Yay! This makes me happy. Microsoft officially announces support for Windows Drivers for the Kinect Camera as a free download in the Spring.
This was something I was pushing really hard on in the last few months before my departure, and I am glad to see the efforts of colleagues in the research wing of Microsoft (MSR) and the XBox engineering team carry this to fruition. It's unfortunate this couldn't have happened closer to launch day. But, perhaps it took all the enthusiasm of the independent developer community to convince the division to do this. It certainly would have been nice if all this neat work was done on Microsoft software platforms.
I actually have a secret to share on this topic. When my internal efforts for a driver stalled, I decided to approach AdaFruit to put on the Open Kinect contest. For obvious reasons, I couldn't run the contest myself. Besides, Phil and Limor did a phenomenal job, much better than I could have done. Without a doubt, the contest had a significant impact in raising awareness about the potential for Kinect beyond Xbox gaming both inside and outside the company. Best $3000 I ever spent.
In my opinion, all the press coverage around the independent projects brought a lot of additional positive attention to the product launch. That unto itself became the topic of international news.
But to take this even further, it would be awesome if Microsoft went so far as to hold a small conference to actually showcase people doing interesting projects with Kinect. It is a really great device, and such an outreach program would give Microsoft an opportunity to engage with very enthusiastic partners to potentially build new applications around it both inside and outside of gaming. At the very least, it would be a cheap way to recruit potential hires.
There are lots of smart people outside of Microsoft that would like to build interesting stuff with it. Most of it probably won't be a "Microsoft-scale" business initially, but worth enabling and incubating in aggregate. Though, a large portion of the expert community is already using the Kinect camera in their own projects on just about every OS and every develoment tool in existence. So, Microsoft will need to give researchers and independent developers a reason to go back to thier platform - be it opportunities to engage with people at Microsoft/MSR, other Kinect developers, or opportunities to share thier work though larger distrubtion channels such as XNA, app stores, or XBox downloadable games. We have just seen the beginning of what can be done with low-cost depth cameras.