NEW ORLEANS – July 13, 2009 – Microsoft Corp.’s Surface computer has opened new business possibilities for partners familiar with its multi-touch, multi-user capabilities. To expand its base of partners for Microsoft Surface, Microsoft is announcing at the Worldwide Partner Conference 2009 in New Orleans the Microsoft Surface Partner Program, an extension of the Microsoft Partner Network, and the QuickStart Web site.
While the Microsoft Surface SDK has been available to a limited audience, Microsoft is now making the SDK Workstation Edition broadly available to the more than 640,000 registered Microsoft partners.
The Microsoft Surface QuickStart web site is designed to help partners quickly find the resources they need to create applications for Microsoft Surface.
Microsoft Surface is an innovative computing platform that responds to multi-touch, natural hand gestures and objects placed on the display, providing effortless interaction with information and digital content in an intuitive and collaborative way. It’s available for commercial purchase in 14 markets, and many customers have either deployed or are piloting the platform (both publicly and behind closed doors). The platform has also expanded into several target vertical markets, including retail, hospitality, financial services, healthcare, automotive and public sector.
Microsoft partners are seen as key players in making Microsoft Surface successful. “Our partners are an integral part of our success,” says Matt Champagne, director of marketing for Microsoft Surface. “We’ve said it from the beginning — the possibilities of experiences and solutions with Microsoft Surface are really endless. And our partners are constantly showcasing this by developing new, collaborative experiences that weren’t possible before.”
More than 200 Microsoft Surface partners are developing innovative solutions that take advantage of the platform’s capabilities to meet various business objectives while giving their clients a more collaborative and engaging experience. For example, in hospitality, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. linked a 19 percent increase in sales and traffic at its Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino iBar ultra-lounge to Microsoft Surface after deploying units to provide guests with a new way to order drinks and socialize (1).
Elsewhere, Barclays Bank in the UK is using Microsoft Surface to offer premier account holders easy account navigation through simple gestures and touches. Since the initial pilot deployment, Barclays has seen a 50 percent increase in sales of its Premier Life product — the only product so far sold via Microsoft Surface (2).
Helping Partners Broaden Capabilities to Create Innovative, Collaborative Experiences
Microsoft Surface is a new way to use technology, says Champagne, one that is intuitive and makes collaboration easy. The new model also requires a new way to approach application creation. “It requires thinking beyond technical programming of new features,” he says. “Instead, it requires an understanding of human behavior and what’s natural and intuitive when solving problems or managing information, and then transferring that into an experience that does not use a mouse and keyboard.”
To help developers get started quickly with Microsoft Surface applications, Microsoft has gathered feedback from partners and developers about the resources and support that help them succeed. The Microsoft Surface Partner Program not only allows a larger audience of registered Microsoft partners to join, but also provides resources and tools to help them build great Microsoft Surface experiences that result in tangible differences for their businesses.
Using the Microsoft Surface QuickStart Web site, registered Microsoft partners can quickly sign up to join the Microsoft Surface Partner Community and have immediate access to the SDK Workstation Edition. Microsoft Surface QuickStart is an easy-to-use site that allows registered Microsoft partners to enter in their partner ID for immediate access to the Microsoft Surface Partner Community.
Additional information is available on the Microsoft Surface QuickStart Web site.
Developing on Microsoft Surface – A Partner’s Perspective
Many partners already are creating new uses for Microsoft Surface. Infusion Development, for instance, has created applications for the healthcare, financial services and other industries. Infusion also was behind the Barclays Bank application.
“Customers and branch employees loved the app, but the most exciting thing was the 50 percent improvement in sales of a particular financial product they reported seeing,” says Greg Brill, CEO of Infusion, about Infusion’s work with Barclays.
Infusion also has found success with the education application the company executed in Wales for Torfaen County’s board of education, called SPOT MATCH GRAB. With it, Brill says, “We can take any type of content and represent it in a new way that educates and engages children.” The application has attracted the attention of other school systems and it is seeing adoption in other school systems.
Brill says that Microsoft Surface poses challenges for developers, but that its touch and collaborative capabilities can lead to new and interesting applications. “It is an adjustment, and there is a learning curve,” he says. “It definitely requires a good blend of technology and design to be successful. Most software developers do not have design background and, in many cases, do not have the interest or ability in this area. Similarly, most designers are not especially technical when it comes to actual software development. For us, it’s been helpful to have each of the formal disciplines to begin learning and understanding key aspects of the other to build successful Microsoft Surface applications.”
Solid design work is one key to success, Brill says. A Microsoft Surface application is more like designing a real-world, 3-D product than a software application, so a great deal of attention needs to be paid to the user experience and the flow of the application. “We have industrial designers on staff to help us with the design process,” Brill says.
But Surface also creates new business opportunities for partners. Solid work in financial services or banking can lead to clients in hospitality or travel, Brill says. And well-designed applications that show good return on investment will almost always lead to new clients. “The Microsoft Surface team is great about helping you leverage your success in one area into another,” says Brill.
Challenging Partners to “Touch First”
To kick off the new program, the Microsoft Surface team also is holding The Touch First Microsoft Surface Developer Contest, which challenges new and existing partners to create a next-generation application on the platform.
The contest is open to all Microsoft Partner Network registered partners located in one of the 14 markets where Microsoft Surface is available. Partners must design an application built on Microsoft Surface and include one additional product beyond Windows Presentation Foundation and Windows. All entries must also apply to one of these six verticals: automotive, retail, healthcare, financial, hospitality or public sector. To submit an entry, partners must submit video and a description of the application on a dedicated Facebook page. Winners are then selected by the Microsoft Surface team and will be announced at PDC in October and awarded a Microsoft Surface unit.
(1) Source: CIO Magazine, February 2009
(2) Source: Bank Technology News, April 2009