Microsoft ‘s NetGen Lab Offers Internet Insight

Late last week at Forum 2000, Microsoft rolled out Microsoft.NET and outlined how developers will be able to use the latest internet platform to create internet software and services that give consumers and businesses the Web the way they want it – any time, any place, and on any device.

But how does Microsoft get in tune with what internet users are looking for? recently learned that in one case, the Software giant headed for Seattle’s Greenlake area to launch an MTV style real world production: The “NetGen Lab.”

Microsoft leased a four-story house and packed it with college students and the latest technology. The students’ task was simple and clear: develop a dotcom venture.

The company provided each student with a desktop or laptop computer, along with high-speed Internet access, scanners, video and digital cameras, and Pocket PCs.

The software company, which then spent three weeks, 24 hours a day observing the students, is probably interested in the Internet Generation for a couple of reasons. One, it is huge — 79 million strong. It also is the first generation whose members have grown up with computers, the Internet, cellular phones and other technology as part of their everyday experience.

Tammy Morrison, who heads the NetGen Strategy Team, observed for example, two twenty-something workers conduct a business meeting.

Although they were sitting an arm’s length apart, they flipped open their laptops and began trading instant messages. The two twenty-somethings told Morrison that instant messaging allowed them to communicate more thoughtfully and productively. When they’re online, they can complete other tasks while waiting for a response or considering their answer. And when they’re done, they have a written record.

Microsoft suspects the way the Internet Generation uses technology today will provide insights into how everyone will want technology to perform in the future.

“Understanding how this generation uses technology differently from traditional workers should also help Microsoft develop ways for all people to work together more productively,” says Morrison.

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