Microsoft has officially launched its Surface line of touch computer units in Australia with a focus on retail, education and finance markets.
At an event in Microsoft’s Sydney headquarters on Tuesday, Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division president, Robbie Bach, said the main targets would be businesses and not consumers.
“The goal here is to make the technology so natural that you don’t even notice it,” he said. “Today, surface is mostly provided by businesses. It enables them to build their brand, it enables them to interact customers in a different way, it enables them to allow their customers to find information and export them.”
Key verticals being targeted include education, public sector, retail, finance and other public-facing service providers. All Surface hardware sales will go direct through the vendor and cost users $21,000 each, while software development kit (SDK) models will cost $24,500.
“Australia will be the 19th market we enter…our partners are doing a great job of encouraging applications because the device itself is cool, but without the applications it really doesn’t get you anywhere,” Bach said.
According to Automatic Studio consultant, Shane Morris, the key challenge for programmers developing Surface applications was to design the software to its full potential.
“The user experience is very different. You can’t just take an existing application, lie it on its back and make it a surface app. It really requires re-thinking of the experience so organisations need to give more time to design activities and allow for exploration,’ he said.
Microsoft managing director, Tracey Fellows, forecast hundreds rather than thousands of unit sales in the first 12 months.
“This is about how we see this technology being exploited by our customers so I think we're fairly conservative," she said.
The Surface device is identical in all 19 geographic markets. Its operating system is based on Windows Vista SP1 and five cameras sit beneath a ruggedised 30-inch multi-touchscreen with object recognition built-in.
It’s driven by a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and 2GB of DDR2 RAM with a maximum resolution of 1024 x 768. The unit weighs 90kg and measures 108 x 69 x 54cm.