Microsoft went public at 12:01 a.m. on May 30 with the name of its "Milan"/PlayTable technology. The combined hardware/software device is now known as the Microsoft Surface and is due to debut in November.
In one of many press releases on Milan and surface computing on Microsoft's PressPass site this morning, there is a Q&A with Tom Gibbons, the corporate VP in charge of Microsoft's Productivity and Extended Consumer Experiences Group. Gibbons describes the move Microsoft is expecting to surface computing being "as significant as the move from DOS [Disk Operating System] to GUI [Graphic User Interface]."
Wow. That's a pretty big claim for something that currently seems very niche to me. Even though the first set of announced customers for Surface are big businesses (T-Mobile, Starwood, Harrah's), ultimately, Microsoft seems to see the Surface Computer as a consumer product.
But do I really need a table at a restaurant (or in my home) to tell me the best food pairings for my wine choice? Or to generate for me a customized version of a map of local attractions?
Unless there are some surface-computing form factors that don't look like a chunky coffee table or a retail-store kiosk, I have zero interest in a Surface. For now, the first iterations of Microsoft's Surface Computer seem a lot to me like the first "Origami" ultra-mobile PCs: Products in search of a market. (And not very well-designed products, at that.)
Even though Microsoft isn't talking publicly about how and where else the Milan surface/multi-touch technology may figure, Long Zheng over at istartedsomething.com discovered some interesting hints. Zheng found hidden in a Flash file that's part of Surface collateral an intersting reference: "Microsoft’s New Milan Media Player on Store Shelves on Nov 14." Sure sounds like a Zune with a multi-touch display to me....
I'm curious. Am I the only one out there who sees the Surface computer as about as cuddly as a point-of-sale terminal?