Microsoft Hints At Shipping New, Large Multi-Touch Devices

November 2, 2012 by Dave Haynes

Microsoft is planning to ship devices that use Perceptive Pixel’s multi-touch capabilities, through there are few details about the what’s and when’s.

This should come as no surprise as the software giant bought the small NYC startup this spring, presumably for its IP.

Jeff Han, who started and sold Perceptive Pixel to Microsoft (where he now works), “hinted at the news with a slide in a presentation at this week’s Build conference in Redmond,”  reports TechCrunch.

The slide said “Devices *are* coming” along with an email contact to get access to the hardware. He did not say when the devices would be available in the market.

While he did not say it outright in his presentation, Han clearly outlined the role multi-touch will have for almost any device Microsoft develops going forward. He said the enterprise and education markets have particular promise because they can be used in meeting rooms and classrooms. Multiple people can touch the displays, which can be be networked so people may interact remotely. This will all mean a new generation of apps that require us to think of the human as the interface. Interactions will vary for different people.

Han said in his presentation that multi-touch is the standard across the market, because touch is dead due to a number of challenges it faces, including: the “fat finger” problem (not precise enough); the “Midas touch” problem (no hover/tracking state); and the inability to discern which touch is which, a problem that makes for difficult UI choices. Further, touch is great for content manipulation but not as much for content creation.

Han said the opportunity will come with devices that integrate both the hardware and the software that enables touch and the use of a stylus.

The devices, which Microsoft prefers to call slates, run off Windows 8.

The idea of devices larger than tablets running true multi-touch, with the controls and experience consumers now get with handheld devices, has the potential to be a big deal for interactive retail and other public spaces where screens get installed. Han’s comment about which touch is which is spot-on.

However, and a big however, there is an issue with cost. The Perceptive Pixel products are, right now, almost like hand-made Rolls Royces. I have been in the company’s production facility near Portland, Oregon. Microsoft has to get these things mass manufactured and find some way to do the fine wiring that drives touch experience in a way that sahves costs but doesn’t compromise the responsiveness.

Here’s Microsoft head Steve Ballmer yakking about Perceptive Pixel and a nice little $80K slate that is “shipping” already.

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