Not every Microsoft announcement at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show made the Bill Gates keynote.
From the Microsoft Hardware group (i.e. the part of Entertainment & Devices that makes money but gets no buzz):
This week at the 2007 International CES in Las Vegas, Microsoft Corp. will showcase its award-winning peripherals, the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 and the Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000, both named CES Innovations 2007 Design and Engineering Awards Honorees on the basis of their innovative designs and advancements in peripheral engineering…
…Microsoft Corp. announced the availability of the Microsoft Fingerprint Reader with software updates from DigitalPersona Inc., for Windows Vista compatibility, offering users the convenience of replacing their passwords with their fingerprint…
HD DVD related:
Microsoft Corp. showcased the growing momentum behind HD DVD through its contribution of core technologies. Microsoft helped deliver the highest-quality video with the VC-1 codec, advanced interactivity with HDi™, and a streamlined and affordable platform for player manufacturers through the use of Microsoft Windows CE 6.0.
Microsoft Corp. and Broadcom Corp. announced a joint effort to support a hardware and software reference design for more cost-efficient HD DVD playback. The new platform uses Microsoft Windows CE 6.0 and Broadcom’s BCM7440 system-on-chip solution, allowing consumer electronics manufacturers, original design manufacturers and systems integrators to more easily and affordably deliver HD DVD playback. Several of the more innovative, high volume electronics companies that plan to use this new hardware and software platform to speed the production of HD DVD players include Lite-On IT Corp. and Zhenjiang Jiangkui Group Co. Ltd./ED Digital.
Microsoft Corp. and Clear Channel Radio today announced at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that they have executed a collaborative agreement to build a nationwide data delivery service using HD Radio technology, providing personalized and localized content to a variety of HD Radio receivers. This initiative will be branded MSN Direct HD, an extension of Microsoft’s existing MSN Direct service, which currently transmits a variety of information including traffic, weather, movie times, sports, and stocks to Smart Watches, weather stations, Global Positioning System navigation devices and small home appliances.
Microsoft Corp.’s Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) Group announced the availability of MSN Direct navigation services and announced that Garmin International Inc. will be the first to offer the new MSN Direct service to Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. Customers will be able to receive dynamic local information, including weather condition and traffic updates, movies listings, and gas prices.
Microsoft SPOT also announced plans to work with future versions of Microsoft Streets & Trips and Pharos Science & Applications Inc. to offer MSN Direct Navigation Services to their devices. In addition, Microsoft SPOT is working with Centrality Communications Inc. to integrate MSN Direct with its GPS reference designs…
Microsoft Hardware yesterday trotted out its offerings for the fall season:
I was particularly entranced by the latter, because while I never use the Microsoft custom operating system keys on my keyboards, I always wonder if I might be missing something. Microsoft’s Nick White has a better explanation than the press release as to what they are for:
- Windows Start Button: access the Windows Vista Start Menu
- Windows Media Start Button: quick access to Windows Media Center in Windows Vista
- Windows Live Call Button: make a call using Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Call
- Gadget Button: launches Live.com for quick access to your personalized Gadgets
So the Windows Live crew has even snuck onto Microsoft keyboards.
A How-To kit for the ideal PC has been making the rounds of leading design shops. It calls for “accelerated curves” and “purposeful contrast.” The preferred colors include a shade of black called Obsidian and a translucent white dubbed Ice. “We want people to fall in love with their PCs, not to simply use them to be productive and successful,” reads the enclosed booklet. “We want PCs to be objects of pure desire.”
Doesn’t sound much like Microsoft (MSFT), does it? But it is. BusinessWeek has learned that a team of 20 in-house designers has been working quietly for the past 18 months on an elegant new look for PCs that will run Microsoft’s next operating system, Windows Vista. It’s a major departure for the company, which historically has left design to the likes of Dell (DELL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), and Gateway (GTW). Persuading the hardware guys to embrace the toolkit won’t be easy. They’re already working overtime to build better-looking gear on their own.
Microsoft for years has pushed their functional specifications on OEMs via the Windows Hardware Engineering Conferences and other mechanisms, but style?
Microsoft is no newcomer to hardware design, of course. The company has made PC mice and keyboards for years. The Xbox game console has been a hit. Microsoft is working on a music player, Zune, that it hopes will rival the iPod.
Microsoft’s mice and keyboards are nicely done, but they’re a niche and the Xbox 360 was created with significant outside design help. I expect that the same is true for the Zune, so it’s not quite clear exactly what Microsoft brings to the table. More to the point, the PC business has some tough cost strictures:
But trying to transform the PC ecosystem—even peripherals makers such as Logitech received the kit—takes things to a whole new level. It reflects the fact that the economics of the computer business is changing. The PC world used to be divided into two camps: those who made lucrative software and the poor schlubs who built the low-margin hardware it ran on.
Apple has turned that model on its head. From the beginning it has managed to create a unified design for its products by building everything itself, first with the Mac and then later with the iPod. Although Apple sells one computer for every 20 PCs, the iPod’s success has proved how crucial it is to create a seamless experience for consumers, who are buying much of the gear these days. Says a top PC design executive: “You’re going to see more and more of this desire to integrate hardware and software.”
I’ll buy that, but it’s not clear to me how a color scheme will make the experience seamless – I would have thought the seamless part would start a little closer to Redmond. Besides, if you really want something snappier than a beige box, you don’t have to look too far (e.g.  if you like bright lights). It sounds more like Microsoft is worried that the OEMs aren’t following their functional “suggestions” in lockstep and the styling suggestions are just a bonus.
Hit the link for much more, but the big PC makers aren’t exactly jumping for joy at the chance to further commoditize their products. When all Windows PCs are the same except for the manufacturer’s logo, their margin inevitably goes to zero. I do wonder though if Microsoft has any thoughts of ditching their pesky partners on PCs, just like they did on personal media players with the Zune? It would make the Apple emulation complete.
“Brace for impact!”: Microsoft Warns Employees of Likely Antitrust Fine
John Dvorak: Why Microsoft won’t buy Yahoo: “Sometimes you have to laugh out loud when a report comes out with analysis and suggestions that are so far out in left field that they can only be categorized as completely insane.” I felt bad that I didn’t have time to say something snarky about last week’s rumor, but I feel much better after reading Dvorak.
Microsoft Faces Class Action Suit: Lawsuit alleges that Windows Genuine Advantage antipiracy tool violates consumer protection laws. Unfortunately predictable. Also predictable is a worm pretending to be a WGA tester.
MobiTV does Windows Mobile: MobiTV Enables Consumers to Watch Live and Made-for-Mobile Television Content on Windows Mobile Powered Devices
Microsoft launches CodePlex shared source project site: We mentioned it back in May when the beta test started.
A blast from the past: Microsoft says Go antitrust suit dismissed.