Microsoft preps 'Venus' non-PC device

Microsoft Corporation verified that it is preparing to launch a new alternative to the personal computer, code-named "Venus"--that will initially be marketed in China. Venus, which will take a set-top box form factor and use a standard television as a display, is being billed as a cheap PC alternative.

"Some time in December you'll see boxes that will be available in the retail channels," says Michael Rawding, Microsoft's regional director for greater China. "Certainly before the end of the year."

Like Windows CE, Venus hardware will be sold by third-party manufacturers, in this case companies that are already doing business in China. The Chinese market, largely untapped despite its massive population, is considered one of the most lucrative on earth. But it's also one of the most glaring areas of software piracy. Microsoft has been trying to make inroads in China for years.

As for the "slimmed down operating system" that will power Venus, we can only guess at this point. The obvious choice is Windows CE, which is now used in WebTV, Sega Dreamcast, and other similar devices

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