Microsoft eyes Perceptive Pixel for large touch panel


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 - Page 15

Microsoft Corp said it would buy Perceptive Pixel Inc, a maker of large touch-screen display monitors that can be used by multiple people at the same time.

Microsoft plans to sell Perceptive Pixel’s large screens, which can run its latest operating system, Windows 8, the Redmond, Washington-based software company said at a conference in Toronto on Monday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Microsoft has a lot riding on the success of Windows 8, due to be released later this year. Perceptive Pixel’s 82-inch multi-touch screen, used by customers including news broadcaster CNN and oil-services provider Schlumberger Ltd, can respond to finger movements and a stylus at the same time, helping users mimic real-world work environments, according to the company’s Web site. It will be another vehicle for Windows 8 sales to big customers such as corporations and schools.

“It’s just a very big Windows 8 tablet, but people ‘Ooh and ah’ at it,” Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer said at the conference. “Our challenge is to make that technology more affordable.”

The displays currently sell for about US$80,000, he said. The screens can connect to standard corporate computers and already work with Windows 8; Microsoft demonstrated one running the program at a conference in February.

Windows 8 will be shipped to manufacturers the first week next month and go on sale by the end of October, Microsoft said on Monday. In the coming year, Microsoft expects to sell “a few million” units of its Surface tablet, Ballmer said.

Perceptive Pixel founder Jeff Han, who demonstrated multi-touch technology at the TED conference in 2006, will join Microsoft, with his team becoming part of the company’s Office division.

The New York-based company gained prominence in 2008 when cable-news network CNN used one of its displays as a large interactive US map for presidential election coverage.

Now Han, who says many of his company’s biggest customers are top-secret defense and government projects, wants to take the products more mainstream. To do that, he needs Microsoft’s muscle and better integration with Office programs like the OneNote note-taking application and Lync conferencing software, he said in an interview.

Microsoft expects the acquisition to close this summer, and it will work hard to lower the price of Perceptive Pixel products, Giovanni Mezgec, a Microsoft general manager, said in an interview. He declined to give a specific month or say how much lower the prices may fall.

“We want to make this mainstream,” he said. “We will do anything possible to get the cost down and to get new forms of this out in the market places in any way possible.”