LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Microsoft Corp. has unveiled its latest gadget for in-home entertainment _ a tablet-like device that is a cross between a handheld computer and a TV remote control.
``Entertainment will never be the same,'' Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said in a keynote address Monday night to kick off the International Consumer Electronics Show, the world's largest consumer technology trade show.
Code named Mira, the concept device puts a home PC onto a mobile platform. It wirelessly delivers Internet content, accesses music files, and serves as a portable game player when used with Microsoft's Xbox video game console. The content would be displayed on the tablet, or in later versions of the technology, on new flat-screen televisions.
The announcement came straight off a holiday season that proved consumer electronics are recessionproof. Exact prices and availability dates were not disclosed but Microsoft officials said consumers could expect to see such products from hardware manufacturers within a year or so.
Gates played a video clip showing how a family could use such a device: A father using it in the living room to work on a spreadsheet; a teen-age daughter using it to listen to music in her bedroom; and the mother using it on the kitchen counter to check the weather.
Gates also announced that Microsoft sold 1.5 million Xbox consoles during the holiday season, and claimed it was the most successful game console launch ever. Microsoft expects to sell 6 million total consoles by the end of 2002, Gates said.
Whether the center of the digital home will be the PC _ as Gates envisions _ or some other kind of digital media server _ such as an all-in-one digital entertainment set-top box unveiled Monday by upstart Moxi Digital Inc. _ remains debatable.
One thing is clear: consumer electronics companies are promising that the plethora of digital gizmos will become easier to use.
Frustrated with DVD players that can't play picture CDs? Wish you had one device that stores, plays, and streams digital music, video and photo files?
Plenty of products attempting to address those problems and more will be on display across the trade show's 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space _ the largest CES to date in terms of size.
While attendance will be down slightly from last year's record 126,000 participants, the estimated 110,000 expected to attend CES through Jan. 11 are in line with previous shows in 2000 and 1999, organizers said.
The announcement came on the same day that Apple Computer Inc. unveiled updated models for its iMac that have flat-screen displays, faster processors and a new look. Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and chief executive, made presented the new models during a two-hour speech at the Macworld Expo trade show in San Francisco.