Microsoft: Asia ready to touch

While Redmond's first Surface tabletop platform was not a mainstream product, updated version available later this year will appeal to touch-screen savvy users, says company exec.

SINGAPORE--The first iteration of Microsoft Surface tabletop computing system in 2008 was not geared for mainstream use, but the upcoming Surface 2.0 will appeal to users in the Asia-Pacific region, according to an executive.

Microsoft Surface demo
Credit: Aloysius Low/CNET Asia

In a media briefing Friday, Somanna Palacanda, Microsoft's director of Surface marketing, said the first generation of Surface built up the ecosystem and allowed Redmond to gather feedback from customers on what they wanted from a tabletop system. Some of the requests by customers were for a thinner device--the first-gen system was 21-inch thick--able to be hung on a wall as well as a cheaper product, he said.

Commercial customers forked out US$12,500 for the original Surface, ZDNet Asia's sister site CNET reported in 2008.

Palacanda also unveiled during the event, the Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface for the Singapore market. Running on Surface 2.0, the 40-inch wide, 4-inch thick touch-screen system will retail at US$8,600 here from early September.

The system is targeted at verticals such as retail, hospitality, automotive, banking and healthcare, he noted.

Asked how Microsoft differentiates Surface from other touch-screen computers, Palacanda said the system is able to detect more interactions on the screen. He added that regular touch-screen devices are used for searching information but Surface allows users to manipulate and design digital works among other functionalities.

The system's US$8,600 price point offers "a lot of value" in terms of user experience, he said, adding that companies will be willing to invest in such a system to enhance their branding efforts. Citing Barclays as an example, Palacanda said the bank saw a 50 percent increase in sales when it launched Surface 1.0.

Palacanda also revealed that Microsoft will not be building an appstore for Surface as enterprises prefer to have personalized and customized applications. However, Microsoft intends to help showcase application developers so that its partners know what vertical applications are available.

While Surface 1.0 was not a mass-market product, Palacanda believes that the Asia-Pacific region is "primed" for Surface 2.0. He attributed this to the influx of touch-screen devices which have familiarized users to the touch functionality.