by Jenny Donelan
In early July, Microsoft and multi-touchdisplay company Perceptive Pixel, Inc. (PPI) announced that Microsoft would acquire PPI under terms not yet disclosed. Perceptive Pixel was founded in 2006, and shipped its first products – multi-touch workstations and large wall displays – in early 2007. As has been reported elsewhere, the giant touch displays first came to widespread notice when they were used by CNN and other television networks for coverage of the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
This year, PPI's 82-in. projected-capacitive (pro-cap) LCD with multi-touch and stylus input received a Silver Award in the category of Display Application of the Year from the Society for Information Display. According to the Display Industry Award article in the May/June issue of Information Display, projective-capacitive sensing is very difficult to scale to larger displays; this is why PPI's implementation was an impressive achievement. That article stated: "In August of 2011, Perceptive Pixel introduced the first large-scale pro-cap interactive display that achieves the level of fidelity and performance necessary for real productivity … featuring true full-frame unlimited finger touch and precision stylus sensing at 120 Hz across a proprietary sensor that is optically bonded to an 82-in. LCD panel."
PPI was founded by active SID member Jeff Han, who was called the "The Master of Touch." by ID Contributing Editor Geoff Walker in a Display Week 2012 blog on www.informationdisplay.org. Walker wrote: "Jeff consistently has the clearest vision of how touch needs to evolve to allow professionals to accomplish real work using touch, and he articulates that vision with exceptional clarity. Perceptive Pixel is not a touch-screen company – although it does make and sell a high-end 27-in. touch monitor; it's a company dedicated to inventing solutions to user-interface problems in the knowledge-worker world."
Clearly, these solutions to interface problems did not go unnoticed by Microsoft. What's less clear is what the software giant intends to do with the technology. Microsoft has shown an interest in hardware, announcing its own Surface tablet last June. In an article titled "Inside Microsoft's Brilliant Acquisition of Perceptive Pixel," Datamation author Mike Elgan suggests that Microsoft may indeed sell PPI's relatively high-end displays, but also offer PPI's APIs and technology to OEM partners. "On the software front," writes Elgan, "PPI makes an impressive application called Storyboard, which is a type of multi-touch, multi-user PowerPoint on steroids. The announcement by Microsoft seemed to focus heavily on the Microsoft Office group and the benefits thereto. So it's a safe bet that Storyboard may be integrated with PowerPoint and that Office apps will get strong multi-touch features." He continues: "Although Microsoft has developed a lot of multi-touch and gesture-control technology in-house, PPI is also a leader in this field. With that technology come some nice patents."1
Han was not able to discuss the details of the transaction, but did say: "This merger is really, really significant. Joining Microsoft highly empowers us to accelerate our vision unchanged and allows for our displays to soon become completely ubiquitous: in every meeting room, every office, and every classroom. Perhaps even more importantly, we're specifically within the Office Division, and the integration of PPI's rich software and interaction techniques into the full Office suite of applications will provide the complete solution that's absolutely required for such widespread adoption, across all form factors." Han, who is President and CTO of PPI as well as its founder, will join Microsoft as a general manager and will be reporting directly to Kurt DelBene, President of the Office Division.
It's official. Samsung Display Co., Ltd., announced in July that it has begun conducting business as a newly merged corporation of Samsung Mobile Display and S-LCD corporations. The company says it is now the world's largest display manufacturer, with 39,000 employees and seven production facilities worldwide. For more about the reorganization, see the Industry News article, "Samsung Announces Industry Spinoff," in the April 2012 issue of Information Display magazine. •