REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 15, 2000 — Microsoft today unveiled the Microsoft Home in New York, an 8,000-square-foot loft in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood that is designed to show people how new and emerging technology can enhance the way they live, relax and stay connected. Complete with a kitchen, living room, dining room, master bedroom, kids’ bedroom, teen bedroom, home office and patio area, the Home introduces more than 25 examples of the latest software-based technologies and services. The Home is equipped with broadband connectivity to help people get onto the Internet quickly, a Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (PNA) network for connecting devices over existing phone lines and a wireless network for those parts of the home where there are no phone lines.
To get a better idea of how the Microsoft Home in New York will demonstrate the many ways that technology can simplify and enhance consumers’ lives, PressPass spoke with Steve Guggenheimer, senior director, Microsoft Personal Services and Devices Group.
PressPass: The Microsoft Home in New York is a true, networked home environment that shows how families can use technology at home. What kind of Microsoft devices and software can consumers expect to see in a complete home network?
Guggenheimer: There are three levels of software and services that you’ll find in any home network. At the base level is the network infrastructure — namely, how the devices connect to one another. The Microsoft Home in New York has both a wireless network for those parts of the home where there are no phone lines and a Home Phoneline Networking Alliance for connecting devices over existing phone lines. It also includes some Ethernet, the most widely used Local Area Network technology, to show the full range of options.
At the next level are the devices themselves. In the Microsoft Home in New York, you’ll see set-top boxes for televisions, Windows PCs, Pocket PCs, cell phones, MSN Companions, portable music players, wall controllers, game pads and more.
The third and final level is the services that enhance the devices and connect them to each other so that information can be shared among them. In that area, you’ll see services from MSN such as calendars or communities, financial software, Internet games, applications for music and enhancements for television.
PressPass: What purpose does this model home serve? What’s the advantage of letting people see the technology in this type of setting?
Guggenheimer: We are showing how products available today are becoming an integrated part of people’s lives and homes. The Microsoft Home in New York will give consumers a three-dimensional buyers guide for the latest in technology and services for their homes.
PressPass: People spend a lot of time in their kitchens, yet they want to make that time as efficient as possible. How can a device like MSN Companion, which offers a simple connection to the Internet, help people who are cooking or just hanging out in the kitchen?
Guggenheimer: The kitchen is a focal point in many homes, where people keep the family calendar, primary telephone,
lists and notepads. The MSN Companion enables you to use technology to streamline some of these activities. It’s a simple device that fits in well in the kitchen, providing you with access to the Internet to look up information related to cooking, update your calendar, order groceries online or communicate with people via email or Instant Messenger. The MSN Companion is also a digital picture frame that can display a family photo when you turn it off.
PressPass: We’ve heard a lot about Ultimate TV, which is one of the products you’re demonstrating at the Microsoft Home in New York. How will new technology enhance the experience of watching television?
Guggenheimer: In today’s busy world, making television better is all about making it more personal. With Ultimate TV, you have more control over your television experience — for example, you can pause live television. If you want to get up and get a cup of coffee, you can actually stop the program you’re watching, get the coffee and, just as with a VCR, the program will resume where you left off. You can also record all of your favorite shows with a single button click. There are even television game shows that you can play along with, or you can browse their Web sites for additional information, or contact people via the Internet while you watch TV.
PressPass: Music-lovers young and old are constantly looking for ways to improve their listening options. How will the latest version of Windows Media Player and other technology help them?
Guggenheimer: With Windows Media Player technology, you can create a personal play list either by selecting your favorite songs from your CDs or downloading music from the Internet. Once you’ve done that, you can take that list of songs and transfer it to different devices such as a Pocket PC or a portable personal player. Creating your own play list makes the music more personal, and with an easy-to-use personal player, the music is portable and sounds great.
PressPass: How will technology, including software reference products, play a role in helping kids with their education?
Guggenheimer: Obviously, education is a major focus for kids, and computers are great tools both for having fun and for learning. Software like the Encarta Reference Suite 2001 helps kids do their homework faster by giving them access to the information they need. In conjunction with the Internet and the connected home, students can browse the Web, so even if you bought the Encarta CD or the DVD a year ago you can always have the latest information. Other technologies for students include the Microsoft Reader with ClearType display technology, which in the future will let them download books they need for homework so that they can easily and clearly read them on a screen.
PressPass: It sounds as though visitors to the Microsoft Home in New York will see technology being used creatively in every room — including the bedroom.
Guggenheimer: That’s right. In the master bedroom, generally, you want to relax and unwind from the day. However, there may be times when you need access to information, and in these cases, a device like a Pocket PC is a very non-intrusive way to do so. With a Pocket PC, you can browse the Internet, look up the weather, read an eBook with Microsoft Reader, listen to music with Windows Media Player or catch up on the news. The Pocket PC is a very personal device — it’s your own book and music library and your Internet access point that you can take with you anywhere.
