On June 9 at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, Microsoft provided the public with its first chance to touch and see the Surface digital-interactive tabletop, which the company unveiled officially on May 30. The Surface -- technology formerly codenamed "PlayTable" and, later, "Milan" -- is a software-hardware combo that a handful of Microsoft customers will roll out in November 2007.
In the Sheraton New York lobby, vacationers, kids, techies and other interested parties crowded around three Surface demo stations. I edged my way in and overheard a seemingly middle-school-aged boy ask when and whether Microsoft planned to deliver a Surface software development kit (SDK). The answer: The SDK already exists, but Microsoft is making it available to selected partners only. The boy, who seemed ready to rush upstairs and code his first Surface app, was crestfallen.
The Sheraton crowd seemed especially interested in the prototype Surface music-catalog/purchasing demo application. The drink-ordering application also was popular among the Surface demo attendees.
It was rather dark inside the Surface demo tent in the Sheraton Lobby. But the crowd seemed engaged and ready to try their hand at sizing photos using Surface's touch and multi-touch interface capabilities. Microsoft and Starwood were expecting hundreds of demo attendees between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. EST on July 9. Sheraton invited guests at all of its New York properties to check out the demo.
I asked Microsoft to let me take a shot of what's inside the Surface coffee-table prototype. Officials declined, saying it was difficult to open up the "black box." But under the Surface of the surface, there's a Vista PC running the "Vision Server" software layer, as well as five light-projecting cameras, the Softies said. The cameras are filtered for the infrared spectrum only. No RFID readers built in -- yet.
Up on the 44th Floor of the New York Sheraton, Microsoft also demo'd the Surface in a quieter setting.