It is being referred to as a surface computing platform. Basically it is a surface on a table or counter that is interactive and that enables you to access your data on it. If you saw The Island you saw a primitive version of this when the psychiatrist and main bad guy moved patient files across the desk with a little widget. Microsoft Surface is better because you can use any physical object to access the surface including your hands.
This interface is pretty similar to the interface on the upcoming iPhone and is a pretty concrete step toward a far more intuitive interface with our computing devices. Microsoft Surface uses a multi-touch interface which recognises and works with multiple points of contact so you can use both hands to manipulate data on the surface as if you were manipulating physical objects.
Take the concept a step further and imagine going somewhere where there is a panel available in your hotel room, an shared office space or a coffee shop where you can basically log in using a handprint or some other form of identification and you have access to your data stored remotely. Or what about smaller handheld panels that you can carry your data on and when you need to work off larger surfaces, you lay your panel on the larger one and the two panels connect, network and allow you to keep working with your data across a larger panel, seamlessly. The days of a computer mouse and even a keyboard could be on their way out (ok, maybe not the keyboard just yet). Actually some of that functionality is in place already. In this demo by Bill Gates, he places a camera on the panel and the panel connects to the camera wirelessly and downloads the images on the camera to the panel for manipulation:
I can definitely see keyboard based devices like the computers we use today becoming about as modern as Buck Rogers in the next decade or so …