WinHEC: HP and Microsoft unveil new PC design

Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard are working together on a future desktop PC reference design that that Bill Gates will demonstrate...

Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard are working together on a future desktop PC reference design that that Bill Gates will demonstrate during his keynote speech on 6 May at the WinHEC conference in New Orleans.

Codenamed "Athens", 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.

Any portion of a normal PC that relates to the user interface is part of the display screen, including media ports and optical drives, said Sands.

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.

HP and Microsoft are " agnostic" about the best wireless technology for Athens, Biggs said the companies have not committed to one technology or another, but Bluetooth is being 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.

The reference design is the latest specialised 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.

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