Smart Displays - good riddance to dumb technology

Smart Displays - good riddance to dumb technology

Summary: What killed Microsoft's Smart Display? It certainly was not the 'current state of the LCD market', as Microsoft claims

TOPICS: IT Employment
I hate to say I told you so, but ever since the first details emerged of Microsoft's Smart Display technology (originally code-named Mira), we have been distinctly unimpressed. Our derision only increased when we got our hands on a device. Our technology editor Rupert Goodwins did his best to like what should have been a gorgeous gadget, but regretfully concluded that a smart display was the silicon equivalent of a suppository.

The concept of the smart display itself is not bad. The execution of that concept, which is embodied in Microsoft's Smart Display software, was terrible. In private, hardware manufacturers acknowledged the limitations of the software and tried their best to work with it, but even those best efforts were not enough to blunt the Goodwins pen.

Microsoft blames the failure of the Smart Display experiment on the state of the LCD market, which given the ever-plummeting prices of LCD monitors is a bit like Britney Spears saying she'd have stayed married if it wasn't for the divorce rate. No, the problem with smart displays always lay in the licensing.

Unlike tablet PCs, which are a self-contained computer, smart displays have no local storage and can only be used to interact with a computer located elsewhere.

When undocked, they use integrated 802.11b and Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), a feature found in Windows XP Professional, to connect to the base computer. The docking station has a USB connector to the display and a VGA connection to the PC, allowing it to function as an ordinary monitor.

The displays came in two types: those which could be used as either a desktop monitor or a portable tablet, and those which only functioned as a remote terminal. ViewSonic's 15-inch Airpanel V150, which is still available, doubles as a monitor and a remote terminal, while the 10.4-inch Airpanel V110 can only be used remotely.

The trouble came when using the displays in this remote capacity. When the smart display was controlling the computer, the base computer was locked and could not be used by another person.

Topic: IT Employment

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The so called failure doesn't really lie in the licensing problem as suggested. Infact the limited functionality is to blame for. Remote Desktop protocol does not fully support directX which means that that two of the three main purposes surved by a home computer die. Gaming and Movies. Though you can surf the web but still it simply make no sense to buy a monitor as expensive as a new computer just to surf the web laying in you bed. you can only spend a couple hundard more and buy a tablet PC which serves all three purposes.
  • That's a good point, but the fact remains that the critisicism levelled at Smart Displays throughout their short lives - and not just from us - centred on the madcap licensing issues. We'll probably never know exactly what killed 'Mira', but once thing's for sure: it certainly had nothing to do with the LCD market, as Microsoft suggests.
  • I was ready to buy the Viewsonic AirPanel last February but I was waiting for prices to drop.

    I was also waiting for 802.11g support.

    Licensing didn't bother me at all. If I was surfing remotely, it didn't bother me that the main desktop was unavailable. I use remote desktop a lot and I like it.

    I'm disappointed that Microsoft is no longer touting Mira.
  • I was looking at buying one of these monitors (the 10" airpanel to be specific) but with the recent announcment I doubt I will.
    I use my home PC for gaming and surfing. Gaming requires a desktop PC and the ability to upgrade components over the mobo/CPU's ~2 year life span. I thought the smart display would be perfect to surf around the house.
    I wouldn't buy a tablet PC for the simple reason that I don't want to go through a shutdown/startup process. I use a PocketPC at work & home and it's best feature just might be that I can hit the On button and get into Outlook immediately.

    Anyway, my other concern (after doing some research) is that there aren't many companies manufacturing & selling these products. In the U.S. there's only 3 products I could find. That (and the price) had scared me off.

    Oh well, maybe a year or two from now someone will pick this idea up again and take it to the next level...