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Gates shows off new Surface computer

Touchscreen wall destined for the boardroom

Bill Gates is expected to show off new technology today that's designed for the board room and is a spin-off of Microsoft's Surface computer.

TouchWall, a prototype device developed by Microsoft Research and Office Labs, is a vertical representation of Surface, the multitouch tabletop computer from Microsoft. TouchWall could be used by business people to give presentations. They can touch the panel that would hang on the wall to drag, scroll and enlarge documents, photos or videos on the screen.

TouchWall is comprised of integrated hardware that includes laser and infrared lights that recognise the touch of fingertips on the screen. It is run by software, called Plex, that lets users manipulate the content.

Gates will show off the prototype to around 115 CEOs who will gather on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington, as part of the 12th annual CEO Summit. It is an invitation-only event and, as in the past, only a few attendees have agreed to share their identities. This year, former General Electric Chairman and CEO Jack Welch, billionaire philanthropist and investor Warren Buffet and author Thomas Friedman plan to attend. Tom Brokaw, Charlie Rose and Michael Kinsley are lined up to moderate some of the scheduled sessions.

In his keynote speech, Gates is also expected to talk about his ideas for the future of user interface technology, a common theme for him. At a recent speech addressing students at the University of Washington, Gates said that the keyboard and mouse have a certain utility and efficiency that will probably always be justified. But recently new devices like the Nintendo Wii, the iPhone and Microsoft's Surface show that new ways of user interaction can work well.

"We think it's time to amend our slogan of a computer on every desk, because with this we want a computer in every desk," he said at the university, referring to the Surface computer.

Recently, AT&T became one of the first users of Surface, installing the computers in stores where customers can set phones on the screens, which recognize the devices and display information about them. Customers can touch screens to select boxes that detail information about pricing plans and capabilities of the phones.

During his speech at the university, Gates hinted at the TouchWall when he referred to a whiteboard that might be like Surface. He also described a mirror that might reflect what you look like and then show what you might look like if you had on different clothes.

Gates, who is just a couple months shy of the date when he'll start spending less time at Microsoft and more at his charity foundation, came up with the idea for the CEO Summit as a way to bring together business leaders to discuss new technologies that might impact the future of their businesses, said a spokeswoman with Microsoft's public relations firm.


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