A look back on Next at Microsoft in 2011

Given we recently celebrated the one year anniversary of this blog, it seems a little odd to look back on 2011, but something I didn’t do in that birthday post was pull out some of my favorite moments and posts during the year. It’s sort of traditional to do it at this time of year, so here are 10 of my favorite posts from the over 400 during the last year on Next with a brief explanation of why they’re my favorites.

#10 Welcome to Next at Microsoft
This was my intro post to this blog and probably one of the longest it took me to write. I went back and forward debating how much of “me” I put in to the post and decided to err on the side of more. I mean, there are plenty of Microsoft Blogs so I need to explain why I thought we need another one (internally and to my audience). The photo supporting this post came in a moment of inspiration while I sat in Starbucks at our Westlake office in Seattle. Next is supposed to be about telling stories so it seemed perfect, albeit with a little lomography help from Thumba Photo Editor on Windows Phone.

#9 Tools of the trade: Steve Clayton
This was a style of post I did a few of and may return to – inspired by the features you may have seen (I have only heard about them) in women’s fashion magazines that look at what’s in a woman’s purse or handbag. This one took a look at what my daily tools are and it’s due for an update as though I’m typing this on my trusty Lenovo x301 that I mentioned in that post, much has changed in my kit bag. Look for a new, CES related version next week and let me know if you’d like to see more of this style of post next year – and featuring whom?

#8 Baking social in
This post riffed off a piece I’d written for the Official Microsoft blog where I talked about what “social” means at Microsoft. It was published a year ago this week and though there have been changes since, most of what I said in this post holds true (or truer) today. I think of social as an ingredient to what Microsoft does, not a product.

#7 You’ve heard of NUI, but what’s FUI?
I’ve talked a lot about Natural User Interfaces (NUI) on this blog over the year but when I heard of FUI, I was intrigued. Read on to find out more…

#6 Machine learning for dummies
Definitely one of the most fun interviews I have conducted over the last year was with John Platt from Microsoft Research. It’s not every day you come face to face with an Oscar winner and get an education about one of the most important technologies of the next few years. Sure, Big Data is going to be important but machine learning is the magic pixie dust that will unlock its potential.

#5 Channel 4 News sees the future at Microsoft
I’ve hosted a lot of press on tours of our campus here in Redmond and this one with Ben Cohen of Channel 4 was one of the most rewarding. A few of my friends back in the UK nearly spat out their dinner when I landed on their TVs during the evening news, but Ben captured a lot of what is going on at Microsoft in terms of building the future and asked all the right questions.

#4 My confession about Microsoft R&D
Another riff off an Official Microsoft blog post I wrote that tried to explain the the difference between R&D at Microsoft and debunk a common myth that Microsoft Research gobbles up $9bn each year. That could hardly be further from the truth. Bonus Link to an R&D infographic

#3 Sheridan Martin Small
I lied about post #1 up there…this post took me the longest to write. Sheridan is fascinating and working in one of the most exciting areas of the company. She doesn’t conform to the Microsoft stereotype in any way…I could spend hours chatting with her about tech, fashion, creativity and more. Oh, and this happens to be my favorite photograph on Next. I took it myself in the lobby of Studio C where Sheridan works and then applied a little lomo-magic.

#2 Microsoft download from The Garage: Mouse without Borders
Our first (and thus far only) download has drawn a ton of new traffic to the site – a sure sign that people love free stuff. What people love even more is useful free stuff and this utility delivers just that – control multiple PC’s with one keyboard and mouse. Bye bye KVM…hello Mouse Without Borders. Thanks to Truong and The Garage.

#1 What my daughter taught me about the future of technology
This is a post that took a long time to write too – not because it was a tricky or controversial topic, but I just couldn’t decide if I wanted to post audio of my daughter as part of this blog but in the end I decided it has to be. The post tells the story far better than I can and I’ve ended up using this audio clip and story many times since. It always leaves people smiling…and thinking. I think.


So there you have it…my Top 10 for 2011. There are lots of posts I wanted to include here –  such as our recent work with The Verge and a post about washing machines and When Wired came to town but you have to draw a line somewhere. And this is mine