May 29, 2007 9:01 PM PDT

Microsoft hopes 'Milan' table PC has magic touch

At first glance, Microsoft's secret project looks like a 2007 version of the sit-down arcade game Ms. Pac Man.

But if this machine were running the game, you could just take your finger and flick away the monsters chasing the heroine.

Microsoft on Wednesday is taking the wraps off "Milan," more than five years in the making and the first in what the company hopes will be a long line of "surface computers." The Microsoft Surface tabletop PC, for which the company has created both the hardware and software, offers shades of the technology seen in the sci-fi thriller Minority Report. The whole unit is controlled entirely through touch; there's no mouse or keyboard.

To paint, people can pick up a paint brush or just dip their fingers in virtual paint cups. Sharing photos is similarly intuitive. A stack of pictures can be easily sorted through and shared. To resize a photo, just stretch two fingers apart. Pivot the fingers and the image rotates. More than one person can be interacting with the computer at a time.

"It's very approachable," said Pete Thompson, the former T-Mobile executive who runs Microsoft's surface-computing business. "You just want to touch it."


Although consumers will be able to touch it later this year, most won't be able to buy a surface computer any time soon.

The expensive components required to allow multiple users to touch the device simultaneously give it a price tag approaching $10,000. As a result, Microsoft isn't targeting homes initially, though it hopes consumers can own their own Milan within three to five years. For now, Microsoft is focusing on getting the products into public spaces in the hospitality arena--hotel lobbies, restaurants, and casinos, to name a few.

The company's initial customers are cellular carrier T-Mobile, which will use the units in its retail stores; hotel operator Starwood, which owns brands including Sheraton and Westin; casino owner Harrah's and slot game maker IGT. Each of the initial partners should have a few initial machines up and running around November, Thompson said.

Thompson said the roll-out approach is similar to that taken by the tech industry with plasma displays, which were used in trade show booths for years while they were still too costly for the home.

Click here to Play

Video: Microsoft unveils touch-screen computing
Giant tabletop PC blends reality with virtual reality.

Sheraton Vice President Hoyt Harper said Microsoft's tactic is pretty savvy, noting that many guests who might see the product in a Sheraton lobby could easily be among those who will buy one when it finally does go on sale widely. "I think that's one reason they chose us," he said.

Harper said the computers fit perfectly into his company's efforts to turn its hotel lobbies into destinations rather than merely places people stop on their way somewhere else. That, he said, makes them easily worth their high price tag.

"How can you not take advantage of something that could materially change the guest experience in the lobby?" Harper asked. Initially, Sheraton plans to have three Milan machines at hotels in New York, Boston and Chicago, with two in each lobby and one in the club lounge. If that means folks are lining up, he said, all the better.

"It will be a nice problem to have," he said.

Another consideration, in addition to cost, is how well Milan holds up to wear and tear. Harrah's CIO Tim Stanley wants to make sure the machines are built to last before he starts placing them in casinos on the Vegas strip.

If he puts one in the Pure nightclub, for example, "they might dance on (the) table," he said. "Can it handle that?"

CONTINUED: The guts of Milan…
Page 1 | 2

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Add your comment
MS is not that innovationless.
They spent billions on research but the things they come up with are too quirky, not that mainstream. Things like origami or tablet are special but they are not as mainstream as the ipod wheel control.
Posted by pjianwei (206 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Microsoft R&D
There's a lot more to it then you think. For goodness sake Microsoft creates and sells patient technology leveraging its partner community. Unlike Apple, Microsoft shares the wealth across a vast industry eco system.
Posted by jessiethe3rd (1140 comments )
Link Flag
But can you google?
But can you google? What matters is getting access to the Internet.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually Google could...
Google could create a similar device for accessing the Internet only. They could then make all their Web properties available instead of applications. No hard drive needed.

They could undercut MS for price by leveraging their Adsense network to gain revenue, not to mention the extra traffic they would get.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
It's like asking...
... whether someone can use a car just to sit in.

CNET had a link to a YouTube video of the same product where they show a virtual keyboard (as I recall).

