The Smart Display, a year old, will not make it to 2.0 - Microsoft has told the unfortunate manufacturers who partnered with it in the doomed venture. The idea of a flat panel display which you could pick up and carry around the house sounded like a brilliant idea when it was first mooted, since all it needed was a (presumably, cheap) Windows CE processor and a wireless link. At the time it was not quite as obvious as it is now that it was a dead duck.
Now, according to ET News, Microsoft has decided this ugly duckling won't ever become a swan. "Last week, Microsoft sent a letter to a part of smart display developers including Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics notifying them that it would immediately abandon the development of 'Smart Display' OS 2.0, according to industry sources," said the Korean news source.
The problem with the smart display was pretty simple. If you got the small one, it was actually smaller than most Tablet PCs, and no cheaper. If you got the big one, it was really too heavy and clumsy to carry around the home casually. And, not to be too mealy-mouthed, it was not fun to use.
The pen interface, simply put, wasn't up to it. At a time when Microsoft was launching the Tablet PC at very similar prices, with a far, far better "ink" interface, the pioneers of Smart Display found that they couldn't even compete with the Tablet.
"You could plug a USB keyboard into them," commented one disillusioned buyer, "but if you did, they didn't stand up. And if you went out of range of your wireless LAN, they became paperweights. You couldn't even make notes on them - they were less use than a PDA, four times the price, and clumsy."
As a flat panel, the large ViewSonic Smart Display matched any other LCD screen of its size; except for price. You could buy four standard LCDs for the same money. If money was no object then why not? - but the market for "money no object" computer hardware has never been a mass market.
According to the Korean news source, "the abrupt change in policy by Microsoft put domestic smart display developers in a dilemma."
It reports that Samsung Electronics has accepted fate and "plans to disorganize its smart display planning and development team," - but LG Electronics won't give up just because Microsoft did.
"LG is seeking a breakthrough after rolling out its initial smart display products next month as scheduled," it was reported: "Since its smart display is differentiated from others supporting TV-receiving functions also, LG Electronics will commercialize it regardless of the policy change of Microsoft," said an officer at LG Electronics.
But even there, realism couldn't be entirely ignored: "We expect, however, to see a setback in developing the next-generation product," admitted the company.
There is, of course, absolutely nothing you can do with a Smart Display, that you can't do with a bottom-end Tablet PC. You just put RDP (remote desktop protocol) on the host machine - something Windows XP supports out of the box - and connect across the LAN or Wireless LAN. You'll probably spend less, and you'll certainly get something that has a useful function if you take it away to another site.
And the hand-writing recognition is better, and programs like One Note work on it, and it has a disk - and Smart Display has none of those features. It's just a dumb display, whatever Microsoft wanted to say.
The final nail in its coffin was Microsoft's absurd decision to kow-tow to the tin god of its licensing agreements. If you took your smart display downstairs, nobody in the den with the computer could use it. Single user licence, repeated Microsoft marketing droids. "We can't compromise our standard licensing policy."
Frankly, the nail wasn't necessary. The dead body was never going to rise again.