Will touch drive Microsoft Surface sales or will Surface drive touch?

Will touch drive Microsoft Surface sales or will Surface drive touch?

Summary: But at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, Microsoft is discussing and demonstrating some different Surface application prototypes that seem somewhat more compelling -- customizable retail, education -- and dropped hints about gaming and office-productivity Surface apps that might be in the pipeline.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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The demo applications Microsoft has shown so far for its Surface touch-tabletop system --for  ordering drinks, sharing photos by dragging them and finger painting -- have left me cold.

Will touch drive Microsoft Surface sales or will Surface drive touch?But at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, Microsoft is discussing and demonstrating some different Surface application prototypes that seem somewhat more compelling.

During his CES keynote, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates showed off a snowboard-customization demo that indicates the kinds of interactive retail applications which might shine on Surface multi-touch systems. Microsoft issued some talking points about the demo, claiming it "provides a clear solution to common consumer pain points," including (according to Microsoft):

  • being overwhelmed by choices
  • not having enough information
  • can’t make it yours
  • want to share it with friends

"The (Surface snowboard) application showcases the four key attributes of a surface computer including; multi-touch, object recognition, direct interaction and multi-user," said an e-mail message sent to me by the Surface team.

Will touch drive Microsoft Surface sales or will Surface drive touch?Microsoft also is highlighting at this week's CES show a "wine-bar demo application." This app looks similar to the drink and food ordering application Microsoft has been showing off for the past few months during public Surface demos. But there's one new element I hadn't seen before that is more educational. Tags on customers' wine glasses, when placed on the Surface tabletop, call up a map of the region from which the wine originates. The touch-activated map can provide all kinds of additional details about the vinters, the grapes, the climate, etc.

For those who listened closely to Gates' Sunday night keynote, there was a hint that gaming and office-productivity applications are in the pipeline for a Surface "desk," "meeting room table" or other kinds of future Surface systems, as well. From the transcript of Gates' remarks:

"Your desk, we won't just have the computer on the desk, but in the desk, so a meeting room table as you're collaborating, and the living room if you want to briefing up and play games with something like a Surface, or organize your photos. It will just be there, and easy to manipulate, easy to change and have multiple people connect up."

Gates and others at Microsoft are still betting big on natural user interfaces -- touch, speech, gestures -- as being the keys to the input kingdom. Supposedly, these input modes were going to take off during the "first digital decade." But Tablet PCs didn't take hold at anywhere near the rates he predicted.

While touch and speech will no doubt take off on cell phones and on-board auto systems, I admit I'm still am a doubter about how quickly or well they'll be adopted by PC users. Call me a Luddite, but if the Surface had a keyboard, I'd definitely prefer it over touch or speech.

What's your take on the Surface? Will touch technology drive the Surface? Or will Surface finally get more Microsoft users to make use of non-keyboard-based input technologies?

Topic: Microsoft

About

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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29 comments
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  • re: Will touch drive Microsoft surface sales

    [i]Call me a Luddite, but if the Surface had a keyboard, I?d definitely prefer it over touch or speech.[/i]

    I think I'm a bit like that... I like the keyboard, though digital or physical probably wouldn't matter too much on a surface that size. A combination of keyboard and touch might be the best way to get more people to start using it.
    Badgered
  • Totally depends on price.

    I can see this being put into restaurant tabletops, bars, as indicated, etc, but price will be key. If I owned a restaurant, I might, could possibly see me going to $200 extra per table to draw in consumers. For the home market, where does it go? About the only reasonable place is a coffee table, maybe with advanced remote capabilities, etc, but again, a LOW LOW price is key.

    Any information on pricing?

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
  • RE: Will touch drive Microsoft Surface sales or will Surface drive touch?

    Well, as far as I can tell, the price won't be $200. There are 5 infrared cameras inside the Surface, and that's not really cheap.
    The price will be far above $5000 (probably around $10000) at least at first. You can forget it for your home. The target is hotels and casinos, not small bars or restaurants.
    gdfg@...
  • $200? Are you dreaming?

    As far as I can tell, there are 5 infrared cameras in the Surface, and that's not really cheap.
    The price will be more around $10000. The target is not small bars or restaurants, but big hotels and casinos.
    gdfg@...
    • Probably am dreaming

      I am thinking that they won't only make one version. Maybe a simple 10" touchscreen front end connected to the server (the horsepower) providing an interface. Anyway, for someone with say 30 tables, @$200/table, $6K is hard to gamble on a risky proposition.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
      • Yes, 10 inch is good enough for many applications, and a CPU is NOT needed

        for each and every screen.

        But, a simple small multi-touch screen for $200 that has not brains and connects to a server might be the way to go. Some kind of dirt cheap object recognition (possibly RFID) would be interesting.
        DonnieBoy
  • the only way to know how touch is accepted...

