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HP, Microsoft unveil new PC design

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May 06, 20032 mins
ComputersComputers and PeripheralsEnterprise Applications

Microsoft and HP are working together on a future desktop reference design that will bring several different communications technologies together in a package, HP said Tuesday. Microsoft Chief Software Architect Bill Gates will demonstrate the device during his keynote Tuesday at WinHEC in New Orleans.

The PC is codenamed “Athens,” and the prototype resembles a docked Tablet PC in landscape mode. However, with a 23-inch flat-panel display, it is not designed for mobility, said Byron Sands, director of advanced technology for HP’s business PC division.

That display comes with a phone handset and video camera tacked onto its sides, so users can hold videoconferences, take phone calls and handle the rest of their daily Web browsing and e-mail through one desktop, Sands said. Any portion of a normal PC that relates to the user interface is part of the display screen, including media ports and optical drives, he said.

The rest of the PC, such as the processor and motherboard, fits into a compact chassis that connects to the display via a single cable that delivers data and power to the screen, said Kent Biggs, a senior member of the technical staff for the business PC division. The device uses a wireless keyboard and mouse, he said.

Right now, HP and Microsoft are “wireless-agnostic” when it comes to choosing the best wireless technology for Athens, Biggs said. Because additional wireless technologies might come into vogue by the time Athens is ready in 2004 or later, the companies aren’t committing to one technology or another, he said. Bluetooth was used in the prototype for the mouse, and the keyboard uses RF (radio frequency) technology.

Athens is designed to be a standard desktop in the future, rather than a premium machine, Sands said.

The reference design is the latest specialized version of the PC that Microsoft has helped hardware companies bring to market. Both the Tablet PC and the Media Center PC were developed in conjunction with specific versions of Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system.

Gates is expected to discuss some of Microsoft’s other ideas for the future of the computing world during his keynote. The conference runs through Thursday.