Microsoft Surface + Sheraton: Implications for Hotels and Social Media
Almost fourteen months after the initial announcement, the Starwood hotel unit Sheraton has finally announced the launch of Microsoft's Surface product at five Sheraton hotels: the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, Sheraton Boston Hotel, Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, Sheraton Seattle Hotel & Towers, and the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in San Francisco.
Surface acts as a sophisticated kiosk: it's placed in common areas, to encourage collaboration and exploration. Surface uses haptic technology to let guests control the interface using gestures. The Surface unit comes pre-programmed with a virtual concierge that suggests places to go as well as a Sony-branded music experience featuring selected Sony BMG artists.
Much has changed in the last fourteen months. The iPhone has gone through two versions, and I'm betting that a $499-$599 Apple netbook will come out by October 2008, essentially providing the same Surface experience but with a larger base of applications and better portability.
Whatever Microsoft has spent on Surface to date pales in comparison to the $200 million Rearden Commerce has spent trying to put together a similar web-based product. The challenge that both services will face won't be developing fun marketing, but rather keeping information up-to-date: how would guests feel if Surface directed them to a restaurant that closed down months ago?
I tried to search for Palomino in Denver, which shut down on January 20, 2008. Eight months later, only Microsoft and Yahoo appear to be on top of such matters, as Google and Citysearch both fail to convey that small but important fact.
Let's hope that Sheraton's collaboration with Microsoft yields better results for the consumer.
Here's the promotional video for Sheraton's launch of Surface: