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Promised Microsoft Tablet 'No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass'

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the depends-how-thick-the-glass-is dept.

Displays 352

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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352 comments

Thick as a sheet of glass... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583642)

But how many Libraries will it hold?

sheet of glass from a large aquarium? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583646)

how thick can glass be?

Georgia Aquarium (4, Funny)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584034)

Apparently, since you can get glass over 60cm thick [nytimes.com], at least as thick as the person who used that description. I suppose they'll be telling us that the screen is as long as a piece of string next.

will believe when i see it (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583658)

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

Re:will believe when i see it (1)

hazmat2k (911198) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583666)

Speaking of vaporware, what ever happened to the Origami Project? It really looked like it had potential.

Re:will believe when i see it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583696)

what ever happened to the Origami Project?

It folded.

Re:will believe when i see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33584002)

what ever happened to the Origami Project?

It folded.

And that is exactly what will happen to this crazy idea just what is the point of making something so think and vunerable to damage . Laptop displays and LCD flat monitors are way too easy to damage so making something this stupidly thin and by the nature of it's thinness fragile make no common sense at all but just like the stupid iPhone ipad iPod and all the rest some jerkoff will keep on wasting time and money on it

Re:will believe when i see it (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584100)

what ever happened to the Origami Project?

It folded.

And you've got to give kuddos to MS for this one. Announcing a project and its demise in the same press release... Wow, these guys are good.

Re:will believe when i see it (5, Insightful)

gurner (1373621) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583890)

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

Re:will believe when i see it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583908)

That's because Apple doesn't ever invent anything. They just take existing technology and throw it together in a shiny case. Say what you will about Microsoft, but their research teams have come up with some pretty cool stuff over the years.

Re:will believe when i see it (1, Flamebait)

gurner (1373621) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583948)

MS can invent what they like, if they don't ship I don't care. My point is valid, your point is a sideshow.

Re:will believe when i see it (1)

nkh (750837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583986)

Cool stuff like Courier [wikipedia.org] (vaporware) or the Kin [wikipedia.org] (dead project, cost 1 billion dollars). I agree that Apple makes shiny products from existing technology, but at least I can use those.

Re:will believe when i see it (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584104)

Indeed they have, and we're all grateful for that. I mean, if noone invented multitouch, where would we be now?

Inventing is good, making real life product is good too. But the end user will favor the latter.

Re:will believe when i see it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583966)

Thats comparing Apples to oranges

The difference is, when Apple announce something it is already a viable consumer product that is going into mass production/distribution. They never announce anything before hand even when every one and their gran knows that Apple are working on the next Apple phone/pod/tablet/multi-pass

They don't have to worry about not being able to come up with the good becasue its alreeady in Jobs sweaty palms.

"Most" tech companies will annonce or preview prototypes or projects before anything is viable, so while you may not have the finished item in your hand in 3 months there will be something like it coming out in the forseeable future

Sheet of glass? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583660)

"No thicker than a sheet of glass"

I've never seen a sheet of glass a Microsoft researcher couldn't outwit.

No thicker than... (5, Funny)

pookemon (909195) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583668)

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.

Re:No thicker than... (1)

emj (15659) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583722)

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..

Re:No thicker than... (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#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!"

Re:No thicker than... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583870)

We're talking about Microsoft here, not Adobe.

Re:No thicker than... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583898)

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? (5, Interesting)

dark grep (766587) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:how thick? (3, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583786)

Now you understand the use of convincing your population that giving volumes in ping pong balls, areas in stadiums and data volume in libraries of Congress is perfectly fine.

Re:how thick? (5, Funny)

Cidolfas (1358603) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583940)

My favorite is from the show How It's Made.

They said, "when complete it weighs 10 pounds, about the weight of a full-grown cat."

For the next 2 years, my roomates and I refered to weights in terms of full-grown cats.

Re:how thick? (0, Offtopic)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584092)

Ten pounds for a cat? 4.5kg??!?

What kind of sick bastard would let his poor cat suffer the required famine to only let him reach 4.5kg? ...

My sister's "Sonar" weights 24 pounds; the cutest ball of fat and fur. :)

Re:how thick? (0, Offtopic)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584122)

Uhm, a slightly overweight Norwegian Forest cat is 8kg, and that's the biggest race there is. Your sister's kitteh at 11kg sounds like something barely able to move.

