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Bumps on the road to Microsoft's Surface
Written by Daniel   
Friday, 09 November 2007 10:16
Bumps on the road to Microsoft's Surface
By Ina Fried
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: November 8, 2007, 2:53 PM PST
Although Microsoft is still getting plenty of "oohs" and "aahs" when it demos its Surface computer, the company is finding the task of bringing the tabletop computer to market a little rougher than it anticipated.

The software maker's initial plan was to get partners with the touch-screen machines up and running as early as this month. Now it estimates it will take until spring before the devices start showing up in locations like Sheraton hotels, Harrah's casinos, and T-Mobile retail locations.

Part of the holdup has been in developing the custom software each of those partners needs, as well as making sure the hardware is suited to their locations.

"What we have found out is this is not a one-size-fits-all solution," said Mark Bolger, a senior director in Microsoft's surface computing unit. Microsoft had already spent four years developing the product before going public this May.
The product, originally code-named Milan, looks a bit like a 1980s sit-down Ms. Pac Man machine, but uses infrared cameras and a projector to create a touch-screen that can respond to multiple users' hand gestures, as well as interact with other objects.

Even as the short-term work proves a bit thorny, the company is growing more enthusiastic about the eventual market for its devices, Bolger said. Since the Surface's May unveiling, Microsoft has gotten more than 2,000 inquiries from companies in 50 countries and 25 different industries.

While it remains focused on its early launch partners, Microsoft hopes to broaden the product in short order to other companies and other industries.

It has yet to launch a public developer's kit, but it has set up a partner advisory council to get outside ideas on what markets might be most ripe. As a result of that feedback, it's speeding up plans to move into the government, education, and enterprise arenas, in addition to the current areas of focus--hospitality and retail, Bolger said.... More       Comment in the Forums

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