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Where Will Future Software Innovation Come From?

That scene in the movie Minority Report doesn’t seem so far-fetched any more, does it? You know, the one where Tom Cruise walks into a store, his retinas are automatically scanned and a wall display starts selling directly to him. A question asked of the panel at the Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 launch in Seattle led to an interesting answer as to who will drive future innovation in software development: customers.

According to Brian Summers, head of software development at Columbia Sportswear, their customers are driving change ahead of what developers can deliver. “People are demanding more, better service, information on the products. Our technology is in our product. We’ve got to be better at getting the information to the consumer when they’re in the store, hitting them as they start to look at the product. If you could walk up to a product and something you’re carrying — a smart device or glasses — could display information about it right then… we’re going to need to project that somewhere in the store.”

Jason Zander, corporate vice president for Microsoft Visual Studio, segued into Kinect: “The retail space is interesting. You’ve got the Kinect, recognition and skeletal tracking stuff. You’ll have software that computes and understands people. People could try clothes on at home, virtually. Then there’s the supply chain, where there’s a whole bunch of data coming through. That’s data crunching, machine learning, putting together disparate things. And it’s the entire chain, from consumer facing to the back end. You’re getting a bunch of innovation in retail.”

And then there are natural interfaces: “The rise of touch. Voice recognition, vision. We have to figure out what do we need to do in the tool set to easily take advange of the platform,” said Microsoft’s developer corporate VP, Soma Somasagar. Increasingly, the best mobile consumer apps are fully scoped and designed prior to development. That means emulators and simulators become much more important for the process, the panelists said.

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