"Athens", meanwhile, will be designed to streamline the communications interface. The PC prototype, codesigned with Hewlett-Packard, will merge next-generation voice, video, and text messaging into a consistent design, HP said. Gates said its necessary for the phone and the PC to come together. Microsoft has already designed the "Stinger" version of Windows CE for mobile handsets. Both the phone and the PC must be aware of each others presence and interact, Gates said. "Just as we did with the Tablet PC and the Media Center PC, HP and Microsoft are creating a new standard of joint innovation in hardware, software and product design," said Carly Fiorina, chief executive officer of HP, in a statement Monday night. "The Athens PC will empower business customers with an entirely new class of business technology that provides a seamless and natural experience for communications and collaboration."Chad Magendanz, lead program manager for Microsoft, said that a 20-inch version of the high-resolution display would be available for under $400 in 2004, prompting snorts of disbelief from some hardware executives in the audience. During a demonstration Magendanz received an incoming call, which was recorded as a audio file on the PC. Using a reverse lookup of the calls origin, the software deduced the callers ID, then pulled up recent emails and other files to give the caller full access to the history of the relationship between the two. A user can also specify a "do not disturb" light that routes incoming calls directly to voice mail, which in turn could be displayed in a unified inbox showing faxes, email, and voice mail. However, executives did not say whether these capabilities would be designed into the next-generation Longhorn OS, or on a specific implementation designed for Athens-class PCs.
Athens will include integrated telephony functionality, together with a wireless handset and headset. Users will work on a 16:10 high-resolution display, likely using the XEEL navigation system. The PC is designed to mimic an appliance, running quietly and booting in under two seconds, then powering down when not in use. Powering down will save companies about $90 per user per year in power savings, Microsoft estimates.