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Microsoft exec predicts PC QWERTY keyboards will slowly but surely die off

Dave Coplin, Microsoft's chief envisioning officer, stated in an interview that the classic PC QWERTY keyboards use an "sub-optimal design" and will slowly be replaced by new voice and gesture technologies.

In a chat with the Evening Standard (via Neowin, Coplin, who also works on Microsoft Cortana team, is quoted as saying:

"We have these amazing computers that we essentially use like we're still Victorians. The Qwerty keyboard is a great example of an old design being brought forward to modern day. We've not really evolved. We still use this sub-optimal design. We're looking at technologies now like voice and gesture recognition, and facial tracking that may make the keyboard redundant."

He also stated his belief that AI bots will, in the future, allow users to cut back on manually shopping for items:

"We're going to see AI deliver these agents who will know who your family are, the things we like to do and places we like to stay, and on my behalf they will negotiate with all these providers and bring me back a little package for my perfect holiday."

Microsoft has certainly been at the forefront of new control technology for the PC, starting with the Kinect voice and gesture hardware that has produced mixed results. It's been more successful with its Cortana digital assistant, and has been pushing the use of AI bots in programs like Skype. Finally, it has developed the Microsoft HoloLens technology that offers a glimpse into how we may interact with PCs in the far future.

124 Comments
  • Replaced by voice? Once again not everyone wants to scream stuff at their device all the time.
  • Yeah, if someone want to see hentai, it'll little embarrassing...
  • Lol! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • :P
  • LOL!
  • "Cortana, delete browsing history."
  • Just imagine an entire workplace, full of offices with people talking to their computers at the same time. Nightmare.
  • Exactly, this voice stuff is good, but it isn't an ultimate solution. I work at Vodafone on the costumer care, answering incoming phone calls from customers now. I can't imagine how I could speak with the customer and the computer at the same time :D
  • Better start looking for a new job, bots will replace services like this.
  • Exactly, it's already a highly standarised and depersonalized line of work. No need to waste a human mind there.
  • And on the rare occasions I need to call the bank about my account, I had better be able to talk to a live person. I refuse to be lost in the impersonal computerized garbage over the phone. If I wanted to talk to a computer, I would have gone online about the account. When I call, I need to speak to a person, not a bot. I have changed banks over that issue in the past, and would do so again. Not just banks, but many businesses are losing the personal touch, and I tend to gravitate towards those businesses with the personal touch.
  • Exactly, this. 'Forever Alone' meme, anyone?
  • Complete nonsense.
    MS bangs on productivity and now this!
  • I could see one day controlling a computer through thought and something attaching to our head. Until then, they keyboard is here to stay and for good reason :)
  • I have a USB 7.0 port at the base of my spine for my dongle. Worlds better than my old keyboard
  • That's not a port sir.
  • And he goes all the way for the win!!!!
  • Hahaha
  • If my dongle could reach my port I'd never leave the house! Edit: I spoke this into my phone
  • It would be nice if the computer had super predictive typing, where instead of giving me word suggestions it "suggests" an entire paper for me.
  • @William Tadekawa.. Laziness to the extreme I see :P lol.
  • Imagine a Korean business office.
  • *North
  • I think gamers will also use voices and gestures to command their characters, alongside with VR presence.
  • And a guy pushing buttons will smash the guy trying to describe actions to a computer EVERY TIME.
  • And the guy in a full sensor body suit with controllers built into the gloves, etc. will beat the guy smashing the buttons every time. It won't all be about voice. Game controllers may someday be full body controllers with a HoloLens type device instead of a monitor. That's the type of immersive experience that would be more fun.
  • Exactly, I TYPE all my requests to cortana even on my phone, so I wouldn't look like an idiot.
  • Why not make Windows work first, and Cortana localised for all languages instead of dreaming of a US only feature?
  • Cortana works outside US, even on Android, I live in Mexico and I downloaded an app called "Microsoft apps" from GooglePlay and then you can install Bing, Cortana and many other apps that are only US available.
