Microsoft Surface, iPhone and the future of UI
While interning at Microsoft during the summer of 2005, I had the opportunity to meet with the team working on the just announced Surface. Its difficult not to get excited about this type of technology. Its pervasive, consuming, and introduces new markets for software.
Surface is a large horizontal display that enables users to interact through touch, natural gestures, and physical objects. This means no "legacy" input devices such as the mouse or keyboard. The press release states that near the end of this year Surface will be in "hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and public entertainment venues."
So, this tells us that Surface is expensive. Really expensive. Expensive enough that it isn't being marketed to consumers for the home. It will over time. And it will be a hit. The computer will be social. Imagine playing Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, or (better yet) Ticket to Ride with your family. Or watching the NBA playoffs on the wall while interacting with player stats, chatting with friends, and annotating the last play like the announcers do on your coffee table.
This is the future of UI. And it will be revolutionary. Whether it takes is a matter of cost. From the press release, I see it nothing more than a boutique technology, much like laser disc and touch screen technology 15 to 20 years ago.
Apple has done the same with iPhone. But there has been concern that Apple will not open iPhone up to 3rd party applications. Surface, on the other hand, is what Microsoft does best...a platform. Apple is doing what it does best. A human accessory. iPod, MacBook, iPhone. Apple's hardware compliment a person's personality. Microsoft's hardware, XBOX, tablet, and now Surface, augment a person's capability.