In his keynote address at CES in Las Vegas this week, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has outlined his plans to bring together computers, phones and the television into a single unified internet environment controlled by Windows.
Ballmer explained that computers are the dominant platform for Windows computing, but that only a billion people on the planet own a computer. On the other hand, many more owned a mobile phone, which for some was their first experience of computing.
Microsoft is now looking to add in the third 'screen': television. Ballmer predicted that in the next few years the television will be transformed from a static device to an internet-enabled tool linked to the computer and mobile phone.
"Connecting all together is the last mile to creating a real breakthrough for consumers," he said. "The lynchpin for this should be Windows. It will work across all three screens seamlessly."
Ballmer added that, while television resolutions have improved, the technology has remained largely static. But this is about to change.
On the phone front Ballmer announced a deal with Verizon, which would see Windows Live searching software pre-installed on all Verizon handsets. The forthcoming Internet Explorer 8.0 for mobiles will also have Flash embedded and enhanced links to other popular web sites so that mobile users can upload content to web sites and Windows Live.
Windows 7 will be the operating system to link all these devices together, according to Ballmer.
The new operating system will be integrated with Windows Media Center, and Microsoft will add new features allowing people to search for specific television shows. Programmes such as Top Gear will also create custom applications for Microsoft.
Spring will see the launch of Microsoft Primetime, a channel on Xbox Live that will increase interactivity for users. This will include an online game show called One Against A Hundred, where players compete in a quiz show for cash prizes.
"We are on the verge of the kind of technology innovation that only happens every 15 to 20 years," Ballmer said.
This will be driven by three factors. Firstly, processors have become so powerful that the software industry is having to rethink how it uses the huge computing power to which it now has access.
Secondly, screens and displays are multiplying to the point that they are everywhere and people will have access to much more visual information.
Finally, the 'three screens' will converge to make internet and computing power universal.
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