Or is it a Ouija Board running Vista?

Microsoft unveiled a coffee-table-shaped “surface computer” on Wednesday in a major step towards co-founder Bill Gates’s view of a future where the mouse and keyboard are replaced by more natural interaction using voice, pen and touch.

Microsoft Surface, which has a 30-inch display under a hard-plastic tabletop, allows people to touch and move objects on screen for everything from digital finger painting and jigsaw puzzles to ordering off a virtual menu in a restaurant.

They haven’t said that it will place calls for you; but, their “partner” is T-Mobile. And you can change your ringtones with it.

Microsoft shunned its usual PC manufacturing partners and decided to take control of the surface computer’s hardware production using an undisclosed contract manufacturer. It will run the Windows Vista operating system.

The company is selling the Surface for between $5,000 and $10,000 each, but aims to bring prices down to consumer levels in three to five years and introduce various shapes and forms.

When young and brash, I will admit to occasionally bragging that I could sell blue sky – or ears to an elephant. I could sell this – and I know exactly the people to sell it to.

No, I wouldn’t buy one for myself, though. Or sell one to a friend.

  1. Smartalix says:

    This is a nice aggregation of supporting core technologies in a device with a very useful and innovative interface. IMNSHO, it is best suited as an electronic sand table for applicaitons from real estate, contracting, and landscaping on the civilian side to planning combat operations. Any top-down hands-on creative app from virtual fingerpainting in hoity-toit schools to remote management of ground-based robotic assets.


    “For people looking for stock tips, look for a company developing a lcd technology with ccd sensors mixed in with lcd sensors.”

    Toshiba is developing an LCD with an image sensor in every pixel. Initially created to enable a PDA scanner using the screen itself, the tech is now being ported to touchscreen apps.

  2. Lauren the Ghoti says:

    #22 – Matthew

    “When was the last time you saw something from Microsoft that was intuitive and worked well?”

    Conformists are not exactly known for creativity. Starting with MS-DOS, MS never really creates anything – but they will grudgingly buy it if they can’t get away with stealing it.

    #15 – GregA

    “There are a bunch of cameras inside the table that photograph the surface to figure out what is happening.”

    How original. I wonder where I’ve seen that idea before…

  3. Angel H. Wong says:


    Don’t worry, when Apple’s version fails every mac fan will also say it was ahead of its time just like they said the same thing about the Apple Newton and the Apple Pippin.

    Unless of course, they make it a must tool when it some to turn starving drugaddicts and morbidly obese women into hotties.

  4. Mark T. says:

    I thought this was a cool idea when it was shown here on DU as a multi-touch display created by Jeff Hann. See here:


    Microsoft must have either bought him a mansion or they simply lifted the idea.

    I can see this working as a true tablet type PC but I think you would want both hands free. That would mean that you would need to lay it flat on a table and you would get a sore neck looking down on it all day.

    I hope something like this works because I am ready for the next paradigm shift away from the keyboard and mouse.

    I expect to see a new M$ tablet PC based on this in the near future.

  5. doug says:

    this may catch on as a novelty in some bars and restaurants – a 2010 version of the old sit-down Ms. Pac-Man – but I have a real problem seeing it at home. It is immobile, for one thing.

    and the stupidest quote in the article:

    “it mimics what they do in the real world”

    Hmm … in MY “real world,” my coffee table does not recognize the items I place on it, but I do type on a keyboard and move a cursor with a mouse. How about yours?

  6. GregA says:


    This particular system (the cameras behind the glass) has been in use since the early 80’s at Bell Labs. So I don’t think they invented it either. On the other hand, I see you hated (from your comments on that thread) that device as well.

    Sort of begs the question, is there anything from any company not Apple that you like?

    What is new here however is that this is apparently a product aimed at general use with future general consumer implementation. It is not destined for some specific purpose like health care, or banking, or telephone.

    It is compelling because for the first time it looks like someone like Microsoft is going to get behind touch screen development. That way every time a Jeff Han, Apple, or miscellaneous end user developer they don’t have to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel all over again.

    Also, for the current iteration of the product, any doubters need to go to a busy sports bar and watch the tables with the touch screen games on them. See how those table always have someone at them?

    How about video poker? I bet in 5 years time, every possible table at every casino everywhere is one of these things.

    Also as far as portable computing is concerned… There have been a wide selection of portable touch screen like devices available for 15 years now, with moderate levels of success. Just look at the nerds going ga ga for the iPhone. Obviously a market here.

    Also there is the social aspect of the Surface computer. The success of applications like myspace always confused me. On the other hand a computer that genuinely allows multiple people to use it in a social setting, who knows… The demonstrators have obviously all been enjoying themselves sitting around that little table.

    However, I am beginning to suspect as far as the bloggosphere is concerned, the hivemind has spoken, this is a M$ product, SO IT MUST BE BAD, FACTS BE DAMMED!

  7. Eideard says:

    You miss my conclusion – GregA – I obviously think there is a market for this – because “I could sell this – and I know exactly the people to sell it to.”

    You would sell it to sports bars. I would sell it to the people who build 24,000 sq.ft. vacation cottages. At full markup.

  8. Lauren the Ghoti says:

    #36 – GregA

    “This particular system (the cameras behind the glass) has been in use since the early 80’s at Bell Labs. So I don’t think they invented it either.”

    No, but the remarkably uncreative drones at MS’ pathetic R&D are far more likely to have seen it rather than some piece of tech from an institution that most of them never even heard of…

    “On the other hand, I see you hated (from your comments on that thread) that device as well.”

    My, but you certainly haven’t lost your gift for reading things into people’s words that aren’t actually there… Where do I say I even dislike it, let alone “hate” it? I simply dismissed it as being a unnecessary reinvention. Like this most recent MS abortion, it’s a solution in search of a problem.

    “Sort of begs the question, is there anything from any company not Apple that you like?”

    There’s a few companies out there that make expertly designed, highest performance, highest quality products – Lexus, and Pass Labs, and Leica all come readily to mind… That cheesy agglomeration of marketing flacks, slimy lawyers and soulless, uncreative copycat drones that you adore, Microsoft, has a few light-years to go before they make my list.

    Apple’s certainly not without fault – but they’re one Hell of a lot better in everything meaningful than that monument to greed, IP theft and chickenshit conformity in Redmond, WA.

    (Psst – A tip: The phrase ‘begs the question’ means something entirely different from what you think it means…)

  9. BubbaRay says:

    [off topic]
    #38, Lauren, re: high quality, just to add to your list,

    If you want one of the finest telescopes crafted by the hand of man, the “Rolls Royce” of scopes, get a Questar. My old trusty 3.5″ has served me well for over 30 years, a true traveling companion. One of the finest engineered products in the world, an absolute joy to own and use.


    Images here:

  10. GregA says:

    In a crushing defeat for the Ghoti, as it turns out this camera based multi touch system was actually developed by Microsoft.


    Game Over.


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