Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer underscored the importance of his company's Mira technology, which will enable a new generation of detachable, smart, tablet-like display devices that users can carry around the house. Ballmer, who was in Germany for the CeBIT trade show, said the Mira technology, which will ship as part of Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) this September, will let consumers experience XP away from their PCs and will usher in a new era of more relaxed computing.
"Mira does for monitors what the cordless handset did for telephones," Ballmer says. "It frees consumers from their home offices and allows them to enjoy the complete Windows XP experience, including full Web browsing, sending and receiving email messages, listening to music, and editing and displaying digital images, from any room in their homes."
Mira displays will use Windows CE .NET and communicate with XP-based PCs through Wi-Fi, the 802.11b wireless networking standard, and Remote Desktop technology. Companies such as Fujitsu, LG Electronics, NEC, Philips, ViewSonic, and others are working on a wide selection of Mira-enabled displays, including 15" to 20" primary displays that would replace the main display monitor and 8" and 10" secondary displays that would act as remote mobile monitors and could be kept in rooms away from the PC. Microsoft and its partners say that Mira-enabled devices will ship in time for the 2002 holiday season.
"Building on \[our\] expertise in display technologies, we are excited to be working with Microsoft to develop Windows Powered smart display devices that will provide consumers with the mobility they demand while enabling them to access the power of Windows XP," said LG Electronics Vice President Havis Kwon. "The combination of our display technology and Microsoft's Mira technology will quickly establish new standards in home computing and entertainment capabilities and will help drive the adoption of wireless home networking."
In addition, some Mira displays will ship with wireless keyboards so users can more easily interact with their PCs remotely. Typically, Mira devices will offer stylus-based input, similar to a Pocket PC, with an on-screen keyboard for tapping out text messages. Several companies will also offer ruggedized Mira displays that can withstand drops, coffee spills, and even small children.
But Mira's most exciting possibility awaits its second iteration, which might occur with the Longhorn release of Windows, due in late 2003 or early 2004. Mira version 2, Ballmer promised, will do away with the one-user limit Windows XP imposes, letting up to two people access the same desktop PC at the same time, one through the main display and one through a remote Mira secondary display. "The \[Mira\] concept doesn't make sense otherwise, so that will be a version two feature," Ballmer said during a question-and-answer session with the press yesterday. "Well, it will be now," he added, a nod to the fact that two-user access probably wasn't part of the original plan.