Microsoft announces next-gen Surface

Microsoft and Samsung have announced that their next generation Surface technology known as SUR40, is now available for pre-order in most English speaking countries.

Initially unveiled earlier this year at CES 2011, the multi-touch display allows for the interaction of up to 50 objects at once, including fingers, hands, other body parts and inanimate objects. This is possible through the use of the new "PixelSense" technology, which utilises infrared back lighting to identify an object without the use of cameras.

Microsoft sees surface technology as more than a Minority Report-esque concept coming to life: it sees it as a new form of interaction, making it a useful tool for shops, the military and the home user. The director of Surface technology at the company, Somanna Palacanda said at the launch that with the new SUR40, this type of technology will find uses in: "education, financial and professional services, healthcare, hospitality, retail, manufacturing and resources, and other commercial business environments to help deliver interactive digital content, drive sales, showcase brands, and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

When the original Surface technology was unveiled back in 2008 American telecoms giant AT&T became one of the first adopters, using it in its retail outlets to show customers more about their products. It's thought that, with the increased performance and input options of the SUR40, that the technology will see more widespread use.

In the home, consumers with a SUR40 would be able to view photo albums together, or search the internet side by side - the only real hindrance being how long you can look straight down before getting a crick in your neck.

Since its original unveiling at CES this year, Microsoft has been showing off the SUR40 at several trade shows, which is perhaps the best way to understand the capabilities of the display.

In terms of specifications, Samsung's website lists the SUR40 as including an AMD Radeon HD 6750M for its GPU and an Athlon X2 245e CPU running at 2.9GHz. The display itself will measure 40 inches diagonally, with a resolution of 1920x1080. For storage and memory, you'll have 320GB of hard drive space and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. Gigabit Ethernet is available for high speed internet access, and an HDMI port for expanding your display, perhaps allowing you to work on the SUR40 while sending videos or images to a larger or more traditionally upright display for others to view at a distance.

Samsung has confirmed that the UK price of the SUR40 will be £7,499 plus VAT, pricing it well out of the reach of most consumers.

If you're not sure what you get for that kind of cash, here's a video demonstrating its potential from back in May.