Microsoft’s electric dreams, circa 1999 and 2009

The Internet is currently abuzz with Microsoft Office Lab’s video detailing their vision of how computing (and Microsoft) would look like in 2019.

It got me thinking on a different track, however. Microsoft is showing us what they think the world will look like in ten years, but what if they had made a video with the same idea ten years ago?

Then I remembered, they did. I went digging through my collection of CD-ROMs, and found this video on a promo disc a Microsoft college recruiter handed me in 1999.

Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I present you “Meet the Family” – a Microsoft video created ten years ago showcasing how a future family would partake in a trip to the zoo, high-tech Microsoft style.

Before you watch this video, you have to think back to what 1999 was like. The latest Windows was Windows ME; corporate types used Windows 2000. Microsoft Internet Explorer was fresh from its victory in the browser wars with Netscape. The dot-com boom was in full swing. Microsoft was about to launch a new video game console called the Xbox. Instant messaging was only a couple years old, and ICQ was top dog. There was no such thing as a smartphone; but if you were really hot stuff, you might have carried around an expensive email pager known as a Blackberry.

Oh, and kids listened to a band known as Fatboy Slim:

As you may have noticed, the 21st century has not been kind to Microsoft’s 1999 vision. Many things have come to pass in a limited fashion, such as the Tablet PC and Windows Mobile smartphones with location-based services. There are other things that seem embarrassing in hindsight, like the UI concept that resembled the quickly-forgotten MSN Explorer. Probably the only totally whiz-bang idea that actually made it to fruition was the face sculpting video game feature – and that took seven years.

Here’s Microsoft’s 2009 prediction of 2019, courtesy of Long Zheng @ istartedsomething:

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-GB&#038;playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:a517b260-bb6b-48b9-87ac-8e2743a28ec5&#038;showPlaylist=true&#038;from=shared" target="_new" title="Future Vision Montage">Video: Future Vision Montage</a>

In 1999, it was all about the PC. Microsoft’s vision of 2019 is a future of portable devices wrapped in e-ink and flexible OLEDs. Time will tell if Microsoft’s latest crystal ball readings will pan out. Maybe it’s not the accuracy of predictions that count, but whether they are dreamt of at all.

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