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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 08:09 GMT
Gates aims at your living room
Bill Gates unveils Mira and Freestyle, BBC
Bill Gates spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show
By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida in Las Vegas

Microsoft boss Bill Gates has announced further steps towards turning the computer into the digital entertainment centre for the home.

In his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, US, Mr Gates presented two new technologies designed to convert the PC into a jukebox for video, music and pictures.

Both projects are closely tied in with Microsoft's Windows XP operating system.

They are part of efforts by Microsoft to bring together personal computers, televisions, games consoles and other devices like mobile phones by using the company's dominance of the software market.

Portable tablets

Before a packed and enthusiastic audience, Mr Gates unveiled the two new initiatives, known as Mira and Freestyle.

Gates, AP
Bill Gates shows off Mira
Mira is software for a wireless flat-panel display, which can detach and be carried around the house like a portable touch-screen tablet, while still communicating wirelessly with the computer.

Mr Gates said companies like Intel were working on creating products based on Mira that would be out within 12 months.

As for Freestyle, the Microsoft chairman explained how the software would allow people to use a remote control to play music and video or look at pictures stored on the PC through any screen.

Video PCs

With Freestyle, users would be "able to use your PC without having to sit at your keyboard, but instead simply using a remote control", said Mr Gates.

"You can watch TV on one screen and then receive e-mail through another screen," explained Mr Gates.

"Once material is on the PC, you can play it on any screen - TV, PC monitor or any where else."

The software would also allow people to record video on their PCs if their machines have a TV tuner card. This would turn the PC into an "entertainment command centre" with the potential to rival digital video recorders such as the Tivo device.

The software giant is working with Hewlett-Packard, NEC and Samsung to develop computers built around Freestyle.

XP 'success'

Both Mira and Freestyle are based on Windows XP, which Microsoft aims to develop as the backbone for a whole range of products.

Mr Gates touted the success of Windows XP, saying more than 17 million copies have been sold since its launch at the end of October.

Microsoft's first venture into the world of game consoles, the Xbox, was also selling well, he said, with 1.5 million units sold since mid-November.

The company is now looking at developing online gaming for the console, and widening the range of games available.

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The BBC's Alfred Hermida
"Bill Gates was pushing the idea of the PC in your living room"
See also:

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Showcase for future gadgets
12 Nov 01 | Business
Gates talks up the tech sector
11 Nov 01 | Business
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21 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Tackling terror with technology
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