The secondary notebook display is another CES2006 product that failed to get widespread coverage. It’s called Microsoft Sideshow, and was exhibited at Microsoft’s (MSFT) booth under Vista. I learned today that the guts are built with Portalplayer’s (PLAY) ‘Preface‘ chipset. I thought Sideshow was pretty neat when I saw it, and once I learned more about the depth of this new platform the potential impact on Apple (AAPL) and their iPod became clear.
Think of secondary displays as detachable MP3/Video player devices (about the size of an iPod Nano) that snap securely into the lid of your laptop. If you need to dash off to a meeting, you can quickly detach the display and take it with you. Even while the laptop is powered down you can get access to calendar, contact, email, and micro-information that was downloaded when the PC was last booted and networked. It allows quick access to information without waiting 2 minutes to boot a PC. You can also sync video and music to the device. It’s also possible to use RSS to stream information to the device, and unlike the iPod it is an open platform that developers can write apps for. The software platform, of course, is made by Microsoft. Don’t be faked out into thinking this is a platform only for laptops though – from Microsoft’s site:
The Windows Vista SideShow platform will also enable hardware manufacturers to build auxiliary displays in a wide range of peripheral devices such as keyboards, LCD display casings, remote controls, and cell phones. These devices can then display information received from a Windows Vista-based PC, providing even more convenience to your everyday computing.
In short, the device doesn’t need to be in the lid of your laptop, and could be anything from an MP3 player to a cell phone.
What at first appears to be a silly laptop design is actually a new open platform for syncing a PMP. When you hear rumors about MSFT getting into the MP3 hardware business, my guess is it would be something along these lines. If this platform brought tight integration between Vista and PMP’s, that would be really bad news for Apple. Apple has been selling iPods to legions of Windows users who buy the iPod for its slick design and ease of use and are willing to accept Apple’s closed system as a tradeoff. Users will no longer need to make that tradeoff if the integration between Vista and the PMP is well done using Sideshow.
What struck me about this product is that Portalplayer, the company that Apple basically made when they selected the then-startup’s device for the iPod, is also helping enable a device that I believe has the best shot at unseating Apple’s dominance of personal media players (PMP’s).
Bottom line, I feel this is by far the best challenge to iPod dominance, solving the biggest problem non-Apple players have (system integration) and attacking the biggest vulnerability of the iPod (closed, proprietary system). Combine this with the new Windows Media Center 11 (also on exhibit at CES, also very cool) and you have a potential one-two knockout punch. What is most ironic about this development is it mimics what happened when Microsoft released Windows 3.0 and Apple decided to keep the Macintosh a closed system. We all know how that ended up.