Again, don't confuse the hardware with the software and the basics components of a computer such as input/output devices and the CPU.
Posted by genotypewriter (99 comments )
Link Flag
As a Mac user, and some one who has faulted Microsoft for years
for being a commodity player with little ability to innovate or even
create a quality product, all I can say is wow. The Microsoft-camp
definitely has a feather to put in their cap with the Milan. Let's hope
it doesn't take too long for these things to filter down into the
consumer market.
Posted by CBWolf (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does the MS Surface multi-touch interface infringe on the patents
Apple has for the iPhone multitouch paradigm? I guess we'll find
out soon enough.
Posted by zmonster (272 comments )
Link Flag
Not a commodity
PC's are commodities, but MS products are not. They get fairly high prices for most of their s/w products. I've never looked closely at their hardware, so perhaps their joysticks, mice and keyboards are commodities.
Posted by notgonnatellya (65 comments )
Link Flag
Don't go too far
Lots of people are working on this, not just Microsoft. Jeff Han's
demos of this kind of technology represent the most advanced
work. And Apple, surely, is not just putting multi-touch into the
iPhone. My bet is that they've got some really interesting stuff
coming out soon.

So, yes, give credit to Microsoft for a cool demo, but there's a lot
of other stuff coming from many companies that will be similarly

For what its worth, the earliest demonstrations coming from
Microsoft's labs of a UI involving a sidebar were way, way cooler
than what finally came out in Vista. They have a long record of
making a big fuss about prototypes and concepts.
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Link Flag
Looks nice
I would not be surprised to find many other companies come out with many similar, and much cheaper, products in the next few years. I don't know if this is something Apple would get into, but I think a lot of other companies would.
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
NYU Multi-Touch & Apple
Go to YouTube & search for "Multi Touch" to see NYU professor's
demo of this technology. This study was funded by Apple &
Apple has patented their version of Multi-Touch with the iPhone,
but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Leopard OSX 10.5 has been "optimized" for Multi-Touch apps &
Apple has been researching Multi-Touch displays as well...

Multi-Touch OSX & iPhone are less than a MONTH away, yet MS
has been in "R&D" mode for FIVE YEARS on Milan...WHY did they
choose NOW to talk about this?

MS : great pitch / no follow through.

Apple : delivers the home run.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

iPHONE + Multi-Touch technology at January 2007 Keynote
Address :
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
At least one multi-touch device has been in the market for over a year...
Before everyone starts claiming Apple or MS are first to market with a multi-tocuh based device, be aware that another company beat both of them to the punch.

Admittedly, it's an expensive and relatively obscure product aimed at musicians, DJs, audio engineers, etc. but the Jazz Mutant Lemur has been ringing up rave review for over a year now:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

It's a customizable multi-touch interface for controlling audio functions, virtual instruments and effects.

-Mister Winky
Posted by Mister Winky (301 comments )
Link Flag
What a possessive bunch...
... apple fans are! What's wrong if these things are there in the market? The better product will win! Right now, all the things you're comparing this with are for different purposes. Why on earth do you people take these things personally? It's sub-human behavior.
Posted by genotypewriter (99 comments )
Link Flag
Philips has come out with something similiar, although focused on board games:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by aemarques (162 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh, BTW, Philips showed this for the first time (in public) at CES in January 2006... ;-)
Posted by aemarques (162 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft inovative?
Now there is an oxymoron! MS only talent is copying other companies ideas, doing a lousy implementation of it, and marketing the hell out of it to half witted CIO's.

I am sure Milan will be a big hit, just like Zune.
Posted by expatincebu (156 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Quite innovative. $6.5 Billion dollars a year in R&#38;D (That's a B). Apple by contrast does what $550 million or so?

As for copying other realize that Microsoft holds patents for the iPod interface right? Apple copied it and as a result pays MS on every unit sold.

Know that nifty thing called google earth? Who's technology do you think google is licensing? They aren't even leveraging it to it's full potential either. Go look at the maps &#38; 3D of MS's Virtual Earth.

