Microsoft Office Information Worker Board of the Future Offers Its Vision of Technology, 10 Years Out

BUDAPEST, Hungary — June 29, 2005 — Microsoft Corp. today released the predictions of its Office Information Worker Board of the Future, a group of 12 university students representing 10 countries who gathered here last week to debate technology trends, interpret research data and share their perspectives on the imperatives for information technology (IT) in the next decade.

The three-day conference, first held last year at Microsoft headquarters in the United States, was created to give students a unique opportunity to offer their insights to the world’s leading software maker while providing Microsoft with perspectives from highly accomplished and motivated members of the “NetGen,” the first generation of people who have grown up with computing and the Internet as a normal part of life.

“One billion people around the world are getting ready to enter the work force, so engaging with these young people is an important component of our product planning,” said Wolfgang Ebermann, general manager of Microsoft’s Information Worker business group in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “We can continue to be a leading innovator in productivity software only if we listen to their opinions about how they would like the technology to evolve. And from what they’ve told us, there is no shortage of work to be done.”

The students — hailing from Brazil, China, Hungary, India, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and the United States — were selected by Microsoft from more than 550 applicants based on their personal and academic achievements as well as their work with private companies and nonprofit organizations.

The Board of the Future closed the conference by compiling its predictions of what the workplace will look like within the next 10 years. This work was facilitated by analyst Tom Austin, group vice president at Gartner Inc. and a Gartner fellow. These are the top five predictions determined by the student board:

  1. Connectivity will be truly ubiquitous. People will be able to work virtually anyplace, at any time. Firms will support this flexibility, while employees will increasingly supply their own connected systems, blurring the line between work life and personal life.

  2. Interfaces will be more natural. The user interface will become more natural, contextually intelligent and adaptive — just better.

  3. Technology at home will be integrated and include all forms of entertainment. Technology’s reach will extend to clothing and housewares, and personal finance will tie to the shopping experience. Consumer technology (and content) will pour into the workplace.

  4. Learning will be driven by the individual. Increasing job movement will lead to greater self-initiated learning through on-demand, continually available forms of education, both formal and informal. The highly dynamic workplace will drive the need for lifelong learning.

  5. Access to information will be smarter. Improved tools for discovering and using information will make possible a “collective intelligence,” and managers will benefit by making better-informed decisions more easily.

The board based its predictions partly on the results of a perceptual survey of 150 peers, including themselves and last year’s Board of the Future members. The group interpreted this survey data on the first day of the conference.

“As part of the process for informing Microsoft® product development, the board’s work is definitely real and valuable,” said Daniel Rasmus, director of Information Work Vision at Microsoft and leader of the Board of the Future project. “We use the predictions, survey data and collective feedback from this conference to augment other forms of research. For example, a recent Microsoft study looking into adoption trends for technology did not include an in-depth investigation of social influences. We expanded our understanding of NetGen motivations with this survey data.”

“I am going to be a scientist, and today I work for a researcher who is studying complex systems, such as societies or systems in the human body,” said Board of the Future member Máté Szalay, a second-year student at the Technical University of Budapest. “So my experience from this conference — hearing new viewpoints about what the world will look like in the future — has been useful. It’s nice to see companies like Microsoft asking for our feedback when thinking about how to create future software.”

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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