The table 'you want but don't know why'
Microsoft is having another go at the table-computing market with the Australian launch yesterday of Surface mark II, except that name is now gone.
The Samsung SUR40 still uses the Microsoft Surface-branded software, but now that Surface, the tablet, has been officially launched, this touch coffee and meeting table variant is to be known as Samsung Sur40 with PixelSense.
PixelSense uses infra-red and LED sensors to detect multi-touch from under the 101-centimetre screen, while the previous version of the device used miniature cameras to correctly map out movement on the surface. Samsung says it can recognise up to 52 touch points at once.
Unlike the new tablet, Microsoft will no longer make the touch-table hardware. It has partnered with Samsung for that, and with developers to come up with business applications and sell the hardware to the enterprise market.
Self-service solutions company NEO is building coffee tables, canopies and counter-tops to go with the screen. NEO's managing director John McCormark said it had already pre-sold 100 units, in conjunction with Fuji Film, to go into Harvey Norman stores as replacement for the first-generation devices which are used to sell photo books.
Fuji Film's general manager imaging, Paul Rogers, said enterprises wanted the device, they were just waiting for more applications to show them the potential.
"I say to my [sales] guys: 'they want to use this, they just don't know what for yet'," Rogers told IT Pro.
Nquared, a software developer based in Sydney's Newtown, is another of a handful of Australian partners. Nquared's Kristen Kosmala said the company developed 25 apps, including a presentation app that allowed annotations to be made to a document on the table and shown on a projector's screen. Content can also be flicked between the device and others such as tablets, phones and notebooks via wi-fi.
It has installed 24 tables around Australia, including at Sydney, Monash and Curtin universities.
"At the Curtin innovation centre, the technology students can play and think about what they can do with it and start coding for it," Kosmala said.
Kevin Francis, practice manager at Object Consulting, a custom software developer, said the improved table-computer represented opportunities for retailers, travel agents, banks and other consumer-facing sectors to close sales. Object developed the application currently in use at Mary MacKillop Place museum in Sydney.
"We see it as the future of enterprise applications. Enterprise customers can create more engaging discussions and integrate with other [backoffice] applications," Francis said.
The Samsung SUR40 with PixelSense runs on Windows 7 and there are no plans as yet to make developer kits available in Windows 8. It costs A$12,975 - half of the first-generation device's price. Single applications from Nquared cost A$1200-$1500.