ViewSonic picks Microsoft Smart Displays

The monitor company plans to announce details for its first two devices using the software behemoth's Smart Displays software, technology intended to extend the reach of PCs.

Richard Shim Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Richard Shim
writes about gadgets big and small.
Richard Shim
2 min read
ViewSonic plans to announce on Tuesday the details of some of its first portable displays that will use Microsoft software to expand how PCs are used in the home.

The Walnut, Calif.-based monitor maker's new devices will use Microsoft's Windows CE for Smart Displays software, technology previously code-named Mira. So-called smart displays are portable monitors that can communicate wirelessly with a PC. With a stylus, a person can surf the Web or respond to e-mail using the monitor's touch screen.

ViewSonic's Airpanel V110 measures 10.4 inches and will sell for $999, while the company's Airpanel V150 measures 15 inches and will sell for $1,299. Both portable monitors will include integrated 802.11b support, a USB wireless adapter and an upgrade to the Windows XP Professional operating system.

The Smart Displays software is yet another example of Microsoft's effort to push its software further into home entertainment. Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system, for example, aims to feature the PC as the digital hub in a home.

"Smart Displays focuses on the consumer market for home use," said Megan Kidd, Microsoft product manager. "We want to extend the computing experience to anywhere in the home, at anytime."

The portable monitors are expected to be available during first quarter of 2003, through retail partners such as Amazon.com, Buy.com, CompUSA, Dell Computer and RCS.

The technology shouldn't be confused with the most recent crop of tablet PCs, portable devices that are shaped similarly yet are fully functional computers.

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"Tablet PC is the evolution of the notebook," Kidd said. "Smart Displays is the evolution of the monitor. It's more of peripheral to the PC, with all the data residing on a PC."

ViewSonic also plans to offer its own version of a tablet PC device, which will include a 10.4-inch screen and sell for $1,999. The company sells 15-inch flat-panel monitors for $350 to $450.

PC makers such as Fujitsu, NEC, Philips Electronics and TriGem Computer are also expected to release smart-display devices.

Microsoft aimed to have

A revolution in view
Forrester says the "smart displays" concept
solves some nagging PC shortcomings.

its Smart Displays software ready in time for hardware makers to have devices in the market by the holidays, but the product was delayed. Microsoft gave no reason for the delay.

IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell said that the biggest hurdle for portable-display makers would be convincing an already cost-conscious public that a display alone is worth the cost. Microsoft and ViewSonic representatives acknowledged that acceptance of the devices would be slow.

"By itself, it's not compelling enough to garner a big market," O'Donnell said. "They need to start adding capabilities to the device, such as a universal remote control and other consumer-electronics features."