Japanese PC makers to support Microsoft's Mira

Just over a month after Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates unveiled his company's new Mira technology, which allows users to access their Windows XP desktop from a portable, wireless-equipped terminal, four of Japan's top personal computer makers have signed on to support the system in their PCs.

Japan's top two PC makers, NEC Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd., along with Sotec Co. Ltd. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., will all be releasing PCs that support Mira, said Keith White, senior director of marketing at Microsoft's embedded and appliance platforms group. The PCs are expected in stores before the end of this year, he said.

The Mira system extends the Windows XP desktop to a portable terminal that is linked to the main PC through a wireless LAN. Users have full access to their desktop applications and files from the terminals, which do little more than display processing. The applications run on the main PC and the information is sent across the wireless LAN to the device for display.

"What this enables me to do is have complete access to everything running on the PC," said White, demonstrating a prototype of a Mira device. "I have full access to browse the Web, full access to my applications. It is basically remoting the display presentation using wireless networking to this device."

"Everything is processing (on the main PC.) When I mouse click (on the display), it actually goes across the wireless network and executes on the PC and displays back here what I do. It's not like there is a PC running on this. Because of that there is no fan, no heat, much longer battery life."

The portable devices run Windows CE .Net and Microsoft has defined a basic specification for them. They are required to have a minimum screen resolution of 800 by 600 pixels, 16M bytes each of ROM and RAM, a touch-panel display and support for wireless LAN networking. They can run on processors such as Intel Corp.'s XScale, Hitachi Ltd.'s SuperH and those from Mips Technologies Inc.

But while Microsoft has received commitments of support from Japanese companies on the PC side, it has yet to get any similar commitments for the production of Mira-based terminals. Developing such terminals requires more time and more money than integrating wireless LAN and installing Windows XP Professional on a desktop computer and White said Microsoft is still talking with Japanese computer makers about Mira devices.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, where the Mira concept was unveiled, Microsoft announced support from display manufacturer ViewSonic Corp., which said it will produce a Mira-enabled monitor that can be carried around the home, and Intel Corp., National Semiconductor Corp., Wyse Technology Inc., all three of which will produce Mira reference designs that other companies can buy, manufacture and sell.

Mira terminals are expected to sell for between US$500 and $800, according to White.

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Martyn Williams

PC World
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