Microsoft release date for Smart Display delayed

Microsoft has delayed the release of its custom operating system designed to power "Smart Displays" that connect wirelessly to PCs, the software maker said Tuesday.

Windows CE for Smart Displays, the official name of the software referred to internally at Microsoft as "Mira," is not expected to be available until the first quarter of 2003, a company spokeswoman said. The flat-panel displays running the operating system were originally slated to ship in Asia and North America in time for the holiday shopping season.

The devices will ship on time in Europe, where the expected release date has always been the first half of 2003.

"Originally we were targeting this holiday season, but we decided it was best to push it out a little bit to ensure that we delivered a high-quality product," said Megan Kidd, product manager with Microsoft's Smart Display group.

A variety of Smart Displays will be available from at least 15 hardware makers, including ViewSonic Corp., Fujitsu Ltd. and NEC Corp., and carry a price tag of US$500 to $1,000, according to Microsoft.

The displays work as a companion to PCs running Microsoft's Windows XP Professional Edition operating system, and connect to those PCs over an 802.11b wireless connection, also known as WiFi. Users can access most all of the applications available on their stationary PC from the handheld flat-panel display. Users can also navigate the interface using a stylus pen or an on-screen keyboard.

Similar to devices running the related Windows CE Pocket PC operating system, the Smart Displays will support handwriting recognition.

Microsoft says it still has a few kinks to work out before it can ship the final build of the software to hardware makers, though it did not offer details.

One issue that it won't be able to get around in the initial release is that devices running the software won't support some media types. Due to the bandwidth constraints of WiFi networks, the Smart Displays won't initially be able to display three-dimensional graphics or full streaming video, such as a DVD movie.

Microsoft is still gearing up for the planned Nov. 7 launch of its Tablet PC operating system, which will coincide with the debut of a number of portable handheld computers from hardware makers such as Acer Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Computer Corp. Tablet PCs are similar to notebook computers except users can interact with the devices using a stylus pen.

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