If you missed Microsoft's 2011 CES Keynote, you didn't miss much. But there was one bright spot that came to light worth noting: Their next generation of Surface Technology. Microsoft's Surface technology is gearing up for mass markets and I think it's going to be a hit. The question now is: does Apple have anything on radar that could compete with Surface? You might be surprised.
Microsoft's Surface: What's New?
Microsoft's CES presentation segment on their next generation Surface 2.0 was definitely an eye opener. The technology that was once incased in a big bulky box has been dramatically slimmed down to a mere four inch table top. That's not too bad for their table version. A secondary version of Surface appears to be no different than a standard large screen HDTV.
One could easily imagine seeing Microsoft's table top version of Surface dropping to under the two inch mark by 2013 and rolling out to mass market segments like the hotel industry, restaurants, coffee shops and night clubs. Once you see the video segment below, you'll understand why this would play well in the night club scene.
Surface 2.0 now supports full HD on larger displays creating a compelling, immersive visual experience that draws people in. The breakthrough technology behind Surface 2.0 is called PixelSense; a technology that allows the display to act as a large camera that actually "sees" what's touching its surface. Their demo illustrates this very important point.
Could Apple Challenge Microsoft's Surface?
Technically, the answer is yes. Yet I doubt that Apple would be aiming for the same mass markets like restaurants, night clubs and bars that Microsoft may pursue.
Apple's future use of integrated sensing display technology would likely apply to their entire Mac line up, the iPod touch, iPhone and if we're lucky a future Apple-HDTV.
These types of Apple products would have a camera built right into the very fabric of the display itself rather than sporting a traditional iSight camera. The technology would allow for a more natural form of video conferencing without consumers having to look at a particular physical camera. It would allow for a natural face to face experience; a true FaceTime experience. In a way, Apple's technology, as presented in their patent, actually appears to be more advanced in that it could take pictures like a camera and doesn't require a subject to be touching the surface as PixelSense demands. More on this technology could found in our May 2009 report.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted above depicts a cut-away elevation view of an exemplary image element. Patent FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram of an exemplary system (500) that includes an array of image elements (505 sensing array). The prior art is simply to show you the "old way" of conducting a video conference in contrast with a system whereby the screen is the camera.
Apple's patent states that "The invention is suitable for use for capturing images. The images can pertain to still pictures or video. For example, the invention can be embodied as a digital camera in which a user can take a self-portrait by looking directly at a display which also provides image capture. The captured image is then what the user sees on the display."
It's unknown at this time if Apple's patent will remain a research project or become a viable product. But the patent has been granted to Apple, they have a new marketing brand in FaceTime to better reflect this new technology, Intel's new Sandy Bridge processors are touting extreme visuals and Apple is introducing a new operating system this summer. Is the time right for this technology to surface? Time will tell.
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Other News: Update Jan 09, 2011: Apple's request to transfer the Nokia trial from Wisconsin to Delaware was granted by District Judge William M. Conley late last week.