But Microsoft has lately proven it can still create innovative products. The company has seen particular success with its Kinect console, a 3D module that works with its Xbox gaming platform to allow users to control the screen with their bodies and without a remote. So far, over ten million Kinects have been sold.
As tech companies vie for the vaunted “living room space,” a mythic area where technology seamlessly integrates into lifestyle activities, Kinect holds considerable potential for Skype-Microsoft innovation. The dream, according to a recent Citibank analysis of the acquisition, is for Kinect to combine with Skype to “become a ‘killer’ home video conference system.”
In particular, what sets Kinect apart from other Microsoft offerings — including bread and butter products like Microsoft Office — is how the company has open sourced uses for the device, and, in the process, created a potential new model for innovation.
After Kinect’s launch in November of 2010, engineers Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone independently announced a prize of $3,000 for the best open-sourced Kinect drivers. “We wanted to inspire and encourage people to ‘hack’ the Kinect,” said Fried, “so we reverse-engineered the device and published the protocols.”
“Within 24 hours we had a winner,” she explained, though “within the week there were dozens — and now hundreds — of examples of creativity, from interactive puppets to medical applications to robotics.”
Initially, when the contest to hack the Kinect was announced, Microsoft was not pleased. Fried said she did not have any interaction with the company, but as reporters contacted Microsoft, “their PR [representatives] gave pretty uninformed responses that escalated things pretty quickly.”
Microsoft declined to comment for this article.
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