980s, Microsoft saw that technology could deliver information effectively and efficiently, both in rich CD-ROM and online experiences. Our initial efforts were aimed at simply getting the PC to support devices like CD-ROMs. Then, our focus turned to searching and retrieving content, and then more recently to immersive multimedia design. All of this research and development is manifested in Encarta — which is more of an experience than simply textual articles. Technology has changed the way people learn and acquire information and we are pleased to see Encarta continuing to answer questions, spur discovery, and help kids succeed academically.
PressPass: What was the reasoning behind offering encyclopedic content from Encarta for no charge through MSN Search?
Bartholomew : Microsofts vision for access to information even 15 years ago was information at your fingertips. People increasingly turn to the Internet and search engines in particular to get quick answers anytime and anywhere. While the Internet has transformed the process of research and made information more readily available than it was 15 years ago, this information isnt always appropriate or relevant. Access to trusted and reliable information is the critical first step in the learning process. To ensure kids have a free and easy-to-access source for relevant, trusted information, MSN now provides Encarta encyclopedic content through MSN Search enough free online content to fill a 30-volume print encyclopedia.
PressPass: Why is Encarta so much more than an encyclopedia?
Bartholomew: The premium CD and premium online service from Encarta go beyond supplying the information kids are searching for, to providing tools that help them utilize that information and successfully complete assignments. Created for Encarta by experienced teachers, Homework Starters provide advice and tips for starting and completing everything from research papers and book reports to creative writing and art projects. Literature Guides facilitate understanding and appreciation of classic works of literature through examination of themes and characters and additional information on how an authors life influenced his or her work.
Our team recently discovered that in addition to the difficulty students experience with math, parents often feel unprepared to provide assistance in this subject. Recognizing this need, we developed Online Math Homework Help, which provides step-by-step instructions for solving math problems on everything from basic multiplication to quadratic equations. Complete with a dictionary, thesaurus, translation dictionaries and a detailed, interactive world atlas, Encarta is a great resource for helping kids achieve academic success.
PressPass: Whats next for Encarta?
Bartholomew : We strive to constantly enhance and adapt to the ways students access information, which has lead to sophisticated technology products that bring learning to life and help students achieve. To that end, we plan to continue updating and expanding encyclopedic content and finding ways, like our partnership with MSN, to make that content accessible to those who seek it. We also plan to enhance our focus on tools that help students go beyond the searching for and acquisition of information to utilizing that information in reports and other assignments. As we increasingly invest in developing these tools, well continue to launch products that show Microsofts commitment to education and helping students experience academic success.