April 12, 2002 12:35 PM PDT

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Philips Electronics, ViewSonic and two Asian contract-manufacturers will build their Mira devices around Intel's XScale processor, Intel said Friday, an early salvo in what will likely be a year filled with gadget news.

Mira is a portable wireless flat-panel display that contains software and a processor and can be used to surf the Web (in conjunction with a PC) or control TVs, game consoles and other devices. Unfurled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Mira is similar in shape and size to the Tablet PC, which is also coming out later this year. The Tablet PC, though, is a fully functional PC squeezed into a portable flat-panel screen.

Both products are part of a larger effort by Microsoft and the PC manufacturers to transform the PC from a desktop device into a central repository for music, video, photos, recorded TV shows and other entertainment media. Mira, Tablet PC and a new software interface called Freestyle essentially try to make it easier to file and edit entertainment files as well as attempt to inject a more dramatic sense of style into computing devices.

Whether the public will embrace these products is an unknown. Still, manufacturers and chipmakers are currently lining up to bring them out later this year. Microsoft and others will likely make announcements regarding these devices at the WinHEC convention next week in Seattle, while prototypes will likely appear at the Technology Exchange Week (formerly PC Expo) in New York this summer.

The first Mira devices are expected to hit the shelves toward the holiday season. Philips and ViewSonic will sell Miras under their own name, while Asian contract-manufacturers Tatung and AboCom will make them on behalf of other companies.

"Mira extends the PC experience to any room in the home and enables a new generation of smart display devices," said Keith White, senior director of the Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group at Microsoft, in a statement.

The Philips and ViewSonic devices will use the PXA250, a version of XScale that runs at speeds of 200MHz, 300MHz and 400MHz. Intel is also aiming the product at the handheld market. The XScale line is based around an architecture devised by Cambridge, England's ARM Technologies. ARM chips generally consume far less power than standard PC chips.

Intel will also begin to release design prototypes of devices built around XScale. The first Intel reference design will be a Mira containing a 10.4-inch display. Later, the company will show off a design for a portable monitor.

 

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