Gates: Every surface to be a computer

At CEO Summit, Microsoft's chairman says new user interfaces, particularly touch, will fundamentally change the "individual's office, the home, the living room."

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
Gates touchscreen
During his keynote Wednesday at the CEO Summit, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates shows off TouchWall, a 4-foot-by-6-foot touch-screen computer prototype. Microsoft

It's one step removed from the Midas approach, but Bill Gates wants to turn nearly everything we touch into a computer.

Speaking to a crowd of CEOs gathered in Redmond, Wash., Gates showed off prototype technology he said will allow home and office walls to become computers.

While Microsoft's Surface computers are currently shipping for about $10,000, Gates said the hardware costs for such products need not be that high. Within a few years, it could be in the hands of individuals.

"We're saying it will be absolutely pervasive," Gates said. "When I say everywhere, I mean the individual's office, the home, the living room."

What Gates showed on Wednesday was a 4-foot-by-6-foot prototype called TouchWall. Among the things that appealed to me was the idea that presentations might shift away from the sort of robotic slideshows enabled by PowerPoint.

Along with TouchWall, Gates showed off the software that accompanies it, known as Plex. TouchWall itself uses infrared and laser technology to sense touch input, Microsoft said.

In his speech, Gates also proved why TouchWall is still in the prototype stage.

"Whenever I go up and touch it, the software will notice it," Gates said, in kicking off the demo. When nothing happened, he added the qualifier "theoretically."

The screen did come to life a few minutes later.