Thursday, April 3, 2008

AT&T Scratches Microsoft's Surface

Microsoft Surface technology will debut in select AT&T retail locations later this month. AT&T plans to use Microsoft Surface to allow customers to review features of a particular AT&T mobile device by simply placing it on the Microsoft Surface 30-inch, table-like display. The companies plan to expand Microsoft Surface capabilities in AT&T stores.

Microsoft and AT&T have announced a collaborative alliance that aims to transform the way consumers shop for mobile devices. AT&T will become the first company to bring Microsoft Surface to life in a retail environment, giving customers the ability to explore their mobile-phone options using touch and device-recognition technology. Microsoft Surface is the first commercially available surface computer from Microsoft.

Beginning April 17, customers can experience Microsoft Surface in select AT&T retail locations, including stores in New York City, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Francisco. Based on the venture's success, and learning from these initial pilot deployments, plans for further expansion across AT&T's 2,200 U.S. retail stores will be determined, according to the companies.

"Microsoft Surface transforms the retail environment from a transaction destination to a customer-engagement destination," said Robbie Bach, president of the Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division. "With innovative and intuitive ways of accessing information and digital content on Microsoft Surface, consumers now have an entirely new, unique and personalized shopping experience."

Tabletop, Touch-Screen Computing

Microsoft Surface is a 30-inch table-like display that lets individuals or multiple people interact with devices and content in a way that feels familiar -- by touch, gestures and placement of devices on the display. Microsoft describes the experience as making a surface "come to life for exploring, learning, sharing, creating, buying and much more."

AT&T plans to use Surface to offer retail-store visitors opportunities to learn about the growing universe of mobile applications and devices. The interactive touch displays, which will work without a traditional mouse or keyboard, will allow customers to review features of a particular mobile device by simply placing it on the display. Surface will recognize the device and provide a graphical overview of its capabilities. Customers will be able to place two devices side by side on the unit and compare their features.

Customers can also view interactive coverage maps at the national, state, local or street level, using simple touch and hand movement to scale and move the maps, determining their coverage area. In the future, customers will be able to drag and drop ringtones, graphics, video and more by "grabbing" content with their hands from a menu on the display and "dropping" it into the phone.

The companies said they will continue to collaborate on new and innovative ways to expand Surface capabilities in AT&T stores.

Will Tabletop Computing Go Mainstream?

According to JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg, Surface's landing in AT&T retail stores validates the fact that tabletop computing is more than just a laboratory concept

"Microsoft has proven some real-world applications and has a partner willing to put these devices out in their stores," he said. "This is a very significant milestone for that group as it looks to take this technology into the mainstream."

Surface computing is indeed heading for the mainstream, according to analysts. Gartenberg said this movement is merely the evolution of a traditional personal computer, another way of interacting with information and allowing devices to interact with each other.

"No doubt, within a short period of time, surface computers are going to be fairly ubiquitous in the retail channel," Gartenberg said. "Within a few years, when the prices come down, we'll probably see these in the home as well."


No comments: