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Windows World 98: The Future is Today
Feature Story - by Lyn Watts

Buck Rogers might be disappointed.

Entering the Future Technology Showcase at Windows World 98 last week in Chicago, there was nothing otherworldly about the tree-lined entrance complete with park benches and lamp posts.

It could have been your neighborhood, which is precisely the metaphor Microsoft wants you to grasp. The future of Windows is now, using devices and technology you already know. The future of Windows is more like a walk down a well-known street than a giant leap forward for humankind.

As visitors wandered through the displays sponsored by Microsoft and its partners, the familiar was emphasized.
  • An AutoPC combines car radio and computer with voice-recognition technology and a satellite-pinging location device commonly used by boaters.

  • A home of the future looks like any home, just with more computer screens and remote control pads.

  • A cellular phone looks like what it is, until you realize it also is a hand-held computer and paging system combined in one.

  • The coffee shop piano plays toe-tapping jazz, thanks to its Windows operating system.
In each display within the Future Technology Showcase, technology was shown as a way to enhance your life, not revolutionize it.

"We're excited to be showing the breadth of the Windows Platform, demonstrating innovation and simplicity to users in the Future Technology Showcase," said Windows product manager Stacey Breyfogle from the showroom floor. "The future of Windows is now; it is the technology solutions platform for today and tomorrow."

For the tens of thousands visiting Windows World, the Technology Pavilion was an obvious highlight. Virtually every booth was surrounded rows-deep by audiences watching demonstrations and asking questions about new technology. Here are some of the highlights:

At Home
Microsoft's home of the future is powered by the technology of today: a Pentium-driven PC, Windows 98 operating system, and the Visual Basic programming language. With remote keypads, you'll control your household environment including lights, telephones, PCs, televisions, even the heat and the refrigerator.

Say you plan to call your sister in Rio de Janeiro. At a PC or on your television, you can look up and dial the telephone number. When she answers, her clear image appears on the television screen. She holds up her baby, she talks to your children and admires how they've grown.

In the den, you could be taking a class in Egyptian history, or visually reviewing your son's latest test scores online with his teacher.

Auto PC interior

Auto PC
The Nissan Infiniti was safely parked on the Windows World floor, but imagine for a moment you're driving this car through the streets of Chicago. Late for a business meeting, you have the address but no directions.

Using voice commands, you ask the Auto PC for directions from your hotel to the meeting. Whew! You're just blocks away and can be there in less than half an hour. You decide to call ahead and tell your associates you're running late.

Using voice commands, you ask the Auto PC to look up and dial a telephone number. Without taking your eyes off those Chicago drivers and pedestrians, you talk to your colleague and hang up.

Need to check your e-mail? Again, without taking your eyes off the road and using voice commands, you listen to e-mail messages and send responses.

Microsoft product manager Aaron Woodman was explaining the Windows CE-powered Auto PC to a crowd of interested listeners on the Technology Showcase floor. "They are all interested in the same thing: safety," he said. "With Auto PC, you keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road."

In a Ford Explorer parked nearby on the showroom floor, an AutoPC was equipped with a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver. Never again will you wonder where this road leads. With an accuracy of plus or minus a few feet, you'll see your location and exactly how far you are from that lake you're trying to find.

Coffee Shop Jazz
Say you're a business traveler with a few minutes to spare. You stop at the neighborhood coffee shop, where a baby-grand piano is the centerpiece. Intrigued, you sit down at the keyboard.

Wow! This Van Koevering Interactive Piano features a Windows 95-based touch screen and a CD player. Choose the music you want, then settle back and listen. If you want to learn to play a certain piece, the piano will teach you.

But enough of this, you're hungry. This coffee shop has a deli featuring an ordering system by Microsoft partner Radiant Systems. You punch your menu choices on a Windows-powered touch screen and receive an order ticket. You walk over to the cashier, pay, and pick up your food.

Go ahead, grab a nearby window seat, and settle back to listen as the Van Koevering piano plays cool jazz.

David Davidson demonstrating the Van Koevering piano. The Van Koevering piano was a huge attraction Monday. Company spokesman David Davidson was besieged by questions as he showed off the piano's karaoke feature; as the piano played the background music to Sting's Roxanne, the words were displayed on a television screen.

"This is a huge hit with kids," Davidson said. Of the piano's teaching features, he added: "Kids do this instead of TV. It's more fun for them."

Windows CE-Powered Cell Phone
This one device will combine the functions of a page, cell phone, address book, calendar and even a laptop for downloading e-mail or Web information. The Windows World demonstration shows off how these functions can seamlessly interrelate.

Imagine you're arriving at the airport, ready for the flight home after a business trip. Your cell phone helps you confirm your flight information, gate number and seat. You collapse into a seat, just as your pager goes off.

It's the airline. Unfortunately, bad weather has delayed your flight for hours. You ask to be re-routed, and two choices pop up on the screen. You choose one and receive quick confirmation, walk to the new gate, then settle in to read e-mail.

Your phone rings and caller ID shows it's your wife. Yes, you'll be home in time for your daughter's recital.

And, indeed, you are.
the end
© 1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use. Last Updated: April 27, 1998