  • That is complete BS!!!!  Why did the idiots kill the gesture capability of Kinect?  Huh?  Man, I just want to walk up to Satya Nadella and spit in his face.
  • You complain about not wanting to use a physical interface, and then you complain when execs can see that happening? Are you completely retarded or just trolling?
  • Get over it already. It's getting pathetic.
  • It has been pathetic for quite some time. I would love to be able to mute on this site.
  • I don't want to spit in Nutella's face but agree 100% with removing gestures from XBO. They were very convenient for me when didn't have the controller and needed to navigate without waking the household.
  • i have to say that was a dumb move.  I used gesture a lot.  now I have to use cortana + my controller to do things or navigate the xbox.  the voice thing is kind of crap as well.  it doesn't respond majority of the time, pisses me off sometimes.
  • yeah, right, try writing an email into a busy office ... some stuff are old but if they are not broken, don`t fix them (Apple and their jack) Or me working at home while my wife watches the TV, or video editors trying to edit on what ? some other contraptions that look like a keyboard but since they are sold in small quantities they will be expensive as hell ?
  • I was thinking the same except with programming languages. I just edited some C++ code. I would think that trying to "speak" the non-standard characters and symbols would take longer. There would be cases where a keyboard is needed - but who knows what technology has in store for the future.
  • Oh yeah, this would be impossible without a keyboard and even if speech recognition is great mistakes will slip and coding would be a nightmare
  • This is actually a scenario where I can see keyboards being replaced... or at least needed less. Many languages are going to be higher and higher level, and node based programming will be more prevelent. Even manual programming may be helped with an AI that you collaborate with and can do the dirty work if you can just let it know exactly what you want. The keyboard may end up being just on a phone or other small multi-function device. The need to input through typing will not go away completely, but it may go away enough for us not to need a big physical keyboard in front of us. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • This reminded me the short story "With Folded Hands" from Jack Williamson.
  • Some day your abacus will be replaced by a computing device. Begin abacus rant. Maybe join the Luddites and start smashing anything new. What is the harm in thinking about the future? Just because you can't imagine it does not mean that it won't be great.
  • The abacus... some couldn't see it's potential. Watch and weep :P. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-MEZgt8PFk
  • Exactly... People are sceptical about new technology because they relate it too much to their current experience...
    As someone above mentioned "I don't want to scream at my device all the time". "Everyone will be talking at the same time".... Sounds like a bunch of old men being asked to pay a bill over the internet... "I don't want hackers getting my address, and stealing my AARP information".
    ......
    I'm sure there were/are those who complained in fear when MS said pens (like the one used with Surface) will replace pen & paper. Well, that technology sure did evolve past all the closed minded critics complaints... I mean, let's forget voice for now. There's literally disabled people typing words on screens with just thoughts. Come on people, let the technology evolve. Any negatives can, and will eventually, be worked out. That's part of innovating... To think that our current ways of input are the best, should always, and will always, be the same, is just as closed minded as iDroid fans thinking that iPhones, and Galaxies, are all the world will every need going forward... SMDH.
    I choose to not be so closed minded.
  • A few years ago I was in a rural restaurant abroad and the cashier tallied up the bill and calculated my change using an abacus right at the "register". It was pretty neat.
  • That's something I'd love to see
  • Lollll. Are you serious?
  • I was thinking of a w10m with a physical keyboard.
    Physical keyboards are not even dead on phones and he is talking about PCs
  • Ummm... you phone has a VIRTUAL keyboard, not a physical one. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I am not talking about my phone but other phones in the market. And what you think about a w10m keyboard device?
  • I have a bluetooth keyboard for my W10M phone that I use fairly regularly. Comes in handy when replying to comment sections like this. Yeah, I could speak it, but not while my daughter is watching television in the same room. Cortana picks up what my 3 year old is watching and starts typing it out. "Hola Dora!" "Can you say map?" "Can you find Benny the Bull?" It's enough to make you WANT to scream at your phone. LOL. In the car, the speaking thing is great, though, and necessary for true hands-free. I guess I'm not like most people, since I can type as fast as most people talk. So a keyboard is really handy for me.
