Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) has helped shape the future of technology since original CEO Bill Gates helped usher in the PC era.
And while the company has faltered in recent years, coming late to the party with tablets, smartphones, and the cloud, it has gotten back on track under new CEO Satya Nadella. In his just over one year at the helm, Nadella has returned Microsoft to innovation.
That has involved practical things like the company scrapping the failed Windows 8 and moving to Windows 10, an operating system designed to unify the company's PC, tablet, and smartphone platforms. It has also included farther-reaching ventures like HoloLens, a hologram technology the company has created and thrown open to developers.
It's fair to say Microsoft is once again part of leading technology forward, which makes it interesting to see how the the company sees the future. The Windows-maker recently shared its vision of what the world will look like in five years in a new video that depicts a fictional marine biologist five years in the future.
The video shows a lot about what the company thinks its direction will be and offers some hints as to what its product line-up will look like.
Screens are everywhere
The six-minute clip opens with the fictional biologist manipulating a handheld tool through a pop-up, touch, holographic screen while underwater. Beyond gimmicky laser-projected keyboards, this type of technology is not in widespread use now.
In addition, the underwater scientist also uses a display reminiscent of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Glass. This suggests Microsoft believes that despite its rival's struggles to establish its eyeglass computing device, displays that lay information and computer visuals over the real world are going to become common.
It's also worth noting that whatever devices the biologist uses seem to have Internet connections as they are able to draw up information instantly.
That's actually a pretty bold guess about the future of connectivity about two thirds of the non-underwater world lacks decent Internet access here in 2015.
Thin, thin, thin
Moving from the sea and into a classroom, we see our biologist teaching a group of students. She makes notes on a giant display, which is either a hologram or a very thin profile device. These students, meanwhile, are using paper-thin hybrid tablet/laptops.
The scene continues to show desktops, tablets, and what appears to be a tablet/digital paper and the unifying theme between all devices is their incredible skinniness. Edges also appear to disappear in Microsoft's future since most of the screens shown have content across their entire surface.
Screens no longer need to be rigid
One of the neater pieces of future technology shown in the short film is a sort of tablet/placemat hybrid which can be bent like paper. The device is entirely an Internet-connected screen, both front and back, which can be interacted with through touch or via a stylus. It looks to be slightly thicker than a few sheets of paper and it can be folded into about a quarter of its full size.
In general the film shows a broad vision for screens where nearly any surface can become a digital display -- from walls to desks, and even to bracelets.
It's about data
The film shows the marine biologist publish a paper (the one seen on screen in the picture above) which is later read by another character looking to hire someone of her experience. This new character is shown pulling up job prospects on a wall-sized glass screen, easily pulling in data to compare candidates.
This scene shows that not only does Microsoft believes devices will improve in the future, but how they process the endless data offered on the Internet will make vast leaps forward. As a company which makes both hardware and software, Microsoft could be at the forefront of creating advanced, seamless data processing -- a world in which you can pull up correct information in a few touches.
A possible tomorrow
What makes this short firm interesting is that everything Microsoft shows seems like a logical extension of something it does now. These aren't flying cars or lightsaber battles (though it would be cool if Microsoft had at least a few people working on those). These are practical leaps forward which the company could make.
The movie plays like a blueprint for where Microsoft is going. It shows that there is vision behind its products and a plan for where the company will be five years from now. It's a bold vision, but an attainable one.