Incoming Microsoft (MSFT) digital head Qi Lu is more than just a quiet, hard-working, bright engineer; the man is also a prolific inventor.
Joseph Tartakoff of the Seattle P-Idoes some digging at the US Patent and Trademark Office, and discovers Lu has a number of patents that have nothing to do with search. They are:
- A gaze-based secure keypad system, designed so that onlookers would not be able to steal data entered into a device like an ATM. An eye tracker would follow the movement of a user as he looked at a virtual keypad, avoiding the need for the user to punch in numbers.
- A cut and paste pen, to be used by PDA owners to quickly exchange information, like business cards, electronically. Data would be wirelessly transmitted from a PDA to a stylus, where it would be stored.
- A device (like a wristwatch) that would generate a “discrete tactile signal” whenever a cell phone, pager, or palm top computer sent out an alert. So, if a user’s cell phone rang, he or she could be notified by a gentle pinching of the skin by the wristwatch.
- A way to search for an audio file on the Internet. Users would be able to take an existing song or a part of song and enter it into an online music player, which sounds a bit like iPhone app Shazam.
If Microsoft hopes to turn its digitial unit around, it can’t just start doing search as well as market leader Google (GOOG) — it needs to brainstorm innovative new services that give Internet users a compelling reason to choose Microsoft over the competition. Increasingly, it sounds like the inventive Lu is a good candidate for the job.