REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 19, 2002 For those who thought the biggest consumer trends this fall would be the latest 10-in-one kitchen gadget or a new line of flashy athletic shoes, Microsoft and its partners have some other options:
Online video games that can be played on the biggest-of-big-screen TVs -- instead of a PC -- while lounging in the living-room comfy chair
An Internet Service Provider refined to deliver an increasingly customized, youthful Web experience
A media player for your PC that offers better sound and more tools for creating, delivering and playing music, video and other media
Technology that transforms the PC into a home-entertainment center
A handheld device that lets you order pizza by phone and invite friends over with an e-mail for dinner
And these are just five of the new or enhanced consumer products and technologies Microsoft has slated for release this fall. With one of its largest and most diverse lineups of new consumer releases, Microsoft aims to follow through on its commitment to create software and devices that allow people to be more productive, better connected and totally entertained within today's growing digital ecosystem.
"The promise of the Digital Decade is one of better, smarter technologies that make life and work easier -- and more fun," says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
" Consumers will truly begin to realize this promise with the broad array of products Microsoft and our partners will release this fall. With the launches of MSN 8, Xbox Live , Windows Media 9 and a host of other new or improved technologies only weeks away, the coming months will be among the most exciting in years for consumers and the entire consumer-products industry, not to mention Microsoft," Ballmer says.
This fall, Microsoft releases MSN 8, the innovative new version of MSN that is designed to deliver a comprehensive and useful set of software services for consumers. MSN 8 was designed to be the most significant version of MSN ever released, and will be included in MSN Internet Access broadband and narrowband subscriptions. MSN 8 will also be available as a separate subscription to consumers who use other Internet service providers (ISPs).
Based on thousands of hours of research and customer feedback, MSN 8 was developed to deliver what consumers want and need today, while also providing options and features that allow them to grow with the service as their Internet expertise increases. Microsoft predicts that MSN 8s ability to scale to the abilities of Internet beginners and more advanced enthusiasts will allow it to deliver an incredibly useful experience that enables consumers to freely explore the Web and communicate with others. Major advances in MSN 8 include:
Advanced communication services that allow consumers to reduce the amount of junk mail they receive, as well as new e-mail-management and creation tools intended to make the process of writing, sending and receiving e-mail more fun
Useful browsing and productivity services to enable consumers to quickly find the information that matters most to them, while also delivering value-added applications that have not previously been available from an ISP, including financial, learning and research, and photo resources
Enhanced online safety features, such as virus-protection software, a broadband firewall, and advanced and flexible parental controls
Better service and options, including multiple connectivity options, multiple e-mail addresses with individual passwords, personalization options, enhanced customer service, and tools to simplify the process of switching to MSN
Xbox Live : The next revolution in video gaming
Microsoft expects the way people play video games to change on Nov. 15 with the North American launch of Xbox Live , the broadband gaming service for Microsofts Xbox video game system. Xbox Live will allow gamers to find, play with, and talk to other Xbox gamers via a broadband Internet link to their Xbox console.
With Xbox Live , gamers will be able to team up with -- or compete against -- friends down the street or across the country, and talk to each other at the same time via the Xbox Communicator headset. The service also allows players to find and invite friends to join them no matter which Xbox Live game they're playing.
The Xbox Live Starter Kit will be available at 5,000 North American retail destinations on the one-year anniversary of the launch of Xbox. For roughly the price of a console game (US$49.95), consumers will receive a one-year subscription to the online service, the Xbox Communicator headset (which plugs into the controller and allows players to talk to one another while they play), and a sample mini-game.
Along with the Xbox Live service, several games built for online play -- which also can be played offline -- are scheduled for launch Nov. 15. These include Unreal Championship from Infogrames Inc.; Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon from Ubi Soft Entertainment; SEGA Sports NFL 2K3 and SEGA Sports NBA 2K3 from Sega; and Whacked!, MechAssault and NFL Fever 2003 from Microsoft Game Studios. In 2003, more than 50 Xbox Live-enabled games will launch, including Halo 2, Counter-Strike, Midtown Madness 3 and Star Wars Galaxies: Empire Divided from LucasArts Entertainment Co. More than 60 game publishers are currently working on Xbox Live -enabled games.
Pocket PC Phone Edition
Following T-Mobile USA's launch of the first Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition device this summer, AT & T Wireless will roll out a device, based on the same platform, in the U.S. this fall. The platform combines the features of a personal digital assistant (PDA) with integrated wireless voice and data capabilities. These devices allow customers to wirelessly access personal and corporate data to stay synchronized with their most essential information -- or to call friends and family while on the go.
