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Microsoft puts on mobile SideShow

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WinHEC In a staged performance at the WinHEC show, a small picture frame passed almost unnoticed as Mika Krammer, director of Microsoft's Windows division, acted out life after Vista.

The frame was running SideShow, a well-named technology because it will sneak into your life without the usual fanfare from Microsoft. The wireless-based Vista service allows information from a computer to be downloaded to a device and stored for display - ready for whenever it needs to be referenced. This information might just be your appointments for the day from Outlook, it could be an often-referenced web page, or just photos of the kids on your workdesk.

SideShow uses an Auxiliary Display Controller (ADC) to show the information on a static LCD screen which can be any size a device designer requires. It may be a small monochrome panel on the outside surface of a computer, on a mobile phone or on a remote control. It could be a bigger colour screen in a frame on the desk or hanging on the wall.

In Krammer's show, the small desktop frame cycled through pictures of the family and could also call up the latest weather prediction. When the source computer is in range and turned on, the display could use Messenger's presence detection to show when contacts appear online. The limits are only in the Vista application driving the transfers or the capabilities and memory capacity of the secondary display.

A typical scenario would be when a mobile worker is travelling to a meeting. The daily details from Outlook would be visible at a glance on the laptop lid without having to turn the computer on.

These types of external, information-packed displays have been talked about in earnest since 2004, when Intel unveiled a line of concept notebooks using the technology. You can see Microsoft's SideShow vision here.

Microsoft was also plugging its mobile phone Windows Live Messenger service at the show. The service is still officially in beta but Motorola's Q PDA phone offers support, as do new ranges from Philips and Uniden. ®

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