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Microsoft dabbles with multi-user search, wireless and a new kind of operating system

Microsoft's TechFest 2008, complete as of late last week, revealed a smattering of technologies in the works by Microsoft Research. For the most part, critics call Microsoft a "me-too" operation and given how they are chasing cloud computing/SaaS, Internet advertising, Adobe Flash, iPods and more, the jab is fair. But on the research side, Microsoft is far more interesting. Here are a few projects that have been making news lately.

Search via social interaction - SearchTogether and CoSearch are two technologies Microsoft is working on to perform more complex searches. With SearchTogether, a user can use presence technology to invite another user to collaborate on an Internet search. (What would be even better is if you could hire "search servants" who would find your lost files and necessary facts for you. Would be all the rage in the Hamptons in the summer.) Meanwhile, CoSearch allows users to view on their phones a search page displayed on a computer, and is also envisioned for people that are searching together. (Next up, Zen Co-search, where people can search the Internet, over their WiFi and Bluetooth connections, for the meaning of life together. But wait, we of the Douglas Adams fan club already know the answer -- 42.)

The Singularity OS. Last week, Microsoft released an RDK of this OS to the academic and research community, reports TechNewsWorld. The story states:

Singularity is written in Sing#, an extension of C# that "provides verifiable, first-class support for OS communication primitives as well as strong support for systems programming and code factoring.

The upshot is that Singularity attempts to execute only code that it knows is safe. A process starts empty, adding features only as required, rather than the current way operating systems work, which include huge libraries of always-available features. Singularity is not on track to replace Windows - at least until the day that as much software is written for it as is available for Windows. But it is an interesting concept that, if proven, would change the IT security landscape significantly.

LucidTouch (which Microsoft Subnet has written about before) got raves at TechFest 2008. As did some new wireless technologies. One such wireless technology uses phones equipped with GPS devices, microphones and accelerometers. These sensors identify the phone's location and the data can be automatically collected from the phone (or many phones), sent wirelessly to a server which can compile the info and spit out information about traffic congestion.

You can see demos of many of these projects and a few others via videos posted by Microsoft.

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