Microsoft unveiled a new touch screen computer dubbed Microsoft Surface at the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference, where we also expect today Palm to introduce a new product category.
Microsoft Surface is a gesture based touch panel interface that lets you 'grab' digital information with your hands, interacting with content by touch and gesture, without the use of a mouse or keyboard. The UI is multi-touch aware, so it can understand gestures like zooming into a photo with two fingers.
Surface can be used by multiple users at the same time enabling you to perform collaborative tasks. The coffee table computer also recognizes physical objects when placed on the screen. “With Surface, we are creating more intuitive ways for people to interact with technology,” Ballmer said. “We see this as a multibillion dollar category, and we envision a time when surface computing technologies will be pervasive, from tabletops and counters to the hallway mirror. Surface is the first step in realizing that vision.”
Surface will be shipped to partners with a portfolio of basic applications, including photos, music and virtual concierge applications that can be customized to provide their customers with unique experiences.
Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., and T-Mobile USA Inc. will be some of the first companies to provide unique Surface experiences for their customers.
Harrah’s Entertainment will implement a virtual concierge helping you find dining, entertainment, night life and gaming experiences.
At T-Mobile retail stores you might be able to place different cell phones on Surface’s interactive surface where product features, prices and phone plans would appear so they could be easily compared.
The measurements of Surface are 22 inches high, 21 inches deep and 42 inches wide. Surface runs on Windows Vista and has wired Ethernet 10/100 and wireless 802.11 b/g and Bluetooth 2.0. Microsoft does not disclose what PC hardware is inside the Surface. With these boxy measurements the 30 inch touch screen computer is only usable as coffee table.
Microsoft says that at the end of this year, you will be able to interact with Surface in hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and public entertainment venues. The price for the first Surface computer is between $5,000 and $10,000 each.
Microsoft has setup a web site at surface.com (currently not live) providing details about this new computing category. See hi-res photos of Surface in our gallery.