When Microsoft announced earlier this week that it would be selling Kinect for Windows starting in February, a number of people envisioned a near future where they would be moving the cells around on their Excel spreadsheet by waving their hands, or finally getting quality motion controls for PC games that have never been ported to the Xbox 360. But neither of these situations is really what Kinect for Windows is about.
Instead, the target audience for Kinect for Windows is developers who will use the included tools to create commercial applications for the retail, health and industrial worlds.
"Imagine you've torn your ACL and you go to see your doctor," explained Steve Clayton, Editor of Next at Microsoft, when I talked to him at the Consumer Electronics Show. "He can not only show you an exercise you need to do to get the strength back in your leg, but maybe there's a Kinect for Windows app that can help you rehab by tracking your movement to let you know if you're doing the exercise right."
At Microsoft's CES booth, there's a display demonstrating a retail shopping app for Kinect that lets people intuitively drag and drop outfits and accessories that move as you move, along with green screen backgrounds.
So what about games? Clayton says that while he doesn't think Microsoft will do anything to stop people from using the Kinect for Windows developer kit to create or mod games to work with the device, he doesn't see the company actively encouraging it.
"If someone wants to make a game that works on Kinect, their best bet for success is to get it out to the millions of users on Xbox 360," he explains.
In fact, Microsoft has already confirmed that the Kinect will, at least initially, not even run on Windows PCs that aren't also running the developer's kit and using the device otherwise may actually void the warranty.