Yesterday I read several reports (which seemed to have originated from an interview that The Globe and Mail did with Microsoft principal researcher Bill Buxton) that Microsoft is working on developing a tablet that is "no thicker than sheet of glass," and will feature an LCD screen where there's a fourth pixel in ever red, green and blue trio that "is a sensor that will capture stuff." Oh, and that we will see this technology "in three years."
Note: My ZDNet colleague Mary Jo Foley offers her thoughts on Microsoft's tablet ambitions here.
Ummmmm, excuse me, I have a question. This glass, exactly how thick is it?
I ask because when I initially came across that statement I was impressed, and a little awe struck. But then I realized that this was the desired effect, and that it was one o those statements that was designed to impress you, but you shouldn't think too much about it ...
... but think about it I did.
See, glass varies in thickness considerably depending on the use. glass used in a picture frame is pretty thin stuff, about 1/12th of an inch (or 2mm), but it's as brittle as, well, glass. At the other end of the spectrum though there's glass that can withstand bullets, bomb blasts and even the power of an atomic shockwave. Problem with this stuff is that it's thick - very thick.
So what kind of glass does Microsoft have in mind?
See, glass is a dodgy material. Even Apple finds it tricky to make glass behave like it's not glass. The iPhone 4 makes use of two sheets of Corning Gorilla Glass which Apple claims is "20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic" (again, what plastic?) and is "ultradurable." But a few seconds with Google will reveal just how breakable this glass is. Notice how Apple carefully avoids words such as "shatterproof" and "unbreakable." Glass is, at the end of the day, glass.
So what kind of glass does Microsoft have in mind for this tablet? Maybe the glass used in Tony Stark's transparent phone ... oh wait, that wasn't real ... but I'm pretty sure that would work, and be awesome to use in my hover car as I was going on my vacation to the moon.
Seriously, I don't know what to make of this Microsoft tablet story. So much of it seems like hyperbole wrapped around a "don't buy iPads" propaganda. Don't get me wrong, I'd love a tablet where it was just a sheet of glass and where the screen featured an active array of sensors, but the idea that this is three years away is laughable.