Peter VanRysdam / Digital Marketing / March 6th, 2008

Microsoft Surface is Awesome! Microsoft Berets, Not So Much.

So I’m still out here at MIX.  Going great.  There was an ice cream bar.  Very classy.

Anyhow, I went to a session about the business of Silverlight.  I expected to hear tips for selling the technology to clients, different implementations, etc.  Instead, I sat through about thirty minutes of the guy explaining what silverlight is.  I’m sorry, but it’s the afternoon of day two at a conference of primarily developers.  We know what Silverlight is.  Otherwise, why did we clap at the keynote when they showed off a sample of things in 2.0?  I don’t make a habit of clapping for things I’m not familiar with.

So, getting to the silver lining.  I excused myself from Silverlight for dummies and headed up to the Sandbox.  It’s an area at the conference with whiteboards and couches for impromptu brainstorming, demos of windows mobile devices, a place to grab free windows mobile berets (why I grabbed two, I still don’t know), and a couple of surface tables.

To take a page out of the conference speakers playbook, I’ll quickly recap for you what surface is.  So if you’re already familiar with it, just skip ahead.  Surface is a 30 inch tabletop display that uses touch (including multi touch) as its interaction medium.  No keyboard, no mouse.  Just your finger (or up to 50 at once I was told today).  I was interested to learn today that it actually utilizes several cameras to monitor movements, and then the image itself is projected from below.  At least that means if the glass breaks, it’s not the entire monitor!

Surface simply runs around Windows Vista, leaving the door opened for interaction with peripherals and simple development.  In fact, you use the same development tools you would for any other application.  Pretty cool.

So I’d seen the videos before on it, and I knew what it could do.  But I didn’t realize just how cool it’s going to be until I touched it.  It just comes so naturally.  Want to see a photo?  Physically grab it, spin it, resize it.  The real power is the intuitiveness of it.  I guarantee someone who has never spent any time on a computer would walk up and be able to use it right away.  No training. 

There’s no doubt I would go to a bar specifically if it had surface tables.  Sure, the novelty will wear off, but novelty aside, your hands are your best interface device. 

I’ve got a great idea for something to create.  Gotta get my hands on the SDK.  Look for my idea soon at an expensive table near you.