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5 Minutes on The Verge: Microsoft's Frank X. Shaw

5 Minutes on The Verge: Microsoft's Frank X. Shaw

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Microsoft's head of corpcomm (official title: Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications) isn't just a mouthpiece for Steve Ballmer and other execs at the Redmond-based company. The representative is not only known for being one of the nicer — and more honest — PR folks in the industry, but he's also not shy about voicing his opinions on Twitter or his personal blog, Glass House, when necessary (which we love, of course).

We sat down with him for quick conversation about the current and future states of tech... and more.

Mac or PC?

PC. I've had all sorts of PCs. One of my favorites of all time was the original Mac Duo 210, which I thought was a phenomenal piece of gear.

But you can't use a Mac now can you?

We have Macs here at work.

What's the most exciting thing happening in technology right now?

The Kinect, and the work that's gone on with Kinect as a gaming system, as an entertainment system, and what people are doing with it in a whole variety of ways. It's magical.

Are you into the hacky stuff?

Some of that stuff is pretty cool. Now that we've got the SDK out, it's not really a hack anymore.

What kind of phone are you carrying right now?

A Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7.5.

Is there a technology from sci-fi that you'd like to see become a reality?

I would love to have the Gargoyle system that Neal Stephenson wrote about in Snow Crash.

Have you ever edited a Wikipedia entry?


Have you ever edited your own Wikipedia entry?

I do not have a Wikipedia entry, and I'm happy about that.

Who's your favorite person to follow on Twitter?

James Fallows (@jamesfallows).

Do you believe aliens have visited Earth?

Hmm. No.

What was the last movie you watched?

Ferris Bueller's Day Off, on Netflix.

Just revisiting the movie?

Yeah. I don't remember how it came up, but it had been a long time since I'd seen it and I remembered it being funny. And it was. The best part was that Charlie Sheen was in it.

What was your first memory of the internet?

I was a BBS person. I started playing around with things like FidoNet. I remember getting the book Unix for Dummies, because I'd figured out how to connect my computer to the internet in... 1993. And it was all Unix command driven and I couldn't do anything. I hooked it up and I was so excited about it, and I'd seen an article about it - this was before the web - so I logged on, and I couldn't figure out how to do anything. I called a friend of mine and I said 'what's going on?' and he said 'well it's all Unix.' Not very user friendly, but pretty interesting.

What was the last book that you read?

The Magician King, by Lev Grossman.

What will define whatever the next wave is in technology?

I think more human and machine interaction. If you look back to the internet originally, the only people who could use it were essentially programmers. When the web came out, people who were mortals could use it, and have access to it, but it taught everybody weird skills. So if you wanted to find something, you'd pick your search engine of choice and you'd type in ten words, and you would learn search strings to narrow it down, because that was just the way it worked. As this has evolved, it's gotten better. In some cases you can get what you want by asking in natural language for stuff. As the processes become more and more powerful, the ability to do that close to where you work gets higher and higher.

The idea that every surface is a display, every device has a chip in it - that's something that's coming. When that happens, you've got all that local processing power, and I think people will be able to do really interesting things with natural language and expression.