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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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August 13, 2008 5:08 AM

Microsoft's Surface plans include third-party application developers

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Workers were set to install three Microsoft Surface tabletop computers at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel early this morning. My story in today's paper touches on the Seattle commercial debut of the Surface, but also details the internal deployment of the devices on Microsoft's campus going on since January.

The company is now setting its sights on third-party application developers, with a boost from the internal developers who got their hands on the Surface in the past half year, said Matt Champagne, director of Surface product management.

"We got feedback both on the existing apps and actually wrote some bugs behind it, but also got some new ideas from folks on where we could take this platform -- because it is a platform that has a developer story behind it," Champagne said, describing the data his team gathered from Microsoft employees who used Surfaces installed in 14 locations on its Redmond and Silicon Valley campuses.

(Quick list of the buildings that have a Surface: 4, 10, 19, 35, 37, 42, 86, 110, 117, Millennium D, Red West-A, Sammamish-D, SVC 1, Willows.)

The Surface debuted in May 2007 and has had its first commercial deployments in the past four months.

It has a 30-inch screen embedded into a coffee table-like base. Infrared cameras under the acrylic surface can recognize objects and hand gestures, eliminating the need for a mouse or other means to interact with the computer.


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

"Now we're moving to where the platform is defined here and we want to start telling the developer story behind this," Champagne said. "There's a very strong third-party developer story, but we're also going to release some applications ourself internally and moving forward I could see us moving to more of a beta program externally to get that user feedback, not so much on the platform layer ... but definitely on the application layer you could see us do beta programs."

He said the developer community is already picking up on it. "There will be some neat things to look at in the coming months," he said.

(Update, 11:06 a.m.: Mary Jo Foley reports, "I am hearing rumblings about a Surface development kit, something Microsoft has yet to discuss officially. Such an SDK would, one would think, expose the Surface programming interfaces and allow developers take advantage of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) in new ways.")

Sheraton, through a spokeswoman, described the process of developing applications for its Surfaces.


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

"We did months of research, talked to other launch partners as well as application developers before we made our decision. Initially, we felt very strong that in order to make it work with Sheraton's positioning we would need to create our own application, but the feedback we were getting was that the three applications could be easily branded and were very engaging. We are thrilled with the final versions and initial response has been very positive."

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