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August 12, 2008 9:03 AM

Microsoft Surface to make Seattle commercial debut in Sheraton Hotel

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft's much-discussed and demonstrated touch-sensing, tabletop computer will finally make a commercial appearance in Seattle tomorrow. Sheraton Hotels and Resorts -- one of the original customers for the Microsoft Surface -- plans to roll out the devices in several hotels, including the Sheraton Seattle Hotel, 1400 6th Ave.

The Surface was expected to appear in the wild by the end of 2007, six months after Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates demonstrated it at the high-profile "D: All Things Digital" conference as a counter-punch to Apple's touch-sensing iPhone.

At the time, Microsoft was working with Sheraton, Harrah's and T-Mobile for initial commercial deployments.

But the first units were slower to arrive.

In April, it was AT&T, not Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA, that bit on the Surface, putting units in five stores as point-of-sale displays.

In June, six tables using the Surface technology were installed in the I-Bar at Harrah's Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, with custom applications built for ordering drinks and flirting with people in the bar.

The Sheraton models also have custom applications, based on those Microsoft has been demonstrating since it first debuted the Surface publicly. The units will appear in lobbies of Sheratons in Seattle, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago.

The applications include CityTips, a virtual concierge with searchable maps built on Microsoft Virtual Earth to help hotel guests find restaurants, recreation, transportation and other services and attractions.

A music application, dubbed Sounds of Sheraton, will act as a digital juke box for the lobby featuring Sony BMG artists.

The photo application, Sheraton Snapshots, will allow Sheraton guests to view images from the company's other properties.

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