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Promised Microsoft Tablet 'No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass' 352

Posted by timothy
from the depends-how-thick-the-glass-is dept.
Barence writes Microsoft will deliver a touchscreen PC that is 'no thicker than a sheet of glass' within the next three years, according to the company's principal researcher. The device will be the next generation of Microsoft's Surface project, which currently houses a touchscreen PC in a deep cabinet that uses cameras to detect hand gestures and objects placed on the screen. According to Microsoft's Bill Buxton, 'Surface will become no thicker than a sheet of glass. It's not going to have any cameras or projectors because the cameras will be embedded in the device itself.' Microsoft is developing a new screen technology to make this possible. 'The best way to think about it is like a big LCD where there's a fourth pixel in every triad. So there's red, green, and blue pixels giving you light, and a fourth pixel which is a sensor that will capture stuff,' Buxton claims in an interview with The Globe and Mail."
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Promised Microsoft Tablet 'No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass'

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    how thick can glass be?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:09AM (#33583658)

    I'll believe it when I see it. Otherwise it's just vaporware that will clog blogs with nonsensical hype.

    • by gurner (1373621) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @02:04AM (#33583890)

      Say what you like about Apple, if they announce it you can buy it shortly after.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arivanov (12034)

      I would not be so sure about that. Hystorically, microsoft hardware division has been reasonably good in delivering on its promises.

      Also, funnily enough, most of their hardware works quite well with Linux. This reminds me, I need to get some more Microsoft XP Media Center Edition IR remote controls for my Linux HTPCs. While MCE XP was a flop, the hardware for it performs fantastically under a proper OS:)

  • by pookemon (909195) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:13AM (#33583668) Homepage
    A sheet of glass like in a picture frame (2mm) or like in an Aquarium (Several cm's). Maybe, being Microsoft, it starts out as thick as the picture frame glass, but it rapidly expands to be as thick as Aquarium glass. Then it breaks.
    • by emj (15659)

      Since they incorporate the multitouch in the screen it probably will be thinner than 1cm but I thought Surface was supposed to be a table so I guess it should have a glass surface made of 2cm thick glass..

    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:32AM (#33583774)

      A sheet of glass like in a picture frame (2mm) or like in an Aquarium (Several cm's).

      Marketing: "I said it'll be no thicker than a sheet of glass."
      I+D: "That's retarded, we're not even close."
      CEO: "Didn't the nuclear bunkers from those desert tests had a window towards the explosion?"
      Marketing: "Half as thick as a sheet of glass!"

      • Actual R&D dev mumbling nervously in corner: please don't anyone ask about the wireless pool-sized table it comes with ...please for the love of all that's holy...

        Reporter: Er Whats that table there in the corner?

        Actual R&D jumps up: The presentation is OVER. No more questions, thank you ladies and gentlement for your time!

    • by grim-one (1312413) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:37AM (#33583790)
      Osaka's Aquarium has 30cm thick plate glass. The tablet may be thicker than it is tall or wide =)
    • by jamesh (87723)

      We have some 'Microsoft Certified Partner' glass things that Microsoft gave us to decorate our office with. They are about an inch thick or so. I assume that's what they are referring to.

  • how thick? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dark grep (766587) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:14AM (#33583674)
    The pool fencing around my patio is 10mm thick. The floor of the Auckland tower has glass 25mm thick. So how thick is thick? A pretty pointless claim if you ask me. And three years? In Internet terms it may as well be 30 years. A stupid press release all round.
  • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:23AM (#33583716)

    Nobody buy an iPad!

    Let's all wait for this promised invention from Microsoft, which will be much better than anything we can get today, and is coming Real Soon Now!

    • Re:Hey! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @02:56AM (#33584066) Journal

      You know, there was a time when Microsoft was able to kill a company with a vaporware announcement like that. Anyone remember how they announced "Pen Windows" to strangle Go PenPoint in the cradle?

      PenPoint was a nice bit of work. Those guys knew what they were doing.