    ...is to wait and see once Apple does it, not microsoft, who is years behind. their big, 5
    camera, heavy table, will be no match for whatever Apple has up their sleeves.

    Apple is shipping 2 touch products now. You think they're standing still? Microsot can
    only hit old products; that's why their current zune is a copy of Apple's last year iPod.
    Apple is always a step ahead.
    helzapoppin
    • Price is what will get this in the mainstream. A Chinese or Japenese

      manufacturer will figure out the essential features and size, and get this down under $500. They will also ditch Windows . . . .
      DonnieBoy
    • hey - your village called - can you go home?

      microsoft is behind, yet we have to wait to see how Apple copies what MS has done???
      Paul Fletcher
      • wrong number

        Let's see, Apple is SHIPPING two touch products, MS none. I think that puts Apple ahead. Apple has worked out the touch, the OS works with touch. Surface computer is probably not out of Apples reach if they want it.
        wjarvis@...
        • I would even bet

          that touch will be introduced in one of the next few iMacs.

          Why do you think they are doing away with the matte screens?
          Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
  • A product searching for a market

    In bars or hotel lobbies:
    It may have some interesting uses, but if I sit down with somebody to enjoy a glass of wine, my interest is not likely to be on the furniture - even if it is educational.

    In corporate meeting rooms:
    May be of some use, but most productive meetings require some structure. Surface computing may tend to lend itself more to a free-for-all type meeting.

    In the home:
    There may be some potential in the home, but it's probably far too costly. To be useful, it would also require more than one person in the household be interested in the same thing at the same time.
    HooNoze
    • The problem is the price. But even then, the market is limited. It does

      bring back memories of the PacMan tables at bars and pizza shops.
      DonnieBoy
  • As I recall, this runs in the thousands, but it needs to be under 500 and

    run Linux. An under 500 version with the important features would be a big hit in bars and restaurants, and even at home for that matter. If you could equip all seating positions with this for a reasonable price . . . .
    DonnieBoy
    • But is Linux suitable?

      Do you really think Linux is suitable for touch computing?

      I use XP/Vista on my tablet PC's, and important things like handwriting recognition, pen flicks, among other little touch inputs are important to me, and I never heard of Linux being capable of doing it all.

      So can Linux be usable for touch computing? Or is it just simply an OS for cheapies?
      quikboy
      • Those features have nothing to do with the OS, and they were NOT invented

        by MS. It would be just as easy for a manufacturer to use Linux, and then they could offer a more stable package for less money.
        DonnieBoy
    • Why the focus on the OS?

      This is beyond just Windows, this is about the experience MS is offering integrating hardware and software they have developed. It's about a SYSTEM developed by Microsoft. Would running it on Linux will make it cheap? HA! Don't make me laugh.

      MS didn't go out and buy tons of Monopoly sets and pay for the R&D with that money.

      When the Linux Foundation, or the LUG come up with a similar system then we'll talk.
      tikigawd
      • The Linux Foundation will NOT get into hardware. It will be a manufacturer

        that would have to build one based on Linux. But, somebody will probably build one a lot cheaper without all the questionable baroque hardware features, and of course without the bloated OS.
        DonnieBoy
        • Oooo sprinkle some Linux on it and everything will be magically inexpensive

          [i]The Linux Foundation will NOT get into hardware.[/i]

          Thank you. I know. That was my point...

          [i]It will be a manufacturer that would have to build one based on Linux... somebody will probably build one a lot cheaper.[/i]

          They MIGHT use Linux, if that's what's cheapest. But my point is that the OS is hardly the most expensive part of the machine. The interface program, no matter what OS is running under the hood would be a project by itself. The hardware design is a project by itself. The designed user experience is a project by itself. Whoever comes up with a similar device will have to work on many many things other than just an OS. So, until such a product comes out, stop bashing MS's product just because it's by MS.

          [i]without all the questionable baroque hardware features, and of course without the bloated OS[/i]

          What are these "questionable baroque hardware features" you're referring to?
          As for the "bloated" OS, you have no idea what MS has put into the machine. Sure, it's obviously some version of Windows, but you don't know how lean (or bloated) it is. In fact, you haven't even used the machine. When (or if) you use it, if you don't like it then you can bash it all you want. But please wait until you have some first-hand experience.

          Bashing a product, and saying some other ghost product would be sooo much better without even using it is just plain dumb.
          tikigawd
  • RE: Will touch drive Microsoft Surface sales or will Surface drive touch?

    Well, it depends, actually when we are using a certain technology like: keyboard for years then it is hard to get used to another techonology,I think the surface technology, will be benefecial for common users, not for software engineers and programmers and system administrators and so and so forth.
    abhishek0216@...