  • Use case: Hey Cortana, compile this:
    #include
    int main() {
    printf("This is ridiculous!");
    return 0;
    }
  • Error compiler not found... LOL
  • She will let Bing handle that, and you'll probably throw something to the screen.
  • public async void Notify(){
    MessageDialog dial = new MessageDialog("I'm a MS fanboy, but this is just stupid");
    await dial.ShowAsync();
    }
  • Java :[
  • I believe it is C#
  • You are correct. To be precise, It's for UWP.
  • Do you develop any UWP apps? I would like to see some of yours in Windows Store
  • Yes, I do. I have currently a couple of apps in development. As soon as I finish one of them, I'll get myself a Individual developer account and publish that app to the store.
  • document.ready(function(){
    alert('Nah, your keyboard sucks. Go, throw your keyboard, and speak with me.');
    });
  • QWERTY keyboards may be replaced, but only when something more efficient comes along.  I don't see voice being faster for most people.  Maybe dictating a quick text would be OK, but writing anything of substance would take more time to correct the voice-to-text errors and formatting that it would to type directly.  As long as we still communicate using written words composed of the 26 letters in the alphabet and have words like to, too, two and their, there, and they're then a keyboard will be the best tool for the job. Where the keyboard does have room for improvement is in the layout.  It is true we are using a design developed over a hundred years ago around the limitations of a manual typewriter.  Certain often used keys needed to be placed apart on the keyboard to avoid having the arms hit each other.  You also had the limit of only two characters per arm/key. Dvorak had the right idea, but his keyboard is still rooted in the mechanical design that ties each key to a separate arm. I'm betting someone starting fresh today would come up with a much different keyboard but ultimately you would still have a separate key for each letter and number.
  • "QWERTY keyboards may be replaced, but only when something more efficient comes along." Many more efficient keyboard designs already existed but didn't catch on. Technological "progression" is not always about what is better. The diffusion of innovations is much more complex.
  • They will need to make extremely accurate noise cancellation mics if this is to take off lol. An entire office of people talking... non stop... nuts absolutely nuts. At least with keyboards and phones there are some moments of respite from the barrage of vocal noise.
  • Yep
  • Too early in the day to be this high.. .
  • Weed is legal in Washington state and it really shows.
  • With such idiotic "visions" like this, that guy should be working for Apple. QWERTY keyboards are not going anywhere and certainly not being replaced with something as idiotic as voice commands. People don't use voice assistants on their smartphones let alone will they spend their day shouting at a screen. Not to mention, writing books, essays, papers etc with voice? LOL! The guy is a complete lunatic. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I mean if you bothered to read past the word voice, you may ahve seen the other control methods mentioned. Hell, if you werent narrow minded you could also assume that what was mentioned aren't the only possibilites. There are already mouse set ups you control with your mind, albeit not very well at the moment. "Not to mention, writing books, essays, papers etc with voice? LOL! The guy is a complete lunatic.​" Dragon seems to make quite a bit off this, it's very common in hospitals and law firms to use voice to type.
  • You on the other hand have such an open mind that your brain fell off. "other control methods mentioned"   Like "voice and gesture recognition, and facial tracking that may make the keyboard redundant"? Again, if you had a brain still, you'd realise none of them are better than keyboards. Gesture recognition would do what? Put people punching the air? Clicking on virtual keyboards? Because things like the Surface touch cover were so popular, right? If you had to spend long parts of your day writting (which you clearly don't) you'd realise that physical keyboards are not obsolete and won't be obsolete. Saying so is like those people who keep predicting the end of physical books: it won't happen. Facial tracking - that which controls keyboards like the ones used by Stephen Hawking - is not a replacement for keyboards. Again, you're not going to write anything longer than a paragraph on it without going insane. Not to mention, keyboards actually allow your hands to work separately from your eyes. For example, I'm writting this without even looking at the keyboard. I'm looking at the text I'm writting. With facial recognition that's not possible. You have to look to each individual letter. You're such a delusional fanboy that you haven't even realised "mouse set ups you control with your mind" are controlled with your eyes, not "your mind".   I have no idea who Dragon is, but "it's very common in hospitals and law firms to use voice to type." No, it's not. It's most definitely not. And you know how I know this? Because I happen to work on a considerably large law firm (and travel quite a bit as a result). And my sister is a nurse. In other words, I have first hand experience on those fields. At the office, if we were going around shoutting things to voice type, we'd go insane. There's a very significant difference between quick short voice notes (which some of my collegues do take on occasion) and shouting out entire documents. At the hospital? Same thing. Doctors (and only doctors) occasionally take a voice note or two. But there's no medical reports written with voice commands. Nurses don't go around shoutting voice notes either. The hospital is chaotic enough without people going around shoutting at their gadgets.   Maybe you should leave your basement once in a while and join the real world for a change.
