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Is Microsoft preparing a flying car?

Norwegian HoverBot a challenge for embedded CE

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No future is complete without a flying car, but it's the invention that, like Longhorn, never arrives. However, many readers write in with evidence from Microsoft Norway that such a vehicle may be in trial. The company's MapPoint directions service is suggesting a route that at the very least requires an amphibious vehicle similar to that great British invention, the Hovercraft.

If you ask Microsoft's MapPoint how to get between the Norwegian towns of Haugesund and Trondheim - a journey of about 700 kilometers using a conventional road vehicle, the user is presented with a rather dramatic detour.

MSN's Grand Tour

Setting off from Haugesund, MapPoint advises the user to point in the diametrically opposite direction to Trondheim, and head West South West. After a couple of kilometers the car sprints out over the North Sea, arriving in Newcastle upon Tyne some time later.

MSN Driving Instructions

Details of the vehicle's performance must remain a secret - no duration is disclosed for this leg of the journey. Then it's south to London, through the Channel Tunnel, over the low countries via Belgium, the Netherlands, and into Germany. Then north to Sweden and finally arriving in Trondheim 116 driving instructions later. It's a journey of over 2,600 kilometers.

The next "logical step" (© The Times of London*) is that Microsoft must be preparing an amphibious road vehicle.

That's after you've discarded evidence of the Haugesund to Newcastle car ferry, and the possibility of a bug in the MapPoint software.

Hoverbot - irritating UI gimmick, or the transport of the future? As incurable romantics, we're of course hoping for the more dramatic (don't you mean "logical"? - ed) answer. And Microsoft may have been preparing an unmanned prototype for years in the shape of Microsoft Office's "hoverbot". One of Microsoft's earliest acquisitions was Flight Simulator, remember, which has since been rewritten as a gigantic Excel macro, which is inserted into the OLE stream of every Office document you save**.®

* Bootnote #1: Well, it's no sillier than The Times spotting a Google recruitment ad for a fiber consultant and concluding that rather than simply beefing up its data network, it must be buying Skype.

** Bootnote #2: No, but that would be a "logical step".

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