Personal Computers

Microsoft Begins Hawking Surface 2.0, Its Second-Gen Table-Sized Tablet

The Microsoft Surface 2.0, a coffee-table-sized, tablet-like touchscreen computer, is ready for preorder in 23 countries, including the United States.

The Surface first emerged in 2007 and used cameras and its touchscreen to interact with people and objects. The model available for preorder is called the “SUR40” and is manufactured by Samsung. Microsoft indicated it will focus on the commercial business and professional audience, including education, professional services, healthcare and retail. Units are expected to ship by early 2012.

The SUR40 has a diagonal size of 40 inches with a 1080p screen resolution of 1,920 by 1,080. The Surface 2.0 no longer relies on the cameras of the original model. The unit has a feature called “PixelSense,” which allows the LCD to recognize fingers, hands and objects placed on the screen, including more than 50 simultaneous touch points. The pixels see what is happening on the screen and immediately interpret the data.

The SUR40 is only four inches thick, so it can be mounted on walls or installed into custom enclosures. Microsoft has distributed tools to developers so that apps can take full advantage of the technology. Microsoft and Samsung have not released a price point yet, but reports put the tag between US$8,400 and $15,000. The SUR40 recently made Popular Science’s Best of What’s New list.

Nice App — Tiny Market

The price point could discourage wide sales. Given that, sales will probably be restricted to businesses.

“This is still too pricey for most folks,” Roger Kay founder and principle of Endpoint Technologies, told TechNewsWorld. “Microsoft and Samsung are perhaps trying to skim the very top demographic with a more consumerish look.”

There will be a few individuals who will want this in their living rooms, noted Kay.

“Most of these units have been going into shared facilities — places like casinos, hotels and restaurants,” said Kay.

Given that, Kay thinks Surface is pretty fun. “So it will become an expensive toy for a few, and an interesting tool for commercial establishments,” said Kay. “Over time, the price could come down and more individuals would buy it.”

The product won’t likely attract a large number of developers, Kay added.

“Developers respond to customer needs,” said Kay. “So if a casino wants a drink-ordering, tab-keeping app, a developer will step up and do it. If the price comes down to, say, under $2,000, then a larger market could develop, but that could take a while.”

Big Screen for Big Buyers

With the large screen and the horizontal surface, the Surface is designed for simultaneous, collaborative use.

“This is a niche application that could be used for sales, design collaboration and gaming,” Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, told TechNewsWorld. “Haven’t you sat at a bar in Vegas and played video poker? Well, you could do it on this.”

Developers, McGregor said, will work with Surface if it connects with the user’s game console, cellphone and tablet, but he is doubtful the product will find a large market.

“The point is, you don’t need the entire performance of a PC or the bulk of a Windows OS. I see very little need for a full-blown PC in a horizontal configuration,” said McGregor.

“I think you’ll start seeing more large screens for a variety of functions and many will be computing devices,” he added. “The question is, will they be full-blown PCs?”

“What you end up with is a PC that is not ergonomically friendly and is still rather bulky because of the use of traditional screen technology,” McGregor explained.

If the product had some groundbreaking features, it may have some real value.

“If you could use 3D holographic projections, this would be seriously cool, but we are not there yet,” said McGregor. “The result is a different orientation of a PC for niche markets and applications. However, it does demonstrate different usage models, such as design collaboration.”

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