Microsoft is acquiring Perceptive Pixel, a New York-based company known as a pioneer in multitouch technologies for large displays. Founded by NYU researcher Jeff Han, the company is best known for providing the technology behind CNN’s Magic Wall, the large touch-screen display used by the news network during its election coverage.

It’s part of an effort to get Windows 8 on a variety of screens, from tablets to big displays.

The acquisition was announced by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this morning.

At the conference, Han showed one of the company’s 82-inch touch-screen displays running the same version of Windows 8 that will be available on traditional computers. The big display currently sells for around $80,000. Ballmer said Microsoft hopes to get the Perceptive Pixel technology into more businesses and schools as the price comes down.

Financial terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed. The deal requires regulatory approval.

Technologies from Perceptive Pixel have competed in part with Microsoft’s Surface tabletop computer, which was renamed PixelSense after the company started using the Surface name for recently announced Windows 8 tablet computer.

The announcement is interesting in part because Microsoft has done so much of its own research and product development in the area of large multi-touch displays. Patents and market penetration no doubt played a role. The news release says Perceptive Pixel’s “patented technologies are used across a wide variety of industries such as government, defense, broadcast, energy exploration, engineering and higher education, and its expertise in both software and hardware will contribute to success in broad scenarios such as collaboration, meetings and presentations.”

Han says in the release, “By joining Microsoft, we will be able to take advantage of the tremendous momentum of the Microsoft Office Division, tightly interoperate with its products, and deliver this technology to a very broad set of customers.”

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  • guest

    Exactly how big is the enterprise market for 82-inch touch enabled $80K displays to run Excel and Powerpoint? Even if you cut the price in half it’s likely still a market that would be a rounding error for a company MS’s size.And they haven’t made anything off Surface despite years of effort and tens of million spent. So how does this change that?

    • Irving

      Don’t think of it as an $80,000 display. Think of it as an $800 display once the economies of scale kick in.

      I could see one of these in:

      * Every classroom of every school around the world

      * Every conference room of every company (replacing bulky projectors)

      * Every room of every middle-class home

      … and so on. Thinking big and thinking long-term, Perceptive Pixel technology could change the lives of literally billions of persons worldwide.

      • Thomas R.

        Say what you will about projectors, they’re still cheap and most importantly portable. Touch screen is a nice to have not a necessity.

        • Irving

          I remember a time when it was necessary to wheel the computer (the only computer) around from room to room on a little cart. Now we all have computers. The same could be true of Perceptive Pixel displays in the not-too-distant future.

      • guest

        IIRC, that’s the way we were meant to think about the Surface investment as well. How did that turn out? Microsoft has a poor record with hardware generally. If these kind of displays ever dropped to $800 and became pervasive, what are the odds MS would be a leading supplier vs traditional monitor giants like Samsung, Viewsonic, etc? 5%? Less? Then why throw more good money after bad? More important, with Microsoft’s growth now at or near a standstill, and earnings actually negative this year now that they’re forced to write off the $6 billion + aQuantive mistake, is this really the kind of transformational acquisition MS needs to get overall growth heading in the right direction again? If not, then does it really need any more useless distractions?

        • Irving

          Pretty well. Pretty good. 90%. No. Because investing builds the future. Yes. No.

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