Re:how thick? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583942)

Hell, I'd be impressed if "no thicker than a small car" were their goal, seeing the size of the current Surface project. No thicker than any sheet of glass seems overly ambitious at this point!

Re:how thick? (4, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584004)

A stupid press release all round

It wasn't a press release. It was an interview with Bill Buxton, a well-known pioneering computer scientist (SIGCHI Lifetime Achievement Award, Chief Scientist at Alias Wavefront and SGI, pioneered multi-touch interfaces in the '70s, now a principle researcher at Microsoft Research). When the press interviews well-known scientists, it is customary to ask about what new things are coming in the next few years.

Re:how thick? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33584082)

In the old days this was normal for MS. promise something 3-5 years away to stop people moving to competing products. Can't see it working much here though.

Tried to post something clever... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583678)

...and was outpaced. Kudos!

cameras are in the pixels now (1)

mentil (1748130) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583688)

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

Preorder your Microsoft Telescreen today!

Re:cameras are in the pixels now (2, Insightful)

a_hanso (1891616) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583792)

Haha I see what you mean. At least now if you don't trust your software to switch off the built in camera, you can at least put tape over it (I for one *never* trust software over mechanical switches -- mainly because I write software for a living and I know what's usually inside. i also use a 'dumb phone' because when I hit 'OFF' I want it to bloody TURN OFF) On the other hand though, can it capture actual images as opposed to shadows, and if so, how would it do that without a lens?

Re:cameras are in the pixels now (2, Funny)

Vegemeister (1259976) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583826)

That begs the question,* why isn't this tagged 'telescreen'?

*I'm in ur language, trollin' ur pedants.

unless it's bulletproof glass at the bank (1)

optikos (1187213) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583690)

To be even this thin, it seems like either A) the electronics would need to be embedded in the glass or B) the back of the glass would need to be the printed circuit board itself

Re:unless it's bulletproof glass at the bank (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583778)

Ahh, but what if you positioned the 3mm thin piece of glass on top of a 3ft x 3ft x 3ft table?

Glass size (-1, Redundant)

emj (15659) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583700)

Sadly glass comes in a variety of thickness, I'm guessing the MS one will be pansar grade glass at 3.5 inches.

I think I like the Apple way... (0, Offtopic)

catbutt (469582) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583704)

...of keeping things secret until they are ready to go out the door. Rather than talk about some supposed product 3 years off that probably will never happen.

Re:I think I like the Apple way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583894)

Apple doesn't have any research, so they don't have anything pie-in-the-sky to talk about. Microsoft keeps their actual product plans as closely guarded as Apple.

'No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass' (0, Redundant)

okmijnuhb (575581) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583708)

What kind of glass? Bullet proof?

Re:'No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass' (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583760)

Transparent Aluminum.

They have their shit tight this time.

Re:'No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass' (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583834)

I don't think its a very radical claim. My sons ipod touch is pretty thin. Now if they can make "Minority Report" tablets... Transparent and in arbitrary sizes. Drag and drop objects from any to any.

Re:'No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass' (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583896)

Yes, let's make up more silly claims that even the marketing whack-jobs didn't dare put in the press release....

Don't you get your /. username revoked for posting this kind of shit?

Re:'No Thicker Than Sheet of Glass' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33584038)

More like unobtanium...

Hey! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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! (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584066)

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:Hey! (1)

headLITE (171240) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584150)

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 :)

"Next three years" (1)

angry tapir (1463043) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583720)

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.

Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583730)

Once upon a time there was a device named courier...

Patent Infringement? (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 . . .

Re:Patent Infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583802)

Quite unlikely, there's nothing intellectual about microsoft's property.

Re:Patent Infringement? (1)

MintOreo (1849326) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583922)

MOD PARENT UP. Creating electonics of this this sort is akin to connecting a lego head to a lego body; a small child or perhaps even a baby could do it. If Apple was the one trying to do it, it would be a work of genius, since the inevitably sleek, cool look could only be concocted by Steve Jobs himself!

