Microsoft Corp faces an embarrassing problem with the roll-out of its handheld "home companion" computer Mira, after a company executive revealed that the device will not work with computers running the Windows XP Home Edition operating system.
The problem is that Microsoft has targeted the Mira devices at the home market, while the Tablet PC, a separate more expensive and fully featured device type is aimed at the corporate market. However, Mira will currently only run with XP Professional, because this includes a key piece of software needed to run the Mira Terminal, a software server that supports the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).
The Mira includes a large LCD screen, an Intel X-Scale processor, and the Windows CE.NET operating system. The device is basically a thin client device, using a 802.11b Wireless LAN card for networking to an individual home computer and internet connection. However, licensing problems from Microsoft have made the device less than entirely useful in its first iterations. Users will not be able to view DVDs on a Mira device (a problem outside Microsoft's control), and multiple Mira devices cannot be used with a single home computer.
To get round the problems, Microsoft is now considering either releasing a service pack for XP Home Edition which will include an RDP server, or alternatively forcing Mira Users to upgrade to XP Professional Edition, according to Eddie Wu, Microsoft's senior director for Microsoft's Asian Embedded Systems Group.
The devices are expected to be priced between $500 and $800, depending on the display size, and another $200 would start to price them close to the cost of a laptop machine. Various Microsoft OEMs including Philips Electronics NV, Trigem, and LG Electronics expect to produce the devices in time for launch in the US and Japan by Christmas 2002.
Microsoft certainly seems to be having problems with the Mira, with which it can't have cross-over with the Tablet PC that is expected to retail at about $1,600. The problem is now that users have an extra hurdle to jump before using a Mira device. They already had to configure their PC to use a Mira, and probably install a Wireless LAN card, but installing a service pack or upgrading the operating system seems like yet another step to discourage users.
Considering that the target user base had already been reduced to only XP users, this has further reduced the potential user profile to a technically competent XP user base. The cost is also getting out of control, with about $100 needed for a PCI WLAN card, potentially $200 for a copy of Windows XP Professional, and about $700 for the device, the cost of adding a dumb portable screen to a home computer next Christmas has now potentially rocketed to $1,000.