Microsoft survey teases “Oahu”: affordable consumer-version of the Surface computer, hypothetically

Would you like your own Microsoft Surface computer but don’t own a hotel chain, telephone company, Las Vegas casino, television network or themepark? If so, you need to sign yourself up for some Microsoft market research. To be precise, Microsoft recently delivered a marketing survey centered around a multi-touch computing device codenamed “Oahu”. It is, of course, a (hypothetical) consumer variation of the Surface computer.

Obviously one has to be skeptical of anything on a marketing research survey, I mean its whole purpose is to test out radical ideas in shallow waters. Having said that, these surveys also inherit some practicality or why would they waste the time and money right? Now let’s have a look at what they say about “Oahu”.

The survey starts off with this hefty foreword,

The following questions refer to a computing device called “Oahu” that has an innovative multi-touch screen. Oahu is a flat screen that sits horizontally like a table top. You can interact with Oahu by touching the screen, instead of using a mouse, and more than one person can interact with Oahu at the same time. You and others can move objects on the screen with your hands and touch icons to open up programs, games, or music. People using the device can also use their fingertips to expand and shrink objects on the screen. The screen recognizes people’s hand movements and touches and reacts accordingly. You can bring up an on-screen keyboard to input information. Oahu also works with other devices (such as digital cameras, cell phones, and MP3 players) by getting information from or sending information to them. Oahu is on with no waiting time to start up. Oahu can come as a freestanding table, placed into a piece of furniture, or built into a countertop. The type of Oahu devices we are asking about today are not portable but if they are furniture or tables, they can be placed anywhere in your home.

Then the survey asked the participant of several different “forms” of Oahu – table for meals, a countertop or games table. Here’s a couple of “table for meals” sample experiences. Interesting how many things you can do on the same table you eat food on.

  • Family hub – Help your family stay organized by sharing and managing calendars (by bringing everyone’s input into one place), leaving messages, paying bills and planning each day in a central environment.
  • Homework helper – Help your children with their homework or oversee their play activities while getting dinner ready.
  • Information access – Quickly check information (e.g., recipes) or control the home (e.g., change music controls).
  • Morning start – While eating breakfast, read newspaper headlines and e-mail, get updated on the daily commute, or use your fingers to expand your calendar and get details on the day’s events.
  • Content creation – Create and edit your personal content (e.g., recipe books, calendars, and grocery lists)

The survey then goes on to ask some further questions about what we already know about the surface – casual games and wireless sync with portable devices. It however finishes with quite a bombshell – a hypothetical price.

Please rate how likely you would be to purchase the Oahu Stand-alone games or casual table, if it has the following features:

  • Fixed location
  • Size allows for 4 people to comfortably use it at the same time
  • Looks like a Stand-alone games or casual table with a screen built into it
  • Can have an onscreen keyboard
  • Interact with it using “touch”; you can use multiple fingers or both hands
  • Automatically gets information from and sends information to your portable devices when you put them on the screen
  • Costs $1,499

For those who are curious, the name “Oahu” has some symbolic meaning. Besides being the name of the Hawaiian island – home to Honolulu, Pearl Harbour and Lost, it is indirectly translated as “The Gathering Place“. Fitting as the Surface computer encourages multiple people to interact at the same time.

Now I’d like to do a bit of marketing research of my own. Would you purchase a Surface computer if it was $1,499?

Thanks to Kieran for forwarding this.

102 insightful thoughts

  1. Depends on what the specs where, and if it was as full-fledged a Surface.

    Judging on Microsoft comments on the cost coming down on the surface as production ramps up, I would say this could be about the same as a Surface table, perhaps less some support from Microsoft that business variants receive. It will be interesting if Microsoft starts selling this, as it would compete with OEMs… but that was said about the Xbox, so meh. Lets hope it doesn’t Red Ring though, because sending one of those back would be much harder. :P

    Still, the release is sketchy; I think it won’t hit until around the release of Windows 7, when the Surface API is more “standard”.

  2. I’m sure i’ll buy it. I’m almost close enough to buying a full surface. I mean, i do live close enough to work to bike…. Except when it snows (and it snows a lot here in utah)…..

  3. This is awesome. With Multi-Touch coming in Windows7 there be a lot of OEMs creating machines like this or with different form factors. Recently we picked up a few of the new 25″ HP TouchSmarts at work for dev/demo machines and they are beautiful. If you have the software chops to create nice applications for it, it would make a great box. Right now these support Single Touch via the TabletPC interface model.

    Go take a look at them at your local Fry’s/Costco. They’re really nice and under $2K: http://www.hp.com/united-states/campaigns/touchsmart/#/Main/

  4. I would buy one in a heartbeat, espcially if it would sync phone calendars as well. Come to think of it, this thing has limitless possibilites.

