Microsoft To Acquire Display-Maker Perceptive Pixel

Microsoft has not disclosed the value of the deal, which was announced during the keynote address of its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto.

New York-based Perceptive Pixel, founded in 2006, produces large-scale, touchscreen displays used to support unified communications platforms in government, defense, broadcast and higher education. According to the company, it’s best known for supplying the displays used by CNN and other news outlets to cover the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

[Related: Microsoft To Let Partners Handle Office 365 Subscription Billing ]

Microsoft said it would leverage Perceptive Pixel’s solutions alongside other hardware offerings from its OEM partners to support its next-generation Windows 8 software launching this October. Unlike prior Windows releases, Windows 8 touts a new Metro user interface, optimized for touchscreen displays.

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"The acquisition of PPI allows us to draw on our complementary strengths, and we’re excited to accelerate this market evolution," said Kurt DelBene, president, Office division for Microsoft, in a statement. "PPI’s large touch displays, when combined with hardware from our OEMs, will become powerful Windows 8-based PCs and open new possibilities for productivity and collaboration."

The newly acquired displays could also play a role in Microsoft’s Lync solution, which provides video conferencing, IP telephony and instant messaging capabilities to enterprise users.

The acquisition of Perceptive Pixel is the latest in a series of moves made by Microsoft to broaden its offerings in the hardware market, a space it has traditionally reserved for its OEM partners like Dell and HP. Last month, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant debuted its first home-grown tablet PC, Surface, which will compete directly against Windows 8-based devices from its OEM circle later this year.

The role Microsoft’s reseller community will play in its new hardware push remains unclear. The company has not yet said whether Surface will sell through the channel and, according to John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations at Denali Advanced Integration, a Microsoft solution provider also based in Redmond, Wash., it was equally vague about whether they will have access to its new portfolio of touchscreen displays.

"This acquisition represents another giant step in the hardware strategies of Microsoft. There remains a big mystery on just what role the channel/partners will play moving forward,” Convery wrote in an emailed statement to CRN. "Time will tell ... answers are deep in the brains of Ballmer and Gates."

When Surface was unveiled, partners told CRN that Microsoft's decision to sell the tablet directly through retail outlets, rather than the channel, would not only limit their ability to offer fully integrated Microsoft solutions but also potentially deal a blow to Microsoft itself. Its ability to reach into corporate accounts, Microsoft's "bread and butter," would be limited without the channel, they said.