      -jcr

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572)
        I want sytli back. They stopped shipping them because "people hate the stylus." No handwriting recognition, no advanced UIs.
    • by headLITE (171240)

      You have point. Although if Apple can make devices now that aren't really much thicker than a sheet of glass (or are as thick as a sheet of glass, but smaller, like the iPod), then Microsoft should be able to do the same in three years :)

  • I think that the "within the next three years" could represent quite a long time in terms of the evolution of tablets, so I'm not that impressed.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:28AM (#33583746)

    a fourth pixel which is a sensor that will capture stuff

    Didn't someone here on Slashdot have a patent titled, "A Method and Process of Doing Things with Stuff" . . . ?

    It looks like Microsoft might have an intellectual property problem here . . .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:30AM (#33583762)

    Parts of this concept seem awfully familiar...

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/06/04/26/1536212/Apples-All-Seeing-Screen

    • by Taagehornet (984739) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @07:20AM (#33585214)

      Bill Buxton [wikipedia.org] isn't just some random Microsoft employee, he's one of the pioneers of the industry, and has been working with multi-touch systems since back in the early eighties [acm.org].

      Contrary to popular belief Apple didn't invent multi-touch [billbuxton.com]

      Multi-touch technologies have a long history. To put it in perspective, my group at the University of Toronto was working on multi-touchin 1984 (Lee, Buxton & Smith, 1985), the same year that the first Macintosh computer was released, and we were not the first. Furthermore, during the development of the iPhone, Apple was very much aware of the history of multi-touch, dating at least back to 1982, and the use of the pinch gesture, dating back to 1983. This is clearly demonstrated by the bibliography of the PhD thesis of Wayne Westerman, co-founder of FingerWorks, a company that Apple acquired early in 2005, and now an Apple employee:

      Westerman, Wayne (1999). Hand Tracking,Finger Identification, and Chordic Manipulation on a Multi-Touch Surface. U of Delaware PhD Dissertation: http://www.ee.udel.edu/~westerma/main.pdf [udel.edu]

      In making this statement about their awareness of past work, I am not criticizing Westerman, the iPhone, or Apple. It is simply good practice and good scholarship to know the literature and do one's homework when embarking on a new product. What I am pointing out, however, is that "new" technologies - like multi-touch - do not grow out of a vacuum. While marketing tends to like the "great invention" story, real innovation rarely works that way. In short, the evolution of multi-touch is a text-book example of what I call "the long-nose of innovation."

      Microsoft borrowing ideas from Apple again?

      It's probably the other way round. Nice troll though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Jeez. You brought this back up from your capture file. This is the exact same quote I replied to half a year ago or so...

        Anyway Bill Buxton doesn't complain about Apple receiving accolades about it's multi-touch UI in the iPhone. From your linked article:

        In making this statement about their awareness of past work, I am not criticizing Westerman, the iPhone, or Apple. It is simply good practice and good scholarship to know the literature and do one's homework when embarking on a new product. What I am po

  • How can you preview the scan when the scanned object is covering the display?

  • Within 3 years people will forget about this promise, Microsoft will change its mind and technology will deliver something completely different from tablets.
  • When you have nothing to compete against a product, just post a press release containing promises about whatever the marketing department can come up with.

    Given Microsoft's non-relevancy in the mobile area, this might fail horribly this time though.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Assuming that they're discussing the touchscreen, as their engineer discusses, and not the entire device as the article interpolates, then this is neither particularly unlikely nor extraordinarily novel. Building sensing systems directly into LCDs seems to be a popular idea these days, although Surface's generality will probably present a challenge.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why didn't you RTFA?
      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        Why didn't you RTFA?

        Welcome to slashdot. This must be your first day here, enjoy it while it lasts.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by am 2k (217885)

        I actually have read the article, and it doesn't invalidate my statement. Half a year ago I talked to a scientist working in the area of multitouch surfaces, and he told me that their approach is horrible and that they're never going to get anywhere with it, except into installations that have too much money to spend.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Rockoon (1252108)

          I actually have read the article, and it doesn't invalidate my statement.

          ...'cept for the fact that its not a press release... the entire premise of your post... yeah, other than that your statements arent invalidated at all.

  • Does that mean we can have windows running on a window?

  • Squant (Score:2, Informative)

    by pellik (193063)
    So in addition to the three light emitting colors that come standard, their LCDs contain a new, light capturing color. This isn't news, squant has been known for years.
  • by hoggoth (414195) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @01:57AM (#33583876) Journal

    This is great. I can't wait to get one. I will carry it in my backpack while I fly around in my jet pack which will be powered by cold fusion.

  • "...that will capture stuff..."

    I've got one of those. It's called a keyboard, but its primary function seems to be to capture stuff. Cookie crumbs, coffee spills, cigarette ashes...

    Does anyone else find the prospect of running Windows on a window to be a bit surreal? What's next, wearable computers so you could have a Macintosh on your rain coat?

    • What's next, wearable computers so you could have a Macintosh on your rain coat?

      I would literally run Red Hat Linux.

  • by Haedrian (1676506) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @02:02AM (#33583884)

    Marketting: So, how thick will it be?
    Development: X cms thick
    Marketting: Cool, that's almost as thick as the glass in my family picture frame, "No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass" - perfect
    Development: Uh, but won't that be ambigious - and since the majority of people who are going to care enough to read this are going to have more intelligence than a potted plant - and actually question how thick the glass will be... won't this make us look like a bunch of idiots?
    Marketting: Sheet of Glass! Perfect.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @03:47AM (#33584226) Homepage

      Development: Uh, but won't that be ambigious - and since the majority of people who are going to care enough to read this are going to have more intelligence than a potted plant - and actually question how thick the glass will be... won't this make us look like a bunch of idiots?

      No, only the pedantic types with an axe to grind, time on their hands, and karma to whore will actually ask how thick the sheet will be. The rest of us will assume "somewhere in the general vicinity of normal window or auto glass", since that's what the phrase "as thick as a sheet of glass" usually means.

      • by clone53421 (1310749) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @04:02AM (#33584262) Journal

        I am a pedantic type with an axe to grind, and even I knew that they obviously meant the first thing that would occur to most people’s minds when they thought of a pane of glass.

        The part that I considered an atrocious abuse of language was the part where he claimed that there will be four pixels per triad. He could have just said that instead of using triads of pixels (3 pixels per group... red, green, and blue) they will have tetrads: 4 pixels per group; red, green, blue, and an extra 4th pixel that is a simple light sensor.

        But no... his triads go to FOUR.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @02:10AM (#33583916)

    The original article is discussing Surface's touch panel and display, which are currently a weird hodge-podge of tech, being shrunk down into a single panel which is as thin as a sheet of glass. Nothing the engineer says suggests that the whole device will be that size. Furthermore the "three year" comments are about Surface's possible consumer launch, and nothing to do with the new panel at all. PC Pro's blog dump is completely dire, read the second link.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by NekSnappa (803141)
      There you go. Reading the article, and making sense, and spoiling everybodys fun. There's one in every crowd.
  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @02:14AM (#33583926)

    or is MS so much at their wits' end that they don't even know which feature to hype for their "we'll do that in 3 years, honest, you can stop buying iPads now" PR campaigns ?

  • Microsoft will deliver a touchscreen PC that is 'no thicker than a sheet of glass'

    That's smashing!

  • by jabjoe (1042100) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @02:52AM (#33584048)

    If they use a x86 to compete with the ARM tablets it will have shorter battery life and run hot. If they use ARM (or something else giving good mA/mips), then people won't understand why it can't run their Windows software. If it looks and feels like Windows (and actually code wise, is Windows) but can't run Windows software, people won't like it. The platform is Windows software. It's the closed source curse, you are stuck on the hardware and API things are compiled for. Of course their is byte code, but then they will be competing again other tablets of similar spec, but with their apps byte coded while the others (Apple/Linux) are native. If that happens, bet MS's own apps are native for each platform, but they advice developers to use .NET to cover all MS platforms. But even then, are most consumers going to understand the difference between .NET apps and native apps? This to me has all the marks of a money blackhole while they try and complete in the tablet space.

    • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @06:35AM (#33584898) Journal

      It's a marketing problem.