PressPass: Many people today use multiple electronic devices, especially at work. Can devices from outside the home be connected to a home network?
Guggenheimer: With a wireless network, people will be able to bring outside devices into the home and easily connect them to the home network. You can walk into your home and immediately establish an online connection for your Pocket PC or computer.
PressPass: Does all of this technology represent a real lifestyle breakthrough, or is it just another layer of gadgetry that most people will find too complicated, costly or confusing to use?
Guggenheimer: The integration of technology is evolutionary for most consumers, so it’s not just a question of flipping a switch and changing an entire home. What this home demonstrates is how technology is becoming a part of our daily lives, enabling us to communicate in new ways, improve efficiencies throughout the day and enjoy better entertainment.
There are different aspects of technology that are interesting or personally relevant to different people. We’ve tried to show the breadth of what you can do, knowing that not every aspect resonates with every person.
PressPass: How much do these different home networks cost to install?
Guggenheimer: If you’re building a home from scratch and you’re laying wires in the home while you do it, then installing a home network can cost anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars, depending on how big your house is and what you want to do. If you want to construct a very simple home network by just connecting two computers over existing phone lines, the Windows Millennium home operating system has that functionality built in, so all you’d need is a Windows Me PC.
PressPass: Microsoft is considered a leader in consumer technology trends and innovations. What have people told you that they really want from technology?
Guggenheimer: Again, it goes back to what is personal and relevant. We’ve heard three things from people. First, they want to simplify basic tasks like programming a VCR or sharing printers. Second, people want to improve their methods of communication by making them more versatile. They want to be able to share information easily and send things like photographs to their friends. Finally, when they’ve got some free time, people want to improve their entertainment options.
Microsoft delivers on these needs by offering technology that simplifies everyday tasks. Ultimate TV makes recording your favorite television programs very easy, while Windows Media Technologies allow you to create personal play lists and then take them wherever you go. Communicating has never been more versatile than with the new Internet appliances and services, and with a home network that connects every device in the house. Technologies such as MSN Chat, MSN Communities and MSN Messenger make it easy to communicate with friends or relatives nearby or even in another country. The Home demonstrates how anyone can quickly send photos and even mini-movies using Windows Movie Maker and Picture It! Home Publishing.
PressPass: How does the PC fit into the Microsoft Home?
Guggenheimer: The PC has evolved from a productivity center for work-related tasks to an activity center. In fact, in the teenager’s bedroom there is an example of a single computer where a teenager using Windows Me can do homework or play games either alone or with friends on the Internet. On the same computer, teenagers can browse the Internet, listen to music and download it to a personal player, watch television, even make phone calls and do instant messaging with friends. The PC is fast becoming an activity center for the home, and that’s a phenomenal move forward in terms of integration and the number of things you can do.
PressPass: Security is a real issue for people, especially those who live alone or who are elderly. What are some ways that a home network can help make a house or apartment more secure?
Guggenheimer: With a home network, you can install security cameras and monitor those security cameras from a home computer or even remotely. For example, if someone were to ring your home doorbell while you were at work, you could actually see who it was. If it were someone delivering groceries, you could allow that person to enter and then lock the door after he or she left.
There are also new types of security devices for entering the home, such as retina-scanning devices or thumbprint scanners. You can set up temporary entry permissions, so instead of sharing keys with your neighbors when they feed your cats while you’re on vacation, you can simply turn off their access when you return.
PressPass: Can the home network be accessed from outside the house, say if you thought you left your lights on but weren’t sure?
Guggenheimer: As appliances become more integrated, you’ll be able to know from a remote location if something’s gone wrong with the furnace or if you’ve left the oven on. Once all the devices in your home start to work together, the possibilities are endless. Imagine when the power goes off, being able to reset all the clocks at once, or from a remote location being able to check on the baby-sitter when you’re out for an evening.
We’re also demonstrating technology for within the home that can control lighting, thermostats, security systems or music from any room
PressPass: As you enter a wired home, like the Microsoft Home in New York, are the home-networking features very noticeable?
Guggenheimer: The high-tech features, such as the home network, for the most part are not noticeable. We can show people the networking technology if they’re interested, but we’ve worked hard to demonstrate how it can be a natural part of the house.
PressPass: The Microsoft Home demonstrates what is possible in a home network. When will all of this technology be available to most consumers?
Guggenheimer: A lot of what we’re showing in the Microsoft Home in New York is already available. The MSN Companion, the Pocket PCs, the set-top boxes for TVs, the cell phones, the PCs, the software, the games, the MSN services, the Windows Media Player and the Microsoft Reader are available this holiday season.
Different types of home-networking kits are available as well as broadband services. Even the home-networking components for controlling the lights, the music and the entry system are available today.
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