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The future is here, says Microsoft CIO, and it is 'Avatar'

Microsoft CIO Tony Scott was the keynote speaker at a modest but interesting gathering of CIOs in Boston yesterday, and he more or less stole the show, arriving in a rumpled suit and displaying the sort of brash, jargon-free intelligence that is still a novelty at IT shows. He’s predicting that CIOs are going to be hit with a tsunami of pent-up demand for IT very soon. (He wishes, right?) Actually, his metaphor was water pushing against a dam. In between the obligatory Microsoft plugs, he paid lip service to some of the changes in store for the CIO role, appropriately enough because the title of the meeting, put on by the Mass Technology Leadership Council, was “A New Paradigm for CIOs.”

But it was in the Q&A session after his remarks where he gave us Beantowners a feel for what it means to be CIO of the world’s largest software company. (Or is that Oracle? No matter.) Asked what would happen to traditional IT departments — and the CIO — as more aspects of computing really do become like electricity, a utility distributed on a grid, Scott sensibly said there will be lots of jobs for IT people who can do a good job of creating utility computing.

“That’s going to be a great business,” Scott said. But even in the face of utility computing, the “application business is going to flower waaay beyond even where it is today,” he added. For sure, he’s never met a developer who complains about having too much compute power. Imagination still outstrips computing reality. To wit:

“We’ve become good friends with James Cameron, who did Avatar. He built Avatar on Microsoft technology, and he’ll tell you that he had to wait to make the movie until there was enough processing power to do what he wanted to do. And when we talk to him, he tells us that he may have to wait again to make his next movie, because what he wants to do, he can’t do today. There is not enough processing power. So, one example, but I think that’s where we are headed.”

Yup, just one example. I’ll be writing about the lively panel debate on security, privacy and social media that followed his talk for our IT Compliance Advisor blog site later this week, with more Scott insights. Meantime, here’s the Microsoft CIO’s blue-tinted vision of what’s in store for IT in the next five years:

“James Cameron showed us the way — 3-D is going to get real, it’s going to get cheap and it’s going be pervasive. Second, natural user interface. We’re shipping something in Xbox, I think this year. Playing Xbox games, you won’t need a controller anymore. It can read your body motions, and you can interact with the Xbox. That will make its way into the computer world. So, there are a lot of things you’ll be able to do with the compute devices in your world that won’t require a keyboard and a mouse. And the last one, combined with 3-D, is multitouch interfaces … and the things that you can do, manipulating information, data, graphics and so on with your hands, is nothing short of art. And coupled with science, I think it is going to lead us into some really fun things.”

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James Cameron may want to move away from the Microsoft platform - Like the rest of that industry. Then he probably wouldn't have to wait to start making his imagination manifest. I'm also going to say that 3-D interfaces are a hula-hoop. Waving your hands and fingers in the air may not catch on outside of Nintendo Wii party games. That is a hard sell for business, where the schedules and the bottom-line trump the 'fun' factor. While these shiny baubles are great for wowing crowds at conferences, collecting, maintaining, filtering, and controlling data are more critical areas that demand our attention. However, I do agree with the statement about pent-up demand for IT - Over the past 4 years, infrastructure purchases and upgrades have been shelved as we tightened our belts. As industry is on the precipice of an enormous growth cycle, we may be just 1000pts on the DOW or a few percentage in jobs growth from an incredible IT resurgence!
Nothing big about Avataar or CIO's vision; check this out: