Eric Freeman, 34
Mirror Worlds Technologies
The desktop metaphor that has dominated (and limited) computer software for more than a decade may face its first major challenge from Lifestreams, an operating system environment that began as Eric Freeman’s doctoral thesis at Yale. Lifestreams relies on a different visual metaphor, presenting e-mail, schedules, online feeds and so forth as a chronologically arranged stack of documents, all automatically captured and easily reorganized on demand. The idea was granted a patent this year. Freeman stands out for the boldness of his vision. "His choice of thesis topic showed considerable nerve," says computer scientist David
Gelernter, Freeman’s advisor at Yale. "It was risky--a radical departure and not an incremental improvement. He thought he could bring it off and he did."
In 1997, Freeman and Gelernter co-founded Mirror Worlds Technologies (the name plucked from a Gelernter book on future computer interfaces). Their goal: interfaces, software architectures and tools for managing electronic information. With Freeman as CTO, the company has introduced its first product: Lifestreams Office. Now comes the hard work of convincing information technology managers that this is indeed a better mousetrap. With a foot in the private sector, Freeman is maintaining academic ties; he was recently named a fellow at Yale’s new Center for Internet Studies.