You might think this headline is a joke, but it's not. Microsoft presented what equates to a forty inch tablet PC at the CES convention last week. Many have commented on Microsoft entering the tablet market with Windows 7 Tablets. There have been questions on whether Microsoft can deliver a computing device that doesn't have a keyboard or require a pen. After all, Windows 7's touch features are okay, but when combined with small controls in Windows 7, they aren't always the easiest to use without reaching for the mouse.
The irony is that Microsoft has been working with a touch-based system that lacks a keyboard for many years. They've had multi-touch working on their keyboardless device. Most people that have played with the device that Microsoft have wanted one. The thing that stopped most was not the desire to have it, but the five figure price.
Up to this point, the device couldn't really be called a tablet; however, if you were to take an Android tablet from 2010 and increase it screen size from 7 inches by a factor of 6 and do the same with it thickness, you might very well end up with a 40 inch screen on a device that is about 4 inches thick. Granted, this "tablet" is a bit big to carry around, so you might want to use it as a table instead.
If you haven't figured out my references to this point, I've been talking about Microsoft's Surface machines. The newest version they are work on is a forty inch device that is about four inches thick. The device they presented at CES is the Samsung SUR40 (see picture).
Microsoft Surface on a Samsung SUR40 (screen shot from
For all practical purposes, what the new Surface systems do match what tablets do. They have multi-touch interfaces and can run applications. You can connect to Internet, play games, and more. It is running a Microsoft operating system.
The Surface machine is more than just a standard table. One of the things that a Microsoft Surface machine can do that a tablet can't (today) is "see". The original Surface machines have cameras built into them that allowed tags placed on them to be read. The new machines have what is being called pixel sensing technology that in addition to recognizing touch can also "see" what is placed on the tablet. Set a piece of paper on the Surface and it can see what is on it using its pixel sensing technology. These infrared cameras allow it to scan information. The potential of this is huge.
With the original Surface machines costing five figures, the question of price was one quickly asked. Reports of a price currently put it at around $7,600 for the Samsung device. Still three or four times too high for the average consumer, but a lot lower than the previous release.
The end result is that while this might be the largest tablet, it is also one of the most expensive! More importantly, it is hard to look at the device and state that Microsoft has no good experience doing touch-based systems or tablets. Obviously, they really have been playing in the space for years. Let's hope they learn to shrink the experience and all the technology to something more portable and cost-effective as well!
For those of you that have been following Microsoft's Surface computers, there is one outstanding question to be answered. When Microsoft previously made a big deal out of the next release of the Surface, they were demonstrating "Second light". This was technology that displayed information onto a piece of plastic held above a Surface machine. What happens to Second Light with these new computers? When I get the answer to that question, I'll let you know. When push comes to shove, if we lose second light and get a four inch device with pixel sensing technology, then I believe the tradeoff will be worth it!