      Apple users don't expect iPads and iPhones to run Macintosh software, even if these devices run a flavour of OSX - Apple doesn't call it that - they call it iOS, so no one expects OS X programs to run on it. If Microsoft were to not call their mobile OS 'Windows', then the confusion would go away. Instead of calling it 'Windows Mobile' which kind of gives the expectation that it's just Windows and you can run desktop software on it, they could call it something else. Perhaps 'Doors'.

  • Sounds great! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jcr (53032)

    Now, can I get it with a decent OS on it, or will it only work with Windows?

    -jcr

  • by dotancohen (1015143) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @02:54AM (#33584060) Homepage

    I know of other MS products that resemble a (fragile) sheet of glass. Windows, anyone?

  • Embedded (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Orphaze (243436) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @03:04AM (#33584090) Homepage

    Not commenting on this potential vaporware, but embedded cameras in LCD screens might single handedly make video conferencing pleasant. Presently, the distance between the camera and screen mean video chatting is essentially an exercise in watching another person watch their computer while having a conversation with you.

    Apart from latency / bandwidth issues, I think that is the largest thing that has prevented video chat from taking off. It's not at all like talking face to face with a real human being.

    • I doubt it'll be cameras, Surface currently works by recognising silhouettes and shape recognition, a sensor-per-pixel could still perform this function in a crude, but elegant manner without having to actually be a camera.

    • They aren’t cameras in the sense that you’re thinking. For video-conferencing, you need a real camera: light focused onto many pixels to form a picture. This is unfocused light falling on the pixels themselves, like an insect’s eye... good for detecting motion but capable of determining the shape of objects only if they are very close to the sensor, by the shape of the grouping of pixels which are directly covered by the object.

      However, it’s not like an embedded camera is anything sp

      • I don't know how fast those light sensors are but imagine if you could do interferometry with the baseline being the width of the tablet. With a coherent light source you might be able to do something like holography.

  • I don't remember that Microsoft published anything really new the last decade or so.

    Sure, the Kinect stuff sounds good - on paper. But when I actually saw it in action on the GDC Europe and noticed that they had an instructor in every booth to teach people how to actually use it and afterwards still people failed to use it properly, just because it doesn't seem to work all that intuitive, I noticed that this will be just another failure. Apart from this I really fail to see any serious innovation coming fro

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FaxeTheCat (1394763)
      >I don't remember that Microsoft published anything really new the last decade or so.

      You should not blame Microsoft for your bad memory.
  • That's ages in this business! If MS is talking about next-generation features in this tablet, well, that's what the competition will offer by then as well. What happened three years ago? Well, we saw the first pictures of the iPhone. Yeah, I'm talking about the iPhone "1".

    If MS is giving these timeframes, it seems to just be about wanting to create some buzz and focus on Microsoft, rather than them willing to discuss product releases.

  • So what Microsoft are saying is that in three years time, Slashdoters will be writing an article comparing which is more fragile - the hardware or the Operating System. For the first time people really will be able to use the moniker "broken Windows"!?!

  • It's not going to have any cameras or projectors because the cameras will be embedded in the device itself.

    So... it doesn't have cameras because it has cameras?

    That's a whole new level of whoosh for me.

  • a big LCD where there's a fourth pixel in every triad

    That word... I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Fuck everything... we’re doing five pixels per triad!

  • My desk is a 8mm thick piece of tempered glass. I have a round blank cut from a 3/4" (19mm) plate in my workshop (that's going to be used to make a telescope mirror). They really should be more specific.
  • Sheets of glass vary in thickness. How thin is thin?

  • by Superken7 (893292) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @10:18AM (#33587562) Journal

    Yeah right, but remember:

    just like other "groundbreaking" technologies by microsoft, like Natal, they'll start removing features ...

    "oh, no, it won't support more than two fingers for now..." "oh, sorry, it will be a bit thicker" .. "oh sorry, that awesome refresh rate? nope, not this time.." or similar things.

    I hope I'm mistaken though =D

  • All True (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Coward Anonymous (110649) on Wednesday September 15, 2010 @11:37AM (#33588984)

    And it'll be made by Apple.

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