Microsoft tablet to be "no thicker than sheet of glass" ... but what kind of glass?

Microsoft tablet to be "no thicker than sheet of glass" ... but what kind of glass?

Summary: 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."

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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.

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Tablets

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14 comments
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  • What kind of 'will'

    Look, I have a Samsung Wave, it's thinner than the glass in my windows already. The new iPod touch is even thinner than this.

    So Microsoft are saying they IN THREE YEARS they will have a tablet able to compete WITH TODAYS devices?

    Just like they delivered MS Surface, a huge lump of a table filled with lights and mirrors and cameras to do multi-touch.... AFTER Apple launched the iPod Touch.

    So it's not what kind of glass, it's what kind of 'will'.

    If they can't deliver the goods now, then how can they deliver even a fixed schedule by which they will ever deliver the goods.

    BTW Congrats to Fox & Glenn Beck on taking over the Republican party in Delaware with their Sarah Palin clone. Heil Beck!
    guihombre
    • RE: Microsoft tablet to be

      @guihombre [i]BTW Congrats to Fox & Glenn Beck on taking over the Republican party in Delaware with their Sarah Palin clone. Heil Beck![/i]

      Your political rant has what to do with this story?

      As to your point about the [i]actual[/i] story, I agree with you... in 3 years who cares. What can they do now? That's what matters.
      Badgered
    • RE: Microsoft tablet to be

      @guihombre,

      Go post your political commentaries on a political forum.
      bmonsterman
    • RE: Microsoft tablet to be

      @guihombre

      just a few bit of correction... the surface has already been under development EVEN before the iPod Touch was unveiled, or probably even developed. It has been one of Microsoft's projects that I have been closely observing.

      But, then again, agree with your statement "So Microsoft are saying they IN THREE YEARS they will have a tablet able to compete WITH TODAYS devices?"
      zaghy2zy
  • Gorilla Glass

    Has Apple or Gorilla ever confirmed they're collaborators?
    davezatz
  • They need to quit yappin

    And start doing. First the courier, which was canned and now this. They need to start doing more, talk isn't going to put a product out on the market!
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • This is how it's always been..

      @NStalnecker ... Apple does, Microsoft talks about what it's going to do. Arrogantly.

      "We've shipped millions and millions of phones. Apple has shipped zero phones. ... I like our strategy. I like it a lot."
      - Stephen A. Ballmer, 2007
      HollywoodDog
      • I just wish they could find someone batter than Ballmer

        @HollywoodDog

        Microsoft needs someone back who has a sense of vision and direction.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • I love Tony Stark's Phone...

    It was sweeeeeeeet!
    condelirios
  • RE: Microsoft tablet to be

    Dude, its just glass. Your only gripe aside from it being Microsoft is how thick the glass is? You need to worry about more important things. Besides this project is 3 years away. Microsoft's R&D have done a lot of great things and have the resources to investigate this further. It doesn't matter how thick the glass is, what matters is the technology Microsoft will be bringing to us in 3 years. They are a forward moving company and always looking to the future, not the now.
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: Microsoft tablet to be

    Hey Loverock Davidson, what kind of gret things has Microsoft done, Vista? MS must have know about the iPad (except the name)for a couple of years, most everyone else did, so now they say it will be 3 more years to build their pad? I just wish someone would take the iPad and stick several USB ports on it and they oculd have my money.<br>DoctorJerry
    DoctorJerry
  • fourth pixel?

    Fourth pixel as a 'sensor'? I could use a link to that part of the story.
    E Randall
  • good idea about android

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    gavin.chan
  • good idea about android

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    gavin.chan