Oh and the Zune? That went from napkin diagram to working product in 8 months. Find another company that can do that. I guess wireless networking on a personal device isn't innovative either. BTW.. Apple had a 5 year head start with the hdd based music player but the Zune is already #2 on the list in less than a year.

Who do you suppose Microsoft copied this latest idea from? Oh yeah...that one company that has been innovating in the tablet PC area for years now. Who was that again? That's right..Microsoft.

Microsoft is quite an innovater. You're just a hater. Did Bill Gates buy your dog or something?
Posted by smilin:) (889 comments )
Link Flag

We all appreciate the rabid display of Microsoft-fanboyism, it's quite amusing, but maybe you should get your facts straight. The so called "Microsoft patent for iPod" has nothing to do with its interface. The two patents are actually quite unrelated, and both have been rejected multiple times.

The Zune is not innovative, no matter how you spin it. Wireless networking? Wow...good idea, but hardly innovation. 8-month development time is why the first generation Zune sucked so much. If anything, it shows lack of management skills and care about the final product. Oh, and it also might show that Microsoft has a lot of money.

I don't know what you're talking about with Google Earth; Virtual Earth is a new competitor from Microsoft. Once again, after seeing the success of another company, Microsoft had decided to come up with a very similar product.

Microsoft innovating in the tablet PC area? I don't know much about this... but... example? I've never heard anything of the sort.

So, to sum up, you have misrepresented information, lied, failed to analyze information properly, and made personal assumptions. Maybe Microsoft bought you?
Posted by SuperYogurt (16 comments )
Link Flag
im just dropping by,nice post!

iPod Converter
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by joe11ee (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Hope they don't patent the horizontal kiosk
That'd be another black mark on the USPTO's record.
Posted by rdean (119 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Outstanding, It's about time....
That MS focuses on touch technology as a primary UI. Next to voice it is the most intuitive interface but it should not have to be horizontal. HW Vendors should work on developing touch interfaces with (at minimum) resolutions matching that of large screen LCD TV's that also isolated the user from damaging the LCD.
Kiosks have been around for a while so while this is really not a new concept the idea of the OS being touch-centric is. But to really use this technology it will have to be as high a resolution of commercially available graphics pads yet not as expensive.

Good luck with this.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Future of this product
Will entertain some hard core enthusiasts,Pubs and clubs.
Will last about six year and won't earn enough money in itself to fund the real jewel microsoft obviously wants a piece of one that projects holographically up and that you can touch.
However that version is going to take a lot and it's no suprise this model won't really wash the sides on funding the biggy.
But hey its an addition to the cabinet.
How ever mini PC's and mobile gadgets are well capable of doing **** loads of things especially with a brain like windows in them and that comment from the head of RandD saying about the only thing on the big market for mobiles was the standard model.
One bad decision if ever there was one.
Obviously no one thort of what a mini DLP could do for Gates eyes given a good spectrum, some rifined omega 3 oils, a few carotine and advancments to the bateses method plus super safty testing.
Hey it beats a laser anyday and work to better eyes for life.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what about writing?
what happens when you need to write a paper or some e-mail? will it have an on-screen keyboard? those things are incredibly annoying.
Posted by gatornuke (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Limited use
This type of technology is really limiting unless there is some
feedback support (which it does not have).

Other technologies will overtake it fairly quickly. Brain-wave
translation and application looks to be more fruitful than this.
Posted by weegg (849 comments )
Reply Link Flag
good answer
couldn't have put it better
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple has "Talked about the use of multitouch"?
They're shipping the iPhone in three weeks.

Once again, Apple beats Microsoft to market, and C|Net can't help
but fall all over the gang from Redmond.

This announcement has more to do with Gates' insecurity about
being on stage with Jobs tonight at the D conference.
Posted by Hep Cat (440 comments )
Reply Link Flag
c|net has it right
The iphone isn't using multitouch.

The iphone is using technology developed years ago by those guys that do all those tablet PCs...Microsoft.

