Interview with Christy Hughes, Mouse Product Marketing Manager: Microsoft
What kind of hardware
products does Microsoft envision in the future?
In the future, Microsoft
Hardware will continue to use technology to create innovative products
that are useful, help make people more productive and strengthen the
connection between the user and the computer. Over the past two
decades, we've been the first to bring a scroll wheel integrated with
desktop software, affordable ergonomic keyboards, optical tracking
technology, Bluetooth and simplified Broadband networking to market.
Our next 20 years will offer more of the same innovation. Our products
will be more productive and intelligent that ever before, yet will be
simpler to use. We will continue to remove clutter from the desktop by
actively bringing wireless technologies - 27MHz, Bluetooth, and WiFi -
to lower price points with higher performance. At the same time we will
address people's growing need for comfort and personalization with an
unprecedented variety of materials and colors.
How successful has the
Bluetooth Desktop been? Does Microsoft plan to release more Bluetooth
products in the future?
The response to the
two Bluetooth products we introduced in October 2002 was phenomenal.
Both the mouse, Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer for Bluetooth, and the
desktop, Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth, have enjoyed healthy
sales. We've stated in the past we do plan to offer support for
additional Bluetooth profiles.
I do not have anything to announce at this time, and we'll be sure to
keep you posted when we know specifically when this new support will be
What do you think has been one of the
most significant milestones in Microsoft Hardware's history?
That is a good
question, as they are quite a few to choose from! As I mentioned above,
we've introduced quite a few firsts to consumers, including the first
scroll wheel integrated with software and the first affordable ergonomic
keyboard - both big milestone for
Hardware and the industry.
Other than when we
were formed in 1982, I think 2002 was a very significant year for
Microsoft Hardware. We introduced more products than ever before - 9
products total. These new products offered better performance, improved
comfort and style than was available previously. We introduced the
first commercially available Bluetooth desktop, the company's first
optical mouse designed specifically for use with notebooks and products
featuring a wide variety of colors and finishes. As we move forward
into the second half of 2003 and beyond, we're looking forward to
building on these new products and offering even more innovations and
advancements to consumers.
What is the current
position of the Microsoft Natural Keyboard design? Is there still
significant demand? What determines if a keyboard will be made in the
natural design as well as the standard one?
Ever since we introduced
the Natural Keyboard in 1994, there has been significant demand for
Microsoft's split keyboards. Previously, split keyboards were extremely
expensive, often costing more than $300, and hard to find. In 2003,
nine years later, our latest research data tells us that one out of
every 10 keyboards sold is a split keyboard design. Additionally,
we've found that users of these keyboards are extremely loyal -
once they use a split keyboard design, they are unlikely to switch back
to a flat keyboard.
When introducing new products, we want to
ensure that consumers have a variety of options to choose from in terms
of flat and split keyboard designs. That is why we have a wired split
keyboard - Natural MultiMedia Keyboard - as well as a wireless desktop
that includes a split keyboard - Wireless Optical Desktop Pro.
Personally, which Microsoft Hardware product do you like best and why?
I have a few personal favorites,
including some of the new products we're introducing later this year
which I'll have to talk to you about this fall. But my favorite
current product is Office Keyboard.
It was introduced in 2001 and was the result of nearly three years of
research, exhaustive studies and examination of nearly 6 million common
keystroke actions. I was the keyboard product manager at the time the
product was introduced, and it was very exciting for us to introduce a
keyboard that offered bimanual control and enhanced F Keys that would
allow people to get more out of the applications they used most. Office
Keyboard won an IDEA design award and some of its features - such as F
Keys - can be found on all of our current keyboards.
Can we expect any
major hardware announcements this year? Are there any conventions we
should pay special attention to?
We will have some
exciting announcements towards the end of the year, but nothing that I
can talk too much about now. We'll definitely get in touch with you
later this year.
How much time (from
initial concept to RTM) does a Microsoft
product to complete on average?
There is no set
amount of time, since it depends on the nature of the product and how
complex it is. But it usually takes about two to three years from the
time a product is concepted to the time it is available to consumers.
Much of this time is spent in the design of the product and testing it,
to make sure that it is a high-quality product that will perform to our
rigorous standards. We have a group of folks here in the Hardware
Division who continually look at new technologies and trends in the
input device category and evaluate how we could harness those trends for
our new products. These people usually work four to five years out,
while I spend most of my time focusing on both our current products and
those coming out in the next year. The combination of short- and
long-term focus is definitely one of Microsoft Hardware's strengths, as
we're able to recognize and work toward new technologies before most
mainstream consumers are even aware of them.
How many employees are
there in the hardware division?
There are just under
200 full-time employees in the Hardware division including ergonomists,
industrial designers, engineers, technologists and business
professionals. We're a small group, in relation to other groups at
Microsoft, and we actually have more patents than people.
How does the demand
for Microsoft Hardware differ worldwide? Are some products more popular in
some countries than others?
We work very hard
with research and testing to make sure that each of our products make
sense for where they are available. For instance, we specifically
design our keyboards for each of the areas they are sold. The number of
keys on a keyboard vary per country. There are 104 on a standard flat
keyboard in the U.S., 109 in Japan, 105 in Italy and 107 in Brazil.
However, as you can imagine, there are some products that
perform extremely well in certain regions due to various reasons. One
example of this is Notebook Optical Mouse. This is an optical mouse
designed specifically for use with laptop computers that we introduced
in the fall of 2002. It is smaller and lighter then other mice in our
line, and is more portable - making it easier to travel with.
Mouse was originally designed
specifically for Japan, has been very successful in Asia and our
customers have told us that is because this mouse fits their hands
better than full-sized versions. So we've introduced a number of special
editions of Notebook Optical Mouse in Japan, offering additional colors
Do you have any else
If you haven't
already, you should definitely check out the flash timeline we've put
together to commemorate our 20th year in the industry. It can be viewed
It is a very interesting look at the evolution of Microsoft Hardware -
where we've been, where we are and where we're headed.
Microsoft Hardware website
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