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Microsoft fast-forwards Surface launch

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Consumer interest in Microsoft’s Surface tabletop touchscreen PC could see a home version of the touchy-feely technology fast tracked, and brought to market ahead of the company’s vague 2011 release date.

Surface in Action

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Microsoft exec Steve Ballmer made the announcement to analysts this week, saying that the company will be ”following its nose” after what it claimed was a deluge of consumer demand for the technology. So Surface could make it into consumer products sooner than anticipated, though how much sooner Microsoft isn't saying. The business-oriented version, developed for retail and gaming locations, is expected to appear this coming Spring.

But what are consumers getting so excited about? Surface, which was codenamed 'Milan', is essentially a 30in touchscreen PC mounted into a tabletop. The screen allows users to activate and move items around the screen just by touching them, and responds like Apple's iPhone to multiple, simultaneous finger presses.

It also wirelessly interacts with other gadgets, letting you move images from, say, your digicam simply by putting the camera down onto the table. That's not unlike Sony’s TransferJet data transfer system, unveiled earlier this year, which also allows gadgets to ‘communicate’ with one another by touching or holding them together.

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