And Gates isn't insecure in the slightest. Jobs is facing the SEC on one side and a far more intelligent man on the other that probably has enough change in his pocket to buy him right there on the stage.
Posted by smilin:) (889 comments )
Link Flag
Apple isn't multi-touch
None of Apple's products are multi-touch nor is iPhone. iPhone isn't even a Smartphone for that matter. You religious Apple fanatics can't even see past your own stupidity.
Posted by Koo Breez (17 comments )
Link Flag
ah, apple fans..
Apples "innovative" OS was so crappy with memory management and other fundamentals that they had to "innovate" a new one by licencing freeBSD.

They "innovated" an mp3 player by copying the existing ones out there, slapping someone else design for a scroll wheel on it and licencing MS patents for the interface.

That's it. Two products. What? Is there something else even worth mentioning? If you talk about their servers or apple TV everyone will fall over laughing.

Are people so blindly in love with Apple that they can never ever possibly give MS the props? Milan's interface isn't the slightest bit impressive but you'll have an orgasm over the iPhone's? Recognize your bias people.
Posted by smilin:) (889 comments )
Reply Link Flag
preach on...
Preach on, I think the word Zealot comes to mind when i think of how blindly Apple folks jump on the bandwagon anytime something 'mac' comes out. I can recognize a good product, i can recognize a good company, can anyone tell me how much apple has donated to 3rd world countries? oh wait there was that "for every nano you buy, apple will donate..." thing, not really donating if you have to BUY SOMETHING TO DONATE! lol.
Posted by prttony (1 comment )
Link Flag
They remind me of...
... people who have converted from one religion to another. They're usually hateful towards anything that's not what they're following right now.

Mac users probably let their own computer-illiteracy abuse them and then developed an aversion towards what they can't achieve instead of going back to master them. A common human fault... and it's more common to see it in mac fans.

They also make me think about Nazis... giving in to dictatorship, thinking that everything else is less... think about it...
Posted by genotypewriter (99 comments )
Link Flag
Re: ah, apple fans..
Well that was a pretty poorly-informed rant. While you're criticism of &gt;=OS9's memory management is deserved, they were really no worse than Windows ME and earlier. And Apple's reengineering of OSX is pretty analogous to Microsoft's movement from DOS-based ME to NT-based XP. And Apple didn't "license freebsd," they licensed XNU from NeXT to develop Darwin, for which they updated some of the original BSD code with newer FreeBSD code. This is similar to the way Microsoft licensed the VMS kernel for NT.

While mp3 players certainly existed pre-iPod, let's give credit where credit is due; the iPod is the most user-friendly digital music player on the market. The click-wheel interface was a true innovation; no interface before or since has come close to its intuitive simplicity.
Posted by subliminalbrad (1 comment )
Link Flag
what's yours?
And you're not biased?
Posted by kool_skatkat (982 comments )
Link Flag
Reading comprehension
Multitouch. Muuullltiiii. Go look at the photo's and you'll get it. The iPhone is using nothing more advanced than the Tablet technology that Microsoft developed over what 5 years ago??

MS has already gotten the Milan to market too. Note the hotel branding on the demo units. iPhone (without multitouch) isn't even out yet.

Do MS fanbois come jumping on Apple articles the way you guys do? Did Jobs tell you during a sermon to go forth and be zealots like this?

It's a pretty neat product. You (meaning rational people) have to admit. :)
Posted by smilin:) (889 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh Gawd!
What the hell are you talking about??!! The iPhone is 'without
multitouch'??? The iPhone is all about multitouch!!

Microsoft is just giving you larkies something to feel good about
a few years early (remember how great Vista was supposed to
be) while Apple is SHIPPING its multitouch product in a few
weeks! Do you seriously think you will walk into a restaurant
with this anytime soon??

Naive indeed!
Posted by kentonr (25 comments )
Link Flag
Years of tablet
Bill admitted, some people have more taste than others. It's amazing how many hears of tablet PC and nothing like the iPhone. There's been a whole industry behind it. The design house, the software companies, all of that...

