Microsoft's Multi-Touch rival

[intro]The iPhone's user interface has a rival: Microsoft's touch-screen Surface. It looks very very very cool[/intro] Regular readers will be tired

Regular readers will be tired of me banging on about the iPhone's revolutionary touchscreen interface, with its use of finger gestures instead of stylus prods.

Well, it turns out that Apple isn't the only company working on such a technology. Microsoft have just announced a very similar touch-sensitive system call Surface. And although it's designed for large-screen tables rather than smartphones, it shares many of the iPhone's Minority Report-style features like the ability to zoom into maps by placing two fingers on it and dragging them apart.

According to the Surface microsite, Microsoft has been developing surface since the Virtual Game Table designs in 2001. It's worth having a look at the site, because it features some sexy looking videos of Surface tables in use (think 30in LCD touchscreens that you can rest your coffee on).

The tables also feature RFID so they can recognise any chipped devices you put on them. What chipped devices? Well, sadly these tables are designed for shops and hotel lobbies rather than your living room - for now at least. So retailers can, say, stick an RFID chip on their products, and when you drop one on the table you'll get lots of interactive info about it. Cool.

Given Steve Jobs' boast that the iPhone is protected by over 200 patents, it's likely that Apple's lawyers will be sniffing around the Surface technology. But I hope that Surface survives - because this it's the sort of development that breaks down the barriers between man and gadget. And the closer we get to erasing the need for user manual, the happier I'll be.