Microsoft Surface is a pretty amazing piece of research: tabletop touchscreen computing done really well. But, the “origins” section on the Surface website strongly implies that the whole concept of tabletop computing originated from Microsoft. It didn’t. If you find this stuff exciting, you should check out some of the prior research in this area.
MERL’s diamond touch : one of the first multi-touch technologies (works by running an electronic signal to your finger via your chair to identify each user).
IPSI’s roomware: this is an entire room decked out as touchscreen surfaces that are all linked together.
Stanford’s Tabletop groupware: they’ve done tons of stuff in the area. You may recognise some of the gestural stuff that also appears in the MS video.
Jun Rekimoto’s work (Sony) this includes “holotable”, “smart skin” and “augmented surfaces”. Jun is a genius- in my opinion, his research is genre defining.
I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that Microsoft are building on top of prior research – this is, after all, what research is all about. I’m just trying to say that there are some talented people and research groups out there that also deserve recognition for the state of the art today.