Microsoft business 'blades': Thinking outside the Surface consumer box

Summary:Microsoft is looking for ideas for a new class of peripherals, codenamed 'Blades,' that can plug into its Surface tablets. What might business blades look like?

Yes, Microsoft is really trying to step up its consumer game -- especially given the fact that more than 55 percent of its business is coming from the enterprise (compared to 20 percent from consumer).

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But that doesn't mean all the new fun toys have to be focused on home and recreational use. Why can't business users take advantage of things like the new "blades" that are coming for Microsoft's Surfaces, too?

A quick explainer: The Surface blades have nothing to do with blade servers. Surface Blades are a new class of plug-in peripherals (in touch pad form, at least at first) that will click into the Microsoft Surface devices. Microsoft showed off during its Surface 2 launch on September 23 a Music Cover which builds on the souped-up sensing technology that Microsoft built into its Touch Cover 2.

"Touch Cover2 is basically a really big pressure sensitive touch pad. It can sense your hands, it is super fast (picking up all the transient interactions that happen on a millisecond level)," noted Director of Microsoft's Applied Sciences Group in Microsoft Research, Stevie Bathiche, during a Reddit Ask Me Anything session the Surface team held on Monday.

Bathiche noted that the just-announced Surface Remix Project is just the start of Microsoft's work in this new peripheral/accessory category. As part of the Remix project, Microsoft is making available a Surface Music Kit -- the Music Cover plus related app -- to those who want to use it to make remixed music tracks.

(A quick aside: These new blades will work with the generation one Intel-based Surface Pro and generation two Intel-based Surface Pro 2 and ARM-based Surface 2. But once the new Surface Pro 2 goes on sale, starting October 22, Microsoft and its retail partners are planning to no longer sell the first-gen Surface Pro.)

But what if there were a more general software development kit (SDK) for those looking to build blades that could provide other kinds of functionality, especially business apps/services? I asked the Softies and was told by a spokesperson that Microsoft had "nothing yet" on that front, but they'd let me know when/if there was more to say.

During yesterday's Reddit, as noted by CITEworld, some participants asked Microsoft about doing blades that would let them use touch and/or pen to manipulate Adobe's PhotoShop or do video editing more easily.

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Microsoft officials worked with students at the Art Center College of Design, allowing students to try their hand at conceptualizing possible blade ideas. As shown during a Microsoft video clip shown at yesterday's Surface 2 launch, those students suggested everything from credit-card reader blades, to blades that could recharge smartphones, as The Verge noted.  

There also was a suggestion for some kind of blade which would allow users to remove a possibly wearable digital trackpad that could plug into the Surface devices. (See the prototype rendering of that wearable device at left from a still from the video. Thanks @cwoodruff.)

Any business users who read this blog have other possible ideas for business blades you'd like to see Microsoft and/or third-party developers build for the Surface?

Topics: Microsoft Surface, Emerging Tech, Microsoft, PCs, Software Development, Tablets, Windows 8

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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