Curtin University has today announced that it intends to deploy Microsoft Surface units, the table-like computing device that responds to multi-user, multi-touch technology.
The announcement was made at a press conference this morning where Microsoft officially launched Microsoft Surface for commercial use in Australia, nearly three years after it was made available in the US.
Kim Wisniewski, systems engineer at Curtin said Microsoft Surface represented "the absolute and fundamental technology for it to explore engagement methods for students.
"We are at that point in our existence where we are always trying to push the student experience to a new level. This is the start of our Curtin Surface Project where we are collaborating across multiple faculties across campus," said Wisniewski.
Curtin University has three units on order and expects to receive them within five days. According to Wisniewski, the University is going through the exercise of finding a partner to help develop apps for its devices.
"In the short term we'll be evaluating what existing applications are available and what kind of software has been developed in the past 12 months, but we'll also be working on our development plans.
"[However], we realise that the development of the Surface is quite unique. There are some special requirements and some skill sets to be able to develop a 360-degree user interface. It's unlike anything [before]. We will be working with partners and we're striving to build up our own internal skills sets as well," he said.
At the launch, Microsoft unveiled its Surface channel partners: Amnesia Razorfish, nsquared, Automatic Studio, and Object Consulting - the latter of which today joined nsquared to become a Surface strategic partner.
Object Consulting was heavily involved with the development of applications for the ANZ Bank, another customer announced today, which currently holds two units at its headquarters in Melbourne, joining only a handful of customers to have one on hand.
ANZ Bank partnered with Object Consulting, Automatic Studio and M&C Saatchi to develop and design a customised tennis application for the bank for use in January during the Australian Open.
Microsoft will ship the unit direct to customers at a cost of $21,000 for a commercial unit and $24,000 for a developer unit. However, involvement for partners is around developing customised apps for customers.
Microsoft claimed the global Surface Partner Program has over 250 partners from 18 countries for developing applications for Surface.
"We have a ton of partners that have been creating applications for existing customers including Hard Rock Café, AT&T, and Sheraton Hotels," said Robbie Bach president entertainment and devices division at Microsoft. "Partners are doing a great job creating applications that run on it because the unit is cool, but without the applications, it really doesn't get you any where,"
Tracey Fellow, managing director for Microsoft Australia said Surface was a combination of years of research and described the devices as being "a fundamental shift in how we think about technology - technology that is much more intuitive and really changes how we interact with it. It is just the beginning."
She expects to see at least hundreds and perhaps thousands of units displayed in Australia in the next 12 months.