Microsoft is not the pioneer of this technology , which has been around in various commercial forms for a number of years

Multi-touch technology dates back to 1982, when the University of Toronto developed the first finger pressure multi-touch display. The same year, Bell Labs at Murray Hill published what is believed to be the first paper discussing touch-screen based interfaces.

[edit] Bell Labs

In 1984 Bell Labs engineered a touch screen that could change images with more than one hand. The group at the University of Toronto stopped working on hardware and moved on to software and interfaces, expecting that they would have access to the Bell Labs work.

A breakthrough occurred in 1991, when Pierre Wellner published a paper on his multi-touch “Digital Desk”, which supported multi-finger and pinching motions. [2][3]

[edit] Fingerworks

In 1999, Fingerworks, a Newark-based company run by University of Delaware academics John Elias and Wayne Westerman, produced a line of multi-touch products including the iGesture Pad and the TouchStream keyboard.[4] Westerman published a dissertation in 1999 on the subject. In 2005, after years of maintaining a niche line of keyboards and touchpads, Fingerworks was acquired by Apple Computer.

[edit] Recent developments

Various companies expanded upon these discoveries in the beginning of the twenty-first century. Mainstream exposure to multi-touch technology occurred in the year 2007, when Apple unveiled the iPhone and Microsoft debuted surface computing. The iPhone in particular has spawned a wave of interest in multi-touch computing, since it permits greatly increased user interaction on a small scale. More robust and customizable multi-touch and gesture-based solutions are beginning to become available, among them TrueTouch, created by Cypress Semiconductor. The following is a compilation of notable uses of multi-touch technology in recent years.

[edit] Apple iPhone, iPod touch, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Unibody MacBook

In 2005, Apple acquired Fingerworks. In 2007 they introduced the iPhone, marking the first time multi-touch technology was used on a phone. The iPhone includes such components as a web browser, music player, video player, and a cell phone without the use of a hard keypad or stylus.

Following the release of the iPhone, Apple also expanded its use of multi-touch computing with the new iPod Touch, as well as the new MacBook Air. Multi-touch was later added to the 2008 MacBook Pro line in the form of a trackpad.

The latest revisions of Apple's notebooks (including the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro), all feature a glass touchpad with multi-touch gestures.[5] Apple is currently in the process of trying to patent its “Multi-touch” technology and to trademark the term "multi-touch".[6]

[edit] Microsoft Surface

In 2001 Steve Bathiche and Andy Wilson of Microsoft began work on an idea for an interactive table that mixes both physical and virtual worlds. Research and Development expanded rapidly in 2004, once the idea caught the attention of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. In 2007 Microsoft introduced Microsoft Surface, a functional multi-touch table-top computer based on a standard PC platform including an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Windows Vista, and 2 GB of RAM.[7]

Essentially, Microsoft Surface is a computer embedded in a table with a large, flat, touch-responsive display on the top. The table uses small cameras (as opposed to finger pressure or heat) that enable it to react to the touch of any object. The unit has eight different modes that allow users to perform an array of activities,ranging from organizing pictures and videos to ordering a filet at a restaurant. Multiple users have the ability to work on the table at one time. The preliminary launch was on April 17, 2008, when Surface became available for customer use in AT&T stores. The price for one unit is said to range somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000.[8]

Multi-touch - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Interactive Multi-Touch Displays and Surface Computing Technology for Tables, Screens, Walls and Windows.

GestureTek's Illuminate interactive multi-touch surface computing technology with a motion sensing gesture control interface lets users navigate interactive content on a floating panel, multimedia kiosk, multi touch surface screen, interactive table or interactive window. Surfaces can be configured with a multi-touch interface for multi-touch or multi-point interaction.

With no projector or hardware to be seen, the effect is unforgettable as GestureTek’s dynamic interactive displays react to every point of your finger or wave of your hand, delivering a rich, interactive experience.

The hand tracking system lets you control multi-media in ways you never imagined, transforming an ordinary surface into an interactive multi-touch surface computing platform. Illuminate surfaces are available as interactive multi-touch display panels and windows, interactive kiosks and multi-touch tables. Multi-touch interactive surface displays come turnkey or can be customized to virtually any shape or size.

GestureTek’s Illuminate ‘point to control’ and touch screen computing surfaces are popular in bars, nightclubs, retail stores, museums, science centers, real estate showrooms and corporate presentation centers - anywhere menu-based multi-media content is used for edutainment, entertainment, or to present advertising and corporate information"
Illuminate MultiTouch Display Screens, Tables and Windows/Interactive Projection System and Surface Computing Technology