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Microsoft predicts the future - without laptops (photos)

Microsoft has predicted the future of computing lies with smart devices in connected rooms that will change their settings according to the person using them.

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Topic: Hardware
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1 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

In the future, business people will not need to carry a laptop around with them to get their work done, Microsoft believes.

Instead, smart devices in connected rooms will change their settings according to the person using them, it has predicted.

In a video released on Tuesday, the company presented its vision for what productivity will look like in the next five to 10 years. It's the sort of world where you can walk into a hotel room and the television immediately displays your favourite channel; the alarm clock sets itself to your preferred time to wake up; the coffee machine works out whether you prefer black or white coffee and begins making you a cup; and the nearest tablet becomes your own personal computer, complete with all your files. 

Much of the video is based on the idea that powerful computers will be embedded in the world around us. These will be imbued with software-based intelligence to respond to the user's needs, according to Microsoft. In this scenario, a business traveller's glasses translate the audio announcements in a foreign airport to help them find the taxi rank and get a car sent for them.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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2 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

In Microsoft's future, the identity of the person determines the environment around them. For example, the windows in this taxi call on the user's calendar and a geographic database to display an augmented reality view of the city.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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3 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Beyond software, Microsoft imagines a new generation of mobile hardware. Here the traveller checks into a hotel using a handset that has an edge-to-edge screen with ambient rear-screen lighting. The operating system shown in the video bears a strong resemblance to Microsoft's Windows Phone user interface.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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4 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

In addition, devices can interconnect and repurpose themselves according to the user's identity. Here, personalised information from the hotel spreads across a tablet and table, and appears on the displays once the person's phone alarm clock goes off.

Many of Microsoft's ideas show data flowing across multiple surfaces — technology that follows on from its work on its Surface computer. So far, the company has constructed LightSpace, which turns a 10-foot-by-8-foot room into a single interlinked computer. The ideas at play in this video are much more ambitious, with everything co-ordinated by what seems to be a cloud-syncing operating system.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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5 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Another area where Microsoft predicts an improved future is document editing. Here, the traveller copies data and adds it to other slides without having to step out of the presentation interface.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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6 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

Microsoft expects 3D imaging to become prevalent as well. This desktop screen displays a 3D rotating globe for a worker analysing a business's supply chain.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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7 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

In this future, devices will automatically recognise one another, so people can point a tablet at a desktop and pull the information onto their device with a swipe of their finger.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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8 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

This type of technology should also make its way into the home, Microsoft believes. This smart fridge has a screen that can become transparent so people can examine the food inside and find out whether any is reserved. Companies have been depicting smart refridgerators since at least the mid-90s, though few devices have made it to market.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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9 of 9 Andy Smith/ZDNet

This frame best sums up Microsoft's vision of the future: an integrated world where video calling, applications and dumb-terminal-like devices can all come together under what appears to be a single operating system.

Here the traveller communicates with her daughter while working in a foreign country. She uses a tablet provided by her hotel to call her daughter, look at a recipe book together and give cooking tips. Meanwhile, her daughter watches her speak on a tablet that sits on the kitchen table and expands the recipe tips to cover empty areas of the table.

Screenshot: Jack Clark

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