Fast Company

Microsoft Brings My Pet Peeves to the Surface

One of the things that bother me more than anything else is seeing the reflection of finger prints on my computer screen. It seems that no matter how many times I wipe it down with those special disinfectant wipes they are always there. I'm not even sure how they get there in the first place; I certainly don't spend my days fondling the screen. But my compulsion to keep things clean is frequently set off by this constant nuisance.

So, when I was reading the paper this morning, this finger print problem is what instantly struck me when I read about Microsoft's new product, Surface. This new means of setting off my compulsive cleaning is an interactive table that responds to touch. The table will be able to read multiple touches simultaneously, download pictures from a wi-fi enabled camera that is sitting on its surface, and read digitally encrypted cards like hotel key cards.

According to The New York Times, Microsoft is planning to unveil Surface today at a The Wall Street Journal conference on everything digital in California. Here is an article from the Mercury News that describes some of the capabilities of the table as seen firsthand.

Surface will first be marketed commercially and already has buyers like Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide and Harrah's Entertainment. While I think this product may be a neat idea, a whole slew of problems (beside the fact that it will look dirty all the time) spring to mind.

First, there is my propensity to spill drinks on just about everything. I hope Microsoft has built-in some sort of safety mechanism for just such an occasion, since tabletops are usually where people tend to put their drinks first and are often the beneficiary of my martini faux-pas.

A more pressing problem, though, is technology rape. Surface seems like a whole new way to bring identity theft front and center. I imagine that if this device can read a hotel key card, it makes me wonder if it could be programmed to read my credit cards. I can already see myself unknowingly sitting my purse on the table in a hotel only to find that everything electronic has now been scanned by the table and is in the hands of any person who comes to touch the table next. In an instant I have been abused by what I thought was a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

But alas, until Microsoft unleashes this bit of technological wonder onto the world, I will not know if my fears are unmerited. If you are at the unveiling today or have heard anything else about this electronic furniture, please share (and hopefully set my fears to rest)!

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3 Comments

  • rob

    It uses cameras. It can only read what they can see. It can't see inside your purse and it can't see through your clothes. Thought I would get that out of the way before you make another silly assumption). Your post is an example of imagining problems where they don't exist. It's not spam but your value add is basically equivalent. Did you really think it could scan the contents of your purse or were you just trying to be provocative in an unintelligent way?

  • david

    It can only read your credit card if you set the actual card down on the surface (it can't scan the contents of your purse) and it has a straightforward system of letting you know what it's doing. As for the drinks and fingerprints -- I'm sure both those things have been thought of. The screen is meant to be touched, unlike your current computer screen. Your post, while mildly amusing, is more complacent than anything, the focus should be on the technology that could change the landscape of computing-- not unfounded and poorly researched potential complaints.