Kinectified PC ... not yet

Could Microsoft be planning to bring the Xbox 260 Kinect technology to the PC? Maybe, but not yet.

Could Microsoft be planning to bring the Xbox 260 Kinect technology to the PC? Maybe, but not yet.

My ZDNet colleague Mary Jo Foley brings up the possibility:

On November 4, Microsoft began selling its Kinect sensors for Xbox at retail. Gamers — and those with a hidden inner gamer just waiting to break free without a controller — your star ship has arrived.

But what about those of us who don’t care about gaming (even of the non-shooter variety)? Those who don’t have TVs, and/or enough room in their apartments, dorm rooms or tree houses to wave our hands and partake of the current Kinect offering? We may not have to wait all that long to derive some benefit from Microsoft’s newly commercialized NUI (natural user interface).

Maybe, but not yet, and here's why.

First, the technical issues.

The Kinect device is a nexus of several different technologies. Our friends at iFixit got their hands on a Kinect and took it apart and found that there's a lot packed into that device - two cameras, an IR projector, four microphones, a panning head (on a rather weak motor assembly), a three-axis accelerometer, a fan and 64MB of DDR2 RAM. That's a lot of hardware for $150, and I suspect that Microsoft isn't making much money on each device sold (in fact, at this stage I wouldn't be surprised if it's selling them at a loss if you factor in R&D and marketing, as this is a device designed to solidify the Xbox 360's market position more than anything else).

This is a lot of hardware to cram into a notebook, tablet or even a desktop screen. In fact, it its current configuration, it doesn't seem like something that could be integrated into such a set up, especially given the moving parts that the gadget currently contains.

Then there's the price factor.

OEMs and consumers are price-sensitive, and while I'm sure that Microsoft would just love to be able to license Kinect technology to OEMs and tie Windows to the PC even further (and possibly lock Apple out of something new and exciting), I just don't see OEMs being all that thrilled about jacking up the price of desktops systems (forget about tablets and notebook, this technology is not suited for these applications, for reasons outlined above).

Then there's the issue of ergonomics.

While some of us might be happy with all that hand-waving when gaming, this might not be the case when it comes to doing real work on such systems. "Gorilla Arm Syndrome" pretty much rules out touchscreen notebook displays because of the problems related to having your arms out for extended periods.

Kinectified PC ... not yet.