IT whiz spells out the future

By Simon Hendery

Miha Kralj spend five years working for Microsoft New Zealand before being promoted last year to a senior architect role within the Platform Architecture team at the company's US headquarters in Redmond, Washington. He spoke to Connect during a return visit here for the company's annual Tech Ed event in Auckland this week where he delivered a keynote speech on how IT will change over the next decade.

What does the Platform Architecture team you work for do?

When the chief level of people at Microsoft see the big rocks ahead of us they throw that towards us and ask us how we'll march through it. The latest things we're working on are green computing, how to make a more holistic link between business and IT, and social networking software.

We fail if there is a "disruptive discontinuity" [a major change] in the market that we couldn't see far in advance. That's when [Microsoft chief executive] Steve Ballmer comes to us and canes us. So we have a completely different set of commitments and responsibilities which is mostly about keeping the lights on and being paranoid all the time about what is about to happen.

How should New Zealand position itself to take advantage of IT innovations?

It's much easier to tell you what I see you should not do. Every politician is talking about how to improve the [broadband] infrastructure inside New Zealand instead of improving [the country's internet connection to the rest of the world].

What will New Zealand gain from high-speed internet around New Zealand? Who will care?

Nobody will come to New Zealand to build a datacentre because on the internet global map you are on the edge. [Instead] make a really good pipe to New Zealand so you can do all the services here.

If I was an innovative start-up in New Zealand I would think very hard about giving all my data to a datacentre in the US, and just using the intellectual capital of New Zealand with the lifestyle benefits that are here.

Look at me. I came to New Zealand because of the lifestyle. But sadly, although the lifestyle was great I exited New Zealand because the career opportunities are still a bit limited.

New Zealand definitely has the calibre of people. Any [New Zealand IT worker] going to the US has a tremendous advantage over a typical US IT person. The core reason is that New Zealand demands its IT people are very universal and do everything. Kiwis fly [overseas] because they have that agility.

How will our use of the web evolve over the next few years?

You will expect that your [internet connected] device knows what you are doing and based on that the device will decide whether to serve you the signal that you've got email or a text message, or that the blog you are following has had a new post. [The question will be:] When do you ping for what? These context-driven actions are what we see as the major driver of the next web.

The young generation of "digital natives" - those who have been born into an internet-enabled world - are very comfortable with virtual worlds such as Second Life. In the future, is more of our time going to be spent in "virtual" existences?

I don't see a single inhibitor to that. I personally know a couple of happy couples who met over the internet, physically separated on different continents. I know a Belgian man who lived in New Zealand, dated a German girl for a year or so, then they met and married. Now they live in Redmond, they have two kids and they're insanely happy. Their whole meeting, courting, dating happened completely in a virtual world.

With better presentation techniques [as the technology behind virtual worlds improves], with better inputs and outputs, that can only get more immersive and better.

- NZ Herald

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