"Surface-like" multi-touch capability is coming in the next major release of Windows, currently codenamed Windows 7.
During the The Wall Street Journal's "D: All Things Digital" conference yesterday, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer appeared for an onstage interview during the opening events in Carlsbad, California, where they touted the touch-screen features.
Gates first introduced the Surface computer – a multi-touch table-based computer – at last year's conference.
Since its debut, company officials have hinted that eventually multi-touch capabilities would come to end users. The Surface, as it's called, is not widely available yet, but it will be, a little sooner rather than later.
Windows 7, officials confirmed Tuesday evening, is still on schedule to ship approximately three years after the January 30, 2007 commercial roll out of Windows Vista.
At the same time, Chris Flores, a director on the Windows Client communications team, posted a link to a video of the multi-touch capabilities running on Windows 7 on the Windows Vista Team Blog.
"What becomes even more compelling is when this experience is delivered to the PC on a wide variety of Windows notebooks, in all-in-one PC's, as well as in external monitors," Flores' post said. The company is working with hardware and software makers to make the feature a compelling addition in Windows 7, he added.
Among the features highlighted during a demo of Windows 7 at the conference was one that should seem familiar. The demo featured a photo management application that enabled the user to move the pictures around with her hands.
Microsoft is not the only company experimenting with multi-touch interfaces. Apple's iPhone sports the same sort of capability. The idea is that being able to directly manipulate objects on the screen with hands or fingers is more efficient in many circumstances than using a mouse.
Announced with much fanfare last year, the first Surface computers were supposed to be in use by the end of 2007. As it turned out, AT&T began using the devices as a sales tool in some of its phone stores last month.
Earlier this month, Gates demonstrated a whiteboard-sized multi-touch display during his keynote speech at Microsoft's annual CEO Summit.
"All the surfaces [on walls and desks] will eventually have a low-cost screen display capability in both the office and the home," Gates said at the time.