Announcements from companies big and small this week are pushing the monitor farther and farther away from the computer by sending the video signal over a Wi-Fi connection.
This week, Wi-Fi chip maker Intersil announced it has, in conjunction with Microsoft, created drivers for its PRISM 802.11b wireless LAN chips that support Windows CE for Smart Displays (formerly known by the code-name Mira). Wi-Fi-equipped PCs using the drivers can have their computer desktop show up on a remote Smart Display product such as ViewSonic airpanel V110 (10-inch, $999) and V150 (15-inch, $1,299) touch screens — both unveiled this week at the Computer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas — the display can be up to 150 feet from the PC.
The Mira technology was first mentioned at last year’s CES by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates during a keynote address; it’s not to be confused with a Tablet PC, which may have a similar shape (picture a laptop without the keyboard) but the full computer is inside.
Smart Displays connect only to PCs running Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Wi-Fi to get full access to applications and services on the computer. Most smart displays use a stylus and touch-sensitive screen, have an on-screen keyboard (an external keyboard defeats the purpose of going remote, though some companies will likely ship an external wireless keyboards with a Smart Display), and have hand-writing recognition software built in.
The ViewSonic airpanels, which are on sale now at places like Amazon, Buy.com, CompUSA and Fry’s, fully support Windows CE for Smart Displays, run on Intel’s 400MHz PXA250 XScale-based processor, have 32MB of ROM Flash memory, 64MB SDRAM, and up to 4 hours of battery life. They come complete with an 802.11b USB adapter to get the PC on the WLAN and an upgrade copy of Windows XP Professional. Until March, airpanels come with an offer to freely integrate Universal Electronic’s $299 Nevo home control software, to take control of many household electronics from the screen.
ViewSonic will soon offer a 10-inch airpanel sans the extras like Windows XP later this quarter.
Other companies with Smart Displays showing at CES include Philips Consumer Electronics with it’s 15-inch DesXcape 150DM for $1,455 running on an Intel processor, which should be available in February; and BenQ Corp.’s 15-inch unit that will come out this summer running on a chip from National Semiconductor. Other companies planning to support the technology include Samsung Electronics NEC, Philips Consumer Electronics, Tatung, Fujitsu, and LG Electronics.
Meanwhile, if you’re not into Windows XP yet, OTC Wireless of Fremont, CA, might have a solution. At the CES they announced the WiJET, a product that puts a Wi-Fi based receiver at the display, whether it’s a VGA monitor, plasma display, or an LCD projector — anything with a 15pin VGA port.
The first iteration of the WiJET will focus on interactive whiteboards and LCD projectors. Multiple users with 802.11b can use the software OTC provides to connect to the WiJET and display their PC’s screen remotely. It works with any version of Microsoft Windows.