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Microsoft has joined a consortium of investors putting $24m into touch-screen and pen-based input specialist N-trig.

The company has partnered with Aurum Ventures, Challenger, Canaan Partners, and Evergreen Venture Partners to commit the money to N-trig, based in Israel.

N-trig said the funding would be used to continue its work with OEMs making multi-touch notebooks and convertible computers for the mainstream marketplace. N-trig touch-screen input technology has so-far been used in Hewlett-Packard's TouchSmart tx2 laptop and the Dell Latitude XT, and the company has promised more OEM design wins this year.

Microsoft ha long pushed the cause of stylus-based and tablet-style computers - a personal cause in particular of Bill Gates. The paradigm, though, has resolutely failed to take off and such devices remain the preserve of specific industrial sectors, like health and manufacturing.

With Windows 7, though, Microsoft is broadening the range of APIs available for use in touch-based input. The idea is actions in Windows and applications like Internet Explorer and Office executed using a mouse can also be done through touching the computer's screen once enabled by an ISV or OEM.

Windows 7 is unlikely to take Windows-based touch-screen input mainstream. It could, though, help take Windows deeper and into a large number of such specialized markets that do use tablets and touch but whose applications and devices do not currently support Windows. There's also the potential for greater use of Windows on hand-held consumer devices using touch for their input.

Microsoft said in a statement the combination of Windows 7 and N-trig's DuoSense pen and touch-based input technology would give customers a "brand new way" to interact with their PCs. "By simulating the way people write and touch naturally, N-trig is helping to make it easier to navigate your PC and enable a new class of Windows experiences," group program manager for Windows client Ian LeGrow said in a statement. ®

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