Re:Patent Infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583972)

You read too much into online reviews, methinks. Take it easy, there are more important thins in life to attach to emotionally than a company ticker.

Re:Patent Infringement? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583924)

It's just an expression. Like, "kick your butt" could involve no kicking whatsoever.

Re:Patent Infringement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583900)

Make it trademark infringement:
1. Start a company which sells window cleaning tissue which is very soft and with microscopic capilar tubes (to the uninitiated: this sounds more complicated than it is). Call it "Microsoft Windows".
2. Wait for MS to release it's window.
3. ???
4. Sue MS for entering your market (cf. Apple vs Apple)
5. Profit!

Microsoft borrowing ideas from Apple again? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583762)

Parts of this concept seem awfully familiar...

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

Within next three years? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583784)

Within 3 years people will forget about this promise, Microsoft will change its mind and technology will deliver something completely different from tablets.

Standard Microsoft Tactics (2, Insightful)

am 2k (217885) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583798)

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.

Re:Standard Microsoft Tactics (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583902)

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.

Ought to be enough for anybody (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583820)

Today: "The thickness of a sheet of glass ought to be enough for anybody."
3 years from now: "The glass, as it turns out, needs to be as thick as the length of a football field. Sorry 'bout that."

Anyone know any good glass companies to invest in?

and the advantage is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583842)

Creating screens a few mm thick is a function of OLED, not anything Microsoft does.

Putting photo transistors in screens is pretty obvious; it's also been proposed for scanning ("just hold the paper up to the screen"). But regular touch screen technologies give you better touch response, add almost nothing to the thickness, and leave the fourth pixel available... to be a fourth pixel, giving you better color or more brightness.

Squant (2, Informative)

pellik (193063) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583874)

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.

I can't wait! (4, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583876)

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.

Re:I can't wait! (3, Funny)

mikeage (119105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583954)

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.

To make things even better, you'll be able to play Duke Nukem Forever on it!

no thicker than a piece of glass... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583878)

and as long as a piece of string

Already Got One (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583880)

"...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?

Doesn't anyone check on marketting? (3, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

What... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583888)

and what kind of voodoo will I have to do when I need to re-install the OS? Will I have to type in an 80-digit code? Will I have to crawl through a doggy door and beg my masters to re-activate the thing? Over the past fifteen years, I've gotten so fed up with this company's tactics that I refuse to buy anything from them. I steer everybody I know to Macs or Linux.

Typical Microsoft (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583914)

"It's the thickness. Once we figure this out it's game over!"

It's the software, stupid.

Bad article, Really bad summary (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Is "thickness" an important feature nowadays ? (4, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 3 years ago | (#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 ?

But will it run Android ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583932)

:-)

Poor summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33583934)

Typical /. summary, this is the guy's predictions, nowhere in the interview does he 'promise' anything, these are just his predictions.

In any case, it's basically true, image capture built into an LCD display is a known technology, and the 'essential' components are in a space as thin as a sheet of glass except for the LCD backlight, a problem which Microsoft's Wedge lens development neatly solves. http://www.microsoft.com/appliedsciences/content/projects/wedge.aspx [microsoft.com]

Only one thing to say (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#33583980)

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

That's smashing!

With x86....else is it really Windows? (4, Insightful)

jabjoe (1042100) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Sounds great! (1, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584052)

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

-jcr

One last time...how many pixels do you see? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33584056)

THERE ARE FOUR PIXELS!

Maybe they could call it... (4, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584060)

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

Blue glass! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33584062)

Blue glass, no doubt :-) (BSOD)

Ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33584078)

At Soviet Microsoft... Monitor watches you

Embedded (4, Insightful)

Orphaze (243436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584090)

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.

Re:Embedded (1)

cyclomedia (882859) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584126)

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.

Last time MS published anything noteworthy? (1)

fadir (522518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584128)

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 from Microsoft at all. They are quite ok at copying whatever someone else has built before, but that's about it.

If anyone will deliver such a ground breaking device then it will be Google, Apple or some Chinese startup whose name no one has heard of before - but definitely not Microsoft.

Please, oh please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33584132)

Tell me that Bill Buxton's collar isn't popped in that pic?

In three years!? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 3 years ago | (#33584134)

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.

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