You have to admit it, apple does raise the bar many times.
Posted by kool_skatkat (982 comments )
Link Flag
5 years and untold millions wasted...
So this is what M$ was doing when they should have been debugging Vista? What a joke! A quote from the article you should heed:

"The Microsoft Surface tabletop PC, for which the company has created both the hardware and software,"

.... that's a recipe for disaster. I'll bet this thing won't perform half as well as advertised and has the same poor quality of any other M$ product. At $10k, this thing is a novelty item at best- Only a few corporations and geeks with too much money to spend will buy one.
Posted by hounddoglgs (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
untold millions wasted?
Not much money is wasted. If Microsoft spent the money paying kids to play video games, the money wouldn't be wasted -- it's still in circulation, and taxes are paid.
Posted by kakodes_too (20 comments )
Link Flag
Apple's porfolio
of products in miniscule compared to MS. Microsoft?s technology is used everywhere from finding the nearest gamestore ( street&#38;trips, MapPoint), getting a game console (Xbox), connecting to a game community (Xbox ? live) to playing a game (Halo), to listing to music Zune, to getting your office work done (Windows and MS office).
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Was meant as reply to MSSlayer guy's comment
$6.5 billion?
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Link Flag
Very cool
But when Microsoft ever be able to delivery this technology to the home consumer?

As slick as this is, the company that can deliver a consumer product is the one that is going to get the glory.

If this is only used for hotels, casinos, kiosks, etc. then it will be as meaningless to the average person as the OS in an ATM or self check out.

Let the hype begin!
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...and very useful
Why shouldn't they be able to deliver (not delivery) this technology to the home consumer? If there is a software company in this world with the power, money and know-how to do something like that it's Microsoft. Plus, even if that wouldn't happen (and they already said it will), an OS in an ATM may be meaningless to you, but who cares about you? Have you ever imagined how rich must be a company that has its OS in every ATM in a country like the USA or in a continent or in the world?
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Link Flag
I'm not trying to be facetious
But isn't something like this ruined by sticky fingers? I mean won't it get scratched up if you're constantly cleaning it?

Don't get me wrong, seems a neat idea - but it's not something that would interest me that much, the whole thing just seems so fragile.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Multi-touch needs force feedback
The biggest missing feature in this device is some form of force feedback. Force feedback (known as Haptics) allows a user to know when they have pressed a button or dragged an object simply by the sense of touch. Haptics uses subtle vibrations to simulate button presses or drag friction. This turns the flat glass surface of a touch screen into a truely interactive control surface.
Posted by grangerfx (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This "Milan" will take off!...
then crash just like the Zune... ; )&gt;
Posted by MauiMac (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't forget Vista and Office 2007 as well.

It is funny, the only thing MS produces that might be considered quality(although it is no better then the competition), the XBOX is a giant money vacuum.
Posted by MSSlayer (1074 comments )
Link Flag
Jobs is Now Screaming His Head Off... all the 'little apple people', wondering how Bill and Steve managed to one-up him.

Gene from
Posted by ZuneChannel (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gene is out in Zune land
If you think that Apple has just been sitting around doing
nothing with multi-touch, then you are out in Zune-land. Wait
and see. See what products *ship* over the next few years --
then talk. Apple will have more than just the iPhone and iPods
with multi-touch. They just tend to be more secretive than
Microsoft about talking about technology in development.

Lots of people are working on this technology. If anyone has
"one-upped" anybody else, it's Jeff Han.
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Link Flag
how is a table sized limited use hunk of expensive junk "one-
up"ing a product set to launch and make a mint?

are the MS people so desperate for a victory after the poopcolored
zune and the wow that failed to start that this piece of nothing
looks like victory?

Posted by shane--2008 (343 comments )
Link Flag
Would be a godsend for some DJs.
As a DJ, I would actually love something like this to replace traditional turntables, and even clumsy laptop DJing. I can imagine myself loading up a 4GB flash drive with high quality MP3/AAC rips from my records and just carrying that to a venue.

All I do is plug that sucker into the table, and the Milan-based "virtual turntable deck" displays my music and I'm ready to go. Sweet!
Posted by three_toed_frog (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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