Xerox LiveBoardIn my conference room, I have a huge machine called a LiveBoard. It was made by Xerox. Think of it as the extreme digital whiteboard. It's has a 60" rear projection system with built-in optics so that digital markers can be tracked anywhere on the surface.  The markers have no ink in them, they simply transmit an IR beacon that the electronics inside of the LiveBoard pick up to determine pen position. The system functions as a giant PC. Now, with a suitable internet or data connection you can connect two (or more) LiveBoards in such a way that anything written on one can will appear on the other and vice versa. It's a wonderful collaboration technology. Unfortunately 15 years ago, when it first came out, the $45K price tag put out of the reach of most businesses. I suppose the fact that it weighed 600 lbs was a detractor for some people, too.

Today, Microsoft introduced the first of its surface computing products (yes, Michael, just one more reason that the Windows platform has a long and innovative future ahead of it) which basically shrinks the Xerox LiveBoard functionality and more in to the size of your coffee table. Initially, multiple users will collaborate around the table, but in the future, they will be able to connect their surfaces for shared collaboration. Again, nothing new here.

What IS new is that we now have the technology to make this small, and hopefully more affordable. With high-speed networks we should be able to connect these shared surfaces easily and at low cost. Whereas the LiveBoard was typically limited to an ISDN or slow internet connection, the Microsoft Surface should allow us to collaborate in real-time. The other key development is that Microsoft now has years of experience with the Tablet PC platform and OS, as do many software developers (except, apparently,  for IBM/Lotus). This means that we can expect to see a rich collection of Surface enabled applications from the start. The early pictures (see links) of surface show it being used in more social settings which makes it appear like Microsoft is favoring the lifestyle side of technology. Do not be mistaken. The brown suits will find a way to put Surface to use for legitimate hard work, real stuff, the kind of work a PC was meant to do. In fact, My real work himself, Michael Sampson has written a wonderful summary of some of the possibilities of Microsoft Surface and I agree with him. I'd like to see these things come to pass. here's to hoping Microsoft gets this right. (Meanwhile, I can't wait to see the next Apple commercial.)

I may get my ultra wide screen Tablet PC functionality after all!

I'm sure that the internet will be buzzing with news, so I'll direct you to two posts I found interesting and you can follow the story from there.

1. Michael Sampson on The Team Collaboration Possibilities of Microsoft Surface (Absolute must read!)

2. James Kendrick on Microsoft Surface

See also: Microsoft Press release on Microsoft Surface

Discussion/Comments (1):

Microsoft brings LiveBoard to the coffee table with Surface

my school has a live board that was donated and hasnt worked for god knows how long and they think its worth fixing

Posted at 4/30/2010 2:26:25 PM by irritated student

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