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Trower says Robotics Studio is intended to help the robot industry “bootstrap itself,” the same way Microsoft’s first DOS operating system provided a standard platform that other software writers were then able to use to write a host of applications, such as spreadsheets and word-processing programs, that eventually made PCs indispensable.

Once the toolkit graduates to full-product status later this year, the company will continue to provide it at no charge to academic and educational users, and charge commercial users a few hundred dollars per copy, according to Trower. “The market is just getting started, so it doesn’t make sense to try to pull a large amount of revenue out of it,” suggests Trower. “As the market grows and becomes a commercial reality, that’s where we will recoup our investment.”

Trower believes that PCs and robots are converging – and that Microsoft must invest in robotics if it wants to be a player in personal computing five to ten years from now. “Your PC is getting up off the desktop and beginning to interact in the same environment where you live in new ways, using cameras and sensors and speech technology and a variety of other advanced technologies,” he says. “This is the direction that PCs are evolving.”

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