Productivity Future Vision

Microsoft recently released a future vision video — looking at how people might get things done 5-10 years in the future. It’s a quite beautifully done piece, full of detail and scenarios. They’ve also put up a website which describes elements of the video in more detail.

But what’s surprising is the intensity of the reaction to this vision. It’s getting a lot of abuse.

From John Gruber (who further defends this comment in an additional post)

This video encapsulates everything wrong with Microsoft. Their coolest products are imaginary futuristic bullshit. Guess what, we’ve all seen Minority Report already. Imagine if they instead spent the effort that went into this movie on making something, you know, real, that you could actually go out and buy and use today.

Opinionated Type has a funny, and pretty smart, summary of the pieces design details and flaws. Including things like “There is no difference between a tap that selects, records, enters a chat, or backtracks. And no one is confused about this.” and “Mommy doesn’t wear her wedding ring on business trips.”

Fast Company describes the film as lacking authenticity — it’s too clean, and the people feel “dead behind the eyes”

“Microsoft’s film is probably going viral as we speak, but imagine how much more reach it would have if it dared to depict a guy stuck in a meeting that sucked, or using his smartphone in an airport that was full of noisy assholes and long lines, or searching his touchscreen-enabled smart refrigerator for a quick meal because his kids are bouncing off the walls and he’s bone-tired from a long day at work?”

But Joey deVilla supports the piece — and vision projects in general. He argues

“Without visions like concept videos to guide them, especially with the lack of someone in the visionary role, they may remain stuck on their current course: doing well but effectively coasting, content to make incremental improvements to already successful products or playing catch-up as with Internet Explorer, phones and tablets in efforts that are in danger of being too little, too late.”

I’m a big fan of vision films — not only can they set a target, but they let people envision ways to integrate developing technologies and concepts in ways which may not be possible today. (And I’ve worked on plenty myself.) But the Microsoft vision should be better — even if this film’s target is a general, not internal, audience. Microsoft doing lots of innovative work on interaction, interface, and content design. Why don’t we see something which really rethinks what’s possible? Something radical — that will change how people perceive Microsoft. Something with some beauty and joy.

On the other hand — at least it’s not as depressing as RIM’s future vision.