In addition to Palm’s Folēo foray into uncharted waters today, Microsoft pulled another card from its sleeve by introducing, not desktop… not laptop… not palmtop… but tabletop computing, with its new ‘Milan‘ aka Microsoft Surface social computing system. Nothing new to see here, but don’t move along, because the integration of existing technologies in Surface has significant implications for the industry and society.

Folks like to spend money together, it’s a primate/herd beast thing. It’s very telling who the initial customer base is; Harrah’s Entertainment, Sheraton Hotels, and T-Mobile, all who boost their profits by encouraging incremental spending (don’t touch that minibar!) over and above the base price of basic services. They must view automating sales as a more reliable path to bigger profits than the rewards from training and rewarding their sales force.

Surface plays to Redmond’s strengths, as a schmoozer and influencer, an integrator, not innovator, so it’s no surprise Apple didn’t introduce this environment first. Besides, no corporate will be bootlegging copies of Surface, I’ll wager.

Now, this is nothing more than a kiosk rotated flat, you might say; but, it lets you put drinks on the glass top you all sit around together. Neither ethanol nor herds lead to inspired rational thought, so Microsoft Surface will loosen the wallets of many, many people in years to come.

I can also see its evolution, adding sensors to profile folks who approach, and when a prospect returns, altering the sales pitch to match their past interests, or doing profiling to guess how to manipulate the customer. They don’t have to be carrying a Bluetooth handset, a chipped smartcard or have their biometric passport outside of their tin-foil wallets; mass, respiration rate, rhythm of walking, all can be sensed, databased, and matched. Of course, no one would ever put retina-recognition software within and have cameras under the glass look at folks’ eyes, no, never. It can’t happen here.

Do you think the corporate world is ready to automate personalized selling through Microsoft Surface, and systems like it? Do you think this is an improvement? Join the discussion.