By Lisa Carlin

Microsoft has unveiled the ‘The Art of Touch’ project to promote the company’s Touch series of products. The Redmond giant is offering anyone using a modern HTML5-capable browser a digital palette and canvas to create, save and share digital art. There will also be open contests for best artworks and sweepstakes revolving the project as well.

At The Art of Touch site, the canvas feature of HTML5 is combined with JavaScript libraries to draw the strokes and computer-generated animations in real-time to the Web browser. The brushes produce a ribbon, smoke or streak across the canvas, and optional effects include starbursts, trees and splats.  The combination of a user painting with computer-generated images promises to be an interesting experience, says Marius Watz, a digital artist who collaborated with Microsoft on the Art of Touch palette.

Each person who creates a work of art using The Art of Touch palette can save and tag it with their name and location. They can also share it online and through their social networks such as Facebook, where they can earn votes to win prizes.

From Microsoft’s pitch, it looks like these are intelligent canvases that paint back with you. The canvases are as intelligent as say a Photoshop canvas (which is to say, not much). What is however interesting is how Microsoft is using the browser as a platform for the digital art. Typically, Microsoft has not been very fond of browsers. Sure the company had launched Internet Explorer, but IE made good strategic sense to push Windows 95 back then. Netscape was bought and slaughtered, Microsoft’s push to PaaS (platform as a service) for its Office products only happened because Google Docs was threatening to reign supreme.

IE marketshare has fallen over the 50 per cent mark (its got about a 44.2 per cent user base now), but Microsoft is not one to take defeat lying down. Does this latest initiative mean we will get to see more interesting things with IE soon?