Need a good reason to upgrade to that new Vista laptop you’ve been eyeing? Well look no further. NEC’s newest conference room projector line (the NP series) announced at Infocomm-07 this week, includes technology that will link with the transparent Network Projector support built into the new Windows Vista OS. The NP 3150, 2150 and 1150 were all announced at the show with the 3150 showing off wireless content delivery using the new Microsoft OS and its remote desktop protocol (RDP).
Senior Analyst and Editor
Microsoft Vista’s networked projector capability was announced back at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in May 2006 under the "Partner Initiatives" moniker and the overall "Certified for Windows Vista" logo program. The goal is to enhance the customer experience by providing a uniform set of connectivity standards that sets the "quality-bar" for device interface.
To meet the standard, NEC engineers had to embed a Windows CE 6.0 hardware platform in the projector and implement a set of code called "Windows Rally" designed to help solve the complexity of device and network setup. Microsoft describes Rally as "a new set of networking technologies and best practices, [that] will help make it easier for hardware manufacturers to build devices that deliver effortless setup and more secure and manageable connectivity."
The pay-off? Microsoft promises that following the standard will automatically discover projectors and wirelessly connect to them over the network, making the ability to push content to a networked projector as "ubiquitous as using a printer." - sweet!
NEC took up the challenge in 2006 but the first products, the new line of NP(x)150 projectors didn’t appear in the US until this week’s InfoComm show. This is a first class projector line offering from NEC as each of the three products will feature the HQV de-interlacing chip from Silicon Optix, horizontal and vertical lens shift, a quiet rating of 33dB and cross compatible bayonet style lenses. Brightness ranges from 3500-, 4000 and 5000-lumens for the NP1150 ($3,999 MRSP), 2150 ($4,499 MSRP) and 3150 ($5,999 MSRP) models using 0.8" LCD microdisplay. These projectors will be available this fall.
Curiously, NEC has chosen to implement this on projectors using XGA resolution even though almost all Vista notebooks and perhaps 70-80% of all notebooks today ship with a wide-aspect screen. We are planning an analysis of this trend toward wide screen projector support in the next issue of Projection Monthly with Flat Panel Coverage.
Our take: NEC and Microsoft are spot-on in understanding the desire of multiple projector users in a conference room environment. Making projectors discoverable (like printers) to anyone on the network helps avoid the common practice of "hot-swapping" a VGA cable between multiple laptops and a single projector unit. This alternative opened up a plethora of auto sync issues that can bring any meeting to a grinding halt with the ominous "blue screen of death." In fact, one of the top ten pitfalls in professional presenting includes insuring in advance proper projector sync with the digital or analog source. Up until now, it has been almost impossible for a visiting presenter to be confident there will not be syncing problems in the host’s conference room - which is the primary reason sales professionals bring along their own portable projector.
A simple ubiquitious solution to the problem was just too big for any single projector manufacturer to solve, and it took the leadership of the OS vendor to create the environment, development tools and standards to get it done. One side note-while the Network Projector connectivity solution in Vista is fine for new projectors going forward, there are still thousands of installed projectors with millions of hours of usable life. So look for new peripheral devices with embedded Windows CE 6.0 that auto sync with Vista to light up the legacy projectors in your conference room neighborhood soon-that is as long as you upgraded to that new Vista notebook.