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March 14, 2006
Mini Displays Coming to Laptops

Most cool new clamshell cell phones these days have a big display inside, and a small one outside. The outside display shows the time, or Caller ID info. It's a great idea that people seem to like. Don’t look now, but the same idea is coming to Windows-based notebook PCs!

This new capability is based on the combination of a hardware platform called Preface from a company called PortalPlayer, and a Microsoft software platform called SideShow.

If you think about it, the idea will be even more useful for laptops than for cell phones. That's because opening a cell phone instantly shows the internal display, whereas with laptops, there's an entire boot-up process to content with.

Notebooks with the small screens -- which all the major PC makers are currently and secretly designing and building as we speak -- are expected to come out later this year on notebooks running Microsoft's Vista operating system.

The displays will be able to show e-mail, calendar information, contacts, song and video information (including the video itself) or run "ticker" type information like stock data or news headlines. RSS feeds can stream into the device -- just about anything. (Microsoft has created and made available to developers the tools to write custom applications for it.)

It's like having an iPod embedded in your laptop, but an iPod with access to data and a few applications on your hard drive -- and an iPod that anyone can create applications for. Hardware manufacturers can even create mini media players using the Sideshow platform, which can either be part of a notebook... or not.

Sideshow will use a fraction of the power required by the laptop itself, so if you have minimal use for the laptop, such as watching movies on an airplane, you can do so for hours without fully draining the laptop battery. In fact, they run on their own, dedicated batteries.

This is great news. As notebooks increasingly replace desktops as our every day computers, Preface and Slideshow together on notebooks will usher in a new kind of innovation that will make our computers more useful -- and more fun.

Posted by Mike Elgan at 09:58 AM | Permalink

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