Today, Microsoft demo'd a very interesting hardware and software package called Surface. Surface is this tabletop computer that uses a 'multi-touch' interface to allow you to 'grab' things, move them around, stretch them etc. all on the table. The demo showed a pile of photos scattered around on the table. You can then grab a photo on the screen, rotate it, stretch it out, shrink it down, etc. You can put a digital camera on the table and the tabletop computer instantly recognizes it and pulls all the photos out of the camera, 'tossing' them onto the table along with the rest. You can then manipulate those photos and drag them back onto the camera. They even had this incredibly cool effect where it looks like you are looking down into a pool of water. You see all these different color stones at the bottom of the pool of water and you can tap the surface of the 'water' and it leaves little waves.
What did I think of this? I had a couple thoughts. Admittingly my first thought was the conspiracy theory thought. "Oh look. They are demoing a multi-touch product as an attempt to beat Apple to the punch." Apple is releasing the iPhone next month and it will contain a multi-touch interface very similar to what was demoed here. The difference is the iPhone is actually a real product! You will be able to buy it next month. What about Microsoft Surface? It costs $5,000 and consumers will NOT be able to buy it. It will be mostly targeted at deep pocketed businesses.
Once again Microsoft demos a technology that consumers can't get. When is Microsoft going to stop screwing their consumers in favor of business customers? Yes, you can make a lot of money selling to businesses, but there are an awful lot of consumers out there who would love this technology. As soon as I saw this technology, my first thought was that this would be a VERY cool technology to have on a Tablet PC. Microsoft hasn't had much luck selling Tablet PCs. This could have very easily given them a way to sell A LOT more tablet PCs. Hell, that water effect alone would be so cool, it would sell Tablet PCs.
I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Apple includes real multi-touch functionality in Leopard. Once again, Microsoft over-promises but under-delivers. And Apple, no doubt will as usual under-promise but over-deliver.
*Sigh* Microsoft, I really want to like your products, but you seem to have a gift for making that not happen.