The Perspective 
Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Some go to Las Vegas to get married or to gamble. I go to Vegas for digital signage and self-service trade shows. On my return from Vegas in April, I rushed backed from New York’s JFK airport in order to avoid the traffic gridlock posed by the visit by the Pope and to see the new Microsoft Surface installation at the AT&T phone store.

The much-anticipated Microsoft Surface touch table had landed at five AT&T stores in New York, Atlanta, San Antonio and San Francisco.

Much had been written in the trade press about the production delays. It appeared that it had to do with Microsoft running a Betty Crocker Bake-off contest between the original partner, T-mobile and AT&T Mobility.

AT&T won and my congrats to Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility for understanding what it takes to win in today’s competitive environment. (You may recall that AT&T also was the first partner with Apple’s iPhone.)

You can see how the MS Surface application works at the AT&T site by clicking here.

How do I like it?

I’ve been excited by multi-touch technology ever since I saw Jeff Han’s video (now used by CNN Political TV coverage). Not a lot has been written about some of the pioneering competitive technology created by GestureTeks MultiTouch Application or Savant’s AV control touch table. Again, Microsoft has borrowed inventions from other industry innovators and sewn together an affordable, commercially available hardware and software product offering. The Apple iPhone interface also raised the bar on consumer interactive applications.

What is the secret to the AT&T Surface Application?

It’s not about the technology. It’s about the creative application, fused with savvy in-store merchandising skills. The AT&T and Microsoft team (and perhaps a few clever contractors), produced a kiosk application that provides real value to consumers and store associates. The AT&T store salesperson was able to demonstrate dozens of different phone configurations, colors and coverage maps in a matter of seconds—without giving me five different paper brochures.

One market that will be intensely interested in this new digital application will be the self-service industry.

I’ve been involved in this industry for over two decades and love to innovate. And as founder of Netkey and Managing Director of SMP, I’ve worked on over 200 interactive kiosk projects around the world.

The AT&T Surface installation the self-service world.

No longer will self-service deployers be satisfied with simple kiosk pedestals or wall mounted units. They will request the amazing digital features of MS Surface: Multi-touch, product tag initiated information, relevant digital merchandising interfaces — in table top or wall mounted configurations.

My advice to my colleagues in the digital signage industry? Learn from Microsoft. Very soon, those in the self-service industry will be turning off their computers, getting out of their offices and taking their teams to visit AT&T stores to play with the MS Surface Application. They will want the features it offers. Follow Microsoft’s example: Don’t copy, but instead enhance and improve on their application for your own specific industry market, and you just might beat them...and win over those self-service customers. 

Or you might want to leapfrog Microsoft and start thinking about mobile devices. The Apple iPhone, with its rich, multi-touch interface, may be the next battleground for the in-store customer.

Technology will always change every 90 days, but I can safely make predictions about who will win the KioskCom 2009 Best of Show Award, the NRF Best of Show Award, GlobalShop Best of Shop or any other retail merchandising award category. And the winner is, AT&T Mobility.

Posted by: Alex Richardson AT 11:25 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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