The future according to Microsoft

Summary:Microsoft has taken over a small corner of Chelsea to show how its software can be used in every part of our lives, so we took a trip to see it for ourselves

Whether it is working from home or working in the office, working on the move or working at home — and even playing at home if the time allows — Microsoft has the software for every aspect of life.

At least, that's the message the company hopes that hundreds of invited guests will take away from its Life² exhibition, which is running in Chelsea until February 2006.

Stationed in a one-time school, Life² has been set-up to reflect different scenarios including a factory that makes marine components, a café, and a home complete with living room, study and playroom.

The aim is to show how Microsoft products touch "every part of life", and to showcase the latest Microsoft applications plus those it is still developing. Visitors can walk through the exhibit and watch professional actors go through a series of scenarios. One shows how the boss of the marine components company deals with a last minute order. In another, a mother working from home firefights a cash problem with the charity she works for, while a third shows how children can put computers to good use in education and entertainment.

As Paul White, Microsoft's Business group lead in the UK explains: "These are all real situations that we have taken and transplanted here. The charity, for instance, is Gingerbread [a UK charity for single parents] and the systems and software here are the same as used in the charity. The marine engineering company is a real company too."

A woman sat at a blue desk with the words 'Marsh Marine' on the wall behind her

Welcome to the offices of Marsh Marine, a manufacturer of winches and the like for the boat-building business. No-one is allowed in until they have been cleared by the receptionist and her trusty tablet PC. Tablets are a Microsoft theme at Life².

A desk with an inordinate amount of computer kit on it

A lot of kit — another theme of Microsoft's world. The managing director's desk has a desktop PC, a Tablet PC and a mini-notebook PC, which is used on the shop floor for order processing and the like. That little object peeping out on the right is a PDA. And, to cap it all, when the boss popped into the stock room to pick up the component he wanted, he used another handheld device to do that. Desk space could be at a premium.

A man sat at a computer, with some sort of online collaboration software on the screen

But with the latest Microsoft software in place, the kit can do some neat things. Here the boss is conferencing online, talking with his chief engineer while they work out how to fit a component. (The boss's notes are in blue, his engineer's are in red.)

A man wearing a bluetooth headset pointing towards the open back of a hatchback car

The component is ready and in the van for delivery. The delivery man is set to go and, unlike his boss, can manage happily without too much equipment — just a smartphone and a wireless headset. Or so it first appears…..

A man sat using a notebook PC while sitting on a bright red sofa

…but before our delivery man can get on his way, he stops to have a quick chat with one of his kids and to do a little work, using a computer at this rather smart cafe. The hardware is never very far away in Microsoft's world.

Topics: Enterprise Software


Colin has been a computer journalist for some 30 years having started in the business the same year that the IBM PC was launched, although the first piece he wrote was about computer audit. He was at one time editor of Computing magazine in London and prior to that held a number of editing jobs, including time spent at the late DEC Compu... Full Bio

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