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The Microsoft Surface Computer

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Our Guest Blogger, Charlie Mann, writes the ByzzBytes and SuperFitness, newspaper columns distributed within the US by American News Features Syndicate. He has published 6 novels and written fitness books with such celebrities as Ken Norton, the former World Heavy Weight Champion. He wanted to share his review of of the latest products with the readers of InventorSpot.com.

Here's his article:

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Using Microsoft's television content partner NBC as a splashy backdrop, the software and hardware giant released on the morning show, Today, the details of a completely new generation of computer. Much smaller than most business mainframe computers, yet no real kin to the laptop and mouse world of micro computers, the new Microsoft Surface Computer lets you use your hands on a touch sensitive screen to manipulate pictures and data. The Microsoft Surface computer, in its current incarnation, will serve the business world well. It should will be available this winter. The prototype is available for use by the public at the New York Hotel and Tower beginning June 9, 2007.

In 2001, Stevie Bathiche of Microsoft Hardware and Andy Wilson of Microsoft Research were assigned to do basic research and idea development for technology that would keep Microsoft Corporation in the top tier of software and hardware makers. With their complimentary expertise they had regular brainstorm sessions. Eventually, they started talking about an idea for an interactive table that could understand the manipulation of physical pieces on its surface.

Microsoft announced a totally new class of computers recently at The Wall Street Journal's ‘All Thing's Digital' conference in Carlsbad, CA. According to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the "Microsoft Surface - as the product has been dubbed - is an innovation that will change the way people shop, dine, entertain and live".

Corporate Vice President, Tom Gibbons, who runs Microsoft's Productivity and Extended Consumer Experiences Group, presents his latest product. The new Microsoft Surface is said to have a completely intuitive and liberating way to interact with digital content. It blurs the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. You use your hands on the computer's surface, or lay everyday objects on the surface and the computer below will help you make a decision, or complete a task.

When used in such places as a paint or hardware store you can use it to make such decisions as the color to match a room in a picture, or the brush, roller, or other tools that need to be purchased. Although the product will not be available to the general computer market for half a year or more, it is expected to initially be used in bars, restaurants, and casinos very soon. There you will be able to view a menu, select a drink, or gamble from the surface of the new class of devices. The first companies to roll out Surface will be Harrah's Entertainment, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, T-Mobile USA plus a distributor, International Game Technology (which makes the IGT line of gaming devices).

Although under development by others as well, Microsoft is the first major technology company to bring surface computing to market in a commercially ready product. Although there are some companies working on similar technology projects, nobody is doing exactly what they are with Surface.

According to Gibbons, it's a powerful technology that morphs and computes with inputs from the surface with the user's hands or such wireless devices as wireless digital cameras that give the computer its cool effect. You can lay a camera on the surface, and out will pop the digital images stored in the wireless device. You can then morph the images, or sort them into files on the hard disk storage of the computer.

According to Microsoft, the new surface computer is just as big a generational step as the movement was from DOS to the Windows environment for most computers users. The new Surface Computer is supposed to be much less intimidating to the average user, and its widespread use will greatly increase the portion of the population that will use computers. Features available in mobile phones, PCs, and other electronic devices like digital cameras aren't even used because the technology is intimidating. Surface computing is predicted to break down traditional barriers to technology.

The Surface Computer represents an extension of Chairman Gates' vision for Microsoft to develop end-to-end hardware, software, and services. Surface computing, promises Gibbons, "is going to revolutionize everyday lives, much like the way ATMs changed how we get money from the bank. Surface lets us manipulate a tremendous amount of information with our hands so that the content works with you rather than for you".

Initially, the computer is not for the consumer market. The targets now are half a million high-end restaurants, hotels, and retailers in the U.S. While that will be an impressively profitable market segment, if Microsoft can win its share, it will be the next generation of Surface Computing technology that will bring most of us computing satisfaction.

That's quite impressive. We've looked at the market extensively, and when you consider that the revenue-generating opportunities include services, hardware and software, we believe there will be a multi-billion-dollar addressable market for surface computing.

According to Gibbons "right now we're focusing on launching this surface computer into public spaces. Future versions of Surface will incorporate a myriad of device-sync capabilities. For instance, users could set a digital camera or mobile phone on the surface and watch as their pictures spill out across the table".

There is a vast world of digital content available in the world for such a device as the Surface Computer. The digital music, photo images, and digital data content will only grow into the future. As the price of the Surface Computer technology represents comes down, we will see the real benefit from the technology.

Surface is a 30-inch display in a table-like form that's easy for individuals or small groups to interact in a way that feels familiar, just like in the real world. Surface can simultaneously recognize dozens of movements such as touch, gestures, and actual unique objects that have identification tags similar to bar codes.

The intuitive user interface works without a traditional mouse or keyboard, allowing people to interact with content and information by using their hands and natural movements. Users are able to access information either on their own or collaboratively with their friends and families, unlike any experience available today. Surface computing features four key attributes:

  • ADVANCE \d 6Direct interaction. Users can actually "grab" digital information with their hands and interact with content through touch and gesture, without the use of a mouse or keyboard.
  • Multi-touch contact. Surface computing recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger as with a typical touch screen, but up to dozens of items at once.
  • Multi-user experience. The horizontal form makes it easy for several people to gather around surface computers, providing a collaborative, face-to-face computing experience.
  • Object recognition. Users can place physical objects on the surface to trigger different types of digital responses, including the transfer of digital content.

Charlie Mann
Guest Blogger
InventorSpot.com