Microsoft announced its new multi-touch table Surface interface, today. At first, I was pretty excited about it. I mean, what could be cooler than having a computing device at your fingertips? So what if my arms get tired, I'm in Minority Report! But, while browsing the Microsoft Surface homepage, it occurred to me somewhere between the restaurant menu-selection buttons whizzing by with dessert images plus star ratings and the two cellphones demonstrating their comparison features when both set on the Surface that this product that I had seen the same ads before. Not for the Surface, but for a myriad of nameless, faceless virtual products in AT&T's "You Will" campaign 13 years ago. Here's a YouTube clip of a handful of the commercials:
The background music, pacing, phrasing, smiling... it all reeks of Blade Runner world optimism.
It's not that I don't think the product will ever... ahem, surface: I'm sure it will, in some form. I mean that Surface won't "happen" just like the Segway never "happened," and why I can't renew my driver's license from an ATM like AT&T promised. Obviously, it's much easier to be a naysayer than to do the work, but right now, Microsoft is counting on public places like hotels, restaurants, etc... to snatch these things up. I just don't see enough already cost-conscious, internet-saavy hotel customers being willing to pay the premium rates for a hotel that sinks its money into a gadget that will, no doubt, be just a novelty for the guests. The same goes for a restaurants and their often tight profit margins. Not to mention the inevitable time-hogging such a device would create, defeating any useful purpose it may have had to begin with.
Of course, a device such as this could succeed with time, and that must be what Microsoft is betting on. Perhaps a transition into the way-too-expensive hardware/software combination is a way to protect its target market from the patent-infringing Linux developers. Can't GPL that!