"With Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition, weve worked hard to make integration of the phone and Pocket PC applications seamless for customers," says Juha Christensen, corporate vice president of the Mobile Devices Division at Microsoft. "As a result, these devices unlock new productivity and communications potential for mobile professionals."
The enhanced features of Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition, which build on the Pocket PC 2002 software platform, focus on three areas:
Phone functionality -- Pocket PC Phone Edition software includes an intuitive dialer, call log, call notification, caller ID, speed dial, conference calling and a speaker phone. It also provides a new functionality, including personalized ring tones with any WAV file, and the ability to send text messages via Short Message Service (SMS) to the In Box of Phone Edition devices.
"Smart" connectivity -- Pocket PC Phone Edition software offers more options for connectivity, including support for multiple wide-area networks (WANs), and allows users to intelligently manage these multiple connections. When used with Server ActiveSync technology and remote-desktop synchronization, Pocket PC Phone Edition software allows users to securely connect to and synchronize personal and corporate information over the air.
Pocket PC and phone integration -- Pocket PC Phone Edition software has been designed for seamless integration between the PDA and phone functionality. Examples include one-touch dialing from pre-set contacts, the ability to view and edit personal information manager (PIM) data from the phone application, and subscriber identity module (SIM) services, which allows users to transfer personal information between cell phones or PDA/phone devices that are Global System for Mobile (GSM) ready.
In addition to the North American launches, Pocket PC Phone Edition devices are already available in Europe from Vodafone, mm02, and T-Mobile. T-Mobile USA was formerly known in the United States as Voicestream.
Windows Powered Smart Displays
This holiday season, Microsoft and its partners will introduce the first Windows Powered Smart Displays -- wireless monitors designed to change the way people access their home PC. Through a wireless connection, Smart Displays will extend the use of Windows XP, enabling consumers to browse the Web, read and write e-mail, listen to music and view and edit digital images from any room in their home. Microsoft and its partners expect Smart Displays to do for the monitor what the cordless handset did for the telephone -- grant people greater freedom and mobility in their homes.
"Smart Displays will liberate consumers from their home office through the convenience of anywhere-in-the-home access to their Windows XP PC," says Keith White, senior director of marketing for Microsoft's Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group. "Now people can enjoy experiences and services like the Internet, digital photos, email and Windows based-applications in a variety of relaxed settings such as the kitchen, living room, back patio or bedroom,"
Recognizing that consumers want to enjoy the benefits of Windows XP in more relaxed settings, Microsoft and industry partners are developing a variety of 10-inch and 15-inch wireless monitors. Manufacturers developing Smart Displays include AboCom Systems Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Intel Corp., LG Electronics Ltd., National Semiconductor Corp., NEC Corp., Philips Consumer Electronics, Tatung Co., TriGem Computer Inc., ViewSonic Corp., Wistron Corp. and Wyse Technology Inc. Initially available as wireless monitors, Smart Displays eventually will be seen in a variety of form factors, including high-definition televisions and projectors.
Windows Media 9 Series Platform
Windows XP Media Center Edition distance-user education
On September 4 in Hollywood, the beta of the Windows Media 9 Series, a new digital media platform formerly codenamed "Corona," will be unveiled to the public by Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates. Windows Media 9 Series has been developed to provide the ultimate digital media playback experience, unmatched audio and video quality at any bit rate, and the most comprehensive platform for the creation, distribution and playback of digital media.
The new Windows Media 9 Series components are engineered to seamlessly work together to power the next wave of digital media on the Internet, the PC and beyond. New components include a new Windows Media Player, new audio and video compression/decompression, known as codecs, of which audio and video format are composed; a new encoder; new digital media services in Windows .Net Server; and a new software development kit (SDK).
Microsoft believes that together these components will make Windows XP and Windows.Net Server the premier products for creating, delivering, and playing back digital media.
The beta software will be available for download immediately following Gates' presentation on September 4.
Windows XP Media Center Edition
Windows XP Media Center Edition distance-user education
Windows XP Media Center Edition, the newest member of the Windows XP family, turns a PC into a media center that integrates digital entertainment experiences live television, personal video recording (PVR), digital music, digital video, DVDs and pictures with the freedom of remote control access. Microsoft designed Windows XP Media Center Edition (previously codenamed "Freestyle" ) for digital media enthusiasts and teenagers, college students, families and other consumers who live in small, space-constrained environments and want to use their PC for multimedia entertainment.
