Kinect is to Microsoft as Multi-Touch is to Apple

By  |  Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan got a lengthy tour of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, the upcoming gaming peripheral that detects 3D motion with a camera and captures audio with microphones. His conclusion? This is the future for Microsoft, an idea with boundless possibilities that will spread far beyond gaming.

One project manager said Kinect’s technology could some day allow Star Trek Holodeck-style environments, no joke.

Pondering this, I can’t help but draw parallels to the way Apple has approached multi-touch. After popularizing two-finger scrolling in MacBooks, and gestures like pinch-to-zoom on the iPhone, Apple has steadily expanded the role of multi-touch in all its computer products. First came the multi-touch Magic Mouse, then the iPad, and now the Magic Trackpad. Apple put its faith in flat, pressure-sensitive surfaces, and it’s paying off. Microsoft is investing in the air, and hopes to see a similar expansion.

Motion control and multi-touch are not all that different in spirit. Both input methods are supposed to feel natural, as if there’s no barrier between you and the machine. This is especially true with Apple’s iOS devices, with which you interact simply by touching what you see. On the downside, neither input method solves the problem of physical feedback; anyone who’s tried typing on an iPad without looking at the keys should understand why that’s an issue.

For now, Microsoft and Apple are not having an input war. Multi-touch emerged from personal computing, and remains entrenched in it. Kinect’s origins are entertainment, and the technology will probably work back to the computer as an accessory for multitmedia and communications.

To oversimplify, Microsoft’s trying to kill the game controller and the remote control, and Apple wants to slay the mouse, and maybe the keyboard, but it’s clear that both companies have input revolution on the brain. They complement each other beautifully.


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8 Comments For This Post

  1. UK BOys Says:

    Kinect for Xbox = Fail

    Kinect in TVs = Success

    Kinect in every tv in the world = $$$

    = Shares up 🙂

    p.s. If only Microsoft was innovative in all areas…

  2. N8nnc Says:

    My only qualm is comparing a technology that's shipped in 100 million devices to one that hasn't shipped yet. I hope kinect will be great

  3. N8nnc Says:

    Oops – comment got truncated…
    I hope kinect will be great, but we don't know yet.

  4. Samir Shah Says:

    Jared, congratulations. This is one of the most bueatiful and succint article I have read in a long long long time. Anybody and everybody that are remotely interested in future of technology MUST read it.

  5. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Except Apple's multitouch products exist, have users, are on all of their products, are highly profitable, unquestionably successful, and widely copied.

    When I first saw Kinect, I couldn't believe they weren't selling it as a Minority Report interface for Windows 7. If they had built that in secret and ta-da'd it in Jobsian fashion, they would have really risked raising their stock price.

  6. joker gallagher Says:

    more like kinect is to xbox how multi touch is to microsoft

    apple as only multi touch on its iphone/ipad

    microsoft has multitouch on zune hd already, and its phones
    OH and HELLO windows 7 has multi touch suport as ware apple has not touch at all on their computer
    EPIC fain on this artical

    ummm try again
    windows mobile 7, windows 7, zune hd, HP touch smart computers, windows mobile 6, HTC phones, tosheba touch computers, dell touch computers, and more all have multi touch and are OMG microsoft.

    appl has…..a phone and a bigger thing that is not a phone. ms so over rules apple on multi touch.

  7. Tom Ross Says:

    Multitouch on iPhone is direct input. Kinect on XBox is a novel form of indirect input. Like with a mouse, you still have to do something over here to invoke a reaction over there.

    Therefore, Mulitouch is significantly more intuitive to use than a mouse while Kinect is not.

  8. Michael Says:

    I’m an avid fan of gaming and my excitement level on Kinect 360’s launching was even jacked up by the fearless forecast of Kudo Tsunoda (Microsoft game studio manager and the genius creator of the renowned Fight Night game) that Kinect will set off an unofficial battle between their product and Apple’s Ipad in terms of sales. I think Microsoft based this projection on the current pre-order sales that was reported to be so intense going to the last quarter of the year. Their sales projection before the year ends is about 3 million units. Well, forecasting sales, as we all know, is like trying to drive a car blindfolded and following directions given by a person who is looking out at the rear view mirror… and most probably, if Microsoft doesn’t change its marketing direction, they are likely to arrive where they are headed for… let’s just wait and see the actual sales. Its success is not determined by the producer but by the customer itself.