Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Microsoft Becomes a Display Maker

A New Vista for the Display Industry

Microsoft has purchases Perceptive Pixel. As computing has become more and more graphic, Microsoft has increasingly been increasingly involved in display technology. It began with Microsoft Vista, when Microsoft intruded upon what had been Intel's domain in specifying the desired resolution of notebook displays. Microsoft added a different touch in changing the specs from from just a raw resolution (e.g. 1024 x 768) to a desired dots per inch (dpi or pixels per inch.. ppi), more commonly used in the print industry. They also promulgated color fidelity standards, modified their operating system to embrace touch panels, and produced the first "Microsoft Surface" (later renamed when Microsoft introduced its own tablet using that same name).

Perceptive Pixel is a maker of large sized touch panels commonly used by television commentators for weather or for on-camera telestrating. As such, my own impression is that that business might have been a better fit within Cisco with its studio telepresence business. So, there are two questions, first, what is microsoft going to do with Perceptive Pixel? It could be an intellectual property (IP) play in order to gain better control of the direction of touch technology in general. It could be specifically a move to strengthen the position of the Microsoft OS in the digital signage and public information displays market. It could even be part of some greater move into hardware.

The second question is will any of Microsoft's potential competitors respond by purchasing their own touch panel companies or maybe even other display technologies. As the marketing emphasis of new devices is increasingly wrapped around what kind of display the device has, will the major hardware OEMs or others in the market be content to buy common technology from display companies or will they want to own either the IP or or the supply chain to grant them unique competitive advantage. In the initial part of the touch revolution, Apple secured a great advantage by contracting for much of the available production capability (interestingly from a company called Touch Revolution). However, as the industry grows and touch panel production grows, large supply contracts will have to face even larger supply capability. So... how do you maintain competitive advantage for the technology used on your device displays?


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