Monday, October 4, 2010

KTH Goes the Microsoft Way

It is turning out to be a very tense period of my life at the moment. Wrapped up in meetings, research, events, projects, my Masters thesis and seminars  from diverse high-profile personalities all contribute to this intense phase. Yet, I feel energetic, proud, honored and confident, all at the cost of being arrogant to be experiencing all of this. Over the past week, I have attended several seminars and exhibitions where I have had the opportunity to meet executives from different companies and have a peek at the upcoming revolution that is taking place in the digital world. Great insights, exceptional speeches, awesome sources of inspiration and huge motivations for people who formed part of these events from the people who have had their hands and mouths full of actions, demonstrations and words that are truly reviving and encouraging. Great foundations for even greater prospects! Today hasn’t been any exception.

The Royal Institute of Technology or KTH, as it is more commonly known, entertained the presence of Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer and certain other Microsoft executives in addition to Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of Spotify AB based in Sweden. The demand to partake in this event was by far huge. KTH premises fell of short of accommodating all students, researchers and personnel. People who had pre-registered enjoyed the chance to visualize and experience the event live at KTH in Hall F-1. As demand for the event had approached intense levels, people at KTH had decided to stream the event live on different campuses KTH has in Stockholm. The core of the session was based on cloud computing, though the Microsoft people had captioned it “New Digital Lifestyle” referring to the buzzed vision of “The Cloud”.

It started with a dancing demonstration of a guy whose actions were simulated by a computer through sensors that were attached to him that mimicked his moves to perfection. Shortly after, it also replicated the facial features of the guy which were reproduced on a giant projector right in the very hall where the seminar was held. It was described as the “True Natural Interface Gaming Showcase”. It exhibited features that made the person connected to the sensors the controller of the situation. Multi-cameras also formed part of the experience that captured full body movement and the entire showcase was integrated with a facial recognition system. It was quite fascinating, eye-catching and mind-blowing. People were awed, me included! The Microsoft aim behind this demonstration of exceptional Human-System Interaction was to make it compatible with the XBOX360 and providing a full gaming experience. It was depicted that Microsoft are going to launch 15 different games by November 2010 and bring the best consumer experience in gaming, all based on the principle of kinetic movements of the human body.

The Head of Consumer Division of Microsoft (HCDMS), Sweden stepped up and initiated his speech with hard facts about the company. He stated Microsoft is research-driven company by tradition. He supported his statements by stating that Microsoft spends $10 billion per annum on R&D. This was complemented by the fact that Microsoft has tons and tons of data on consumer behavior and the way they consume media online. A formidable shift has occurred in the way people consume media nowadays. He stated that 25% of the world’s population has access to mobile networks whilst 95% of the Swedish population has access to high speed internet and these were the driving factors behind the huge transition in media consumption. Contemporary practices in innovation, connectivity and consumer electronics are likely to lead the world towards convergence. However, it was identified that the development was actually working in the opposite direction. Nowadays, people use the same content and same media on multiple devices and on different screens. The HCDMS stated that people in Sweden spend 20% of their time online which is a huge part of times, out of which 80% is spent on personal issues such as Facebook and communicating with friends. The HCDMS described this unique transition has to be owed to the emergence of new portable devices and excellent infrastructure. Having said this, the HCDMS stated the vision of Microsoft is to understand needs of the consumers and deliver an all-in-one solution, something we know as “Windows Live”. Since needs are growing and storage always remains a concern for both the consumer and the content provider, the essence of the “cloud” was brought into perspective. The HCDMS affirmed that Microsoft has reached a point where it is possible to store all this information in the cloud and be least worried about storage space. This propelled Joakim Karlem, Product Marketing Manager, Windows Live to step up to the scene and display some of the marvels that are usually unexploited by the consumer within the Windows Live framework. One of the demos was pretty cool. Joakim demonstrated how he could take a photo and place it into the cloud and edit them in merely no time to achieve eye-pleasing results. Whilst he accomplished that, he emphasized on other areas Microsoft was addressing. The core of these areas is innovation and focused on unleashing the subsequent version of the Internet Explorer, IE 9.0 which has underlying technologies such as HTML 5 and CSS 3. As the demonstration continued, the remarks made by Joakim and his colleague, HCDMS became apparent as the audience was subjected to real-time visuals of how content is integrated and combined in the Windows Live framework. The audience gave a big round of applause. Joakim asserted that Microsoft is an engineering company and a platform company. At this moment, the company is directing their efforts towards creating a social hub, primarily due to the outburst of social media. He stated that they have been successful somewhat, backing up his statement by stating certain facts about MSN Messenger used for communication. His time to deliver the speech was up and this is where the show really begun!


