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Microsoft Hardware Kicks Off 25th Year with Pioneering New LifeCams and Notebook Mice


This year Microsoft Hardware is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The group was formed in 1982 and charged with creating the company’s first mouse compatible with the first version of Microsoft Word. The next year the Microsoft Hardware Group shipped its first mouse, enabling people to interact with their computer more efficiently than before. In the 25 years since, this experienced team of over 200 — including ergonomists, usability experts, developers, marketers and industrial designers — have worked to create, develop and market breakthrough technologies that improve the way people interact with software and services, bringing them all together to create the best experience possible on the PC.

In conjunction with the recent Hardware product announcements, PressPass spoke with Matt Barlow, Director of Worldwide Marketing and Business Development for Microsoft Hardware, about the new products, what the team has accomplished in the past 25 years and just how it feels to be working on hardware within the largest software company in the world.

PressPass: What are the new products that Microsoft is announcing today?

Barlow: Microsoft is announcing two new LifeCams to enhance our Internet communications line, the LifeCam VX-7000, a high-end desktop webcam, and the LifeCam NX-3000, a stylish mid-range notebook webcam. As you may recall, Microsoft jumped into the Internet communications category last year with a new line of webcams and headsets, and the first year was a huge success, with the LifeCam VX-3000 taking over the no. 2 top-selling position for desktop webcams and the LifeCam NX-6000 taking the no. 3 top-selling position for notebook webcams in the United States. We have already sold more than 2 million LifeCams and are excited about what the future holds for our latest products.

Another area of focus this year for our group is on mobile computing. With sales for notebook PCs growing by 30 percent in 2006, we are addressing the growing need for wireless notebook mice and have three great options that we are launching today. First is the Mobile Memory Mouse 8000, the first mouse to have 1GB of memory right in the transceiver. We also announced the Wireless Notebook Laser Mouse 7000 with a transceiver that stores conveniently on the bottom of the mouse, and the Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 with no transceiver at all – the perfect companion for any Bluetooth laptop.

PressPass: With the Microsoft Hardware group celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, how would you say the group has evolved over the past 25 years?

Barlow: It’s hard to believe the group has been around for 25 years. It all started with Microsoft’s first mouse – appropriately called the Microsoft Mouse – that shipped with the first version of Microsoft Word. The mouse, which was fondly referred to as the “green-eyed mouse” because of two large green buttons, seems very primitive when we look back now, but was the epitome of cutting edge innovation at the time. Over the next 25 years, the Hardware group continued to deliver key industry firsts including the first optical mouse, first scroll wheel, first line of “natural” ergonomic products, and more. We have always focused our innovations on connecting hardware with the software and services that our customers use daily to make life easier, whether it’s playing games with friends, creating a spreadsheet for the family budget or chatting face-to-face online.

PressPass: What are a few of the milestones you personally are most proud of?

Barlow: There are many – our group has just had success after success. I think a few of the top highlights are:

• The Hardware group sells a product every second around the world.

• The Hardware group has been profitable every year since it was formed 25 years ago.

• At home in the United States we hold some exciting records – including having the no. 1 best-selling wired keyboard with the Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 and the no. 1 best-selling mouse with the Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000.

• If you stretched end-to-end all Microsoft mice that have been manufactured since the group was created, they would stretch almost all the way around the earth (0.95 of the distance, to be precise).

• If you stack end-to-end all keyboards that have been manufactured since the group was created, the resulting height would be the equivalent of 83,000 Eiffel Towers.

What type of products do you see the group developing in the future?

While we cannot disclose future roadmap plans, you can expect to see continued integration between Hardware and our Microsoft partners such as Windows Vista, Windows Live and Games for Windows. Our goal is to create innovative mice, keyboards and Internet communications products that enhance the software experience and make computing easier, more fun and more productive.

PressPass: Another milestone marker is the return of the SideWinder line that Microsoft announced in August. What brought on that decision?

Barlow: This year we are again expanding the reach of our group. With PC gaming on the rise and the ultimate gaming experience now possible with Windows Vista, Hardware is stepping up to give gamers ultimate control. We’re bringing back the SideWinder line that brought us into the gaming peripheral space in 1995 and reinventing it. The SideWinder Mouse was created to meet gamers’ individual needs, providing ultimate customization by allowing users to tweak the weight, change the DPI in-game on-the-fly, customize 5 buttons and choose the glide of the mouse feet. This mouse transcends the category of gaming mice to become a customizable gaming system with the first LCD screen ever on a gaming mouse and a Macro Record button that allows users to easily record macros in-game.

PressPass: What’s it like to be part of the Hardware group inside such a large software company?

Barlow: From the inception of the Hardware group with the Microsoft Mouse to the groundbreaking hardware products we are launching today, our products have always been created to enhance the software experience and strengthen the connection between consumers and their PC. We like to think of our products as “magic wands” that allow people to do exactly what they want on their computers – whether that be using keyboards to keep in touch via Outlook or Hotmail, Mice for a quick game of Halo on the PC, or webcams and headsets to communicate with friends and family through Windows Live Messenger.

People sometimes ask if we are seen as outsiders in this big software company, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only do the Hardware team members work daily to integrate with top Microsoft products such as Windows Live, Windows Vista and Games for Windows, our expertise and talent has led to the genesis of Xbox, Zune and Surface. These groups have followed Hardware’s lead to bring innovative end-to-end solutions to consumers and together we will continue to bring more ground-breaking technologies in the years to come.


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