A year after Microsoft launched its Kinect 3D game controller for Xbox 360 -- and less than five months after it began beta testing a software developers kit (SDK) to enable programmers to create Windows applications to work with Kinect -- the company said this week it will release an SDK for writing commercial applications early next year.
To this point, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has only allowed developers to use the beta SDK for building non-commercial applications using Kinect for Windows, although it said earlier this year that it intended to come out with a commercial implementation eventually.
In mid-June, Microsoft released the first beta of the non-commercial Kinect for Windows SDK.
The company, in fact, says it has had more than 200 companies, which includes 25 Fortune 500 corporations, that have joined "a global pilot program" to explore Kinect’s commercial possibilities.
Among those are global auto maker Toyota, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and interactive agency Razorfish, according to a Microsoft statement.
One Spanish company, Tedesys, which Microsoft cited, is working on an application that will enable surgeons in an operating room call up and view a patient's medical images without having to leave the operating room or rescrub, thus cutting down the time required in surgery and lowering the chances of infection.
"Today, Microsoft announced that the Kinect for Windows commercial program will launch early next year, giving global businesses the tools they need to develop applications on Kinect that could take their businesses and industries in new directions," the statement said.
Microsoft itself has said it has bigger plans for Kinect in the business software realm.
In fact, the company said soon after Kinect first debuted that it would provide links between Kinect and Microsoft Lync, the company's unified communications server.
Given that Lync is part of Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-based business apps suite, the company appears to be likely to expand Kinect's use with its business software going forward.