DNC To Feature Microsoft Tools
The Democratic National Convention in Denver next week will no doubt be filled
with the usual politics, patriotism and speeches. But this year's convention
will also offer up something new: a series of products from Microsoft designed
to make this cornerstone of the political process more accessible.
Microsoft was approached in June 2007 by both the Democratic and Republican
national committees to develop an infrastructure for the parties' conventions.
Both convention committees had the goal of using innovative technology to, in
effect, "tear down the walls of the convention centers," said Joel
Cherkis, general manager of government solutions for Microsoft.
The Democrats' convention committee initially had "very standard requests,"
Cherkis said. They wanted e-mail, content collaboration, Web conferencing, instant
messaging and videoconferencing.
They also needed an infrastructure that would be able to handle a surge in
staff 30 to 60 days before the convention began, he said.
Once the infrastructure was in place, Microsoft focused on adding more innovative
components that would open up the convention to the world outside Denver's Pepsi
Center, Cherkis said.
The Democrats will use Microsoft's Silverlight to stream the convention proceedings
onto the Web. NBC used Silverlight for similar purposes for the Olympics this
summer at nbcolympics.com. It requires
users to download a small plug-in, similar to the Adobe Flash player, Cherkis
Silverlight can adapt video quality based on the bandwidth available, Cherkis
said. "People in network-constrained environments can still get a rich
video stream without having to pause for buffering," he said. Microsoft
partnered with Level 3 Networks to provide the streaming technology for Silverlight.
This will be the first convention to offer streaming high-definition video
"gavel to gavel to anybody with Internet access," Cherkis said.
Microsoft is also introducing Surface, a combination of hardware and software
in a 30-inch tabletop device with a touch interface. Microsoft Surface will
function as a sort of digital concierge, Cherkis said, and will show users transportation
routes and hotel and restaurant information. It will also provide information
and images from past conventions that have been made available by the Library
of Congress, he said.
"We found that people tend to gather around the device," he said. Microsoft
will install Surface units in high-traffic areas around the convention hall.
Microsoft also developed other applications for the convention, including a
delegate tracking system, a delegate voting system and a credentials management
system, as well as a podium operations system which will store information on
speakers, bios and speeches.
The company is working with the Republican convention committee to develop
a similar infrastructure. More information is available here.
Trudy Walsh is the senior writer of features and labs, for GCN.com.