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Windows Sideshow at CES: Bad News, Good News

The bad news: not a lot of Sideshow devices on display at CES; the good news: support for Media Center Extenders


Ricavision VAVE 100 Sideshow remote with mail and photo gadgets.

Sideshow technology, which consumed a large portion of Microsoft's booth last year (check out all the Sideshow from CES 2007), was hardly to be found at CES 2008.

Last year, we saw prototypes of Sideshow-enabled computer bags from Eleksen; handheld remotes from Philips, Ricavision, Interlink, Topseed and SMK; speakers and a gaming keyboard from Logitech; and a mobile phone from i-mate.

Where did they go in '08?

Sideshow allows little bits of data from a Windows Vista PC to be accessed from a lightweight display, even while the computer is hibernating. Many so-called "gadgets" have been written for Sideshow.

Microsoft itself has written Outlook gadgets, for example, to let you catch up on email and check your calendar -- quickly, without booting up and launching the application.

There are gadgets for RSS feeds, weather reports, traffic, even home automation.

With its big showing at CES 2007, Sideshow should've been huge this year. Alas, it was truly just a sideshow.

Sideshow a Sideshow at CES

Computer maker Ricavision, which has demonstrated a Sideshow-enabled handheld remote in the past, showed a revamped model that fixed several flaws of the original. Most notably, the new VAVE 100 device is a complete universal remote, not just a Media Center remote with Sideshow support.

Sideshow at CES 2007
Our 2007 Sideshow gallery was much more exciting than the 2008. View the complete CES 2007 Sideshow slide show.

Ricavision's remote appeared to be the only Sideshow device in Microsoft's booth this year.

Ikanos Consulting is enabling iPhones and Windows Mobile products to serve as Sideshow devices. At CES, Lagotek demonstrated a Sideshow-enabled iPhone controlling the company's home automation system.

Logitech has the Sideshow-enabled Z-10 speakers and G-15 gaming keyboard, but I'm not sure if those products were displayed at CES.

Other than that, CES was disappointing for Sideshow devotees.

Sideshow was originally meant for small auxiliary displays on laptop PCs -- just scroll through the small, external screen to get the weather report, without opening the case. So maybe those of us who were excited about the prospect of integrating Sideshow into CE products were just a little too optimistic.

Scott Evans of Microsoft's eHome group says that CE devices are lagging behind laptops when it comes to Sideshow, but CE products are on the way.

He personally has a Sideshow-enabled Memento digital frame from i-mate. Among other things, he can see the "now playing" audio track on the frame.

Good News: Sideshow Supports Extenders

The good news is that a few folks from Microsoft have written an application that allows a Sideshow device to communicate with Media Center Extenders in the home.

Previously, Sideshow could only communicate with Vista PCs. As Evans says, "First, Sideshow was only console-aware. Now it has the ability to talk to different extenders."

Even the geekiest of my Media Center friends were pleasantly surprised by this capability.

Obsoleted by UMPCs?

Many in our industry (home automation and whole-house A/V) are seeing less of a need for Sideshow since devices like Web-enabled PDAs, ultra-mobile PCs (UMPC), Nokia's N800, and iPhones (Check out Savant's interface) offer much more robust communications with Media Centers, media servers and home control systems.


Learn More about Media Center
Attend Media Center University at EHX Spring. Sign up for the full two-day program (March 11-12) or select courses a la carte. Stay tuned for more details at

Back when Sideshow was first announced in mid-2006, the first handheld prototype to be shown was a Sideshow-enabled device from Exceptional Innovations, developer of Lifeware automation software for the Media Center platform.

EI's interest in Sideshow waned, however, when relatively inexpensive, rich devices like UMPCs started shipping.

Last year, EI vice president of marketing Mike Seamons said it made more sense for Lifeware and Media Center users to invest in a UMPC -- a handheld device with full PC capabilities -- than to wait for less-capable Sideshow devices.

As far back as 2006, EI introduced Lifeware client software for UMPC, as did automation vendor Homelogic and others.

Automation vendors, however, continue to make Sideshow gadgets in case the stuff really takes off. For example, Superna has a rich library of gadgets.

The company has created an environment such that home systems integrators can build their own gadgets for their customers' automation systems.

In the meantime, Hakan Olsson, senior product planner in Microsoft's eHome group, recommends solutions like Mirage from Autonomic Controls, which can turn UMPCs, Web tablets and other devices into two-way touchpanel remote controls for Media Center and Windows Media player.

That's what Olsson uses at home.

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Article Topics

News · Product News · CES · Media Center · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]


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