Microsoft looking for the X factor

  • AFP
  • Updated: May 02, 2014 11:02 IST

In an attempt to keep up with Google, the Windows software company is building its own team of crack tech experts who will be charged with shooting for the moon in terms of ideas for products and services.

And in doing so the company will be able to challenge Google's own GoogleX division that has already produced driverless cars and Google Glass.

According to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, the new Special Projects Group within Microsoft Research has agreed to work on "disruptive technologies that could benefit the company and society." It will be headed up by Norman Whitaker, who used to work for the US Department of Defense's research arm and already has experience of self-driving cars under his belt.

His team will address hard and interesting problems and its remit covers everything from artificial intelligence to mobility.

And just like the equivalent department over at Google, Microsoft's new team is a less-than-secret top secret team. The company has confirmed that it has hired Whitaker and that he will be tasked with heading up Microsoft Research Special Projects.

Although known for the Windows desktop operating system and the Xbox gaming console, Microsoft has a pretty good track record in developing innovative products and services that have, on occasion, been too far ahead of their time.

For example, in partnership with Lenovo it developed and launched a color tablet, complete with stylus input and running Windows XP back in 2002 -- that's 10 years ahead of the iPad. And in 2004 it launched its own smartwatch, the SPOT, complete with its own operating system that could be adapted for smart appliances like toasters and coffee makers too, way back in 2004.

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