Microsoft Does the Robot

Speculations, theories and predictions abound in the wake of Bill Gates’ announcement that he’s quitting his day job in a couple of years. Among the ideas being bandied about the blogosphere, the predicted end of software is the second most interesting.

Here’s the dilemma for Microsoft. It knows that the Webtop is coming. It knows that desktop applications and Web applications are going to become more and more indistinguishable. And it is making a play for that future with Windows Live and Office Live. But as an organization, it’s heart is just not in it. And why should it be?

Why? Well, I don’t know, but it’s a great lead-in to the first most interesting hint on Microsoft’s direction in a post-Gates world: robots.

Microsoft will announce today that it is launching a new effort to dominate the robot world. They will offer a software platform that could provide a foundation operating environment for robots.

Their motivation for the efforts,according to an announcement letter from Tandy Trower, General Manager, Microsoft Robotics Group,is, "We think robotics is poised to take off rapidly, and there are solid indications that this is true! With component hardware costs coming down and computational capabilities increasing, the robotics industry appears to have the right conditions to really grow quickly."

OK. So Microsoft isn’t building robots (yet?), but launching an effort to help people build robots is an interesting direction, and maybe a feasible one since there isn’t a "webtop" application for that. (Is there?)

Check out the Robot Gossip link for more info on what Microsoft’s up to (like funding a Center for Innovative Robotics at Carnegie Mellon) and specs on Robotics Studio.