According to an article posted by canonrumors.com today, Canon and Microsoft signed a patent cross-licensing agreement, which, to my understanding, gives Canon licenses to Microsoft's patents, as well as providing Microsoft with licenses to Canon's patents. Does this mean we're going to see a new wave of Windows Phone 8.1 devices touting Canon sensors? Probably not.
Although contents of the agreement haven't been disclosed, this agreement allows the duo to continue to collaborate more easily. I, for one, would love to see better printer connectivity within Windows, even if it's only with Canon printers, but I'm an IT guy who has to deal with Windows' legendarily atrocious printer interfacing.
Hideki Sanatake, from Canon, was quoted as saying: "This agreement is a natural extension of our longstanding relationship with Microsoft and commitment to developing innovative technologies."
Take that as you will, but I'd like to do some speculating as to what this could mean for consumers...
Better RAW file integration into Windows
Sure, with the release of Windows 8, I've been able to view my RAW files with Windows' built in "Photos" app, but I want to see more. Maybe we could edit our favorite snapshots in MS Paint?
Windows on Canon cameras?
Sure, it'd be all fun and games, until you get a BSOD right as your client "may kiss the bride." I'll go ahead and pass on this one.
DSLRs that can only be used by the owner
Now that I'm done having fun with the silly stuff, here's something serious. Microsoft filed a patent that detects consumers and disconnects people who didn't pay to see what they're trying to watch. On the one hand, that's freakin' creepy. On the other, Canon could integrate this technology into a sort of "lockscreen" that detects whether or not you're the owner of the camera when you turn it on. Besides preventing thieves from being able to use your precious DSLR, it'd actually be pretty easy to implement. Make sure it only scans when the camera is physically turned on from off (you shouldn't turn off your camera between shots anyways), and voila! Decrease in the crime rate.
Focus your smartphone's camera by eye
Throwing one of these in the opposite direction, Canon has a patent for the eye-control feature that is implemented in the later generations of film SLR's (such as the Elan 7E), that detects which focus point you're looking at by using lasers or infrared beams or something like that. Personally, I've used the system, and I think it's pretty damn cool. I'm upset that Canon hasn't done anything with it since then. Come on, imagine AI Servo mode on the 1DX's 61-point auto-focus system with eye control. With today's technology, they should be able to make it follow the football you're trying to catch, which would rely less on interpreting the scene with the computer and simply interpreting the area in which your eye is looking.
Enough of that, though. Since Canon is obviously just sitting on the patent until one of their engineers come up with the bright idea I just laid out (know anyone who works in R&D at Canon? Shoot them a link to this article!), Microsoft should take advantage of it. Combining their Kinect detection system with the Canon eye-control system could give us the ability to focus our smartphones by looking at the part that we want to focus on. No more tapping the screen to change the focus, screwing up your composure, making your re-compose, re-focus, and spending 20 minutes to get that shot *just* right. Just compose, look at where you want to focus, press the shutter button (if you don't have a physical button for your shutter on your smartphone, find an app to make one... NOW), and bingo! Move on with your day. Smartphones may be cutting into the "real" camera market, but how does that old saying go? Oh, yeah: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
What do you think will come of this? Realistically, probably very little, but have fun with the idea!