Microsoft Research shows off a prototype 'Menlo' mobile phone

Summary:Microsoft researchers have published a photo of a prototype Microsoft 'Menlo' phone and have shared information about a new sample application codenamed "Greenfield" that is running on it.

For the past few months, I've been trying to piece together what Microsoft codename "Menlo" is. My tipsters described it as a project by Microsoft Researchers to investigate new operating system possibilities in the mobile space.

One of the research papers I mentioned in my original blog post about Menlo has now been published. (Thanks to reader Charon of for the tip about the paper's availability.)

Lo and behold, there's more in that paper, entitled "User Experiences with Activity-Based Navigation on Mobile Devices," about Menlo. From that paper:

"Menlo is a prototype mobile device with a capacitive touch screen (4.1? diagonal, 800x480) running Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 which incorporates a Bosch BMA150 3-axis accelerometer and Bosch BMP085 digital pressure sensor (barometer)."

(Microsoft included an image of a Menlo device in the paper, which I've included at right.)

Running on top of the Menlo platform is a new Microsoft Research Silverlight application codenamed "Greenfield," which is a sensor-centric program allowing users to retrace their footsteps when seeking to find their cars.

Galen Hunt, the Microsoft researcher in charge of the cross-divisional Menlo project, mentioned in his LinkedIn profile that he "negotiated production of custom phone prototypes, designed and implemented major kernel and OS components, implemented runtime and compiler features, and wrote code for demo" as part of his Menlo work.

(Hunt also is the leader of Microsoft's Singularity project. Singularity is a microkernel operating system which Microsoft Research has made available for license. Singularity also was/is the heart of Microsoft's Midori distributed operating system incubation project.)

I mentioned in my original blog post a few of the other Microsoft researchers working on Menlo. The new paper on Greenfield/Menlo lists some others, including a couple of user-interface specialists and senosr researchers. Amy Karlson, who is listed as one of the authors of the paper, also is working on Microsoft Research's "Courier." (No, no the cancelled dual-screen Courier; the Courier phone-based file exchange system that is one of the projects of MSR's Cross-Device User Experience team. This team is focused on understanding how to make PC-phone experiences more seamless.)

So what to make of all this? I don't think Microsoft is going to build its own Menlo phone. (Been there, done that with the failed Kin.) I do think the Menlo team is continuing to focus on a new mobile operating system -- not just the existing Windows Embedded Compact-based ones -- that will work on a variety of processors.

Anyone else have more Menlo information (or guesses) to share?

Topics: Microsoft, Enterprise Software, Mobility


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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