LAS VEGAS, Wash., Jan. 7, 1999 — Visitors to the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here in Las Vegas are used to seeing the latest and greatest innovations in consumer electronics products and appliances, and this year is no exception. This week, Microsoft will show off the first-ever satellite version of WebTV as well as additions to its popular Microsoft Windows CE family-from devices that consumers hold in their hands to products that keep them informed and entertained while in their cars.
Here are highlights of the Microsoft innovations on display at CES:
WebTV Networks, Inc. has teamed with EchoStar Communications Corp. to launch an innovative, satellite-based version of the WebTV service to match the product’s already high-flying sales. The two companies announced the WebTV Network Plus Service for Satellite and the EchoStar Model 7100 Satellite Receiver, the world’s first Internet TV service available through satellite. The new service and receiver, which will be available this spring, will revolutionize TV viewing by integrating the Dish Network’s digital satellite video with the WebTV Network’s Internet TV experience. The result will bring digital video recording, an advanced Electronic Program Guide, broadband data delivery, e-mail accounts, child-protection features and WebTV’s popular multimedia e-mail within reach of millions of people.
A big part of the news at CES is the big success of WebTV, already the world’s most popular Internet TV offering. With more than 700,000 subscribers and 1.5 million regular users, the 2-year-old WebTV service is growing faster out-of-the-gate than past innovations such as cell phones, VCRs and CD players. It is second in early adoptions only to the Direct TV satellite service. WebTV Internet terminals and receivers are now sold in thousands of retail outlets including Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Circuit City and the Good Guys, and also over television via the Home Shopping Network. Sony, Philips, Mitsubishi and Samsung all make or distribute WebTV products. And the list of television producers and networks that are using Interactive Television Links for WebTV reads like a Who’s Who of the industry, including such producers as Discovery Communications, NBC, E! Television, Children’s Television Workshop and The Weather Channel.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s innovative announcements at CES also include new benefits for consumers of a broad range of intelligent electronics products. Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), the next phase of Microsoft’s seven-year Plug and Play initiative, makes it easier for consumers to install and configure their intelligent consumer appliances and devices on a home or small-business network. UPnP also makes it easier for those products to work together on a network and to share resources from any device in the home or business. For example, a homeowner with two PCs and one high-speed Internet connection can share Internet access across both PCs. Major companies pledging to produce UPnP-compatible products include Intel, Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq, Dell Computer Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., Samsung Information Systems America (SISA), Toshiba Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc., Axis Communications Inc., National Semiconductor Corp., 3Com Corp., ATI Technologies Inc., Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc., Conexant Systems Inc., Texas Instruments, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), Lexmark International Inc., ShareWave Inc., NEC, Honeywell, Proxim Inc., Intellon Corp., Echelon Corp, Fujitsu Limited, SHARP Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and AT & T Corp.
“As appliances become more intelligent, and as the distinction between appliances and computing devices blurs, much of their value to consumers will come from their ability to communicate with other intelligent devices,” Craig Mundie, senior vice president, consumer strategy at Microsoft, told CES attendees during a packed keynote address. “Because UPnP is built on existing standards, it will be relatively easy for vendors to implement, and easy for consumers to take advantage of.”
Attendees at CES also got to see other Microsoft innovations such as the Auto PC, the newest member of the PC companion line of products powered by the Microsoft Windows CE operating system, and color-enabled Palm-size PCs. The PC companion line of products, which complement and extend the functionality of PCs, range from the highly portable Handheld PCs and Palm-size PCs to voice activated in-car computing Auto PC devices. The robust Windows CE platform enables more powerful and innovative devices than are possible with other small computing devices.
The Auto PC takes computing on the road in a car radio-sized form that fits into a car dashboard. It combines high-end audio with the power of computing and pioneering speech technology to enable drivers to control information, entertainment and communication features using verbal commands while keeping their focus on driving. The first Auto PCs are Clarion AutoPCs available today from Clarion Corporation of America.
Palm-size PCs enabled for color screens made their debut via a technology preview at CES in the booths of some Microsoft Windows CE hardware partners. The color devices are powered by “Wyvern,” the code name for the next release of the Windows CE Palm-size PC software. Although Wyvern is functionally similar to today’s Palm-size PCs, the new color screens are hard to miss. Consumers can expect to see some of these devices on store shelves by mid-1999.