A quick look back at Microsoft’s portable Smart Display tech, Mira

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Microsoft mira

Earlier this year, Sony first announced what it would later officially label as the PlayStation Portal. It will basically be a PS5 Dual Sense controller with a big 8-inch screen that will let PS5 console owners play their games at home on their local Wi-Fi network.

Many people have wondered what the audience is for this device. You can only use it on a local home wireless network, and you can only play the games you have purchased on your PS5 console. You cannot play those games while on the road, and the Portal can’t be used for connecting to cloud gaming services.

Looking back, the PlayStation Portal is a little like what Microsoft tried to launch over 20 years ago. At CES in January 2002, the company first announced plans to help launch a new portable and connected series of “Smart Display” for the home, using Microsoft’s “Mira” technology.

Here is how Microsoft first described its plans in its own press release from January 7, 2002:

Harnessing the remote desktop and wireless networking features of Windows XP and Windows CE .NET, “Mira”-enabled smart displays will deliver to consumers the freedom of the complete experiences in Windows, including browsing the Web, sending or receiving e-mail messages, listening to music, and editing and displaying digital images, from any room in the home.

“Mira” will enable smart displays in a variety of instant-on and silent-running form factors ranging from a primary PC monitor that detaches to become a portable wireless touch-screen monitor to a large digital television that presents a complete Windows XP experience including music and photos from a PC.

The plan was for Microsoft to license the Mira Smart Display tech to third-party hardware companies, including Philips, NEC, Fujitsu, and TriGem, so they could launch these portable touchscreen products before the end of 2002, in time for the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, the first of these products, the ViewSonic Airplane V150p, didn’t make that release time frame, as it launched in early 2003.

viewsonic smart display

The hardware specs for this device included a big 15-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1,024 x 768. Inside, it included a 400 MHz Intel XScale processor, along with 64MB of RAM. The battery on board is said to have lasted about four hours on a single charge, and the display weighs about 6 pounds.

The problems with these kinds of Smart Displays quickly became evident with the release of this Viewsonic product. The biggest issue is that why would you use this when you could get a notebook that could connect to your home network and basically could do the same things at this “smart display”?

The initial price of the Viewsonic product was also pretty high at over $1,000. Again, you could buy a notebook for several hundred dollars less. Plus, the smart display couldn’t be used without connecting it wirelessly to its host Windows XP PC, as opposed to a stand-alone notebook PC, which could work well on its own.

You also couldn’t use multiple Smart Displays in your home; only one could connect to the host PC. Did we mention there was no support for streaming video from your host PC to the smart display?

In the end, most people realized that this Smart Display couldn’t do a lot of basic functions as well or better than a standard Wi-Fi-enabled Windows notebook. The rise of touchscreen tablets several years later would prove to be the kind of device and platform that Microsoft’s Mira technology was trying to reach.

Microsoft decided to shut down the development of Mira and Smart Display in January 2004, only a year after the launch of the ViewSonic device. While it was an early attempt to launch a big-screen tablet-like touchscreen device, there were simply too many limiting factors surrounding Microsoft’s tech at that time.

News Article Courtesy Of John Callaham »