Microsoft has demonstrated remarkable ingenuity in a truly unexpected place. The company's latest and arguably most useful advancement of the year is not a motion-control system for the Xbox 360 or a new, streamlined design for Internet Explorer, but a simple redesign of the battery holders we've all taken for granted.
Most battery compartments have a single contact on either side: one positive and one negative. For any device to work, you must insert the batteries in very specific directions, so the positive ends of the batteries face the positive contacts and the negative ends face the negative contacts. Making sure the batteries are properly aligned is an inconvenience that has plagued us for decades.
Microsoft's documentation, InstaLoad technology is new but could show up in wireless mice and other Microsoft-made devices in the near future. However, thanks to several announced licensing deals, InstaLoad might show up in a number of non-Microsoft products. Eleven firms have announced partnerships with Microsoft to use InstaLoad in their products, including Duracell and Spectrum Brands (the company that owns the Rayovac battery brand). While Wired is skeptical about InstaLoad appearing in non-Microsoft products due to Microsoft's licensing policies, the already impressive list of partners indicates that we could see InstaLoad flashlights and remote controls available in every convenience store in the near future.