Microsoft Delivers Surface SDK

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-10-31 Print this article Print

Microsoft delivered a new software development kit for its Surface computer. The company estimates that the touch-enabled Surface computer will have a multibillion-dollar ecosystem by 2013. And, with the new SDK, Microsoft is hoping to attract more developers to create Surface applications.

LOS ANGELES-Microsoft has delivered a new software development kit for its Surface computer.

At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference here, Brad Carpenter, general manager of Microsoft's Surface team, told eWEEK the Surface SDK is available for developers to begin to use. Microsoft is hoping to expand its base of developers who create applications for the Surface computers, according to Carpenter, who leads the software platform development efforts for Microsoft Surface, including the development of the subsystem, shell and SDK.

Moreover, the Surface SDK aligns with the multitouch developer road map for Windows 7 and Microsoft's WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), Carpenter said.

"We see this as a multibillion-dollar ecosystem by 2013," Carpenter said. "All of this investment by Microsoft requires great applications for this technology to really take off. And we expect more developers to take advantage of the new capabilities with the SDK."

The Surface provides a natural user interface for users through simple touch. Microsoft Surface computing uses sensing and display technology to deliver digital content to everyday surfaces. The Surface platform supports direct interaction, multitouch and object recognition, and is a multiuser system.

Carpenter said the Surface is being used today in five major vertical markets: automotive, financial services, health care, leisure and entertainment, and retail.

The Surface software development environment includes custom versions of WPF controls and custom controls for the Surface-specific user experience, Microsoft officials said. For instance, the new ScatterView control enables 360-degree multiuser applications. And the TagVisualizer control simplifies common scenarios involving tagged objects.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is creating a unified API for touch. And the company has made it easy to port WPF and XNA applications to the Surface.

Microsoft delivered the new Surface SDK to 1,200 PDC attendees, according to Carpenter. In addition, Microsoft is offering a 10 percent discount on the price of a Surface computer, which the company estimated to cost between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the type of unit.

However, "the SDK has in it a simulator so developers can run it on a PC," Carpenter said.

Along with the new Surface SDK, developers, according to Microsoft officials, can use the following Microsoft technologies to develop applications for the Surface computer: WPF, the Microsoft XNA development platform, Microsoft Visual C# 2008 Express Edition, Microsoft Visual Studio 2008, Microsoft Expression Studio 2 and Microsoft Expression Blend 2.

Also at the PDC, during the keynote of Rick Rashid, Microsoft's senior vice president of research, Microsoft researchers showed off a new Surface prototype application called "SecondLight."

The researchers from Microsoft's research lab in Cambridge, England, showed off SecondLight's capabilities, including the ability to project an entirely different image onto a second surface atop the Surface computer, such as onto a piece of paper or a scroll. The demo showed how a piece of paper held over an image on the Surface could display a new image with information about the image beneath it.

The SecondLight experiment demonstrates how Microsoft can move the user experience more in line with real-world situations, the researchers said.

Mark Hachman at PC Magazine has a good post on SecondLight. Said Hachman:

"The experimental SecondLight technology adds a second dimension to Surface, allowing users to slide 'magic lenses' over the display to provide a second surface that can be linked to the first. In one example, Microsoft researchers projected a picture of a car on the Surface display. But add separate, portable pieces of glass that can be moved across the display, and presto! the glasses are transformed into 'X-ray specs' allowing a wireframe model to be viewed." 

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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