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Microsoft abandons Smart Display effort

Just a year after launching the software, which provided access to a PC from anywhere within Wi-Fi range, Microsoft has dumped the project.

Just a year after launching its Smart Display technology, which provided access to a PC from anywhere within Wi-Fi range, Microsoft has dumped the project.

Microsoft said it made the decision after "evaluating current market trends, including the economic conditions of the LCD (liquid-crystal display) market." While the company refrained from saying there would be no further development of the Smart Display software--based on Windows CE--it did say that "we are not at this time working on the next version of Smart Display technology."

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A Smart Display is a cordless LCD monitor with a passive touch-sensitive screen, which connects to a main PC over an 802.11b (Wi-Fi) wireless network. Extras such as a pop-up soft-keyboard for text entry (the graffiti-like transcriber is also supported) and built-in speakers for playing music are offered.

Some models have a docking unit that provides wired PC, keyboard and mouse connections, allowing them to be used in desktop as well as portable mode.

Microsoft signed up a number of hardware partners, including ViewSonic, Philips Electronics, NEC, Fujitsu and TriGem, to build smart displays. ViewSonic was the first company to launch hardware based on Smart Display Technology, in early 2003.

But the devices got a cold reception, particularly for the way the technology locked out the host PC when in use. Microsoft has said that this is a licensing issue and a resource management problem.

The full version of Terminal Server, the underlying technology behind the remote control, has special protection to stop multiple users from updating the registry or overwriting files in ways that interfere with each other, but Microsoft did not include that with its Smart Display software.

Microsoft said it continues to remain dedicated to working with its partners to develop products "that both meet the demands of customers as well as, from a development perspective, make good business sense."

"We are hearing that consumers are looking for ways to easily access the information that resides on their PCs in more relaxed settings, and Microsoft will continue to evaluate this market and work with partners to determine the best and most cost-efficient way to meet this demand," the company said.

Matt Loney of ZDNet UK reported from London.