After Two Years, Microsoft’s Surface Tabletop Computer Hasn’t Revolutionized Anything. Yet.

By  |  Friday, May 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Microsoft SurfaceWhen Microsoft unveiled its Surface tabletop computer two years ago, the company vowed to “break down traditional barriers between people and technology.” The revolution has not happened–yet. Microsoft is expanding Surface into new markets, but adoption has thus far been confined to customers in specific markets.

Last summer, the company embarked on pilot programs with AT&T and Sheraton Hotels that set specific goals. AT&T wanted to make its retail experience more enjoyable and engaging (selling more products in the process). Sheraton, meanwhile, was attempting to re-brand itself, and wanted to be associated with an innovative product, said Matthew Champagne, director of product management for the Surface team at Microsoft.

The AT&T pilot program ended one month ago, and its Surface units now sit in AT&T’s labs, he said, adding that Sheraton still has Surface deployed at its hotels. Beyond those tests, Microsoft has been targeting automotive dealerships, financial services, health care and hospitality services, and retailers, as well as the public sector.

Today, Surface is available in both the United States and Canada, in addition to 12 new markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Champagne said. However, the question remains: where can you find one in the wild?

Customers remain few in number, but Champagne noted that Surface has had a positive affect on its customers’ bottom line. The i-Bar in Harrah’s Rio Las Vegas casino experienced an 19% increase in sales after it deployed Surface, and Barclay’s Bank at Piccadilly Circus in the UK experienced a 50% increase in sales for one product through Surface, he said.

Other deployments can be found at Bank of America in Charlotte, NC (another pilot), and Cook Children’s Health System in Fort Worth, TX. Cook’s is using Surface to rehabilitate patients through interactions with objects and the PC’s ability to recognize them, he said.

First responders used Surface to coordinate their efforts at the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa, FL. In that instance, Surface was integrated with mapping technology to provide authorities with a bird’s eye view of incidents that required their attention.

While Champagne did not say what new form factors Microsoft would introduce in the future, he did not rule it out smaller versions of Surface, saying that it would be a “natural progression” of the technology to become miniaturized.

Additionally, the company now has nearly 200 partners in the Surface ecosystem helping Microsoft to design new interaction roles for applications that leverage multi-touch, he added.

According to a recent BBC report, the next generation of the technology will not surface for another two to three years. It’s also possible that Microsoft is preparing a consumer version that would cost between $5,000-$10,000. (Current Surface setups typically cost $10,000.)

Surface could introduce a new paradigm for computing to the living room, but its cost remains prohibitive. It will be years before the typical household has computerized furniture a la Star Trek, but I believe that Microsoft has been pragmatic enough with its expectations for the technology that Surface will be around when that does happen.


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Patrick Moorhead Says:

    I saw it once at Vegas casino (maybe the one you reference) and about 12 trade shows including SxSW.

  2. David Worthington Says:

    I've only seen them on the floor at trade shows. The Mandalay Bay bar in Vegas has something like it, but it is not a Surface.

  3. Ken Says:

    Early Adopters: Harrah’s Entertainment Tests the Business Case for Surface Computing

  4. David Worthington Says:

    @Ken thanks

  5. contactsunny Says:

    I’ve read & seen a lot about the Surface. But the prob is I’m in India, & it’ll take a lot of time for the Surface to come here. I’m just waiting.

  6. Marlee Davidson Says:

    The Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Seattle has one in their lobby seating area as a coffee table/map/guide to Seattle.

  7. IcyFog Says:

    I haven’t seen them anywhere.
    I literally laughed out loud and Sheraton, wanting to re-brand itself as innovative, partnered with Microsoft.
    The bigger the ship the harder it is turn, and Microsoft is a titanic.

  8. Ghana web Says:

    I literally laughed out loud and Sheraton, wanting to re-brand itself as innovative, partnered with Microsoft. Ghana web

  9. Brandon Slots Says:

    I wonder if the developer’s documentation for Surface will ever be available for free online to developers to explore, as I am pretty sure people will find more uses for it if there are more practical and useful applications developed for the platform.

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