On Saturday, June 9, at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, Microsoft let the public see, touch and test-drive the Surface interactive tabletop system that the company unveiled at the end of May.
I checked out the Surface demo (left) at the Sheraton on Saturday. Here are some photos of Sheraton patrons giving the Surface prototypes a whirl.
Surface -- the product formerly codenamed "PlayTable," and later "Milan" -- is a hardware-software bundle that Microsoft is building itself. The first models are slated to debut this coming November in Starwood Hotels, Harrah's Resorts and T-Mobile retail stores.
This weekend, Microsoft allowed the public to get their hands on four Surface prototypes. And the demo attendees seemed quite intrigued with what they saw.
Starwood, owner of the Sheraton chain, is planning to make the Surface part of the set-up in its "The Link" areas, where guests can make use of plasma TVs and terminals. Starwood also is planning to make Surface systems a feature in the Club Level lounges of five to ten of its properties later this year, Microsoft officials said.
"This is our first product in the category of surface computing," Jeffrey Gattis, director of product management for Surface Computing, told me. "We have a roadmap for a variety of form factors. Many people want thinner products and more vertical implementations.
Gattis declined to provide details on any of the other forthcoming surface systems, but noted that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is quite interested in seeing how Microsoft and its partners will find uses for the touch/multi-touch Surface interface in not just consumer, but also business, settings. I asked whether the Microsoft "DigiDesk" might be another example of a Surface system. Gattis said it wouldn't be wrong to think of the DigiDesk as something that could fit into the family.