Friday, May 30, 2008

Fiction, Reality, and Microsoft

Having riffed yesterday on the relationship (which may well be deceptive) between well-dramatized fiction and reality, I could not help but notice the emergence of multitouch interface technology on both fronts on a single day. The reality side of the story was summarized this morning by Steven Musil in his "Week in review" column for CNET

In an interesting but not surprising move, Microsoft revealed that it would add a multitouch interface to Windows 7.

The new interface, which is expected to appear in late 2009, was unveiled at the D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif., this week.

Corporate Vice President Julie Larson-Green demonstrated the multitouch technology, painting with several fingers at the same time to show how it can process not just touch, but multiple simultaneous input.

However, while the Wall Street Journal elites were taking in a demonstration neatly packaged by Microsoft, a similar demonstration of the technology was being offered to the general public through the remake of The Andromeda Strain on the A&E channel, in which Michael Crichton contributed to a screenplay that attempted to cast the speculations about science and technology from his 1969 novel in a more contemporary (as in paranoid) setting. Does Microsoft have a controlling interest in A&E Network programming? There is no doubt that scenarios provide excellent means to demonstrate not only what innovations have to offer but also, perhaps more importantly, how the innovator anticipates that they will be used. Nevertheless, compared with the original Robert Wise production (to which Crichton had also contributed to the screenplay), this version, directed by Mikael Salomon runs the gamut from lame to silly. If Microsoft had wanted to invoke fiction to get us hooked on their new interface technology, couldn't they have picked a better piece of entertainment?

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