Two of America's tech powers -- IBM and Microsoft -- have given glimpses of what they consider the most exciting and promising research opportunities for the future. Their lists are fascinating in their own right but also in a comparative sense, for what they show about the two companies.

There will be more to say about specific items later on. For now, you can see IBM's list of "Five Innovations That Will Change Our Lives in the Next Five Years" here, and a Network World report on 10 hot projects from Microsoft's research center here. I think much about both companies is revealed by the comparison -- not to mention the implications for all of us if these visions are fulfilled.*

Now, where's Google's list?
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* This one from IBM has philosophical ramifications worth exploring in the longer run:

Forgetting will become a distant memory
Information overload keeping you up at night? Forget about it. In the next five years, it will become much easier to remember what to buy at the grocery store, which errands need to be run, who you spoke with at a conference, where and when you agreed to meet a friend, or what product you saw advertised at the airport. That's because such details of everyday life will be recorded, stored, analyzed, and provided at the appropriate time and place by both portable and stationary smart appliances. To help make this possible, microphones and video cameras will record conversations and activities. The information collected will be automatically stored and analyzed on a personal computer. People can then be prompted to "remember" what discussions they had, for example, with their daughter or doctor by telephone. Based on such conversations, smart phones equipped with global-positioning technology might also remind them to pick up groceries or prescriptions if they pass a particular store at a particular time. It's not hard to imagine that TVs, remote controls, or even coffee table tops, can one day be the familiar mediums through which we tap into our digitally-stored information.

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