Microsoft 'Menlo' project gets outed: next-gen mobile?

Awhile back, project 'Menlo' was talked about as a new research area for Microsoft. What it exactly entailed was not so clear and today, well, it's only a little more so...

Evidently a new paper (opens in new tab) (.pdf warning) was published by Microsoft where they say:

Menlo is a prototype mobile device with a capacitive touch screen (4.1? diagonal, 800×480) running Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 which incorporates a Bosch BMA150 3-axis accelerometer and Bosch BMP085 digital pressure sensor (barometer).

That device is pictured above. On top of that hardware is a new program called "Greenfield" which is "a sensor-centric program allowing users to retrace their footsteps when seeking to find their cars."

Basically all of this comes down to Microsoft exploring the future of mobile computing and computing in general (e.g. Singularity). Like we've mentioned before, this is cool stuff to learn about and if you can remember it 2-4 years from now, you'll probably see some of the results from this work. But don't look for much of this anytime soon.

ZDNet has more detailed info for those interested.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • ... while they continue to lag in the mobile market. Yeh, I get that they're looking further out, but so are the competitors that are kicking its a$$! In the handheld market (phones/music players) Microsoft has a warped business strategy of letting others leap-frog them and failing to better them or even to catch up and remain competitive. So like the aborted "Courier" project, this project fails to impress me in any way.
  • Anytime a mobile device gets fitted with different sensors, i take notice. Sensors tell the device about its relation to the outside world and allow interaction in ways impossible without them. Look at how they've changed the way we use our phones so far. Accelerometers that automatically rotate the screen and can be used to automatically switch a call to speakerphone by flipping the phone over, compasses that orient maps for more intuitive viewing as well as make augmented maps like Layar a possibility, and the proximity sensor which turns the screen off when on a call as well as the way it's being used in Windows Phone 7 to allow you to take a picture instantly without unlocking your phone. Twenty years from now, if you're in an accident and unable to reach your phone, it could detect the sudden stop, possibly the fact that the phone is in your pocket or even your heart rate and have emergency services directed to your location. Simpler uses include radar sensors which can be used to control music playback or manage incoming calls, similar to early Windows Mobile 7 concepts. There's really tons of ways sensors can be used, and i think these uses compared to simple computational and capacity advances are really what make smartphones smart. In this use, Menlo is the hardware device used, Greenfield is the actual app built on Silverlight that provides navigation. The barometer is used in conjuction with a pedometer to detect changes in elevation, while the pedometer counts steps. The entire process is automated, so when this makes it actual handsets, there's no need to launch a separate app. The best use case for Greenfield is when you're parked in a parking garage and have no GPS signal. Even with GPS alone, it's really not adept at detecting changes in elevation at this level. While it's not a game changer per se, i can really see this as the type of app that makes people take notice of the Windows Phone platform.