Windows XP Media Center Edition builds on the digital media experiences delivered by Windows XP to offer consumers more ways to take advantage of the digital media they edit, organize and store on their PC. Windows XP Media Center Edition also introduces a new Windows experience called Media Center, a unified destination for entertainment on the PC that is accessible using a Media Center-compatible remote control. Designed to be viewed from across the room, Media Center will allow users to watch television and experience other entertainment and digital media from their couch, chair, bed or kitchen table.
Currently in beta testing, Microsoft will ship Windows XP Media Center Edition in time for OEMS to include the operating system in PCs that will be on store shelves this holiday season in the United States, Canada and Korea. It is expected to be available in Japan during the first half of 2003. Consumers will be able to purchase PCs preinstalled with Windows XP Media Center Edition from retail stores or directly from the manufacturer. All the necessary software and the remote control are included.
Microsoft PC Games
Screen shot from Combat Flight Simulator 3
Microsoft Game Studios, a worldwide publisher and developer of games for the PC, Xbox video game system and online platforms, is releasing several new titles this year, most notably Zoo Tycoon: Marine Mania; Combat Flight Simulator 3: Battle for Europe; and Age of Mythology.
Zoo Tycoon: Marine Mania is the latest addition to the top-selling Zoo Tycoon franchise. The expansion pack works with the existing Zoo Tycoon game, enabling players to add more than 20 aquatic creatures --everything from sea lions to giant squid -- to their zoos. Players can now combine land, marine, and prehistoric animals in a quest to build and manage the ultimate zoo and test their abilities with10 new scenarios. At an estimated price of US$29.95, Zoo Tycoon: Marine Mania will be released in October.
For the more aeronautically inclined, Combat Flight Simulator 3: Battle for Europe will offer the opportunity to climb into the cockpit and fly more than 34 different World War II aircraft. The latest version of the best-selling PC-based flight simulators, Combat Flight Simulator 3 features a new and advanced graphics engine designed to showcase realistic low-level terrain, ground objects and detailed aircraft during high-speed combat missions. Combat Flight Simulator 3 will be released in November. Its estimated price is US$54.95.
Age of Mythology will transport players to a time when heroes battled with monsters of legend and gods intervened in the affairs of mortals. Age of Mythology will allow gamers to create armies, develop civilization over the ages, and manage economics through resource gathering and trade. Players call upon the gods to act on their behalf or reinforce their armies by choosing from among more than 25 mythological creatures. Age of Mythology, which has an estimated price of US$49.95, is scheduled for release in November.
Available in November, the Microsoft Bluetooth product suite will allow consumers to eliminate many of the wires that now clutter most desktops by wirelessly connecting devices, such as keyboards and mice, to PCs and other devices. This desktop solution, which supports Windows XP, is designed to highlight the benefits of the Windows-based PC platform.
Bluetooth is an advanced radio technology that allows cable-free interaction with dozens of Bluetooth devices, including PCs, PDAs, printers, mobile phones and input devices. The Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, for example, work up to 30 feet away from the PC. "Bluetooth is the cable replacement technology of choice," says Darrell West, director of marketing for Hardware at Microsoft. "This technology allows consumers to automatically connect -- without wires -- their Bluetooth devices to the PC. Microsoft is proud to be one of the first to introduce this technology."
Consumers will also be able to wirelessly link their Bluetooth devices and peripherals to their computers by using Microsoft's USB Transceiver for Bluetooth. In addition, the transceiver will also act as a portal to the PC for as many as seven Bluetooth devices.
Drawing on optical technology, the Microsoft Bluetooth mouse -- the Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer for Bluetooth -- was developed to deliver a smooth, accurate cursor performance without moving parts, wires or a mouse pad. And the Microsoft Wireless MultiMedia Keyboard for Bluetooth, sold with the Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop for Bluetooth, features a multimedia center and ergonomic design. The Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer is also sold separately with the Microsoft USB Transceiver for Bluetooth.
This fall, Microsofts Hardware Group plans to unveil the largest collection of new mice and keyboards in the group's 20-year history. Microsoft will offer a complete product line -- seven new products in all -- to appeal to a wide variety of users. The new desktop peripherals are organized into three lines -- fun, sophisticated and serious -- to better tailor the computing experience to individual users' computing styles and most common activities.
"On average, people use a computer nearly five hours each day, an activity second only to sleep. This tells us that mice and keyboards are important because they are the elements people use most to interact with the PC," says Matt Barlow, group product manager for Microsoft Hardware. "Increasingly, people are viewing their mouse and keyboard as an extension of their personality, much like their cell phone or PDA, and asking for products that will reflect this attitude."
All seven new devices, mice and keyboards, will be widely available to consumers by the end of October.