The projection of the composite application--an application that incorporates data from a variety of sources such as a financial software--looked very appealing.

"It looks great that way when it's the size of half a wall. But I'd like to see what it looks like on a 17-inch monitor," I asked Satya Nadella, the corporate vice president in charge of research and development for Microsoft Business Solutions.

The demonstration by Nadella and Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division which includes MBS, was designed to show composites--business mash-ups was a term Nadella also used--and the impact of the Outlook interface and SharePoint. But what it also pointed out was how navigation tools and things to make applications easier to understand also gobble up display territory.

Wall Street has been a multi-monitor world for some time. Tax and accounting professionals using document management systems are making dual-monitor systems a standard.

Anyone who has tried to view a document image while working in another application--transferring numbers to a tax prep package or copying information for quotes in Word--knows how painful it is to toggle between applications on a single screen. Even when using a screen to view two Word documents, I need to hide tool bars in order to work effectively.

Couple what is already on screen with new navigation ribbons in these upcoming composites and it's hard to reach any other conclusion than this: the single-monitor system of today is becoming obsolete.

Flat-screen monitors helped us by "getting aircraft engines" off our desks, as I phrase it. But substituting dual-flat screens for the hefty old monitors doesn't seem an ideal use of desktop space. A better solution will likely be panoramic, or theater monitors, that can display full pages from two or three different applications simultaneously. One monitor chassis is better than two.

Actually, at Convergence, the Microsoft user conference held this week in Dallas, it was Nadella and Raikes' boss, Bill Gates, whose on-stage demonstration signaled the possibility of a coming revolution in display technology When Gates sat down at his high-tech work area, a series of flat panels, arrayed around his semi-circular desktop, lit up. The screens each displayed a different image.

It is, in short, a much broader view than we've ever had of data. And if I could find one of those systems tomorrow at an affordable price, I'd buy it without hesitation. Who wants to be limited to a narrow view of the world?

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