  • "you'd realise that physical keyboards are not obsolete and won't be obsolete​"- exactly my point of the narrow mind. You don't know what could be invented, what has been, or what could be improved on. "Because I happen to work on a considerably large law firm (and travel quite a bit as a result)​"- your first hand knowledge isn't all that up to date. I have personally installed this, and other software, at multiple law offices in the past, not to mention other offices that have nothing to do with legal or healthcare, and I have personally used it myself. http://www.nuance.com/for-business/by-industry/legal/index.htm "no medical reports written with voice commands​"-wrong I know this because I support no less than 180 hospitals, many of which use this http://www.nuance.com/for-healthcare/index.htm "are controlled with your eyes, not "your mind"."-wrong This has been a thing for a while and is still being developed http://www.pcworld.com/article/224806/Control_A_Mouse_Cursor_a_brain_Imp... It sounds as thought you may be the one out of touch with the real world. Especially if you get all your information from your own little bubble of you and your sister.        
  • Of course it is! Didn't any of you guys see Star Trek IV: The Journey Home? Hello Computer?  
  • And what about gaming? I wanna feel what I press!
  • Reminds me of the scene in Star Trek 4 when Scottie was taking in to the mouse calling for the computer and was told he had to use a keyboard. "Keyboard!?! How quaint!"
  • There was no mention of this happening now, all that is being said is that they are pursuing future ideas. Consider the first time that any technology was presented that seemed outrageous, the microwave, the smartphone, paying for things online (at the time the idea came out it was more or less laughed at). Out of crazy ideas come the next future Technologies. Maybe it's a bit early to replace qwerty keyboards but it is not to early to start thinking about it though.
  • replacing tactile, deliberate methods with non-tactile methods that involve minimal human deliberation is not something to "start thinking about"
  • Eventually? Yes perhaps.
    Soon? No.  
  • I surely hope not, my windows tablet always have to keyboard attached try watching a video in edge Without a keyboard.
  • I mean, some day, I don't think any time soon though.
  • Voice WILL become more popular. Some of us are already comfortable talking to our technology, and the younger generations may be even more comfortable with it since they're introduced to the concept much earlier now. AI Bots will need to become a lot smarter and I don't see away around the obvious issues with a noisy office environment - It's heading this way, but keyboards aren't going to be wiped out anytime soon.
  • Umm, can't imagine myself developing apps for W10, playing tf2 and other games, designing apps and 3d modelling with voice control or hand gesture's.
  • Right now I am imagining people trying to play games by flailing their arms at their desk or shouting W, A, S, D to move.
  • I kind of enjoy typing if I'm being honest. I don't think I'll ever get rid of my physical keyboard even if voice recognition does become the norm.
  • Tactile input is awesome, not because of the physical space or anything like that. No, it's because it works on muscle memory. When I'm typing, it's like speaking another language I'm fluent in: I'm not "translating". My fingers hit the keys as I think of the words. It's that direct.
  • Exactly. When I think about it too much it kind of freaks me out but it really is amazing how our hands can magically produce words as our minds think of them. It's strange that an MS exec wouldn't appreciate that.
