The convergence of PCs with television, automobiles and wireless technology is opening new markets in which Web content developers can leverage the gamut of Windows operating systems and specifications, a Microsoft Corp. executive said here yesterday.
Microsoft's Windows CE, Windows NT and Windows 98 platforms provide a framework on which developers can create Web content for "billions and billions of devices," said Tod Nielsen, general manager of Microsoft's developer relations group and platform marketing, in a keynote speech at the close of the Web Tech-Ed conference.
Nielsen wooed developers with demonstrations of an in-car networked computer based on the company's Auto PC specification, and of an Internet-enabled television made by its WebTV Networks subsidiary.
"We don't think we can do it all ourselves; we're an enabling company and we need you to help," Nielsen told developers.
In contrast to companies like Oracle Corp., which is hedging its bets on Internet-enabled devices like network computers and set-top boxes, Nielsen's keynote made it clear Microsoft thinks the PC will remain a vital product.
"The key point is that all these devices can be synced with a PC," meaning users need maintain only one copy of their data which can be replicated across multiple products, he said.
A Microsoft technician demonstrated an Auto PC-based computer which included email and a navigation system, and which derived its content via wireless technology from Cue Networks Inc. AutoPC-based products are expected to ship in April for around US$1,000, said Perry Lee, product manager for Auto PC. She urged developers to work with Cue Networks to create content for them.
Digital television and set-top boxes will offer endless possibilities for combining interactive Web content with programming and advertisements, said Steve Guggenheimer, group product manager for Microsoft's Digital TV group. Developers must meet the challenge of tuning content to suit the color and font characteristics of television sets, he said. Meantime the PC will benefit from media streaming technologies and will be used to play high-quality video and DVD (digital video disks) as well as be used to run productivity applications.
Matthew Turk of Microsoft Research said the company is looking in the future to model the PC user interface on features of human interaction including speech, hand gestures and facial expressions. "That's the Holy Grail of what Microsoft is trying to do," Turk said.
Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/.