Hands-on preview of the new Microsoft Surface 2.0: Samsung SUR40 model

The Surface 2.0 is easily Microsoft’s hat trick for CES 2011. When all the attention and expectations were on Windows, a brand new version of Surface surprised and impressed most people I’ve spoken to. Earlier today, I got the chance to have a very quick hands-on demo of the mesmerizing Samsung SUR40.

The device demoed, still in preproduction, is an impressive piece of hardware engineering and industrial design, in development for approximately the last year and a half. In collaboration with Samsung, Microsoft has turned the “big table” on its head into an object of desire. Interestingly, it actually supports custom table stands (this demo unit has a curved wood stand vs. metallic poles used in keynote).

As a compliment, the gorgeous all-gloss frame and Gorilla Glass screen resembles a giant iPad. Although the new-ratio 16:9 screen is not flush like the previous version, Microsoft actually designed drain channels for water spillage. The Microsoft representative insisted we don’t test it. Having said that, the team is still looking into a flush option.

The OS software has also been drastically improved. Blurry-looking graphics has been replaced with high-fidelity counterparts to compliment the higher resolution screen. For Metro fans, there’s also a splash of solid colored blocks and focus on text in the UI controls and bundled Microsoft applications.

Of course, the star of the show, Microsoft’s proprietary PixelSense technology in development for more than two years is borderline magic. An infrared and optical sensor sits besides each display pixel without sacrificing display quality. In combination with some post-processing software, it is able to detect fingers and objects at the same 60 frames per second as the display, not only does it recognizes object tags from the previous version but also allows for “scanning” of flat objects like documents.

Although Microsoft won’t reveal much about future plans, they did indicate they’re looking at different screen-size options, as the SUR40 model name suggests, to give customers more choice. On a similar note, the Surface 2.0 will only support the landscape orientation when mounted; a decision made from user research.

With further hardware firmware and software optimizations to make, Microsoft anticipates general availability later this year. The now more affordable device will actually be sold through Samsung’s distribution channels (instead of Microsoft) to further broaden its appeal.

Disclosure: I am attending CES 2011 as a guest of Microsoft Australia.

10 insightful thoughts

  1. Would make for one heck of an executive desk. PixelSense sounds amazing. I’d be curious if this technology can see in the space in front of the surface and by how far.

  2. I could just imagine this Surface tablet being my “Home Hub”.

    Maybe it’s not practical for desktop commputing, but I can definitely see this in my living room for:
    1. Automated home manager – Easy glanceable info of power consumption around the house and appliances, activating electronics and regulating the temp and environment, and maybe even home security.
    2. Landline phone connector/communications – I can manage my landline phone stuff through Surface and get access to history, contacts, and such. Also, I could see a mounted Kinect sensor camera (or regular MS webcam) allowing me to make video calls and such.
    3. Digital media access – Maybe able to access and manipulate my digital media on the Surface to somewhat physically organize and lightly edit, and then beam it via DLNA to my TVs and such.
    4. Games and general apps – Access to a library of multi-player games would be handy for such a table, and great for families, not to mention general apps useful for the house like a shared family calendar, to-do list, notes, cooking, etc.

    As much as the naysayers see limited potential in the Surface for home and personal use, I can think of many ways it could fit if the prices became even more affordable. I’m eager to see how they’ll develop Surface in the coming years.

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