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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 08:07 GMT 09:07 UK
Microsoft unveils table computer
Person using Microsoft's touch sensitive coffee-table shaped computer
The computer does away with the need for a keyboard
Microsoft has unveiled a new touch-sensitive coffee table-shaped computer called "Surface".

Designed to do away with the need for a traditional mouse and keyboard, users can instead use their fingers to operate the computer.

Also designed to interact with mobile phones placed on the surface, Microsoft says it will initially sell the unit to corporate customers.

These will include hotels, casinos, phone stores and restaurants.

'Multi-touch'

So-called "multi-touch" interfaces - which allow the user to move several fingers on a screen to manipulate data, rather than relying on a mouse and menus - have been making waves in tech circles for some time.

We envision a time when surface computing technologies will be pervasive, from tabletops and counters to the hallway mirror
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer

One of the most hotly-awaited examples is Apple's iPhone, which is scheduled to be released in June.

Hewlett-Packard has also been looking at expanding multi-touch technology, in addition to leading research scientists such as Jeff Han of New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

With a 30-inch screen, Surface will initially sell for between $5,000 and $10,000 (2,525-5,050).

However, Microsoft said it aimed to produce cheaper versions for homes within three to five years.

'Multi-billion dollar'

"We see this as a multi-billion dollar category, and we envision a time when surface computing technologies will be pervasive, from tabletops and counters to the hallway mirror," said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft says small groups of people will be able to use each Surface machine simultaneously.

They will be first deployed in November in Sheraton hotels, Harrah's casinos, T-Mobile stores, and numerous restaurants.

The computer giant has had a mixed record recently with new consumer products.

While its Xbox games console has been a success, its Zune music player continues to lag far behind Apple's iPod.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A hands-free version of Microsoft's table computer



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