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Microsoft Gets Touchy At CES

Software maker displays bevy of new touch-screen enabled apps and devices powered by Windows 7.

Windows 7 screen shot
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Microsoft believes that touch-screen computing shouldn't be limited to ATMs and other commercial environments, and wants to see more of the technology in the home and office.

Scientific advances, rising consumer expectations, and lower costs have combined to create "a perfect storm" of opportunity for touch PCs, said Microsoft principal researcher Bill Buxton. Buxton made his remark in a CES feature story issued by Microsoft.

With that in mind, company officials and partners used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week to tout a number of new touch-screen devices and applications powered by Windows 7's built-in Windows Touch technology.

General Mills rolled out an app for touch PCs called the Betty Crocker Kitchen Assistant. The software features interactive recipes and other tools that consumers can navigate through with their fingertips.

"We believe that most families will soon have a PC on their kitchen counter," General Mills Web site manager Mike Bettison, said in the Microsoft CES piece. "A touch screen takes up less precious counter-top real estate than a keyboard and mouse, and lets you check a recipe without putting down the egg beater," said Bettison.

During his keynote presentation Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also pushed touch-screen computing, and helped demonstrated some new, touch-enabled devices that are just hitting the market.

Ballmer, for instance, showed off the Sony Vaio L, an HD entertainment system that includes a 24-inch touch screen.

He also demoed a prototype of an HP slate-style computer that was running Amazon's Kindle app, which effectively turned the unit into an e-reader. Also on display was an application from Graphic.ly, which lets readers user their fingers to navigate through the company's online library of classic novels and modern-day comics.

Microsoft is counting on touch-screen computing as a killer app that will help drive sales of Windows 7 PCs. The operating system's Windows Touch technology can arm a screen with up to 100 touch points, and recognizes about six different hand gestures—including flicking, rotating, dragging, and zooming.

"We collected thousands of samples from hundreds of people, and then mined that data looking for problems and optimization opportunities," said Ian LeGrow, a Windows group program manager.

Gartner expects about 10% of all new PCs hitting the market in 2010 will support touch-screen computing. If the technology goes mainstream in the consumer space, it won't likely be long until it makes its way into the general purpose, enterprise PC market.


InformationWeek has published an indepth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).

[Editor's Note: The attributions on the quotes from Microsoft principal researcher Bill Buxton and General Mills Web site manager Mike Bettison have been updated to note the remarks initially appeared in a CES feature story issued by Microsoft's public relations department.]

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