Microsoft gears up to mass produce large-screen touch displays

Microsoft gears up to mass produce large-screen touch displays

Summary: Two years after buying Perceptive Pixel, Microsoft is gearing up to start mass-producing large-screen touch devices.


Microsoft officials haven't said a whole lot about Perceptive Pixel, the large-screen touch display maker Microsoft bought back in 2012.


But Perceptive Pixel (PPI) may soon get more visibility in the Microsoft product line-up.

Stephen Elop, Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Devices, told attendees of Microsoft's Australian Partner Conference on September 2 that Microsoft was gearing up to "mass produce" PPI displays. That report comes via The Australian, which reported on Elop's remarks at the conference. (One of my Twitter contacts, @walksm8, confirmed Elop's PPI comments.)

Microsoft purchased PPI in July 2012 for an undisclosed amount. PPI's large-screen touch displays originally sold in the $80,000 range. But Microsoft execs said they were exploring ways to make the displays more affordable. (The 55-inch PPI flat-panel display currently sells for about $7,500 via various retailers/resellers.)

At the time Microsoft bought PPI, the team was folded into Microsoft's Office division because of the synergies between the Office team and PPI around improving meetings via technology. Making meetings more effective remains a priority for Microsoft, and specifically the OneNote, combined Skype/Lync and Power BI teams.

As part of Microsoft's July 2013 reorg, the PPI team was moved under the Devices team, now under Elop. But other teams across the company, including the unified Operating Systems Group, are engaged in work around making the touch- and pen-enabled interface on these devices more useful and more in-line with the "One Windows" work happening across the company. Microsoft's intention is to enable developers to write applications that shine on these large-screen devices, while not requiring them to deviate from the increasingly unified cross-device development platform Microsoft is building.

Elop didn't reveal any new details about pricing or distribution during his remarks this week. But the fact he mentioned PPI at all might mean we'll soon hear more about how Microsoft plans to try to capitalize on its big touch-screen devices.

Topics: Hardware, Collaboration, Emerging Tech, Microsoft


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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  • Sweet Spot for Pricing

    If they can get it down to $3999, I think I can justify them for not only my shared corporate office, but for my home office as well. I'm just hoping they can imbed Kinect as it would reallly make the device useful for demonstrations with gestures for presentations and might jump start development. At $150 for retail it would make sense to include it.
    • Video conference

      I don't know about gestures but it would make for an inexpensive video conferencing system with speaker tracking.
      Buster Friendly
  • Contacted PPI after BUILD 2012

    Since they didn't have pricing on their site. i asked them about the, I think 28 or 30" model since it was their smallest, to use on my workstation computer. They came back with nearly $4000.
    yeah good luck with that.

    Here's to seeing them come down in to a reasonable price range and be competitive. I don't see what they offer beyond the touchscreens you can already buy on the market right now, honestly.
    • A 28- or 30-inch model?

      Is there such a model? I only see 82-inch and 55-inch. Nothing smaller. Thanks! MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • PPI sizes

        The 27" was a PPI model that was discontinued prior to the acquisition.
    • PPI contact

      I would be interested to know who you talked to at PPI that gave you the pricing for the smaller models... I haven't been able to get any info!!!
  • Good Move ...

    If they can get the price down to a sensible level, they'll have a large, untapped market to themselves.

    But it all depends on what they mean by 'large'.
    • You can always use two

      Even if it's not big enough for your conference room, you can always go multi-monitor. One screen for data display and another for notes.
      Buster Friendly
  • 10 years

    I think that in 10 years or so, any screen that is not touch enabled is going to seem old fashioned and quaint, like that old Curtis Mathes TV in your grand pappy's basement.
    • Maybe, maybe not.

      I love touch screen phones, pda's and tablets. I love using Windows 8 on my Surface Pro. But I still have no desire for a touch screen on my desktop. Not only do I not want my desktop monitor covered in fingerprints, I don't want it to have the super glossy and reflective panel needed to comfortably facilitate touch input.

      Add to this the fact that reaching about a foot ahead and above a desk surface, and the amount of physical movement necessary across a 28-30 inch monitor isn't remotely ergonomic, and I have my doubts that touch will be ubiquitous on desktop systems. Maybe on smaller all-in-ones used for basic tasks, but touch input for traditional desktop tasks is still largely a solution in need of a problem.
      • It won't be 10 years, it'll be 5, tops.

        ... but no law says you have to touch it. The option will be there, as standard. Your kids might gets their fingerprints all over it ....
      • Handy for multiple monitors

        It's a pain moving a cursor from the left of 3 monitors to the right one to click a button and then move back to the left. I would love to just reach out and touch it, to say nothing of not being able to locate the cursor sometimes..
      • Re. Maybe, maybe not.

        I anticipate people will prefer their large touchscreen desktops to be placed below their fingers with the lower-center area of the screen becoming a virtual keyboard and trackspace. It would be inconvenient to try reaching to the furthest two corners of the screen. Also, most people will not have it placed flat like a tabletop nor perpendicular to the floor like a traditional monitor but at an angle, like a podium.
      • 50" and 80" Monitor !!! On ya desktop?

        I think you've missed the point mate ;-) these devices are not replacing your desktop computer's monitors... It's replacing your physical desktop, the keyboard, the mouse mat, the various paper debris and doodles. You mount them horizontally not vertically. It see's what you place on the surface ( like a scanner... Recall the demos given where guy places his physical business card against screen and then removes it leaving an image of it on the screen ). Perhaps a couple of mouse mats, one for each conventional monitor.

        But frankly, the idea of sticking a couple 80" monitors on ya desk is ridiculous.
  • The future

    I've got a 55" PPI in my cubicle; running OneNote it makes the world's greatest whiteboard. I also have the 40" SUR40 PixelSense device, and have led a number of projects to develop large form factor, multi-user software. These devices are the future, they will be everywhere in a few years. However, the UX for large multi-user devices needs to be totally different than traditional devices.

    Microsoft's SDK they originally developed for the PixelSense devices is very unique in providing a UI framework designed for multiple users--try having two people use the same Windows 8, Android or iPad app at the same time and you'll quickly run into problems. I want to know what happened to the team that created that API, and if those technologies are being folded into the main WinRT platform. Without a real multi-user API, new PPI devices will be hamstrung. I couldn't get an answer at BUILD, but maybe Mary Jo has better sources.
    • It is happening ...

      ... "BBC Click" showed a 'tabletop' tablet a few months ago; it was a prototype, and had multi-users.

      I regret I cannot recall the maker, or the OS.

      But they're out there ...
      • Probably the touch table

        It was probably that Microsoft touch table demo which they called surface computing. I'm pretty sure that's where the Surface brand came from.
        Buster Friendly
  • The meme is planted.

    So all of that product placement on Hawaii 5-0 will finally pay off.
  • Microsoft gears up to mass produce large-screen touch displays

    It will be interesting to see what kind of ideas Microsoft and its partners will come up with. I believe Bill Gates has 2 of these or something similar in his office.
    • big display for android devices

      that's the best M$ can hope for!
      LlNUX Geek