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MS Mira beta: buy $800 web tablet, then pretend it's not

Does all the things Mira isn't supposed to. Try not to notice

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Beta testers of Microsoft's Mira wireless display devices are going to have to pay for the hardware, according to an email sent to testers yesterday and obtained by ActiveWin. Well, fair enough, you might think, it is hardware so there's a cost factor that's absent from the usual software beta, but it's $800 for an 8.4in 800x600 TFT unit, and even odder than that, it's not a wireless display at all - it's a full-blown appliance that can operate independently of the PC it's to be tested with.

It would be nice to think Microsoft had tossed all its earlier Mira plans after reading The Register's objections to them less than 48 hours ago, but we fear it's likelier that whoever's doing the organisation and deal-making here is just missing the point rather drastically. On Monday we complained about Mira being a mobile CE-based appliance that was maimed into just being a local wireless display for your home PC. well, today it's clearly worse than that - you have to buy a mobile CE-based appliance then maim it yourself.

The device Microsoft is suggesting, at $799 cash or $825 credit card (claimed $350-$450 below market price) is the DT Research DT380, which as you'll see from the product announcement is a tablet that "operates as a web access device, thin client, or desktop companion." It is, friends, precisely not what Mira is specified to be, but more like what the Microsofties, bless 'em, have been telling us Mira 2, the 2003 product, will be. Mira 1 itself is supposed to be $500 at this kind of footprint, incidentally, which will no doubt cheer up contributing testers greatly if this turns out to be the case when it ships.

There's more weirdness. Bear in mind that Mira is being specifically positioned for the home, where presumably the honest punter will be running the recommended OS, i.e. XP Home. So here's what you need:

"Host PC - You will need a PC with Windows XP Pro that is running Terminal Server or Remote Desktop. This PC will be acting as your Mira Host. Wireless LAN - Wi-Fi 802.11b. Cisco Aironet 240/350 or Orinoco wireless Ethernet card. Mira client device hardware - DT Research, WebDT 380 Web Pad."

Of course if it needs Remote Desktop then it wouldn't work with Home, would it? All the same, the thought of testers paying DT a substantial wedge for the product, then hooking it up in a near as dammit full-blown thin client network system, then having to pretend it's something far more basic, is treasurable. ®

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