  • I see some like Word or Mail entire recibe commands by voice, but others programs like Excel, Access, CADs programs, Photoshop I hardly imagine dropping the keyboard for voice commands o even touch imput. For me in Excel (where I work 95% of the time) Keyboard>Keyboard+mouse>touch>voice
  • There is a huge privacy issue with using voice instead of a keyboard.  In an office environment, or a doctor's office, you need to be able to input information without others hearing it.  Trying entering formulas in Excel or working on large spreadsheets without a keyboard.  ("Cell AB241 enter countif(........")
  • A HIPAA law nightmare
  • Yet at the same time, many doctors use a digital voice recorder to dictate patient notes. It is then sent to a secretary or medical records transcription service, and many of those will simply play the voice file into something like Dragon Naturally Speaking, except something made for medical transcription, and it will type it all out. You'd be surprised how accurate those services are, and it doesn't have to play back the voice. It just analyzes the voice file and types it without playback, and does it faster than having to playback the file. Of course, the doctor has a private office he can do that in. Not everyone does. It's great for any profession where dictation is a regular thing, though, like corporate execs that used to dictate letters to a secretary can now dictate to their computer. It's a LONG way from replacing a keyboard, and a keyboard of some sort will always be needed for a long, long time. Even on Start Trek, TNG, when they would analyze computer code, many times they would have the computer do it, but there were still times they had to use tactile typing in order to fix things within the code.
  • We're not all Steven Hawking.
  • How about no
  • How about we all switch to a better more efficient keyboard layout, like say Dvorak. QWERTY is brought from the old days and is holding us back from typing faster.
  • Then most of the world would have to re learn how to type
  • My Xbox tells me to "say open that"
    I say "open that"
    Cortana does a web search for "old man hat"
    I'll stick with a keyboard for now thanks.
  • BS!! This guys should b fired , how does he possibility imagine a world like that, i guess he's been watching lot of SCI-Fi no wonder windows is such a mess
  • Like many times before, Microsoft is wrong. Keyboards won't go anywhere anytime soon.
  • Who said soon?
  • Ya...try working in a support center and use voice to text. I don't see businesses adopting voice to text for inputting names and employee's sensitive data. Try using voice to text in a crowded environment. It doesn't work.
  • Oh boy.  Reminds me of Scotty yelling into a mouse in Star Trek IV.
  • What a load of hogwash, but very typical of Microsoft to think away up the road and into oblivion!
  • The next phase of computing will hinge around the way we interact with computers. Hand gestures has improved significantly, thanks to the new 3D camera technology. It's analogous to the capacitive touch on smartphones that improved touch sensitivity by unimaginable limits. Having said that, typing just like writing will remain an integral part of our lives. It may change it's form to say swiping but it will be there.
  • Guys, give him a break. He said "slowly be replaced", you all are acting like he said "replaced in the next 12 months". He's probably talking a span of at least 5-10 years! Any company, especially tech, needs to be looking ahead that far or farther if they want to remain relevant. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • It won't happen in five or ten years, either.
  • Meanwhile, over at Logitech, they're all LOLMAO!
  • Removing the keyboard and using artificial "intelligence" doesn't make the elective use case (conveying input to temporary automation) of the keyboard redundant - just like Common Core and operant conditioning does to the unique individual student, the artificial "intelligence" that technocrats want to use to replace the keyboard makes the end-user redundant, something to be controlled and made malleable for whatever their algorithms decide.  The keyboard is a tool that delivers ELECTIVE output from ELECTIVE input; this accurate, instantaneous technological manifestation of human deliberation dies with artificial "intelligence", as does the incentive to actually think and create. Artificial "intelligence" creates cognitive load in forcing the end user to assimilate one's computing practices just to use one's own technology. AI should not be given this kind of priority.  It is imperative to compute on the reality that artificial "intelligence" cannot replace the sapience that the individual not only possesses but needs to exhibit to thrive in all that one does. Removing the keyboard to make way for automation is not adding to the human experience in computing - it is diminishing it; Automation fosters delegating human discernment to proprietary artificial "intelligence" for determining text entry, cognitive composition, and information acquisiton.  It doesn't matter which of Google/Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple, etc produce the different tools and methods - their developments are opposite wings but all on the same bird; it's insidious, incremental, and deliberate.   The less hands on and elective the use, the more the technology you are "using" is using you!
