Microsoft Launches Partner Program for Surface Computer

Microsoft has launched the Microsoft Surface Partner Program to expand the ecosystem for partners and developers working with Microsoft Surface, the company's multitouch, multiuser tabletop computer.

Microsoft has launched the Microsoft Surface Partner Program to expand the ecosystem for partners and developers working with Microsoft Surface, the company's multitouch, multiuser computer.

Announced at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2009 in New Orleans, the Microsoft Surface Partner Program is an extension of the Microsoft Partner Network and the Microsoft QuickStart Website.

Under the new program, Microsoft is expanding access to the Microsoft Surface software development kit (SDK). While the Microsoft Surface SDK has been available to a limited audience, Microsoft is now making the SDK Workstation Edition broadly available to the more than 640,000 registered Microsoft partners.

Microsoft partners are seen as key players in making Microsoft Surface successful, Microsoft officials have said. "Our partners are an integral part of our success," said Matt Champagne, director of marketing for Microsoft Surface. "We've said it from the beginning - the possibilities of experiences and solutions with Microsoft Surface are really endless. And our partners are constantly showcasing this by developing new, collaborative experiences that weren't possible before."

To kick off the new program, the Microsoft Surface team also is holding The Touch First Microsoft Surface Developer Contest, which challenges new and existing partners to create a next-generation application on the platform, Microsoft said.

The contest is open to all Microsoft Partner Network registered partners located in one of the 14 markets where Microsoft Surface is available. Partners must design an application built on Microsoft Surface and include one additional product beyond Windows Presentation Foundation and Windows. All entries must also apply to one of six verticals: automotive, retail, health care, financial, hospitality or public sector. To submit an entry, partners must submit video and a description of the application on a dedicated Facebook page. Winners are then selected by the Microsoft Surface team and will be announced at PDC in October and awarded a Microsoft Surface unit.

The Microsoft Surface is a computing platform that responds to multitouch, natural hand gestures and objects placed on the display to provide interaction with information and digital content in an intuitive and collaborative way, Microsoft said. Microsoft has targeted several vertical markets for the Surface, including retail, hospitality, financial services, health care, automotive and public sector.

Microsoft said more than 200 Microsoft Surface partners are developing solutions that take advantage of the Surface platform's capabilities. In one case, Harrah's Entertainment has experienced a 19 percent increase in sales and traffic at its Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino iBar due to deploying Surface units to provide guests with a new way to order drinks and socialize, Microsoft said.

Also, Barclays Bank in the United Kingdom is using Microsoft Surface to offer premier account holders easy account navigation through simple gestures and touches. Since the initial pilot deployment, Barclays has seen a 50 percent increase in sales of its Premier Life product - the only product so far sold via Microsoft Surface, the company said.

The Microsoft Surface Partner Program not only allows a larger audience of registered Microsoft partners to join, but also provides resources and tools to help them build better Microsoft Surface experiences. To help developers get started quickly with Microsoft Surface applications, Microsoft has gathered feedback from partners and developers about the resources and support that help them succeed. Using the Microsoft Surface QuickStart Website, registered Microsoft partners can quickly sign up to join the Microsoft Surface Partner Community and have immediate access to the SDK Workstation Edition. Microsoft Surface QuickStart is an easy-to-use site that allows registered Microsoft partners to enter in their partner ID for immediate access to the Microsoft Surface Partner Community.

Champagne said the Microsoft Surface makes interacting with a computer more intuitive and makes collaboration easy, Champagne said. The new model also requires a new way to approach application creation. "It requires thinking beyond technical programming of new features," he said. "Instead, it requires an understanding of human behavior and what's natural and intuitive when solving problems or managing information, and then transferring that into an experience that does not use a mouse and keyboard."