Craig Mundie visit

As part of one week IVY league tour, cheif research and science officer at Microsoft research, Craig Mundie, came to Cornell to give out a talk, meet students and faculties. Since Nick drove all the way from College Park only to meet with this so called “the god of Microsoft”, I was really curious what he would talk about.

To make the long story short, it was well rehearsed talk for Microsoft public relations without sounding too much like advertising. While covering four project demos and seven questions from the audience, he cleverly omitted the business viewpoint of past, current and future of microsoft products. Instead, described them in the light of “vision of the future, contribution to the science community”.

The four projects that Craig Mundie described were: project Natal, office of the future, the cloud computing and 3D display with new interation techniques. None of them were particularly new to me but I have to admit that I was impressed by how nicely he motivated each techniques with a coherent storyline which was in this talk, global warming and energy sustainability.

Some of the seven question covered the research areas not mentioned in his talk: privacy in personal data, ubiquitous computing, robotics, quantum computing, technologies in the developing world, intellectual property rights. Mundie mostly used these questions to advertise existing SDK or research projects from Microsoft that people should download or find out about. There was one exception. It was the question about software piracy. He talked about the effort that Microsoft made with Chinese government in the past to bring down the piracy ratio of their flagship product, MS Office. In recent years, the piracy rate has decreased from 95% to 85%. He described that software piracy issue cannot be solved by some policy or a law but only by change in the culture. Recently, Chinese people are putting a lot of effort into transforming their country cash cow from manufacture to knowledge industry. Hence, the entire society is trying to change its culture to value intellectual properties. While listening to Craig talking about this software piracy issue, I became curious about two points. First, I actually expected the piracy ratio in China to be much higher, closer to 99%. Second, I wonder if the piracy rate in Korea is higher or lower than that of China.

Despite my cynicism againt the evil Microsoft empire, I have to admit that there are still so many smart people with creative ideas at MSR. I am more and more looking forward to my internship at the head of this evil giant software company. It almost feels like an espionage.😛

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