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Mira Stumbles Out of the Starting Block

In Taipei this week for the Taiwan Computex 2002 trade show, Microsoft revealed a few sobering details about its upcoming remote display technology for home users, currently code-named "Mira." If successful, Mira will finally bring Windows Terminal Services into the home, providing consumers with a way to access their desktop machine remotely from anywhere in the house. But Mira's price and exclusivity may be major stumbling blocks that prevent the technology from taking off with its intended audience.

First, the price. For Mira to be successful, Microsoft's hardware partners will have to price the units competitively and perform an educational campaign in order to sell consumers on the wonders of remote displays. But the first round of Mira devices, which will range from 8 inch secondary displays to 15 inch primary displays, will be priced in the $500 to $1000 range, far above the price of mainstream consumer electronics devices and well within the range of many full PC systems. At this price, Mira will attract early adopters and technology enthusiasts, but not the wider consumer market.

Furthermore, Mira will only run on the business-oriented Windows XP Professional, and not the more widely available XP Home Edition, which is used by the consumers Microsoft is targetting with Mira. The company says that it is working on this problem, and it might release a service pack later that would let Home Edition users access Mira displays. But that won't happen in time for Mira's launch, which is expected this fall, in time for the holiday selling season.

Finally, Mira displays require consumers to have installed wireless networking in their homes, an often expensive technology, and one that can be daunting to non-technical users. So in addition to the cost of the display itself and a potential upgrade to XP Professional, potential Mira customers will also need to install wireless networking access in their homes.

The combination of these three factors, couple with consumer confusion over the benefits of Mira, may eventually doom this technology. If Microsoft is serious about continuing Mira beyond its 1.0 release this fall, the company might consider an informational campaign of its own and, possibly, subsidizing the cost of the units. Otherwise, it's going to wind up next to other hardware also-rans like the Sony eVilla or 3Com Audrey.

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