Microsoft Touts Touch-Screen Feature for Windows
By ROBERT A. GUTH May 28, 2008; Page B3
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Microsoft Corp. offered a glimpse of the next version of its Windows operating system, demonstrating a touch-screen technology that could spawn a new class of personal computers in coming years.
But the demonstration, coming at least 20 months before the software is expected to be released, also highlights the perception that the current version of the Microsoft software, Windows Vista, isn't living up to the company's expectations.
The new technology, which Microsoft calls Multi-touch, allows a person to use fingers to manipulate software through a touch-sensitive display screen, similar to those used on Apple Inc.'s iPhone.
A key feature of the technology allows for multiple touches simultaneously; for instance, dragging five fingers across a screen would draw five separate lines. Microsoft Vice President Julie Larson-Green demonstrated the technology by using her fingers to draw a tree, land and a sun on a laptop from Dell Inc. "You are going to see this in all different sizes and shapes of computers," she said.
Microsoft executives said the touch technology would be well-suited for editing digital photos and navigating Internet-mapping services. They demonstrated the software Tuesday at the D: All Things Digital conference here. Ms. Larson-Green used her fingers to use an Internet mapping Web site to find a Starbucks near the conference site.
Details about the software, informally called Windows 7, have been sparse. Microsoft executives remained tight-lipped about other details, including exactly when it will go on sale. They would say only that their goal is to begin selling Windows 7 around three years after the launch of Windows Vista—or about January 2010.
In an interview, Microsoft Senior Vice President Steven Sinofsky said the company is on track to deliver the software then.
Any details that emerge about the next version of Windows are closely watched because the software generates Microsoft's largest single source of revenue and profit and because a host of PC makers and software companies depend on it for their products.
By showing a feature of the product now, Microsoft risks diverting attention from Windows Vista, which though it has sold well, has received lackluster reviews. Microsoft executives have repeatedly pointed to 2008 as an important year for corporate adoption of Vista, yet many businesses say they aren't ready to make the move.
Mr. Sinofsky expressed confidence that the development process he is following will assure that Windows 7 arrives on schedule with new features such as multi-touch intact.
Over the years, the complexity of Windows has grown, making the creation of new versions a monumental and risky endeavor.
Windows Vista, which went on sale in January 2007 after several delays, took five years to make, years longer than expected. Microsoft says that as of March 31, it had sold 140 million Vista licenses.