Microsoft's Surface - have they licensed multi-touch?

by Jeremiah Foster

Interesting new technology coming from Microsoft called "Surface". I see some fairly obvious parallels with the iPhone and multi-touch specifically. Does this mean that Apple is licensing technology to Microsoft? Because presumably multi-touch is patented and owned by Apple.

18 Comments

Zac
2007-05-30 05:31:47
Actually, while Apple I'm sure has many patents on the iPhone, the multitouch stuff has been around for awhile, most prominantly from a guy named Jeff Han and his company Perceptive Pixel. Here is one of the videos of him. Look familiar? So no, Microsoft is not licensing anything from Apple, but Jeff Han's name is all over press releases for this thing, so I assume they are licensing technology from Jeff. I'm not an expert on multitouch or anything, but if I am remembering various explanations correctly, Microsoft's "Milan" uses the same tech as Jeff Han's demos, but the iPhone uses a different technology to achieve multitouch (and admitedly rips off some of Han's GUI ideas).


I have to say, licensed technology or not, the Milan is a really great device. While Microsoft my screw it up in the future, for now they have a real feather in their cap with the thing.

Jeremiah Foster
2007-05-30 05:35:51
@Zac Thanks for the comments. I have to agree that Milan looks pretty impressive.
Andy
2007-05-30 05:44:04
The more closely UIs match the real world, the more absurd patents covering this sort of thing become - I mean, how can you patent touching something, or rotating it with your hands ?


What's cool about Surface is the way it interacts with real-world devices, phones, cameras, etc. Although, there's nothing on the Surface website that makes me think this is anything other than a very nice mockup. It does give a very clear idea of where technology is headed. I'm sure Apple has something even nicer waiting in the wings though :)

LKM
2007-05-30 06:53:17
These patents are pissing me off to no end. I work for a company with a product that would be predestined for an interface like this, and collaborative work on such a multitouch table. Unfortunately, every player in this game has patented as many of these utterly obvious ideas as possible, which makes the whole idea a total minefield.


Patents are killing multitouch before it's even really born.

Brianary
2007-05-30 08:02:58
I'm not sure why you'd assume Apply patented multi-touch.


I believe FingerWorks was the first to market with the technology, and I'm pretty sure there have been others since.

Brianary
2007-05-30 08:03:12
I'm not sure why you'd assume Apple patented multi-touch.


I believe FingerWorks was the first to market with the technology, and I'm pretty sure there have been others since.

Brianary
2007-05-30 08:07:08
@LKM:


Patents are killing every idea that isn't a silo.

David
2007-05-30 08:09:18
This reminds me of a comment Steve made during the iPhone announcement about how multi-touch was proprietary technology and that Apple intended to protect it. It struck me as odd at the time, but now it makes sense. I'd expect a lawsuit coming from Apple.
Jeremiah Foster
2007-05-30 08:21:50
My impression is that Apple purchased Fingerworks, but I am unclear on that. There are some indications but hard to know how accurate they are.


I also remember Steve Jobs speaking glowingly about multi-touch, even saying he thought that it was more exciting that the mouse and point-and-clik interface. Hard to believe Apple won't try to exert some sort of patent protection.

gerard
2007-05-30 09:00:18
"This reminds me of a comment Steve made during the iPhone announcement about how multi-touch was proprietary technology and that Apple intended to protect it. It struck me as odd at the time, but now it makes sense. I'd expect a lawsuit coming from Apple."


"I also remember Steve Jobs speaking glowingly about multi-touch, even saying he thought that it was more exciting that the mouse and point-and-clik interface. Hard to believe Apple won't try to exert some sort of patent protection."


Apple hasn't patented the concept of multitouch, merely their technological solution for this. Other technologies can and DO exist, such as the one for JazzMutant's Lemur. Those even had a patent before Apple did.

gh
2007-05-30 09:10:31
There's a breathtaking video demo at Perceptive Pixel of a variety of novel gestures being used on a blackboard-sized multi-touch display, and the Multi-Touch Interaction Research page at Jeff Han's NYU site.
sean
2007-05-30 10:12:10
In response to Zac's comment. I remember reading a story about Jeff Han a couple of months ago where he talked briefly about the iPhone's touch tech - he seemed to be bound by some non-disclosure agreement, so there is no telling how much of the iPhone's interface is based on his ideas. So presumably it's possible he's licensing to both Apple and MS - which isn't such a bad deal for him.
Mark Ashton
2007-05-30 11:53:12
Umm...not really. Check out http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html for a fairly comprehensive history of multi-touch computing. Apple actually came pretty late to the game.
Mark Ashton
2007-05-30 11:57:18
Zac - check out the link here for a history of multi-touch computing. Jeff Han's work was/is interesting but certainly not the seminal work in this field.


http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html

Craig
2007-05-31 06:19:16
NYU's developments:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89sz8ExZndc
trevman
2007-05-31 14:41:11
Doesn't this really smack of the old microsoft spoiling technique of pre-announcing their own fabulous 'new software in development' with remarkable promised capabilities in advance of a competitor announcing their own same stuff? Not to spoil their competitor's market, nor even that they thought of it first... how long is it to wwdc???
Nice
2007-06-10 20:37:52
Han and Apple came late to the game, just because one guys website shows the date that these two players demo'ed their product? come on! do you REALLY think that it only took apple and jeff han a year tocome up with their technology? Do you think that, with multi touch having been around since at least 1983 that apple hasn't tried to do any mock-ups of their own during the last 24 years? are you people that naive?


Apple has probably been working on multi-touch for MANY YEARS! and that decided to put it to out for consumers with their first product in 2007. MS has been working with it since 2001 and is putting out it's first product for BUSINESS in 2007. MS doesn't even have a consumer version yet. It'll be many years before we even see anything like that from them.


So. stop beLIEving everything you read on the internet as written in stone and do some research befor eyou start trying to say that apple and Jeff Han were beat out by MS.

Bashar
2007-07-17 03:49:00
I really was wondering how could Microsoft out of no where come up with such magnificent solution. Now I can see some pieces coming together.