More than 1 billion people turn to a Windows PC as their essential device to work, connect, learn, and play1. For the PC industry, this broad usage presents a fundamental challenge. How can we create the PC experiences that people need in a fast-changing world?
For over a decade, Microsoft and Intel have pioneered human-centered research to answer this very question. At both companies, teams made up of anthropologists and UX researchers take an unconventional approach for the tech industry: starting with people rather than the technology. Then, based on in-depth research, collaborate with designers, engineering teams, and OEM partners among others. Our goal is to design the right capabilities for how people use their PCs, every day.
Windows 11 and the Intel® Evo™ platform help demonstrate Microsoft and Intel’s approach in action. By bringing a human-first lens to PC innovation, our research teams were able to identify underlying trends, like the uptick in PC usage, that have only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, people can rely on Intel-powered Windows devices for their professional needs and personal needs—and we’re already working on what comes next.
Find Your Flow: Windows 11
By Dr. Sheetal Agarwal, Principal Design Research Manager, Windows UX Research, Microsoft
Even before the pandemic, Microsoft and Intel’s research teams were hearing the same message: people want their PCs to help them focus and shift between roles throughout the day. At Microsoft, we began looking for ways to evolve Windows to help people “get in the flow.”
For example, Windows 11 now features a centered Start menu and streamlined Settings. These features were a result of research findings and created to help people declutter and get things done—especially in busy, distracting work-from-home environments.
Real-World Ready: Intel® Evo™ Platform
By Ken Anderson, Principal Researcher, Intel
When the disruptions of COVID-19 accelerated the need for more advanced PC experiences, Intel was ready to deliver. We’d already been working on the Intel® Evo™ platform and launched it in 2020, after years of research, interviews, and observations of people using laptops at home, work, and on-the-go. To verify these designs, Intel works closely with our partners to deliver four key experiences we know that people want and need: responsiveness, long battery life, fast-charging and instant wake.
We’ve partnered across the industry to co-engineer and verify more than 100 laptops on the Intel® Evo™ platform. This is important, in the current environment, because more people are using their PC for both personal needs as well as work and school2. And it’s no surprise that longer battery life (#1) and faster performance (#2) remain at the top of the list of desired laptop features2. This fall, Microsoft announced their new Surface Lineup, including the first consumer laptop-to-tablet “based on the Intel® Evo™ platform.”
What’s Next: Enabling Seamless Connection
Both Microsoft and Intel are helping the industry adjust to the trends that are now emerging. Microsoft’s research teams have observed how people are evolving and adapting different devices to make DIY, at-home centers for productivity, collaboration, and/or creativity. And the data suggests, work from home and other hybrid environments is here to stay. And a recent global survey from Intel bears this out, as peripherals like headphones, speakers, webcams, mics, and mice have become more widely used since 20192.
Based on these insights, Intel is partnering with OEMs to consider how different devices can connect seamlessly, with fewer wires, for better home offices. And Microsoft Teams continues to incorporate features to facilitate easier, more collaborative video conferencing experiences.
The long-term implications of both companies’ research could be profound. The rise of easier virtual collaboration could help to democratize work, providing greater opportunities for those who must connect remotely. We may also see new kinds of hybrid events, which blend the best of serendipitous in-person connection and virtual convenience.
Looking Ahead: Predictions for 2022 and Beyond
By focusing on how people currently use PCs and what they need next, we’re watching a few key areas:
- The PC may need to shift from a pure compute platform into a sensor platform, with the adaptive features seen on the latest laptops. Your PC could better sense your surroundings and your other devices, then adjust power consumption, heat, privacy screens, and how your avatar appears in virtual events or collaboration apps.
- We’re also noticing more demand for features that enable creativity, beyond the traditional focus on individual productivity. As people embrace digital creation, the PC can tap AI to automate rote design tasks, making this more of a flow, less of a grind.
- Finally, our industry needs to elevate the ways in which the PC “does good”—for individuals, society, and the planet. This is critical amid growing focus on wellness and environmental impacts, especially among younger generations.
As the industry designs these future PC experiences, our job is to help clearly define what people need, what solves their problems, and what sparks their delight. With those guideposts, some of the greatest minds in engineering can deliver purposeful computing experiences.