Kinect for Windows will transform PC world – Microsoft

10 Jan 2012

Keynote host Ryan Seacrest checks out Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's Windows Phone during the company's opening keynote at CES 2012 in Las Vegas last night

With 18m Kinect devices sold in the past year, Microsoft says it is ready to bring Kinect to the next level – personal computers – and is readying the gesture-based technology to work on Windows 7 and forthcoming Windows 8 machines.

Last night at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that some 66m Xbox consoles have been sold since Xbox 360 was launched in 2005. He said Xbox Live now has 40m users and 18m Kinect motion-sensing devices have been sold in the past year.

In fact, the investment of years of R&D and hundreds of millions of dollars means Kinect is very much a commitment to the future of computing, says Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows.

Eisler says a Kinect for Windows SDK is going to be made available to software developers to create the applications – be they home entertainment or high-end business apps – that will take Kinect beyond the Xbox.

Writing in the Kinect for Windows blog, Eisler says Microsoft has chosen a hardware-only business model for Kinect for Windows.

“Which means that we will not be charging for the SDK or the runtime; these will be available free to developers and end-users respectively,” he says. “As an independent developer, IT manager, systems integrator, or ISV, you can innovate with confidence, knowing that you will not pay licence fees for the Kinect for Windows software or the ongoing software updates, and the Kinect for Windows hardware you and your customers use is supported by Microsoft.

“With Kinect for Windows, we are investing in creating a platform that is optimised for scenarios beyond the living room, and delivering new software features on an ongoing basis, starting with ‘near mode.’”

Near mode enables a new class of close-up applications for desktop or laptop PC users.

“In addition to support for Windows 7 and the Windows 8 developer preview (desktop apps only), Kinect for Windows will also support gesture and voice on Windows Embedded-based devices and will enhance how data is captured and accessed within intelligent systems across manufacturing, retail and many more industries. We are building the Kinect for Windows platform in a way that will allow other companies to integrate Kinect into their offerings and we have invested in an approach that allows them to develop in ways that are dependable and scalable.

“Although we encourage all developers to understand and take advantage of the additional features and updates available with the new Kinect for Windows hardware and accompanying software, those developers using our SDK and the Kinect for Xbox 360 hardware may continue to use these in their development activities, if they wish.”

However, Eisler says, non-commercial deployments using Kinect for Xbox 360 that were allowed using the beta SDK are not permitted with the newly released software.

“Non-commercial deployments using the new runtime and SDK will require the fully tested and supported Kinect for Windows hardware and software platform, just as commercial deployments do. Existing non-commercial deployments using our beta SDK may continue using the beta and the Kinect for Xbox 360 hardware; to accommodate this, we are extending the beta licence for three more years, to June 16, 2016.

“We expect that as Kinect for Windows hardware becomes readily available, developers will shift their development efforts to Kinect for Windows hardware in conjunction with the latest SDK and runtime.

“The combination of Kinect for Windows hardware and software creates a superior development platform for Windows and will yield a higher quality, better performing experience for end users,” Eisler says.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years