Will Microsoft pit 'Milan' multi-touch against Apple's iPhone?

Will Microsoft pit 'Milan' multi-touch against Apple's iPhone?

Summary: It's show time for Microsoft's "Milan" multi-touch and gestural interface technology. And I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft decides to make this week's Wall Street Journal tech conference the debutante ball.


It's show time for Microsoft's "Milan" multi-touch and gestural interface technology. And I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft decides to make this week's Wall Street Journal tech conference the debutante ball.

Milan, the technology previously known as "PlayTable," and, later, "Table," has been in incubation for the past few years at Microsoft. Milan/PlayTable is designed to allow users to navigateand manipulate data inside a browser or application using gestures (think pinches, pushes, waves, etc.).

Currently, the Milan Project sits in Microsoft's Mobile and Entertainment Division (MED), according to my tipsters. (MED is the Microsoft business unit that spearheads Xbox, Zune and Windows Mobile devices.)

It's easy to see how Microsoft might incorporate the Milan multi-touch capability into Zunes or Windows Mobile phones. In fact, one source told me that Microsoft has been pitching Milan to various wireless carriers, with the hopes that they will support a Milan-enabled Windows-Mobile phone in the not-too-distant future.

Apple, for its part, has been touting multi-touch as a key (and seemingly patented) element in the iPhone interface. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is expected to use the Journal's D5 confab this week to show off the iPhone. Jobs and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates are on tap to share the stage at D5 for a joint interview.

But Microsoft isn't looking at Milan as solely a consumer-electronics technology, sources say. My ZDNet blogging colleague Larry Dignan presciently predicted that Microsoft would look for other kinds of collaboration and business scenarios for Milan/Playtable.

"The idea is to take that (Milan) effort and move it into multiple different environments," said one of my sources. "It's not just for the home. They want to see what kinds of commercial environments" might provide a good home for the multi-touch/gesture-recognition technology, as well.

It's not a stretch to see how Microsoft and its partners might incorporate Milan into next-gen Tablet PCs and Ultra-Mobile Personal Computers (UMPCs).

Multi-touch/gesture-recognition technology also would be a natural fit in medical (think of several doctors collaborating over a shared medical file); architectural (shared schematics), educational, hospitality and lots of other applications, Microsoft is hoping.

(Still no word back from anyone from Microsoft regarding my request for a comment on PlayTable/Milan. Sounds like no one is sanctioned to talk about this until May 30 or so, from what I'm hearing.)

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, iPhone, Smartphones, PCs, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • M$ realeases more vaporware

    Gate$ needs his 2 minutes of fame to tell us about new M$ vaporware.
    Nothing more, just strugulling to stay relevant!
    Linux Geek
    • Per Alpha

      Sounds like pre Alpha vaporware with added potential software patent breach.
    • Sheesh

      do you ever post anything of value?
      • Yes

        He posted an apology, once.
        John Zern
      • Who knows

        Do you?

        Maybe you think MS has another great product up its sleeve. They can't even get windows mobile right yet and its on version 6.
    • So where do I buy an iPhone?

      Oh yeah, no one can, its VAPORWARE....
      • So where do I get this "Milan" technology?

        >>> So where do I buy an iPhone? >>>

        Line up sometime in June and you may be able to scoop one up.

        Where do I buy this MS "Milan" technology and in what... and when???

        MS = FUD and vaporware
        Apple = practical, actual ("in the wild", soon to be released) product


        Software that is not yet in production, but the announced delivery date has long since passed. At times, software vendors [b}(ahem... MS)[/b] are criticized for intentionally producing vaporware in order to keep customers from switching to competitive products that offer more features. However, programmers are notorious for being awful estimators of time. As a result, shipping dates often slip over and over again.

        or, for you...

        <jargon> /vay'pr-weir/ Products announced far in advance of
        any release (which may or may not actually take place). The
        term came from Atari users and [b]was later applied by
        Infoworld to Microsoft's continuous lying about Microsoft

        Apple has shown a practical application and demo'ed an actual product, due within a month's time.

        Other than another "me-too" response from Microsoft, how, on what and/or when is "Milan" being released?

        (When multi-touch was first shown on the iPhone, many saw the possibilities and potential use on future Macs)

        • iPhone IS Apple's vaporware

          Apple had no "iPhone"

          I heard that the "iPhone" you saw demoed cost roughly 5000.00 as it was a mockup, designed soley for the demonstration, but nothing in which you or I could actually use in real life as none existed, and with the recent shuffling of developers from Leopard to the iPhone team sounds alot like what you are describing as vaporware as whyu would they need extra developers if the software (touchscreen) existed?

          I would call that Vaporware. Or better yet, how about [b]VaporHardware[/b] a name I'm sure Infoworld will be giving to Apple pretty soon...
          John Zern
          • So uhm..

            What about the other iPhones that have been shown? Such as the one demo'ed by AT&T a long time after the first showing?

            I would be wiling to bet that first iPhone was MORE than 5000, as prototypes are always WAY over production cost.
          • What's the difference

            [i]Such as the one demo'ed by AT&T a long time after the first showing?[/i]

            When MS metions its working on software and no one sees it except for some screen shots it's "Vaporware!, it's Vaporware!".

            Yet, let someone (Apple in this case) demo the "iPhone" and no one mentions "prototype", or "mock-up"?

            Should neither be considered "real" until the general public has a chance to try them?
            John Zern
          • Ignorant

            I can't recall a single time where Apple has demoed a product and the final product
            was any different. The iPhone has been showed off many times. It has received FCC
            approval. Photos taken on an iPhone have surfaced on the net. Apache logs from
            websites have shown that iPhones have been browsing their sites. Make no mistake,
            this phone is no vaporware. We'll see this product on the shelves, ready to go, and no
            different than the demo, in June.
      • Message has been deleted.

        • Message has been deleted.

          • Message has been deleted.

          • start queueing

            No axe, you seem to have a problem understanding the difference between vaporware and something that's about to be released as a real product -strange for someone who claims to be a developer.

            Milan is a vague concept which partly mimics some of the features in a product that's about to go on general sale. That's called a spoiler. The reality is probably that some features in Milan may make their way into a Microsoft product in about 3 or 4 years time.

            IPhone is a product that has gone gold and is now being manufactured in enough volume somewhere in Taiwan ready for the launch. In the same way there were sad people like you queueing through the night to get their Vista copies on the day of launch there will be little iphone fanatics.
          • Don't forget...

            ...it exists enough to achieve FCC approval, and many Apple (and AT&T) executives have been using them for months. I believe your local Cingular/AT&T dealer can put you on a waiting list.
            tic swayback
          • Didn't bother to read, did you

            Quoting the "Fact Sheet" section of the Surface web site...

            [b]Availability: Beginning at the end of this year (2007), consumers will be able to interact with Surface in hotels, restaurants, retail and public entertainment venues.[/b]

            So, that makes it, at worst, seven months before the retail version demonstrated yesterday will be out in the wild.

            A little different than your "reality" of features available in 3-4 years and pretty much the same as iPhone.
            Mike Galos
      • iPhone is due this month...

        it will happen, it's not FUD.

        When is your PLAYTABLE (to go along with your telle-tubbies OS I guess) going to see
        the light of day?
  • The usual MO

    We have it too!!! Let's state our vision of the future after someone else states theirs
    or has actually delivered that concept. Typical MS. Never had a vision...never will.
    • Here's the thing though

      MS isn't in the business of having vision. They're in the business of making money. And they still do that.

      MS makes money on products which are almost as good as Apple's but are much cheaper. They always have and always will. If this product fits this MO, then it will make money as usual. It's that simple.
      Michael Kelly