  5. Sounds cool but i have no room for it. But if it were more portable, then I would sleep with Steve Balmer and STILL pay $1500 for it!

  6. What I would like is an alternate monitor/input device that was attached to a REALLY POWERFUL many-core main computer. I like the interface model, but I don’t like it as an independent platform.

  7. I like the idea of just putting a smart phone on a screen and changing the options and transferring files. This is almost like “Start Trek” stuff. So geeky. I love it! 8^)

  8. Why?
    1. My PC k/b and monitor are in a fixed location.
    2. 4 people? My PC is a PERSONAL Computer=”mine, not yours; get your own”
    3. My PC looks like a PC.
    4. I use my hands on my k/b and mouse and don’t have to reach across a table to access the entire screen.
    5. What portable devices? cell phone = bad reception; mp3 player = bad sound; portable DVD = bad picture
    6. $1500? k/b = $100; mouse = $70; monitor = $300.

    This is a solution in search of a problem.

  9. i actually will buy. not hypothetical at all. I WILL BUY the thing.

    Right now Surface is Vista in tablet mode + surface receptive hardware (IR sensors, scanner, etc) + Surfaceloader (the splash screen where apps load) + Surface back end software (the whole device interaction thing ) + NET 3.5/WPF apps.

    by 2009 or early 2010 we should have such consumer version of MS surface and the difference will be of course that it will be leaner but knowing it will also be Windows 7 based loading .NET 4.0/WPF apps should prove to be quite an upgrade from the awesome it already is.

    But we could also have emulated versions of surface as ultra mobile tablets that instead of being a traditional MS surface (IR sensors, scanner, etc) . they could instead be a combination of Windows 7 +MS surface device detection software + Windows Live Services + live mesh loading Silverlight 3.0 apps for another kind of awesome.

    The first scenario is a given. the second scenario is what i would like to see for 2010.

  10. For 1499? No way would I waste the cash on that. For 500? Yes.

    There is no reason why the price point can’t get closer to 500, or at least have a smaller version. I’m already running VMC, have a great setup in the livingroom and stream video from that like a file server to other computers inthe house. It would be great to have a tabletop-surface-device that would replace me VMC keyboard (it’s teh sucks) and allow me to pull up digital copies of cookbooks in the kitchen….

    For 1499? …. That just seems a bit too much. We already have a smartphone, media center pc, pc, laptop, netbook, mp3 player, e-reader/kindle…. Where is the damn “convergence” … ?

  11. I actually doubt we will see a non emulated version for 1500 dlls . i think that a non emulated version would be 3000 dlls if it is for FOUR PEOPLE remember that a MS surface is not a PC but MPC. a multi personal computer and it involves it being a collaboration Hardware and Software that is also a piece of furniture. even if renewable.

    A emulated version just as i suggest in my 2010 scenario?. now that could be at 1000 dlls. i cannot imagine it being cheaper than that. there is a lot of things involved in such kind of devices and they are not cheap.

    So for 1,500 dlls. maybe it will be the first version of a emulated MS surface. given that the MS Surface is right now at 5000-10,000 dlls. it dropping all the way to 1,500 dlls looks unrealistic to me given a HP Touchsmart cost around that right now.

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  13. Where is the direct link to get tested “oahu”? I defenetely one if $1500 and it can run 3d mark vantage default setting with at least 30 fps, and it durable like military application or at least it won’t broke in the first drop.

  14. Someone get me the dimensions of this device, so I can start making correctly sized and shaped holes in the tables here at home. :-)

  15. I wouldn’t buy one. It is like ‘Hex’ said above in the comments, its a solution in search of a problem.

    Why do you need the table? You don’t. Does it look good? No, it’s just a cool gadget, very cool I might add. But for $1500, roughly 1100 euros you can get several things that each individually out do the table in functionality and probably even in degree coolness.

    This thing is one of those gadgets that you get because you think you want it at the time but you turn out to use it for just a little while and then letting it rot. It would be cool at first to have one of those things in your table at first, but after a while you get used to the changing wallpapers, rotatable images and even the handy maps you can view on it. It is nothing different from the furby my little sister got for her birthday she had been crying about getting for months and ended up using for one month or from the Sony Ericsson P910i I thought I wanted and ended up using for a brief period of time. It ended up being replaced by a Nokia 1600 which I think has better functions.

    It is like that with all new technology. The iPhone has nothing to offer that anyone needs, most don’t even want it’s features. Same goes for this Oahu thing. I don’t see myself and my girlfriend inviting friends over to play some board games on it that we couldn’t play with actual board games. Besides, I don’t see me and my girlfriend inviting anyone over to play some real boardgames either.

  16. Regarding the specs mentioned… it would be really beneficial if the unit could be tiltied vertically for traditionaly game play using wireless controllers… This versatility would offset the costs and would allow the unit to be used with moveis and other “Hands Off” entertainment.

