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Microsoft 'Smart Displays' begin shipping

ViewSonic will release to the first product based on Microsoft's latest software that allows people access their PCs from wireless "Smart Displays" located about the home. A similar device from Philips Consumer Electronics is due out at the start of February.

The "Windows Powered Smart Displays" allows users to access their PC through a touch-screen display that can be carried about the home. The display communicates with the PC via the 802.11b Wi-Fi networking standard and users can read e-mail, surf the Web, play music and use other applications as if they were sitting at the PC.

The first devices were due to be ready by Christmas, but the hardware and software took longer to complete than the company expected.

Two displays from ViewSonic are now available. The ViewSonic airpanel V110 has a 10in screen and is priced at $999 (£625); the V150 has a 15in screen and sells for $1,299 (£813). The prices include a USB Wi-Fi adapter, which connects to the PC, allowing it to communicate with the wireless display. The prices also include an upgrade to Windows XP Professional Edition, which is required to use the displays.

ViewSonic has been taking orders for the products since late last year. They begin shipping for the first time from CompUSA, Amazon.com, Buy.com and other outlets. A ViewSonic spokesman would not say how many of the devices were pre-ordered.

Philips announced that its first Smart Display, the DesXscape 150 DM, will ship during the first week of February priced at $1,499 (£938). The 15in display is slightly slimmer than ViewSonic's, Kidd said, and for a limited time the price includes a wireless keyboard. It does not include an operating system upgrade.

Both products should also be available in Europe in the first quarter this year.

NEC and Fujitsu will announce plans to ship Smart Displays by the end of March for the Japanese market.

Microsoft is also working with Hewlett-Packard to allow Smart Displays to show the user interface developed by HP for its Media Center PC, which is designed for multimedia use.

The software giant is also exploring ways to get its Smart Display software into other appliances so that users can view digital pictures stored in their PC on a television screen or through a digital projector.

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