CeBIT 2008: Microsoft Demonstrates Surface

For months stories about it have been percolating through the web. Now Microsoft wants to demonstrate it before a large audience at CeBIT - the desk computer called "Surface" that the Redmonders have been wording on for the past five years.

"This is the computer of the future - anyone can use it without any kind of training" enthuses Achim Berg, CEO of Microsoft Germany, when the conversation turns toward the tabletop computer. Steve Ballmer wants to bring it to CeBIT in Hannover. He has big plans for it, too. After six years of R&D, the new computer is meant to "start an IT revolution", says Berg.

Basically, Microsoft's "Surface" is an intelligent tabletop - with a good deal of computing power below the, well, surface, naturally. It works like a big touch screen but has a few additional tricks up its sleeve. For example, when a digital camera or MP3 player is placed on it, the data stored on the device can be transferred to Surface at the touch of a button. A tap of your finger will let you save, play or send music or digital images.

Used as a table in a restaurant, Surface could show you the menu and distract you with a game or other entertainment until your food arrives. The device is also supposed to be able to determine the content of a glass resting on it as well as the amount left in it, probably with the help of some form of ID attached to it. Thus, it takes on the role of an electronic waiter. We can hear it now: "Garcon, could you bring me another - oh, why thanks! That was quick!"Microsoft already demonstrated this modern-day wishing table at CES 2008:

In the US, initial applications for Surface would be cell-phone shops where customers could get information about their phone or top up their credit. Expect to see Surface showing up in European countries within the next three or so years. Of course Microsoft's tabletop computer also has its critics which have already posted parody videos on Youtube. The common message: What is it that this thing can do that modern smart phones or other gadgets can't? Other than be large, immobile and pricey, at $10.000.

You can visit Microsoft in Hall 4 at stand 26.

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Thomas Kretschmann