  • Remember that eliminating physical keyboards doesn't mean completely eliminating keyed input. It just means you don't have a specific hardware device called a keyboard. You may end up with a small screen that can serve many input function, a keyboard being oneol of them. But the need for an actual physical keyboard will go away for many. Heck, most of us probably use virtual keyboards just as much (or more) than we use physical ones. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I use a physical keyboard on a real computer more than anything else I do with technology. Other than taking phone calls and text messaging, a smartphone can only do a fraction of what I need to do daily in an efficient manner compared to the tried and true setup of a full PC (whether laptop or desktop).  Just because something is an old technology does not mean that it is inefficient or outdated. Soon, someone (Apple, prolly) is gonna say "shoes were never a good idea, here's a self-driving wheelchair."
  • Only thing better than a keyboard would be thought reading. Or tracking which key you are looking at with eye recognition like they said. Otherwise I rly hope MS doesn't act like Apple with removing something useful like the headphone jack and making things more inconvenient like Apple did with charging and stuff. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • If it can be "read", it can be policed. Beware the thought police. The collectivized powers that be are already policing and over-politicizing so-called "correctness" and pushing inconvenient trains of thought and speaking to be illegalized by law (e.g. climate "realists" vs fascist Oregonian climate alarmists).  Do you really want them intervening in how your thoughts are interpreted according to their artificial "intelligence" agenda?  Where does it end?
  • Yeah, sure, people will write papers and novels via screaming on screen. Sure. On the other hand, do we really need keys like Scroll Lock or Pause Break? These are from MS-DOS era.
  • I use pause/break quite often in my job. But no, most general computer users don't and quite often new laptop keyboards omit them, to my and my colleagues dismay.
  • There always needs to be a backup. When the flailing or voice interfaces fail, the keyboard needs to exist.
  • I strongly dislike voice commands, unless I'm driving.
  • He's right. Victorian. The same can be said of using a keyboard to play games, or it's even worse in a sense of ergonomics. But that's a different, though related, discussion.
  • I suppose it *could* be interesting to write code by speaking the pseudo code, except the chance it understands variable names well seems low (camel case and no spaces for what can sometimes be a phrase or abbreviation, not just a word) especially when first defining them. No one wants to have to use fully spelled out variable names or phrases as names just because it's too difficult to dictate them abbreviated... It'd take up too much screen if nothing else. And I feel like you'd still need a kb to correct anything after the tenth failed attempt to get it right by voice alone.
  • what? this is asinine. 
  • Ha! Laughable! It will take ages until voice an gesture commands are registered as far as the press of a button. For those really working on their PC day to day voice and gesture controls might be a nice addition, but it will take long until it can replace a good old keyboard.
  • Lol, I'm a developer, how is AI going to replace writing code, its not going to happen.
  • Maybe for 99% of the population, but as a writer, I'm sticking with a keyboard.
  • definitely not for 99% of the population
  • I sure as hell think he's wrong, cause lots of people are not going to ever let go of keyboards. 
  • Let's do some rudimentary math here.
    AI Bot + Voice & Gesture Input = Your entire persona in the cloud.
    Privacy would be out the window and in the trash (along with the keyboards, newspapers, fliers, and everything else affected by this new reality). Oh, and passwords, too. Are you supposed to speak them, or can you use your webcam which will eventually get hacked? This proposal will not happen within the next 10 years due to the fact that this technology is relatively new. Microsoft recently assisted Apple in a lawsuit about consumer privacy. They should try not to become the people they were suing. Yes, they already collect big data, but check out Google Now and compare. Google is far worse in data collection. Posted via the Windows Central App With a Keyboard
  • When there's 20 people in the office, I don't think so.
  • Just because it's "old" doesn't mean it's the most effective. Until a machine can read thoughts, I can't see voice being as effective as a mouse/keyboard setup for work...for still many years to come.
  • What a moron. No wonder microsoft makes some retarded decisions with such people being hired.