ms-etchableWhen Microsoft Surface (code name Milan) was first released in April 2008 it introduced us to a real of touch centric interactive medium for the business world. Microsoft Surface was squarely targeted at all kinds of retail industries and true multi touch technology and gesture recognition which could track the motion of hands or objects. The original Microsoft Surface featured a 30 inch reflective surface and was designed for 360 degree interaction with the ability to track as many as 52 touches at a time. The device was seen at hotels, AT&T stores, MSNBC Presidential race, and even CSI Miami solved a case using the surface.

While everyone that sees the Surface was ultra impressed, the question with a new a piece of hardware like this is “How do I get my hands on one?”, and Microsoft's answer was clear stated with the pricing points. The commercial cost $12500, and for the developers … $15000. Initially this was also being pitched as an in home piece of hardware, the center piece of a party, the quick way to view photos from coffee table, it was only later that it rapidly morphed into a retail only product (of course due to the price). So we have what at the time was a wonderful piece of hardware with very little opportunity for developers to get in on the ground and really get a sense for the power, versatility and fundamental business opportunities. So for most consumers this was a retail device they never got to see and for the vast majority of the developer community it amounted to vaporware.

To be sure, Microsoft had touch enabled devices for an awful long time but as is the case with its non gaming, non pc, consumer devices they were never able to capture general consumer imagination. So what I always felt was missing from the original vision of Surface was real *consumer expectation* of multi touch enabled devices. Unfortunately this kind of expectation cannot necessarily be spread without some equivalent and compatible consumer device. With the advent of iPad (and its touch centric cousins) we now have such devices in popular demand. We have consumer rush for devices that respond perfectly to our various prestidigitations. We are creating in essence a new set of consumers looking for interaction on more and more profiles.

For me the introduction of Microsoft Surface 2 during the Consumer Electronics Show was not only a much more aptly timed device but came with enough new features to make a deeper splash in the retail market and even a few more vertical markets. Microsoft created the display in partnership with Samsung to respond to more than touch (it sees you), the following represents a list of touted updates:

  • Slim device. The new hardware is 4 inches thin.
  • A richer visual experience. With the rich color saturation from a full HD display and a larger screen, Surface offers a compelling, immersive visual experience that draws people in.
  • A vision-based touch experience. With PixelSense™, Microsoft Surface sees and responds to touch and real world objects.
  • Touch-enabled from start to finish. With Windows 7 and Surface 2.0, there is no need for a keyboard and mouse for setup and configuration.
  • New Quick Controls. Venue staff can adjust basic settings like volume, brightness, and input source.
  • More customization options. An improved configuration utility means you can quickly make changes to background images, configure applications, and modify settings without getting into code.
  • Easier remote administration. Windows PowerShell scripts are easy to use and create, so Surface can be deployed in an enterprise setting.
  • Streamlined development for touch. The Microsoft Surface 2.0 platform makes development easier with applications for Windows 7 that run on Windows Touch devices and with enhanced capabilities on the Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface.
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The price points appears to be in the range of $7600, and while this is no consumer device this is quite and impressive piece of hardware no matter which way you look at it.