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'Athens' Prototype PC Aimed to Improve Worker Productivity

NEW ORLEANS -- Microsoft and HP unveiled a slick new prototype PC at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference on Tuesday that is designed to improve worker productivity while reducing workspace wiring and clutter.

The most striking visual difference of the desktop, code-named "Athens," is a wide, flat, high-density screen that is supposed to improve worker productivity. Chad Magendanz, lead program manager for Microsoft's hardware innovation group, said that while the display costs more than $2,000 now, the average selling cost will be less than $400 in 2004 when Athens-based systems might come to market.

Aside from the screen, the "Athens" monitor includes an integrated phone, camera, speaker, microphone and indicator lights alerting users to new voice mail and e-mail messages. The rechargeable keyboard connects directly to the monitor. In a demo, the unit came on out of standby mode with appliance-like speed when Magendanz inserted a flashcard key, complete with a biometric fingerprint reader, to a slot in the monitor.

Additional devices can be attached wirelessly via Bluetooth. The design also called for the ability to replace the CPU unit with a dock for laptops.

In other demos, Magendanz showed how an incoming call could be taken in one of three ways. In all cases, the call muted music Magendanz had playing on his system. He was able to take a phone call via speakerphone through the computer, by picking up the handset attached to the monitor or by picking up the phone on his desk. He was also able to switch among modes, and the system automatically updated his presence information to indicate that he was on the phone. Meanwhile, Magendanz' call came from a recognized number, and the system brought up recent e-mails and other communications to and from the caller.

Magendanz also demonstrated a "Do Not Disturb" mode, which puts calls straight into voice mail, changes presence information to "Busy" and prevents any pop-ups from bothering the worker.

Microsoft published a white paper of the Athens PC design and some analysis of PC market opportunities in an attempt to encourage other computermakers to take up some of the ideas developed in the program.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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