Microsoft is beginning work on the first of what it plans to make a family of customized Windows platforms designed for specific rooms around the home.
The "Kitchen Client" software will extend the Windows operating system and integrate with current and future Windows Live services, according to sources close to the company. It sounds, from what I can tell, more like an add-on layer than a whole new version of Windows.
Among the features Microsoft is planning to make part of its forthcoming kitchen computing environment are a family calendar, recipe center, entertainment features and a shared bulletin board, sources added.
Microsoft increasingly is looking for ways to tailor computing experiences beyond the plain-vanilla desktop. The Kitchen Client is expected to encompass both customized user interface and middleware that will allow developers to further customize the environment with their own products and services, sources said.
The Kitchen Client seems to be a Microsoft Tablet team project. That group, which in 2006 became known officially as the "Mobile and Tailored PC division," is focused on making digital ink and touch central components of "tailored computing" experiences,
With Windows Vista, Microsoft did away with a separate Tablet PC SKU of Windows and folded tablet functionality into the Windows core.
At TechEd 2007 this week, I had a chance to ask Shanen Boettcher, General Manager with Windows Product Management, about Kitchen Client. Boettcher wouldn't comment directly on whether such a product might be in the Microsoft pipeline.
Boettcher noted that some of Microsoft's hardware partners, such as Hewlett Packard, are thinking about how to create new PC designs that are customized for certain horizontal/vertical computing experiences. HP touted kitchen computing as one of the possible uses for its TouchSmart PC, which made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Boettcher also said that when planning Vista SKUs, Microsoft brainstormed many different possibilities. Ultimately, "with Vista, we moved away from hardware-specific SKUs," he said.
So far, no word on target dates, packaging or pricing. I do think it's interesting that this seems to be one of the first projects designed to integrate Windows client and Windows Live from the get-go, however. Steven Sinofsky (a profile of whom appeared in the New York Times this week, not surprisingly without any comments from him about Windows futures) heads up engineering for both the Windows and Windows Live teams.
I wonder what's up next from the Tailored PC team? A Windows bedroom client? A family-room client? Windows for laundry rooms?