Microsoft Details New Longhorn Displays

Redmond is developing a hardware-reference platform and software developer kit for 'auxiliary display' support that will be part of its next-gen Windows.

SAN FRANCISCO — When Microsoft delivers a beta version of Longhorn during the first half of this year, it will include support for "auxiliary displays," company officials said Wednesday at the VSLive conference.

Microsoft Corp. first talked about the auxiliary display concept at the Windows Hardware Engineering conference in 2004. And Intel Corp. showed a prototype of a device with an auxiliary display affixed to a laptop lid at its Intel Developer Forum conference last fall.

At the VSLive show, Sriram Viji, a program manager with Microsofts mobile platforms division, described Microsofts strategy and vision for auxiliary displays in more depth. He said to expect Microsoft to deliver a beta version of its auxiliary display development kit at the same time it delivers Longhorn Beta 1.

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Microsoft has said to expect Beta 1 of Longhorn to debut some time in the first half of 2005. The final release is slated to ship in 2006.

Viji noted that auxiliary displays are likely to come in several flavors. They could take the form of a small display attached to or built into a laptop lid, or a software add-on to cell phones, PDAs, TVs, electronic picture frames and other "remote display" devices.

But whatever form factor they ultimately take, auxiliary displays will solve several current PC limitations, Viji said. Existing laptops and notebooks require a considerable amount of time to turn on, get running, log in and open applications. They are not conducive to logging in and operating while on the move. And their battery life of three to four hours on average limits their availability, Viji noted.

If users were able to simply glance at an auxiliary display to obtain information from their calendars, learn the availability and location of their online buddies, or check the status of their inboxes–without having to power-on their PCs–they potentially could avoid some of these power consumption and time/mobility problems, Viji said.

Viji said that Microsoft is in the midst of developing with Intel an auxiliary display hardware-reference platform. The reference platform will include an ARM processor, Flash-based boot memory, between 8 and 16 megabytes of RAM for caching displayed data, and a system management bus that will allow PCs or devices to "wake up" regularly so that they can synchronize data with the auxiliary display.

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