  17. I would buy one in a hart beat. I saw some of these in Disneyland and fell in love with them.

    They appear to be a conventional computer with a very easy to use interface. It wouldn’t replace my current computer, but I bet it would come in handy to show guests digital pictures, calendar functions, quick web browsing, ect… all in a table. I love this concept.

    I remember TRON had a desk with a computer in it. I have always wanted one!

  18. I would pay $1400 for one today if they were already released.

    I was lucky enough to see a “demo” of the full-sized surface computer a couple of months ago and I have to say that it is one of the most revolutionary devices I’ve ever seen. The Microsoft Rep placed a smart phone on the table and it automatically downloaded the picture that he just took, brought up the calendar, contacts list, and his visa card info automatically. He was then able to pay for the fake “bar tab” that was already displayed on the table by just dragging the Visa Icon from his phone display to the bar tab image. He was even allowed to just pay for 1-2 items on the tab.

    At home I can see this type of device taking the place of multiple devices: the home computer, digital picture frame, gaming console, even low-tech devices like a paper calendar and board games. The best part is, more than one user at a time can use it for seperate functions. The kids can use it to play a game while you check the sports scores and your email and while your wife is updating her Facebook page, surfing the net, and updating the family calendar.

    If you paired this device with a NAS device for storing digital content (like Windows Home Server) and a TV tuner card, it could really become a true entertainment center and could even take the place of your TV, especially if it could tilt to a more upright position.

  19. Is this thing going to be plugged into a wall outlet? Forget it. I have a hard enough time trying to hide those ugly chords for my lamp shades. Battery-operated? Has anybody invented a long-lasting battery for civilian use yet? I live on Oahu and the thing I need most is a map to get out of this crazy traffic. Can you make O-Surf stick to my dashboard? Those Garmins and Magellans are kind of hard to see when you’re farsighted. For $1500, I’d get a real Koa table, an heirloom piece from McMartin’s.

  20. Being Mr. Gadget, that would be the first thing my hubby would want for Christmas! I’ve spent more for stranger things, so I’m sure we would buy it. Actually, hubby aside, I would probably buy it for myself.

    And this definitely isn’t a Furby:) I could see our family using this constantly. We already use other means of doing the same tasks on a daily basis, but this would be MUCH quicker than our current solutions. I would just have to find another place to keep bread, overflow from the pantry and whatever else the kids manage to toss on the table.

  21. If this were released, I would get it for myself. I need a big and simple computer-table to plan my world conquest!! Can it interface with iPhone 3G? I want a hack for it to run my iPhone apps. I think that would be the first thing someone would try to do. I have an HP touchsmart, and I hope it gets that interface. I’ve been going to hotels and talking to the managers trying to buy one off of them, but I couldn’t negotiate any lower than $2500, 5 times as much as I paid for my notebook. If it has at least a dual-core, 2.3 GHz processor, 4gbs of RAM, an NVIDIA high-end graphics card with 512mb of video memory, slot loading blu-ray/cd/dvd writer, and it’s spill-proof, I’m in. And it has to run Vista or Windows 7, that’s a give-in.

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  23. Nope.
    I’ve got a computer and have a hard time keeping it clean. All marmelade, butter, greasy fingerprints that I wipe several times a week on our 22″ monitors. Imagine a screen flat on it’s back just waiting for new fingers to plow and plod around. And… you guessed correctly – I’ve got 4 kids!
    Then you cannot put it anywhere you want it.
    Nope. I wouldn’t buy one that is bolted to a table.
    Better if I could get one that is integrated into an ordinary 42″ flatscreen TV… Then it would hang on the wall. That way it’s a bit more safe from all sandwhich spreads – guess the peanut butter would melt and drip all over the floor. But… hey! If you put it on the wall then wouldn’t it be like… well… an ordinary TV/computer screen. Guess so…

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  25. Oh yes. Definetely. Of all the coolest things that I have seen, as far as technology, this is the coolest. This would help so many people actually WANT to sit down and interact with family. Nowadays, with texting, tv, computers, video games, how often is everyone in the same room at the same time? Not that technology alone should be the solution for being together as a family, but it’s something that would help. -Timmy now plays Halo on Surface while Jenny now texts her friends the opposite end of the table, while Mom catches up online with episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, while Daddy checks online for more baseball scores.- Whewwwwww go Bill Gates! Once again, like the creation of the pc and the internet, you have done it again! *leads a chant of “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!”

  26. Heck yes. This has been a dream of mine for a while. I doubt I’d be able to limit myself to only buying a single one.

  27. Right away!

    Is a garbage collector included? Would love to don´t have to care about the dishes.

    What will the campaign be like? Instead of “Windows without walls”, they can use “Tables without floors”! Cowabungah!

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