The much awaited personality for whom students at KTH had formed long queues, Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft took charge in a very energetic manner. He came out saluting and smiling at everyone. It was a pleasing spectacle. He started by giving a background of himself, stating he had graduated from Harvard University in the 1970s where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. However, the most intriguing aspect made waves when he stated that he had shared the very same dorm with the high-profile Bill Gates. As he had the audience engaged with his prolific comments, he sensed he had the audience captivated somewhat. Instead of delivering what would have been his conventional speech for the event, he changed the direction of the speech and addressed the students and the researchers by giving them inspiration and high hopes. Steve said the generation of today is the future of tomorrow and it was pretty much up to us to keep innovating and make the world a better place. Intentional or unintentional, this comment set the foundation for what he was to speak subsequently. This is where he started talking about the “cloud”. He stated people had often asked him what is the “cloud”? He clarified that the “cloud” is the foundation for technological advances. The “cloud”, being a buzzword in itself, is a fundamental transformation in the computing world which is aimed at combining the best of devices, datacenter computing and smart devices. The real impediment was how to combines all these. The answer lies the technology called “Cloud Computing” which bypasses the notion of lack of storage capacity. The cloud is perceived to be quite advantageous primarily because no servers are needed and applications can be written and collaborated thereafter on the same datasets. However, Steve stated that this is where the social aspect comes into play. He said as the cloud creates greater opportunities, it also creates greater responsibility that deals with specific issues such as security and privacy. It was also explained by Steve that the pre-requisites for combating privacy and security issues lie in the consumers’ positive experience and confidence towards the utilization of these services. Steve’s emphasis on system integration was quite extensive. He envisioned that systems learning is critical and is getting smarter. The buzzed “cloud” assisted in exploring, navigating and taking necessary actions.

About 2 years ago, the bubble that encompassed the entire cloud paradigm was emerging big. It had enhanced interaction at a personal level and at a professional level. Steve underpinned that he is witness to this entire phenomenon which dates back a couple of generations. He stated to reach where the technological industry is today, lots and lots of endeavors have been carried out. The importances of data in everyday life lead to the conception of datacenters which were not very effective at the beginning. These data centers consume about 3% of the world’s power and are allocated an annual budget of approximately $700 million. Steve highlighted that the real problem was that the data gets outdated extremely quickly. As a consequence, efforts are directed at the construction of New Generation Datacenters in order to make them more effective. However, as effectiveness is achieved through successfully manipulating hardware and software platforms, serious repercussion are likely to arise in the form of job turnovers. However, Steve continued speaking wonders of the cloud. He articulated that the cloud wants smarter devices and the present generation has to conceptualize them to be able to sync them effectively. With this portion of the speech approaching to its end, Steve stated his company had recently started working closely with the Spotify AB. He called upon Daniel Ek, the CEO and founder of Spotify to come to the scene and share some of his thoughts. Daniel’s actions interpreted a sense of restlessness. He was kind of rushing through his speech. However, the significant parts of his thoughts were expressed in relation to what Spotify has done and how it will head into the future. He said that the advent of the internet has substantially altered the way music is consumed worldwide. People discover music through friends and share it in a matter of seconds and this is the big theory behind the dawn of Spotify. As Spotify is trying to make an impact in the US as well towards the end of this year, it is going through a venture with Microsoft to make music sharing easier. In the upcoming days, Spotify is coming up with its mobile app that will operate on the Windows Phone 6. Daniel quickly concluded by thanking the audience and handed over the microphone to Steve once again. Steve took the opportunity to conclude and thank the audience who were listening to him in different parts of Stockholm and was ready to address any queries the audience might have had.

The most interesting question that was posed to Steve was that which his types of games were his favorite. He answered that by stating that the ones where not much action is involved where the mind actually has the opportunity to relax. He took the chance to carry out exceptional word-of-mouth marketing by saying “AVAILABLE IN STORES NEAR YOU!” which made the entire audience laugh.

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