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Microsoft Surface Computer Debuts

The Surface is programmed to recognize eight of AT&T’s wireless phones. When a customer places one or more phones on the table, information about its features and other info will pop up on the screen. Shoppers can also zoom around AT&T’s coverage map and learn about calling plans by moving their hands across the screen.

AT&T said that units are intended to assist salespeople, not replace them.

The Surface was first unveiled by Microsoft last May, and said the machines would first appear in T-Mobile USA stores, properties owned by Starwood Hotels and Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. Those partners planned to have Surface running by November, but later delayed the launch by several months.

Microsoft said the Surface companies are still working on software which is appropriate for their own custom brands and locations. All three companies plan on deploying Surface this spring.

However, AT&T got it first, “We saw that announcement and immediately began discussions with Microsoft,” said Andy Austin, a director of retail customer experience at AT&T. “Obviously I cannot speak to other launch partners, but we are very happy to be their first launch partner.”

Austin said that the AT&T units have a brushed-metal base rather than the black shiny finish early models had.