Ina Fried

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Interview: Multitouch Pioneer Jeff Han on Why He Sold His Company to Microsoft

TED

After years of running a start-up, Jeff Han said the time was right to sell his company to Microsoft.

Doing so, Han said, will allow the company’s vision of transforming the workplace to occur much more broadly. For much of its history, Perceptive Pixel has focused on ultra-high-end touch displays affordable only to large businesses in key niches.

Han’s company has been working with various parts of Microsoft for years, though deal talks heated up only in recent months.

“Our company has always been about productivity use cases,” Han told AllThingsD. “That’s why we have always focused on these larger displays. Office is what people think of when they think of productivity.”

Han said that the company will retain its manufacturing facilities in Portland, Ore., with much of its team joining Microsoft’s Silicon Valley offices in Mountain View, Calif. Han himself will be moving from New York to the Seattle area.

Although Microsoft will continue to manufacture Perceptive Pixel’s high-end touch displays, the company hopes to find other ways of distributing the technology to allow it to reach the mass market.

Giovanni Mezgec, general manager of the Office unit’s Lync conferencing business, told AllThingsD that Perceptive Pixel’s technology has the potential to change the way meetings are conducted.

“We want to make this mainstream,” Mezgec said. “We want to make this more affordable. We want to make this something every office has, and every classroom.”

Han will report to Office unit President Kurt DelBene, but Han’s title and the exact structure of how Perceptive Pixel will operate is still being worked out, Microsoft said.

Here’s what Han had to say in a 2010 interview and office tour with AllThingsD:

And here’s Han’s 2006 demo at TED:


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus